Friday, December 20, 2013

Divine nature, Desperate leeches, Adamant serpent - An unfinished trek to Arishinagundi Waterfalls

Today I would like to narrate some of our experiences of trek to Arishinagundi Waterfalls visited a month back. Hope you will enjoy our experiences :-)


Arishinagundi waterfalls is situated in exotic location amidst western ghats. It was well known for me from past 2 years, however lack of partners inhibited me from visiting this beautiful waterfall. In addition to that I also knew that there is no roadway to waterfall and need to trek from kollur for 6kms in dense rain forests. Not to forget, the region is home to wide variety of serpents :D. This time two of my office colleagues showed interest to visit the waterfalls and we planned just 2-3 days before commencement of journey. Rajesh booked Rajahamsa which was the only bus option available to Kollur. Since we decided just few days back, we ended up reserving last rows of bus :D. We were foreseeing a great trek along with bumpy journey :D.

We three congregated at Majestic bus stop and the bus started journey around 8:40PM. Looking at the condition of bus, we were sure of having good gymanstics inside the bus. We had preamble of what is going to happen further with greetings from poor suspension. We were getting massaged across every humps and bumps and sometimes high jumps! The bus stopped at Kamat hotel near Dabaspet and fortunately Rajesh occupied vacant seat in front row. Now myself and Amit were left stranded in last row. The bus resumed the journey and I was able to get good sleep till Shimoga. Like pitching the ball, we were getting pitched high by bus :D. A passenger alighted at Shimoga bus stand and Amit grabbed the middle seat immediately. Even though it was Friday, the off-season kept bus relatively empty at last rows. Also to my knowledge, people ply to kollur mostly by private vehicles. From Shimoga onwards, roads are simply ridiculous. Also the last seat added more pain to journey. I was the only now left in last row. After many hours of wobbling and jumping we are here in Kollur at 6AM. Ourselves found a room to refresh and ready by 7:30AM

We left to Mookambika temple to seek blessings before we could start. There was small queue and main door of temple was supposed to open by 8AM. We had to wait for 30 minutes before door could open. It was open exactly at 8AM and crowd had gathered by that time. Since we occupied the queue very early, it was going inside. We had darshan of mother mookambika and were out in matter of 15mins. Later Rajesh and Amit had blessings from the temple elephant :-). We had breakfast nearby hotel and then ready to start :-).


One of the shop person guided us to reaching the waterfall. As per his directions, we obtained permission from RPFO of Kollur. For each, the cost is 275 and compulsory guide charge of 500 is levied. RPFO convinced that guide is not required and showed us an approximate map to reach the waterfall site. We also nodded head and went ahead without a guide. As per RPFO, it was 4km journey from the sanctuary gate (3km jeep trail + 1km of deep valley).

We waited for shimoga bus at 9:45AM to drop at as Dali which was sanctuary gate stop. The bus did not show up even around 9:50AM. Instead we hired an auto for 40Rs till gate. Here starts our trek. The main gate was closed and we entered the sanctuary via the small gate. As per the placards, this region is conserved forest area with 64 types of medicinal plants. We could smell the fragrance of those great medicinal plants at some places too! Even though the trail is clear, the authorities have erected huge obstacles deliberately to curb vehicular traffic.

As we proceeded further, the wilderness started to haunt us. There was no sound at all except the sound of animals and sometimes flowing water. We were completely in middle of dense rain forests with high woods and darkness. Only at some places we could see sneaking sun :D. But the air was fresh with natural sounds and devoid of mobile signal :-). Few meteres of stroll, here comes leeches ascending all our legs :D. Oh man they were so many ;-). Due to extended monsoon season, the marshy regions were still alive and consequently leeches too! They were desperately trying to suck blood of city morons :-). Having aware of this fact, we had applied repellent prior to our long journey into woods. The leeches were hopping to suck those tasty(?) blood but could not penetrate further. We were just pulling them out from our shoes and socks but there were many. Eventually we left them as it is. As we moved on, the tiredness started haunting. It was not straight path with lots of steep ups and downs. Whenever we wished to stop, the leeches used to attack us. We were really in the battlefield facing those adamant leeches. It was difficult to sit down anywhere either. Finally we spotted a sunny region where we could atleast rest for a while. After crossing two to three streams with pure acqua, we encountered a junction where we took left instead of right.


The wrong path lead us to a house in middle of wilderness. We were bit relieved and talked to women worker in the house. She was speaking Kundapura Kannada which I somehow grasped. She said we had taken wrong path and continue towards right and keep climbing up till we see board to reach waterfalls. She blessed us and requested us to be very much careful and attentive while walking. Since the place is home for cobras, one needs to be watchful of footsteps. That's heart of village people who are always caring and concerned despite being less educated. We also met the house owner's son who had pale eyes and held Rajesh's hands firmly presuming that his mother has arrived. The worker mentioned that his mother has gone to cut grass for cattle. We gave him chocolate and worker pacified him that his mother is yet to arrive.

After brief period of emotions we took right path and climbed with lot of energy. We could feel the water flow all over the walk and confident that waterfall is somewhere nearby. It was like a treasure hunt for us. We climbed steep grades and walk path was similar to my village hills with thorny bushes and stones. You need to be so much watchful downwards while walking not only for snakes but also for these rocks. Slight mistake will make you stumble and risk of spraining ankle. We walked along steep gradients and did not find board at all but the sound of gushing water could be still be heard.


It was difficult to spot this spider at first glance. Its web was shining under Sun. We thought it was some kind of vine but later Rajesh's sharp eye noticed the wild stuff :D


Presuming that we were lost, we headed back. We had bookmarked some trails along left side and one of them lead us to house. The owner lamented that we should have walked a bit further to spot the board :-(. We climbed the hills again through the dense woods with owner's son help. By the time we reached the jeep trail again, we were completely exhausted and sweating profusely. Our entire body was washed in sweat. It was really tedious to climb woods jumping over huge fallen trees but great workout for heavyweights like me ;-). We thanked him and rested at this place for sometime.

We were disappointed and in despair. At one time, decided to return since it was already 1:30PM. Also due to presence of dense vegetation, it feels like the region would be dark around 4PM itself. We were also deprived of water and forgot to fill water in house :-(. We relaxed on the ground for sometime, had dry fruits and glucose water to stimulate us. Few minutes later, our energy was replenished :-). Also Amit was tenacious on spotting the waterfall at any cost. Consequently we resumed our trudge towards waterfalls. The glucose, orange and dry fruits gave us ample energy to walk further. After an hour of walk again on redundant path, we reached the spot where we retreated. While Rajesh sat on a rock, we spotted first snake. That was short but venomous, grey in color. Rajesh woke up instantly since it had passed just nearby him.

We continued to walk further up the hills with fatigue. By then our body was fully washed with sweat. We really had tremendous workout that day! Few distance later, OMG we spotted the deviation! If at all we had moved little further from last time where we backed out, we would have easily spotted the board :-(. We cheered with enthusiasm in wilderness and checked the time. It was 2:30PM. It was decided at any cost we would reach the same place by 4PM to avoid early darkness.




We started walking down the valley through dense rain forest. It was so dark under high woods, at times we felt like having torch. We were petrified to hear the harsh sound of wild insects amidst dense rain forest. It was unclear if they were kind of different species or due to confined area, the sound was recursing :-). Their sound seemed as if some predator is on its way :D. As we moved downwards, there we spot some more scary reptiles and poisonous frog. The frog had sprayed venom before crossing us. That was the unique frog found in western ghats whose venom, if impacted on eye blinds human eye for 15-20mins as per Rajesh's encyclopedia. The trail downwards was very narrow and slippery. We had already crossed two water streams. We could see good view of waterfall from distance and hearing its roar. Just few meters before we could reach waterfall, an adamant snake sleeping along the trail refused to leave the place. Amit slightly tried to move it away but it was only lifting head unmoved :-(. It was already 3PM by then and we were unaware of any such reptiles further. We had no choice other than heading back :-(. Even I forgot to take a picture of distant waterfall :-(. We filled our empty bottles with pristine acqua running down the stream through rocks. That was very cold and clear water.

We reached the diversion point around 3:30PM. Amit was holding long thick twig to dispel reptiles on ground if we come across. We had almost wasted 2hrs before realizing that we were on right path. Eventually the snake blocked our way further towards waterfall. Also heuristics of Rajesh helped a lot under this circumstance. He was well aware that the darkness would evolve around pretty much early as 4PM and we felt it too! We walked further towards Kollur main road and managed in one hour :-). Never have mindset that climbing downwards is easy along these rocky trail. You need good energy to defy gravity along steep gradient ;-). If you act frivolently, you may even stumble spraining ankle. Remember there is no one to help here and its very dense & creepy jungle! It was 4:20PM and we felt like 6PM. Rajesh was perfect in his word :-). We reached Kollur main road at 5PM. There was beautiful sunset sparkling Kodachadri ranges. Someday we have plans to hike these ecstatic western ghats. As we were waiting for bus, leeches started ascending our legs. Our repellent had lost power and one of leeches started sucking blood happily :-). Apply little bit of odomos and it fell down! We caught up with local bus and reached Kollur. After refreshing for some more time in hotel, we left the place to have dinner. 8PM sharp bus started moving towards Bangalore. This time it was middle seat and hence no more entertainment ;-)

Now you know why the title is somewhat strange ;-). Overall a very great experience and we really made it except that we missed waterfall site by just few mts because of snake. May be it happened for our good. The beautiful part was we trekked almost for 14kms with luggage and really enthralled to realise our stamina ;-). I was bit dissappointed about not reaching waterfall but later was really happy to have walked 14kms along the hills. That boosted my confidence and was truly invigorating. The path was really made up of steep gradients and many ups & downs. We had very good workout too :D. Amit was saying no need to exercise for 6 months atleast :D. One more great thing was walking along the woods having great medicinal values. Almost 64 types of medicinal plants are present here and breathing air from these plants itself provides healthy feeling. We could smell fragrance of some plants too which was very much soothing! Atleast once in a year one needs to trek here. It is kind of free service to our lungs. These places are natural tranquilizers. The chirping birds, melody of streams, shimmering western ghats, tall woods and ofcourse the clean air makes western ghats an enduring place to relax. Moreover jumping across the thick wooden logs, the steep gradients, narrow trail, the high hills, tangled vegetation provide an all round workout for the body too! On our return to Kollur, we met the person in bus who helped us to climb the lost path. When I mentioned about incident, he said people rarely visit during this time. He asked us to visit during January timeframe when people presence is more and snakes would not be present along trail.

Some tips after our journey experience:

  1. Please, please hire a guide. Do not start without guide. We were really mis-guided by forest officer even though he took 500 guide charge :-(. It was great lesson for us. Even though the path is clear you need guide to get rid of surprises especially the nasty reptiles and poisonous amphibians. Do not listen to forest officer and insist for guide at any cost. Anyhow there is mandatory charge Rs.500 for guide so you have every right to ask for guide.
  2. Have sufficient energy stuffs like dates, dry fruits, glucose and citrus fruits. Please carry glucose without fail. Have sufficient quantity of water (atleast 5 ltrs per 3 persons). Once you reach waterfall you can fill empty bottles with water nearby waterfalls. It is cool as well as pure having great medicinal value.
  3. Do not get bothered by leeches. Have things like odomos, lime or salt. Let them suck up your bad blood ;-). You can apply odomos prior to start of journey as repellent.
  4. Start early and make sure you start back to reach by 5PM to Kollur main road or Santosh hotel which is mid of ghat section. If you are late to start to waterfall from Kollur or Santosh hotel, please defer the plan. This is highly dense forest and wild animals may start roaming by 5PM due to early darkness. In our case, Rajesh was well aware of this fact and this was other reason to return back after seeing snake rather than dispersing it. Who knows how much more we may have come across.
  5. The forest officer again mis-guided us that total distance is around 4kms from gate. It is 6kms comprising of 5kms of jeep trail and 1km down the valley. The women worker was pretty much right and asked us to climb high till we see board. Still we backed off :-(. Trust the locals nearby more than anyone else. Listen to them carefully and follow their guidelines whoever it may be(worker, landlord or anyone).
  6. Do carry first aid along with you
  7. Last but not least, please please do not litter beautiful western ghats with paper waste or plastics. Understand and respect habitat of wild animals
Checklists (All of them must):
  • Energizers: Chocolate bars, dry fruits, glucose
  • Dehydrators: electrol
  • Fruits like apple, orange
  • First Aid Kit
  • Water (preferably 2ltrs per person). Once you reach waterfall, you can fill from streams.
  • Leech repellent
  • An extra pair of socks
  • Few basic pills for headache, vomiting
Optionally, carry extra pair of clothings, snake bite medicines and a towel.

Whats next! Yes, go again with a guide :D. We may plan to go again but not sure about the timeframe. But may plan along different path and compulsorily with a guide. After February, water starts receding.

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