July 31, 2006

Sitanadi and Koodlu Theertha


Starring : Myself, Harsha, Ganesh, Rahul Rathan and Manish
Start Time :
21:30 hours,28th July 2006, Friday

End Time :
01:30 hours,31st July 2006, Monday

Trek distance :
8kms

Rafting Distance :
12kms





Special Features:

* Journey in the General Category in the train

* Rafting in Sitanadi + Swimming in 20ft deep water

* Hotel Swati

* Harshad and Ganesh getting lost and spending the night in the jungle

* Snakes!

Prelude :

The plan was to leave Bangalore at 10:30pm, reach Sitanadi base camp by 09:00am on Saturday; raft till 1:00pm, have lunch and then start for Koodlu Theertha; finish Koodlu Theertha by evening ; and then leave for Kodachadri base camp the same night; Start the ascent towards Kodachadri on Sunday early morning and return to the base camp by 5-6pm the same day ;and leave for Bangalore.

However, Mother Nature had things already planned for us...read on...

Myself, Harshad and Manish assembled at 9:40pm on 28th July 2006 in front of Bajaj Showroom @ Koramangala.We took an auto and reached Bangalore City Railway Station at 10:15 pm.Ganesh and Rahul were already there and had taken tickets for all of us to Shimoga Town in the General Category. We had our own apprehensions about travelling in the General Category. When we entered the platform, we were simply flabbergasted by the mere enormity of the people already present. The platform was packed ; with almost were little space to walk. As we were waiting for the train to arrive , we were trying to devise a strategy to board the train and get the seats for all 5 of us. By this time we were sure that General Category meant the 'Unreserved Category' in any other train; wherein passengers who have a ticket can simply board the train and can sit anywhere in that particular class.

The strategy was : 3 of us(Myself, Ganesh & Rahul) will keep the bags with Harshad and Manish and we will board the train when its running and get the seats. The train arrived at around 11:00pm and i tried to board into the 'running' train and got 3 seats. I was quite unsure about others; as I was peeping out of the window , Ganesh came running towards me and informed me that we already got seats for all 5 of us and I could leave my seats and come to that compartment. Apparently, Harshad and Manish had caught the seats for all 5 us :) The compartment looked pretty neat and our scepticisms about the stink and clutter came to an end. Also, I was surprised by the cleanliness of the toilet ( LoL ). Harshad and Manish slept on the lower berths whereas Ganesh and Rahul tried to place themselves on the narrow berth by the side. I had a diffcult time sleeping and adjusting myself between the 2 chairs on the side. By around 2:00am in the morning, there was an upper berth that was empty and i could sleep for another 2 hours before reached Shimoga Town.

Day -1 [ 29th July 2006, Saturday ]

We reached Shimoga Town railway station at 5:30am and took an auto to the Bus Stand ; had a light breakfast(idli + vada + coffee) . Took a bus and reached the Base Camp(Nisargadhama) at 09:30am.We were surprised to see so many people (around 50+) already present there - it looked like a park :) Changed our clothes and made ouselves ready for the rafting.



After the organiser gave introductory instructions and rules, we started our rafting at 11:00am. Kamal( a Nepali) was the instructor and the guide in our raft.He also gave some instructions about rafting and about the rapids. We were introduced to the many commands in rafting such as left-back, right-forward, all-back, all-forward, jump-right,jump-left etc . It was fun to learn the commands. There were 9 of us in the raft (incl of 1 guide).I had taken the right-hand lead role (bo-position) and the entire team was supposed to synchorize with my paddling and the person to my left.

Kamal showed us a swimming-spot and told us that we could swim there for sometime. The water was 20-30 feet deep. I wanted to take the dare and wanted to check the effectiveness of the life-jacket that i was wearing - though i do not know the basics of swimming (and have almost survived from drowning during my Goa visit).I took a plunge into the river, and was simple surprised by the way the life jacket kept me afloat and didnt allow me to sink [ guess i should have removed the buckles on the jacket ;) ]. Some of the team members knew swimming and they swam for sometime , and i kept floating around. It was a great feeling - i must say that this was one of the best times of this entire trek - i had loosened my entire body and kept floating in the water for 15 minutes.

We continued to raft for another 90 minutes and reached the final-point (Belinje Bridge) at 1:30.A jeep took us to the Base Camp and we quickly changed pour clothes and started for Koodlu Theertha.


A jeep gave us a lift till the main road. We were informed that there was a hotel 2 km down the road.5 of us walked our way down the road , enjoying the nature and capturing some amazing views in Rahul's camera ( Canon Powershot A520 ). Rahul spotted a couple of dead snakes along the road.Eventhough the snakes were dead, they had the fierceness in them to run a chill-wave along the spine.

We reached Hotel Swati; and had steaming boiled rice along with sambhar , beetroot curry and buttermilk.It was the first time that i had consumed boiled rice - this is a dish that is very much specific and staple to the coastal belt, it does not have the entire chaff removed and is not broken.



After the meal, Ganesh enquired about the way to Hebri and the way by which we could reach the base of Koodlu Theertha with the owner( a lady) of the Hotel. Suddenly a beautiful cute teen-girl emerged from the kitchen and gave some more specific routes ; all of us were spell-bound by her beauty. [ one particular aspect of the treks is that when you spot a good-looking girl during your course of the trek - she looks like a Goddess; a even-not-so inspiring girl in city would like a diva during the strenuous course of the trek ]. The dialect that she spoke coupled with a melliflous voice wooed all of us.

Ganesh & Rahul were almost salivating ;) lol.Ganesh and Rahul (both ready to tie their respecive nuptial knots) kept on talking about her for sometime and we acknowledged the same.We should have had a 'swayamvar' right there - the reaction of Rahul and Ganesh was worth watching.Swati(the girl) told us that we could arrange an auto which would take us till the base of the Koodlu Theertha (Koodlu-Pass) and the same auto could also take us back to the nearest bus stand.

As Rahul was about to explain the better gene pool in this part of the country,the auto came and we managed to squeeze inside (all 5 of us) and reached Koodlu Pass by around 4:15pm.We kept our bags in the local Bhatta's place [ a hut which was in the base ]. We happened to see a couple of trekkers returning back from their trek and were told by them that it took approx 2.5 hours for the ascent and 1 hour for the descent.We started from the Base at 4:30pm and reached the fork(marked as a Yellow Oval in the fig) by 5:10pm.



We took the route on the left and soon came across a riverlet(about 4-5 meteres wide). Ganesh and Harshad tried in vain to cross the riverlet, but the sheer force of the water did not allow us to even grab a hold.After a brief round of discussions we decided that we would stop the trek ; the rationale being it was already 5:30 and was fast getting dark, and I reasoned that even if we reach Koodlu Theertha (by somehow crossing the riverlet) by around 7:00pm, we would not be in a position to experience the actual beauty of the falls as it was a moon-less night and the visibility was dropping fast.We decided that we continue for Kodachadri.

As we were returning, Harshad and Ganesh took a break near a small foot trail (one marked Red Oval in the fig) and said that they would return in 5 minutes.The series of events that unfolded after this tormented us for the next 12 hours.

What was supposed to be 5 minutes, became 20 minutes and still we had no trace of either Harshad or Ganesh. I went near the riverlet and found none there..also took the foot-trail and found none there. We continued shouting for Harshad and Ganesh but alas!! there was no response. It was fast getting dark.Things started to get worse - we could sense the kind of mess we were into and which could probably get even more worser.Harshad and Ganesh had nothing with them - no torch / no food packets / no water - the bag that contained the torches and biscuits was with us.

The time was 6:45pm.I convinced Manish and Rahul that we would wait till 7:15pm or till it gets dark and then return to the base camp.It was suggested that we return again at 9:00pm the same night and continue searching for them.Rahul laid his white towel near the fork (Red Oval in the pic) and kept a glowing torch covered with a plastic cover and a matchbox on top of it. I collected some sticks and made the mark of an arrow near the fork.We left the fork at 7:15pm towards the base camp. It was pitch dark - we couldnt see what was around us. We switched on the torches and marched forward. Rahul was a few steps ahead of us, and suddenly I heard Manish screaming - i realised that Rahul was about to step on a snake.I asked Manish to calm down and pulled Rahul back.It was one helluva experience.We decided that we would stand next to each other till we reached the base camp.

I have never seen something so dark - i came to realise what "BLACK" actually meant - we were night-trekking in one of the densest forests in India (Bisle wasnt so dense).

When we were around 700 mts from the base camp, we saw a torch-light suddenly flashed on us from the trees, and there emerged a guy. Ganesh had already informed us that this area had some naxal-activity going on ; we got psyched.Later, that person told us that he was a localite and was returning back home after the day's work.We took a sigh of relief and took quick paces to reach the base camp.

We informed the bhatta about the event that had taken place - he told us that nothing could have gone wrong and it would be easy to trace 'the-lost-trekkers'. He also told us that till date no one had actually been lost nor had anyone met with any kind of an accident due to animals or naxalites.We had a quick dinner (Menu : bun, Veg Kurma, Bisi-Bela-bath, Sambhar Rice, Chana Masala) and were fast asleep.

I guess each of us were praying to God that 'the-lost-trekkers' atleast return back by night......But, God had some other plans in mind.


Day - 2 [ 30th July 2006, Sunday ] The-Search-&-rescue-Operation

We woke up at 07:00am and took couple of biscuit packets in the same bag and started out in our mission : search for Harshad and Ganesh and rescue them ,if they were in trouble.A guy called Shankar(a localite) came to bhatta's place and offered to help us; both of them mentioned that, till date no one had disappeared from the forest and also no one had met any eventuality.Shankar accompanied us till the fork (Yellow Oval in the fig; reached at 8:15am) and asked us to come to his residence ( a small structure made out of concrete and bricks). He offered us coffee and a mixture of rice and jaggery.

Myself and Rahul had asked Manish to stay at Shankar's place so that we could go to the fork and check the place wherein we had left the towel and the torch. Someone had already taken the torch+towel and the matchbox that we had placed there.We decided to return back to Shankar's place and were surprised not to see Manish there. Shankar's wife told us that they had taken the route at the backside of the house. Myself and Rahul searched in vain for Manish and Shankar , we shouted everwhere but couldnt find either of them. We kept shouting for Manish for around 20 minutes , but got no traces of either him or Shankar.We got a bit anxious and hoped for the best.In the meantime, myself and rahul found a log ( supported by ropes, similar to a burma-bridge ) that could serve one to cross the stream.We crossed the river and continued searching - now for Harshad and Ganesh ( and also for Manish ).


We again crossed the bridge and returned back to the other side. After sometime Manish came back with Shankar and one more localite who informed us about the terrain and the way in which we could reach the Koodlu Theertha Falls.He couldn't accompany us as he had some personal work to be done back home, but at the same time told us that if we were unable to locate Harshad or Ganesh, then we could seek his help.

Myself, Rahul and Manish again crossed the stream (log) and enquired in a couple of houses on the other side about H & G.No one had any clues of them. We decided that we would go till the base of the falls and check for ourselves.We continued climbing up the mountain and shouting for H & G intermittently.We could feel the leeches on our legs.We came across one more small stream - but this one was far smaller than the 'unfateful' one - and we tried crossing it. We realized a zillion leeches sticking in our shoes, once we crossed the stream.It was futile to venture further into the forest, as our stock of snuff-powder was fast getting empty and the leeches were a big problem.If H&G were safe then they could obviously return back to the base, and if they werent safe then obviously it would not be possible for only 3 of us to save them and ti would be far better to seek assistance.We decided to call the mission OFF and return back to the base camp and inform the Police and the Forest Department.


Rahul went to Shankar's place and took his phone number and details about the police station at Hebri.While we were on our way back, we saw 4-5 trekkers(the same who had come for rafting the previous day) standing near the fork. We informed them of our problem and gave the descriptions of H & G. I gave them my business card and asked them to call me back if they happen to get any information.Further down the road, we met a huge group of trekkers who were on the same trek.An idea stuck me - i decided that its worth talking to the lead/guide of the grouprather than talking to the members(who were mostly newbies). I narrated the entire incident to the guide for around 10 minutes.The guide empathized with us and asked us to inform the Police and the Forest officials. Just as I was about to turn and walk, he called me and told me that H & G were waiting for us near the base camp. For a second, I couldnt understand what he spoke - but soon realized the same.We thanked him for the information and walked back to the base camp.


We reached the Bhatta's place by around 12:15pm and saw H & G lying down inside in a depressed and dishevelled state. We were curious to know as to what had happened the previous night.


Ganesh told us the entire story : Harshad did not intend crosssing the stream, but accidently crossed it and so was Ganesh. But once they got to the other bank. they couldnt come back to 'this' bank, as the force of the water was too much. Ganesh tried crossing it, but was swept away by the waters thrice; each time the stream carried him for around 100-200 meteres.They spent the entire night there, sitting in the dark and doing nothing.. Sometimes they had to hug each other to bear the cold - they had nothing but their respective jerkins with them.In the morning , both of them somehow managed to cross the river and came to 'this' bank.


[ I guess, when we searching for them, they would have somehow managed to escape from our line of vision and would gone back to the base camp. ]

We decided to call the trek off and return back to Bangalore - as none of was in a position to trek more and also it was getting too late and we were sure that we wouldnt be in a position to complete Kodachadri.Ganesh went and made a phone-call for the auto and also thanked Shankar for his help and informed him that everyone was safe.We took bath in the river(not a stream!!) flowing near to Bhatta's place when we waiting for the auto.

This was also an amazing experience and one of the finest moments of this trek - we floated in the knee-deep chill water for around 20 minutes to overcome our tiredness.The auto arrived then.

The auto dropped us at the closest bus stand from where we could get a bus to Shimoga. We had some coconut water and some snacks in the roadside shop and baorded the bus that reached Shimoga after 3 hours, at 5:30pm.We had dosas and some juice at a hotel boarded a bus to Bangalore at 6:30pm.



Day - 3 [ 31st July, 2006, Monday ]

We finally reached Bangalore (Majestic Bus Stand) at 01:00hours. Myself, Harshad and Manish took an auto to Kormangala and reached our respective places.

Epilogue:

Looking back at this trek, we cant but say that we have learnt a lot and the experiences that we have gained during the course will be respected and retained for a long time.



Travel Expenses (Doesnt include food etc)
Bangalore to Shimoga (train ) - 74INR
Shimoga Railway station to Bus stand (auto) - 40INR
Shimoga Bus Stand to Sitanadi Base Camp (Bus) - 65INR
Swati Hotel to Koodlu Pass (Auto) - 175 INR
Koodlu Pass to Bus Stand in the Main Road (Auto) - 175 INR
To Shimoga Bus Stand (Bus) - 60INR
Shimoga - Bangalore (Bus) - 141INR
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