Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi

Tripoto
5th Jan 2019

Nestled among the lush-green hills of Western Ghats, Kodachadri is a popular trekking destination among vagabonds of Bangalore. The hills around Kodachadri are abode to countless streams and waterfalls. Hidlumane falls, situated right in the lap of the Kodachadri peak, is one such popular destination. Just on the other side of the hills lies another spectacular, but hardly known, natural wonder – Arishina Gundi falls. Kodachadri and the nearby falls were on my bucket list since long time. As the foggy winters of January started to envelope Bangalore, the plans of hiking to Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi falls started to take shape. Three of us packed the necessities in our tiny backpacks and jumped on a bus to Kollur on a Friday evening. Wading through the jam-packed streets of Bangalore, the bus finally started speeding on a smooth highway towards Kollur and the cool breeze soothed our souls tired of Bangalorean humdrum.

Day 1

Journey to Kollur

We reached Kollur around 7-30 in the morning. Kollur is a small town in the Udupi district of Karnataka. It enjoys a pristine location, right at the foothills of Western Ghats. The town is famous for the shrine of Mookambika, a pilgrimage particularly famous among Keralites. The town was dotted with guest houses, restaurants, and shops selling pooja stuff. Although barely a kilometer long, the main street of Kollur felt like a bustling bazar street. After having a sumptuous breakfast, we took a local bus to Nittur – a village on the high plateau, very close to the starting point of Kodachadri trek. Soon the shops and guest houses were left behind and the bus started crawling up the mountains. We sat in the bus like starry-eyed kids gawking at the beautiful forests outside. As we gained altitude, the forests became denser and the air cooler. After an hour of winding roads, we reached the plateau and a roadside signboard welcomed us to the Shimoga district. Soon the landscape changed into a flat terrain of paddy fields interspersed with areca nut plantations. Tiny houses with slanted, red roofs were camouflaged in the mosaic of paddies. A patch of dense forest would suddenly emerge out of nowhere. While we were engrossed in observing the beauty of the landscape, the conductor abruptly stopped the bus and asked us to get down, as that was the very destination we had asked for.

Photo of Kollur, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kollur, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kollur, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kollur, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi

At Hidlumane falls

Soon we reached a stream that flowed over a gentle slope of rocks. We walked further along the stream and reached the first tier of the waterfall. The water fell over a tiny cliff barely 10 feet high. The stream was weak, but strong enough to create small puddles around. Surrounded by dense forest, the place appeared mystic. Some local guys were hanging around, playing in the water. We decided to stop there for a while and have our lunch. After spending some time there, we proceeded further. The trail suddenly became very steep. We could still hear the sound of the water from a distance. Around thirty minutes of a steep climb through the forest, we eventually reached the main tier of the Hidlumane falls. The place looked like one from another world. Water trickled down from a rocky cliff in multiple rivulets. The sound of flowing water filled the entire valley. A group of around twenty people were enjoying the falls. We stopped at another side of the falls. Took some pictures. By then the group started moving on. Soon only three of us were left at the place. We sat there quietly enjoying the tranquility. The water seemed too cold to step in. Moreover, the steep hike to Kodachadri peak was about to begin. So, we controlled our urge of stepping into the waterfall. Within an hour or so, we found ourselves ascending on the steep trail through the dense jungle.

Photo of Hidlumane Waterfalls, Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Hidlumane Waterfalls, Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Hidlumane Waterfalls, Kattinahole, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi

Steep hike to the Kodachadri peak

The forest was warm and humid. The sunrays could hardly make their way to the ground. Life in the jungle seemed like having a siesta. The silence was scary at times. The sound of dry leaves getting crushed below our footsteps felt like an intrusion into the silence. We kept moving. As we gained altitude, the forest slowly transitioned into a grassland. Now we were on a steep gradient full of drying grass. The trail was slippery and tiring. The afternoon sun was sucking all the energy. We stopped for a while to catch our breath. We looked behind and were baffled by the breathtaking scenery. The endless rolling hills of Western Ghats were spread until the horizon. Blue waters of the Sharavathi reservoir conferred a good contrast to an otherwise monotonously green landscape. The sky appeared intense blue and lacked even a speck of a cloud. We were truly stunned. We took some pics and moved further. Another fifteen minutes of a steep climb took us to the top of that hill. But that was not the summit. A long trail zigzagging through the mosaic of green and yellow stood in front of us. At a far distance, we could see a road on which jeeps were plying. That was the motorable route to Kodachadri. In short, we were headed in the right direction and were not too far from the destination.

Photo of Kodachadri Hill, Valur, Karnataka by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri Hill, Valur, Karnataka by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri Hill, Valur, Karnataka by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri Hill, Valur, Karnataka by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri Hill, Valur, Karnataka by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri Hill, Valur, Karnataka by Vihang Ghalsasi

We raised our pace. The trail went up and down through patches of grassland and forest. Thankfully, the gradient wasn’t too steep. Within half an hour, we reached the motorable road and high-fived each other! It was indeed a serious hike. We found a lemon juice vendor beneath a tree. Without a second thought, we simply gulped down 2-3 glasses of lemon juice. The body was yearning for water and electrolytes. From here, we had to walk over the motorable road to reach the summit. Fortunately, a jeep was passing by. We negotiated with the driver and jumped in. The road was a mayhem! If this jeep driver contests in Motocross Madness, he would probably break all records. We sat with caution, tightly holding all possible rods and handles inside the vehicle. Thankfully, the ordeal ended in ten odd minutes and we were right at the entrance of the Mool Mookambika temple on top of the Kodachadri mountain. The place was moderately crowded with pilgrims.

It was already nearing 5-30 PM and we had to rush to the summit to watch the sunset. The summit was around 1.5 km up the hill. The gradient was steep again. Many pilgrims/tourists were climbing the hill. We just followed them. This climb was extremely exhausting. Already tired with the day-long hike, our legs were shivering due to the extreme workout. As the sun was approaching the horizon, the air started cooling rapidly. By the time we reached half the distance, we realized that the sun is almost about to go down and we shall not be able to reach the summit until then. What a sad realization it was! We simply climbed the nearby hillock and sat there. Although the sun was hidden behind the summit, we could see the mesmerizing view of the mountains and valleys. The mountain tops were shining in the golden yellow light of the setting sun, whereas the valleys were already drenched in darkness. The forests in the valleys appeared much more mystic. The sky that was deep blue a while ago was now metamorphosing into hues of orange and pink. Some bright stars already made their presence on the western horizon. Now that the sun was about to go, cold wind from the valleys began raising its pace; as if cooling down the mountain was an allocated task that had to be completed before dusk. The best thing about our hillock was that it was free from other tourists. We could thoroughly enjoy the tranquility of the moment.

Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi

Descend to Nittur

As it started getting darker, we decided to descend down. Night halting is prohibited at the top. We decided to take the jeep and stay at a guesthouse in Nittur. Soon, the 12-km long bumpy ride began. With other tourists on board, the jeep was comparatively more stable. After an hour of the roller coaster ride, we reached the main road at the base of the mountain. The smooth tar road seemed like a bliss. In around half an hour, we reached Nittur. This was a pretty small village. We had dinner at a small eatery and asked around for accommodation. Fortunately, a homestay was available. We crashed into the room, took a warm shower, and dozed off.

Day 2

The Arishina Gundi falls

We woke up around 7 AM. The sunlight was busy in melting down the dense fog. We finished breakfast and daily chores and took a bus to Kollur. Our today’s destination was Arishina Gundi falls. These falls are located in one of the valleys of the Kodachadri mountains. Visiting the falls requires a permission from the Forest Department. We took the relevant permission from the RFO office situated right opposite to the bus stand at Kollur. Obtaining the permission was fairly easy and costed mere ₹ 25 per head. Soon we hailed an auto and got down at the place where the trail to Arishina Gundi falls began. This place was on the Kollur–Nittur road, just before the ghats began. The trail was marked with signboard of Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary. We entered with immense excitement. This was again a kuccha road, but in a much better condition than the Kodachadri jeep road. As we walked further, the forest became denser and the air felt warm and humid. As we were at the foothills of the Western Ghats, temperature was considerably higher than that in the Kodachadri forest. Soon we found ourselves wiping the perspiration and sipping water at every hundred steps. The trail was going up and down with a mild gradient. We were told that there’s a signboard of Arishina Gundi falls on your left side from where you got to turn left and descend into the valley. We were cautiously looking for such a signboard.

Photo of Arasina gundi Falls, Sampalli, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Arasina gundi Falls, Sampalli, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Arasina gundi Falls, Sampalli, Karnataka, India by Vihang Ghalsasi

The trail slowly began to go up the hill. The gradient also became steeper. The clock was hitting 12-30 PM and the mid-day sun was at its full glory. Our leg muscles, which had hardly recovered from yesterday’s long hike, were yelling at us and asking us to turn back. But our motivation was still high. After two hours of hike, we finally saw the signboard. What a delight! We took photos with excitement and started descending down through the forest. This trail was kind of difficult to follow. After some time, we could hear the sound of flowing water. The destination was closer. Following the downhill trail, we reached a riverbed. The sound of gushing water was intensely audible from there. But the thick vegetation blocked our view. We jumped over a few rocks and stood in the middle of the bed, trying to take a glimpse of the falls. From there, we could see a white streak of water going down a rocky cliff. Oh, the falls!! We were happy to finally the see our destination. However, the fall seemed still a bit far away. We came back in the forest and started exploring a way to approach the falls. In a direction parallel to the river, a trail went slightly uphill. We decided to follow it, assuming it to be the approach trail. In barely five minutes, we stood at the side of the valley wherein the mighty waterfall dumped its waters. Our destination was right in front of us!

Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi
Photo of Kodachadri and Arishina Gundi by Vihang Ghalsasi

The valley was almost round-shaped, with tall, rocky cliffs on all three sides. The fourth side was the rocky riverbed through which the gushing water made its way. At the base of the fall, a blue-green puddle was gulping down the energetic water and releasing it slowly in the rocky river bed. The water was the cleanest I had even seen in this region. The afternoon sunrays reflected off the water created beautiful patterns on the rocky cliffs. Bulbuls and Bee-eaters were chirping on nearby trees. They were probably annoyed with the human intruders. There was nobody around than the three of us. We left our belongings on a nearby rock and got into the water. The chilly water soothed our soaring muscles. The hills in this region are known to contain several medicinal plants. The water flowing through the hills also probably has some medicinal value. After having enough time in the water, we sat on a rock to dry ourselves. The afternoon sun that seemed like an enemy while climbing up the hill now felt like a cozy blanket. Meanwhile, the direction of sunlight changed and a beautiful rainbow formed near the waterfall. This was indeed a memorable sight. Any photograph was incapable of putting forth the beauty of the place. We still attempted to capture it to the best of our devices’ capability. We were so much glued to that place that we didn’t realize the time. No matter how much time you spend near the waterfall, it is never enough! It was nearing 3 PM and we had to get back to Kollur to catch the bus for the return journey. Somehow, we managed to get out of the magical place and started hiking back.

The journey back

The trail up the hill felt like ten times longer. At one spot, we actually missed the main trail and strayed on another trail in the forest. The dense vegetation made it difficult to trace the main trail. We started contemplating on going back to the waterfall and starting all over again to get back on the main trail. Slowly, the confusion started turning into fear of being lost! On our entire trek, we had not seen a single soul! Who will come here for our rescue? Mobile networks were completely non-existent. Fortunately, in a while, we heard some human voices somewhere nearby in the jungle. We shouted for help. Some local folks were hiking to the waterfall. They guided us back to the main trail. We felt relieved. As we got back on the main trail, we raised our pace. The steep ascend though the warm and humid forest was tiring as hell. Finally, we saw the signboard again and high-fived each other. The trail from here was mostly downhill and had no chances of getting lost. For any hike, getting back to the civilization on a boring, downhill route is the most challenging part. We literally ran over the steep descends to get rid of the trail as soon as possible. In another hour or so, we finally reached the main road. Within a few minutes, we hailed an auto rikshaw and got back to Kollur. We got into a guesthouse to freshen up. Our bus back to Bangalore was about to leave in an hour. We had a fulfilling meal in a nearby restaurant and boarded the bus.

The trek was indeed a memorable one. Most importantly, we successfully accomplished it on our own. We missed the sunset from the Kodachadri summit; however, the amazing time spent at Arishina Gundi falls compensated for that loss.

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