We took the 10pm bus from Bangalore to Agumbe, Rs 195 per head. It reached at about 5:30am at Agumbe, at a junction we identified as Lawley circle of the legendary Malgudi. It is a T-junction, the road coming from Bangalore being the vertical arm of the T. The road to the left goes to Shringeri and the road to the right to Mangalore. While we looked around in the mist (fog?) trying to spot humans, Sajid found a place to sleep right in front of the Grama Panchayathi office. By the time we were done watering a few plants, two elderly gentlemen descended from the Mangalore arm of the T, conversing between themselves. They eventually walked down to us and when we started enquiring about Mr Raghavendra Pai, one of them identified himself with that name. That brought some relief to (some of) us - Avinash would have liked it if we went without a guide and Kashyap was against that idea. Mr Pai had instructed M R Krishnappa (MR, famed guide) of Mallandur to accompany us through the trek. We went down the Bangalore arm of the T to the only hotel around and had idli-vadas, neeru-doses and coffees.
At about 8:30 we started walking from Agumbe with Mr Pai, along the Shringeri arm of the T, to a place where the road forked off. Sajid had to go back to get a few mats that had been left behind at the hotel. We walked for some 3-4 km from that point along the tarred road through some moderately-dense-looking forests and reached some plain fields. We halted for a while, taking photographs and some rest. Krishnappa turned up from down the road and asked us if we were the team Raghu Pai had sent. The place we were at then was Mallandur, his village.
We got off the road and 'trekked' on fairly level ground for about an hour through some plantations and got to a viewing point, from where we could see Barkana falls in the distance. Some metal railing keeps people from falling off into the valley below. We had oranges, snaps and leaks and 'marched on' to Barkana falls. This was the real trek - there was absolutely no track or trail and we simply followed Krishnappa up and down the steep hillsides. For the most part of the trek, people who had tied their foam mats horizontally on their backpacks had problems getting through the small gaps between plants and trees during these climbs. The foliage there is among the densest that I have trekked through. We could walk for a couple of hours without sighting a peak, perhaps even the sun. After about 2 hours of climbing up and down, we came upon a track somewhat suddenly. This track comes from Aldur. This track was pretty clear and led to the top of Barkana falls.
The water was pretty clear and cool as usual. After we searched for, found and destroyed a few leeches, Avinash and Shyam took my solid fuel stove and baked the chapathis for lunch. Sajid found a place to lie down and smoke, while almost all the rest of us took dips in the water. We could not get to the place where the water actually falls down (we were being careful about the depth of a pond just before the falls). We had chapathis and chatnipudi for lunch, accompanied by raw carrots, cucumbers and some dry fruits. We spent a lot of time taking snaps and packing, and left only by 1:30pm to Narasimha Parvatha.
After about 2 hours of walking we came out of the thick forest and landed on dry grass. The most of us who wanted to rest for longer were prodded on by the minority that was keen on reaching the campsite in time. We walked around a hill on the side of its steep slope and reached another plain of dry grass. Another halt and a couple of snaps, Krishnappa telling us we could be at the peak in 15 more minutes. Somewhat reluctantly we scaled what seemed to be the last bit of forest-cum-steep-slope between us and the peak (as Krishnappa told us), and about 15 minutes later found that it indeed was. Basu and I were not sure about which one was the 'peak'. We could see a town from one peak and the forest from another. MR resolved the issue by pointing to a cliff edge further ahead.
We relaxed on the peak, had a nice look around and took snaps. After about 20 minutes at the peak, we went further down to the campsite. On the way we passed the carcass of a black cow, which was perhaps the same as that mentioned by Kiran. However Shyam thought it was not killed by a carnivore as the skin seemed to be intact. The campsite was a small area of almost plain land, with remains of old campfires and kattige-ole's (what do you call that in English?). There was a well about 60 feet away. Krishnappa showed us the route to Kigga and left for his sister's house in Kigga after charging us Rs 400.
While Avinash got a nice nap, Shyam went to the water and took a bath. I made a pretense of gathering firewood and after a couple of trips, lie down with the others. Shyam came back from his bath and got his stove working, Mahesh got started with preparing the much awaited khichdi and Kashyapa cut carrots and cucumbers. Shyam and I fetched more water for the khichdi. Some others got the remaining firewood for the campfire. The campfire was apparently easy to get going. Mahesh was not sure of how much water the khichdi needed and so ended up preparing something much drier than the authentic version, but none of us would complain. Kotresh burnt the papads - some of them turned negroes. We had chatnipudi for garnishing while Avi and I also used puliyogare paste. Theres no question that everyone enjoyed that dinner - even Shyam. Avinash prepared some lemonade and let me have a sip.
We didnt waste much time after dinner, we were in bed by about 8pm. While Shyam, I and Mahesh fetched water again from the well, the others were in bed looking at the clouds and commenting on their shapes, some even getting scared by them. I slept in fits and woke up many times to turn around or to adjust my pillow-turned-rucksack. I had some very confusing dreams that I usually have on trek nights. I woke up again and found Shyam tugging at my sleeping bag, saying "hey aelo, 5:30 aaythu". I got up as soon as I could - in fact I was soon wide awake. It seemed like a relief. I rolled up my sleeping bag and packed it in. We went to the well, brushed our teeth, went up further ahead and waited for the sunrise at a cliff. It was already daylight and we could see the town below, also the numerous hills with clouds hiding in-between.
After quite some time the clouds in the eastern sky started getting red. By the time the sun came out of the mist above the horizon, Avinash had joined us and then we took snaps of ourselves with the sun in the background. Then very quickly it was day all over. We walked back to the campsite and made coffee. Shyam got some buns out and one half made a breakfast for each of us. A little while later the remaining chapathis were also out, with ghee and sugar/chatnipudi. There was some lemonade someone prepared and Kashyapa shared with me. We started packing soon and did a very slow job of it.
We shared oranges along the way down. The route to Kigga seemed to be pretty clear and the descent a bit steep at the beginning. It looked like Kashyapa and I got down rather slowly as we could not find the rest of the team for quite some time. About 20 minutes after the start of the descent we found the team halting on a rock and took snaps. It was a 10 minute break and then we got into the shade of a foliage, rather rare as compared to the dense ones we came through during the previous day's trek. This part of the trek finished quite fast, the track being clear and easy, and the surroundings not too interesting. The descent only took about 75 minutes and took us to Kigga.
Kashyapa and I arrived later than the others at Kigga. As we were turning a corner I saw a couple of local people talking to each other about something not being the same as the one that had come the other day. We found that they were looking at a cobra in the corner - a 'healthy' one as Kashyapa put it. I took a snap of the snake and we moved on to the Rishyashringa temple. Shyam was sticking around outside the temple and we did not have the time to go in. The bus to Shringeri arrived soon. Mahesh who had just emerged from the temple was the only one without shoes, so we sent him back to get the others.
The bus ticket from Kigga to Shringeri costs Rs 4 per head. I think it was about half an hour's ride that brought us to Shringeri at about 11am. We had a Maaza each, Kashyapa and I went down towards the temple and booked a room for a day at the TTD lodge, for Rs 25. The lodge is just a few steps away on the other side of the bus stand, but there are two steep flights of stairs to climb before really reaching there. The room had a bath-cum-toilet and a ceiling fan, both quite neat and in working condition. We dumped our luggage, went down to the river, bathed and got inside the temple premises in time for the free lunch.
Lunch is served to 2500 people at once at this place, I heard from Kashyapa and Avinash. Two people push a huge carrier full of plates down each aisle, handing 2 plates to every alternate aspiring diner. The tumblers and water follow. The serving starts - payasa, rice, saaru, rice, sambar, rice and buttermilk are served at well-defined intervals. I guess Saaru and Sambar are served twice, unfortunately not buttermilk. Its all done very fast and almost efficiently. If you couldnt finish your sambar-rice in time and ready your plate for buttermilk, you cant have it poured into the tumbler you have emptied by gulping down all the water. The people who serve do so very generously but do not have the time to show any amount of special consideration - very understandably so, I guess.
After lunch we went back to the room and lie down for a couple of hours, discussing about Avinash's erstwhile extended family of 63 members and his grandmother's gun, among other things. At about 4:30 we came out again, had limca in a cool drink joint followed by golibaje and coffee in a darshini. Kashyapa and I went back to the room to 'pack' while the rest shopped for sandalwood items. When the two of us went to Narasimhavana, the rest were returning after an interview with the seer. We managed to miss him by a few minutes.
We had a free dinner at the temple and lazily trod back to the lodge. I noticed the Bangalore bus in the bus stand and Kashyapa reminded Avinash to cancel the one extra ticket. It was when Avinash talked to the conductor that we came to know (again, and for sure this time) that the bus was to leave at 8:30pm. There is no facility to book return tickets for the Rajahansa (leaving 9pm) from Bangalore. So we ran up to the lodge, got back somewhat in time and boarded the bus. It left Shringeri at about 8:40pm. On the way there was a 'police checking' and according to Avinash the guy apparently smelt the sandalwood very strongly, but, according to Kashyapa, was too lazy to check the bags thoroughly. The bus reached Bangalore (Kempegowda) bus stand about about 6am.
Kashyapa and I came to my office where I dumped all the foam mats (in Avinash's cubicle - thats where they will all be from now on, for anyone who needs them) and both of us went to my place on my bike. It was about 7am by the time we reached home and at about 7:15, on being reminded by Kashyapa, I called up Mr Pai's house in Agumbe to inform him that things went peacefully and thank him. He was not at home - he had gone to the bus stand, perhaps to recieve another party of trekkers. Now I remember, I think I forgot to close the STD/ISD '4-digit digital' lock at home.
Mr Raghavendra Pai, #0818-713023.
|Bangalore to Agumbe||10pm-5:30am||Rs 195|
|Kigga to Shringeri||half hour||Rs 4|
|Shringeri to Bangalore||8:30pm-6am||Rs 195|
Trekking distance: About 22 kms to the peak and 6-7 kms downwards to Kigga.
Stay at Shringeri : TTD lodge room costs Rs 25.