Monday, January 30, 2006

Ombattu Gudda - A Trek in the woods

Location : Ombattu Gudda in the Western ghats
Date : October 2 to October 3 , 2005

Background

Ombattu Gudda means Nine Hills (humps). There are nine hills in a continous fashion such that when we see them it looks like nine humps. This is one of the highest peaks in the Western ghats range. Ombattu gudda lies in the border of Hassan and Chikmangalur.

The Plan

Reach Gundiya Checkpost in the morning. Walk on the highway till we reach a bridge going over a river (Kabbinale River). Turn right immediateky after the bridge which leads us to a village. Keep walking on the track with houses on both sides. This will lead us to the forest. Go along the jeep track and using Map and compass eventually reach the Ombatuu Gudda.

The Decision

After the successful trek on the abandoned Railway track from Sakleshpur to Yedukumeri , we decided to go for a more challenging trek. Searching various websites to get information about the challenging trekking places we came across Ombattu Gudda - meaning Nine Hills . Only two other groups had been to this trek before and the area will be new to trekkers. So we decided to go there for trekking. We got more information from the other groups. We even contacted one guy who went for this trek (www.guruppandit.blogspot.com). He gave us a good write up of Ombattu gudda trek written by one of his friends.

Map

Any trek into the forest is dangerous without a proper map. Get the maps "No. 48 P/9/NW and No. 48 P/9/SW" for this trek. These maps will be available at "Survey of India, Koramangala". ( A tip - Survey of India's lunch time is 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm . So go before 2:00 pm or after 3:00 pm to get the maps)

Ombattu Gudda trekkers

Myself (Maddy), Prasanna, Jenny John, Murali, Karthik , Kapil,Deepesh

Tuesday, September 28 ,2005

We got the information from the other groups that Map No.48 P/9/NW and No.48 P/9/SW will be required. So myself and Jenny went in the afternoon to get the maps. On seeing the maps we were amazed by the details it had. The procurement of the trekking materials has started with the essential one - the maps.

In the evening myself with Karthik went to book the tickets to Uppinangadi - the bus stop after Gundiya checkpost.

Wednesday , September 29 , 2005

Myself and Jenny John went to Chamrajpet to meet the guy who will provide us with the necessary trekking gear - backpacks, sleeping bags, tents. We learnt from that guy how to pitch the tent properly so that the tent will not fly off when there is wind. We told him that we will collect the trekking materials on Friday afternoon.

In the evening Jenny went to forum to get the compass , whistles and other small essential items for our trek.

Thursday , September 30, 2005

Myself and Karthik went to the Food World to buy the required food items for our trek. We had decided to have bread for our breakfast and then have chappathis for he whole two days. So bread packets , jam bottles , pickles were got. Biscuits , Chocolates , Fruit juices were a major part of the purchase. We left Food World with lots of food unable to carry by both of us. Somehow we reached the office and placed the food items in our cubicles to be spilt up the next day between the trekkers.We decided to get the Chappathis on Friday, since it has to be good for two more days.

Friday , October 1, 2005

After lunch , myself, Jenny, Prasanna, Karthik went to Chamrajpet to collect the trekking gear. We got two tents and 6 sleeping bags and 6 backpacks.

At 4:00 pm myself along with Karthik left the office to get chappathi for our trek .Last night we found that Food world didnot had enough chappathi packets. So we decided to get it from another hotel near JP Nagar - The Nammura Hotel. Then we went to a hardware shop and got a good rope to be used while crossing the rivers. Almost all the purchases for the trek was completed by that time.

Friday , October 1 , 2005 - Night

We packed our things in the bags and started for the trek. Finally there were seven guys ready for the trek with Murali being the surprise addition at the eleventh hour. All seven of us with our backpacks packed got into the cabs to catch the bus at Majestic.

At 10:45 pm, the bus started and we will filled with anxiety of making the trek a good one. The onward journey was peaceful except for the accident that happened at Chenrayapatna at 1:00am in the morning. A lorry hit our bus in the back and the rear end of the bus was damaged. Nobody got injured . The effect of this accident is that the bus got stuck up at that place for almost an hour and since the back part of the bus was damaged we were forced to take our backs out of the dickie and keep it with us in the bus. This had one major positive effect that we reached gundiya checkpost at 6:00 am and it was not dark.

Saturday , October 2, 2005 - Into the forest
6:30 am to 9:30 am

After a week of various activites and the overnight acccident drama , we are at Gundiya checkpost with full enthusiasm to start the trek. At Gundiya there is a tea shop. There we had tea and got one packet of salt to get rid of leeches on the way. After the refreshment , we started our trek crossing the checkpost and walking on the highwat till we reach a bridge. The bridge is almost at 1 km from the checkpost. The climate was cool one and we enjoyed it walking steadily on the road. After sometime we couls sense the sound of running water and there it is, the bridge in fornt of us. After crossing the bridge we went towards our right and saw a village. There was a jeep track starting from the end of the bridge and goes into the village. Since it was early morning nobody was awake. We made our way fast through the village seeing the plantations nearby. After 40 mins we could only see trees around us and the view of houses disappearing. We could still hear the sound of running water - we are walking parallel to the river , with the river flowing on our right. The river is the Kabbinale river.

At that time we spotted a green snake climbing a shrub. Karthik tried to take a photo of the snake but we pulled him back as it would be dangerous. On the path we spotted one more snake and saw another in the trees. These creatures didnot dampen our spirits and we carried on with full josh in the jeep track. The path was really wonderful with lots of streams on the way to cross. The sun came down and we felt uneasy with our jerkin. So we decide to put the jerkin in our bags and deicded to walk. After an hour we were completely in the forest with no way of contacting anyone. At 8:00 am we took a break near the river to get fresh. After getting fresh , we walked on the track for another one and half hours without stopping and after that stopped for having breakfast near a stream. The stream water was chill and we enjoyed its chillness by washing our faces with the stream water. The bread packets got depleted fast as everyone was hungry after the intial walk. Even the leeches were hungry as we saw many leeches attacking us. So took the salt packet for our rescue and got rid of leeches. We did the leech clearing every 45 minutes and this happened for the entire trek.

Reaching the Kabbinale River
10:00 am to 12:00 noon

After having breakfast we started our walk at 10:00 am. While walking we were able to hear the chirp of birds and enjoyed the calmness of the forest. We also tried to talk silently so that we donot disturb any animal. The next part of the journey is to find the crossing of the river at the end of jeep track. We found that there were side tracks branching out from the main track .At that instance, three of us will go for 5 minutes in that side track and check whether there is a possible way, while the other people will wait at the junction. But we found that none of the tracks were leading to the proper way. So we decided to go by the main track. At some places there were trees on the tracks. So either we have to jump , bend or take a detour around the trees to go forward. After 2 hours of walking we reached the Kabbinale river crossing at 11:30 am. We were elited by the fact that we followed proper route in the forest to get to the river. By the time we reached the river many bottles were emptied by us as the humidity was very high and we were sweating like anything. So, we tasted the water in the river and as its name the water tasted sweet. We filled the bottles with the water and took snaps at that place and then crossed the river. The water was upto the hip and the current was not so much and this helped us cross the river easily.


Deep into the Forest
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm


Refreshing ourselves in the Kabbinale river, we started forward to move deep into the forest. We were walking at a good pace so as to cover maximum distance before lunch. Once in a while we stopped to get rid of leeches. At many places we saw dried elephant dung. We got more careful listening to the sounds and steeping into the heart of the dark dense forest. We could always hear the flow of water in the Addole river. (Addole river joins with Kabbinale river at the place where we crossed the Kabbinale river at the end of the jeep track). According to the map we were walking correctly, with the river flowing to our right. At 2:00 pm we reached a rocky place where the river flows down the rocks into the bed and there was no jeep track ahead. So, we decided to break there for lunch and decide the path to be taken post-lunch.

We ate happily the chappathis we had got along with jam and pickles. We cleaned up the leeches on the shoes and legs and took some rest there. At 2:30 pm we decided to start from there further. But the path ? Looking north we found some path which seemed to be a jeep track. (This is where we did a great mistake. The path which we took didnot go to Ombattu Gudda. At this place, we have to walk along the edge of the river for 5 minutes. then we can see a clear jeep track . that track will clearly lead us to Ombattu Gudda.)

The Unknown Path
2:30 pm to 5:30 pm


Seeing the small track on the north, we thought that as the proper track and continued our trek. The path went through bamboo trees and we found that there was undried elephant dung in that place. Scared by the thought of sighting elephants, we took every step with great care. At some places we could see the bamboo trees broken down (Elephants feed on Bamboo trees). We lost our track on the map too and we were going on the path , knowing only the direction of the path. There were trees fallen on the tracks and this made life complicated. To avoid the trees we had to go uphil for some distance and then comeback to the track. Jenny and Murali did a great job walking through the bushes leading us from the front. At 3:30 pm we came across fallen trees on our path and the idea of going further on this path was hampered. So we decided to climb uphill and tent there for the night. But we had only 3 hours before darkness takes over. The fight between us and the time had started from there and lasted till we reached Gundiya the next night.

The uphill climb was a very difficult , with the sides of the hill being very steep. There was no proper way up and we had to hold the branches and climb up. Time was running and we were against one of the worst enemy - the time. Some of them started to give up and took breaks often. The others encouraged them and got them on their feet. Till 5:15 pm we were not able to see the skies - so we were somewhere in the middle of the hill surrounded by thick cover of vegetation. To our relief at 5:30 pm we reached the top of the hill. But the enjoyment was not long lived as we were on the path used by elephants - long grasses on the sides - no means of spotting anyone 10 meters ahead. We had no other go , decided to camp there for the night. Tents were pitched up in minutes, while others collected dry grasses and wood to make campfire. We put the tents on the available flat surfaces and put mats inside the tents. Sleeping bags were taken out of the bags and put inside the tents.

The Dark Night in the Hill

Another mistake we did stared us at the time of sunset. We decided not to get petrol / kerosene and that had costed us a dark night in the middle of the forest. Unfortunately, that day was a no-moon day. With lighters put into action we tried to make campfire. All the efforts were in vain as we could not keep up the fire. At 7:30 pm we decided to pack the campfire idea and use candles. Two people will be awake for 2 and half hours and keep the candle burning throughout the night. We had our dinner at 8:00 pm and people started to go for sleep with only two among us awake. At that point Murali's cell phone rang. What a surprise !!! BSNL had coverage in that area. So I called my parents and talked to them from the top of the hill. Karthik and I were the first to be awake. Then we will wake Jenny and Murali at 11:30 pm . Prasanna and Deepesh will be for the final part till daylight from 2:00 am.

We were feeling very sleepy due to the walk , but the darkness and the sounds had kept us awake for our part of the vigilance at night. We talked about all the things sitting in the dark with torches in the hand, candle in the centre. After we lost all the topics and felt really dizzy, we woke up the next pair to take over the vigilance. We went to sleep at 11:45 pm. Nothing exceptional happened that night and at sunrise we thanked the God and over luck for getting us throught the night.

Sunday , October 3, 2005
Down the Hill

We welcomed the sunrise in the morning with joy. A good sleep has got back the strength back and we were amazed to see the mountain ranges from the hill. In the east we saw a mountain higher than where we were and that had to be Ombattu Gudda (some pictures in the blogs resembles the mountain we saw). We clicked some photos there in the hill , Ombattu Gudda, our tents, tall grasses around us and what else the beautiful sunrise. We packed our things and set out for another long day. We decided to go south and reach the bottom of the hill and then search a way out of the forest and reach Guniya checkpost.

We bid farewell to the place and started our downhill tour. This was even more difficult that the uphill climb as we had to be carefull no to fall when going down. Some small plants were uprooted in the process of getting hold, some small stones were moved out of place. A small stream emerged from the crack in a big rock. We thought to follow the stream as it would reach the main stream at some point.

Wherever the stream goes we also went

From about 10:00 am in the morning to 1:30 pm in the afternoon we were walking on the stream going over the rocks and places whereever the stream went. We didnot had breakfast and relied only on chocolates and juices. As the stream descended down more and more streams merged and it grew in size. The flow was good and it was possible for us to walk on the course of the stream. This experience was unmatched one with us walking on the slippery rocks and on the side of the stream (if we get a chance to spot any flat piece of land). After 3 hours of walking on water we reached a place where it merged with the main river. There was a proper jeep track on the left side of the stream. But we didnot want to take as it was in the opposite direction to Gundiya checkpost.

At 2:30 pm we sat on the pebbles on the bank of the river and had our lunch. The current was too much in the river and we were sure that we will not be able to cross the river. The stratergy at that point was to keep walking on the bank of the river so that we can spot any habitation. But till that time we had not spotted any. After lunch we were moving at snail's pace on the river side as the path was filled with rocks and some of them were slippery. After an hour we could have managed to move only few metres. But still we were going along the side of the river. At that instant we noticed that some people had camped on the other side of the river. We could see only the tents and no one was there in the tents. We whistled shouted , but it was of no use. At 3:45 pm we decided that we will climb the hill on the side of the river to camp there for the night and started to step into the forest.

At that point I gave one long whistle (just a try at last) and turned back. To everyone's surprise there were three men standing on the opposite side of the river. We asked them to come over to us so that we can talk . The sound of the river has made all the other sound unhearable. two of them swam acroos the river and came near us. We tried speaking to them in Kannada, but we could not express properly (no one in our group knows Kannada). Asked them whether they knew any other language and to our surprise they were Mallu guys. Jenny and Murali took over the precedings. Rope we got came in handy and we used it to cross the river with their help. Came to know that they were there for doing some Ayurvedic research (Thank God - they will be going to their town the next day).

- To be continued tomorrow.