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Shishila - Amedikallu trek in March 2010

Amedikallu / Amedikal was in my mind, ever since the Ombattu Gudda trek. The trek to Ettina Bhuja, where I caught a more than good glimpse of the peak, only increased the craving to go to Amedikallu. So, when I got a free weekend amidst a hectic schedule at work and home, I decided this is it! A few people showed interest in the beginning, but it was only me and Srini in the end. Srini called up Gopu Gokhale and Chennappa (our host and guide for the Ettina Bhuja trek) and made all the arrangements.

Only on the day of travel (a friday), I booked the tickets to (and from) Dharmasthala, got some bread, bun, milk, juice, dates ... etc and was at Majestic bus stand by night, on time to catch the bus. Thanks to a traffic jam around the bus stand, I had to get out of the bus and walk to the bus stand. It was almost 10.40 by the time I reached and I was fearing that I may get late. On reaching the platform, I saw Srini was waiting there, with his supply of snacks, fruits and dates. Yes, dates again - we now had a total of 6 date packets!!! The bus, scheduled to leave at 10.40 has not even reached the stand and it did not come for almost another hour!

Finally, when it arrived at 11.30, we jumped in with all our bags and moved to the rear end of the bus (as our seats were 42 & 43). I had my usual back pack and another cover for the shoes, while Srini had his back pack, another small bag and yet another cover for fruits. My bag was a little too big for the luggage, but with some difficulty I pushed it in and was thinking of settling down. Thats when we found that our seats were missing! The bus had seats only up to 38! Srini checked with the conductor and we were given replacement seats at the front :) We now moved the luggage to the front and I repeated the act of pushing the bag inside the luggage rack. We were just about settling down, when a different bus arrived and we were asked to shift to that! Now, we and our luggages were back at the last seats :( We braced ourselves for a sleepless night as the bus gave a few violent jerks as it was coming out of the stand! But, then, as a final surprise, there were a couple of seats available at the middle of the bus and we could shift there!

We had some sleep in the night and when I woke up in the morning, the bus was passing through some familiar roads - the Gundya to Dharmasthala stretch. Something told me that the bus was already past Kokkada, where we planned to get down and in a few minutes I knew what I heard was right! A quick look at the watch told me that we were in a soup - as it was already 6.50 and the Dharmasthala - Kokkada - Shishila bus would start at 7! I woke up Srini, we hauled up all the luggage and sleep walked out at the next stop. Only after the bus left, Srini asked me 'which is this red bag that you are carrying?' and I wondered 'isnt it urs?'! As if, all that we were carrying was not enough, we now had an additional bag!

We could imagine some person getting down at Darmasthala and cursing the thieves who picked up his/her luggage! Now, the only thing we could do was catch some bus going towards Dharmasthala and hand over the bag to them hoping that it will reach its owner. While, we were waiting for a bus towards Dharmasthala, another came in from Dharmasthala heading towards Kokkada. Well, it should not make much of a difference if we handed over the luggage here or at Kokkada - so we got in. In a few minutes, we were at Kokkada and spotted a bus heading towards Dharmasthala. Srini, stopped the bus, explained the situation to the driver and handed over the luggage to him. Hopefully, the luggage reached its rightful owner and he/she stopped cursing us after getting it!

The trail to Amedikallu starts from Shishila - off the Bangalore / Gundya - Dharmasthala road. Road to Shishila forks off near Kokkada and transport to Shishila is available via Kokkada. There are a few bus services between Dharmasthala and Shishila, which passes via Kokkada. There are also jeep / auto service available from Kokkada towards Shishila. The first bus from Dharmasthala to Shishila is at 7 and Gopu Gokhale had told Srini that, if we reach earlier in the day, we could take an auto and come. Now that it was already past 7, it did not make much sense to take an auto. Neverthless, we checked with one of the auto guys and he said Rs. 200! Then there was a jeep guy calling for Shishila - Srini went and checked with him and was told the same amount! Apparently, everybody at Kokkada knows that techies at Bangalore are ready to pay any amount for autos and anybody who lands saturday early morning at Kokkada must be a techie from Bangalore!

We opted to wait for the bus, which arrived at 7.40 and charged us Rs. 12 per head. We were at Shishila by 8 and there Chennappa was waiting for us, to take us to Gopu Gokhale's house. One more group was expected to come that weekend, but they backed out hearing that its too hot these days. Also, Gopu Gokhale and family was not at home - instead his elder brother Vishnu Gokhale was there to receive us. Quickly, we finished our morning ablusions, took a quick shower and was served nice idli's with coconut chutney. I stuffed as much as I can to brace myself for the next two days.

By 9.30, Chennappa called up an auto to take us to the foot hills, a couple of kms from Shishila town. Just like Ettina Bhuja, we took the newly tarred road from Shishila town, going towards the left of the Kokada - Shishila road. While, the starting point to the Ettina Bhuja trek is further up on the same road, this time we got out near Chennappa's house, just before crossing a small bridge across a rivulet.

Chennappa went in to get some of his stuff, while we moved a little past the rivulet till the beginning of the trail. By the time we paid the auto guy (Rs 60) and took out our luggage, Chennappa joined us. We entered a foot trail to our left flanked with bamboo shoots on both sides and started to move up.

Srini & Chennappa en route Amedikallu
A Poppins break!

It was almost 10'O clock and very hot by then. But, the trek started well with sightings of so many birds - the icing on the cake being provided by a colorful Hornbill flying across me! The trail was very dry, with the floor covered with dry leaves and trees / shrubs on both sides. In spite of the canopy cover, we both started sweating profusely and a break was required soon - by a little more than half an hour's time. Srini took out the 'Parle Poppins' packets - something that most of us relished during our childhoods. The taste remained the same even after so many years!!!

Soon after this break, we came out of the thick forest and were now at the slopes of one of the intermediate hills, going around it. The valley was visible to our right side along with layers of hills, one of them the Ettina Bhuja. By about 11, we came out of the trail around the hill, in to an open grassland. There we had our first real close view of Amedikallu.

Chennappa with Amedikallu in the background
First look at 'Ame' & 'Dikallu'

The name Amedikallu is from 'Ame' (meaning tortoise in Kannada) and 'Dikallu' (a tripod stove in Tulu). The left portion of the peak is three rocks forming a 'Dikallu' and the centre portion of the peak is a huge monolithic rock resembling the back of a tortoise. Chennappa showed us the trail that we will be taking, along the grassland to the left side of the peak. It did not look much at this point of time, but according to Chennappa, it was about 4hrs of climb!

We moved on the open grass land for some more time before getting in to another small stretch of shola forest. There we had another short break and opened up the date packets. The water source was another half an hour away and we were running short of water already. I had a 1L bottle and thought of preserving it. Instead, I opened up the tropicana mini grape juice cans, which turned out to be a good choice.

It was abt 11.45 when we started again. Soon we were out of the shola forest and entered another grass land. Here, we got a good view of the hills on our right side, mainly Ettina Bhuja. A little while from here, we hit a fork and Chennappa said that the trail to the left, which goes inside another shola forest, is towards the water source and we had to take it. We did not have enough water to last for the next half an hour and in this heat we needed a lot of water to reach the top.

Srini @ the stream
Srini's shoe break

The stream had almost dried up, but had enough water for us to fill our bottles. We filled up all our bottles - three 1L bottles and two 2L bottles which Chennappa was carrying. Meanwhile, Srini headed to another puddle at the bottom , took of his shoes and dipped his feet inside. I was a little lazy to remove the shoes and settled down to just washing the face and hands, which was also quite refreshing.

Srini & Chennappa ascending Amedikallu
One step at a time!

By the time we said good bye to the stream, it was past 12.30. We quickly came out of the canopy and reached back the main trail. Now, the trail was along an open grass land and the descend was steep. We soon gained a lot of altitude and the views got better and better. There was a Shola forest to our right side and the mountain face above that was almost vertical. A few minutes past 1'O clock, we reached a rock shelter and decided to open up the lunch boxes.

Lunch was Chappathi and curry, packed from Gokhale's house, and was over in no time. After the lunch we sat there for some more time and drifted to a small power nap. Srini was a fan of 'Viru Sahasrabudhi' and always enjoyed his power naps in office ;-) Apparently, while working for Huwaei in China, his entire office used to take a 15 min power nap and he is quite used to the idea. Here, I also decided to follow his example. The power nap did not last long as we were in ant territory and the ants were busy making a highway along our lunch point. When they saw two snoring obstacles they bit us out of sleep!

Only Chennappa was up during this time and he was getting impatient. I had a look at the watch - it was about 2.10 - and decided that we should pick up speed now. I was feeling all charged up after lunch and a good rest. We picked up our bags and started again. The trail was along the grass land for some more time. This time, I kept ahead - thanks to my charged up state. The climb was steep here and the trail was meandering from one side to the other to reduce the inclination. I followed the trail for some time, but found it less and less prominent after a while. Soon, it was almost untraceable and I was walking along knee length grass and was sure that I lost the trail. Chennappa and Srini was a little behind and I could not even see them. But, it did not matter as I was still going up :)

My doubts were confirmed when Chennappa and Srini showed up at the other end of the hill. I had to move to my left to catch up with them and I did exactly that. I did not lose much altitude, instead I just moved to the left and moved up whenever there was an option. After a while, I saw one trail and felt I should now be able to catch them on their way up. Chennappa and Srini appeared soon and I decided to wait for them.

Rock formation en route Amedikallu
'Ame' gets its head here!

Soon after this, I noted another rock formation, which looked like the head of a tortoise (or, say a Dinosaur). In certain angle, if kept together with the 'Ame' it looked like the full 'Ame'! But, this was only when we were near the rock. As soon as we moved away from the rock, it looked so small in front of the 'Ame'!

Just past 3, we were at the foothills of 'Ame' and moving away from 'Dikallu'. We soon entered a Shola forest right under the 'Ame' and had to traverse this Shola forest to reach the right side of 'Ame' from where we could climb up further. We took a break here over the grape and banana packets. Srini said that he was feeling a little dehydrated after walking in the open under the hot sun and the break became a little longer than what we wanted.

Chennappa on top of a rock
Look - thats where we are going! ... the outline of the peak at the top right corner is Kumaraparvatha

At 3.45, we were back on track through the thick vegetation. Once in a while we could see the huge monolithic formation - the 'Ame' - to our left side and we kept going around it. After a reasonably long time, the vegetation cleared around us and there was signs of us coming out of the forest. In between, we saw yet another rock, which was blocking a good view of the surroundings. But, it was not too tall and I did what was required to get that view - climbed on top of that rock! Chennappa followed and after some teasing, Srini also did not want to miss out.

Amedikallu peak
The final frontier!

Soon after this, we fully emerged out of the forest and were back on the grassland for a final climb. It was again very steep and sapping, but the sight of the peak so near gave us all the energy we needed. Slowly and steadily, we reached the right shoulder of 'Ame'. Chennappa told that we could set up our camp for the night and go back to the peak in time for sunset. The shoulder area could have very strong wind in the night and so we headed to further right side of the peak, found a shelter under the trees and setup our camp there.

While me and Srini were settling down, Chennappa offered to fill the water bottles and come back. Both of us wanted to go with him, but he was not very keen to show us the water source. We also thought, let that be his little secret :) So, we sat there enjoying the views around us. There were many peaks we could identify - like Ettina Bhuja and Ombattu Gudda. Right next to our camping point was the Minchukallu Betta and we were lost looking at those magnificient mountains!

Srini & Chennappa at the peak
Finally, at the top!

View from the top of Amedikallu
Can u spot Ettina Bhuja & Ombattu Gudda in this?

Once Chennappa was back, we prepared to go up. It was about 6'O clock by then and we headed back to the shoulder. From there, we climbed up the 'Ame' along the rocks. There was a small stretch of rock, with hardly any grip, but we managed to climb up without much trouble. Soon, we were at the top and looking at the beautiful valley on all four sides. The sun had just toned down for us to enjoy the stay on top and even the very far-away peaks were visible. We could even spot Kumaraparvatha from here, which should be atleast a good 50-60kms away!

Dikallu from Ame
Dikallu from Ame!

Chennappa at the edge
Living on the edge ...

Now, it was time for shooting and we did just that. I climbed down on the other side of 'Ame' to get a closer view of the 'Dikallu'. It was a little scary to go down, but once I was done, I got some good views, both of the 'Dikallu' and that of Chennappa and Srini on top of 'Ame'. The only let down was the cloud cover which killed the sunset very early. The light started falling pretty badly and we had to get back. I found it a little difficult to get back to 'Ame', especially with those deep holes in the rock!

Chennappa near the camp fire
Fire and the fire man

After some final shots, we were back and headed to the camp site. While, me and Srini spent the time chatting about the hills around, Chennappa set up the camp fire. Soon, we opened up the dinner pack (buns, rusk, dates, milk ... etc), finished the dinner and opened up the sleeping bags. The lights were off as early as 9 and soon we drifted to a nice deep sleep.

Minchukallu Betta
Misty misty Minchukallu

Sunrise @ Amedikallu
Here comes the sun ...

I woke up just before 6, seeing Chennappa trying to re-ignite the campfire. There was already some red tinge at the valley in front of us and I rushed there with the camera. The entire valley had a beautiful cloud cover around it, with only some peaks jutting out. With a touch of red, it was beautiful. To our left was the misty hills of Minchukallu Betta, which made the scene even better. The sun came out at about 6.50 adn we kept shooting. I had taken only the 16-35 mm lens and missed a few shots, which should be possible with a telephoto lens. But, never mind, I did not want to carry the extra weight of a tele photo lens.

Returning from Amedikallu
Back to the world of humans

Chennappa during the descend of Amedikallu
Chennappa, the Nikonian!

We wound up, once the sun reached some height. I quickly finished washing my face and mouth and then packed my stuff. Chennappa made some tea and we finished whatever milk was remaining. At 7.45 we were heading back, after saying good bye to the peak! The descend was steep and scary - and we did it carefully. I took the lead once again as I wanted to find the way myself. In about 20 mins, we were back at the Shola forest and in another 15 mins, I was out of it. As we entered the grassland, the clouds just had covered up the valley, providing us with some beautiful spectacles. We spent some time here admiring the views around us and clicking pictures.

Descending Amedikallu
Jack & Jill came tumbling down ...

From here, the descend was straight forward. I kept in the front and reached the first rock (resembling the 'Ame's head) by 9.15. This time I mostly followed the trail and also noticed that there was a nice rock shelter which I missed during our way up. This rock shelter would be idle for camping in the night (if there is rain) or for lunch breaks (good protection from the sun) and obviously many people had camped there as I cold see signs of many camp fires there.

Another 10 mins from here, I reached a small fork in the trail. The more dominant trail was going to the left side towards the deep valley and I thought that it was a bluff trail. So, I took the trail to the right, went around a few rocks, only to realize that the trail is becoming more and more unclear as I move down. I moved around one more rock and just after passing it, I looked behind. This was our lunch point on the previous day and the actual trail was there to its other side!

I waited there some time for the rest of the guys, when I heard the loud sound of an animal. Apparently, it was a Sambhar deer and Srini / Chennappa spotted it running down the forest on the other side. They joined me soon and we took a small break here. It was about 10'O clock by now, but Srini and Chennappa opted for breakfast only after some more time and I agreed. In another half an hour we stopped in the grass land and had a bread - jam breakfast.

The next break was supposed to be at the water source and I moved down in the fron as before. After moving down for a some 10 mins, I spotted a trail forking to our right in to the forest. Since, I was not so sure that it is the trail to the water source, I waited there for Chennappa and Srini to arrive. The wait was worth it, with so many beautiful birds around this area. I spotted a pair of Golden Orioles and many other colorful birds. After all, carrying the 400mm lens may have been worth it!

At 11.15 we were at the water source and refilled our water supply, which was almost empty, thanks to the hot sun. Srini, once again, took of his shoes and opted to dip his feet in the pool, while I opted to wash my face and hands. But, this time, I also dipped my head in to the water, wetting my hair! No better way to combat the heat and sweat!

By 12, we were out of the grass land and entered the Shola forest. For another 15 mins, we were going around a small hill and then we started the descend through the forest, along a path covered with dry leaves. We took a few breaks, but kept up a good pace. I was at the front for most of this stretch and sighted a group of Jungle Fowl, which ran away as soon as they saw me. Soon, the big trees gave way to bamboo trees and I started hearing the sound of a stream. This confused me a little as I never noticed any streams on our way up!

I continued along whatever trail I could see and soon hit a fork. Thats when I remembered that, while on the main road, we had crossed a small rivulet. This meant that I had either lost the way by a big margin or is almost near the main road. I took the fork to the right and hit yet another dead end. But, the good news was that I saw a jeep track not too far away. That meant, I could not be too far from the civilization! So, I came back to the fork and took the trail to the left. This time it was fine and I straight away reached the tarred road!

Ten minutes later, I was back in the auto and waiting for Chennappa and Srini who soon arrived at the main road. Chennappa got down at his house and told us that he will come to Gokhale's house before we leave. Srini asked the auto guy to stop at the Shishila town, so that he can buy a chappal and I got a packet of coconut oil at the same time. Soon, we were at Gokhale's house - enjoying some good butter milk and after that headed to the Kapila river for a good bath!

The bath was followed up by a sumptuous lunch and yet another power nap, until Chennappa arrived. Soon, we packed our bags, paid our hosts and thanked them, before moving out to catch the 4.30 bus to Dharmasthala. After a dharshan at the temple and a dinner at the temple dining hall, we headed to the new bus stand for the 11'O clock bus to Bangalore.

Next day when we met in the office, Srini was wondering - how come he does not remember all the tiredness, steep climb and the hot sun! All we remembered was the hovering clouds, the sunset and the rolling mountains! Is it not why we keep going back to the mountains?

© 2019 Sandeep Unnimadhavan