Saturday, August 8, 2015

Taste of monsoons in the Western Ghats : Gangamoola and Soothanabbi - Part 2

Part 1  - Kurinjal trek (click here to read the Kurinjal experience)

Day 2 :

It had rained the whole night, and the next morning was very calm and serene. The already green Nature camp at Kudremukh had turned to be more vibrant. We spent some time at the small stream that flows near the camp. 

 Game of splashes

Milky flow

After an amazing trek to Kurinjal the previous day, we were supposed to trek the Gangadikal peak this morning (July 26th , Sunday). But due to some permission issues , we were denied entry to Gangadikal but got permission to trek Gangamoola instead.

We started from Bhagavathi Camp after having a tasty breakfast. On the way to Gangamoola, we visited Kadamby falls.

Kadambi Falls : 

Kadambi Waterfalls is one of the spectacular natural attractions of Karnataka. The falls is located inside the Kudremukh National Park in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. 

The Kadambi Waterfalls are a major draw for tourists who want to experience the beauty of nature in the lush green Western Ghats and especially in the Kudremukh range. It lies close to the main road between Sringeri & Kudremukh. As it is very close to the main road, it can be seen from a bridge situated nearby. 

The Kadambi Waterfalls is a stunning sight to behold. In the abounding greenery of the place, the majestic waterfall stands out as a stream of sparkling whiteness rushing down the rocks. 

During the monsoon season the waterfall comes alive with full force. At such times the beauty of the waterfall is enhanced by many degrees. It is an amazing sight to watch the water making its own way through the rocks at any time of the year, but watching it during monsoons is a different experience altogether.


Trekking in Gangamoola can be a pleasant experience, as you walk through dense jungles, cross rivers , streams and cascading waterfalls.
Ganga Moola can be reached by trekking for about 2 Kms from the main road between Sringeri & Kudremukh.

It is a hill in the Western Ghats, and is part of the Gangamoola-Aroli-Gangrikal hill range. Rising 1,458 meters above sea level, this region receives a lot of rainfall and so is covered with dense rainforests. It is located in the Chikmagalur district, Samse Taluq, Karnataka. Gangamoola has been designated a World heritage Site by UNESCO. This hill range is the source of three rivers – Tunga, Bhadra and Netravathi. It is also part of the Kudremukh bio-diversity cluster.

Gangamoola is also known as Varaha Parvata. Inside the dense jungle of this region, there is a temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy and a 1.8 meter tall image of Varaha inside a cave. This cave becomes inaccessible during the monsoon season.

Gangamoola, which is within the bounds of the Kudremukh National Park, is rich in wildlife. This is also a bird lover’s paradise; as many species of birds have been identified here. 

There are around 13 trekking trails in Kudremukh, and Gangamoola is an interesting one.

Trekkers have to get permission from the Forest Department for taking up trekking trips here.

The trails will take you through the jungle, crossing streams and rivers and coming across beautiful waterfalls, cave temples, ruins and a wide variety of bird and animal life and lush greenery.

The origin of trekking begins from a dark cave underneath huge rocks. Water trickles at several places in between rocks inside the cave and it is advisable to carry a torch, even during the day.

Far away from the busy life of the city and its pollution filled environment, this gorgeous waterfall is a fine example of natural exquisiteness existing in the rainforests of Karnataka.

After crossing these small waterfalls, exploring caves and climbing rocks, the group was split. One part of the group went in a different direction and the second part in another direction. 

(Image courtesy : Venkatesh)

Bhargav, CG , Venky , Umesh , Satish , Ambika , Madhu and Myself were lost. This lost trail was mesmerizing as I had never trekked in such a terrain before. The rains made the soil slippery, and many tree branches were breaking. 

We had to climb down along an undefined path. We made our own path and started to move on by holding tree roots , walking on rocks , sliding on mud and crossing fallen trees etc. It as a fully adventurous trek which will be etched on our minds forever.

Amidst all this, the thorns and leeches were constantly troubling us :)

We finally joined the other members of our team after a hard communication.

For nature lovers, the waterfall offers not only a mesmerizing visual but also a serene atmosphere to absorb the beauty.  

It is a splendid destination that rejuvenates the soul and relaxes the mind. 

1) River Tunga flows towards north passing the towns of Sringeri, Thirthahalli and Shimoga. After flowing for 147 kms, it joins the River Bhadra at Koodli near Shimoga to form Tungabhadra River. 

2) River Bhadra flows east passing the town of Kalasa, Bhadravathi and joins the Tunga at Koodli. 

3) River Netravathi flows west, passing through Dharmasthala and Mangalore and joins the Arabian Sea.

(Image courtesy : Vekatesh)

Upon reaching our vehicle, we ate Bread-Kottambari chutney and proceeded towards Soothanabbi falls.

Soothanabbi / Hanumangundi falls

We then headed towards Soothanabbi falls. This amazing waterdrop is nestled between thick forests, and one has to climb down the steps to view the grand beauty of the falls.

Soothanabbi Falls or Hanumanagundi Falls is located in the hilly surroundings of the Kudremukh National Park in the Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka, India.

The forest department has constructed some nice and safe steps to get down at a nominal charge of Rs. 40/- per head. A calm and isolated destination, here one can enjoy the beauty of silence and marvel of the waterfalls.

Tourist enjoying the beauty of the falls

The rocks are very slippery and is a real challenge to place tripod and do photography. Especially the mist (is sprayed constantly because of the waterfalls) vaporizes the lens. I had to clean it every time before clicking the picture.

Steps that takes us to the waterfalls

The monsoons had brought the real glory of the waterfalls. The water in full flow was a real treat to the eyes. Request all the visitors to maintain the place clean and tidy.

We then reached Hornad by 5.30 PM, had a divine darshan of goddess Annapoorneshwari, and roamed around the temple until we had dinner(prasadam) at the temple before leaving back to Bangalore.

Information for tourists/trekkers :

1. Trekking to Gangamoola requires prior permission from the forest department. It can be obtained at Kudremukh forest office
2. Carrying torch even in daylight is important, as the route passes through caves.
3. Leeches are plenty and precautions to be taken care of.
4. Keep the place neat and clean. Nature does not require anything from you.
5. If possible, get back the trash thrown by other trekkers, and dump it in a proper place.
6. Enjoy trekking !!
7. There are 388 steps to the base of Soothanabbi falls (Thanks to Vishwanath and Ambika for counting it) :)

Thank you

< Day 1 (Kurinjal trek)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Taste of monsoons in the Western ghats : Venturing the Floral Haven - Kurinjikallu / Kurinjal - Part 1

The second monsoon trek in this year, was a venture to the floral wonderland called Kurinjikallu. (My first monsoon trek of the season was to : Tadiyandamol )

Some people call it as Kurinjikallu and some call it as Kurinjal. 

Mr.Vishwanath of Summiters had organized a trek to this beautiful hidden peak of the western ghats. Once the trek was planned, few friends and I decided to join.

We boarded the tempo traveler on July 24th (Friday night) and after picking up fellow trekkers , we departed from Bangalore by 11.30 PM.  Before we could even realize, the pre-trek session had started. The small intro session grew to a long discussion about our previous treks, recollecting the golden memories of the past.

The group woke up to the cool breeze and mist at Kottigehara, which is a small sleepy hamlet in the Western ghats. This place is the gateway to Kudremukh and Hornad (a shrine of Goddess Annapoorneshwari).

The strain due to less sleep vanished after having a cup of  filter coffee at Kottigehara.

Once the bookings and permit transactions were done at Kudremukh forest office, we headed towards 'Bhagwathi Nature Camp'.

Couple of Grey Hornbills welcomed us at Kudremukh :)

We had a quick breakfast , packed our bags and started to conquer Kurinjikallu.
For some, the trek experience was a debut. Hence, we briefed them about the trek, and the things that were to be expected.

About Bhagavathi Nature Camp

Bhagawathi Nature Camp is one of the most scenic nature camps situated in Karnataka. It is situated in the Kudremukh Wildlife sanctuary and is surrounded by thick rainforests.

The nature camp is the starting point for many treks and provides great opportunities for birding and herping. Macro photographers find this place a true hotspot.

The beauty of this camp is , all the cottages are given a name of an animal/bird. This induces some knowledge among the children as it increases their inquisitiveness. 

Other peaks that are near Bhagawathi camp are :

Kudremukh peak - 17km

Gangadikal peak - 4 km
Sitabhumi peak - 15 km
Valikunja - 14 km
Narsimha parvatha - 19 km

(Image courtesy : Bhargav AK)

Trek to Kurinjal

Before the trek started, the rain gods welcomed us. All the jackets and raincoats came up eventually. Due to this, the visibility was low for quite sometime, and then the mist began to clear.

The trail looked very attractive, but many were unaware of the small vampires(Leeches). 

The path leads to a small bridge, which is probably built across the river Bhadra. A little later, we crossed this bridge amidst rain and mist. The view from this bridge was amazing as we could see, Green.. Green.. and only Green.

Once the bridge was crossed, everybody started to check for Leeches. Leech bite was a first experience for few people and they began to act crazily :)

 The trail that connects Sholas and Grasslands

Monsoon treks has its own limitations. The rain makes the trail slippery and the number of Leeches increase. The mist too plays its role in the visibility factor.

Apart from that, monsoon transforms the whole western ghats to a wonderland.
Each tree has its own story in the ghats. From the ground, the canopy is hardly visible and the roots of each tree is very significant and extremely unique.

Few fallen trees decreased the speed of our trek, thus by giving time for leeches to attack us.

The leech density was very high and it was a real challenge to remove them. Even though we had salt and other anti-leech items, we could not stop for a long time. Hence the trekking speed increased.

The rains started again and we were all completely drenched. Western ghat rains are always special, as it has a lot of energy and density. The trail was completely water clogged and all the puddles were filled. Eventually, a small stream originated on our path.

(Image courtesy : Venkatesh Penjuri)

After a long walk in the sholas, we were finally out in the open. The mist made us to wait for some time, to witness the grand beauty. I was mesmerized to see the whole Kudremukh range from this point.

After crossing the rocky path, the inclination increased. A tower and an abandoned house was faintly visible from this point. The mist had engulfed by then.

A few steps further, we encountered a small patch of shola. After crossing this, the first glimpse of Kurinjal / Kurinjikallu peak was visible.

The big rock at the backdrop is Kurinjal. The sight of the peak was a big energizer to all of us, and this made our strain disappear.

 Still a long way to go

 (From L to R : Ambika , Satish , Teju , Umesh)

( Team picture 
From L to R : Vishwa , Madhusudhan , Umesh , Bhargav , Prasanna(guide) , Ambika , Karthik , Satish , Abhishek , Vinayak , Sandeep , Teju , Venkatesh)
I am behind the camera as usual :)

After a brief Photography and Leech removal session, we proceeded towards the summit.

The trail that proceeds towards the abandoned house is quite challenging as the path is covered with thorny plants, pits and rocks . 

The house was constructed at a great height in midst of thick forest. We really wondered about the history of its construction.

The final stretch was quite difficult. We had to climb rocks that were very slippery, and steep. Thanks to rain for making our journey quite challenging. 

Peak is near !

Summiters at the summit

Valley seen from the peak

Lakya dam as seen from the peak

(Image courtesy : Venkatesh Penjuri)

Pink Impatiens in bloom

Descent was much easier. The gradient was the vast meadows of green carpet. All small puddles were filled due to heavy rainfall.

Eating while Posing

We had our lunch at the abandoned house after climbing down from the peak. The lunch consisted of Chapathi and Tomato gojju, which was incredibly delicious.

 Enjoying the view with colors

 A vibrant grasshopper

Rains had stopped and the route was clear. But the leechy path was slippery and slushy. The Leech menace increased during the descent.

Back to track

Everyone was busy in removing Leeches, while I was clicking photographs knowing that I have donated the maximum blood.

From the main road, we had to trek almost 1.5 kms to the Nature camp and upon arrival, we wondered where all the leech had bitten us, making everybody busy in finding it out :)

The funny part was, Leeches had encroached our imaginations, making us think even a small stick to look like a leech.

My leg after the blood donation camp :)

Many did a generous contribution of blood, but myself and Abhishek were the highest contributors and felt proud about that :)

The evening snack of Onion Pakoda was then followed by a sumptuous dinner. 
Later, each one of us hit the bed for a well deserved sleep.

Although the season of Kurinji flowers was over, we still enjoyed the beautiful panoramic views of the Kudremukh range.

Information for trekkers

Total trek distance : 15 kms (ascent and descent)

Best time : Sep to Feb , mid May to mid June (If you do not wish to trek in rains). July-Aug is a good time for monsoon lovers
Distance from Bangalore : Approx 350 kms
Nearest town : Kudremukh
Nearest campsite : Bhagawathi Nature camp
Camping : Not allowed
Permission : Forest department permission is necessary
Trek level : Easy to Moderate
What to expect : Good views of Kudremukh range , Kurinji flowers (seasonal)
You can book here for your next trek : Kurinjal trek through Summiters

Why is it called Kurinjikallu/Kurinjal?

Kurinji(Strobilanthes kunthiana) is the famous flower that makes the Neelgiri hills blue. Kurinji is a bright blue bell-shaped flower found on the hill slopes of the Western Ghats at an altiltude between 6000 to 7000 feet. The unique feature of this flower is that it blooms once in 12 years, and transforms the whole mountain slopes to a wonderful blue carpet. 
This valley is home to one of the most endemic flower of the western ghats. Hence the name, Kurinjikallu Betta.

(Kurinji flower : Image Courtesy - Vishwanath)

Don't litter the place. 
Take nothing but photographs, Leave nothing but footprints

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