Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kumaraparvatha Trek - Day 2

...continuation from Day 1

The alarm started buzzing at 6:30 and we were in no mood to wake up, for it was cold outside and the mist condensed into water drops and kept dripping inside the tent. But then the very thought of missing the beauty of early morning urged us to wake up and get out of the tent. As soon as I unzipped the tent, the first sight itself was scary. The mist was gushing out through the gap in the hedge with so much force as though there were gigantic fans down the mountain blowing fog with all its might. It wasn't that cold, but it was extremely windy and misty with very low visibility and the mild morning sunshine which I had pictured was totally out of question.

We went out for a stroll, the same place where we had watched the sunset on the previous evening. The valley was totally invisible covered with the densest fog and the winds were extremely strong. At times the winds blew off the clouds which unveiled the sun which almost resembled moon with a golden tinge. We came back to the tent, undid it and packed our bags. We started off our descent after having a light breakfast of oranges and apples.

Our plan was to descend on the Kukke side, so after half a kilometer of descent we had to deviate left in the direction of "water source". The landscape looked splendid at that time of the day, all the nearby hills were dark while a distant mountain was well lit by the morning sunshine. We descended slowly along the rocky part of Pushpagiri and passed through a stretch of canopy. Suddenly I remembered that that was exactly the place where we had camped during our last trek to Kukke about 8 years ago. We saw many tents still lying there without any people in it. Most of those who climb from Kukke side camp in this lee shola (a valley with dense forest growth in it) region, which overs a good protection from the wicked mountain winds.

We then started ascending KP, the neighbouring mountain. Just before the summit we stopped at a viewpoint for breakfast. Shashanka was the mother of the group, he was kind enough to spread the marmalade on bread and give it to each of us. It was very breezy and we were on the edge of the cliff, we had to gain a purchase tightly on the rocks and have our bread. We then ascended to the summit of KP. The panorama of the surrounding mountains was stunning from KP summit, the winds were almost pushing us despite heavy backpacks. From KP its a strenuous descent all the way to Bhattara Mane. The path is stony and the gradient is very steep which makes the legs terribly sore.

Bhattara Mane is like a temple to most KP trekkers. It was almost 11 by the time we reached Bhattara Mane. It's a small house with a big courtyard and areca plantations in the front. Trekkers are served here with delicious food prepared by Bhattru, some of them also use this abode for overnight stay. Its sheer social service that Bhattru serves food to trekkers amidst such a desolate mountain range. Everybody will be so tired that the food he serves will be almost an ambrosia for the hungry tummies. It's a very simple food usually contains rice, sambar, pickle and butter-milk. They charge as less as Rs. 50 per person and it's upto you to pay them. If you're in a big group then its better you inform them beforehand to avoid waiting, the contact number is +91-9448647947. We were served with rice, unripe banana sambar, lemon pickle and butter milk and we devoured it like pigs. By 12, we took leave from Bhattara Mane.

The journey ahead of Bhattra Mane is the most difficult part for three reasons. Firstly, the sultry weather of Dakshina Kannada district sets in and drains all your energy out in no time. Secondly the heavy food at Bhattara Mane makes the trek very exhausting. Thirdly it's a steep descent all the way till Kukke with very stony and irregular path. It took about two hours for us to reach the civilized world, the heads-up of which we got by the sounds of barking dogs and water pumps when we were close to Kukke. The distance from where the trail meets the road to Kukke town is about 1.5km.

Our legs were paining like hell, we ambled all the way to Kukke bus-station. Kukke, is a crowded town with many devotees visiting the famous Kukke Subramanya temple which is known to be miraculous. KP peak is visible behind the temple tower. We had tender coconuts and cucumbers to beat the heat and also ate delicious "Kaltappa" a thick akki-rotti sort of a dish, typical in Dakshina Kannada. We bought bus tickets and had to wait till 4 for it's departure. It was a pathetic bus service (some SRT travels), it was probably the slowest bus on road which reached Bangalore (via Hassan) by midnight.

Definitely the trek was a memorable one, thanks to Shashank for pushing me for the trek. Also the climb from Somvarpet is definitely much better (better in terms of terrain, weather, water sources, landscape and distance) than from Kukke side. It's considered to be the toughest trek in Karanataka, for me it was a great feeling to be there again for it brought back to me the memoirs of my college days.

Below are some informative excerpts from the flyer given at the forest office:
Nearest Towns: Makideri (24km), Swmvarpet (26km)
Nearest Railways Stations: Mysore (120km), Bangalore (250km), Mangalore (130km)
Climate: 10 degrees in winter to 34 degrees in summer
Major peaks: Pushpagiri (1712m), Parvathagiri betta (1571m), Kumaraparvatha (1399m), Mandalpatti (1306m
Trekking Routes:
Mandalpatti - Hullubane (1km)
Mandalpatii - Kothanadaka - Marigundi (22km)
Beedahalli - Pushpagiri - Girigadde (14km)
Girigadde - Damangudde - Marigundi (10km)
Mandalpatti - Hamiyala - Bakthi - Beedahalli (24km)
Mallahalli Waterfall (18km from Somvarpet towards Beedahalli & 3km on the right)
Beedahalli Waterfall (near Beedhalli anti-poaching camp)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kumaraparvatha Trek - Day 1

A free weekend, a good pair of shoes, appetite for adventure, love for nature - if you've got all these then plan a trek to Kumaraparvatha, better known as KP among the trekkers. After many futile attempts of planning this trek, we had an impromptu one last weekend. Four of us (Shashank, Tejaswi, Anand and myself) met at KSRTC bus station in Majestic and realized how difficult it is to get a seat without reservation. We finally had to travel to Kushalnagar though our destination was Somvarpet, due to unavailability of seats. The bus finally departed Bangalore at midnight and we arrived as early as 5 in the morning at Kushalnagar.

We had a delicious coffee at the road-side while we waited for the bus to Somvarpet, which came at 5:45 and left to Kushalnagar at 6. It was an hour long journey in which I tried to catch some sleep, but it was again a vain attempt. The roads were too bumpy and curvy which kept tossing me badly. At 7, we alighted the bus in Somvarpet and we had to take another bus to BidhaLLi at 7:15. We quickly devoured idlis at Sharada canteen near the bus stand, bought pickles, onions and water bottles and boarded the bus. The bus was crowded by trekkers like us with backpacks and knapsacks. The entire gang of trekkers alighted at Hegde Mane village.

After walking for about 10 minutes, we encountered a bridge across a small river. We got down to the river and finished all our morning routine and started the actual trek at 9:15. The road keeps ascending all the way till the village Heggade Mane. The landscape in Heggade Mane is beautiful, you get to see farmer plough the land surrounded by verdant mountains all around or a gracious country lady carring her child on her waist. There is a steep ascent after Hegde Mane, which leads to Malleshwara temple. The tarmac ends there and a dusty trail starts. At 10:30, we were at the forest office.

At forest office, we had to enter the details (name, address and contact number) and sign a kinda of indemnity certificate which states that "Forest department is not responsible if u're hunted down by a wild animal", of course in a nicer way and in Kannada. A trekking fee of Rs. 75 and a camping fee of Rs. 40 per person is to be paid. On the back of the receipt, they gave the contact number of the forest department and asked us to call them in case of any problems. They also gave an informative flyer that contained available trekking trails, the fauna of the region, altitude of the mountains and a small map. We thanked them profusely and took leave from them. They've also constructed a hanging bridge just outside the office to cross a small stream.

There are signboards at prominent places indicating the distance to Pushpagiri summit. After few minutes of walk, we came across a waterfall, definitely not a very beautiful one, but it's a good place to relax for a while. We spent about 15 minutes there, had some cookies, took some photographs and continued ahead. The trail is a very pleasant one - lots of small water sources, most trail is well canopied, mildly steep gradient, not too stony unlike the one from Kukke side. We reached the view point by lunch time, we had Jolada rotti with pickle and it was very satisfying to lunch with a beautiful vista of mountains before us.

We continued our journey ahead, the trail started becoming more and more rockier as we ascended. There are two stretches of very steep rocks that we had to scramble up slowly. Though it was not at all difficult to ascend, it tired our calf muscle greatly. Actually these two stretches are the best part of the ascent, a mild adventurous delight for the newbies. The vegetation changes after these two stretches from dense jungle to a sort of taller shrubs. That change only means that you're close to the summit and it's time to just unload your backpack, turnback and have a look at the panoramic view of the landscape. It was breathtaking.

At about half kilometer below from the summit, you see a board that says "Water source". Thats the direction to head to KP and Kukke Subramanya. Since we had emptied already 3 bottles of water and we had a whole night to spend, we thought of replenishing our bottles. We dumped our backpacks, Anand and myself went to refill the bottles while Shashank and Tejaswi stood sentry for our luggage. It was a laborious task of filling the bottle since the stream was very small and I couldn't get some great idea like Bear Grylls to fill our bottle. Though I got an idea of dipping a clean cloth and squeezing it into bottle, but we didn't have a clean enough piece of cloth. We came back and continued to the summit.

By the time we reached the summit of Pushpagiri, it was exactly 3:30, the weather was extremely pleasant with gentle breeze and warm evening sunlight. We pitched the tent in the middle, but then Tejaswi was smart enough to suggest that we pitch it closer to the hedge on the lower part of the mountain. That was definitely a great idea, it was the best lee side on the mountain which was well protected from winds. As I pitched the tent, boys collected firewood for the bonfire. We had two pegs of Black Dog scotch, I also prepared a makeshift bhel-puri sorts (spiced peanuts, avalakki, crispy jolada rotti, pickle, onions, chakli) which was greatly appreciated by the boys.

At about 5, we went for a stroll to explore the mountain. On the west side there is a viewpoint with stunning views of sunset and the surrounding landscape. We went there and relaxed for a while. It was a beautiful day with fleecy artistic cloud patterns, blue sky, red sun - as though we were watching a cinema on an infinitely large screen sitting on a balcony. It was a delight for my camera too, I saw it more through view-finder than my eyes. We walked around the place till sunset after which we returned to our camp area for the Black Dog was waiting for us!!!

We sucked at lighting the bonfire, it took nearly half hour for us to get the flames unfurling brightly. Bhel-puri was repeated, Black Dog was repeated and blabbering started. We kept talking for a long while about marriage, about girls, about Aindrita Ray, about the pretty lady in the green shirt in the other group, her curls, her voice and lots of other unmentionables...until we got bored and took to singing. We sang (in the most cacophonous way) at the top of our voices as though we were the Kishore Kumars and Sonu Nigams and SPBs. At 9:30, we were all terribly exhausted and sleepy, we hit the sac and, it seems, I was snoring in no time while others suffered from cold and space congestion.

Apparently there is a confusion among many about the names of the mountains Pushpagiri? Kumaraparvatha? What I was told was that when we trek from Somvarpet side we first get Pushpagiri (the tallest mountain) and then when you continue towards Kukke you hit KP. Some told me that it's the same mountain, climbers from Kukke side call it KP and the ones from Somvarpet call it Pushpagiri.

Things to carry:
Sleeping bag
Drinking water
Snacks and fruits
A little kerosene would make your life a lot easier
Don't forget your cameras, landscapes are truly breathtaking.

Day 2 to follow soon...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Amazing architecture of Aihole

From the capital of Chalukyas, we head straight to the village of AihoLe (read I-ho-Lay). The beauty of AihoLe is that, the whole town has got innumerable historical remains. The houses of the residents are juxtaposed with old monument or debris. AihoLe definitely should be explored leisurely, walking around the streets of the village and climbing the nearby hill. Unfortunately we were not that lucky, we had to be satisfy ourselves by visiting just the main temple group. We were starving out of hunger, after breakfast only thing that we consumed was water and it was almost 4 in the evening by the time we reached AihoLe. My yearning for having mandakki was satiated in a roadside eatout, we had delicious mandakki husli, mandakki voggaraNe, menasinkai bajji and special k-tea before entering the temple group.

The entrance costs Rs.5 per person and Rs.25 for digital cameras. Its oval shape is its singularity, not many temples are built in such shape. The architecture is predominantly of Chalukya style, for it was their early capital. The landmark oval shaped Durga temple that we encounter at the entrance is what you can find in most AihoLe postcards or search results. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple is built on a raise platform and the tower of the temple is of unique pyramidal shape which is not too common. A narrow courtyard separates the pillared balustrade wall from sanctum sanctorum and the outer walls contain brilliant carvings. AihoLe was like a research lab for artists who kept experimenting with various styles and developed themselves a unique Chalukya genre. Probably that explains the uniqueness of the architecture here.

The archeological findings of AihoLe are well displayed around a lawn just outside the museum in front of Durga temple. I could spot various forms of Ganapthi, Narasimha and other Hindu deities carved in stones. The museum contain some gigantic findings and also photographs of Pattadakal and AihoLe before and after restorations by ASI. There are many other interesting temples like Lad Khan temple (though I'm curious about the name), AihoLe temple and a beautiful temple tank. Most temples are reconstructed and are still being constructed. Due to lack of data, patience and time, I'm again being less descriptive here. Those interested, could go through the details about AihoLe temples here and here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Chalukya Creativity

After wholeheartedly appreciating the Cave Temples of Badami we continued our journey to the next historical landmark in Karnataka, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Pattadakal. Pattadakal, the capital of Chalukyas, is a series of temples. There are many temples viz. Virupaksha temple, Sangameshwara temple, Mallikarjuna temple, Kashi Vishwanatha temple, Jain temple etc. The stone carvings are awe-inspiring, the reliefs are mind-blowing. I'm gonna be less wordy this time for I myself don't have enough information, those interested could read the wiki page of Pattadakal.