Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Muthodi - A Travelogue

Well, it was that time of my life where I needed a dose of nature to get back to my human senses and recollect that I was born a human being and not a Computer Engineer. So, I gathered out another 3 such non-humans to go on this trip. This time, the location was Muthodi.

When - 14th - 16th May 2010.

Who - Balu, Raj, Mohan and Me.

How - My own Scorpio

Total expenses - 2000/- per head

Accommodation - Forest department guest house, Muthodi Range, Bhadra Wildlife Division, Chikmagalur.

Route : Bangalore - Kunigal - Hassan - Belur - Chikmagalur - Mallandur - Muthodi (Total distance of ~300 Kms one way)

Roads : Totally tarred, barring small stretches which are still motorable in even a Formula1 car.

Day - 1: Friday 14h May. Even as we planned a whole week in advance, there was always a sign that God had sent (although through India Post) that things are going to be a little twisted and off plan. And GOD is right. Confused? Well, I had sent a booking letter with my own name and address on the letter and all Balu had to do was get a demand-draft for 2400/- for the accommodation (2 tents for 2 days, each with 2 people), and send that along with the printed letter. He instead put my name against his home address, assuming that I've started living in the same house. When we planned we thought we will start just before 12. So we started eating at 11:40. We all in our gang know that eating is a pretty detailed phenomenon and we wont take anything less than 40 minutes. So, we left at 1:15 and started off towards Kunigal. 20 minutes later, Balu realises that he has forgotten the booking/reservation letter at home. So there is action replay at 2:15. The reservation letter said your reservation wont be yours after 5 PM that day. So, we had to call up the DCF office and, like true Bangaloreans, had to lie saying that we were stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours inside Bangalore and hence, would reach by 7 PM. Thankfully, he agreed. The rest part of the drive as almost uneventful. We stopped at Chikmagalur to top-up fuel, since we didnt know what the rest of our trip had in store. There, I asked a policeman for the route. He guided us to go through Mallandur. I asked him how good were the roads. He said it is doable. I showed him my car and asked him, will this go? He said not only this even Buses will go. Did he mean to say that my car is more manouverable than a Bus? Or was it that my vehicle is awful than a bus? Anyways, The roads go through some really scenic stretches with coffee plantations on either one or both sides. But beware. Though the roads would invite you to do a good 40-50 Kmph speeds, it is too narrow for 2 vehicles to squeeze through and hence you will need to drive at a sane speeds that a cyclist would do. 20 Kmph would be nice. The reason I say this is because there are timber trucks that ply these roads and if you see one of these animals charging at you, you will need to reverse up until you find a drainage where you can park your car until the phenomenon passes by. Because, they are overloaded and stopping the truck would mean trouble, for both of you. He cant take off again and you wont have any where to go.
Finally, we reached the gates of the forest range and a drunken watchman opens the gates for us. Watch out for a board which diverts to the right to take you to Sigekhan guest house. This is 3 kilometers of sheer off-roading and you will need a good ground clearance to keep from scraping. Go straight and the roads have been recently reparied. The only thing missing on the roads is tarmac. But the roads are level enough and there are enough loose stones and stone-powder, just in case you want to practice Lagori. The guest house has a parking lot on one side of the road and a bunch of guest-houses, dormitories 2 tents, and staff quarters on another. All this is looked after by a Deity that sits right at the gates. "Om Namo Ganeshaya". It was precisely 7 PM when we reached there. We were given 2 tents loaded with enough beds+cots, hangars, running water, electricity and other exotic insects. We have a very decent dinner and settle down as the electricity is pretty automatic (turns on at 6 PM, turns off at 11 PM).

Day - 2: Saturday 15th May. We wake up to the calls of what is presumably a road-romeo of birds. Such impeccable whistle, I just wish our local road-romeos dont learn. Or all of them will end up with a slipper trade-mark on their face. We have a nice time seeing our beautiful surrounding. Huge trees which are a playground to the Giant Malabar Squirrel, the Grey Langur and the Bonnet Macaque, surrounded our tents. There were also some beautiful daffodils and other exquisite flowers, which threw open a door of opportunities for photography, which we promptly exploited. Then, we walked down to the stream which looked peaceful, but at the same time, was pretty unclean with little water flowing. Then was the time for another meal, the breakfast. We were served with pulao which tasted like it was prepared with raw-rice. Anyways, we had to eat just because we had agreed to pay him Rs. 20/- for his efforts of keeping the rice as raw as possible. And also that his wife was looking at us as if she would banish us from the guest house if we didnt finish. We got ready by bathing in freezing waters flowing out of the tap marked "HOT" (since the tap marked "COLD" was literally frozen cold), screaming happily for every mug if water that we poured on ourselves. We left for Mullayyanagiri which was a good 30+ kilometers away, continuing in the path that we took the previous day to reach the guest house. The path started well, but seemed like a video game, becoming narrower with each passing kilometer, as if to go to the next difficulty level. After the neighboring town, the path is well tarred. This left me wondering if the steam-roller used there was air-lifted to the peak and rolled down in neutral across the roads. The gradients were pretty big. At one spot, we saw a big landscape and wanted to snap a few pictures. The silence was such that we actually heard the growls of some big cat (tiger or leopard) some miles away. Poor thing, tried to growl twice and scare the humans there. But the humans are no bad. They used their guns, which could make louder growls. I just hope that they only growled and didn't maul the poor cat with their guns. Remember that we have only 1411 (-6 or -7) tiger left with us. We continued on our journey and reached Mullayyanagiri by 11:45 AM.

DEVIATIONS TO NOTE: The roads are pretty obvious except for at 2 points. Except there, take the wider roads as the other ones would generally lead you to some private estate. But at one point, you have a huge fork (one going sharp left, upwards and another going easy right, downwards). At this stage, we tossed a coin and since we didnt care about heads or tails, we chose to turn left. It was the right decision. Be careful to turn right at this spot while returning also, lest you forget. Again, we end up joining a bigger road at one point. You can fairly realise that at this point, you are in the middle of a massive valley, mountain range on either side (one you arrived from, and one you think you will be going). At this point, if you continue in the same direction, you will surely reach other famous places, Datta Peetha/Baba-Budan hills and Kemmangundi. Turn sharp right (again, the gradient goes upwards). Drive for about 7-8 kilometers. You will see a small building, which the poor locals trust to be a police check-post. Notice that there is a Karnataka Tourism board (yellow color) saying that Mullayyanagiri is 7 kilometers to your right. Turn right and you will reach the foot-hills soon. There are some paths there which tempt you to trek. Trek at your own risk since there is no "Other End" of those hills where you can "Safely" get off. My friends had to jump off 7 Feet (the lowest place possible) to avoid walking back for a good long distance.

Mullayanagiri is around a 150 steps walk up to reach to the temple on top of the HIGHEST PEAK OF KARNATAKA. It lies at 1930m (6330 ft.) above sea level. We leave at around 1 PM and decide we have enough time to visit Baba Budan hills. Locals say it is wise to ask for "Datta Peetha" if you are asking for directions instead of "Baba Budan" since it could instigate political parties. How much of it is true, is not something I know of. You will go back in the same direction you came from and continue further until you pass a small, apparently man-made, falls. Once beyond that, you will have a deviation, one going extreme right, and one going right just after this turn. Take the extreme right. If you go on the outer turn, you will end up in Kemmangundi, after around 30 Kms. From this turn, Datta Peetha is around 7 Kms. As of now, since the cave "caved" in, you wont be able to go down and pay a visit to the tomb of the saint there. We had another BAD lunch here. The only things that tasted good here were the Omelettes and water. Anything else was meant only for locals and cows. But holy Cow!! We are not locals!! Anyways, we did show "COWLY" meekness while we finished whatever we had paid for. Yes, it is pay and eat. Next stop we visited manikyadhare. This is supposed to be the water falls where the water falls in the form of pearls. But, this time of the year had it like a leaking tap. Locals here say that if you get drenched in the falls, you need to leave your clothes there. But neither did we carry extra clothes, nor are we Hrithiks or Salmans. So we decided to take a pass. We returned back to the guest house by around 6 PM, right on time to enjoy the sunset anthem by the locals. I meant the birds, not the people. We noticed one happy thing. We get mobile connectivity only for BSNL, 4 kms away from the camp. So, we remained sane, and away from the technology. We told the local guy that we want to be the first folks to go on the Safari in the morning and went to bed. For some reason, the electricity went off at 10 PM this time. Maybe it missed the time-zone part on the "Time".

Day -3: Sunday 16th May. Finally, we woke up. Earlier than planned. This time we were up by 5:45 AM. We left for the safari after brushing our teeth. Afterall, we didnt want the animals to start their day with a foul-mouthed Human being. We chose to go in our own transport and leave the noisy tin-box from the forest department for those who were proud of going offroading and not for a safari. We paid 350/- for the vehicle and 40/- per head. We were assigned a guide. He took us through the same paths that other jeeps would do, but did promise us that he is taking us in a special path. We only realised it when the Department Safari jeep came rumbling down the roads behind us when we were almost done with the ride. As usual, the department folks said "Your vehicle wont do our terrain". Afterall, they had customised it to make money. But unfortunately, Mahindra has customised the Scorpio to take on anyone's terrain. We did get to see a big bunch of Indian Gaur (bison), the Barking deer, the Red spotted deer, peacocks, elephant dung, bee-hives and some other excellent flora. We also saw the place where the tigers have its meal. Afterall, the forest-department officials are know all. They also were kind enough to show us the dining table, the bedroom etc. of the tigers there. And to know it all, the tigers have a lake-view suite. Well, since we were in the middle of the forest, we had to agree that the tigers will ALWAYS come there with the bait everyday. They had also named the lake as "huli-kere". Which translates to "huli -> Tiger" and "kere -> lake". Read it as "who-lee ;; care-ray". I know, it sounds more like a Chinese whisper from the Karate Text Book. We also saw a 404 year old Teak tree. Amazing thing is they have a name for each path inside the sanctuary, and they can even remember them. We returned to the guest house . We were right on time. Because just as we landed, the skies opened up as if to remind us that we have not had a bath for almost 24 hours. Of all the 3 people, 2 leeches chose to attack Balu. One after the other, at the same spot. Well, lucky him. We were served with Pongal and chutney. This was mostly the tastiest of all the meals we had here. Partly because we were too hungry and partly because it was served straight from the cooking vessel. Finally, it was time to return. We started our journey back at around 12 Noon. We reached Hassan in 90 minutes flat. We stopped at Shri Krishna Deluxe for lunch. We had a power lunch (18 minutes flat). Mohan dropped off from there. And we had another of the laziest drives back. We had a coffee break at Mayura near the Adi Chunchanagiri mutt. And Bangalore had one of the nastiest welcomes in store for us. By the look of what we were doing, I had assumptions that I would reach home by 5:30 PM. But, Bangalore welcomed with one of the nastiest, windiest rains of all times. Visibility was really too horrible. And there it was, a Traffic Jam. This time due to a Tree which decided to lean over a bus for some time. I somehow dropped off my friends, picked up my wife and reached home by 7:30 PM. That was JUST 2 hours late, considering the traffic jam, the rains and all the trips I made before heading homewards.

So, that is the trip. Whew!! That was some excitement. Keeping that on mind, I am back to being a computer engineer and leaving my human self on the outskirts of Bangalore. For some more time now.


Lily Lang said...

like it.

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Shivaji Varma said...

Well written