Refreshing!!! That’s the feeling I have of the beautiful rain trek in the Agumbe ghats. As always good to be in our great western ghats. My friends and I made a magnificent nine and started on a friday night of a regular weekend. We hired a TT to drive us close to our destination. As usual the route from Bengaluru was Nelmangala, Kunigal and Hassan. From Hassan, take route towards Belur, then to Chikmagalur, Aldur, Balehonnur and Sringeri. From Sringeri to Kigga.
We reached Sringeri at dawn and took a break in the TT. The stretch via Balehonnur was bumpy and we were all clearly shaken up, literally. It was raining heavily, thats good because we chose to do the trek in the rains. It was after a long time, the earlier rain trek was to Kodachadri and it was one heluva experience. So hoping to catch some excitement this time,here.From Sringeri we reached Kigga which is around 15 to 20kms away. There is only one road to Kigga and towards the end of the main street is the RishyaShringa Temple, pretty old one. Sringeri is named after RishyaShringa. This was a lovely sight to wake up to. We also identify the little sleek yellow board pointing to Siri Mane falls. So we are at the right place.
Took some time to make a mental note of all things beautiful around. I was filled with joy and the monsoon added a bit of flare. The weather was good and the air smelt refreshing, a far cry in noisy and polluted Bengaluru. As we scouted around to understand how things work around here, i spotted this beautiful thatched house. It so typified Malnad. It was one of the many bhattara Mane(s).
Coffee!! So we began searching for someone you could give us a booster dose. After few minutes,looked like we woke up the entire town, the town constituted the rows of houses on this road. (Not the atrociously priced “row houses” in Whitefield, Bengaluru).Anyways we were told further down the road there was a restaurant, Sringeri style. As we moved away from the temple, we could see the Narsimha Parvatha range in the backdrop of the temple.
Bhattara Mane. Our mainstay during the trip. It was raining intermittently early in the morning. Our Bhattaru was welcoming and planned to serve us hot hot “avalakki vaggarne” and coffee.
This was the “open kitchen” where the most delicious thindi i had ever had in sometime.(Again not as pricey as the open kitchen concept in Bengaluru). The food was yummy and also healthy unlike the oil dipped thindis in namma bengaluru.
While we had a good stay at having breakfast, some of us had to do the background work of getting permission from Sringeri Police Station before we ventured into the forest range. It took us a lot of talking and effort. We also had to physically visit the police station and forest offices in Sringeri before we got a reluctant approval from them. So after a delay, we began our trek at around 12 noon. It was raining and starting point was just behind and around the temple. This is also the road to Siri Mane falls.
The back side of the temple showed us the green fields and the green mountain range. It was a very nice short walk.
Few minutes into walk on the asphalted road, we got the deviation, entry point to the trek route to Narsimha Parvatha. We offloaded our trekking gears and prepared for a good, hard, rough adventure called monsoon trek. It began to pour heavily at this point and we frantically readied our rucksacs, making sure we have adequate stuff(food obviously) with us just in case we get lost in the jungle. We were also conscious of the fact that the other side of the range leads to Agumbe ghat, an area infested with King Cobra. But we were confident that our cacophonic assembly kept them away at a distance. So off we go, off from habitation and off from well drawn roads..into “Kal dhari”
As we trudged along, we realized that we were not that far from habitation and infact there were few brave landlords and their estates we had to cross before we clear the habitation. This was a kalyani immediately down the starting point, we had to go around it and behind it towards the roots of the mountain.
A slow and stead ascent on the way and we began to get a landscape view of the place we had landed into. I can tell you that our decision to do the trek in the monsoon was the best decision. I have been through several treks but yet never had i got a glimpse of the region all soaked with rain and the green and soggy feeling had a very tender feeling to it.
As we moved on, we began to move along in harmony with lots of talk and fanfare. In the process we almost missed the turns. We almost went on a path which leads back to the town if not for the woman of this house who stopped us and set us on the right path. Infact just before this house to the left, there is a “chota” serpertine one file path that leads to the summit.
So a quick course correction and also it made us realized that we are very dependent on the courtesy of the locals to guide us in and out of the forest. Unlike what we had read in other blogs on the need of a guide to take us through, we trusted our instincts and experience and began to script this adventure on our own.
As has always happened, the moment we had the left turn, the path was a steep ascent and it was full of gravels which were loosely exposed by the incessant rains. We all were muted and began to adjust and change gears of our body. We had to flex some muscles which lay dormant and unused in the luxurious city life. Well some may argue what is luxury, but…lets move on we have time to keep up.
Some thirty minutes up the hill, we were lead into a small clearing which gave us a good photo op of the valley around from where we had started. It was awesome. Also, the temple at Kigga was visible at the farside from here. Anticipating some difficult terrain and possibility of dis-orienting ourselves, we felt this was a good point to take a bearing of the temple and note it down, just in case we may need to reference it back. Infact it did help us further up when we just had to do a status check on the direction we were moving.
The temple in the middle, the kalyani as a marker and the entire green range ornamenting the village of kigga,it was an absolute treat. Infact the different shades of the range as we look farther and farther was as though nature’s way of telling the infiniteness of itself and the insignificance of ourselves.
We then began to do the major portion of the trek. It may have been around two hours of a tedious uphill journey. This to me seemed the core part of the ascent. It was a very thick forest, made thicker by the continual rains. It rained very heavily sometimes that we had to pause and allow nature to take its time to calm down. The familiar smell of the forest was all too evident. By now i think the team were well tuned and looked like we could keep going for days together.
Slowly the dark forest canopy began to lighten up and it seemed we were nearing the highest portions of the first peak. The thicket began to fade out and there was more light. We could see past the canopy, the pale green cultivated grasslands down below.
There is a rock formation which symbolically marked the first leg of the trek. It began to rain heavily again at this point. However the breeze made the showers more pleasant. Ideally, this is a good point to take a break and have your lunch. But since it was raining and windy we decided to move up further before we have our lunch.
We took a good break here and called for some photo ops. The view was absolutely majestic. The panoramic view of the valley below surrounded by thick green mountain range was fabulous. Some of us had already caught some leeches on our shoes. We tended to it and cleared it up. Did some wandering around to get our bearings. Apparently we had to take a left deviation again
We were now moving on the ridge of the mountain range. We were crossing a relatively even area with low trees and shrubs. It was cloudy and sometimes the mist used to scrape through us.
The good part of our western ghats is that although it was raining heavily and was breezy, it was never really the chill we feel in Bengaluru in winter. Although pretty much the chill factor is lost even in nammaoorubengaluru. So with a jacket on I was actually sweating.
We began to go up and down few mountain tops and after an hour probably we reached a point which had lots of stones arranged in this fashion. The wind gained momentum and was blowing hard. We were kinda batterred and also were doubting about the direction of our movement. We also feared we may not reach our final destination, that is Narsmiha Parvata peak before it gets dark. Some of us even pondered whether this was the summit. But considering the path still continued forward and we did not see any inspection bunglow yet we concluded that we may need to go further up.
This stretch seemed to be the most ominous. We were now crossing a thick forest cover close to the top, i guess. It was a superb environment. The thick and wet forest looked very similar to many of those hollywood movies depicting the amazon rainforests. This was no less than the Amazons.
After a tough drag through the thick jungle, we slowly began to hit the openings again, some familiar resemblance to grasslands which usually denotes the nearing of the summit. It was misty and breezy and we were hit by passing clouds. Truly a privilege to be welcomed in this manner.
So typical of all our treks, so near and yet so far. Somehow we had concluded we reached the top, however we kept climbing one peak after the other. The visibility was poor and as we reached the top of one peak, we were exposed another farther peak.
Now we began to increase our pace, few of us slight tensed. All through this period we were second guessing about whether we have passed the summit point or not. The grasslands were clearly there to be seen, although the fog prevented was to get a good sense of where we were.
It was a very steep ascent that we were making, and we had already crossed few of the grasslands. Some of the folks began to speed up just to make sure we reach the summit on time. Although we were enjoying every bit of the wilderness and the continuous moist breeze, the wind speed was increasing and the sound of the wind grazing past our ears created that eerie whistling sound.
We got a feeling that we were in the middle of nowhere in the peak of Malnad monsoon!!. But soon, after having crossed multitudes of short peaks, we reached a point which seemed pretty flat over a vast area and clear grassland. This looked like the peak but we still had not found the Inspection Bungalow.
We however spotted the small pond which was significant since one of the previous bloggers had mentioned that it indicated that we were almost at the top. However we were not sure and it was getting increasingly difficult to move forward because of the heavy rains.
At this point we decided to take a break and have our lunch. It was literally a standing lunch with one or two persons taking turns to create a shelter while the others had there munch. We were hungry and hogged like we will never have another day to eat. We had our lunch at no man’s land and where visibility was zero.
A very good one course meal brought content to our famished souls. Some of us got the right energy to jump around a few streams here and there and venture out farther into the wildnerness.
Voila!!! Our short adventure was fruitful. There was a brief period, probably a few seconds during which the entire landscape was clearly visible and we to our amazement we could spot the Inspection Bungalow at a distance. It is surprising and looked like rain gods showed some mercy and allowed us to spot our IB which our desperate eyes were so eager to spot. We did a good combing operation in and around the IB and were convinced that the IB by itself was not inhabitable.
Considering that we made it to the summit, well almost, we could not search for the Narsimha parvatha which had the etching of the god. However we captured some pictures from the IB and were later told that the actual temple area was somewhere little higher.
It continued to rain and it was close to around 500pm in the evening. We were all drenched, cold and shivering literally. Having not found a good spot to camp for the night and knowing it would be one hell of a soggy sleepness night in the rains, we decided to pack our bags to get back to the place where we had started.
It was the fasted climb down every undertaken, couple of hours later even before it was dark we were back to habitation. The climb down was blessed with continuous heavy downpour and we were given a very very good, spa quality, monsoon shower. When we spotted this man, he had this dazed look, probably laughing at our predicament.
By the time we reached the temple town of Kigga it was very dark. The very helpful residence of kigga arranged for us to stay in one of the vacant houses and spend the rest of the night. By next day morning, the skies seemed to have cleared and a good walk down the street was beautiful. Well the motivation for the walk?! Bhattara Thindi Mane!!
After coffee and thindi, we ventured to the close by Sirimane falls. It was absolutely amazing sight.
The falls was brimming with all its glory. We had a very very good time with a good massage therapy sitting below the falls. I dont think the falls would be as beautiful as it was now than any other time of the year.
The falls area is allegedly maintained by the forest department, so we had to pay some ticketing fees.
After cleansing ourselves of all our sins in the falls, we were heading straight to visit Shardambe in Sringeri. I was looking for one last picture perfect photo of Kigga and the surrounding moutains, and i did get it. This snap probably captures the essence of the place.
We were away from the Kigga town and on our way back to Sringeri. The irrigated lands were all there to see. No dearth of water unlike in namma bengaluru. It was pristine. Ok, after the blessings from goddess, we did our “pate pooja” and headed to visit ARRS, Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.
We had a quick peak view at the Agumbe view point. Then took the route towards thirthalli. Few minutes from Agumbe to the left was the ARRS entrance. Apparently unlike my expectation the center is deep inside the forest away from the road. Nothing of significance when we visited. We came to know about the many many good work this team was doing.
The Agumbe landscape was very cool. Light green landscape and surrounding mountains sprinkled with monsoon showers all around. It was one of the very many picture perfect photos i could capture. It was a fantastic trek and adventure. We all vowed to come back to the same region in the next monsoons!!
–Srikanth (Senior member)