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Sarpadhari - Mullayanagiri - Kavikalgandi - Baba Budan Giri - Manikyadhara Trek in February 2015

Located at a convenient distance from Bangalore, I have found Mullayanagiri one of the easiest places to go back to. Naturally, I have trekked around Mullayanagiri more than once. Standing tall @ 1930m altitude, the hills generate a lot of awe among newbies - essentially because of the "tallest peak in Karnataka" tag. But, despite the tag, it is not among the "most difficult" peaks to trek. I would settle for "easy to moderate", if asked to rate the difficulty level of this trek and points to the fact that Mt K2 is considered a much tougher ascend than Mt Everest, in spite of the (slightly) higher altitude. Most people who have climbed Kudremukh, Kumaraparvatha or Ombattu Gudda, would vouch that they are all tougher treks than Mullayanagiri.

Among the multiple trails around Mullayagiri, the most interesting is the ridge towards Baba Budan Giri. I had been on this trail during my 1st visit to Mullayanagiri and thoroughly enjoyed it. But, in spite of multiple re-visits to the hill ranges, including a trek at Kemmanagundi, I did not manage to go back to the ridge. Hence, when I accidentaly saw a trek event by Get Beyond Limits [1], which specifically talked about ridge walk, I quickly signed up - almost last minute. I got a confirmation by noon and a mail with the pick-up schedule followed, with me opting for a pick-up from Domlur that same night at 10.45.

I was greeted by Salwat and Vignesh - the trek leads - at Domlur on time. This was followed by a short introduction to some of the trek members scheduled to join from Domlur - Partha, Viki, Altanai and Samartha. After a short wait for Advait and Shraddha, we headed to the mini-bus, which had a few more on-board. Binoy, Sumit and the trek leads occupied the 1st row. Vinod and Deepa were in the 2nd, with Viki and Altanai taking the remaining two seats. I found a vaccant seat in the 3rd row, next to Ravi, with Veera and Gohila already occupying the other two seats.

Most of the gang seemed to be regular with Get Beyond Limits [1], with only a few newbies - like Ravi. In a few minutes, I realized that most of the people in this group had done a few treks together - Kudremukh, Kodachadri, Savandurga ... etc - and knew each other quite well. Especially, the four people sitting just behind me - Partha, Saptharshi, Suman and Sanjay - were talking about their previous treks and I was more than eager to join the conversation.

Two more regulars - Srihari and Shalini - joined from St Marks road and we were on our way out of the city. We had a short introductory round where everbody walked up to the front and introduced them-selves. Apart from the name and profession, all of us were expected to answer 'why-mullayangiri?' and name the favourite song. Salwat specifically pointed out the photographers in the group - Binoy [2], Altanai [3], Vinod [4], Sumit [5] and Viki [6] - and promised good results if we are all nice to them :) He was not as sure-footed while introducing Altanai and ended up checking with her if she 'also-brought-ur-camera?' Needless to mention, Altanai had a few nice words to say about this discrimination!

After the introductions were done, Salwat briefed us about the plan for the next to days. We would reach the hill ranges early morning and head straight to a campsite located near the beginning of the trail. After freshening up and breakfast, we would head to Sarpadhari and start our trek to Mullayanagiri. Post lunch, we would head back to the checkpost halfway between Mullayanagiri and the Baba Budan Giri ridge. If time permits, we could steal a quick visit to Dabdabe falls before heading back to the campsite. Second day morning, we would head back to the checkpost and do the ridge walk to land up near the Manikyadhara falls. The mini bus would pick us up from there and we could finish the lunch and head towards Bangalore before evening.

Salwat went on to explain the do's and dont's - the no-smoking, no-drinking, leave-no-trace policy being very important. It was nice to hear him emphasise on the importance of not leaving any litter behind. I was particularly impressed when he mentioned that he carries a litter bag with him and tries to collect as much litter as possible to be brought back to where it belongs - the dust bin. He went on with the spirit of Get Beyond Limits [1] - where people are not bogged down by the limits imposed by the society and not scared to think of doing the impossible! I could identify completely with what he was saying - in a way, this is exactly what I used to think before most of the treks and bike trips, at the danger of sounding too old and cliched, during my younger days! I did feel a lot younger after listening to this and quite thrilled to be part of this young and vibrant group.

We had a stop at a fuel station - which also included a rest-room break - before the lights went off. I slept on-and-off through the night before being waken up, by about 4.30, at the Kaimara forest checkpost, which is closed till 6.30. A few of the guys went out to get some fresh air, while the rest stayed in the bus trying to catch some more sleep. I stayed back, but hardly managed to get any sleep. Apparently, Srihari lead the group outside in hunting down an eatery and managed to have an omlette before we were back on the road, once the checkpost opened.

As we climbed up the ghat roads, the sun started coming out, creating a beatutiful reddish hue towards east. A little later, we could see the Baba Budan Giri ridge to the right side as well. The road towards Mullayanagiri peak forked to our left and a few hairpin bends followed before we reached the Kavikalgandi checkpost. With too many twists and turns, I was not feeling comfortable and felt like throwing up. Moving up to the front, next to the door, to catch some fresh air seemed to help. I stayed in the front as we went past a set of shops at Attigundi and forked off from the Kemmanagundi road to enter a jeep-track - the road to Dattatreya Peeta and Manikyadhara. A few minutes later - by 7, we were at the gates of "Eco Holiday Home", our campsite for this trek.

The campsite was at a beautiful location, with a lot of trees and the chirrup of birds all around. To add to the music, we also had a stream of crystal clean water passing by, making a pleasing gurgle sound. We settled down, sipped on hot coffee and started freshening up. Salwat threw up a climbing challenge to others by effortlessly climbing to the terrace from outside. Advait accepted the challenge and followed Salwat to the terrace, with just the parappet for support. Binoy and Shraddha found an easier way from the backside and surprised all by showing up at the top. But, the real challenge which tested most people was getting down! Not so surprisingly, most decided to not take the chance and took the easier way out.

Breakfast arrived soon - maggie, bread, butter, jam - and all of us had a fair share. The bags were soon packed - with the unwanted luggage being left out - and the water bottles were filled - no water source all the way from trek beginning till the peak - as we got ready. By 9, we were all set, boarded the bus, picked up one lunch pack each and headed back towards the main road. As we came out of the campsite compound in to the jeep track, we got a full view of the Mullayangiri ranges - with the peak easily identifiable thanks to the temple at the top.

Our guides - Irfan and Rizwan - had joined us for the trek and Salwat had another briefing explaining the plan. The guides would lead the group and Vignesh would function as the sweeper, while Salwat would stay in the middle. He also made the team shout 'Mullayanagiri ka tempo high hain' three times, followed by a loud cry of Mullayanagiri, to get us all charged up before the trek.

By 10, we were back at the arch marking the beginning of the trail leading to Mullayanagiri peak - the Sarpadhari. The initial part of the trail was quite steep and coupled with the heat, I could soon hear a few huffs and puffs. Just a few minutes in to the trek, Ravi - who was at the tail - complained of breathlessness and dizziness. To give some rest to Ravi - and ourselves - we stopped next to a tree. Partha was soon found testing the strength of its delicate branches, prompting Vignesh joining him as well.

Mullayanagiri trail - Sarpadhari
Snaking up 'Sarpadhari'

A dose of glucose from Salwat seemed to help and got Ravi back in his feet. We walked for some time, with the trail snaking zig-zag along the steep slopes. It was not tough to understand the meaning of 'Sarpadhari' ('Sarpa' means snake and 'dhari means way) as the trail seemed to get steeper as we proceeded. A few more minutes later, there was another 'wait' call from behind and we found some shade ahead of us and stopped. We sat there for a while, discussing about various trek routes in Karnataka, with some of the members wondering about the difficulty level of this trek. I had to say that despite being the tallest peak (@1930m), the trek starts at a relatively high altitude (almost 1500m) which makes it relatively easy.

No one seemed to mind the break and looked as if we enjoyed sitting in the shade. Salwat went back and talked to Ravi - coming back with the news that he opted to go back to the campsite with one of the guides, where our hosts would take care of him. It was sad to hear this, but it looked like the lack of sleep in the previous night, the sudden gain of altitude and the heat may have been the culprits here. Hopefully, he could come back next day after getting some rest today. Altanai wondered if she should stay back to help Ravi - as they were colleagues - a doubt that was firmly endorsed by some evil-minds-with-malicious-intensions who took the opportunity to target the nice-meaning-lady! All the plans of the evil-minds did not work in the end as Altanai found the call of the mountains too hard to resist!

It was about 11, by the time we started climbing again. A hill top was visible right ahead raising hopes for many that we almost reached! I was not so convinced as the Baba Budan Giri ridge - visible to our right from the beginning of the trek - still looked a lot taller than us. Also, the Mullayanagiri peak had a very different shape and there was no trace of the temple at the top as well. So, the hill top that we were seeing had to be a false peak and the real peak had to be behind the hill top that we were seeing.

Gang ascending Mullayanagiri
Forming a colorful line ...

We trudged along zig-zag path going up the grasslands - marked by a handful of trees - before passing by a small patch of shola forest. The hill top we were seeing a while before looked just above us now and the trail seemed to be forking two ways. One going towards left and around the false peak, while the other going straight up. While Salwat and the guide was leading the group towards the left, I took the one straight ahead to get a good view of the gang. This trail was a bit slippery and the gradient here was pretty high - but the spectacle of the group making their way up the steep face of the hill was worth the risk.

I wanted to check out the false peak and see where this trail would lead to. But, given the slippery slopes, I first headed towards the group to leave the camera and luggage with Samartha, Suman and Srihari, who were seated comfortably on a rock watching all the action. Once the camera was safe, I headed back towards the false peak. In an effort to avoid getting down, I tried to walk on a slightly more rocky patch and managed to use some dry grass and shrubs for support. This made the trail a bit riskier, but I did not want to take too much time and make the entire group wait for me.

As I was heading towards the false peak, Vignesh and Shraddha also followed the straight trail from the bottom. The trail seemed to be going around the false peak on its right and further up from there. It was quite possible that once we climb up above the false peak, I should be able to catch up with the rest of the group. But then, going with a group, it did not make sense to explore on my own. In any case, I had to go back to get the luggage.

By the time I reached back, Srihari was quite interested in what is going on. We checked with Vignesh, if he wanted to go straight ahead from there. Upon not getting a clear response, we decided to head back - one more round on the rocky patch, but this time with the luggage and the camera in hand. The whole exercise turned out to be futile when Vignesh told that he had no plans to take a different trail. In fact, he felt that the trail is leading somewhere else and we had no guarantee of joining the rest of the group, if we take it. But then, it was fun to move around!

A little later, I was back with the group, with Salwat throwing up yet another challenge - an alternate trail up, which required climbing on a boulder. The actual trail would go around the boulder from the right side to eventually reach on the top. Most of the people seemed to have taken up the challenge and I too did the same, without much trouble. Salwat went down briefly to ensure that everybody is through before we could proceed further.

Gang near Nandi at Mullayanagiri foothills
Almost there ...

The trail now moved towards right, eventually leading us back on top of the false peak - possibly just above the point from where we returned. Once on top of the false peak, we again turned left and moved in a zig-zag manner along the grass-land. By now, we could see the peak - unmistakeable due to the white-painted temple at the top - along with the winding jeep-track leading to the peak from the west. The Baba Budan Giri ridge to our right now looked at pretty much the same height. By 12.30, we were right below the peak, resting near a tree which also had a Nandi idol in its shade.

Gang posing at Mullayanagiri foothills
Mullayanagiri ka enthu high hain!

Some questions were raised on the "character" of one of the guys when a girl was overheard as saying "I did not say you could touch me there!". Ofcourse, I am not taking the names of the people involved - as it eventually turned out to be the work of certain evil-minds quoting the girl out of context! We even witnessed a fist-fight between the guy and the girl, which may have turned much more serious, had they not been distracted by a proposal from Salwat for a group photo here! In spite of all the chaos, the whole group posed enthusiastically for pictures with the valley in the background.

Half an hour later, we were at the entrance of the temple complex. But, Salwat suggested that we go and explore the cave before going in. I had been in to the cave during my 1st trek to Mullayanagiri, when we were told that the cave leads to some underground path. In spite of the inside being pitch-dark and infested with bats, we had gone inside and verified that all trails were dead ends.

Advaith inside Mullayanagiri cave
Peeping in to the bat-chamber

This time around, the plan was to go inside the cave and take a look at the bat colony. With the lighting that we were carrying, it was possible to admire the stripped patterns on the cave wall as well. We formed a line and crawled in - keeping the noise to the minimum - to one of the main chambers from where the bat colony was visible. I particularly found the light falling from the front of the cave very interesting forming interesting patterns on the cave wall. The walls were wet at the entrance resulting in a green algae cover all around. As we went inside the walls were drier and had multi-hued patterns. We even encountered a few bats flying around before reaching the main chamber.

Entrance to Mullayanagiri cave
Entrance to the cave!

I was the last person to crawl out - along with Vignesh - and spent some more time to take photographs. By the time I came out eventually, it was about 1.30. The rest of the gang was already inside the temple complex - probably hungry and cursing me for the delay in lunch! The temple complex has some basic amenities like water and a place to stay - infact, I had stayed inside twice before. But, this time the plan was to just fill the water bottles and head back to the grass lands. I was feeling a bit too lazy to remove the shoes and go inside, but did not have much option as the water bottle was almost empty.

Road and steps to Mullayanagiri top
Easiest way to the peak!

BSNL tower and valley from Mullayanagiri peak
Green, gold and blue ...

As we went around the temple, we were greeted with beautiful views all around. The jeep-track and the steps leading to the peak could be seen towards west. The Baba Budan Giri ridge and the BSNL tower at the top was visible towards east. It was not lush green and misty as one would find during monsoon, but the landscape had a different feel with the thick-green patches of shola forest and the golden-hued dry grasslands all around us. Some of the people kept wondering how beautiful the place would be in monsoon - which was undoubtedly true, but I had to say that the views cannot be this clear during monsoon months!

Yellow flower near Mullayanagiri peak
... a touch of yellow too!

By 2.30, we all descended towards a vantage point, just below the peak. The lunch packs were opened and the veg biriyani - and boiled egg - was gobbled up greedily. There were a few who were not so interested in the food - Sumit kept it aside to chase a lady bug for a few macro shots. Shalini had a couple of spoons from her pack, went around looking for a boiled egg, had another spoon, went for one more round looking for raitha, had yet another spoon and then went around looking for Srihari to finish the rest. Soon, she was wondering how far do we need to walk down. On being told that we have to get down the hill towards the Kavikalgandi checkpost, she was worried if she had too much food!!!

The break continued even after the lunch: Veera and Gohila were sitting together facing the valley lost in their own world, Shraddha was seriously considering an afternoon siesta before she became the subject of a few photos, Viki lied down on a rock sipping his water pipe, Saptharshi was lieing down too with his goggles on - not so sure if his eyes were open or closed - reflecting the landscape all around ... and so on. Finally, Salwat got worried and had to cajole everybody in to getting up. He declared to the team that we were well behind schedule and in danger of missing out Dabdabe falls, if we continue at this pace. We should be at the Kavikalgandi checkpost by 5, to give ourselves enough time to visit Dabdabe falls.

The "speech" worked and the group started getting up gradually, packed up and moved. I assumed that the "speech" was meant for "others" and was busy capturing the line of people leading towards the valley ;-) Salwat eventually had to give one final push and suggested that the photographers should be at the front so that we do not loose time. This jolted me to action - to pack up quickly before taking a short-cut to catch up with the guides - Irfan and Rizwan - moving in the front. I kept a good pace for some time to move in the front, slowing down only on hearing cries of 'stop' from behind.

Slanting tree near Mullayanagiri peak
Is it gonna fall?

In the next half an hour or so, we walked by a ridge with valleys and shola forest on either side of us. I had to stop once for the guides to come when the trail forked - but the one going towards left looked like merging with the main one eventually. Past this, the trail went around a shola forest before eventually starting to go up a little. After the short ascend, we reached another ridge with a peculiar looking slanting-tree on one side. I vaguely remembered seeing this tree during an earlier trek as well. The tree did elicit some interest from the group - with some attempting to climb up while some others just preferred taking a break in its shade.

After we passed the ridge, the descend became a little steep, making the progress a little slow. Samartha and I got down first, reaching a point with a shola forest to our left and the Chikmagalur valley to the right. We looked back to see that the rest of the group was far behind and looked like ants in the vastness of the hill and the grasslands. So, we chose to take a break till the rest of the group joined. We got a comfortable resting point right there and I found it too comfortable, making it a little difficult to continue even after the group caught up with us!

Shraddha near Mullayanagiri peak
Taking a look around!

We had another small ascend and went around a hill, before emerging out on the other side and the views of Baba Budan Giri ridge re-instated. Now, the winding roads snaking around the hill was visible, with the trail leading all the way to the road and then continuing towards the Baba Budan Giri ridge. It was just past 4 now and it looked like we could comfortably reach the Kavikalgandi checkpost in another half an hour or so. We were on target for Dabdabe falls and had some room to relax! The trail too was a comfortable walk from there on - I was mostly with Suman and Shraddha. With Suman's wedding scheduled by the end of the month, we had a fun time pulling his legs and scaring him! Shraddha was talking about her descend after Savandurga, which made her a little wary of the descend here as well. But, eventually she found this much easier to do. I also shared my Savandurga experiences - a bizzare night in the forest when I got lost in the forest, followed by a normal trek to Billigudda and another exploration trek to Karigudda, which exorcised all the ghosts.

Walking comfortably all the time, we did manage to cover the distance without much trouble. Towards the end, we could see that the dry grass was burnt to avoid forest fire from spreading. As expected, we were near the checkpost by 4.30 - comfortably seated at the cement benches placed just above the checkpost. Once everybody arrived, we quickly discussed about going to Dabdabe falls. Salwat scared us a little by saying that we need 2 hrs one way to reach the falls. This made all of us think a little, with some people wanting to stay back in the mini-bus and wait. But, Partha and Srihari were particularly excited about going there and we decided to go for it.

We headed for the mini-bus - which was parked next to the checkpost - and were back on the main road with minimum delay. It was not so much fun to be back in the bus - in fact, I was joking that getting in and out of the mini-bus was tougher than the trek that we did! In any case, the bus meandered along the winding roads - towards Attigundi - for a few kms, before stopping at a narrow stretch of road with jeeps parked on one side. This location was about 4kms from the checkpost and about 2kms before Attigundi. The jeep-track to Dabdade goes down from here and the long line of jeeps and shops made us wonder if the water-fall is as crowded. Salwat mentioned that he usually starts the trek further ahead, but decided to try this trail this time. But, when enquired with the locals, he was told that this jeep-track is only for jeeps and we should go further for the foot-trail. Much to our chagrin, we had to drag ourselves back in to the bus once again!

If it was any consolation, the foot-trail - about a km from the beginning of the jeep-track - was a little less crowded and had enough space to park the mini-bus. Some of the people - including Sumith, Vinod, Deepa and Shalini - decided to stay back, while the rest of us picked up the bare minimum luggage and headed down the trail - which was wide enough to be called a jeep-track. The unique feature of the zig-zag trail was a thick layer of fine-grained red soil, throwing up a puff of red dust with each step. All our shoes changed to red color after just a few steps in to this trail! Srihari suggested that we take a shortcut which lead directly to the falls without many turns, but Salwat requested us to continue on the jeep-track , which was a better option if it gets dark on our way back.

We were prepared for a long walk as Salwat had predicted about 2hrs one way - may be thinking of our speed up Sarpadhari, but in reality the trail turned out to be much shorter. We took a few turns on this jeep-track before taking a slight short-cut through the shola to descend down and join back the jeep track. The sound of falling water could already be heard and in just about 20 mins - before 5.30, we were at the falls. As soon as we reached, I realized being there during an earlier trip as well - that too in monsoon, when the falls was in full-vigour. Even now, the falls looked good with water pouring down from about 30m height. Since, it was late evening, there was not much of crowd as well.

at Dabdabe falls
Ecstatic in the gush of water

I did not feel like taking a dip and headed to a vantage point across the stream. Altanai and Partha were among the first to go under the falls and seemed to enjoy the gush of water. In a while, I noticed Shraddha and Vignesh at the 2nd tier, soon followed by the rest of the gang. I stayed back at the vantage point and watched the gang getting ecstatic under the strong shower for the next half an hour or so. The walk back was comfortable and good day light was available even after we reached back by 6.30. After an almost one hour stop at Attigundi for buying supplies - and tea for some - we were back at the campsite by about 7.30.

By the time I got down, there was already a long queue for the bath room. So, it made more sense for me to find a good sofa and root myself in until the queue cleared. Ravi greeted us all and browsed through all the cameras looking quite eager to find out what he missed - which was quite a lot! He did look fresh after a day's rest and promised to join for the ridge walk. Meanwhile, Srihari opened up multiple packs of playing cards and invited all to a game of bluff, which turned out to be a lot of fun with a few 'habitual' bluffers among us!

I managed to take an extremely refreshing bath in practically what felt like ice cold water, just before the dinner arrived. The dinner - rice, sambar and pallya - was simple, but good and heavily appreciated, except for the minor irritant that the bowls kept getting emptied and the re-fill usually took time. Post-dinner, Salwat checked with all to make sure that everybody got a place to sleep and had blankets to go with the bed, after which it was time for the bluff to continue.

The game continued till our hosts set up the camp fire. A few people had already hit the bed - the rest of us gathered around the camp fire and started chatting up. We started off guessing each other's ages, which resulted in me realizing that I am with a much younger crowd and could probably be the oldest! Sesious discussions followed when Altanai presented her wierd theory on human evolution aided by aliens, while Shalini and Srihari shared some of the stories about genetic research. We went on to argue about various issues ... humanity vs survival of the fittest, vegetarianism vs eating non vegetarian ... etc etc. We all had our own opinions and disagreed on many issues, but there was one thing we all agreed on - to ensure the comfort of one species, we are indeed doing a lot of harm to our planet. The size of the gang dwindled as the night got older and the campfire started to fade. Salwat first gave us a live demo of how he used to sleep in college sitting in the first bench when the lectures where going on - hardly any one realized that he was fast asleep, while most of the talk was going on! - before eventually heading to his bunk. One after the other people called it a night, before we ended the debate at around 12 and extingushed the campfire.

Process of lights-off ran in to issues when we had trouble identifying the switch for a giant disco-light in the hall. But, eventually Partha managed to locate the switch and stopped the disco! Plan for the next day was to get ready as early as 6.30, finish the breakfast and leave the campsite by 7. To avoid getting caught up in a long queue in front of the bathroom, I set the alarm for 5.30. But, I was woken up almost an hour early, thanks to a few messages Viki recieved sleeping next to me. By the time I finished my morning chores and returned, a few more alarms had gone off and people were getting ready one after the other. Most of the team did manage to get ready by 6.30 itself - worst case 7 - but, we could not start until 8.30, as breakfast and the lunch packs were delayed. As if to answer Srihari's prayers (he had declared dosa as the emperor in the previous night), we were served dosas along with potato masala and sambar. But the quantity was so less that I am not sure if Srihari managed to get hold of one. The other option was puliyogare, which was not a favourite of mine!

Eventually, by 8.30, we were out of the campsite and heading back towards Kavikalgandi checkpost. By 9, we were on our way up the ridge. Like the previous day, Salwat requested the photographers to lead the way and I gladly obliged - along with Binoy and Vinod. Sumit decided to stay in the middle and Viki had not taken his camera today - he said that he wanted to enjoy the trek and hence chucked the camera. Like the previous day after-noon, the local guides - Irfan and Rizwan - would lead the group, with Salwat and Vignesh keeping the middle portion. Salwat paired the rest of the group to ensure that there is some support available to negotiate the obstacles without trouble. A few sweepers and even a 'lead-sweeper' was thrown in to avoid any slip-up. Once, the rules of the game was explained, we were soon on our feet. I was excited to be back in the ridge and wasted no time running up the grassland and heading towards the ridge, especially with a license given to go ahead of the guides.

Mullayanagiri from Baba Budan Giri ridge
Taking a look back!

The ridge had a rocky top with a good layer of grass all around the trail. At most places, the trail was easily identifiable - mostly towards the right side of the ridge, on top of a steep rock-face vertically rising up from the Chikmagalur valley. Occassionally, the available space on the right side would come down and the trail deviates towards the left side of the ridge, which was more gradual. Right behind us, we had majestic views of the Mullayanagiri peak and the mountain ranges connecting it with Kavikalgandi checkpost. During the initial part of the trail, it was tough to realize how close we were from the edge of the cliff. But, about 10 minutes on this trail, we reached a point just inches away from the edge of the cliff - a little peep showed us how deep the valley is from here! A slight ascend followed, taking us to a vantage point, from where the edge of the cliff - next to which we walked on - was clearly visible.

Deepa, Vinod and Samartha was right behind me at this point and Viki joined us as we headed forward, declaring that the lack of weight was a welcome change as he opted to leave his heavy camera kit behind. We were already at a good altitude, with clear views all around - Mullayanagiri peak to our back, Chikmagalur valley to the right, roads winding around the hilly terrain to our left and the gradual ascend of the Baba Budan Giri ridge ahead of us. The trail looked a touch precarious at some points and we had to be careful finding our way through the boulders.

walking Baba Budan Giri ridge
How do I come down?

At one point, we had a difficult descend down the boulders - with steep falls on both sides of the ridge making it a little tricky. The interesting part here was the thin flat layers of rock jutting out in various angles, through the middle of which one can squeeze through. The gap in between these layers had a few shrubs all around to hold on to and the rock layers itself was rough enough to provide very good grip - making the descend relatively safe. Soon after this, an ascend followed taking us to another vantage point - a perfect place to watch the rest of the gang squeezing their way up and down the boulders.

Mullayanagiri peak and the ridge
Descending down the ridge

Samartha @ Baba Budan Giri ridge walk
Lost in thoughts?

The ascend along the rocky ridge continued for some more time, before we reached a relatively high point on the ridge by about 9.45. Past this point, we descended down to a grassland towards the left of the ridge. We had a shola forest to our left side connecting to more stretches of shola placed amidst vast slopes of grass lands. The rocky edge of the ridge, with layers of rock jutting out was still visible to our right. The trail went down first before turning to a steep ascend along the ridge, eventually leading us to the top of a flat hill-top.

This hill-top was seemingly higher than the surroundings with the trail on both sides going down. The Mullayanagiri peak was clearly visible - easily identifiable with the temple at the top - and looked majestic towards our west. After a gradual descend in the next few minutes, we had to go up again, at the end of which we were rewarded with a close-up view of the BSNL tower standing tall, further ahead on the ridge. We could also see a road winding around the hill towards the left of the tower. The view was enhanced due to the beautiful cloud formation around the tower - which looked like straight lines of white pointing away from the tower, with the deep blue sky forming a sharp contrast to these lines.

BSNL tower @ Baba Budan Giri
The tower of Baba Budan Giri

Viki and I was keeping ahead here and the rest of the gang was a little behind, forcing us to wait for a while. I utilized the time heading towards the edge of the ridge to take a few more pictures of the Mullayanagiri peak. When we re-started - at about 10.45 - the steep cliff towards the right side of the BSNL tower was also revealed, followed by a dip in the ridge seperating us from the hill that hosted the BSNL tower. Rizwan, Viki and I headed down towards this valley and started climbing up again, only to see the rest of the team far behind us. It was quite sunny around here and it did not make sense for us to wait there. So, we proceeded further for some more time, until I spotted Rizwan on a set of boulders located at the edge of the ridge. Before I could take pictures, Rizwan was back on the trail and I decided to head towards the same boulders, with Viki agreeing to click a few pictures of mine!

BSNL tower @ Baba Budan Giri
Another look at the tower

Sandeep, Ravi @ Baba Budan Giri ridge
Living on the edge

The place also happened to be a good vantage point with an excellent view of the BSNL tower and the steep cliff towards its right. But, I was a bit too lazy to go back and fetch the camera from Viki - who stayed on the trail. So, we stayed at our respective posts chatting about our photography gears and cursing the rest of the group for being too slow ;-) Ravi was the next person to arrive and wanted to come over to the edge as well - which I thoroughly encouraged as he also agreed to get the camera for me! It was another half an hour or so before Deepa arrived - followed by Vinod, Vignesh and then the rest of the group. Apparently, the group was busy clicking a few interesting group pictures and we had missed a lot of fun. But, I did not miss the opportunity to poke fun at Salwat for being too slow and forgetting his original plan of sending the slow photographers ahead so that the rest of the group does not get delayed!

Jokes apart - we were way ahead of schedule and less that an hour away from the end of the trek. With enough time to spare, the break continued, especially with Vignesh and Shraddha posing for a few more pics. Meanwhile, Salwat climbed up a boulder inspiring a few more of us - Shraddha, myself and Vignesh - to do the same. Eventually, it was about 12, by the time we started again. We did not go towards the BSNL tower, instead we followed the trail going around the hill hosting it - by its right side. First, we had to negotiate a slippery slope - thanks to the loose soil - leading towards the edge of the ridge. We went along the edge of the ridge - pretty close to the Chikmagalur valley - for a while, triggering a touch of fear among the acrophobics!

In a few minutes, we descended towards a grassland with a few shops and sheds in view, along with the winding jeep tracks leading to it - just a shola forest seperating us. Once again, we headed towards the right - to the edge of the ridge - to get a view of the Chikmagalur valley. As we crossed the shola forest, a tiny stream flew out of it, taking a plunge down the edge of the ridge - forming the Manikyadhara falls. We peeped out of the edge of the ridge to get a clearer view and managed to get a glimpse of the falls. Sadly, all we could see was a pile of litter and a few people taking shower! Salwat already had warned us not to have much expectations from the falls and I had vague memories of getting down to this pile of litter almost 12 years before - so, most of us did not even bother to go towards the falls!

view point @ Manikyadhara
Back to civilization

Instead, we crossed over the shola forest and reached a flight of stairs leading to a view-point over-looking the Chikmagalur valley. We sat there for a while, waiting for the rest of the group to join. A group of monkeys kept us company - apart from huge hoards of people coming in to the view-point and the falls. Part of the team did go down to take a look at the falls, but came back disappointed. By 12.30, all of us were back and headed towards the jeep track where the mini-bus was parked. Some exploration in to the food stalls - where we tried out the omlettes and parottas, with Srihari buying a few packs of double omlettes - later we were back in to the mini-bus and heading back to the basecamp. The winding roads next to the BSNL tower that we were seeing for most part of the noon were the same roads which were visible from the basecamp - the jeep-track connecting Attigundi to the Manikyadhara falls, passing by the basecamp.

We passed by the Dattatreya Peeta and negotiated a few hairpin bends before reaching the basecamp by about 1.30. The lunch packs and Srihari's omlette parcels were opened there, followed by some rest - a few people taking bath as well - and we had a short photo stop. As declared in the beginning, Salwat had collected a lot of litter from the trail, which he would dispose off in proper dust bins. It was heartening to see the initiative from this group and I could only pray that the spirit stays!

Soon, we were back on the road heading towards Chikmagalur - were we stopped for a coffee and ice cream. The return journey to Bangalore was eventful with a screening of Kannada movie Raja Huli, followed by a lively game of dumb-c, with no clear winner till the end. We reached Bangalore by about 7.30 and the foodies within the group was planning a dinner, which I skipped to reach home early.

The trek turned out to be a lot more fun than I had expected - not only did we did everything as planned, we were blessed with clear views all around. Given the company, I also felt a few years younger! Mullayanagiri ka enthu zaroor high tha! But, the most heartening aspect was the emphasis on no-smoking, no-drinking and no-litter, with the group even bringing back some litter from the hills. I wish Get Beyond Limits [1] the very best and do hope that they never de-generate in to yet-another-noisy-unmanageable-large-trek-group spoiling the hills.

References:
  1. Subscribe to Get Beyond Limits on Facebook or visit www.getbeyondlimits.com.
  2. Binoy has a photography page @ Facebook called Be Ge Photography.
  3. Altanai keeps a blog @ wordpress.
  4. Vinod has a photography site @ vinkrish.com.
  5. Check out Sumit's Facebook profile for some of his pictures.
  6. Viki has a few of his pictures posted in his Facebook profile.



© 2015 Sandeep Unnimadhavan