Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kodachadri – Agumbe ; Following the Pilgrims


                The original plot was Pramod’s, and he had a hidden agenda. Pramod is a pious man – of course a nature enthuse too - and a frequent visitor of Kollur Mookambika. We had earlier discussions on the rain forests of Agumbe, and he succeeded in presenting his regular pilgrimage as a pleasure cum adventure trip to Agumbe and surroundings, before us. He could trap six fools including me, playing the Agumbe card. 

                We met at evenings for the planning, and at the second day itself, I could sense the hidden agenda, as Pramod insisted on Sringeri, another place of pilgrimage, vaguely stating that it’s near Agumbe. I decided to play the fool, as I had plans on Kodachadri hills close to Kollur, and of course Agumbe. Our initial line went like this; leave for Mangalore by train on 24th of Feb. Hire a cab from there, move to Kollur and then trek to Kodachadri for the night stay. Second day : Trek back to Kollur and reach Agumbe after darsan. Third day : Full day trek to Narasimha Parvatha and to reach Sringeri by evening, and then to return back to Agumbe, after darsan. Fourth day : Agumbe wandering till noon and return to Mangalore, to catch the night train to Trivandrum.

            I tried my best, to squeeze in, either Saravathi valley trek near Jog Falls or Kudremukh peak trek, Chikmagalur, but failed for time constrains, imposed by crooked planer. Still I did some research on these places, as I knew Pramod would not object any last minute change, if Kollur and Sringeri were spared. 
                    Collected all useful contact numbers, booked all rail tickets and accommodations wherever necessary-- and our fools got wiser one by one. They dropped in a regular manner- one per day, and finally, two days prior to our journey, only the wise planner and the smart mender remained. Showering abuse on the traitors, we boldly decided to hold on. Pramod went on for a last minute catch, and hooked Sreekumar. Sreekumar is a 70% pilgrim, 20% tourist and the remaining 10% some thing else. But he was capable of swapping the interest levels, as situation demanded, and thus could cop with us. For instance, he turns a 100% monster, if not fed in time. Plans shattered, bookings canceled partially, we boarded Maveli Express to Mangalore, by 7.30 PM on 24th Feb, deciding to take it on, as it comes.
                       Reached Mangalore Central railway station by 9 AM on 25th. A bus bound for Kollur was ready outside the station and we boarded it. We had dropped plans to hire a cab so as to curtail the expenses, as there weren’t many to share. This bus had its usual plight and reached Kollur by 1.30 PM, and it was almost clear that we may not reach Kodachadri before dusk, if we attempted a trek. Rented a room at Trivikrama lodge, just opposite to the temple entrance. The room was neat and spacious for three of us, at a remarkably low rent of Rs. 150 per day. 

          Decided to hire a Jeep to Kodachadri and to return to Kollur by night. Had rotten chappathies for lunch and went to the jeep stand. They demanded Rs.1400 for the trip – Rs. 175 each if there are 8 travellers. We waited a while and could gather around 4 more, and started off by 3.00 PM. Drove along the Shimoga bound road, through Mookambika Wild life sanctuary and took a right deaviation, just after Nittur. At Kattinahole deviated right to the mud road.

          The next 45 minutes, put the 4WD on test, and of course our spine. The bumpy ride ended at Kodachadri shrine by 4.30 PM.

                The Sarvajna Peedha, where Sankaracharya performed meditation is atop the hillock and can be reached only by foot. There are two tracks to the top, just after the shrine. The one to the right is steeper and the left one is of lower gradient.

Srekumaracharya Enlightened
         We opted for the steeper one for the up climb. Went past the Ganapathi Guha and completed the climb in half an hour.              Once atop one would never wish to return. The vast expanse of Linganamakki reservoir, on river Saravathi, falls to the north.                    This reservoir had killed the Jog falls, as it is just above the falls. The jog falls remains a dry cliff, most part of the year, except during heavy monsoon shower, while the shutters are opened. This may be the fate of the beautiful Athirappillli falls near Chalakudi, once the Athirappilli power project is sanctioned, I fear. The Chakra reservoir resembled a pond towards the east.          The thick woods below the cliffs appeared darker in the faint light of the setting sun. 
                       The terrain in this region of the Western Ghats is deprived of the common fauna – the elephant. The west horizon went reddish, and we dropped our plan to move down to the Chithramoola Guha on the South.                Chose the less steep path for the return, and walked slowly to reach the shrine below, by around 6.30.                Left the place just after sunset, to reach back Kollur, by around 8 at night.                   I opted for biscuits and fruits, sensing the danger; but Sreekumar went ahead for yet another experiment. Beware - Hotels around the temple are sure to ruin your health. If you have own vehicle, you may move to Jadkal junction, just 8 kms from Kollur, towards Kundapura, to find small hotels that cater to the villagers, and not to the tourist stuff. I got this information from a Jadkal native, I got acquainted the next day, in a bus journey. We were to leave for Agumbe the next day, but there were no direct buses to Agumbe, from Kollur. On enquiry at the bus stand, we were informed that a bus leaves for Dharmasthala at 6.45 AM, which passes through Hebri, at the foothills of Agumbe. We have to pay a visit to the temple and catch this early morning bus. Went to bed early.

         Sreekumar woke me up by 3.45 AM, and we were at the temple gates by 4.30.                     
                      Apart from darsan, pilgrims had poojas to offer, and some how we could make it to the bus stand in time. Boarded the bus, which started 10 minutes late. Though we were the lone passengers at the start, the bus got half filled at Jadkal. Shibu , who got into the bus from Jadkal, was a migrated farmer from Kottayam, and soon we initiated a chat. He had rubber, coconut and arecanut plantations, at Muthoor, near Jadkal, and had recently expanded by adding another 15 acres of land at Haladi, enroute Hebri. At Nembu junction, our bus took a left deviation while the right goes to Kundapura on NH 17. Shibu was happy in the absence of elephants in their forest, in a farmer’s interest. 

                       Went past Ampar and reached Haladi, where Shibu got down. We moved on via Albadi and reached Hebri by 9.15 AM. Hebri is a small town. Albadi is directly connected to Agumbe via Someswara and if we had own vehicle, we could have bypassed Hebri. A tea shop opposite to the bus stop offered a variety, and we tasted all they had, for a meager 61 bucks. Only mini buses ply to Agumbe, and we got into one, that goes to Shimoga via Agumbe. Went past Someswara village, and entered the Ghat section. The driver, of course a regular guy, negotiated the hair pin curves with such an ease, that my kid does the midtown madness. We had to cling on to the window rails many a time, but our fellow passengers were least bothered. Drove into Agumbe bus stand by 10.30 AM.
                 Agumbe is a small villge, tucked in the rain forest , famed for the highest rain fall in South India. And, for the same reason it’s the home for King Cobra, in the Western Ghats. This isolated village was brought to lime light by the mid eighty DD serial ‘Malgudi Days’. We had booked a double room at ‘Mallya Residency’, a small hotel run by Sudheendra Mallya, just opposite to the bus stand. Met Mallya at his provision store in the ground floor, and he provided his Maruthi 800 with his driver Ganesh, a nice young chap, for our wander. We drove towards Shimoga and took a right turn at Guddegere to enter a village road, which further turned to a hilly track, that lead us to Kundadri hills. There’s a Jain temple atop with a green pool aside.          Ganesh had carried food for the fish in the pond, and he went on feeding them, while we roamed around.               We could spot Agumbe village on one side and the Varahi reservoir on the other side.                    Spent a while enjoying the breeze, and descended, went further along the village road, to join Agumbe – Sringeri road at Bidargode and later took a right turn, for Sirumane falls. On the way we could have glimpses of Narasimha Parvatha peak. 

Oh! I forgot to mention that we had already dropped Narasimha Parvatha trek, but included Kudremukh trek – the more difficult and testing one – and we have to leave early morning tomorrow, for the same.
Soon we reached Sirumane Falls and we were the lone people there.                Surprisingly the fall was still live, even in the peak of summer, and the water was clear as tear. Got under the falls, and felt it cold even at noon.                  We owned the whole fall. It was a nice massage, and once out of it, all the stuff that we had gulped from Hebri, had vanished.                Drove to Bidargode via Kigge, aong the other side of Narasimha Parvatha. – Kigge is the place where Narasimha Parvatha trek ends. Ganesh stopped at a small hotel at Bidargode, and to my delight, they had fish delicacies too. Ate to content and left for Jogi Gundi, falls close to Agumbe town. Had to walk a little through the thick jungle and it wasn’t worth.                 The falls had almost dried up and a small stream was feeding the pond below. Jumped into the pool and aquatics by Sreekumar followed.                  Walked back, got to the vehicle, drove to the town and then to Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS). There we met a volunteer by name Vipul, and had an interesting chat on their activities.               They had rescued and relocated hundreds of King cobras and had radio chipped 5 among them. Among the 5 three are still alive, and they regularly track them, as part of research they carry out over there. They even provide accommodation, for those with their eye. If interested, here’s the link – www. arrs.agumbe.com
Paid a short visit to Doddamane (The Big house), where Malgudi Days was shot. The present owner of the house, Kasthurakka, was a friendly lady, and she welcomed us.                    It was an old fashioned building and I struggled to link the views to the good old memories. Sreekumar hadn’t even heard about Malgudi Days, and was all the while wondering, why we should peep into some one’s residence. And the poor guy is still being tortured in friend’s circles.Thanked Kasthurakka and went down the Ghat to the sunset point.                  The place was crowded, and we left soon. Got back to the Mallya’s and settled the bill, as we had to leave for Kudremukh, at least by 5 in the morning.             He charged Rs.350 for the room and Rs.1100 as car rent for the day. He had also agreed to drop us at Kudremukh, early morning, for Rs.6 per Km. Ganesh agreed to be back by 5 AM, and left.
That night, after food at a local tea shop, we went for a long walk along the village roads. We were all alone in the darkness. Thoughts sprouted – Who had a hidden agenda – Was it Pramod or I – And who follow whom – Are the pilgrims following the traveller???????????

Of course we will visit Sringeri, early morning tomorrow......it falls on our route to Kudremukh.

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  1. I am glad that everything went smooth according to the plan inspite of dropping of other "fools". Hey bear in mind that its becoz of my hidden agenda that we could sense the village admosphere of Karnataka both as pilgrim as well as tourist.

  2. Nice report of the places that you have visited. I also plan to visit these place, I guess October / November will be a good time to visit these place

  3. Pramod, Ido agree my dear. it woudn't have been such an experience, if not for u and Sreekumar

    Arve, Mountains will be more greener after the rains, and the falls of Agumbe will be thicker.
    Keep me going.

  4. Thank you for all these amazing posts. Really enjoyed it btw. :)

  5. Happy to hear that Akhil
    Do visit frequently

  6. Another excellent post Shinu, good to see you active in Karantaka. I like to hear of the ups and downs of your culinary discoveries, it's an inevitable part of travelling around. I will re-read Malgudi Days sometime soon...

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Jaz

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