I really have a bad knack of ending up with the busiest and most packed up travel plans! Most of the trips/treks we've planned and done had almost zero buffer time and most of the time, its been enjoyable and turned out to be time effective ;) This time was no different, when on thursday evening, I felt we cud drive upto Subramanya on saturday afternoon, trek from Subramanya road to Shiribagilu and drive back to Bangalore (Bengaluru) by sunday night. Ohhh .. ok ... I forgot ... we had to shift our belongings to the new house on saturday morning before leaving!
Well ... 2-3 people volunteered almost immediately, since we hadnt done a trek together for a while. Few more agreed tentatively, while Pappan and Jamshi were dragged upto the car and locked up inside and forced to accompany us. Finally, the Versa (along with the two captives, myself and few more familiar faces like Mahesh, Shyama and Shabbo) were ready to leave by about 4.30. Tiju's swift, carrying Deepa, Rajesh and Rajeev were to start a li'l late.
The plan was to reach Sakleshpur by night, stay over, hit Subramanya road next day and start trekking along the railway tracks towards Shiribagilu. Few of us have already done the railway track stretch from Donigal till Shiribagilu (See the Sakleshpur Trek page) and wanted to complete the stretch. Hence, instead of starting the trek from Donigal (which is the usual mode of operandi) and moving towards Yedakumeri/Shiribagilu we had to hit Subramanya road. To reach Subramanya, one has to take NH48 till Gundya, about 260 kms from Bangalore and another 22 kms towards the left (See Mangaluru (Mangalore) Trip page for details on the Bangalore - Mangaluru road / NH48).
After an harrowing 2+ hrs to get out of the city and a swift drive past Nelamangala, we managed to hit Channarayapatna (CR Patna) before 9, were we had dinner and headed towards Sakleshpur, were we managed to reach just past 10 and found a cheap dingy looking hotel (there were a few good ones out there too, but were filled up that day), booked our accomodation. Swift and the rest of the guys joined us there about two hrs later and we promptly hit the bed to catch up some sleep.
It was a cold morning at Sakleshpur. After breakfast at a hotel @ Sakleshpur, we packed up chappathis and chana masala for lunch and continued towards Subramanya along the ghat section. I was warned that the ghat roads past Sakleshpur is in a bad state (shall I say, again) and was prepared for the endless traffic jams and almost eroded road. It took us a harrowing two hrs to reach Gundya and then on to the railway cross towards Subramanya.
The railway cross, abt 15 kms from Gundya, is actually a bridge over road and is easily identifiable. We parked the car on a small field like area next to the road, packed the backpacks, climbed up the bridge and started our trek towards Shiribagilu. The distances were marked as 93.5Kms (must be to Hassan) and this would mean that the Shiribagilu station (at KM85, as I knew from the Donigal - Shiribagilu Trek) would be abt 8.5kms away.
How sweet is sunlight!
Walking on the railway tracks was never easy and we started off slowly and steadily. Most of the tunnels in the beginning were kinda small to medium (ranging from 100-200 metres long). Irrespective of that a few of them were pitch dark in the middle. I realized that most of us had forgotten about the need of carrying a torch along, but then there were mobiles and some of them had flash lights! Meanwhile, Jamshi had this innovative idea of using his camera flash for lighting purpose! Well ... all of these combined, we managed cross the tunnels without much trouble.
Bridge to greenery ...
Now, bridges presented a different story. I kept ranting about the 2.4 KM bridge we encountered during the previous trek (later, I realized that it wasnt really 2.4KM, but 240m). Our first bridge was a short one, but, with metal plates missing, it did give a feel of the old scary bridges we encountered during the previous trek. Subsequently most of the bridges were short and I was beginning to wonder if there is any real long scary bridges en route. Finally, at abt KM90, we encountered a reasonably long one, abt 100m long. But, this time the metal plates and planks were intact, making it almost OK to cross :) We did make good use of this and clicked ample snaps.
Shades of green!
A couple more tunnels followed this bridge and we moved at a relatively comfortabe pace. It was past noon by then and people started equiring about the lunch break. Rajeev and myself was against opening up the lunch parcel before reaching Shiribagilu, since it would be tough to walk after a heavy lunch. But, it was getting late and with the sun beating down ferociously, it was quite tiring too. Finally, we decided to open up the bread/butter/jam/milk packets at the next suitable place and have lunch later at Shiribagilu.
Lets eat now ...
At abt KM89, we spotted a nice stream on the right side, which was just right for our snack break. Everybody enthusiastically headed to the river and seated themselves on a few rocks, right in the middle of the stream. Well ... couple of rocks on the way were slippery and Shyama had a slip, fell down and got completely soaked, but luckily didnt have an injury :)
Unfortunately, we did not have much to eat there since, we had taken only one pack of bread and lot of Jam/Butter. Soon, people were spotted eating butter and jam alone! Rajeev and Tiju declared that they are going to take a dip and most of us joined after a little hesitation. It was a great relief to cool the heels here after a tough walk in the sun, through the track filled with granite stones.
Water was as clean and cool as you can get and the stream was deep enough to keep the head under water. We soon decided to see who can stay underwater longest. I was boasting that I could do 1minute+ underwater and started off first, only to come out at the count of a mere 18 :( Pappan, Rajesh and Rajeev followed and easily registered bigger numbers. But the real record was Tiju's who stayed a cool 1m 8s under water. Everybody seemed to be vying for the 2nd spot since then. I tried to improve my dismal record and only worsened it and gave up :(
It was about 3+ by then and it was time to proceed. Pappan and myself decided to go ahead and check out the route and the exit point. We quickly covered a few tunnels and a good 3kms in a very short time. It was then that we hit the biggest obstacle en route. This time, it was a long bridge (almost 100m+) with no metal plates/sheets and pretty scary. I decided to take the one step at a time strategy :) Take one cautious and firm step at a time! After a few steps, stop for a while, look around and enjoy the greenery around. Now take a few more steps! Finally, we both managed to cross the bridge with a few breaks and let out a huge sigh of relief. It felt so good to be back in firm ground :) Shiribagilu station was just about a KM away now and we hurried forward without wasting time.
At tunnel #48, I saw a road going to the left and remembered a few trip logs which mentions an exit there. But, I was not sure about this exit and decided to take the familiar route. Soon, we crossed tunnel #46, the last one before Shiribagilu station and the station itself followed, nicely sandwitched between a couple of hills.
I wanted to confirm the exit at a tea shop there, but the station was almost deserted except for a dog. He barked at us initially and later settled down for a curious/suspicious stare. Now, there were no one around to check out, if the exit from Shiribagilu is available at this time of the year. I remembered a few streams (Kempe Hole) en route and had my doubts that the route may be flooded, but finally decided to take our chances. There was no water available at the station and it was only logical to have lunch at the next available water spot. Once everybody reached, we did click some snaps and proceeded back to tunnel #46. The jeep track leading to Subramanya road, which we had taken during the previous trek, starts from both sides of this tunnel.
Back to the highway
The route looked familiar even though we were taking it after about 2 yrs. Few minutes down the track, we did spot a small stream, were we stopped for lunch. The food was very tasty and was finished quickly. A slight drizzle had started by then and few leeches were spotted, reasons enough for us to hurriedly pack the bags and flee the place.
Best part of the trip came at this point when the slight drizzle became a full-fledged pour. There were leeches everywhere and the only defence we had was a pack of salt, which is grossly insufficient in heavy rains. We all got drenched badly, but walked in good pace, occassionaly stopping to quickly cull out the blood sucking creatures. En route, there are couple of wild streams to cross, which had water till about knee height. The rocks were very slippery and we had to cross very carefully. Rajeev commented that "this was the rite place to take a dip", but we were already taking a dip in the heavy rains :)
Soon, the wild nature of the place started changing to a small village. After the 2nd stream we could spot a few houses and there were a few branch roads to the sides. We followed the most prominent looking road and continued. Few people stayed at these junctions to make sure that everybody reaches, while Shabbo and myself carried on and reached the main road by abt 5!
As soon as we reached the main road, we got a bus and we decided to go ahead, drive the car back and pick up the rest. People stared at the two alient looking creatures, drenched in rain :) The place where we parked the car was around 5-7 kms from the place we were now and it took abt 10-15 minutes to reach back the place. In the bus, we enquired abt the condition of the Bisle ghat, which is an alternate route between Subramanya and Sakleshpur, but was strongly discouraged from taking it.
A real shocker was awaiting us as soon as we reached the railway overbridge. The place were we parked the car was flooded in the rain and both the cars were severely water-logged. It was a scary moment, but the car started without much trouble. Since, Versa was parked behind Swift, I had to reverse the car (which was almost floating) an take it up to the road. But luckily, all these worked without much trouble and the car was still moving.
We drove back as fast as we can, but met the rest of the guys in a bus en route. They had already heard the flood news from some other driver and was rushing to the spot. We picked up few people from there and drove back.
Swift was swiftly taken up the road, by Tiju, and didnt show any signs of trouble either. With a huge sigh of relief we proceeded back towards Gundya amidst the huge pour and then up the ghats towards Sakleshpur. In between, I had a brief stop to remove my shoes and there it was ... one blood sucking leech grown to full size after a good feed!
What a rain can do?
With the rain pouring down, driving was a big challenge. Also, there were numerous landslides and water errupting on to the main road, with huge force. Besides that, the head light of Versa showed some flicker and we had to reach back Sakleshpur, before its too dark. Luckily, not too many HP trucks were out there, but the road was neverthless not empty. There were few anxious moments here and there, but we finally made it before it was too dark. A few minutes on the road side and the Swift also arrived and we headed to the hotel.
At the hotel we all slipped into whatever dry clothes we had and vacated the room by 8.30. Deepa had suggested that we have dinner at Kamat, about 5 kms before Channarayapatna. In an hour we were in Kamat, had a nice dinner and continued to Bangalore by abt 10.30. It was another long drive (about 180kms) from there, but with less traffic it was an never a problem and we reached the city limits by abt 1 and home by 2.30 after dropping Shyama and Mahesh.
What might have been just a normal railway track trek was made much more interesting due to the packed schedule, heavy rains, leeches, landslides and bad ghat roads. At the end, it was another good weekend quickly planned and rightly spend!. It also meant that I reached office very late and limping, the following monday ... but who cares??? Mondays were always BAD!