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Kedarkanta trek: our 1st sub zero temperature experience

We were a group of 7 guys from Bengaluru (almost the same team as that of @Bhimashankar). We had been thinking about going on a Himalayan trek for about 2-3yrs but was getting postponed due to obvious reasons, our initial plan was for Chadar trek, but thought of trying a simpler one before attempting Chadar to get a glimpse of cold temperatures, thus decided on Kedarkanta trek which was on a level of “easy” to begin with. This was my 2nd Himalayan trek after Pangaruchulla , but for the rest 6 members it was their 1st (but had experience of trekking in south India). After years of thinking & planning, we finally booked our slot through Bikat adventures.

13-12-2019: The travel date to Kedarkanta had finally arrived! Everyone loaded with excitement and enthusiasm for the long awaited trip. All 7 of us reached Bengaluru airport with our rucksack packed. We had been shopping and arranging for gears from past few weeks to get everything we need for the rucksack to be packed. We had already seen the weather forecast of Dehradhun before boarding the flight, it was cloudy with a bit of rain and temperature of 14°C, just before the flight landing, the pilot announced that the temperature at Dehradhun was “one two” for a moment some of us were a bit shocked, later we realized that the pilot meant “twelve”. Reached Dehradhun @9:25am. We came out of the flight and it was cold, but OK tolerable. We took cabs to reach ISBT, 1st we had some yummy parathas to fill our empty tummies and then booked rooms nearby, dumped our bags, relaxed for a while. Meanwhile there was slight rain every now and then, we gradually started feeling the 12°C. FYI temperature in Bengaluru never dropped to 12°C (atleast in my lifetime), so it was a fun experience for us. Instead of wasting the day by just staying in the room, we decided to visit a Tibetan colony (buddhist shrine) nearby. We took the local rickshaw and reached the location. Beautiful structures built, peaceful ambiance, a nice place to spend some time.

Few of the Tibetan colony structures

14-12-2019: Bikat adventures had a vehicle (TT) ready for us @7am near ISBT gate. This is where we saw the rest of the trek batch mates. 13 of us seated in a TT (tempo traveller) and there were 3 more in a Bolero along with one of our trek leader, so totally 16 trekkers. We were heading to sankri, which is where our trek would start. It’s an approx 180+km journey. Once we cross the city limits of Dehradhun, it is all ghat roads until the end of journey. Not everyone are comfortable with ghat roads, some people get motion sickness. After traveling for more than an hour, we reached the most popular hill station, the so called queen of hill stations, MUSSOORIE! We were told and could clearly see that mussoorie had snowfall the previous day as we pass through the roads. For few of the folks in the vehicle, it was their 1st glimpse of snow ever. It was a beautiful view of and from mussoorie. Our vehicle stopped just at the end of mussoorie for breakfast. As we got out of our vehicle, most of us started shivering, that’s when we checked and realized it was 4°C. I could say it is one of the most memorable breakfast we had, memorable because of the cold, the view, the long wait for the food all these together made the moment. We had our garma garam parathas and resumed our journey. After a short span of time, our driver got instructions to halt the vehicle for a while and wait. When we asked for reason, we got to know that the 3 trekkers in the Bolero (apparently mother, son & daughter) wants to return back to Dehradhun! Seemed like their mother wasn’t comfortable with the weather and the journey. The Bolero turned back, but the trek lead in Bolero had to join us. So, we waited for him to reach and join us. Even before the Kedarkanta trek started, the trekkers count reduced from 16 to 13. We again resumed our journey, went on to cross purola and then took a short break for lunch. By this time, snow capped mountains were already in our sight. To talk about this road journey, the worst part is the motion sickness and the best part is the views, sometimes the wide landscape view of the mountain ranges in the far and then sometimes the view of the mountain valley by our side with the turquoise waters flowing effortlessly amidst the rocks on the riverbed is simply mesmerizing to watch. Just imagine sitting on a window seat with mild music on and then these views, bliss! Finally we reached sankri at around 5:30pm. We could see snow all around us, much more than mussoorie. We heard that there was snowfall in sankri couple of days back. All the roofs had chunks of snow on them. We were thrilled to see the snow all around us and also were shivering because of the cold. By now, all our mobiles had lost network range, so we couldn’t even check the temperature. Maybe we can guess, it was definitely <5°C. We were escorted to our accommodation location, got us rooms allotted. Dumped our bags and all of us assembled in a small dining area for tea! This is where all 13 of us plus our trek lead formally started talking, there was formal introductions and then a bit of briefing about the trek and then some casual talks and some personal experiences shared about trekking, it was fun! Can’t forget to mention the chilling cold breeze of air from the windows. The talks went on till about 8, the dinner was ready, time to eat and go to sleep. Even though we had blankets which were couple of inches thick, going to bed wasn’t an easy task! The bed is chilling cold, the blanket is chilling cold, only after sleeping in a fixed position for a while would we start feeling warm. Thus, one could easily guess, it wasn’t a comfy sleep as we regularly have.

As soon as we reached sankri, this was the view

The Kedarkanta trek day was here! We woke up around 6:30am, freshened up and assembled for breakfast. The most challenging task after having food was to wash our mug & plate. Tolerating the cold temperatures and chilling winds is one thing and putting your hands into the chilling cold water is altogether a different thing. It would be unfair if I don’t mention that our caretakers offered us to use warm water, but we chose tap water. We got ourselves ready for the kedarkanta trek but with just one layer of warmth (down jacket) because we knew our bodies would be heated up as we trek. Packed our rucksack along with a package of food for lunch and started off from our accommodations, reached the road. We were waiting for some formalities to be completed by our trek leads, it was some paperwork. Meanwhile, we were seeing that there were lot of batches from other companies like India hikes, Trek the Himalayas, Aahvan adventures, etc., began their march towards the starting point. We were given gaiters to carry on our bag. Finally we reached the starting point and began the Kedarkanta trek @11:30am. Since a lot of batches started off before us, we had a clear trail to follow. Initially we had a bit of wet and muddy trail. Later on, even though we could see mud in the middle of the trail, there was significant amount of snow around us. We were happy seeing the snow around us. After trekking for about 1km or so, we found a hut kind of structure (dhabha) serving or I would say selling refreshments like tea, Maggie! This was unexpected for me, I thought once we left sankri we wouldn’t find any such life support. We took a short break, had tea and resumed trekking. After trekking for a while, it was snow all around, we could no longer see mud in our trails. Since we had fresh snowfall 1 or 2 days ago, the 1-2ft of snow we saw all around was soft snow. The sight of undisturbed thick layer of soft snow on the landscape is so soothing to watch, it’s simply beautiful! We continued trekking, took a break @2:30pm for lunch. We took out the food package which were given to us in the morning. It had sandwiches, banana, appy juice and a 5 star chocolate. We sat on the wooden logs lying around and began eating our lunch, to our surprise, it began snowing all of a sudden! We were like woooooow! There is a popular saying in Himalayas, quoting it as I heard it “ladki ka mood, Mumbai ka fashion aur pahadonka mausam minto me badaltahai“. We had a wish to witness snowfall, didn’t expect that it would be fulfilled so early in the Kedarkanta trek. The snowfall stopped after 5-10mins. We resumed trekking again, by now we had snow up to our knee level. By 4:30pm we reached JUDA KA TALAB a small lake which was frozen! Our trek lead assured us that we would come back here the next day morning to continue the trek, so we just took a few pictures of it and left the place. Just after about 20mins of trek, we reached out camp site hargaon (11,200ft). It was a decent trek of about 5-6kms for the day with a fair amount of inclination. The tents were already pitched on beaten snow, we all assembled in the dining tent and were told to occupy our sleeping tents, 2 persons per tent. Since we stopped trekking for the day, our body gradually cooled down, the fun part begins, COLD! We dumped our rucksack in the tent and quickly wore 3 layers of warmth (thermals, fleece and down jacket) and assembled in the dining tent for tea. After a bit of chatting, it was time for some hot soup. After having soup, we had some free time, so we came out of the dining tent and was savoring the beauty of nature around us, the landscape view of majestically laid range of snow capped mountains, the pine trees around us with lumps of snow stuck on them, the entire ground covered with snow, it’s a scene to be experienced, cannot be explained in mere words. The most prominent peaks we could see was the Swargarohini. It was already dark by 6:15pm, again to our surprise it started to snow! This time a little heavier and lasted a little longer than what we saw in the noon. By 7:45pm the dinner was ready. The torso part of body was somehow covered with 3 layers of warmth. Even though we had waterproof synthetic gloves and shoes on, protecting our hand and feet from cold was very difficult. We had no other option but to bare the freezing cold in our all 20 fingers. Once we are done with the dinner, we got a demo on how to use the sleeping bag. We reached our tents and got ourselves into our respective sleeping bags. Sleeping bags does serve the purpose of keeping us warm, but its definitely not comfortable to sleep, thus we had short sessions of broken sleep.

Our camp site hargaon

Since we didn’t have proper sleep, we got out of our sleeping bags @6am. Just before getting out of the tent, observed that the water we had in our bottle for drinking had frozen! So, one can imagine the temperature in the night. Our trek lead told us it maybe around -6°C, but we suspect it to be much lower. Once we were out of our tents, finished our morning duties in the toilet tents pitched nearby. And was wandering near the camp site and making attempts to somehow warm our bodies a little, until we had our morning tea ready. During our breakfast, we got to know that 4 of our trek mates are planning to return to sankri because of their discomfort and health concerns. Now the team count came down to 9, our group of 7 plus 2 guys. After the breakfast we got ourselves ready to start for the day, the trek leads made an announcement, ‘because of too much of snow, we won’t be able to make it to the summit, we do not have permission from forest department to go to the summit’. Disappointment!! We can continue our journey till the summit base camp, but cannot go further. Since the decision was not negotiable, we had no choice. We started our journey towards the summit base camp. Juda ka talab is almost on the way, so we went close to the frozen lake this time. We knew the entire water wasn’t frozen, it was just the surface of the water was frozen and formed a layer of ice. Our local guide got on the frozen layer of ice, the ice was thick enough, he inspected and told we can go one after the other on the ice and take some pictures. So, along with the guide 2 of us went on to the ice took pictures. Looking at them another trek lead went on the ice and joined them. We were wondering if the ice layer was thick enough to support 4 people’s weight, just then we heard the sound of ice crack! Since they were not too far from land, they quickly returned to the land, meanwhile 2 of them had 1 leg sunk in, luckily water didn’t go into their shoes or tracks (thanks to gaiters and waterproof shoes). We all were happy that all 4 of them reached back safely in time, but the rest of us missed the chance to take a picture standing on the frozen lake. Without wasting much time we resumed our trekking. After trekking for about 30mins we found another dhabha for refreshments. I think it was the 3rd or 4th such dhabha we saw on this trek journey. We took a short break and resumed trekking. The trek distance to base camp was a relatively shorter one, maybe around 4 kms. We covered this distance pretty quickly compared to the previous day. Reached the base camp around 1:15pm. The snow here was much more than hargaon (our previous camp site), we could clearly see. The view of this snow was much more beautiful, since were at a higher altitude than the previous day, the view of mountain ranges was better. We could see the kedarkanta peak from here, the unconquered journey. We were told that there was 10ft of snow on the summit, which is the reason why we were not allowed for the summit. Most of the companies had pitched their tents here, it looked like a fair when seen from a distance. Our tent was pitched a bit away from the crowd. We were already told that they were not sure of the tent condition, once we reached our tent location we found our dinner tent had collapsed because of snow accumulation. We began the excavation work with whatever tools we had shovel, steel plates, hand, etc. Finally cleared the buried tent, to find out that its poles had broken. Trek lead told us to ignore it and have some hot pulav for lunch. Lunch was prepared in a hut kind of home which was right next to our collapsed tent. By the time we finished our lunch the trek leads had spoken to people from other companies and made arrangements for us to stay in their tents. We still had a lot of time and energy left for the day, so we decided to head back to hargaon and can stay there for the night, will get a bit easier for the next day return journey. We began our return journey to hargaon, on the way, in some stretch there was undisturbed snow, our local guide told us to create the trail! (for our fun) Only then did we realize how difficult it is to create trail in undisturbed snow and realized why we weren’t allowed to go to summit. When we stepped on the undisturbed snow to make trail, we had snow up to our waist level! Each step was challenging. This way, making new trails, our local guide took us through a lot of shortcuts and reached hargaon in 55 minutes! It was an awesome crazy 55 minute journey. Now the drill repeats, same as the previous day! Wear all our warm layers, assemble in dining tent, chitchat, have food amidst the freezing cold and get back to our sleeping bags in the tents.

Base camp location, kedarkanta peak in the background

It was time to leave our tents and start our journey back to sankri, had our breakfast, took packed food for lunch. Thanked our support staffs for the delicious food they made for us during the stay. Just like in any other trek, the descend journey was quick for kedarkanta as well. Our return path wasn’t the same as what we came on 1st day, so we had new view to enjoy during the descend, eventually even this path joined the same path we used for onward journey, after all we were returning to the same place! To our surprise, within just 2 days most of the snow what we saw in the initial part of our kedarkanta trek had already melted. When the path became more of mud than snow, we were told to take off the crampons and carry on our bag. When we were almost towards the end of the trek where we had no snow at all. It was all mud. To our disguise some patches of frozen water mixed in mud appeared as wet mud. Literally we couldn’t spot the difference between frozen mud and wet mud. The moment we step on frozen mud, it slips terribly. Many of us were falling like pandas, landing on our bumps. One of our group member slipped just few meters away from reaching the road and got his ankle twisted. Well, I cannot say that we all had a happy ending of the trek, but can definitely say that it was one of our most memorable trek ever! And we all were happy about it.

A short video clip of our journey.

That’s it folks!

Things to know for Kedarkanta trek:

  • Total Kedarkanta trek distance ~23 km
  • Max altitude of Kedarkanta 12,500 ft
  • Best season to visit Kedarkanta would be winter.
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Andaman Islands : An experience for lifetime

Andaman & Nicobar Islands are situated about 1500 KMs east of the mainland (South India) in the Andaman Sea. Tourists are allowed to visit Andaman Islands while the Nicobar Island is a tribal area and restricted due to security concerns. There are over 500 islands in the Andaman, while only a few are inhabited. Since the usual travel plans are made for about a week, we can either cover North Andaman or South Andaman in one visit.

 

Our plan was a trip to South Andaman. You have to know that the optimal duration should be at least 5 nights & 6 days to enjoy all the places with leisure & relaxation. We planned for 6N/7D duration which was sufficient to cover the South Andaman Islands which included Port Blair, Havelock Island and Neil Island.

Disclaimer: Although our entire trip did not go exactly as planned due to a heavy rainfall on the second day, thanks to the after-effects of cyclone Gaja, we covered all the places by making up time on the last 2 leisure days including the day of our return flight. So in this article I will be writing the details of the places as per my experience, but considering the timeline as per my original plan. ☺

Day 1 of Andaman islands: Port Blair

Port Blair, the capital of Andaman, is your first stop if you are travelling by air. An early morning flight (to land by 10:30 – 10:45 AM) is recommended so that you do not lose out a day of sightseeing. The recommended itinerary for Day 1 is to cover Cellular Jail, Corbyn’s cove beach and Chidiyatapu.

As soon as we landed, we went to our hotel in a prepaid taxi. We befriended the taxi driver and hired him for the rest of the day for sightseeing, covering the above mentioned places, for Rs.1400.

  • Cellular jail:

The Cellular Jail is a historic place where hundreds of freedom fighters were imprisoned by the British in the pre-independence era. The building is a work of art and engineering with 7 long wings all connected to a central tower, which is the only entry/exit point to ensure no escapes from the prison.

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A model of the Cellular Jail

Hiring a guide seemed useless, so we looked around on our own for about an hour or so. People who are interested in history can try to get tickets for the sound and light show for the same evening.

  • Corbyn’s Cove beach:

Corbyn’s Cove is a nice beach where some water activities are conducted. Parasailing and Jet-ski rides are the recommended ones. We did not participate as we had previously experienced them in Mauritius, and also because we did not carry a set of clothes to change.

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Corbyn’s Cove beach

  • Chidiyatapu:

Chidiyatapu is a famous sunset view place in Port Blair which is about 30 kms away from Corbyn’s Cove. There is a sunset view point at the entrance of Chidiyatapu, while about 2-3 kms further there is the Munda Pahar beach which is also a great point of view.

After Corbyn’s cove, we immediately started towards Chidiyatapu as we had to reach before 4:30 PM for the sunset. However, we were not very lucky as it was a cloudy and rainy evening. Nevertheless, the beach was very beautiful with a forest view on one side and some other islands ahead.

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Munda Pahar beach, Chidiyatapu

 

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Munda Pahar beach, Chidiyatapu

We started our return at 5:00 PM. I remembered my friend’s warning that it gets pitch dark within a few minutes by 5:00 PM IST, or even earlier on rainy days.

People with tickets for the sound and light show can head back to Cellular Jail. Since the show does not take place on rainy days, we just had to return to our hotel.

Continue reading “Andaman Islands : An experience for lifetime”

You can travel now for free : Here’s how ?

A common problem a traveller faces is the finance. The govt of India has recently announced a initiative called ‘ Paryatan Parv’ using which you can travel for free: here’s how ?

The government on January 24th announced a measure that would boost it’s tourism and also help more people  travel. The scheme would provide incentive to those who travel more than 15 places in a calendar year.



“Tourism Ministry will fund the travel expenses of tourists who visit 15 destinations in the country in a year and submit the photos to our website,” union minister Pralhad Singh Patel said. 

The only criteria is that the traveller has to travel outside his residing state and the expenses should be borne by him .

More details would be updated as and when available.

BhimaShankar trek

It’s August 2019, when heavy rains were creating havoc across southwestern parts of India (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala), thousands of people evacuated from their place, a lot of people lost their life, trains were cancelled, highways were closed due to water logging and what not…

Amidst all this, just like everyone else even we were praying for the Mother Nature to calm down so that the people’s lives gets back to normal. We also had a pinch of selfish reason, with a special interest on Pune. Had booked bus to Pune for BhimaShankar trek (on Aug 15th long weekend) a month ago. We were constantly under the fear of the trek plan getting cancelled. Maybe the gods heard the prayers. Just a few days before our plan, rains started reducing, highways were opened for transportation.

Journey to BhimaShankar starts

As planned earlier, group of 7 friends start our journey from Bengaluru on 14th August 2019, 7PM in a Bus. Got down in Wakad stop of Pune around 10:30AM the next day. Quickly finished our morning duties and breakfast in a nearby restaurant. Since we had half day spare time we decided to visit Lonavala. We took a local train from Chinchwad station to Lonavala. It was my 1st time experience of a local train, it was good, standing at the door watching the beautiful scenery all along the journey. By the time we reached Lonavala it started to rain. We were at the Lonavala station wondering what to do next! It was 3PM already. We wore our raincoats and headed out of the station in search of vehicles to strike a deal for our transportation in Lonavala. Before we found any vehicle, we found a small shop right in front of railway station called ANAND VADEVALE selling what was Maharashtra’s most famous snack VADAPAV! @ 5 rupee each. The boys were craving for some snacks, and this was a boon. We ate as much as we wanted. I would say this was the best vadapav we had in our entire journey. After our tummy was happy, we found a 7 seater Maruti Ertiga and struck a deal for 1400 rupees to show us Tiger point, Bhushi dam, Lonavala dam and then drop us back to railway station by 6PM. First we reached Bhushi dam, since it was Aug 15th, a public holiday, there were hell lot of people. Because of too much crowd we couldn’t enjoy/appreciate the beauty of Bhushi dam much. But, Bhushi dam is surrounded by a beautiful lush green scenery which draws attention (at least in monsoon). Overall, Bhushi dam is a typical family holiday destination.

After this we continued our journey towards Tiger point which is around 7-8kms of ghat, as expected it was a beautiful drive all along the way fully covered in fog. On the way, we can find INS and IAF base. Due to fog the road was barely visible. We almost reached our destination, for some unknown reason there was traffic jam, our driver took a U turn and parked the vehicle saying “because of the jam we cannot go further to see Lion point, this is Tiger point go ahead and have a look”. We had no other option but to listen to him, we got down from the vehicle. Due to the fog the visibility range was just a few meters (maybe 5-10 meters). No matter which directional we turn all we see is fog! It was a kind a good relaxing feeling to walk in the fog. We began exploring the land in the direction driver had vaguely pointed his finger. We took a few pictures in the fog, continued exploring. Along the sound of blowing wind we were able to hear a mild sound of water flowing and started walking towards it, we could barely see fence like poles at a short distance, we went past the poles and to our surprise there is sudden steep and a small quantity of water falling made it look like a mini water fall. We assume this is the Tiger point. Had there been no fog, we might have got a view. This was a place worth visiting.

Tiger point

We began our return journey and saw Lonavala dam on our way back to railway station. We had a plan to go to Karjat for the overnight stay (Karjat is the nearest town for the BhimaShankar trek). To our surprise the train from Lonavala to Karjat had been cancelled due to some reason related to floods. Now neither do we have a train nor bus to Karjat! It’s already past 6:30PM. We began asking people for more options. We found that we have a bus from Lonavala to Khopoli and we can get a local train from Khopoli to Karjat. The bus was around 1kms from Lonavala railway station. We got into the already crowded bus and immediately bus started, it seemed almost like the bus was waiting for us. It’s a 30-40mins journey, since we were the last to board the bus our place was on the footboard which I found to be the perfect place to enjoy the journey with semi dark view with drizzle all along. The bus passes through ghat section and joins the Pune-Mumbai express way for a short distance and then gets back to a town road to reach Khopoli. We took the local train and reached Karjat finally! Little bit of exploration and we found a lodge to stay for the night. All done for the day. At the end of the day we had a sense of satisfaction, nothing much was planned but still everything fell in the right place at the right time, there were a lot of things that could have stopped us from reaching Karjat, but still we made it.

Start of BhimaShankar trek journey

We left the lodge @7:45AM, hired a Maruthi EECO for 800 rupees to reach Khandas which is ~38km from Karjat. Due to bad road conditions, journey takes around 1hr 30mins. Khandas (a small village) is where we start the trek. Basically we have 2 routes to start the trek. 1) Ganesh ghat 2) Seedhee(ladder) ghat. Both the routes meet at a common meeting point after around 35-40% of total distance and then it’s a single route till the hill top. Ganesh ghat is the most common route, because seedhee ghat is a bit adventurous and risky. One of our friend had been to this trek before, so we knew this information. It’s decision time, since we were all young blood seedhee ghat was our obvious choice to start with, and we decided while returning we will return through Ganesh ghat because returning from seedhee ghat would be too much of a risk to take. We asked a local guide to accompany us till the common meeting point. All set to start the trek. Its around 10:45AM. We could see the range of hills laid majestically across the horizon forming a brilliant panoramic view filled with lush green, huge rocks (like a vertical wall), water falls visible at regular intervals, the hill top covered in fog. To be honest words fall short to describe the view, a picture of it can only be a representation, true beauty of it can only be felt when seen through naked eyes.

We began walking behind our guide, we could see the hill which we would need to scale right in front of us at a distance. After a certain distance we got a much better view of the hill. Once we got close to the base of the hill we had to cross a small river, so our shoes were bound to get soaked in water. Till this point the terrain was almost flat without much inclination. After crossing the river the trail goes into the forest. Now we are surrounded by trees, terrain bit rocky, getting slowly steeper, inclination increasing. After about 20-30mins of trek in the rocky forest we reach the base of the huge rock structure which we saw earlier. We were in awe looking at it from it’s foot. It’s a mere wall like rock, flat and tall. Felt like capturing a vertical panoramic picture. And here is where all the adventure begins, the seedhee (ladder) in front of us. There are two metallic ladders laid one after the other. If we didn’t have the ladders in place, I don’t think anybody could have crossed this point without any accessories (like rope, etc).

Since the ladder was a bit shaky we didn’t hurry, climbed one after another. Once we are up the ladder, we do not have a walking trail anymore. It’s rock climbing time! The risk is that we have the vertical wall like rock to our right and a vertical drop to our left, it’s always scary. To look at the positive side, we have a mesmerising view! After climbing few rocks we again get another metallic ladder after which we get a cave like formation, the best part is that we will have a small waterfall from above the cave, it’s an awesome feeling to be there. We get basically 3 instances where we need to carefully climb without hurrying. Since we were a team, we coordinated with each other and crossed without much hiccups. Once the rock climbing session is done, we get the trail path again. Though the rock climbing is done, we still have the vertical drop to our left for quite some time. Continuing for some more time, we get a flat land, that’s the top of the flat wall like rock. We are finally over it. Walking through the flat land we can see some farm land and a couple of houses! Crossing the farm land will lead us to the common meeting point of Ganesh ghat and seedhee ghat. Our local guide returns back from here. We have 3 hut like structures where we can have some refreshments. Since there was rains at regular time intervals we were fully drenched, it cooled down our body, didn’t feel much tiredness. Yet we were desperate for some refreshments. We had freshly made hot Maggi noodles and Tea.

After some relaxation time, we began our journey again. The hill that we saw from the trek starting point, we were on top of it. But there was another hill on top of that hill which was covered in fog, which wasn’t visible for us from the trek starting point. So we were half way through. The second hill terrain was a typical hilly terrain with a fairly tough inclination and covered in fog. Now that both the routes are merged, we had more people around. After trekking for some time we get a flat terrain surrounded by trees with thick fog and very minimal visibility range.

By this time we are done with 80-85% of the trek. After around 10mins of walk, we again find an inclined path passing through which would get us to the top of the hill. Finally we made it through the BhimaShankar trek and reached the top @ ~3PM. During this trek the worst part was to see plastic water bottles lying around in the trek path. It’s such a beautiful scenic environment, why can’t we keep it clean! How heavy would the empty bottles/chocolate paper be to carry with us and dispose in a proper place! Looks like people have got used to littering. Once we reached the BhimaShankar temple locality, there are a lot of shops, fairly crowded. People on the street were covering themselves with plastic body cover to avoid getting wet in rain, we on the other hand were completely drenched and walking elegantly without any hesitation of rain. We had booked a room while in Bengaluru itself, the room guy came, picked us in a TATA sumo and took us to the room which was 6km from the temple locality. We had the entire evening to relax. The evening walk with fog around, breeze of chilling air along with slight drizzle, it’s a walk to be remembered. The next day morning, same guy dropped us back to the temple, we visited the temple, had some breakfast and began our descend journey. Since there were regular rains, the rocky trails were slippery. With a bit of caution we managed to descend at a steady pace, enjoying the view. We reached the common meeting point, stoped for a while and had tea. As per our plan we were to take the Ganesh ghat route now, but… some of us had our adrenaline pumped, began suggesting to take seedhee ghat! since we all had seen how difficult it was to climb upwards, we knew it would be much more difficult to climb down, so not everyone were in par with the suggestion. We had a quick debate, the guys who were not in par with the idea, half heartedly agreed and we began our descend via seedhee ghat. With a lot of patience and coordination, we made it through tough phases of the descend.

A glimpse of the our descend journey.
P.S.: this is the only picture captured during the difficult phase of the descend.

The breathtaking moments can only be experienced, cannot be described! Continuing the downward path, we reached the small river which we crossed initially. Technically, we were done with the trek. In the end, we lost our way, took a long route instead of a short one to Khandas. Booked another vehicle from Khandas to Karjat. Took a train from Karjat to Pune. And then again train from Pune to Bengaluru.

A short video clip of our journey.

That’s it folks!

Things to know for BhimaShankar Trek

Total distance of BhimaShankar trek: approx 13km (each side)

Forest permission required?: NO

Guide required: not really, but 1st timers or people not confident of catching up with the trail can hire a localite from Khandas

Guide fee: 400-500 rupees (not fixed)

How to reach Khandas?: Pune>Karjat, we get vehicles (auto rickshaws, cabs, etc.,) from karjat

Best season to visit: Monsoon (August, September)

Altitude: Khandas – 490ft, Bhimashankar hill top – 3315ft

Jhari Waterfalls – A perfect break away place

Going to Chikkamagaluru? Then, make sure you visit Jhari waterfalls. It is also called as Buttermilk waterfalls and is one of the most popular waterfalls in Chikkamagaluru. Located in the dense forest and thick coffee plantation, Buttermilk waterfalls is special in its own way. The falls is formed by the spring which originate in the mountains. A perfect place to get away from your busy city life. The chikkamagaluru trip is incomplete without the visit to Buttermilk falls. What makes Jhari waterfalls special is the water force is not very high even in the peak monsoon, thus allowing the visitors to feel the waterfalls. One can spend quality time here and get drenched without any worry.

How to Reach Jhari Waterfalls

Jhari falls lies on the way to reach the Bababudan Giri from Chikkamagluru. However, private vehicles are not allowed inside the coffee plantation. There are jeeps that take you till the waterfalls. And the jeep ride gives rock and roll experience as the road is not good

Things to know

Jeep charges : 600 for 6 people. However, if you are single person, they will charge you same amount.

Ideal time to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Total Distance: Around 4 KMS. out of which around 200m has to be walked.

Trekking or Walking Allowed? : No

Another waterfalls to visit in Chikkamagaluru is Hebbe Waterfalls

The tale of our Brahmagiri Trek

We a bunch of friends (travel enthusiasts) had accomplished the most popular trek in Karnataka “The Kumaraparvatha Trek” in Nov 2017 and again in Oct 2018, this time we felt we should try a new location. Despite of so many other options to trek, the name Brahmagiri came out of no where, since none of us had knew or visited Brahmagiri, we agreed to go for it. And the tale of our Brahmagiri Trek started.

After a little online research, we realized that the trek journey starts from Srimangala, we need to take prior permission from the forest office for the trek and a guide from forest department would accompany us throughout the trek. We found the contact number and spoke to the range officer. We were told, due to the rains trekking will be allowed only on weekends and no matter what the trek should be completed within a day. Which meant we need to cover the entire 22km (11km each side) at a stretch and cannot halt overnight in the forest (like we did in Kumaraparvatha). And the range officer assured us it is possible to cover it in a day. So we decided, let’s face it, let’s do it!

Bangalore to Brahmagiri Base camp

Finally, 15 of us started off from Bengaluru in a minibus (21 seater) around 12am, 20th July 2019. We reached Srimangala around 5:45am, as the vehicle stopped, we woke up realized that we reached. Most of them were still asleep, few of us stepped down from the vehicle (with our sleepy eyes). It was still dark. It was drizzling and COLD! We almost had shivering as we had come out from a packed, warm & cozy vehicle. We were thrilled by the feel. Saw each other’s face with a grin, knew this was the break we needed from our routine work life. Slowly one by one people started to get down from the vehicle. We started walking (wandering), the slow brightening of the sky, the slight drizzle, the gentle breeze of cold air were just mesmerizing!! 6:30am the sky was bright enough to look around, thought of reaching the Range office. Since it was pretty early in the morning there were no people around, so we put up the location for range office on Google maps and started the vehicle, we reached the location on the Google maps looked around, there were some buildings but none seemed like range office. So we continued on the same road ignoring Gmaps. There were no much people on the road and surprisingly few bystanders didn’t know where the range office was, one of them directed us towards Irpu falls saying that’s where the treks would start. Since we had also read online that the Bramhagiri trek is via Irpu falls we thought it was the right direction and reached Irpu falls location which was 7kms from Srimangala. There were no people here either. All shops shut. Luckily one of the shop started opening in a few minutes. We enquired with the shopkeeper, only to realize that we had to take permission from Range office which is in Srimangala and then reach the Irpu falls location to start the trek. The vehicle driver gave us a disappointing look. Instead of going all the way back to srimangala we tried contacting the range officer on phone, the mobile network coverage was bad and early in the morning (7:30am) call attempts were fruitless. There were few other groups of people arrived at the location, but all of them were there for Irpu falls, we were the only group for trek. After some time we got back a call from range officer, saying, they have received circular from DC office on a red alert warning because of heavy rains and they cannot allow us for trek! Disappointment!! Since we had come all the way from Bengaluru just for this we tried convincing, he told he might consider us to go for a short partial trek. Which he will confirm after looking at the rain conditions for some time. We were kind of disheartened, few of us even started suggesting alternate places to visit. Amidst the poor mobile network we contacted the range officer again after some time, finally he agreed for the partial trek! To be frank the range officer was quite supportive throughout our communication. After the long wait, the forest guides arrived at our location @~9:45am.

Start of the Brahmagiri Trek

After all the financial stuffs, the trek begins around 10am. The trek path is via Irpu falls which is ~750mtrs from the entrance.

On the way to Irpu falls

We have a hassle-free path made of concrete all the way till Irpu falls, walkway upto a certain distance and then steps, also we pass through a small hanging bridge. Once we are done with the 750mtrs we reached the beautiful eye catching IRPU falls, words fall short to describe the beauty, so below is an image of it.

Irpu falls

We didn’t spend much time at the Irpu falls since we knew we will anyway find it after our trek. Just after savoring the beauty for a couple of minutes we continued our journey. The concrete path ends at the falls. Now the actual trek begins. We walked for just a few minutes maybe about 150mtrs or so, each and every 15 individual’s hands were busy getting the blood suckers off their shoes!! Since this was monsoon we had anticipated leeches, but not to this intense level. From our past experience we knew mixture of dettol and water would repel the leeches, so we had already sprayed the solution on our shoes and ankles at the start of the trek itself. But unfortunately this didn’t work the way we thought, maybe because of the rain.

ನಮ್ಮ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಗಿರಿ ಟ್ರೆಕ್‌ ಎಂಬ ಪುಸ್ತಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಜಿಗಣೆಗಳದ್ದೇ ಒಂದು ದೊಡ್ಡ ಅಧ್ಯಾಯ!

Laying off the leeches we continued our journey into the lush green thick forest on the trail with our guide leading the way. Before the trek we actually underestimated the difficulty/inclination of the path. To be honest, on a different day it would be quite tiresome, maybe because there was frequent rain which was cooling down our body, we didn’t feel much tired, which helped us to keep going with minimal stops for rest.

Another reason to not stop or stand in a single position were the leeches, the chances of leeches getting on was more, it doesn’t mean they don’t get on when we are moving. Any given moment of time (in the forest), we had at least 2-3 leeches on each shoes one can imagine how intensely the leeches were infested in the forest. After about 3-3.5kms of trek we exit the forest and find grassy edge of the hill with an awesome view of a valley like structure. Since we were completely surrounded by mist we couldn’t get the far sight, but whatever we could see was more than enough to fill our eyes, heart and soul with joy. As per the guide’s words, this is where our trek had to end, that’s what he was instructed. It was around 11:20am. Since our group were quick and catching pace with the guide he favored us to take a little further, if possible till the forest guest house which was 5kms from the starting point. Continuing the journey we reached a point where we got a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding hills and greenery. The combination of this view, the wind and the rain left us awestruck. We stayed there for a few minutes relaxed a bit and continued towards the guest house which was less than a km away. Finally we reached our destination at around 12:30pm The Guest House! We should be thankful to the guide who made his mind to get us till here (instead of turning around somewhere in the middle), guest house was a major landmark in the brahmagiri trek, reaching it gave us a sense of accomplishment. Since we didn’t have the permission to come to guest house, the guide didn’t have the keys. We took shelter in the veranda. We started having the eatables like biscuits, candies, fruit juices, etc., which we had carried with us.

The guest house

After relaxing for sometime we began our return journey. As expected, the return journey was relatively easier and quicker. Since we were continuously walking in rain, our legs got used to the slippery surface, to be on safer side we were a bit cautious during the descend. During our way back, in a few places, guide warned us stay quite and stick together as a pack without much gaps because of elephants, but we neither saw the elephants nor heard them. We did saw elephant poops on the way. With steady pace, without much stops for rest, we reached back to Irpu falls at around 2:30pm. Practically we were done with the trek! The guide left us there. There was a decent crowd at the falls. We spent some time for the photoshoot, then few got down into the waterfalls, played for some time. The feel of cold & hefty water falling on our back & shoulders was nothing less than a massage. After all the fun, we began our last 750mtrs journey of the trek. The best part was, most of us didn’t feel any form of tiredness, but were hungry like hell! As they say, All Good Things Must Come To An End. The Brahmagiri trek also ended. With this we carry loads of memories to cherish.

Things to Know for Brahmagiri Trek

Trek details

Total distance : 22 kms ( 2 way )

Forest permission required ?: Yes

Guide required : Yes. Forest department will arrange for it.

Forest fee : INR 350

Guide fee : INR 500 total. Divide by number of people for per head

Stone Chariot – Pride of Hampi

Hampi, recognized as the world UNESCO HERITAGE and #2 in the top 50 places to visit in 2019 stands for its beauty. And the Stone chariot just adds to the pride of Hampi. Hampi tour is incomplete without the a visit to the historic stone chariot.

Important Information

It is located in the vijaya vittala temple of Hampi. It is located at 11kms from the Virupaksha temple located in Hampi by road. One can also chose to walk . The distance would be 2.5kms

Timings : 8.30 AM to 5.00 PM

Entry fee : Free .

Auto charges : 20rs . One can choose to walk as well.

Photography and videography : Allowed with no charges

Architecture

The beauty of the chariot is so fascinating that it would be injustice if the details of the architecture is not mentioned. The stone chariot is built in the Dravidian style of architecture. The chariot looks like a single structure but it is in fact it is built by slabs of granite. The base in which the chariot is rested depicts the epic battles in great detail.

History of Stone chariot

The chariot was built by King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara empire. It was built in 16th century. When king Krishnadevaraya was fighting a battle in oddhisa, he was fascinates by the stone chariot at the sun temple . He then decided to construct a stone chariot in Hampi.

Hebbe Waterfalls: A Hidden Gem in Chikkamagaluru

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Hebbe Waterfalls: A Hidden Gem

It was sudden plan as we were looking for much needed break. We were looking out for places to visit and we found one i.e. Hebbe WaterFalls. It’s a hidden gem in coffee estates of Chikkamagaluru. A must visit waterfalls if you are a nature addict and love to explore places.

About Hebbe Waterfalls:

Hebbe Waterfalls is located about 10 kms from the famous hill station Kemmangundi in Karnataka. It can be reached by walk and Forest Jeeps. The waterfalls is inside a coffee estate. Hebbe Waterfalls gushes down from a height of 551 feet in two stages i.e. Dodda Hebbe (Big Falls) and Chikka Hebbe (Small Falls.) It can be reached by walk and Forest Jeeps. The best option to reach waterfalls is by taking a government approved forest jeep which passes through forest and private estates. The last kilometer needs to be trekked / walked in order to reach the falls.

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Details of Hebbe Waterfalls:
  • Distance : 10 kms from Kemmangundi Hill Station
  • Difficulty Level: Easy (Aged Person / Children can visit)
  • Ideal time to Visit: July to December
  • Best way to Reach: Forest Jeep and last kilometer trek (Kind of walk)

Reaching Hebbe Waterfalls:

It is located at Kemmangundi Hill Station,

  1. Own Transport – One can drive / book vehicle and travel till Kemmangundi Forest CheckPost via Birur located in Kadur Taluk. It is 5/6 hours drive from Bangalore.
  2. By Bus – One has to take bus from Bangalore – Chikmagaluru or Mangalore – Shivmogga (around 6 hours) and hire a local jeep / take local transport to reach Kemmangundi
  3. By Train – One can take train till Birur Junction near Shivmogga and hire a local jeep / take local transport to reach Kemmangundi
  4. By Air – Nearest airports are Bangalore and Mangalore.

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Entry Fee:

Forest Jeep charges around 1500 – 2000 which can accommodate around 8 people at once.

 Nearest Place to Stay:

One can stay at Kadur which has decent accommodation or Chikmagalore is also a beautiful option if you are looking for city and attractions to visit nearby.

Our Experience:
Bangalore to Hebbe waterfalls:

It was an amazing and memorable experience visiting one of the beautiful waterfalls located in Karnataka.

We planned the trip by ourselves and drove our vehicle to visit Hebbe waterfalls in a day. It took around 6 hours for us to reach Kemmangundi from Bangalore.  We hired forest jeep to visit falls who took us till last drive point (around 9 kms and 30-45 mins drive). We had to trek / walk the last 1 km which passes through small streams giving us an amazing feel.

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The waterfalls true to its word is an amazing and hidden gem which is must visit for everyone. We spent some time in the falls and water was so fresh and was freezing cold.

We reached back Jeep point and then drove back to Bangalore on same day. It was very hectic and made us very tired as we traveled around 13 kms by road.

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Other Places to Visit:

Kemmangundi View Point (2 kms from CheckPost), Chikmagaluru city which has plenty places to visit (Need at least 3 days) etc.

Suggestions when visiting Hebbe Waterfalls:
  • It is better to pack you lunch / carry enough eatables (chocolates, dry fruits etc) as you won’t get anything to eat nor drink. You have one at Kemmangundi but it won’t be open always. You have to travel back long distance to get good hotel.
  • Umbrella / Rain Coats are necessary in rainy seasons.
  • Carry salt / dettol / lighters etc to avoid leeches.
  • Can plan your visit with organizers or plan for 2 days so it won’t make you feel tired or hectic.
  • Best Time to Visit : During / After Monsoon
  • Jeep Charges: Around 2000, Guide Not Required.

Exploring Rajasthan: Sanganer: Block Print Textile Tour

My love for hand block prints is not new! But with sewing and designing garments as my new found interest… The romanticism towards handlooms textiles has increased exponentially of late! Having tried the typical earthy colors of Kalamkari n overdone indigos, my heart yearned for brighter colors, colors with vividness, vitality and liveliness… While exploring Rajasthan,  Sanganeri block prints was just what I needed…

Nestled just about 6-7 kms from Jaipur’s International Airport is a dreamland for textile lovers while exploring Rajasthan. It is also one of the few places where block print and screen prints arts are practiced in such magnitude

The researcher in me was not happy with just buying it from store! Source story was to be told…

There are majorly two kinds of work that is popular in Sanganer – Bedsheets/ quilts/ Bedspreads of varied sizes and of course the block print fabrics that have multiple use – right form garment to bags to dupatta/stoles to home décor

Each one of us would have grown up seeing these bedspreads at home… Ever wondered how’s it made?

The tables have wax to ensure cloth doesn’t move, outline is first traced n every color you see has a different frame… It’s carefully placed one over the other n printed sequentially with intermediary drying time… Then it’s dried overnight n washed.

Frames of bedspreads kept outside the factories… They always design half frames! Any guesses why?
Because they can go half print at a time… Leave the other half empty… Complete the entire assembly line and rotate the frame n repeat! Since the design is always symmetrical… Why do you need to design the entire thing when half can do the job 😎

Block printing is intricate and far more complex and time-consuming…

The wooden blocks are sorted, designs carefully traced n then goes hours of chipping n chopping! Result – Voila! Exquisitely hand crafted wooden block!
Sometimes same designs are traced multiple times (no. of traces = no. of colors that needs to be filled in the design) but when it’s craved the artisan carves it in complimenting manner. That’s how we see multiple colors in the block prints!

Fascinating part of block printing is color change… Color changes at 3 stages – printing, drying and steaming and/or washing…
A enthusiastic homemaker took me around her home-turned-factory n all along asked me to guess the final product color… Gave me hints too! Nonetheless every time I miserably failed and every time she giggled

The finished samples. Can’t love them enough…

However, the fascinating experience also left wondering why does this world renowned artistry comes with baggage of underpaid efforts that truly deserve more in every aspect of life…

Apart from their mastery, the smiles I gathered from them through the day and their hospitality of kadak chai reassures me for now that many art lovers will be drawn towards them… just like me!

Travel trivia:

How to get there: Book your flights to Jaipur by click on this link

From Jaupur, Uber/Ola it from your hotel (OR) Take a metro ride till Mansarovar Station and then take a tuk-tuk ride or Bus no. 28 goes start to Malpura Gate from transport Nagar through the city.

Locations to explore: In and around Malpura Gate

Organized factories visits can be done at: Raaga Textile

es – However, spending a few hours and exploring on your own is recommended 🙂 Every other home in that area will be happy to host you and to show you their work. and needless to say, you would be delighted with actually exploring Rajasthan beyond the forts and sand. 

Cheers!

Deepika

 

Savandurga Trek

Trekking to Savandurga is a different experience altogether and I must say a trekker’s life is incomplete without completing the Savandurga trek.

Details of Savandurga Trek

Total distance : 4 to 5 kms (both ways)

Level of difficulty : Easy

Time duration : 4 hours in total

Permission required ?: No. But you can also book a guide through myecotrip website by paying 250 rs. You will get a guide along with you.

Details about Savandurga

Savanadurga is the largest monolith in Asia . Located at a distance of around 60 kms from the city Bengaluru, savanadurga is a center of attraction for pilgrims and adventurists . Savanadurga which provides a unique experience of trekking the single stone surely deserves a top place in their bucket list for the trekkers in Bangalore.

Savandurga from the base
Savandurga from the base

How to reach Savanadurga?

Reaching savanadurga should be of the least thing to bother as there are direct buses from majestic Bangalore . The bus with route number 241-A directly drops you at the Lakshmi narasimha swamy temple which is where the trail of the trek starts.

One can also choose to travel on their own vehicle. The place is located near magadi . One can reach there via magadi road or through the kengeri road and then Manchinbelle road.

Experience :
Reaching Savandurga

Our plan was to reach savanadurga by 4 am and reach the peak by 6 am or 6.30 and watch the sunrise. As a part of preparation, I googled trying to find every possible information about savanadurga and most importantly, is trekking allowed before 6 am as most of the treks are either banned or require forest permission. Unable to get a clear information we decided to start late and reach the base camp by 6 am.

As planned, we started from Bangalore around 5 and keyed savanadurga in the Google maps. The google lady suggested to take the route of kengeri but we missed taking a left near Nayandhalli and were forced to choose magadi road. On the way we picked some biscuits and water bottle . After travelling for nearly an hour , Google lady asked us to take left .

As I took left, we entered into a small village with not so good road. In couple of mins we reached a place in the village where it did scare us for a while.

Scary road in a village on the way to Savandurga
Scary road in a village on the way to Savandurga

Finally taking the guidance of the villager (thanks to the aunt who woke up early)we reached the base camp. We choose to have a breakfast before starting our trek.

From Savandurga to Peak

After breakfast we started our trek around 6.30 . As I looked at the mammoth stone , I was thrilled to trek. This was surely going to be a different experience in my short trekking life. As we started climbing, we watched the sunrise (sun had already risen but thanks to the clouds it appeared as though we are watching the sunrise ).

Sunrise during Savandurga trek
Sunrise during Savandurga trek

We realized it is unlike other treks where you have a ascend, flat surface and even descend at times. Savandurga trek offered no flat or ascend until we reached the 90%.

Pic of Savandurga while trekking
Pic of Savandurga while trekking

Machinbelle from savandurga
Machinbelle from savandurga

we made sure to take rest every now and then and keep ourselves hydrated. We reached the peak in about 2 hours with lot of breaks in between. After spending sometime at the peak we headed back and took roughly 1.5 hours to reach the base.

Suggestion for Savanadurga Trek
  • Like I mention in every trek, starting the trek early has an added advantage of less crowd, less heat, savanadurga makes no exception.
  • Take water. There is no water source. Take enough energy bars such as snickers
  • Trekking shoes are always mandatory.
  • There is no forest permission required and I have gathered the information from the local villagers that few people start at 2 in the night to witness the sunrise.

Check out more trekking destinations near Bangalore