Monday, July 13, 2009

Bandajje Arbi Trek: Leechy encounter

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One of the house @ Bandajje Village

"Monsoon delay could be longest in a decade"
TOI Jun-16 carried this headline. This kinda stuck my head. We 'd put on hold all our trek plans for a while because of monsoon rains & now I was giving it a second thought.

"what's the program for this weekend? Any clue abt climate @ vellari?"

I started chat conversation with kuntS. We 'd to remove out Vellari as an option since it was 3 day venture & one thing you can be sure about in Kerala during June is rain. We started tracking out un-finished business in Karnataka.

This is when the name "Bandajje" popped out. KuntS was highly reluctant to go for this trek as he had already conquered this peak. I 'd just heard about its amazing scenic beauty but never 'd got chance to scale it. 2 days of bang-bang & kuntS agreed.

All set to Bandajje Arbi Trek:

Last minute decision to travel - & no reservations available for buses heading towards Dharmastala. I knew our adventure was going to start a lot earlier than expected. We boarded 3x2 KSRTC Laal dabba @ around 2300 hours. And as expected - adventure did start early.

I dont know if it was problem with the terrible-conditioned-bus, or was it the hard-next-to-rock-seat or problem with the humpy-bumpy-road or was it our-cool-michael-shoe"maker"-driver - I hardly got any sleep. Same was case with kuntS.

Dharmastala @ 0700 Hours
Tired. Dead Tired. To add to our woe, no rooms available to shut our eyes for some time. Got ourself refreshed in free-to-public rest/bath rooms, using aaaa-aaaa-aaa chilling cold water.

Idli-vada for breakfast & all set to move out. We packed our bags with trek-essentials. KuntS 'd a list of TBD things. (Water, Petrol, Paper, MatchBox et al)
Hired a direct jeep to foot hills @ Bandajje village aka Narayana Gowda's residence - the starting point of our trek. Mr.Gowda was ready, waiting for us -

" Where are you people going? "

" Bandajje Falls "

" Only two? "

" Yes. "

" No No No. This ain't the season to go there. No guide's available either. "

" This is my second time. Had gone there a year back. We can manage without guide. "

" Elephants are on rampage. They had visited the vicinity three days back. Couple of people from Bangalore went there in Jan & got lost. We 'd to send our men along with Police to search. Its highly risky. Wait - I will call police. You inform them and then leave. "

" No Sir, Please don't do that. We will be careful. Why bringing in Police and all. "

" Its a big head ache for us. You inform Police and go. There are leeche's all over. Do you know that? Are you planning to stay at the top? What are you carrying to combat leeche's? What about food? "

The conversation between Mr.Gowda & kuntS went on for few minutes. Finally kuntS convinced Mr.Gowda that we will be able to manage. He showed us the route to start with. & Yipppeeeee - We are on.

One needs to ask for proper route as & when you encounter some traces of civilization -- this is exactly what we did. Thanks to lost-and-found, trial-and-error experience that kuntS 'd faced in his last visit, we didnt take any chances this time. Few minutes down the line - we are out of the Bandajje village & into the woods.

Once into the woods - the trail is thick & clear. Not much ambiguity. The climate was tailor-made for this trek. Cloud cover on top, No baking-on-top Sun, Ok-sort of humidity and cool breeze now and then. We, with our loaded back packs moved swiftly, enjoying nature. The ascent starts from the beginning itself. Not much flat land. But the steep isnt too much in the beginning.

Every time you move out of Civilization & enter the woods - it feels so great. The silence of the jungle, the smooth soothing fluttering sound of the leaves, The crispy green freshness, eye pleasing colors all around, Massst aroma of the mud, cool breeze, everything. Everything is so great - in place. Perfect. And just when we were loosing ourself into nature, ground reality came as wake up call. Leeches 'd already started creeping on our shoes!

Run Baba Run !!

After about an hour ascent amidst little drizzle now and then - we reached the stream. We had hardly taken any break during this stretch of trek. Stopping only when it was absolutely necessary. There was hardly any place to stop. The more you try to stand in one place & relax - more were the chances of leeches boarding their bus.

Stream was quite good place for us to get rid of accumulated leeches. The rocks on the river bed were good leech free halting point. We paused for a while here. Had our breakfast - the great MTR bisibelebath! This has become our Trek special dish. After good amount of rest & refreshment - We moved ahead.
We applied limestone paste on our ankles and on to our socks. This was the only thing that we 'd to fight leeches.

Immediately after the stream, there is a trail towards left that leads towards destination. There is also a wrong trail, going straight after crossing the river, which wont lead to the destination since its not correct trail. :-)

KuntS 'd crossed the stream & was verifying the path. The rocks were very very slippery & then suddenly came the big bang!

" Dhaaadddooooom"

I slipped & my bums landed exactly in between two rocks. Aaaaah! That hurts. The last thing I needed was water soaked shoes n socks. Cant help now.
Leech population was very scarce in the beginning. Their number started increasing as we entered into the denser woods. Till stream - if they were in numbers like 10/sq metre, now they 'd tripled. The steep was increasing with every turn & so were the number of leeches on our shoes. Coz of the limestone on our ankle's - leeches started to creep into the shoes. Bloody blood suckers. The white cover on our ankle's too didnt last long coz of the continious light drizzle now & then.
I could see 10's of leech's on my feet, gang raping & sucking blood, increasing their size minute by minute - but 'm helpless. The fact that kuntS was leading from the front was added disaster for me. His foot steps woke up the leech's & my foots provided the platform for their job.

A Fist sized Spider & what do we 've -- Our own SPIDY

We continued our ascent - neglecting the leech's. Thats the max that we could have done. There was no piece of land where we could 've stood for a minute to get rid of BloodSuckers. Everywhere - these small heat sensor enabled creature's were dangling around - 'd flourished like anything.


Thanks to thick & clear, not much confusing trail - we raced ahead.
After close to two hours ascent - we managed to hit a place with reduced number of leech's. There were anywhere around 100 leech's on our ankle, socks & shoes. Unable to withstand - I removed my shoes & stockings. That was the a great wrong move from my part.

KuntS - now the leech plucking expert got rid of the leech's on his shoes in pretty good time. I wasnt able to. Leech's stuck to stockings. While I was cleaning up my feet, leech's freely entered into the inside part of my shoes. Now, unable to use my stockings - 've not bought an additional pair & need to wear the shoes on bare foot.

Its like providing hungry beggers - Kebab's for free with Chutney & curry !!
Thanks to kuntS, that wasnt to be the case. He helped me clear my shoes. But even then I 'd lost one protection cover on my foot and ankles. From here - we just followed one simple mantra! Run Baba Run!
From there - it was almost non stop ascent till kuntS screamed --- "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhaaaaaaaa --- Grassland !!!"

Entry into the Grass Land

Sneak Peek

Climb, Climb & Climb

I was never so happy seeing the grass. Yes - It looked amazingly beautiful, but my happiness was not just because of that. It marked end of forest - aka end of Blood sucker's territory! Wooooooooooooow - such a relief. It was not like they were causing a lot of pain or like sucking litre's of blood. No. It was just sheer mental irritation. Irritation looking at those small creature's moving around & sticking on to your foot.

Say Cheese @ Grassland

We took a loooooong break here. After a long time - we could sit & relax, without much worry. Couple of 5*'s went in smoothly. Photography time & just at right time, cloud cover cleared, unleashing the beauifull sneak peek view of Bandajje falls !!

Complete falls wasn't visible though.

Once you hit the grassland - there is no trail. The grass was thick - dense, providing high friction to your path. The ascent also increases a lot from here. Or was it the no tree cover that made the ascent more difficult. We moved slowly, zig zag, with increased number of pitstops. One needs to ascend straight, approaching the falls from its right.

After close to two hours of ascent - with clouds playing hide & seek - blocking our view quite often - we reached our camping spot. A relatively BIG tree on grassland, beside's a valley created by flowing stream, A 4 foot wall one side wall built using the stones and quite big flat area, much required to rest on grass land.

Stone Wall @ camping spot

Its camping time!

kuntS suggested that we spread grass on flat land. That would provide much requried cushion to rest. Its been ages since we 'd used our tent. After little confusion on how to erect the tent - It was in place in quick time. Rock solid.

First Layer - Cushion

Second Layer - Partial cover

After quite some amount of search - kuntS did manage to collect some dry logs for camp fire. For more than an hour - he tried, tried & tried to lit those relatively moist logs. Paper + petrol + dry grass. Invain. The fire resisted completely to stay lit. Finally - we decided, we would create good amount of smoke & get into our tents. We burnt good amount of green wood - warned wild animals of our presence (:-)) & went into the shelter.

kuntS @ Fire Station

BaatCheet - Bak Bak Aur Mc Rum !!
Mango pickle for snacks + Mobile torch for some light & music. Next few hours passed away smoothly - talking about everything. Eyes shut down pretty soon. Only when to wake up @ around 4AM.

We had thought the tent would provide enough protection from rain & cold wind as well. It did provide protection from rain, but not from cold. It was chilling cold inside & nothing much to cover. We took the spare shirts available, put on & tried to sleep.

Clouds - Clouds & Clouds
Next morning - we were greeted "Good Morning" by nature for our tremendous achivement with amazing display of cloud show. Unforgettable. Heaven. The scenic beauty was worth the effort. Paisa vasoooool.

Next destination - To the top of the falls. We packed our luggage & moved, along the valley for quite some distance. One would encounter another man made, about 4 foot high wall. After crossing this wall and walking for some time - there is a trail/path that goes into the river. From grassland to river would take a walk for about 5 minutes. We crossed the river & continued on the trail. After about half an hour walk in the jungle - we reached a Big open flat land. Just beside the river. A great camping spot (but a lot risky since it was too close to river). KuntS remembered coming to this place which meant we were right on track till this point.

Day2: Hike again!

We decided to shed our luggage here. Go to falls - come back & back tract to civilization from here. Easy said.

Since there were n't any proper trails from here - we roamed & roamed & roamed in search of the falls. We continued to roam and roam and roam. We roamed and roamed and roamed and roamed for more than 2 hours, climbing one hill after another -- one valley to another -- one ridge to another - One deadend to another. In-vain.
Almost given up - we were on our way back. Back to the camping spot where we 'd dumped our luggage.

That's when I saw a thick trail on the opposite hill.

"I Saw" would be a terribly insult to kuntS effort in finding that trail. Just when I had given up all the hopes - kuntS discovered this trail. BTW - this was the only hill in the vicinity that we 'd n't tried in past 2-3 hours. :-)
KuntS started literally racing ahead. We would go around the forest & after about 20 minutes, reach the said destination - ON TOP OF THE BANDAJJE FALLS.
Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ---- We have made it to the TOP !!!!

At the TOP

We weren't able to enjoy much of the scenic beauties around coz of thick cloud cover. But still - It was great feeling to be on top. We spent some good amount of time, relaxing - clicking photos et al.

At The TOP

And then - It was time for back track. Downhill wasn't an easy task either. The thick grass made the task even difficult since the depth - the stones beneath aren't clearly visible. We slipped several times - fell several times. Just when we were about to get into the woods, the cloud had cleared completely. This showed us a beautiful complete view of Bandajje Falls. And also the majestic hills of Kuduremukha. Breath taking.

Bandajje Falls

Now - It was time to combat with leech's again. We 'd decided on one thing. We arent going to stop till we reach stream & just follow one simple mantra.
--------- " R u n - B a b a - R u n ".

Jumping, hopping, skidding - next two hours was a treat-to-watch-fun-ride. Painful one. We halted at stream for quite some time - cleared ourself from leech's and then again --- Run Baba Run.
By the time we reached Narayan Gowda's house - Our foot were all red. This remained high quality attraction for quite some time - catching attention of everyone till we boarded bus back to Blore.

Blooddy Blood

With the dreams of scaling Majestic hills of Kuduremukha ----- Its time to say Adeiu.
- USiRa


  1. "catching attention of everyone till we boarded bus back to Blore" :- ur penultimate line...wud like to explain in detail :-) :

    Koli's legs wore this terrible gory look. I guess atleast 100 ppl commented on it. From narayan gowdas house workers, autowaala n his frnd, ppl near that dairy, driver n conductor of bus we tuk to ujire, old couple sittin in front of us, a drunk crazy guy in ujire, add 10 ppl after we got down in dharmasthala, add 20 more ppl who were gawkin at u until we went into Saketha, that paani poori waala...etc etc.......oh man u wer the star of that day ;-)

    n wht abt the promise u make a Leech-Fry Dish on top of bandajje

    Koli had taken atleast a 100 leeches as his hostage before reaching grasslands. All the poor leech which were on his socks were tightly tied in a polythene. N I now hear that they are protesting against u for making them migrate to new place all together.And that too u made them to do undergo that great migration inside ur stinkin socks!!! Yuckkkk!!!! I guess Maneka Gandhi and animal rights activists are not hearin that ;-)

  2. put those last set of photos...they are awesome le

  3. All the leeches myt be upset and were cursing god for their greatest disappointment... God gave them good heat sensors but not a vision ...
    Even leeches shud understand it is a recession tym and Koli had contributed lil blood from what he has :)

  4. hmmm very nice and helpful..:) i will be going to the same place this weekend..somehow thinking of ways to escape from the greedy leeches:) thanku for this post

  5. Angel,
    The only possible way to escape leeches is by imitating what Usain Bolt does at best!
    Well - the effort is definitely worth the result.
    If you planning to go with Guide, better get in touch with Mr.Gowda [of bandajje village] before you travel. I doubt if u ll get guides during this season.
    Happy trekking (aka running)!!


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