Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Venkatagiri and Arebetta

After postponing for almost a month I decided to go ahead with the trek with a small group. It was just 3 of us (Poorna, Diwi and Prabanjan) and it turned out to be one of the best trek in terms of mystic silence inside the forest, distance covered and toughness and best of all highly economical - it costed us just around Rs. 1100/head. One day before the scheduled day of start we booked the last seats available, preparing ourselves for the bumpy ride for both to and fro journey by KSRTC. The bus was supposed to arrive at platform 11 but then the bus kept waiting for us at platform 14, the conductor told that he made repeated announcements for us which we never heard! Luckily we managed to catch the bus on time. Fun started right from the bus itself with a person sitting behind completely drunk playing music on loud speaker on his phone.

We got down at Gundya at 5 in the morning and started walking towards the IB which is around half km from Gundya checkpost (immediately next to the bridge across Kempu hole on the Kukke Subramanya road). After talking to Jagadish the care taker we freshened up at IB. By 7 we were ready for the trek and had a heavy break fast prepared by Jagadish. By 8 our guide Jayanna had come and we started with the trek to Venkatagiri. Initially the plan was to trek to Venkatagiri and then camp at Arebetta railway station, following day trek to Arebetta and then back to IB.

A small team has a lot of advantages - its quite and quick. We were walking very fast through the forest which didn't have any trail after a certain point. Jayanna our guide was quite surprised by our speed with all the luggage we carried. A couple of times he kept insisting we can leave our bags here and collect it while heading back, but what is the fun of trekking without the heavy bags. The best part of the trek was that it gave a panoramic view of the entire valley, vehicles moving on the Shiradi ghat, trains moving on the scenic Sakleshpur - Mangalore railway track, Kempu hole river flowing along the entire forest range and other peaks like Mugilagiri, MethiKallu, Aramane gudde.

We reached the peak of Venkatagiri by around 10.30am with lots of time in hand for the day. We didn't even feel like we trekked. There was no strain, no sweating or tiredness. We sat on the peak watching the entire valley for few minutes and after that we made changes to our plan. Arebetta was right in front of us. We planned to head towards Arebetta and camp in Arebetta railway station and then cover Kannikayana gundi water falls the next day. 

The trek from Venkatagiri to Arebetta was a bit difficult. Sun had come out completely and it was burning hot. We were running out of our water resources. With no trail and high dry elephant grass cutting my hands/legs acting like blades it was very difficult to walk on the tough terrain. We didn't want to hurry up going to Arebetta and started spending time around the forest taking breaks in order to avoid getting exposed to Sun in the peak. We reached Arebetta peak by around 1:30 - 2. After spending some time on the peak we decided to take an exciting, new and a never tested route to Gang6 shed directly below the Arebetta peak. Looking at our fitness our guide Jayanna agreed to take that risk and we started the direct descend below the Arebetta through the thick forest.

This descend was very slippery and with huge rocks and caves the habitat looked perfect for Tiger/Leopard/Bear. The descend was very steep probably around 70degree inclination to walk. Diwi's  floaters couldn't handle the pressure any more and gave up. We tied shoe lace to his floaters so that he could walk. Also my shoe sole gave up and every sharp rock would enter my shoe and hurt my foot. Diwi was struggling to walk with his renovated floaters, adding to this, he got cramps in his legs.

During this tough walk through the thick forest we had to change our route a couple of times as we just landed in a dead end beyond which there was huge drop. We reached a water source, a thin stream of water around 4 in the evening. After filling our water bottles we could hear a train passing near by. By now we were clear we are very near to the railway track and within 5-10min we reached the railway track and Gang6 shed. This was one of the best descend I have tried for a long long time. After taking some rest we decided to spend the night in the open shed next to the line men's shed. We initially thought line men would provide us some food but then at around 8 we realized that they didn't have any plans of cooking for us. Diwi and Prabanjan wanted to walk towards Gundya on the railway track but then I was reluctant to walk in the night and strongly opposed it and finally we decided to stay hungry and sleep. In a way it was a good decision, probably if we had reached IB during the night we might not have slept the whole night due to high police activity due to death of a student from BMS.

All of us were tired and slept off very soon, Prabanjan forgot to get his sleeping bag and probably was feeling a bit cold. Early morning around 4 probably I heard warning calls from Sambar deer very close to the shed, after reading a book on man eating leopards very recently I was a bit scared. Next day morning we started very early around 6:30 on the railway track which we had left half finished 2 months back. I was also happy that we completed the unfinished railway track trek during this trek. By 8 we were in IB. But then I was really sad to hear the news of a missing boy in Ombattu gudda range. We were advised not to go towards Kannikayanagundi Waterfalls due to tension from police and forest officials. We decided to spend time around Kempuhole river taking bath and roaming around. By afternoon I saw a jeep with around 8 trekkers being arrested by the forest officers. It was that time we decided to leave IB and head towards Kukke.

Venkatagiri and Arebetta is an average trek during winter/summer with limited or no water supplies, but very difficult and dangerous trek during rains. There are no trails and it is easy to get lost in the wild. One tip from me is have a sense of railway track below the hill, if you can manage to hit railway track then you are safe. Don't enter without a local guide or GPS. Be careful about the wild animals. If you are not a serious trekker don't try it. We missed satellite signal deep inside the forest so the trek trail is not complete.

Route: Bangalore - Hassan - Sakleshpur - Gundya - Take a left from Gundya and cross the bridge across Kempu hole to enter Forest IB towards your right.
Contact Person: Devappa - 9449902125. Guide: Jayanna . Don't forget to take permission from forest department.


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Wanderer said...

Wow another tough trek and direct descent! Respect.
Makes me want to go on treks every weekend which is sadly not possible right now.
Looks like you've done this last weekend. Thanks for the useful info.

poorna prajna said...

yes last weekend, it was not very tough but we made it look a bit tough by trying new route.. i don't think trekking in these ranges is possible for few more months...