The trip to shimoga was in the pipeline for quite some time and was usually postponed on the advise of nandan(our chief organizer) to wait for a more appropriate(or perfect) season. And what season is better than the mighty monsoon's which lashes these malnad regions from left and right ( and of course from above :P)
So couple of weeks before the actual planning of the trip the news of extreme rains ( and floods) in these regions aroused our interests for the monsoon trip. Hence started the planning for the monsoon trip. Nandan came up with all the interesting places to look in and around shimoga. Also we were en trailed with the news of a nature camp organizing white water rafting near agumbe which promised to pump our adrenaline.
After a few hickups we had totally 8 people on board ready to take on this trip (Nandan, Preetham, manju, Dilipa, maneesh, umesh, prasanna and myself) and decided to take the trip on 31st July, 01-02 August.
After booking the train to and fro shimoga and also for the white water rafting we waited for the 30Th July to arrive.
And how it came!!!!!!!!!! it started raining here in bangalore on 30th evening giving us indication of what to expect from the trip. Somehow all the 6 of us ( prasanna and umesh were to arrive the next day) made it 11.40 train on time plus some spare time(read photo shoot time for some :D) and boarded the train. We had booked tickets in ordinary sleeper and i hadn't been in these trains since i was a kid. So i had a tough time fitting my 6 foot frame into a coffin sized sleeper with a bunk above and one below me. But i noticed not just me but maneesh struggling with the space which somehow calmed me down( call me a sadist :)). The train journey was OK with me catching a few hours of sleep. Some people like nandan slept like Kumbakarnas.
Anyway we reached shimoga station by around 6.15 in the morning and the taxi we had booked was ready to pick us up. The driver was chilled out guy who kept most of the time to himself and incidentally had a name Manju identical to a dude in our group. So we left Shimoga towards thirtahalli which would be our base camp after having a must morning refreshments of tea and coffee.
Got to know that Preetham had obtained 25k lens for his Nikon SLR and his index finger was itching to capture some masterpieces. So he was the true professional photographer in our group and was ready to be unleashed upon the nature. And hence started his odyssey with the first stop at Gajanur dam on the river Tunga. This just along the highway between Shimoga and Thirtahalli. The entry time for this dam was, luckily for us between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and having no entry fee. So we entered the dam at around 6.45 or so with not a soul in sight, call it a "soft target" for some. Anyway the view was very good with the backwaters of the dam providing a very popular target for our shutter-bugs. From there we continued on the highway and came across a bird sanctuary Mandagaddhe on the banks of the same river Tunga. Lots of birds (seemed like cranes) were nestled upon a tree totally surrounded by water. There was an observatory for birds watchers (mind it- the ones with the wings :P) and spending some time there we continued on our journey towards Thirtahalli.
We arrived to Thirtahalli at around 8 in the morning and checked into the hotel Siribailu which was just opposite the main bus stand. The room's were decent and we paid 350 bucks per room with 3 of us sharing a room. But there was some weird odour coming in our room and had our imaginations running wild ranging from a dead body(:-)) to more tame thought of unhygienic condition. Anyway the rooms looked clean.
Anyway undertaking the necessary works and having a bath we headed out for breakfast in the ground floor of the lodge. The food was decent and economic. Hence we left the rooms at around 11 a.m. almost after 3 hrs after getting here.
Our first destination was an arch bridge on the river Tunga. This is almost 100 years old and was designed and supervised by the Sir M. Visvesvaraya. Also we got to see a mantap bang in the middle of the river which according to legend was the place Parashurama cleaned his axe after slaying his mother.
From there we moved towards Horanadu which is around 90kms from Thirtahalli. The route was picture some and seeing a lot of greenery soothing our eyes. And it was raining lightly now and then adding to the complete effect of being with nature. We reached Horanadu at around 1.45 in the afternoon and had a quick darshan with some of us (Manju, Nandan,Preetham and myself) having 2 rounds of darshan and theertha back -to- back. I was praying that the pujaries didn't recognise us and throw us outside. :). Anyway had a quick prasadham lunch at the temple which was nothing short of pit stop of an F1 car. Had the lunch in around 12 Min's with not a second wasted by our mouths or the servers hands.
Anyway after capturing the awesome scenery of Horanadu, which is completely surrounded by huge mountains, we moved towards Sringeri. For this we had to pass through Kudhremukh and we came across lots of Tea estates. We stopped at one such tea estate and we could see the tea gardens as far as our eyes could see. It was a real scenic canvas.Also stopped at a suspended foot bridge over a river. The bridge was gyrating like a belly dancer. And "BANG" , i had my first fall due to all the slush in the ground. My friends said they experienced some mild tremors :D. Then it started to rain again, this time not as a Shy Bride opening her pallu as witnessed earlier in the day but as a wrestler doing a smack down. We couldn't even venture outside the taxi and did most of the sight seeing from inside it. Saw the huge Lakya da, which was built from the landmass left behind during the iron ore mining. Also came across lots of Water falls big and small on the way, the names of which we had no idea of. Reached the entrance of the Hanumangundi falls. To our ill fate the entrance closed at 4.30 p.m. and we reached at around 5. Nandan was really disappointed bcoz he was third time unlucky with this place and had become so desperate that he started to scale the barbed wires and glass embedded compounds which ultimately led us to nowhere :(.
Disappointed we moved towards a temple in a sleepy town of Kigga. Here it was Maneesh's turn to take a fall. And he got nasty bruises. All this in order to get a better shot from his camera.
So we moved there onwards to the final destination for the day Sringeri. By nightfall we entered the temple and the temple architecture was very ancient and interesting. It was also interesting for us to listen to Nandan recalling some of the legends regarding treasures, stealing of the main idol by the devatha's ET all. After having a second pit stop at the Sringeri Devasthana Dinner we moved towards Thirtahalli and retired for the day.
Everyone got up at 5.30 a.m. to get ready only to realize there was no hot water and no was willing to take the risk of taking bath is cold water except Dilipa who took the plunge like a Mahapurush. By this time Prasanna and Umesh had arrived from Bangalore and due to Prasanna's bad luck his seat in the Rajahamsha bus didn't have proper push-back and he had not slept the entire night. So we now we had a Bakashura's avathara in front of us. :P.. So as soon as hot water was made available to us we had our daily activities completed and rushed towards the taxi.
Our first destination was the Bheemankatthe which too had a hanging bridge. Spent some time on it and went further downstream to the place where the Tunga river and Malathi river converged. We saw huge rapids in the this part of river Tunga and some people got really nervous like how in the world will we do the rafting later in the day if the river is over-enthusiastic to gobble us up on our first step. Anyway hoping for the best we moved towards our rafting destination i.e. Nature Camp on the banks of river Sita. This is via Agumbe and its not an understatement if anyone tells that the Ghats near agumbe offer one of the best views of nature. Clouds, mountains, rivers, water falls..... you name it and "vola" its there.
Got down the ghat after clicking some pictures and proceeded towards the Nature Camp. We were there at around 10.15 or so and lingered here and there trying the best spot to ogle at nice pretty girls over there.
Anyway rafting started with a familiarization session like how to front paddlle, back paddle,duck etc. There were totally 3 rafting boats with around 8 per boat plus an instructor. Our instructor was a Nepali Guy and it was a bit difficult to understand his accent "saabjiiee" :P. So all of us guys jumped into a single boat and off we went on the "Sita River Voyage".
We had booked for the "Flycatcher" run and nope we didnt catch a single fly :). Frankly speaking the rapids on the entire stretch were only mildly thrilling. The river also didnt look that wild as we had expected it to be. But we enjoyed it a lot by jumping out of the boat(Nandan jumped out of the boat even before the instructor could complete his sentence :)) and floating freely in the water thanks to the life jackets they had provided us.After this dilipa did some wierd dive into water and then i went after them. Like this one after the other the non-swimmers(Manju,Prasanna, Umesh, Maneesh) too mustered the courage to jump into the water. Coming back to the raft was a biiiig problem if your name sounded something like Nithin. It took nearly 4 people to fish me out of the water.woo aah.....this made me to have second thoughts about whether to go back to water or not. But predictably i did so and the herculean task for others was repeated. Other than that paddling in synchronization was fun. Also it was raining in installments which is quite beautiful to watch from the middle of a river.
And during all this the boat carrying all the pretty girls capsized. All the passengers of the boat were thrown out and were left for rescuing by the other boats. To our bad luck we were very far away in the front and before we could come and rescue them, they were all rescued by the "other" :( boat. Damn y had we gone so far ahead :(.
Anyway the rafting expedition ended at around 12.40 , almost 2 hrs from the start point. We took the raft up the bridge and loaded it to a trailer and changed into some warm clothes.
By this time we were hungry as a lion and proceeded towards Someshwar on the foot of the agumbe ghat( Woah wat a majestic sight). Everyone had their heart fill errr... stomach fill of food except for Dilipa. He had ekadashi and was observing a fast on that day and was not supposed to even drink water. Woah man how could you have survived the entire day without both of these even after the physically demanding work like rafting is out of my mind. Hats off to you dude. :).
From there we moved on towards Koondadhri. The motor able path to the top of the mountain was blocked by a stray tree doing a Vishnu pose on the middle of the road, giving us an opportunity to trek to the top of the mountain. The peak had a disintegrated Jain basidhi and a pool which again according to legend didn't have a bottom at all. But none of us, who haven't been married yet, didn't show any interest to check whether this legend was true or not. The peak was covered in mist and suddenly for a matter of 5 minutes cleared for us to take a scenic view of the plains.
We scaled down the mountain and proceeded towards the Thirtahalli. Nandan showed his old primary and secondary school which was in and around thirtamutturu village, where he had studied and had acquired his "talent".
Then we moved on towards Kuppali , famous for Kuvempu's place of residence. The house is huge and is now converted to a museum and is well maintained. We then went to kuvempu's samadhi which is surrounded by rock slabs kept in a shapes which is reminiscent of the Stone Henge. Saw a beautiful cloudfree sunset from this spot and then moved towards Nandan's Parents house in Hosa Agrahara. This is a village where Nandan parents and most of their nearby relatives live as neighbors. COOL....... By this time our Dilipa had to go back to Bangalore in order to attend some family function . So off he went again without any delicious stuff Nandan's mom had prepared for us. Jack fruit papad, bisibele bath, sweets, pathrodhe. We stuffed our rumbling tummies with these items served on a traditional banana leaf. When we reached the limit and we were pretty sure we could stuff no more we returned back bidding adieu to Nandan's parents, came back to the hotel and collapsed on the mattresses like a dead log. It was a hard day in terms of physical activity. :)
We got up at around 6 a.m. since we knew there was no point in waking up earlier. Manju was feeling a bit off weather and guess he popped some pills. Completed our usual stuff and reached Kavaldurga fort at around 8.30 in the morning.The kavaldurga mountain looked menacingly at us. So did start our trekking adventure. The locals and our driver advised us that this place was infested with leaches at this time of the year.
Since many in the group hadn't been bitten by a leech they were all pretty nervous about it. And off we started the trek. The path to the peak had more obstacles than we expected of the minuscule leeches. The path to the top was reinforced with stones and in this weather of constant rainfall it had become dangerously slippery. We had our first lesson when i negligently stepped on boulder(even after serious warnings given by nandan on a "public addressing system") only to realize that my feet were repelling the boulder like a magnet.Had to execute series of extraordinary moves to stabilize myself, (which would even make Michael Jackson's soul proud :)) hence avoiding a major fall upon the rocks. Now careful not to underestimate the rocky steps we proceeded in a careful manner. As we ascended the peak the true beauty of this virtually unknown place began to unfold. Man i can say this was one of the best treks i have undertaken. Ancient fort ruins from anywhere 9th to 16th century, total greenery everywhere, mists, no soul in sight etc. It was like being Lara Croft( except that i am a guy :P) exploring some mystic ruins in some remote jungles of Myanmmar. Super cool. In our group both manju and preetham fell behind( since he had too much of everything to shoot) but the remaining 5 guys marched on towards the peak.
When we ascended the peak there was a huge rock almost the size of 3 storey building in a shape of giant Shiva Linga. Dont know whether it was formed naturally or man made. On top this giant Linga was a small mantap having a small Shiv Linga. After spending some time in the peak we started back and this time the job was much tougher since we were descending. We met Manju and Preetham near a small lake the water of which was greenish blue. Had never seen lake water of such colour and this totally stumped us. While descending guys were slipping for every other step and we had casualities in terms of Maneesh taking a fall yet again and so did Preetham damaging his watch but not as much a scratch on his Hi-Fi camera. Must have guarded with his life. ;)
Anyway the total trek was completed in 2.5hrs. Can be done much faster if not for the slippery conditions. And those curious about the leeches i was the only one to be "smooched" on my leg by a leech and came to know about it much later.
At around 11 a.m. we moved towards Sagar to view the Jog falls. The journey to Sagar was long and uneventful. Stopped in between at Ambhutheertha the birthplace of river sharavathi. We could easily see the birth of this river in form a small stream which would go further down the famous Jog Falls.
Reached Sagar at around 2p.m. The driver showed us a very good place to have lunch. Hotel Madhura( or something like tat). After having a good lunch moved towards the Jog Falls and reached there at about 4 p.m. or so.. Jog was really crowded in this time of the year. Even the amount of water cascading down the falls was of average quantity. More or less it was a disappointment for many of us. But even though we spent some time here and clicked fairly good amount of pictures.
Since we had limited time, for we had to board the train back to Bangalore from Shimoga at 10 p.m., we went to a nearby place Varadhahalli. It was an ashram. Spending some 45 mins or so we started back towards Shimoga to catch our train. Reached Shimoga at around 9 p.m. . Had our dinner at Hotel Asokha which was average and boarded the train.
Reached Bangalore at around 4.30 in the morning thus completing one of a memorable trip.
Total Cost Per Person
Taxi, Room , Food charges= 1600
Train charges b/w shimoga & blore= 550
Total -> 3.4 k / person
Best Time-> Monsoon's if you want to enjoy the nature at its best. But its also risky during this time.