Saturday, March 28, 2015

A memorable trek to Kodachadri and Arishinagundi Waterfalls: Part (1) -- Kodachadri Hike

Read Part-2 here


Just before spring could begin, we thought of hiking beautiful western ghats. It is difficult to hike mountains during summer. We heard that Kudremukh hike has been banned by forest department temporarily due to fear of forest fire. Ever since Kudremukh area attained status of National Park, authorities have enforced stringent restrictions to curb any malicious activities. Consequently, it was decided to hike Kodachadri ranges and if possible arishinagundi waterfalls. This was massive 25km trek till now for everyone. We did trek for 25kms for 2 days covering the ecstatic western ghats of Kollur and Kodachadri. For 2 days we were in middle of deep dense rain forests and enjoyed our time in the lap of nature with beautiful birds, tall thick woods and sometimes wild animals. Fortunately no snakes this time :-). I have divided this write-up to 3 sections to describe individual day activity. Hope you enjoy our experiences. At the end of blog, I will leave some details if you plan for same. To give some heads up, it was self-organised trek and luckily everything was smooth and worked out as planned (Thanks to co-operation from everyone). This time we were four including me. All of the three were my office colleagues and happily agreed to join the trek. The troop comprised of myself, Rajesh, Ashutosh and Balajee. Our plan was to trek to Kodachadri peak and later down-trek to Arishinagundi waterfalls if possible. Arishinagundi was of low priority though but things twisted in middle of hike. It turned out to be favourable and we enjoyed combo offer :-).

We booked sleeper bus to Kollur (onward and return) in advance to avoid ending up in last seats during weekend buzz. Later on we called Forest guest house person to book a slot in Kodachadri. A shocking news of forest guest house closure struck us and we did not knew as how to proceed. One of the blogger had provided contact of priest Mr.Nagendra located in Kodachadri. We called him and he was happy to accommodate four of us for a night. We were enthralled after Mr.Nagendra provided positive nod. Al-right! everything is set now. What next! Prepare for journey ;-). We listed down all essentials and distributed items amongst ourselves. Few things, we decided to pack from Kollur. It was all set for a great memorable trek along splendid rain forests of Kollur.

31 Jan 2014

Being in IT field, everyone is apprehensive of planned journeys. Nobody can even predict instant tremors one could face during weekend. Ours was also no different; Imbroglios continued to haunt till last moment. Fortunately all obstacles smoothed by end of Friday and we were poised to set our foot on verdant rainforest. Ashutosh had reached Durgamba office at Sheshadripuram earlier than us. Rest of three congregated at Majestic and caught up with bus to Sheshadripuram. In matter of few minutes we assembled at the prescribed point. We had light dinner along with fruits and waiting for bus to arrive. In middle, lots of discussion items popped up including the fighter planes, bullet trains etc.. as pass time. The bus arrived at 10:15PM, 15 mins late than scheduled time. We started our journey in sleeper bus hoping for sweeter dawn.

01 Feb 2014

Early morning, no trace of Kollur yet. The bus was moving at snail's pace along dilapidated road from Hosanagar to Kollur. We were relieved as we heard cleaner announcing the arrival of Nittur. From here, Kollur is around 16kms. The last few patches were laid with concrete but it was difficult for bus to glide along narrow hairpin bends. I enjoyed the first clear glimpse of those mighty evergreen tropical rain forests of Kollur. OMG, those tall thick woods just heaven to watch :-). We would be trekking along these beautiful dense jungles in few hours. After negotiating the curves, the bus finally reached Kollur at 7:30AM. We found a room to refresh for 2hours. It seems like the summer has already begun in coast. Consequently, did not have problem of taking bath in cold water backed by humid weather of Kollur.

We checked out from lodge in matter of 2 hours and ready to begin day activities. We deferred darshan of goddess Mookambika to subsequent day. After relishing breakfast at Adiga's hotel, we packed necessary stuffs like water bottle, lunch and some fruits. The day, Adiga's hotel was crowded and the servants were feeble. The hotel caretaker expressed his inability to parcel lunch for us. Later we packed lunch in another well known hotel and ready to start. Around 10:00AM we caught a bus to Kodachadri cross and reached the destination in matter of 30 minutes. This is the end of Udupi district jurisdiction and beginning of Shivamogga district. Here we begin the actual journey to trek. We noted down the time and it was 10:30AM.


We started walking along the beautiful dense rain forests along the jeep trail. The region was under utter darkness even in mid-day Sun. All along the path we could hear soothing sound of chirping birds and enjoyed the strolling along trail flanked by tall woods. Recently the region has been converted to wildlife sanctuary to preserve these beautiful treasures of western ghats. The jeep trail is somewhat straight with manageable ups and downs. 2kms later, we entered inhabited area and it was plain grassland region. The forest cover had finished by this time and we had to  walk along with scorching Sun. We could even see the Kodachadri peak from a distance which was our target! After few kms along the plain road we reached Santosh hotel which was start of trek point. The time was 12:00PM. We had covered 4kms by then. We refreshed ourselves with full glass of tasty buttermilk and few snacks. Rajesh asked if we can obtain a guide to Arishinagundi next day. The owner of hotel nodded positively and we payed an advance amount for the guide. The hotel owner said he would manage the forest permission with guide and asked us to call him before starting the down trek from Kodachadri. This is how Arishinagundi was planned ;-).


12:45PM, we were ready to start the trek :-). For first 200mts it is the plain road and later on we enter jungle. Here starts the steep sections of trail. Now we know the trek trail has begun. From Santosh hotel, its well defined trail till the Kodachadri peak. There is no way you can get lost ;-). Earlier, only few forest portions nearby Kollur were covered under wildlife sanctuary. Recently all these hillocks including Kodachadri peak, the forests of Hidlumane falls carry the tag of officially conserved area. Consequently one can expect tight restrictions enforced by forest department in coming days. Moving on, due to ample time, we hiked comfortably along those steep trails and in no mood to rush. Our tiredness was low since the trail was under thick cover of western ghats. Only at few places, the hike is around 50degrees in angle. All along the trek, we were making sure four of them are together and everyone was in a comfortable position to move further. Being almost spring time, we did not encounter leeches :-). As we reached high altitudes, the weather was getting colder too! Kodachadri peak is almost 4215ft. above sea level. The forest cover in this area is home to valuable medicinal plants and diverse wildlife [especially snakes ;-)].


A healthy 1hour trek lead us to grassland area from where we had to trek under the Sun :-). This was difficult patch of the trek. The Sun combined with steep gradients required bit more time than usual. Initially we enjoyed the panoramic view of cascaded hillocks from here. Later we were profusely sweating and had to rest frequently. Sometimes the ridge is very narrow that gravity of valley tend you to push down the hill :D. The gradients are almost 70 degrees steep at few places. We did have lot of water too! Fortunately after few mtrs of hike, the patches of clouds blocked considerable portion of Sunlight entering the ground. That was kind of temporary relief for us. Toiling our way hard along the grassland, we finally reached the forest patch again. Phew man, that was tiring. Now everyone was hungry and it was time for lunch. We had packed pulav from Kollur and it was OK. Due to hunger, we found it to be yummy since there was no other option :-). We also made sure to carry plastic waste with intention of maintaining cleanliness of western ghats. Even before onset our journey from Bangalore, we had pledged not to litter the dense rain forests with indecomposable wastes.



The 3rd section of hike is along the dense jungle again! This was pretty normal hike with smooth gradients. We also spotted some birds here! Many of these sections consisted of eroded soil land which might have formed during monsoon season. We could even see the trail of gushing water at some places. Once we are done with this section we entered a small field where we spotted wild hen. Could not take pictures of them due to their shyness. Those birds run away from humanity pretty fast. After a small field, we entered the last forest trail and we spotted forest guest from distance. This was quite tough since it requires steep climb. The last 50ft, we unintentionally predicted false trail path because of which we climbed a 80 degree stretch. That was bit adventurous but was unnecessary since easy path was available. We presumed this steep path to be actual trail but things turned out quite complicated for us at the end. After this climb, here we are at the Kodachadri base camp at 4PM! That was pretty much tiring but we were happy to reach the first target. We kept our bags at the priest house and booked our dinner. After short tea break, we started hiking towards peak to enjoy Sunset at 4:45PM.

It was again pretty hard climb towards peak. We enjoyed the cascaded jungles from elevated point. It was marvellous to watch Sharavathi river backwater even! On the way to peak, we visited Ganesha cave temple. It is believed that Shankaracharya started holy pilgrimage to kaashi, Gokarna and Badri from passage located near the cave. Few more climbing, we were at the peak at 5:30PM! We had darshan of Lord Shiva constructed by Sri Shankaracharya at the top. It is called as Sarvajna peetha. Later we sat on the rocks awaiting beautiful sunset. The Sun was dazzling and waiting for its time to set down western horizon. I kept camera for sunset timelapse mainly because of push from Rajesh :-). Few hours later, the whitish Sun cooled down, painting the horizon with beautiful orange splendour. That was great sight to watch along with western ghats. Once Sun set completely, it was time to return to base-camp. We did not visit "Chitramoola" which is birth point of Sowparnika river :-(. I guess we were bit lethargic and not so much excited. Anyhow, one of shop vendors said there would barely be any water there. We were hungry and dinner was ready. We had good meals but was very spicy. Anyhow the buttermilk compensated the spiciness to large extent. Ashutosh wanted to capture star trails and he did it too! Even I wanted to grab some but did not have tripod :-(. We three, fell asleep. The fatigue body had turned us to deep slumber instantly.




We had lot of fun in middle of sleepy night. That was very small room without any light. The priest had arranged mat and bedsheet and we had extra bed sheet to cover us under cold weather. Every movement within room was making people suspicious of reptile presence :D. We woke many times with torch to make sure everything was right. Even though we were sceptical during night time, we laughed at ourselves repeatedly after waking up realizing that our assumptions were fake :D.

What's up this time

Here are the panoramic shots.


I did compose lot of HDRs but only one turned out to be good :-) [Need to work lot on compositions. Ashutosh composes far better pictures than me!]. The darkness required tripod to stabilize the long exposure images which I did not possess. Consequently, this affected the sharpness of shadow images.

Related Blogs:

i) Sunset and Sunrise timelapse at Kodachadri peak

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sri Ramadevara Betta, Ramanagara

Ramadevara betta is located 5kms from the Ramanagara town and around 3kms from Bangalore-Mysore Highway. A narrow road from main highway leads to the entrance of Ramanagara forest gate. This place is covered under reserved forest area and conserved to safeguard unique breed of eagle inhabited here. It seems the place has mythological importance connected to "Jatayu". Fortunately did not spot any monkeys en-route. From the entrance one has to climb 450 steps to reach the top of hill with slightly moderate effort. Enjoy the dense vegetation throughout the ascension. It had just stopped raining during my climb. The place looked deserted devoid of any human presence. On the way one can spot Shiva & Anjaneya temples. The peak has Rama temple, Ramateertha pond & vantage point. One can enjoy beauty of nature from the vantage. I could not visit the vantage point due to time crunch. There is no entrance associated with the place. As I reached the peak, I spotted few visitors.
The temple at the peak is called "Pattabhirama temple" and rightly the deity is Lord Rama. The sanctum sanatorium looks to be cave. I banged my head against the stone. On request, the priest of temple delineated the fable connected to this hill. The enthusiasm of priest's narration was the primal attraction.


Post crowning of Lord Rama, Sugreeva carried sculpture of Rama, Seetha, Lakshmana and Anjaneya. In middle of journey, he encountered the ogre named Sukasura at this place. Following fierce battle, Sugreeva repressed Sukasura. However, the idol had to be installed to fight with the giant. The installed idol could not be pulled out and an voice-over directed him to live the idol in this place itself. The same idol is believed to be one inside the cave.




The pond called Ramateertha can be found besides the temple fenced to prevent human entry. Nobody knows the depth of pond since it has not been measured. It is believed to be much deeper. The priest said the pond is always filled with water even if there is dearth of rains. The fable again falls back to Ramayana times. During exile, it is believed Lord Rama & Seeta had arrived at this place. There was no trace of water nearby the place. Consequently, Lord Rama pierced the ground with arrow to derive the water source and hence the name RamaTeertha. During ancient times, even Saptha Rushis were believed to bath in pond and carry out penance. As a mark of 7 sages, neighbouring hillock has 7 rock placements.

The forest gate is open from 8AM to 5:30PM beyond which gate will be closed. Kindly maintain cleanliness and preserve the sanctity of the place. If you cannot spot bins, please carry them.

With Ramanavami around the corner, the random lurking through old images tempted me to write about this place. The post is also dedicated to Lord Rama and may the lord bless people on earth shine with prosperity.

Here are few videos from recent visit. The nature, conjoined with monsoon rains had garnished the region with lush greenery and beautiful landscape. Hope you enjoy the videos as well :)

1) The Ramadevara hill as relogious destination

2) Beautiful nature from Ramadevara hill view point

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Relishing Hoysala glory at Belur and Halebeedu

Almost a year passed and finally I have compiled my experiences from visit based on scribbling made on my notepad. It took little time to ruminate the details and transform the highlights to properly knit statements.

01 March 2014,

It has been long time since I visited these places. The last I had been here was during childhood days. It was in one of my lists to visit these places again and regain those past moments and explore the edifices of Hoysala empire for one more time. Consequently, I geared myself after intense tussle this Saturday and it was long way to go.

Belur is around 210kms from Bangalore which is healthy 4hr journey from Bangalore assuming no traffic hiccups early morning. Initial plan was to park bike in Railway Station and catch up the 6:30AM KSRTC Mercedez benz bus destined to Chikmagalur. However sometimes plans don't wont work out. Alas! 5AM in morning, I realized, bike was punctured. This is third time rear wheel suffered puncture. Not sure why is that happening frequently. Nevertheless, such incidents can never deter my travel plans. Around 5:30AM, I rushed to HSR BDA bus stop and caught bus to Silkboard. From here I boarded a bus to Majestic comfortably. 6:20AM, I am in majestic and spotted the Mercedez benz bus. Being weekend, the bus was relatively crowded and had to content with last seat due to lack of prior reservation. After initial hurdles, the mighty 6 cylinder turbo charged & intercooled rear engine eventually cranked at 6:45AM and started rolling over bitumen surface.

A short interruption to interruprt service routine:

This was first time I was travelling in Mercedes Benz bus. The VOLVOs have revolutionized bus journeys in India. I am ardent fan of volvo buses even now and been following their segments namely B7R, B9R, 9400, B11R. I love the sound of engine progression with whistling turbo :D. Especially it is pleasant to hear gradating engine sound when the beast accelerates from 60kmph onwards! The other part of enjoyment is smashing turbo sound during 6-5 & 5-4 gear shifts. One has to experience the amazing short turning radius of bus manoeuvring short paths with ease. Many competitors were desperately trying to capture the market dominated by VOLVO! One of them were the Mercedes Benz guys. Others have fallen in vain and could not match up with VOLVO's charisma. The Mercedes Benz also armed with 6 cylinder turbo charged & inter-cooled engine (I don’t think any diesel engines nowadays manufactured without turbochargers). It has almost identical specifications as VOLVO B7Rs (6 speed, high power, high torque at lower rpm, hydraulic brakes etc..). My initial impression from internet sources were that Mercedes Benz buses do not match up with VOLVOs. The apparent trudging sound of rear engine had given me same thought. Once I travelled in the bus, my thoughts changed. The initial problem with B7Rs were last row seats heating up due to rear engine mount. However, I did not notice such a problem with Mercedes Benz. The one thing that impressed me was the sufficient leg room which VOLVOs lack even now. One more difference from Mercedez and VOLVO I noticed was the rear axle arrangement. The rear single wheel axle is at the front while double wheel axle is at the back for VOLVO buses. While it is reverse for Mercedez buses. Not sure which one sustains well. I believe the VOLVOs arrangement is better. The bus was coasting in medium grades. People were complaining about lack of pull as VOLVOs along steep grades (ex: ghat sections). I am not entitled to validate the statement since I have not travelled along ghat section in Mercedes buses. The thing disappointed me was the poor suspension. Even along tiny humps, I was high up in air. To some extent, I have faced this problem in B7Rs too! Sometimes I felt, private buses destined to Udupi had good suspension. Nevertheless, it is almost equivalent to VOLVOs from my current journey experience. Despite of this, VOLVOs still rule luxury bus segments due to their engine performance which gives them mighty edge over other manufacturers.

Back to business after completing ISR

Why a costly ride for mere 4hrs journey? There were two primary reasons
  1. The premium buses would halt at good restaurants so that I can have hefty breakfast
  2. I wanted to reach early so as to spend more time in designated places (which was primary intent and not bus journey). The ordinary buses pass through all the towns and sometimes even villages digressing from main highway. The main hiccup is Kunigal town which almost consumes 20mins more if not taken bypass route.

After a healthy 90mins of journey coupled with nap, the bus stopped at Swathi Delicacy near Yediyur town. The right spot to savour breakfast. Once done with sufficient food, the bus moved towards the culmination with normal speed (guess 80kmph or more?). Annoyingly, the bus entered Channarayapattana town. This added few minutes delay. Eventually 9:30AM, here we are in Hassan town. Not to forget, the toll booths of Devihalli-Hassan section of NH-75 have started collecting fees after long survey. Good news is that more or less it has same cost as Nelamangala-Devihalli stretch!

The bus left Hassan town after brief break of 15mins. It has been long time since I visited Hassan town. Nowadays we usually travel via bypass avoiding main land. This saves almost 30mins of journey time. Belur being situated north of Hassan, one has to cross interior of town to reach the place. Few minutes later, the bus entered the highway connecting Chikmagalur. Belur is around 40kms from Hassan. The initial stretch is full of humps and later on well paved state highway and one can have aeroplane drive B). I felt the bus was speeding quite more than it was along four lane highway or was it my illusion. An hour later which is 10:30AM, the bus dropped me to Belur bus stand and with the help of locals, I reached Chennakeshava temple which was a km walk.

Chennakeshawa Temple, Belur

The corridor. Whole_scene-People would have been great picture!
The circular layered architecture


This is a vertically composed horizontally knit panoramic shot of Chennakeshawa temple comprising of 10 images. It was lying in disk for in dormant state for almost a year and was thrilled when I actually aligned them. The stitch was done using Hugin while final editing with darktable. Hope you enjoy it too!
Panoramic View
The Chennakeshava temple in Belur was built during Hoysala regime. The details can be found in wikipedia which I am not repeating here. The temple with beautiful façade is covered in vast area and has a pinnacle at the entrance. The pinnacle was under renovation and hence we had to enter from a different direction. It is daunting task to renovate such delicate monuments without harming the antiquity of structure. At the outset, the temple welcomes with huge premise with wide veranda spread along its periphery. The pillar nearby the shrine gazes towards the sky. 2-3 temples surround the main shrine. The placards were obscure due to lack of maintenance. I went inside all the temples which were open and enjoyed the huge rock structural marvels. At some places the long streak of pillars were delightful to watch.

The major attraction is beautifully engineered intricate frieze of animals on the side-walls. It is fascinating to watch precision engineering crafted during ancient times. The structure has become delicate due to ageing and authorities have erected boards to keep away from walls or idols. The streak of closely carved elephants and daemons along the temple periphery are articulately sculptured. The construction of pillars were amazing sight to watch. One can feel the antiquity by watching them. The temple is surrounded by 2-3 tiny temples and have sufficient information about each one of them (unclear though). Pushkarini lies in north-east direction of temple. Once wandered along outskirts, I went inside the temple sanctum sanatorium where was deity was being adorned with ornaments, flowers and clothes. The main attraction inside the was the 7 layered circular architecture which has some significance narrated by people inside. I do not remember them exactly now, however internet sources should provide authentic details on this. Except deity, you can photograph anywhere inside the temple for nominal fee of Rs.20/-. Guides inside hold torch for the photographers to provide sufficient lighting. This was highly useful for me since my camera has faithful image reproduction only till ISO-800. One more point is that flash does not work well i.e. they tend to spoil the originality of the structure.

Once I finished wandering around the Belur temple, it was time to bid goodbye to magnifique architecture. I bought temple laddu to savour during the journey.  Alongside the sultry weather, my stomach was cursing with empty resource. Now its time replenish physical energy. As per suggestion from local people, I had tasty lunch at Shankar hotel nearby main bus stop. All the dishes were matching my taste with less spice and salt.

Once contented with lunch, I caught a local bus to vist Halebeedu. Halebeedu is around 16kms from Belur. Frequent bus services ply towards Halebeedu en-route. These buses are not destined to Halebeedu rather to larger towns. You need seek help of locals to find right buses since the direction on buses is unclear. Barely 30mins of journey, the bus dropped me in Halebeedu. The stop is right near the Halebeedu monument. Except for historical significance, both Belur and Halebeedu are under developed areas. The main source of income is agriculture and tourism. Unlike Belur, Halebeedu seemed to have large area (I may be wrong). Even if the temple is smaller, the vast area is covered with lawn. The deity here is Hoysaleshwara. The temple has almost similar carvings as Belur and no cost for photographing anywhere. There is a statue of Jain Theerthankara on the lawn apart from Ganesh idol. At both places, people will be amazed by the engineering skills invested to construct the temples. Especially, the closely knit carved on the walls of temple requires delicate and precision engineering. Over the years, the structure has loosened out due to various reasons prominently ageing and destruction by Mughal regime. Even if authorities try to restore few structures, it may be daunting task to maintain the archaicness.

Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebeedu
Couchant Nandi facing Lord Hoysaleshwara

Temple Corridor. Same comment as Belur one
Lord Hoysaleshwara
Beautiful and intricate carvings

The side-look
After wandering here for more than an hour, it was time to rush towards Bangalore due to lack of time. I caught a bus to Hassan and later boarded a bus to Bangalore and thus ending my journey. I reached Bangalore around 10PM and it was raining in the capital city. I was fortunate to leave the bike at home (something happen for good) but it does not end complications. Had difficult time waiting for bus and reaching home. It was almost midnight as I reached home and time to end the day with lying on bed.

Personal vehicles are the best to reach these places. There is no dearth of buses however, own vehicles add comfort and provides sufficient time to explore the monuments. The worst part is loathing garbage. Wherever I travel, the rampant garbage is the mightiest plague. Be it our beautiful architecture, national parks, rainforests, amazing shorelines, waterfalls, people can't resist cramming the places with garbage despite the presence of trash bins. If you do not spot any garbage bins kindly hold onto the trash until you find suitable bins or carry with you. Its terrifying to see tourists littering  all around while same people praise foreign lands for being more cleaner. The rampant littering on an entirety blemishes wonders of our nation.

Tips for DSLR geeks: Carry a wide angle lens say 10-22mm and optional macro to captured detailed view of carvings on the structure. If your lens does not have image stabilizer, you will need to carry tripod since the luminosity is feeble inside the temple. Avoid weekends if possible; frames will be filled with human elements than actual subject!

A short note: I use Luminance HDR to blend bracketed shots. The LHDR is not yet matured with anti-ghost feature. Hence one can see ghosting in the final HDR image.

Related blogs:

A short timelapse from Belur-Halebeedu visit


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