Green Dreams – Agumbe

Around 5.30 am, I peeked out of the window and could see we were in the ghat areas already – foggy morning with very less visibility, forest cover on either side of the road and winding roads …

The start of a new beginning

The year was 2003; and we were all enthused and looking forward to the weekend trek. This was my first trek! And marks the beginning of many more to come. The location was Agumbe, the destination was Narasimha Parvatha, the highest peak in Agumbe. The rides those days, were a lot less optimal in the ‘comfort’ experience but no one really went to lengths complaining about it. When there was ‘chaat’ and ‘dosa’ to be had at 2 am, at a stop! 🙂

Day 1 – The ascent to Narasimha Parvatha

It was a foggy January morning, when the bus made its way through the winding roads of the western ghats – my first whiff of the cold fresh air of the ghats! By the time we were near Agumbe, the bus had emptied itself, leaving only 7 passengers, six of us, another passenger, a driver and a conductor! Around 6.00 am, we were dropped off right outside a small restaurant, where we met Mr. Raghavendra Pai, who gave us directions to Mallandur from where we were to hire our guide for the trek. Though we did not stay or go around Agumbe, it gave the quaint village picture of the ‘Malgudi Days’ fame that I used to love watching on TV. We soon found out that they also had a very different, efficient and interesting paper delivery system as well – which involved a speeding minivan that whizzed by the small hotel and dropped the daily morning ‘Yuga Vani’ speedpost, literally with a thud on the dusty mud side road! After a 5km walk on a forest department built tar road, we reached Mallandur, where a few enquiries soon lead us to our guide’s house, near a ‘kallu mane’ – the house of M R Krishnappa alias MR.

A typical shola grassland landscape where the grasslands can be with rocks and boulders while the shola forests cloth the valley folds of the hills

From the bottom of the trail, till the view point / vista point, it is a well defined trail without much steep climbs. From the viewpoint, Barkana Falls could be seen as a shimmering silver sliver across the valley on the mountains on the other side to the left of the view point. From hereon, now and then, the trail would vanish and MR alone would know which direction to take, while we followed behind. Also, the jungle got thicker and steeper in some areas and we started taking more short breaks, to ease a leg, or wet a dry throat. After a 7-8 km walk, we could hear the sound of running water, and soon enough we reached the top of the falls. It was a beautiful scene (for a first timer like myself) with the falls going over a bed of boulders that we had to cross over to get to the boulders overlooking the gorge of the falls. The water was clear, cold and refreshing to us tired trekkers. By then it was 12.30 pm, and the lunch call was slowly but surely heard from our bellies. So, we unpacked our rations and sat down at lunch – chapathi with chutni pudi, jam and bread, and oranges and chocki. With a bit of resting and cooling our heels in the water, we set off for the next phase of the trek from Barkana Falls to Narasimha Parvatha, that MR said would be a bit more difficult that the first phase, with no more defined trails and more steeper climbs!

The route was thick jungle with no signs of trails whatsoever, in most places,except when we came upon a peak or a clearing, where there
were signs of some kind of trail made due to human treading on the grassland. But inside the forest, we had to just about go above and beneath fallen logs and push against branches and make our way.

The Seetha river on which Barkana Falls is situated flows gently

By 4.30 pm, we were close to Narasimha Parvata with a last little stretch remaining.With renewed vigour we decided we could make it as planned and finally reached the peak by 5.00 pm! This was my first trek through the shola grassland mosaic that is distinctive of the western ghats! and little did I know, its pull would continue to be a life long journey. Everyone clambered on top of the big boulder at Narasimha Parvata, to get a view of the landscape around and relax! About 15 minutes later, we decided to head down to the campsite clearing, which was a little distance downhill from the peak. Well visited by humans as observed by the presence of litter! The camping kit was soon out – the light weight tent and accessories, the water purifier and the light weight pots and pans! Near the campsite we saw the remains of what must have been a young cow or calf, a vertebra here, a leg there and a face with skin torn and dried out. MR informed us that it might be the handiwork of a wild cat ( the cat family species – perhaps a leopard or so ).

Its hard to find good guides like MR nowadays!

Soon the tent was pitched, firewood was collected, and water from a small water hole was tested with the purifier! By then folks wanted to see the sunset and so headed back to peak before it got late. But by the time we reached there, the sun had already gone below the horizon; also the fog prevented us from sighting the sunset in its full glory. Made our way back and got to dinner preparations. Dinner was a combo of chapathi and MTR RTE. Chatting around the warm campfire sit out, it was 10.00 pm and time to head to bed.

Day 2: Descent to Kigga and onward

Day2 saw us wake up early to take in the sunrise and then pack up the camp gear as we headed down a relatively clear trail down to Kigga on the other side (this mud trail is commonly used by the locals). A bus ride from there took us to Shringeri where after a good bath, we went to visit the famous temple, followed by a sumptuous lunch at the temple. Walking around the streets of Shringeri, we were treated to Goli Bajjis and tea, before riding the night bus back to Bengaluru!

The team that made it to the top! 🙂

PS: This is from the era of pre-digital SLRs, when the 35 mm film roll had to capture memories! and hence the old style photo quality 🙂