Thursday, September 1, 2011

Savanadurga - The fort of Death..! and Machinbele dam

This is one of the closest peaks (about 1226 m, Skandagiri being around 1350 m) which is around 40 Km Bangalore, and is definitely is in a must list those who do day trekking around Bangalore. This is also one of the tougher ones to climb, certainly not recommended for those who are not fit. This is said to be the largest monolith of Asia and is definitely looks humungous when you see it directly. The Savandurga’s name amongst other reasons seems to have originated from the sentence “The fortress of Death !”, the place being very treacherous for the climbers. The hill seems to have been the fort of Kempegowda and later occupied by Tipu Sultan. However most the structures atop the hill seems to have been ruined with only a few structures remaining intact.

Machinbele Dam -enroute
View of Savandurga at about 15 Km from the base
Clicked enroute - near the dam

The place also has the river Arkavathi traversing through, culminating at Machinbele dam. The dam has a few adventure camp oragnizations like Nature admire, Care, Angel etc., arranging, kayaking, sailing (yes, you heard it right, 33 km from Bangalore you got a location for sailing with yachts.!) cave exploration, rock climbing etc.,

Details: Savandurga has two hillocks – Karigudda  or Karibetta (black hill), Biligudda (whitehill) with each of them being a separate trekking routes and have a small temple/fort at their top. Each of these two are worth a separate day of trekking on their own. The bases of these hills are separated by around 10-15 Km.

Karigudda: Very little people trek Karigudda as it is more difficult and people get lost easily en-route. The base of this hill can be reached from a place called Nayakanpalya. Unless you have a local guide, trekking this place is not recommended, as one may easily get lost and the route is quite dangerous. But the place is certainly worth the effort.
Billigudda: This is the more accessible route and is frequented by many. The foothills for this trek can be reached by reaching Veerabhadreshwara Swamy / Narasimha Swamy temple which are closeby this place. The route for this trek is also a bit tricky, however it has arrow marks at most places to guide people to the top. The peak has a cute Nandi temple and a flag pole at the top. The route also has many fort walls at different levels along the way.
Both the places are also very dangerous when it starts raining as the rocks become very slippery, if you slip by the wet rocks it would just be a one way ticket to the top. It is always better to wear a good sports shoe and woodlands shoes certainly do not help. On the other hand if it is sunny, it gets really hot and completely drains you. It is better to carry a lot of water in any case.

We planned to trek the Billigudda as the climate looked very looming and we were not prepared to take any risks. We took along with us poor old man who happened to stick to us as a guide also acted as a historian. It was a good decision as there were not many people trekking along being a weekaday. I would advise newbie trekkers to take a guide or follow a group who are trekking along. The entire trek is not a lengthy one – would take a maximum of 2/2.5 hours but is quite intensely steep and precarious.

The start of the trek

Level 1:
The trek started with bare smooth rocks and some shrubs along the route. There were 4 distinct levels I would say, with each level marked by a ruined fort wall. We started climbing at about 11 am. Climbing over rocks takes a toll on your foot. We reached the first level after about 20 minutes where we could see some battered wall. This stretch was enough to give us a taste of what is left. We took a break atleast after every 10/15 minutes. Two of our friends dropped out of this point. We started ahead expecting how long the rest of us can withstand. Any deviation and own efforts to find the path on our own lead to dead ends or slippery rocks and we found it quite difficult to trace the best path towards the top. However there were arrow marks at most places indicating the route to the top. It is also possible to trace the shortest route by following the Electric poles/electric cable.
Level 1 fort walls
Break after Level 1
Level 2:
After a grueling 30 more minutes we reached Level 2 where we found another set of walls, this one as the guide said, seems to be the vantage point for using cannons it seems. The route became less steep for a while before we even had a flush of thick trees. 
Level 2 -the master explaining the canon position ..!
shot at Level 2
Somewhere close to Level 3

Enroute to Level 3
Another pic of the beautiful Dam
Level 3 came about next 30 minutes, and we could find a proper old edifices and even a large pool at this height. From here the final peak and the Nandi temple perched atop, at Level 4 was quite visible. There was also a temple at this place, with a painted Hanuman inscribed in the rocks. Enthused by the sightings of the peak, we pushed ahead for the final climb.

View of Peak and Nandi from Level 3
Edifice at Level 3

Pool at Level 3
Temple at Level 3
Level 4:
Further continuing uphill, the next part was the steepest of all and after a 20 minutes climb and intermittent rests we reached the pinnacle or Level 4 at around 1 pm. There was a small Nandi temple at the hilltop. Certainly reaching this Nandi was way more heavenly that the other Nandi hills. The view was stunning indeed. The climb was certainly worth the effort. From here, we could also see people climbing in the Karigudda peak, the paths looked quite treacherous indeed. 
Mission Achieved !

Ringing the bell.. and a small prayer for a safe descent back..!
More rest

After spending an hour at the top we started the descent. Though less tiresome the descent was more taxing on the heels and foot but we could reach down much faster. However at around level 2 it started raining and the rocks became very slippery. Once our shoes got wet, with the rocks already being wet, the route turns into a slippery theme park like slides! Some of us took off our shoes while coming down. We reached the bottom at around 2 30 pm. There were a few huts at the back of the temple, which served rice and sambar or chitrana (lemon rice). There were no seats in the hut, but we managed to finish the plates standing in the street as we were quite hungry anyway.

Transport: Though there are buses from Bangalore (Bangalore ==> Magadi ==> Savanadurga), its always better to come with personal transport, a bike or a car. The distance is only about 45 Km. Since we started from Bannerghatta road, we went with the below route. I guess this is the best route for anyone who can start from the Mysore road. Bikes can be parked infront of the Temple. There were many local shops, however as mentioned above there is no proper hotel, only local eateries.

Bangalore ==> Nice road ==> Mysore road (for some 2 km) ==> Turn right to Big Banyan Tree ==> After some 3 Km from Big Banyan Tree, turn a left (Chandrapa circle) ==> Reach Machibele dam  ==> Reach Billigudda base

Route that we took/recommended:

View Larger Map

A dip at Machinbele dam

The road was pretty good and serene. The entire place and the hill is not commercialized like skandagiri or Nandi hills and certainly a must go place for all aspiring trekkers. But it is strict no during rain or very sunny days. Machinbele dam was nearby, and we could go to the backwaters on the way back for a cool dip into the waters after the tiring trek. There were even some kayaking and sailing boats arranged by some adventure clubs. The entire roads and the dam was very serene and we were quite surprised by the beauty and remoteness of the place just 35 odd Km from Bangalore.

The Big Banyan Tree -enroute- A single tree spread over 2 acres -enroute

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shivasamudram - an Amazing stretch of splendour on water

Shivanasamudram falls is one of the largest water falls in south india and is located across cauvery located near Mandya district in Karnataka. The town of shivasamudram is a small island that splits the cauvery river into two and creates two spectacular waterfalls called Gaganachukki and Barachukki both accessible by road. The falls cut flow through rocky gorges and cut across as many segments fall down as multiple streams of waterfalls. The place is best during/after monsoon, other times of the seasons, the place is very dry and water almost trickling down.

Distance: 150 Km from Bangalore
Routes : 
There are two routes from Bangalore
  1. Bangaloreè Mysore roadè MaddurèMalavalliè Shivasamudram
  2. Bangaloreè Kanakpura roadè Malavalli è Shivasamudram

While the first route (1) goes through the 4 lane road for about 100 km till Maddur and turns left to Malavalli road, is a bit longer but is more reliable route. The second route is two lane throughout and is a country side road, yet very good for the most part. We took the second route while coming and left back to Bangalore by the first route so that we can travel safe by the Mysore road after getting dark.
Accessibility: Though its possible to take bus till Maddur and then towards Malavalli, the dispersed nature of the two falls require own vehicle to explore all the places, as there won’t be any transport that can take you to all the viewpoints of both the falls, which are a must during a visit to Shivanasamudram.

Best time to visit: Post monsoon è July to November. All other months are a ‘strict no’, as there would be very little water.

Time spent:
  • 1.       Explore the viewpoints of both the falls, photographs
  • 2.       Take a Dip along the river banks
  • 3.       Enjoy a coracle ride in Barachukki
  • 4.       Take a bath at Barachuckki

Spot 1:
Gaganachukki falls: On reaching shivanasamudram from Malavalli there would be plenty of signboards pointing towards Gaganachukki. On entering the main road there would be a big arch for the hydel power project of Shivanasamudram. Entering through this road will take you to the first view point of Gaganachukki. The place gives a complete glimpse of the falls. Gaganachukki is bigger of the two falls and this Hydel power station end only gives a view point and you cannot go down to the falls. The place also has a resort and a decent restaurant. This place is only for clicking pictures, and if you are not that type you can skip this   place.

The four must see spots in Shivanasamudram

Spot 2:
Bridge: Driving towards the Barachukki would need you to cross the bridge. This crossing itself is a great place and you can go down the river to take a dip or have a home packed lunch nearby the river bank.

Spot 3: Crossing the bridge can take you to the other side of Gaganachukki where you can actually climb down the rocks and go the falls and witness Gaganachukki in close quarters with waters gushing down closeby. It is not advised to take bath here as the current is very strong, with slippery rocks all over the place. Morever Barachukki has ideal place to take bath. There is also a Dargah (Hazrath Mardane Gaib) closeby. The place also has small local eateries where you can get Fresh fried fish, Parottas, rice and fish curry.
Spot 4: Riding further towards Barachukki can take you to the falls which is more spread out and ideal for taking bath.  This place also has shops nearby where you can eat fresh fried fish. Coracle ride here is a must and would take you close to the falls where you will get almost drenched.

Second spot of ganaganachukki as seen from the first spot view point

Another view of Gaganachukki on full flow

Shot taken from the view point taken from Gaganachukki - Spot 1

Enroute to barachukku

The river valley seen from Gaganachukki spot 2 - near Dargah, (see the smaller dargah in the right corner above)

Picture as taken from Gaganachukki spot 2

Picture as taken from Gaganachukki spot 2

Gaganachukki view point spot 1 as seen from Gaganchukki  Dargah spot 2

Another picture from Gaganachukki spot 2

Another picture encompassing both entire Gaganachukki

River flow take from Dargah view point

Picture of the Dargah close by

A field en-route

Spot 3 -the bridge crossing to reach Barachukki

Spot 3 - Bridge crossing to go to Barachukki
Barachukki falls

Barachukki - complete view

Coracle ride at Barachukki
Though exploring all the above places can take one full day, if there is time one can also go to Somnathpur,  Mudukuthore,  Talakad – great temples known for Hoysala architechture and ancient temple submerged in the banks of Cauvery. This is a further 35 Km from Shivasamudram. Unless you start very early from Bangalore covering this with in a day is difficult.

Suggested: An ideal trip would be to travel in car or a cab, as the peak season would almost always see rain that might happen during the day. But riding a bike down these roads is always special and one shouldn’t hesitate going by bike if you can start early enough in the day.
Eateries: Maddur Tiffanys at Maddur is a good place to have breakfast, with idly and Maddur vada which Maddur is very famous for.  There is a decent hotel at the view point of Gaganachukki (spot 1) mentioned above. However if you are okay with local food, there are local eateries at the Dargah side of Gaganachukki and some small eateries at Barachukki that provide rice, fish curry and fried fish.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Palamalai - the Quaint little hilltop temple

Quite often we plan and go to so called exotic and extravagant places, yet we fail to discover and see great gems of places that are right next to our backyard. Palamalai, some 25 Km from my hometown Coimbatore is one such beautiful place. Visited only by some regulars of the temple, not many in Coimbatore visit this place, if at all they have even heard about this place. Palamalai is a quaint little village atop a hill about 25 km from Coimbatore, and is known more for its temple - Arulmigu Palamalai Aranganadhar Thirukkovil, (A Perumal (Vishnu) Temple) than its hilly locale. I have heard that the route was bad, but when I had visited – June 2011, the road was freshly laid, and was in best shape. The road can take you right upto the temple and you need not walk any further.

The route is as follows : Coimbatore ==> Mettupalayam road ==> Periayanayakan pirivu ==> Kovanur ==> Palamalai

After Kovanur, there doesn’t seem to be any human inhabitation and the roads are completely empty and peaceful. The road atop the hills is very good and even had a few hair pin bends on the way. After some 6/7 Km of winding hill roads amidst some scenic views, I reached the Top of the hill.

Route from coimbatore to Palamalai:

View Larger Map

The top of the hill reveals the large temple, nearby tea shops, and a few boys playing cricket with a bunch cut coconut tree branches.  At the top, you get fooled that the entire place is just about the single Temple which forms the central pivot of the place, though it is true, there is also an entire village that came after a ride down the road a further 1 Km. However we rather parked our bike at the temple and walked about on our foot to discover more. 

Farmyards along the way

Road near kovanur

Farther from Kovanur

Snapped En-route

Empty road stretch

Hair pin bend no 1

Viewpoint along the way

Cricket alongside temple

Bike parking area..!

Path to Theppakkulam..

The Theppakkulam

Near the theppakkulam

House along side the village

Lake near the village

MGR's midday meal hut
Whers my Midday meal...!

village backyard

yet another viewpoint
We enquired a few villagers around. We heard that there is a Temple pond / ‘Theppakkulam’ once you go down a small path behind the temple. A walk down this path for about a Km took us to this rather deserted and beautiful theppakkulam amidst thick cover of trees. We further ventured ahead towards the villages and small settlements and were surprised to find a beautiful lake alongside as well. The settlements were completely serene with hardly any one around to be seen. There was even a small elementary school with barely 10 students, we saw more of them infact queuing up for the free midday food than any class at all. A complete roundabout walk around the village lead us back to the main temple. A brief visit inside the temple gave a glimpse about the its history, where all we could find was that the temple was quite old and full of stories, hinting that it would be a must visit place for any ardent temple visitor. Further walk lead us to few more view points for our cameras. The local tea shop nearby served hot and spicy ‘black ginger tea’ (sukku kaapi !) which went just right with the Ragi thattu vada. This was the only place I have seen Ragi vada which tasted very good indeed.

After spending about 2.5 hours exploring the place we started back having spent one of our most satisfied and peaceful time of our lives.