I heard about Ulavi caves few years ago from one of my maternal uncles. I was told that some 4 or 5 naturally formed caves were deep inside the jungle, about 4 kilometers away from Ulavi Chennabasaveswara Temple. It would be safe to go there in a group led by a local person to guide the way. It sounded adventurous!
April 30th. Deepak wanted to visit Anshi National Park and spend a day or two there. We left early morning driving slowly while enjoying the sights and sounds of the jungle. Few kilometers from Dharwad we stropped by a pond for breakfast (upit). We moved on slowly and reached Syntheri Rocks. From there we moved on to Anshi. We located government run Jungle Lodges but the staff asked us to get permission from Forest Office at Anshi village which is about 2 kms away. There we met one of the staff by name Nayak who called and the resort and asked to provide us accommodation. We had home cooked lunch of chapati & rice at the only eatery at Anshi.
By the time we finished our lunch we ditched the idea of staying at the resort and decided to move on to Ulavi.
At 3 30 PM as we entered Ulavi, the sight of few demolished houses left me disappointed. The place looked so messy. During my last visit in October 2009 the place looked like story book village amidst a forest full of green trees dripping rain water. Anyway... we got a room at Chaitanya, the temple managed lodge. Durga did not like the place but we convinced her (we did not have options. We went out for a walk, shot pictures of leaves, flowers, butterflies and dragonflies. Later after sunset we went out for a walk. Durga did not want to go, she was scared of darkness. We tried to distract her by showing fireflies. We got back and started looking for a guide to take us to the caves. I happened to meet Sangappa, struck a deal for Rs.300 to show us all teh caves and agreed to meet at 7 45 next morning. We had dinner and hit the bed, Durga slept well but Deepak and I hardly slept.
Morning we were up early, had bath and breakfast and all set to go except for Sangappa. We thought that he must not have woken up from his drunken slumber and decided to go on our own. We inquired directions with few locals but none seem to know much about the caves ...anyway we prepared ourselves to explore. We drove the first 1.5 km stretch and parked the Santro at the fork in the road near a watch tower. The path straight ahead led to Chilume Honda, Akalgavi and Vibhutigavi. The path to the right went towards Shivapura and Pachalingaguhe. We turned right.
Jungle was dense with really tall trees. Cicada noise would fill the air ...it sounded just like a saw mill. Deepak would point insects, he's really good at spotting them. So is little Durga. Not just that Deepak knows quite a bit about insects. he would explain some special quality about them.
Walking was not an effort since we were going downhill, pretty steep at times. Yet I sweat like crazy. Durga was already cribbing about walking (she knew she'll have to walk back uphill). Somehow Deepak and I would distract her. We saw a bright yellow jackfruit slightly bigger than an apple and pieces of another one. Looked like as though some beast left-over meal. I was little worried about running into a bear. Further we saw marks of something being dragged across the path. We imagined some wild beast must've dragged it's prize. We were wrong about the beast and it's prey. On our way back, we saw some men were moving a wooden log downhill!
We were at a fork wondering which way to go, we heard a bike coming from the left. We confirmed the directions, we were not very far from here ...another one & half kilometers to go. From here the path went flat for sometime till another fork with a board pointing right to our destination. The path went uphill, 10 minutes later we were at the peak, we saw a massive rock formation. These rocks were similar to the ones at Yana and Syntheri Rocks.
Concrete steps would take us deep into the narrow valley. I admit it was a bit spooky here but I recalled the local who had assured us not to worry about safety. We walked down cautiously.
If not for Deepak's flash light we would not have seen the Shiva Linga inside. The place was absolutely peaceful. The air was fresh, at least I did not smell anything strong. We spent some 20 minutes there sitting there in silence and discussing how hermits spent time meditating here.
Deepak wanted to sit there longer but I was worried about rains and suggested we turn back. More over, we had a uphill task ahead of us. Deepak wanted to spend a couple of minutes there. Durga and me went ahead and wait at Shivapura cross for Deepak. Soon Deepak caught up with us and from then I went ahead alone. I picked up five-petaled dry flowers and pieces of branches with mushroom on them. The walk uphill must have squeezed a liter of water from my body. I was back at the fork where our car was parked, sooner than I expected. My clothes were soaked with my sweat!
I rested for few minutes and waiting impatiently for Durga and Deepak to join back so that we could go towards Chilume Honda and Akalgavi. The watch tower gave a good view of the green valley below. A massive rock jutted out ...I guesses that's where the other three caves were. I heard Durga's voice and she was happy to be back here. Deepak asked her; what's the most beautiful thing in the jungle? Guess what the answer was?