January 8, 2010

A Christmas Ride To Kemmangundi

The word "Kemmangundi" in kannada literally means "red dust hole"(think straight :P) and I assure you the name is totally apt, thanks to the Karnataka Govt for their indifference in developing this famous hillstation once a summer retreat of Mysore Maharaja's. But again we are the same people who complain that some place is too much commercialized. So being a person who prefers isolation compared to commercialization it was a heaven ........ an offroading haven to be precise. :)

Nearly 1 month before the D-Day we started planning about this bike trip. Had planned to book rooms in the only available accomodation in Kemmangundi which is the Govt guesthouse. But since this is the season where all the citizens of Blore vacate it and go on some vacation, the guesthouse was completely booked to our badluck (but I think it was our goodluck :) ). So it was decided to take tents and do camping at any location available in there.

Got a couple tents from Basecamp(H.S.R. Layout) , after calling nearly 8-10 adventure shops since as already mentioned above it being a peak season all the establishments which rented out tents were totally booked. The ladies at the Basecamp were very friendly and helpful even teaching us how to erect a tent in full detail. Also bought wildcraft sleeping bags since the idea of renting those seemed uneconomical and we are far from ending our camping trips :).

So the day approached near and there were a total of 6 bikers(Raghav, Daya, Prasanna, Bharath, Loki and myself) ready for the trip on 5 bikes(4 Pulsars and 1 Thunderbird)

Day 1(25th Dec 2009)

[This is how we kill time while waiting for late latif's ]

Got very little sleep as expected from my overexcited mind before any such trip. Got up even before the alarm could go off at 5 am. Gave a wake up call to others so that we could all meet on time at our rendezvous point at NICE Ring Road-Tumkur road junction. By around 5.45 left the house and moved towards the NICE ring road via Mysore road along with Raghav. Payed the required toll and zoomed along this nice NICE road :). Reached the junction at around 6.30 and started waiting for others. One by one everyone came and we were ready to leave only at 7.15 from that point. We were supposed to pick up Daya "saar" from Arsikere. So right now had just 5 bikers. This stretch of Tumkur road was very much congested even this early. Saw many bikers going on long trips :). The road was congested upto Nelamangala bcoz of all the traffic along with some construction work along the entire stretch.

After Nelamangala the ride along the 4 lane Nh-4 was smooth. Reached Tumkur by around 9 and started scouting for a place to have the "most important meal of the day". Found a Hotel Ravidarshan just off the highway. Food was decent and nothing more.

[Ravidarshan Hotel- Loki busy even to look at the cam]

In Tumkur NH-4 splits into 2, one NH 206 towards Shimoga to the left and other towards Pune(NH-4). Took the former. This is decent 2 lane road, with manageable traffic. The sun had come up and was glittering with maximum efficiency. Reached Arsikere by noon and met Daya. Rested in his home for a couple of moments and after gaining the full strength of the gang started to move towards Kemmangundi.


Reached Birur. From here have to take a left deviation towards Lingadahalli. This route is decent even though it is bit narrow. After reaching Lingadahalli the route towards Kemmangundi becomes really bad :(. There was a diversion to Kalhatti falls before reaching Kemmangundi. All the diversions are neatly marked by the Karnataka Tourism. So keep your eyes pealed for such boards.

[This is how we tour in bikes -Like Overloaded trucks :P]

Reached the Kalhatti falls.This has a water falls just in front of a temple and to go the temple we have to cross the river. Prasanna had first minor fall here(a first in several more to come during the trip ). Spent nearly 30-40 mins exploring the upper reaches of the falls.

[Kalhathi Falls]

From here we started assault towards our final destination of the day "Kemmangundi". The ghat section had started and we were getting the first views of Bababudangiri ranges. Grass filled hills and mountains. Forest vegetation to the very minimum. Awesome unique scenery :).

[Z point and the peak behind it were we actually went]

After the falls the routes deteriorate like anything just leaving behind huge stones for us to navigate through. Reached Kemmangundi after paying entrance fee. Just before arriving at the guest houses the roads now dont even have the proper road grip. The entire climb is filled with loose, slippery red colored dust (the thing for which the place is famous for :P ). All our rear wheels were not getting enough traction to climb the slope. Anyway after much wrestling between the man and the machine we were finally able to make it to the top i.e. Raj Bhavan. Both the bike and the dudes were covered in a very thick layer of dust the reminiscent of the struggle done to reach that point:(. This location has various Govt guest houses neatly built against a slope. Asked a couple to officials about where we could park and do camping in the wilderness. Those officials were really adamant saying we cant camp in the forest land(which was every inch of land surrounding the guest houses :( ).

So decided that we will illegally camp somewhere on the way to the Z-point. Parked our vehicles near the guest house , packed food packets(uppit and kesari bath) from the canteen(only source of food available here) and started our trek towards Z-point. It was already 5.30 it had started to get dark.

En route found the "cute" Shanti falls.By this time a very friendly dog had started to follow us, wherever we went. Christianed innovatively as "Raju" by Daya :P. Now reached a crossroad where we had to take either a very steep climb or continue on the same elevation. Since from this place Z-point seemed to be at a much higher elevation we took the path with a steep climb. This stretch was kinda grueling with nearly 70 degree slope and all the luggage, sleeping bags and tents we were carrying. Raju also climbed this with much difficulty. After completing it saw a group a group of trekkers returning from the other route, and they confirmed(communication was via high pitched shouting :D ) the other route was right path .Thaththerike....

[After Climbing the steep section- Prasanna's mouth say's everything]

Since climbing down the same section would be very difficult, we were optimistic thinking that the path taken would eventually lead us to the Z-point. This path opened to wide and beautiful grasslands. Continuing on this reached a peak behind Z point , but at a elevation higher than Z-point. The views from this point was really awesome. By this time it was nearly dark and out came the torches. From this point gradually descended to Z-point and by the time we reached it was totally dark.


[View From the Peak]

Now since we had not taken the "normal" route taken by lesser mortal's to reach this place we had no idea where it started. So started searching for the route in complete darkness(off course we had torches). Up and down, right and left......we were searching but always ended with the path coming to a dead end. Anyway since we had the equipment to camp at any place we wanted we were not at all tensed, but the simple undeniable fact was 'we were lost' :P. And as anyone who would have expected that the dog would lead us in the right path, but Raju was really hopeless, merely following us :D.

[Our Camping Site]

Anyway reached the right path after trial and error and found a camping spot near the Shanti falls. Started pitching the tent when it started to drizzle a bit(it is actually very easy to erect one ;) ). So erected both the tents and were into them in no time.

By this time heard some vehicle making way to our tents, tensed that some forest officials were coming to bust us all, but it turned out to be some other trekker dude come to trek Z-point for the views in the middle of the night. Anyway after chitchatting were soon to sleep in our brand new sleeping bags.

Day 2(26th Dec 2009)

Since we were camping for the first time in the wilderness, the sleep was not very smooth. We became aware of any cranky noise generated in the camp surroundings. Add to that Raju was on constant moment , waking me a number of times. The people in the other tent were even more alert than us with Prasanna at one time getting out of the tent and checking out the surroundings with the torch :P.

[The forest shot from the camping ground]

Anyway I woke up with the first rays of the sun approximately at around 6 am. It was very chilly, and there was dew formation even inside our tent :P. Thanks to the sleeping bags which held the chilly dew drops at bay. With the first rays of sun came the tourists to catch the sun rise from the Z-point. Already woken up we came out of our tents and some of us looked for a perfect secluded spot for morning business while others were too shy to do in the forest. Armed with a roll of tissue paper we completed the mission successfully. ;)

[Shanti Falls]

After freshening up a bit at Shanti Falls we started the trek back to the Govt Canteen to have our breakfast. Breakfast consisted of idli,vada and bisi bele bath. Asked the details of the route to Hebbe falls from an official. He informed us that this path can be easily completed on a bike. I dont know whether I should thank him or curse him because we came to know the actual condition of the road much later. Moved on the route towards Chikmagalur. From this highway(which really gives u a high :P), hebbe falls is at a distance of 11 kms from the deviation.

[Enroute to Hebbe Falls]

Initial part of the highway was smooth even though was complete mud road in the backdrop of beautiful grass filled hills and mountains. Initial couple of kms was OK without any problems. Then the actual fact of the road enlightened on us. This route was not just any ordinary mud road, but a mud road filled with rocks and boulders :). Thats why only 4x4 Mahindra Jeeps traverses through this route. At one point Prasanna informed others that it would be better to return back and come in Jeeps. Just then a Jeep came and in order to make way for the vehicle his front tyre got entangled in the pile of stones and had his second fall of the trip.

With Prasanna returning back to travel back in a Jeep , Loki also volunteered to return back and accompany Prasanna. So now we were left with 4 people on 3 bikes to complete this road or no-road. "Extreme Offroading" is the phrase apt to describe this stretch. Negotiating the road in a very cautious manner and giving it the respect which it was worthy of we finally were able to reach the parking point. Took nearly a hour and half to travel 11 kms :D.Phew...... half of the job is done :).(Picture abhi bahuth baki hain :P )

[Coffee Beans]

After waiting for nearly 30 minutes when all the bikers were reunited (bhichdhe huen bhai log :) ) we started the 20 min trek towards the Hebbe falls. At this point came to know that Loki too met with an accident and fell, shattering his rear view mirror while returning back. This small trek takes you through various estates and crisscrossing with the river flowing from the Hebbe falls.

[Hebbe Falls]

Reached the falls and really dumb folded with the first view of the falls.It really made the effort we put to reach this place worth it. Simply majestic. Within no time we were into the water......Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.......the water was freezing like hell(or heaven :P). My guess is the temperature was somewhere around 5-7 degrees Celsius. After nearly an hour of playing in the falls and under the falls we got ready to leave the place.

[Me Posing in front of a beautiful landscape]

[Last stop for the more tame vehicles towards Hebbe falls]

Started our bikes and began the return journey. Raghav and Daya had booked lunch for all at a private estate while paying an advance. Now that dude was totally missing. After tracking that guy on the part of Raghav and Daya, we were finally able to get the promised lunch. Had an open air lunch just off the road. Reached the kemmangundi-chikmagalur road and just when everyone was thanking their lucky stars for having made the transition from extreme offroading to normal offroading, disaster struck in the form snapping of the Bharath's clutch wire(his bike's offcourse :P). Having no extra cable to replace it, so we sent a "hunting party"comprising of Raghav and Loki to get one from kemmangundi/lingadahalli. Having nothing else to do we started playing rummy (found 3 decks of cards in Bharaths bag. Why Bharath got those is left to your imagination :P) at the crossroads. Many people passing through began staring at us ......... Maybe thinking "These guys came here to play cards ???" :P.

After waiting for nearly an hour and having no mobile signal it was decided that it was better to send another "hunting party" towards Chikmagalur. So me and Bharath(on Prasanna's bike) started our journey towards Chikmagalur. This stretch between Kemmangundi provided one of the best views of the Baba Budangiri range so far in the trip. By now it had started to get dark and we were not getting any garages in this isolated ranges. Darkness fell- So did my headlights. As soon as I turned them on they went "Phussssssssh". So now we were left with 1 headlight and 2 bikes. Informed Bharath and told him to go slow and I would follow him. But the going was very bad in these roads. I was not able to see any of the potholes which believe me are plenty on this route.

Stopped at a very small town and started checking the fuse etc. Found no problem as such. Then was thinking of attaching the torch to my bike, bcoz some light is better than no light. By this time somehow was able to recognize Loki in that pitch black darkness and shouted at him and made him stop. Slowly one by one everyone came along.With the pitch darkness it was Daya turn to take a fall from Bharaths stationary bike. After hearing my problem everyone started rechecking the electrical wiring of the bike. Again negative results(later came to know it was busted regulator). With no option left it was decided that I will be escorted by the other bikers till Mulliangiri(our camping spot for the night).

2 bikes in the front and 2 bikes in the rear. Felt like some VIP convoy. Then suddenly it started to rain. No surprises in here, the only unknown factor was "when", considering our background :P(count is 6 for those curious). Now with no headlight in such a heavy rain and having just a 4-led torch connected to the front of my bike, my visibility was almost nil. Anyway navigated in whatever direction the led taillight of the bike in front of me (Loki's) moved towards. By this time our plans of camping on top of Mulliangiri peak was washed down and we moved directly towards Chikmagalur.

Somehow by around 9 or so reached Chikmagalur and started the hunt for rooms. Since it was the peak season, found most of the hotels to be full. Found one hotel behind the bus. It was bad but considering our situation we didn't mind. By the time we were cleaned and came out to have our dinner most of the establishments were closed. So had to satisfy our stomach using junk food of bread, kurkure, mixture, chocolates etc. After this we were off to sleep. In summary this was a eventful day where each person had some major thing happening to him except Raghav. Now you know who is the source of all these curses :D.

Day 3(27th Dec 2009 )

Got up at nearly 7.30 am and it was still raining. Got ready for the return journey towards Bangalore. Went to have our breakfast in some hotel nearby. Still now it was drizzling. Anyway having no option (especially me with no headlights) we started towards Belur. The route to Belur was picturesome in the backdrop of the rain.

[En route to Belur]

Reached Belur at around 11 and went to look at the Chennakesava Temple build by Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana in 12th century. The temple complex had various number of temples within its vicinity.Mobiles phones are banned inside the temple premises even if switched off, on the other hand no such restriction on camera's. Didnt find the logic in this policy. The walls, roof, the floors, everything was decorated with very intricate and beautiful carvings. Havnt seen stone carvings so beautiful anywhere else. After spending nearly an hour here it was time for us to leave.

[Chennakesava Temple Gopura]

[Beautiful Roof Carvings- Above and Below]

[Fantastic Intricate Carvings]

[Abstract Photography ???!!!!!]

By this time (12 noon) it dawned onto me that if I were to reach Bangalore(220+30 to my home=250 kms) by nightfall I have to do a cannonball run (continuous riding). So bidding adieu to the fellow bikers I started my first ever solo cannonball ride. As soon as I left Belur towards Hassan it started raining heavily yet again. But the stretch was good in terms of road quality and the views.

Reached Hassan and took a number of diversions to reach the Bangalore-Mangalore highway (NH-48). This highway was good, even though at many places 4 laning of the highway was taking place. It was still raining quite heavily. Some 50-60 kms from Hassan the road had become very slippery. At one place when approaching a curve at around 60 kmph braked slightly, but the bike shook like a raging bronko, skidding without traction at all, and in the end went straight to avoid turning the handlebar in order to maintain balance and stopped in middle of a field :P.

After this incident whenever the brakes were applied the bike was skidding dangerously.This freaked me out. How am I supposed to reach Blore in such conditions. So I developed a technique of not touching the brakes at all...:).... But the real reason for such road conditions is still unknown to me. Might be there was oil spills. Same problem was encountered by the other bikers later on. and Prasanna fell victim to one such skid and had a fall.

[Cannonball Run in NH48- Taking Bum Break :P]

Anyway when I saw the bridge of Nelamangala at around 4 pm(all the sign boards are removed for the widening activity. So no idea where we are or how far to Blore), was overwhelmed with joy, completely overcoming the stress I had encountered during the ride. Joy and satisfaction of making to Bangalore before sundown. By this time the rain had subsidized. From Nelamangala to Blore the roads were a bit conjusted but reached NICE Ring road junction and traveled towards Mysore road. Reached home at exactly 5 minutes to 5. So had completed the cannonball run in a total of 5 hours with the total resting period of 10 mins(Bum breaks :P). Also I had taken the right desicion of doing such a run since by 5.30 pm it was very dark due to the rain clouds.

The other members of the team had stopped at Hassan for lunch and from there Daya and Loki had moved towards Arsikere and Tumkur respectively. Rest all moved towards Blore and by 9 everyone was at home.

Thus came to an end a very eventful bike trip. Well on my side I take all the experiences in a positive manner, but others like Prasanna might not agree who had a mixture of sweet and sour experiences . Also have an unfinished business at this place. Mulliangiri-the tallest peak in karnataka. Surely will try a 2 day trek from Mulliangiri to Kemmangundi. Maybe for this year's christmas trip :). One lesson we learned from this trip is : Always carry spare parts while long distance biking else have enough biking buddies who can escort you in the middle of night,jungle and rain :P.

[Route Map]

Total distance travelled-> 630 kms
Total cost per head (including lodging, fuel and food)-> 1.4k

Snaps Link:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. superb write up.....helped me a lot to plan my three day trip to kemmangundi :) thanx a lot ......

  3. This is a wonderful place, All the places visited by you during your bike trip is awesome, I also like to visit there. you have also experienced some camping experience due to shortage of guesthouse. camping is really good activity. I love it very much, thanks for writing such wonderful blog.

  4. Hi Nithin Great Article, im going out on ride to the same destination, and would love to camp in Z point, Any inputs or suggestions on that?

  5. Thanks Raghav... technically you are not supposed to camp in Z point or any place other than the premises of Kemmangundi guest house... so please make sure that u are not caught by the forest department if u still insist to do so :P

  6. Hi Nitin,

    We'll have a couple of girls in it group too, do you know of any safe legal camping spots around that we can pitch our tents at??

    1. Last time I was there close to 6 years back, the only legal camping area was around the Kemmangundi Guest house area... I recommend you to check with the local guards etc to get the current update.


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