Nov 7, 2012

Alive is Awesome: Kemmangundi

Kemmangundi and Baba Budangiri range are seldom missed by adventure seekers of Karnataka. Baba Budangiri hills stretches between Chikmaglur and Tarikere, forming the border line between Western Ghats and the plains in this region. Kemmangundi is a Kannada word when split gives out three words Kempu Mannina Gundi which literally means Red Soil Pit. Kemmangundi was a iron ore mine back in 60s and early 70s. A rope-way system connected the mine to the steel mill at Badhravathi to supply iron ore. The rope-way it self was an attraction. Early 70s mining activities ceased and it became a became a tourist spot. Kemmangundi's climate generally varies from cool to cold, monsoons being the most damp months. Even during summers the air on the hills would be cool and refreshing. With a motorable road running through the hill range Kemmangundi is connected to Tarikere and Chikmaglur. Several smaller roads branched out into the hills leading to hamlets, view points or waterfalls. One such waterfall is Kalhatti Jalapatha. Water leaps down in two stages, at the middle is an ancient temple dedicated to Shiva, Halegannada inscriptions have been found on rocks close to the temple. The place is a beauty but beware of leeches. I had once picked up a leech which had grown real fat feasting on my blood!
My connection with Kemmangundi is a long one, since my childhood days at Badhravathi. Dad loved riding his 150cc Lambretta from Badhravathi to Kemmangundi via Tarikere and Lingadahalli. But when the group was large we went by bus or a hired car. The drive through the ghat section was always fun; steep green slopes rising up to meet the clouds and the same slopes formed deep valleys. Mist would appear suddenly adding a special quality to cool air, and vanish as quickly as it came. The road went across several streams of clear mountain water. The sight and sounds of water gushing down would mesmerize one and all. During scooter rides we would get a chance to play in the water and we always wished those moments lasted forever. Dad would dip his beer bottles in the water and wait patiently for them to chill. Most times mom would have packed lunch however, I do remember having lunch at the only hotel, a small place which offered home cooked food.

Horticulture department had few cottages spread out on the slopes and surrounded by a well maintained garden. Tourists could hire these cottages. There's another guest house at the summit of the hill usually occupied by government officers  or politicians. From this guest house is a footpath on the steep dirt and rock slope going to Z-Point. The path has a small narrow bridge across a rapidly flowing stream and then after a furlong or so is another waterfall, This is a wonderful spot for a bathing.. the water flows down from rocks and lands on a rocky bed. A bath here would be an awesome experience. This is as far as I have explored.

Many years later.. After my final year engineering exams, I planned a road trip with my brother Deepak and a friend Anish. Unknowingly we were emulating dad's sense of adventure, we were riding bikes from Bangalore to Kemmangundi. We chose to ride via Hassan visiting Belur and Halebeedu. It was quite late when we reached Chikmaglur and it was raining there! We weren't prepared for wet weather. Chikmaglur to Kemmangundi was connected by a 40km lonely narrow ghat section road. Nature decided to have fun with us; we were riding through a cold-dark-windy-misty-rainy night. The ride was a battle of sorts with avatars of nature. To add to our trouble were stretches of road littered with wet masses of decaying leaves; we had tough time controlling fish tailing rear wheels. Wet and cold, we longed for a hot drink. To our luck a tea shop was open. The tea break charged us up, ready to face the crazy weather on Baba Budangiri. We made it to Kemmangundi. We were the only tourists :) We got a cottage, parked our bikes, dried and changed into dry clothes and the booze session began..

Morning, water was freezing, can't remember if we got hot water for bath. We had tea and breakfast. Deepak's bike had a flat tyre. We rode down to Lingadahalli to get it fixed. On the way we stopped at a stream. The water was cold, yet it was fun to clamber up those slippery rocks.

Later around 11 we planned a trek to Z-Point. We rode till the wooden bridge, debated if we should take our bikes across, the verdict was no, a wise decision it was, the bridge might have given up under our weight. Our trek began, the path narrowed down to a couple of feet wide, one wrong step the slide down the vegetation covered slope would be a long one. This tree is a landmark on the Z-Point trial.

A short distance from this tree is a the waterfall. Fresh mountain water roaring down the slopes. We moved on.. As we deeper into the trial, the path got even narrower and we noticed some inch long black creatures on the ground and also on grass flanking the footpath. Must be some kind of earthworms. We went on happily, with every step we saw more of these somersaulting black creatures. Suddenly it dawned- LEECHES!! We turned back and ran, past the waterfall some where near the horizontal tree we searched ourselves- we had picked up a dozen each on the outside. It's almost impossible to get rid of leeches with fingers because they would stick to fingers! We had to become use Stoneage methods- scrape them off with sharp edge stones. Deepak tried burning but that was difficult because of the damp conditions. We had to strip down to undies and inspect each other. Man, what an experience. Those tiny creatures scared the living daylights out of us.. We head back to the cottage, changed and made sure we had none of those slimy creatures in there. Any sensation would feel like a leech... Our trip got cut in short and we decided we leave.

One day I want to go back to Kemmangundi and trek right upto Z-Point. On the way back I want to bathe under the waterfall enjoying the sights of Kemmangundi hills. Surely the cool mountain water would be a great feeling on the skin, awakens the spirits within, and creates an awesome.feeling ...alive is awesome. The other dream is to explore Kemmangundi and Baba Budangiri hills on a bicycle. I believe if one wants really feel nature its on foot or the next best way to ride around. Hope my dreams become real..



Harsh M said...

Hope you are fine. I believe you had taken your KH on this trip. The falls you mention on the way to Z Point just after the horizontal Tree is "Shanti Falls". I just can't forget the experience of bathing in that Ice- cold water on the extremely slippery Rocks. I hope to do it sometime again.


siddeshwar said...

You are right, Harsh. I rode my KH to Kemmangundi. And thank you for name of the waterfall.