Sunday, January 8, 2017

Rhapsody in Silver : Belligundi Waterfalls

Mr. Vishwanath of Summiters had informed me about this trek long time back, and I always wanted to do this trek considering the challenges it posed.
I could not join for this trek last year when he had organized one, but was lucky to join the trek this year.

Western Ghats are dotted with Pristine streams and waterfalls. In the dense forest are few waterfalls which are difficult to access due to uneven terrain. The rich Sharavathi Valley is home to numerous waterfalls and offer a feast to ardent nature lovers. Belligundi falls is also known as Kudumari waterfalls, and is one such waterfalls which offers challenge to anyone who is willing to explore it.

Day 1 : 23rd Dec, 2016

Things were planned and we were set to depart on 23rd Dec, 2016. As usual some of my friends cancelled their participation at the last moment, and this time I had to go alone with a new group. 

We decided to depart from Bangalore by 3.30 PM, but the hustle bustle of city traffic made us to hit the highway by 5.30 PM after picking up fellow trekkers.

After a small coffee break near Tumkur, we headed towards Shimoga. Enroute, we stopped at hotel Masala Suruchi (somewhere near Kadur) for dinner. The food was tasty and value for money. 

The dinner was so sumptuous and filling, that most of us fell fast asleep once we boarded the vehicle. 

We reached Shimoga by 11.30 PM and then proceeded towards Kattinakaru village which was our base for Belligundi trek.

We could make out the arrival of Western ghats by the breath of fresh air and cool breeze. The star studded sky was one of the most beautiful sights that I had seen in recent times. After losing our way and asking for proper directions, we managed to reach our home stay at Kattinakaru by 2.30 AM. 
The cold weather and the barking dogs welcomed us at Kattinakaru. We then met Mr. Goutham who was our host and discussed about the travel before hitting the bed. I was dreaming about the majestic waterfalls that we were going to see the next day.

Day 2 : 24th Dec, 2016

We were supposed to start our trek by 7.00 AM, but some of our fellow trekkers caused some delay due to which we hit the trail by 9.30 AM. 

The team :

 From L to R : Deeksha , Usha , Goutham (host) , Amit

From L to R : Tulsi (2 from left), Hari , Dinesh , Narayana (guide - 6th from left) , Ajay , Sridhar , Jyothi , Vishwanath , Goutham , myself

The starting point of the trek was around 10 kms from Goutam's home in Kattinakaru village. Once we reached the point, we started to trek without even looking back (as you know it was already late).

Our guide Narayana and his assistant Dhananjaya had brought packed lunch for us. The initial route was almost flat , except we had to cross small streams and a temple. The path was across the coarse of water which usually flows during monsoon months.


This lesser known waterfalls is hidden deep inside the thick evergreen forests of the Western ghats in the Sharavathi valley. Its a sheer pleasure to trek in this less trodden region, that makes this trek more beautiful.

Rain shadow forests

The Sharavathi Valley:- The Sharavathi river valley nestled in the central Western Ghats, Shimoga district has been an ecological paradise. The Sharavathi River, rising at Ambuthirtha in Thirthahalli taluk flows north-west and drops down in the Ghats at the world famous Jog falls.

The Sharavathi Valley is home to many water falls and beautiful streams. The valley is evergreen to semi-evergreen forest along with moist deciduous type of forests that dominate the entire basin along with scrub savannah, grasslands, marshy areas . The plantation of acacia, cash crops like areca and rubber provides diverse options in the region.

It is also one of the topmost ecologocial hotspot in the Western ghats with varied flora and fauna.

After walking for almost one hour we arrived to a small place that has flowing water and is a small refreshing point (this place is called Kanchinakere). We quickly filled our water bottles before proceeding our trek. Our guide Narayana wanted us to reach the base of the waterfalls by 12.30PM, so that we could return back in time.

Each and every tree was extremely huge, that we had to trek in between the gigantic roots .

In my habitat

From this point onwards, the level of trek increases gradually from being moderate to difficult. The gradients continuously change from ascent and descent almost every few meters. 

The route from here to base of the falls is very thrilling, as we have to take the support of tree roots and balance between slippery rocks while descending. The descent was very challenging, and many people started to fall every few meters. We then reached the water stream by around 12.30 PM. Most of them were completely drained of energy at this point, and this was where we got the first glimpse of the mighty falls.

First glimpse of the Belligundi falls

To have a glimpse of this waterfalls and to feel the presence of its magnificence, one has to trudge through the unbeaten path. For an ardent trekker to reach the bottom of the falls, he has to cross the intermittent streams, wading through grass, shredding of blood to hungry leeches & descending and ascending multiple emerald slopes. 

Walking through the canopy and listening to the sounds of chirping birds makes the hike memorable. The sight of the silver line of this roaring waterfalls through the canopy that is cascading from height of 600 ft brings a pinch of curiosity in you.

Once the shola forests end, one has to trek further around 1-2 kms to the right thereby crossing small streams and rock boulders. This takes you to the base of the falls from where you can have a refreshing bath in the lap of Nature.

However, few people could not proceed post this point due to the difficulty in terrain and physical stress.
It took around 30 mins for the rest of us to reach the base of the waterfalls. 

The sight from the base of the waterfalls was breathtaking and spellbinding. The thick forests of the Sharavathi valley could be seen from here. 

There was a beautiful rainbow that was formed at the base and this made our bath more colorful. Without even looking back most of us took bath near the rainbow and this was extremely refreshing and rejuvenating.

Taking a refreshing bath under the sprinkling water, a natural shower with a vibgyor of colors removes the hardship and rejuvenates the body, mind and 

All our physical sorrows were vanished by taking a refreshing bath in the Sharavathi river. It was a real Natural therapy treatment for all of us.

Water drops as seen from the Rainbow

This feeling cannot be explained, but has to be experienced.

After the bath, we all gathered near the rock for lunch. The lunch comprised of Chapathis , Chutney , and Gojju (a local delicacy). Trust me this was one of the best lunch we had and the chutney was truly lip smacking.

We started to trek back by 3.30 PM and hoped to reach the starting point before sunset. However, our calculations went wrong, as the darkness engulfed in no time. All of us were really tired with the ascent due to which the water bottles ran empty within a short span. We were gasping for breath and waiting to reach Kanchinakere, so that we could fill our bottles again. 

Trekking in the darkness was a first time experience for me, and it was a unique experience. It was good that we anticipated darkness and brought torches before hand.

Atlast we reached the Kanchinakere water source by around 6.45 PM, and the group prepared fresh Nimbehannu Panka (Lime juice). It was like finding an oasis in the desert, as it brought back all the energy within us.

From this point it took another 2 hours for us to reach the starting point where the tempo driver was waiting for us. We finally reached the starting point by 9.00 PM, thus marking an end to this amazing trek which was totally surprising , exciting and thrilling. 

We reached the homestay at Kattinakaru by around 9.30 PM, and soon most of us hit the bed to earn a well deserving sleep after having delicious Malnad dinner.

The homestay decorated with lanterns 

Day 3 : 25th Dec, 2016

I took a small stroll around the house to have a glimpse at the surroundings.


Arecanut plantations

After the morning rituals and breakfast, we bid goodbye to Goutham and his family and thanked them for the amazing hospitality they showered on us.

While driving back to Bangalore, we had a quick visit to Jog falls only to be disappointed by the water level in there. It was truly dis-heartening to see Jog falls without water.

Just a comparison 
(The first picture was photographed during Aug 2007, whereas the second one was during this visit)

Tips for trekkers

1. Smoking and Drinking is strictly prohibited
2. Permits and Guide is necessary
3. Usage of plastic is banned
4. Avoid trekking in Monsoon season (lots of leeches and riskier to trek)
5. Best time is Oct to Jan
6. No mobile signals except BSNL at Kattinakaru
7. Water bottles and Energy bars are recommended
8. Trek level : Moderate to Difficult
9. Do not mess with wildlife if at all you encounter any.
10. Leeches are abundant during monsoons and the frequency reduces thereafter.
11. Carry powerful torches
12. It takes almost 10-12 hours to trek (up and down)
13. Snakes like Vipers , vine snakes , Cobras(Spectacled and King) , Rat snakes are common. Best advise is to leave it as it is if you encounter with any snake. Be very careful & do not harm them in any way.

How to react in case of Snake bite ? see this blog

Green vine snake

Snake images were photographed during my previous trip to Western ghats. You can see that blog here

Route :

Bangalore - Tumkur - Arsikere - Shimoga - Sagar - Talaguppa - Kargal - Kattinakaru

Belligundi falls as seen from a distant view point

Picture courtesy : Vishwanath
(Note : This was not photographed during this trip)

Our fellow trekker Mr. Dinesh has shared his experiences of trekking to Belligundi falls. Please see this short video here :

To know the grandeur of Jog falls during monsoons, see this short video :

If you are interested in this trek, then please contact :

Mr. Vishwanath
(Summiters Adventures)
+91 97403 60365
Thank you

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spectacular Spiti : Ancient centers of learning - Tabo and Dhankar

(Page 6)

Day 7 - Aug 11th , 2016

We thought of staying for another day at Mudh. However, considering the odds and risks of mountain roads, we decided to depart from Mudh.

As planned, we departed from Mudh village by 9.30 AM. Our next destination was Tabo, one of the oldest monasteries in the Spiti valley. The drive took almost 3 hours from Mudh to Tabo. The terrain was almost the same as it was from Kaza to Mudh. But after crossing the bridge, the terrain is filled with rocks and pebbles. 

Rakeshji was skeptical about driving to Tabo, as the route was not that good as per him. However, the locals suggested us to proceed to Tabo.

Enroute Tabo, we found a herd of Bharals(Blue sheep). These animals were highly camouflaged and that made it very difficult for us to sight them.

The bharal or Himalayan blue sheep or naur (Pseudois nayaur) is a caprid found in the high Himalayas of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and Pakistan.

Tabo Monastery

We reached Tabo by 12.30 PM. The old monastery was closed for lunch, and we had to wait until 2 PM for it to reopen.

In the meanwhile, we visited the new monastery and other places surrounding the monastery.

Satish uncle entering the Tabo monastery

"Ajanta of the Himalayas", as the Tabo Chos-Khor Monastery is popularly known, was founded more than a millennium back in 996 A.D., The Year of the Fire Ape by the Tibetan Calendar.

It stands on the barren, arid, snow covered, cold and rocky desert of the Tabo valley at a dizzying height of 3050 m. Untouched by the tribulations of humanity, a heaven in its own sense, it has preserved the glorious heritage, traditions and culture of Buddhism through the passage of centuries, withholding its institution with utter purity.

The Tabo Gompa, or Buddhist monastery, is second in importance only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet in the entire Himalayan region. It was developed as an advanced centre for learning by the great teacher and translator Lotsawa Rinchen Tsang Po, the king of western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge -- also known as Lha Lama Yeshe O'd or Mahaguru Ratnabhadra

 The Chos-Khor at Tabo remained one of the most important Buddhist establishments during the time of Lotsawa after the Chos-Khor at Tholing, the capital town of Guge. It is known that the Chos-Khor at Tabo commanded great importance, and hosted for a considerable period, many great scholars and translators in the Buddhist history studies. 

New monastery

To date, it is the preserver of the Buddhist Legacy and is one of the most important Gompa of the entire Tibetan Buddhist world.

There are small stupa like structures which can be seen around the old monastery which are built by bricks and mud. In the surrounding hills, there are many caves which dates back to ancient times. It is said that many Lamas perform meditation there.

Dhankar Monastery

Our next destination was Dhankar monastery. We had seen this place while going to Mudh. It was nestled on the high cliffs of the Spiti mountains. As and when we went near the place, I was baffled with the amazing architecture it possessed. 

Confluence of Parvathi (L) and Spiti (R) rivers

The confluence of the Parvati and Spiti rivers can be seen from Dhankar. Both the rivers emerge from high mountains, and merge together to form Spiti river.

Dhankar village is situated at an elevation of over 3,800 metres in the Spiti Valley. It is connected to the rest of the valley through a motorable road, which is good for small vehicle only.

Dhankar is just like another small village in the cold desert of  Spiti Valley. Untouched and away from tourists exploitation , the population of this village is very less

This Monastery was built using traditional materials like mud, stone and timber. It is dark inside and small steps are leading from one place to another. To prevent complete darkness, there are small windows in the walls, from where sunlight approaches.  There are many prayer hall inside the monastery.

The cliff base of the monastery is highly vulnerable to erosion caused by the cold wind and incessant rain. This monastery is reducing its stability due to soil erosion and other natural calamities. World Monuments Fund declared this monastery as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhankar Initiative, is attempting to revoke the loss.

In the recent times, due to the deteriorating condition of this majestic monastery, a new monastery is being built in the village which is very near to the old monastery

Other places of interest in Dhankar are the Dhankar lake and the Dhankar fort. As we were short of time, we could not visit these places.

We then returned back to Kaza via a small village called Shichling. Enroute, we got an opportunity to see another Red fox crossing the road. The road conditions were pretty good, and is well connected from Dhankar to Kaza.

We again checked in to the same hotel we stayed earlier (Hotel Spiti valley) and departed early the next morning back to Manali.

Day 8 - Aug 12th , 2016

For us to reach Manali before dark, we had to depart from Kaza as early as 6 AM.  As we were aware of the road conditions, we did not want to take any risk.

Our breakfast was at Losar, which comprised of Alu Paratha and my all time favorite maggi. Myself and Bhargav purchased few shawls from the neighboring shop.

We reached Manali by 5.30 PM after visiting the Beas kund temple at Rohtang pass. The clouds had filled the valley, and this made the visibility very low.

Manali as seen from a heart shaped cloud

We then checked in to the same hotel as we stayed on Day 2 ("Hotel Anupam"), and then retired for the day after strolling the Manali mall road.

Day 9 - Aug 13th , 2016

We visited Solang valley and Naggar before departing from Manali.

Solang Valley :

Solang Nala (Valley) derives its name from combination of words Solang (Nearby village) and Nullah (water stream). It is a side valley at the top of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India 14 km northwest of the resort town Manali on the way to Rohtang Pass, and is known for its summer and winter sport conditions.

The sports most commonly offered are parachuting, paragliding, skating and zorbing.

There is a Rohtang tunnel project that is currently going on in the Solang area, which connects you to Rohtang from Solang at a reduced distance.

Mahamaya Jogini falls :

Just 5 kms from the Manali bus station is the famous Jogini falls. It is nestled in thick forests and mountains of Manali. This is a short 1-2 kms trek from the parking area to the base of the falls.

There is a temple that is dedicated to Goddess Mahamaya Jogini (another form of Goddess Parvathi) at the base of the waterfalls. Hence the falls has got its name.

Naggar : 

Naggar is a small sleepy hamlet which is close to Manali in the Kullu district of Himachal pradesh. We visited the famous Roerich house there, which contained old artifacts and things used by Roerich. The house contained his paintings and an old vintage car used by him.

We departed Manali by a volvo bus at 5.30 PM, and reached Delhi by 7.30 AM the next day.

Day 10 - Aug 14th , 2016

Spent the whole day in Delhi by visiting Palika bazaar , Connaught place etc.,

Day 11 - Aug 15th , 2016

Took the early morning flight back to Bangalore and reached home by 11.30 AM.  

Useful information / Tips to the travelers :

1. Both Dhankar and Tabo has a lot of home stays which range from 300 INR

2. Usually the home stays offer you food (with an additional cost). The food options are limited with just Indian and Chinese dishes.

3. Do not expect luxury here. This place is only for travelers and not for tourists. 

4. The best time to visit Tabo and Dhankar is from June to September. 

5. The road conditions to Tabo is not good compared to Dhankar. It becomes difficult to visit Tabo if there are frequent rains, as it is prone to landslides.

6. Mobile signals are very weak

7. Electricity is very scarce , so charge your batteries when available.

8. Do not litter the place, keep the Himalayas clean

9. Tabo is around 50 kms from both Mudh and Kaza.

10. The bus connectivity is weak. It is suggested to travel by private vehicles to save time.

Thanks for viewing
This marks the end of my Spiti series

Pin valley
(Page 5)

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