Friday, January 18, 2008

Ettina Bhuja - A trek which will be long remembered

Sitting in front of a 17 inch tube for close to 9-10 Hrs a day in no way fulfills the hunting hunger present in a man's genes, maybe that is the reason that a visit to the jungle and the mountains makes you feel that you are really home. So with such feelings as the backdrop we decided to go for a trek to the bandaje falls near dharmastala. 9 Tickets were booked 3 days prior in two buses departing on Friday night from Bangalore, being a festival weekend there was no way that we could get all the seats in one bus. But as always happens in bollywood movies, things need not go according to the script. Here also there was a twist in the tale, with very less information forthcoming from the various blogs about bandaje and also the fact that there may be naxal trouble in the area we dropped the plan for bandaje for the time being. Instead it was decided that we will go for Ettina bhuja which is also near dharmastala.

For Ettina bhuja the script was already available, we knew the people who could arrange us our guide and food.So on 11-Jan 2008, 10 of us(Myself, Krishna, Vikas, Satish, Radhesh, Naveen, Nara, Rasool, Chetan, Vijay) set out for the trek in three buses, two buses became three after Vijay decided to make a last minute entry.
The bus in which I was travelling reached a good one hour later than the other buses, by that time a room was ready for us. After finishing our daily ablutions, we went for The lord Manjunatha's dharshana, then grabbing a not so quick breakfast we were on our way for the trek. A jeep was hired and 10 of us with all our luggage pushed ourselves into the box. This was like trying to close a suitcase which had been filled beyond it's capacity. Luckily everyone managed to hang on to the vehicle. An unlucky turn of event unfolded when the jeep driver didn't know the route to shishila, The town from where we were supposed to pick our guide. And finally after roaming around the dusty and half tarred roads, we managed to reach the Shishila by 12:30 in the afternoon. After picking up our guide Chennapa we drove down to the start of the trail.It was 1:00 in the afternoon when the trek actually began, It was decided that we will leave all the three tents that we had brought,behind since each was weighing 7Kgs, there was no way we could carry them up, in time before the sunset. So with sleeping bags and our luggage we set out, without even having anything for lunch.
At the start of the trek, we encountered a small river, which we crossed without any difficulty, then came a seeming endless, and very thick forest. One disadvantage of starting the trek so late is that there is almost no air movement and to top it all humidity is very high.The beauty about being in a forest is very hard to describe, the greenery, the sound of silence, the occasional chirping of birds and insects, the smell of rotting and dried leaves and the gushing of the river flowing alone in the forest all takes you to the realm of a different world altogether.
90% of the trek is through dense forest, and soon the heat and the monotonicity of the path started to take its toll on many of the guys. Some were sleep walking, some were complaining about the absence of any view, some were complaining that we didn't have a proper lunch. But good thing is nobody gave up. On top of all these, a bunch of village youth came behind us screaming their lungs out overtook us within no time and were out of site. They were carrying heavy loads for a feast on the top of the Ettina bhuja, they were even carrying a couple of live chickens. The number of breaks we took became more frequent and also longer, as time went by, food items started making appearances from the bags and were soon polished off. Water was as good as gold now.
Finally at around 5:30 in the evening we broke through the forest cover and had our first view of the surrounding mountains, It was simply beautiful and Ettina bhuja seemed to be quite near also. This renewed the spirits among the boys and we trudged on quickly. Finally around 6:15 we reached our camp site. The sun was setting and our photo session began with the setting sun in the backdrop. After the night set in, our guide lit up a camp fire and we fooled around it for some time. Around 8 in the night the sleeping bags were out, we laid out in the open, The starry sky above was a treat to watch, It was truly a diamond sky up there, and I was soon fast asleep.
What we had not taken in to consideration was the winter wind and chill, from midnight onwards the wind started growing from strength to strength, and attacking us with continuous waves of chill. By 1:00 in the night most of us were awake and talking. Many of the sleeping bags had holes at the bottom, letting in the chill and the wind and they were not long enough to insert our heads inside it. It was then Vikas came up with a brilliant idea of keeping our heads inside our bag, I followed the technique and got a good sleep till 5 in the morning. By that time many were grouped around the camp fire. Sitting around the fire, with temperature hovering around single digits was a truly heavenly experience.
Around 6:15,when the first light of day was peeping through the mountains yonder, we decided to climb the final summit to catch the sunrise.
It was still around 40 minutes of trek to the top, and the path was rocky. With the wind blowing it's heart out it was necessary for us to be careful at every step. Finally when the orange shade of light was spreading across the mountains we reached the top. This was the first time in my two years of trekking experience was I seeing a sunrise and it was beautiful. All around, the mountains were decked in different shades of the rainbow with each passing minute, Amedikal the mountain which we had trekked last May was truly a sight to savour. After spending an hour in the summit we came down and had our breakfast of bread, buns and cake. Then with a final good bye to the peak we began our return journey.

It took us close to three hours to reach down and after picking our luggage and tents from a nearby house we had to again endure the crampness of a small jeep on a not so comfortable jeep track. Finally after reaching Gopu ghokale's house we took a quick bath in the river flowing near his house and had a hearty meal which we had missed for one and half days. After lunch we decided to catch the 4:20 bus to khokada, as struggling in a jeep was not an option, from khokada we boarded a bus to dharmastala.
The trek will remain special for me beacause of the experience of sleeping out in the open. I enjoyed every moment of the trek, whether it was the climb, the boys complaining, sleeping under the open sky, the final summit or the superb meal at Gokhale's house.
Info for the trek

1) Ksrtc buses are available to dharmastala
2)From dharmastala hire a jeep to shishila
3)You can contact Gopu ghokale in shishila for a guide and also for food.

4)Water is available only at the start and the end of the trek, At the top water source is in the forest. So a guide will be helpful.

5) The trail is also not very clear, the time when we went there had a lot of dried leaves lying around so it was not easy to make out the trail.

6) The trek to the top took us more than 5 Hrs, But if you start in the morning the climb could be done in less than 4 1/2 Hours.



Krishna said...

nice one mithun! liked your diplomacy in saying some people were complaining about this and can be more explicit about the complainers if you ask me ;-)
mine coming out shortly...had started shortlisting fotos that go into the blog...

chethan said...

chennaagi concise aagi bardiddeeya.. well put

ಸತೀಶ said...

Hi Mithun,
it was a good reading...we are waiting your all trek experiences....

Nithin said...

Good one mithu

anoop said...

A good travel account. I could see Vikas in some of the snaps :).

Mithun said...

Yes Anoop, Vikas came to most of our treks, but now going to australia for higher studies.

Anonymous said...

nice one. thanks for giving info in detail.
keep writing

Raj said...

It would be great if you could share the number of Gopu Ghokale if you know. Please respond to thyagaraj(dot)annaswamy(at)gmail(dot)com.

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snigdha G said...
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reshma M said...
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Namrata Kogalur said...

Could you please give Gopu Ghokale's contact details