February 25, 2011

Bandaje TreK: Amid Falls, Fort and Forest

Exploring the world around him(or her :P) is deeply embedded in man's genes  , it is his basic instinct (not talking abt the one popularized by the movie :P).With that instinct pretty strong in me it was really a drab for nearly 2 months where I went nowhere other than home and office. Having some personal commitments couldn't find the time off to do some traveling. Finally everything fell into place and it was decided to do some trekking on Feb 19,20 weekend. Initial plan varied a lot from Ombattu Gudda(postponed yet again :( ), Green Route Trek to Mukurthi Peak, but these treks had some or the other problems creeping up and finally we decided to head back to Charmadi Ghats having trekked in these hills some 2 months back. The destination was Bandaje Arbi and Ballarayana Durga, but unfortunately only 3 people (Chandan, Prasanna and Me) made it this time making it a compact yet mobile unit, with no laggers or leaders (since I was burdened with the tent :P).

Forest and Falls : 
Feb 19, 2011- Bandaje Village->Bandaje Arbi (8kms..steep climb)

Ray "un-Ban": Bandaje Village
We took an overnight bus from Majestic to Dharmastala. The Rajahamsa bus reached at an unearthly hour of 4.30 in the morning, much much earlier than my expectations (which was 7 am :P). With no other option we decided to rent a room until daybreak and then proceed towards our destination. For 250 bucks we got a room (Gayathri Guest House) and killed couple of hours catching up on our sleep. At around 8 am we finally left the room , had breakfast in one of the hotels nearby, packed chapathi for lunch and caught a bus to Ujire(8kms).

At Ujire we were pretty much clueless in which direction to head to since for this trek I had not researched much and after poking around we got to know we had to head towards Bandaje Village via Idya. The KSRTC operator was very helpful and he gave us all details regarding where exactly to catch the bus and where to get down etc(Idya). As we were waiting for the bus one jeep driver approached us, seeing our trekking gear and all, offering to drop us at Bandaje Village(the beginning of the trail) for a flat 250 bucks. Not having the patience to wait for the bus decided to take the much luxurious means of transport to our destination.

Spring Collection 2011
Landed in front of Narayana Gowda 's house. He is the local contact point for all the treks. Guide or no guide its best to have his number in your contact list.(Considering that nothing is predictable in a trek) He enquired whether we wanted a guide. We politely rejected since we had a rough map and a compass to guide us all the way and considering that in this season the path being well defined (thanks to numerous trekkers before us) Mr. Gowda also supported our decision. I would like to add that even though we completed the trek without a guide doesn't mean the path is less confusing. We wanted some adventure and were even mentally prepared in case we got lost in the jungles :P.

Lost in Time
A Huge Tree Trunk
Off we started in the trail at 9 am . It can be said that the initial part of the trek is the most confusing part. Lots of trials and errors  and on top of that numerous paths branching out. When we saw another team (whom we met during the overnight bus journey) behind us we got confirmed for sure that we were in the right path, but we soon overtook their team since they were way too slow for our pace and forest path is a very steep climb.(Considering that we took 4 hrs to cover 8 kms :P )

Also this being the spring season lots of trees where in full bloom with new set of leaves which came up in all sort of bright colours, a treat to the eyes. Even though the entire path is canopied with dense forest the heat started to get to us, imagine if the same climb was to be done under an open sun..phew..exhausting.Soon we reached the Bandaje river, which was lot smaller than I expected. Just 20-30ft wide and can be crossed without a fuss in this season. Also in many crossroads the directions are marked in yellow paint on the nearby rocks which was very helpful for us. We took a break at the river , refilled our bottles (last water point until the falls), removed our shoes and dipped our aching feet in the freezing waters of Bandaje river.... Soothing to feet and soul :P.

Front View Of Bandaje Arbi
Top View :P
After a break of 20 mins we again started towards the peak. There was lot of fresh elephant dung strewn across the entire path giving sure shot signs that elephants had traversed the same path a couple of days ahead of us. On and on we went along the well defined path in this section until we reached a open space, a grassland from where we get the first view of the Bandaje Arbi falls. After so many numerous treks I have understood one thing , the more effort we put to reach the place , even an average looking thing looks really spectacular to our eyes (same with girls I suppose :D ). Had our lunch of dry chapathis at this place. Even though the falls seemed to be well within a stones throw away , the final battle was yet to be won. The afternoon sun was up in full glory and there was literally no shelter whatsoever to shield us and added to that last section is a steep climb. By this time we caught sight of another group of 15 struggling ahead of us. After the grueling climb we reached a platform sort of place from where there we had to climb down a steep and slippery section to reach the falls.

Water Dance
Finally we reached the falls and it was literally an oasis in the middle of a desert. Easily one of the most beautiful camping spots I had been to. So many small and beautiful waterfalls before the giant one at 200ft. The flowing water offered such a soothing cadence. We explored a lot of spots upstream and also went and sat near the 200 feet falls and had a spine chilling peek of the drop. Awesome View :).

After exploring around and we decided to take a dip in one of the natural jacuzzi. Even though the water was near freezing we couldn't let go of an opportunity to take a dip in such an awesome settings (resulting in a terrible cold 2 days later :P ). After bath we decided to  start looking for our camp spot, since the camp spot just behind the waterfalls was completely occupied by the 15 member group we had to look for an another one and got a flat ground , but completely exposed to elements.(Winds are terrible during the nights). But having no other option the 3 brave souls decided to pitch the tent and collected firewood for the bonfire cum stove. This was followed by a great sunset, which I cannot get enough of  even after watching them for countless number of times.
Beside Our Jacuzzi Point
The Glow: After Sunset
This was followed by us cooking maggi noodles (consuming a lot of smoke in the process... blaaaah :P. ) our dinner for the night and followed by some high pitched singing around the bonfire , the most popular being Sheila Ki Jawani :D :D :D. Finally at around 9 pm we were into our sleeping bags , taking in the much needed rest.
Full Moon Peeking Behind Trees

Fort and Grasslands:
Feb 20, 2011- Bandaje Arbi->Ballarayana Durga->Sultanpet (16kms.. easy gradient)

Had a deep sleep of nearly 10 hrs and woke up when the first rays of sun fell upon our tent. Since the sun rises from behind a mountain it was no use trying to catch the sunrise at this spot.Finished our morning chores and having a quick breakfast of bread and jam we were ready to leave for the fort. Since the entire path from the falls to fort is covered with grasslands we had planned to leave early in order to avoid the sun's gaze , but managed to leave the camp spot only at 8.30 am.

From the waterfalls one has to start climbing the grasslands in the left flank of the falls(i.e. North direction). Once the topmost tree line is reached there starts a well defined route all the way to the Ballarayana Durga. The initial climb is quiet taxing , but apart from the that the remaining part of the trek can be termed as a stroll.  The entire path is filled with sun dried grass lands,offering a completely different scenery than with their greener counterpart. Within some 45 mins from the falls we start to get the first view of the fort at a considerable distance, perched snugly on top of a mountain. The entire path is surrounded by some awesome mountain views.
Barren Landscape

We moved towards our destination at a leisure pace, taking a lot of snaps, absorbing the scenery around us and reached our destination within 2 hours of leaving the falls. The fort as such has nothing remaining and is in a completely depleted condition, but the views which we get from the strategically placed fort is simply mind blowing. Also this is a good camping spot with lot of protection from natural elements but the only thing missing is the water source.

First View Of The Fort

From the fort we now had to move towards Sunkashale. Were again a bit confused with the path down, but with a bit of scouting from me and chandan's side we were able to find the path (well defined path starting from the south of the fort and takes a 'U' turn along the mountain ridges to reach North). We started from the fort at around 11 am and started to climb down and within some 15-20 mins we heard 2 gunshots :P. Now my imagination began to run wild since this region has reported some Naxal activity in the past. But anyway we decided to move ahead and check it our ourselves.

Soon enough the trek trail ended and we joined a jeep track . Moved along this path and came across a pickup truck , a couple of trekkers and localites and soon we came to know the reason for the gun shots.
The localites had heard some wild elephant cries and they had fired the shots in the air to scare them away. They told us to wait some time since they predicted that the beast might be along the jeep track. Also they told a story of how a villager was trampled to death a month back. So having no other option we waited and waited and waited some more.

3 Wild Idiots : DCH style :P
Finally a hour later a villager came from the opposite direction and he confirmed that there were no elephants along the path. Feeling happy we are finally moved and came across a small village. Now came the real twist in the tale, when we informed about the elephant cry to a villager. He told that its not any elephant  but his cow which cries like an elephant and it indeed does when we went near it :D :D .

From this village we tried to take a shortcut towards Sunkashale , but the path was very confusing so we decided to take the motorable road itself and walking in this road was not that enjoyable. Finally we reached Sultanpet some 4 kms to Sunkashale and decided to take an auto from the local grocery shop. While waiting for the auto to come we devoured a couple of tender coconuts, some fried stuff and some chocs(per head).

The auto driver dropped us in Sunkashale and from here we caught a local bus to Kottigehara. Since the time was already 3 pm we decided to break for lunch here and had a good lunch at a totally deserted Kottigehara Hotel (visible from Bus stand). Coming back we tried to catch a bus to Dharmastala , but whichever bus came was totally packed to brim , and our tired souls were least interested to travel in such conditions. The reason for such a rush was the majority of buses had been diverted to a political rally ... Damn You Political Parties x-( .  Finally having no other options we decided to travel in a jeep, i.e. in cattle class, where they stuff people till people start complaining, but at least we had some real estate for our bums, which was all that mattered to us :P.

Reached Ujire and from Ujire we took a bus to Dharmastala. Yet again Dharmastala was jam packed with pilgrims and after a lot of searching we finally got a room in Saketh Guest house for a measly 70 bucks , which we used just for getting freshened up. Had a good dinner at Tripti Hotel and caught the 9pm bus to Bangalore. The bus reached Majestic at around 4.45am and when I went to catch a local bus to my house was in for yet another shock. Buses were packed to the brim with people, even at this unearthly hours. Traveled the majority of the distance standing , swaying right and left in my drowsy condition. Since the ratio of people inside to outside was close to infinity, reached my house within 30 mins. Finally Home sweet home.

Overall a good trek with a lot of varieties thrown in .We had dense forest, rivers, water falls, grasslands, fort, mountain views, and even an elephant cry :P. I had not seen so many varieties in a single trek apart from the Himalayan trek. Also this is the last trek of this trekking season before the summer sets in, waiting eagerly for my next in the month of June, perhaps a monsoon trek :).  As is the norm with my other trek blogs ending with a funky quote :P.

"Nature is my God and trekking is my pilgrimage" :P

Group Snap: Prasanna, Me and Chandan
Trek Details --->

Total Trek Distance --> 24 kms
Total Cost Per Head --> 1500 bucks
Narayana Gowda Contact No ----> 9845693661, 08256274231
Mobile Signal Info---> BSNL and Vodafone at falls/fort (Yet again no airtel :P.. Vodafone rocks :P)
Useful Map ----> http://www.dreamroutes.org/dreams/hemant_bandaje.html

Snaps Link ---->



  1. Very cheerful tone in the blog. Excellent writeup!
    And if that quote in the end was yours, aDDabidde Guru!

  2. Thanks Maga.. I can say the last quote is 50% mine ... modified the qoute "Nature Is My God" from Mikhail Gorbachev :P

  3. beautifully narrated blog! i landed up here searching details on Bandaje trek, Its so overwhelming to see details on treks across India. This is a wonderful blog space!!

  4. Hello Nithin, Very nice write up. Also read other blogs by you.

    Well I am not able to reach Narayana Gowda with the nos. that you have mentioned.
    Kindly give me any other contact no. to arrange for a guide.


    1. Thanks Krishna,
      Whatever Narayana Gowda's no I had I have listed above. Not sure whether it has been changed or not. Probably you can check with some latest blogs and if possible pls inform me too so that the same can be updated here for the benefit of other trekkers.

  5. Hi,

    can anyone share their contact number? Need some more details...


  6. Last week end(23rd Nov 2013) went this beautiful place . Got number of guides who are very friendly and help full. U can call directly to this guys for any help Sundar--> 9901395973 and Sanjeev --> 9740883257. They charge 1K per team.

  7. Thanks a lot for the numbers. Really helped. We r planning to go this weekend. (i.e tomorrow :P 6th night to 8th night)

  8. Hi Nithin,

    Wonderful representation!!

  9. Simply amazing blog !!! We are a team of 5 planning this week for the same place.

    1. thanks buddy... all the best for ur trip :)

  10. Simply amazing blog !!! We are a team of 5 planning this week for the same place.

  11. Hey I am planing to trek this route can you email me the initial trek route please

    1. if u r asking for a GPS path, unfortunately dont have one.
      we used the map in this link as our reference

  12. Hi Nithin,
    Useful information. Thanks a lot for writing in detail.
    Can i have the Narayana Gowda contact number (Latest).We are planning for december last week
    Will they (N Gowda) prepare food for us if we paid ?
    Will they arrange the guide ?


    1. Unfortunately I dont have the latest number if the above are not working.,.. recommend you to check in other recent blogs and if possible update it here for helping out other trek mates.
      Cheers !!!


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