29th January 2011
Few people (who were awake) in the bus were surprised when six of us got down in the middle of the ghat road. The driver gave a curious look on what we are up to while the conductor was happy about the “extra” money he made for this unscheduled stop.
The sun was not still up. A dilapidated bus stop and a Jeep track next to it were the only indicators of a civilization nearby.
The black spot in the area were the two Jeeps with its owners. My first thought was that they were from forest department and I was not happy about it. They are the nastiest guys to encounter in a trek. Not a nice way to start a trek!!
We were relieved a lot after knowing that there not Government people but locals from a nearby village. That feeling did not last long as they began to tell about the elephant menace in the village that we wanted to visit. He mentioned that the elephants have already killed few people and were wandering to increase the toll. He advised us not to venture further as the road to the village was infested with these jumbos. What were they doing at the break of the dawn? The answer was that they wanted to go to the village and were waiting for forest department people to safeguard from elephant attack. “Why not spend some time in a roadside waterfall nearby and return back” was their suggestion. I think they expected that we the city guys would run away!! They were wrong. Our idea was to trek to the nearby village and then decide the course of action based on the inputs from them.
One of them takes a gun (looked like an air gun), opens the barrel, examines and keeps it inside the Jeep. That was unnecessary and confirms that the person was not good if not bad!!
We ignored them and start trekking.
Our journey was quite slow as we seriously looked out for any signs of pachyderms. Even a slightest noise from forest was carefully examined. The path itself was quite steep. As we climb, the sun comes out of the hills providing a colorful scene in the sky.
We hear sound of a vehicle and it was the Jeep. It was driven by our friend (!) whom we had met few minutes ago. He was taking a group of tourists!! So much so for scaring us about elephants!!!! Why he tried to drive away from the place remained a mystery.
We were expecting a war like situation in the village, thanks to the “information” given by the Jeep guys. To our respite, the village was as calm as we expected. “Elephants have all gone back long ago”, a villager told!!
I have not seen a more beautiful village in my life. With only five houses and small cultivatable area, it looks something like a heaven. A stream flows peacefully in the village. We finished our breakfast next to the stream. A person from the villager agreed to show us the path to the hills that we wanted to climb.
The trek was mostly on grasslands with Shola forest to cross in between. The first hill that we wanted to climb was Kodekallu, called so because of its umbrella shape. On the way, we crossed Jenukallu, another prominent hill in the place. The change in altitude was very minimal. At some places, we could see the Charmadi ghat road.
It just took us about an hour to reach Kodekallu. At the backdrop of Kodekallu, was another massive hill called Yerikallu. The entire stretch of Charmadi ghat from Kottigehara to Kakkinje was visible from this place. We spent some time relaxing under the rock.
Our next destination was Baalegudda, the highest peak in the area. A valley separated that hill from Kodekallu. So, we had to go back a little and start climbing from behind. This stretch can be tiring for many people as the walk is on grasslands with no respite from the burning sun.
It was here where I had the first experience of forest fire. Fire burning over grasslands is quite common during late winter months. In fact smoke was coming out from few hills nearby. The raging fire prevented us from climbing further. The fire was spreading at an astonishing speed, thanks to the blowing wind. Only guide seems to be unperturbed and took us into the burning hill.
Baalegudda provides a bird’s eye view of the entire Charmadi ghat. Hills as far as Amedikallu were clearly visible. We could only spend a few minutes on top because of the hot sun.
Walking back is always painful and the hot sun made the task even difficult. Back in the village, we were welcomed with a lemon juice. The stream flowing in the village forms a small waterfall. We spent a long time in the water there.
A short trek memorable for lot of things!!