Saturday, July 25, 2015

Solo drive to Irpu Waterfalls with unexpected guests

24 Jan 2015,

It has been long desire to visit this beautiful waterfalls especially during monsoon season. Well the monsoon wish could not be fulfilled last year, this time I had an opportunity to visit the splendid waterfalls stamped deep inside the Brahmagiri forest range. The Brahmagiri ranges apart from crowned as UNESCO heritage site, is heaven for nature lovers, perfect destination for hikers and most importantly Irpu waterfalls. The vast bio diversity of the region includes one of the rarest breed of peacock & butterfly (name unknown) endemic to western ghats and also plethora of snakes including king cobra & python. The beautiful waterfall is as usual surrounded by the spectacular dense rainforest with tall woods.

How was it planned? I realized the long weekend quite late. Consequently, all buses destined towards my native were reserved sparing null seats. My father co-incidentally called me and asked if I can drive the car all alone to native. Myself, happily agreed and extended my journey via Irpu waterfalls :). You don't need much grit to drive alone. Solo drives seem formidable at the outset. However any skill when practised frequently, becomes a cakewalk. The other advantage is that you are devoid of any objections meaning freedom to choose pit-stops of your wish. Since, Shiraadi ghat highway was under maintenance,we were left with two routes, namely, the charmadi & sampaje ghat. Hopefully shiraadi ghat will have fresh look at the end of summer. Last time, corrupt contractors swallowed all public money which rendered the highway hopeless within a month. They say, people can be judged only by the basis of how they stand out during tough times. Similarly, the tough monsoon mirrored the quality of work being exercised on the highway :(. Bargains apart, my mother fell ill after reaching Bangalore and as a result, my parents left for hometown immediately leaving car in Bangalore. Due to which, I had an opportunity to drive alone for second time. I chose samapaje ghat mainly due to broader roads and also predicting huge traffic along charmadi ghat due to surge of pilgrims to Dharmastala (being 3 days off). On a whim, I decided to visit Irpu waterfalls. I checked the route in google maps on Friday night and hoped for smooth itinerary. The first time, I had to muster up courage for the solo drive. This time, I felt a bit casual but still not without pinch of fraught.

It was 7PM, when I started from my house. The delay was as usual morning routines like breakfast preparation, utensil washing, pooja etc.. The traffic is Mysore was not hefty as experienced during Navaratri days. Barring few intermittent blockages, it was smooth journey till Srirangapattana. But things go wrong sometimes, the Srirangapattana-Ilavala road which connects Mysore-Madikeri highway was blocked for renovation. The signboards could only be spotted in KRS junction. I turned towards Mysore ring road and joined ilavala adding delay of almost 20 minutes. Exactly 11:10AM, I reached Hunsur town and by the grace of locals, I spotted deviation towards Nagarahole. One has to travel 8kms along this road to reach Nagarahole cross. From there, Nagarahole is 40kms. The drive past 8kms is via narrow road, well laid and almost null traffic. No HTVs are allowed. 20kms before Nagarahole, the forest gate welcomes the commuters. Since the tigers and elephant cross the main road during daytime, 2 wheelers are strictly prohibited inside the National Park.

Here starts fun! One of the forest officer along with visitor from Bangalore, had missed the lone bus which traverses through the jungle. Since, I was alone, the inspector requested to provide a lift till Nagarahole. Incidentally, the visitor was a landscape photographer like me :). We shared our experiences throughout the journey. Few kms, later here we see the lofty woods of our lovely western ghats, inhibiting the sun light. The entire stretch is flanked by thick tall teakwood trees planted during British era. Being National Park, visitors are strictly prohibited from malfunctioning with ecosystem. Carrying even a single twig is offensive (even if it is fallen & dry). The decomposition has to happen naturally. Only exception is clearing of fallen logs on the road for smooth movement of traffic. At one place, we saw natural arch formed by gigantic tree protruding its branches towards the road. We spotted deers and common jumping langurs and grabbed few shots. We also spotted elephant dung at few places (not fresh though). The officer informed that there are about 35 tigers in wild and rarely devour humans. The intimidating animal is lone elephant. Even elephants do not ravage unless they are alone. Authorities have erected humps at every km to deliberately slow down accelerating wagons. Nevertheless, none of us feel like accelerating and were enjoying our rainforest & wild life whole heartedly. The forest gate remains open only from 6AM to 6PM, otherwise remains closed for vehicular traffic. The officer asked us to reach the forest gate around 5:30PM to enjoy vivid wildlife. Civilization is very feeble except for forest guest houses and native tribal group known as "Haadi". These people were evacuated since the area was declared National Park with compensation as house + 3 acres of land + 10k monthly stipend. But some people are still happy to stay in touch with nature and enjoy closely the western ghats despite lack of facilities. Their food habits are also simple like sweet potatoes and posses sturdy & healthy body. Presence of wildlife is never problem for them. City people like me, have to learn a lot from these tribes on leading simple life and interacting with nature.

Unfortunately, the safari starts only by 3:30PM and the bus arrives at 5PM to Nagarahole. Hence officer concluded that they cannot enjoy Safari given tight timelines. Both decided to join me to irpu :). I was excited to have healthy company till Irpu. From Nagarahole, Irpu is only 15kms. Someone mentioned it to be around 50kms. Once again, presence of beautiful roads, splendid western ghats, kept us alive all the time. Within 20 mins, we reached kutta. From here, irpu is just 12kms. After 8kms of drive towards Gonikoppa road, we reached the deviation point. From here, drive along 3kms of pathetic road, lead us to parking lot of irpu waterfalls. Since we were with forest officer, the entrance + camera fee was null :)



About irpu

Situated 8kms from Kutta, beneath Brahmagiri ranges, Irpu waterfalls derives its name from the village Irpu. The waterfall apparently a cascade with water blickering from lofty mountains along 4-5 stages from a height of 52feet. During monsoon season, the gallons of water masks the intermediate stages which gives an impression of having only 2 stages.The beautiful Lakshmana Teertha River dancing with frill from mountains is source for this waterfall. The Lakshmana Teertha river merges with Ramateertha river and later joins river Cauvery at KRS reservoir near Mysore. Rameshwara temple is located at the entrance of Irpu waterfalls which has mythological importance connected to it. The waterfall can be visited throughout the year however one has to battle with leeches to watch the roaring river, pouring down with huge pile of water during monsoon. From Kutta, one has to follow Gonikoppa road for 5-6kms and later divert towards left along narrow road for 3kms. This patch of road is not well maintained. I believe, you can also opt to hire an auto from kutta to reach waterfall site. There is ample parking space for the visitors. One can also enjoy the beautiful cascaded Sahyadri ranges standing on the parking area. The entrance fee is Rs.30/- per head. Not sure if they charge for camera. Since our companion was from Forest department, we had free ride towards waterfall. From entrance gate, one has to walk for 750m uphill to reach the waterfall site. One can hear roaring stream of Lakshmana Teertha river from entrance itself. In middle of stroll, one has to climb up few hundred steps and later a hanging bridge which finally leads you to glorious waterfall thumping the strewed boulders. This place is also start point of hike towards Brahmagiri peak. As we reached waterfalls, OMG, what a site! I stayed stunned for a moment enjoying the tumbling waterfalls.

There were quite number of tourists enjoying the bath under the waterfall drop cheering with enthusiasm. Authorities have strictly prohibited the usage of plastics and snacks to maintain sanctity of place. There is also clear instruction to maintain silence. However none of them seemed to follow the rule. Authorities allow bathing during October-May timeframe. One can enjoy head bang from storming water pouring from great elevation. For obvious reasons, one cannot bath during monsoon season (nevertheless one can bath in thick rain drops pouring from the sky!).



Now comes the photography. midday sun is bad time to grab pictures of waterfalls with long exposures mainly due to division of sunlight and shadow on the site. This renders pictures clipped at the brighter side and pictures turn out to be hazy. Fortunately, the patch of clouds held natural umbrella for our photoshoot. Consequently, some of the long exposure shots turned out well in complete shadow cast by clouds over waterfall region.

Once contended with watching the glory, we decided to return to Kutta to satisfy the energy crunch. We had fairly OK lunch which was enough to suppress the famished soul. Since it was already 3PM, I bid goodbye to my unexpected guests and started driving towards Madikeri. It is quite long drive for 90kms. The roads were narrow but well laid. It was easy drive till madikeri and later towards Mani too! I reached my village at 8:30PM and thus ending 560kms of day drive. Next plan may be to visit during peak monsoon season. The waterfalls of western ghats if reachable, is best enjoyed during peak monsoon season provided you can battle with leeches.


2) ಇರುವ ಭಾಗ್ಯವ ನೆನೆದು

What's special this time ;-)


2) Here is short video shot during the stay in waterfall.

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