Friday, April 7, 2017

Bandajey Waterfalls - Trek to a Gem of Western Ghats

Bandajey Arbi... I never heard of this waterfall (Arbi in Tulu language means waterfall) before. A few weeks ago, friend Jeewan Prakash asked if I am interested in trekking to this hidden gem of the mighty Western Ghats. I said fine..

A few weeks later, here we were.. sitting on top of a 200 feet+ waterfall, in the middle of a thick evergreen forest!! Life time experience to say the least..


In summer the falls has less water, so we literally sat in the middle of the waterfalls. When there is more water during rainy season, where we sat is the center of a 50 plus 150 feet drop main water fall :) Call it craziness or adrenaline rush...


Now that's something you want to do.. at least some of you reading this. Right?

I will tell you how to do it.  It is not easy, but it is doable. If I can climb there, you can too.

Pick the right team:
I would say ours was a perfect team. You need a Captain (Cp) and a Vice Captain (VC) who plan meticulously. Then you need a pace setter (Ps), a body builder (Bb), a photo expert (Ph), a stud for all tough occasions (St), two expert chefs (Ch and Ch), an expense master (Em), a story teller (St), a multi language singer (Sg),  and finally someone to blog (Bl) the whole thing! These are only some of the primary traits that were displayed, and each person is a big time multi tasker ;)


Essentially a cricket team plus a commentator :)

Hard things first - Plan meticulously:
Right from the tempo traveler, to the forest permission, to maps, to eating and drinking needs, to cloths, to guide, to health tips, to fitness preparation.. our Captain and Vice Captain did wonderfully well! It takes a few weeks to plan everything.

Preparation - Do NOT ignore this section:
  • Do this trek only if all your team members can walk 20 KM in 24 hours (with breaks of course). Do not go in small teams. You should have at least 6 people. A multi talented cricket team size is ideal.
  • You will have to climb at least 3500 feet in altitude, maybe 4000 depending upon your route. If you take 10 feet as one floor of a typical Indian home, with 18 small steps, we are talking of climbing 350 floors of a typical home, or climbing 6300 steps!! My suggestion. If you haven't climbed a few 1000 steps or a medium size hill before, try that first and then go to Bandajey. This is a hard trek. So you should be able to walk about 20KM and climb at least 6000 steps, before you should attempt this.
  • You should be able to light fire by yourself and cook something that you can carry yourself. Remember, there is NO human settlement within half a day's climb or walk from this place. This area has elephants, wild boars and wild buffaloes. No fire, no security. Also, you should be able to assemble firewood yourself.
  • Take a guide. Take forest permission. Google for the most current numbers and permission fees. Contact Jeewan Prakash on FB or leave a comment here with your email for further help. I can give you more info via email. If you make one wrong turn around a tree or boulder, you will get lost. No water and no food can kill you in these deep jungles. Do NOT attempt without a guide.
  • Carry more food and water than you need for 24 to 36 hours. It is OK to sweat a bit and carry extra load, than run out of water or food. At any point, each person should have 4 liters of water with him/her. You will get water only in 2 places where you cut across the tributary of Netravati river. Refill (with cloth as filter) every bottle. We did not see water source anywhere else during our 20+ KM trek.
  • Carry the best trekking shoe. Don't do the mistake that I did of hiking in running shoes. Carry a sleeping bag per person. Carry a knife for help and protection. Carry pain killers and muscle spray. Carry rubber bands, small tying thread, hats, monkey cap for night, powerful torches, preferably head band torch, fully charged mobile phones (though you get very little signal), a compass, an extra pair of light slippers, one light set of extra cloth, hiking sticks, mugs (water for nature's call), good cameras, bluetooth speaker for camp fire dance, light pataki (if you see elephants), lot of light snacks and dry fruits, raw carrots & cucumbers, sweet potato/corn/potato/onion for barbecue, noodles for main food, soup for energy, other things as per your need. Divide the entire supplies among yourselves so that no one carries more than 15 KG on back. It's a tough trek and when we went during summer it was 35'C+ heat! 
  • If you are trekking after rainy season, ask the guide for more protection like leech protection. 
  • Develop your own emergency contact mechanism. Particularly when trekking, develop some shouting mechanism, so that your other team behind or forward, can respond from even half a KM away. We had "eeee.. ooo..." and "oooo.. yeee'' shout. Watch the videos to hear that.

Now that you planned well, the fun part.. the actual climbing 
.. and enjoying one of the best hidden secrets of mother nature!

Divide your trek into 2 days. I have shown here the satellite view of the Western Ghats and where you will be moving approximately. The guide will take care of the actual route.

Try to get good sleep the previous night either in the vehicle or in a hotel. Do not drink alcohol. Keep well hydrated and eat lots of carb (rice, Idly, Neer Dose...). Your starting point would be Gowdara Mane (Gowda's house) near Mundaje village 5 KM from Ujire town. Search for ಮುಂಡಾಜೆ, ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ Pin code 574228. Travel leisurely and have good fun before the trek. We traveled overnight from Bengaluru and it took us 8 hours. Your mood should be very positive. Tip.. pick one of the KSRTC bus stand washrooms on the way for answering nature's calls.



Day 1 - 10 AM  
All set.. let's start. Group picture at Gowdara Mane. Get your guide. Fill forest forms. Pay fees. Take permission. Eat well, drink as much water as you want. Then start. Our Captain Jeewan (Cp) and Vice Captain Bharath (VC) had meticulously got our bags with all essentials, even before our first group picture!



The first 2 hours would be a lot of fun. Thick evergreen forest and you will be enjoying the scenery a lot. Take lots of pictures. Walk as fast as you can. Remember, you can rest later, but this is a good warmup stretch. At the same time, do not let anyone get leg cramps. Rest where needed. You have enough time, unless it is raining.

 

Day 1 -  1 PM: 
I was dripping wet with sweat... was getting very tired. And just then we heard water sound. You can't believe how happy we were! We literally enjoyed like children at this stream. This is the same tributary of Netravati that falls at the top from Bandajey falls. Joins Netravati a few KM downstream. Even on a hot summer day, the water was cold and felt like Amrita! Drink as much water as you can here. Fill up all your bottles again (use cloth as filter if needed).


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoTofo2JXAU

Day 1 - 4 PM
This is the toughest time. You are almost out of heavy woods. Now you are getting into bald mountain tops. And it looks close, but it keeps getting steeper and tougher. And, you have to reach the waterfalls before it becomes dark. This is where the Pace Setter Anoop (Ps) and Body Builder Mahesh (Bb) becomes important. They push the teams and make you bring out your best, in time, so that you reach the destination for the night quickly.




Day 1 - 6 PM
When you reach close enough to the falls, you will hear the water. But you won't be able to see quickly which path to take to the falls. The guide will help you here. It's another 10 minutes of steep climb and there you have.. Bandajey water falls! After a full day of trek, your joy would be unbelievable!

After taking a well deserved bath in the chilly waters of Netravati river's tributary, you are all excited to take a lifetime view from Bandajey water fall's top. Have a nice cold bath in the perfect jungle settings.

Watch this video for the view from top of the falls.
Be careful.. be careful.. be careful. when taking videos or photos.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ma_YQgFfJ0

Then chill as much as you want seeing the sunset and clicking 100s of nice pictures and videos. Have song and dance on top of the falls. Scream as loud as you want. No one will hear you! You are in one of the most secluded places on this planet, with only animals and plants witnessing your song and dance. An entire day's effort would be rewarded with the fun you will have here. Oh.. don't forget to carry the longest possible selfie stick you can find. This is the place for selfie stick! Our expert photographer Lokesh (Ph) got us the best views, with pics clicked by Praveena, using the self stick brought in by Mahesh.




Day 1 - 8 PM
Cooking time! Remember the expert chefs that I introduced earlier. They would make sure that all the hungry stomachs get enough soups, noodles, sweet potatoes, potatoes and more. Prathap (Ch) and Lohith (Ch) were outstanding! Of course, everyone helps in the cooking process, starting with the guide who gets firewood and starts the fire. Remember, if you can't get good fire, you will have lot of difficulties next day. If it rains, be ready with some plastic covers, and some packet food for time being. We were super lucky though!!


And, nothing like hearing deep thoughts on Karna from Mahabharata, from our story teller Praveena (St).

Day 1 - Midnight
While sleeping in the night, try to keep one person awake or near the fire. If you carried any sound making equipment like light crackers, keep them handy. You never know when a thirsty elephant or buffalo approaches your camp site. We had our experienced guide who woke up at 2 AM to light bigger fire to keep us warm, and also to keep animals away.



Day 2 - 7 AM
We were lucky to have enough supplies left for the morning too. The one sleeping in the middle of the ground, next to the red shirt stud (St), is me. It is difficult to sleep on a forest floor with small stones and pebbles making difficult, but it is a rare and wonderful experience. The previous night's dance around campfire would have made you even more tired. And nothing like bed sweet potato, roasted in the left over fire!

Now without getting into more details, just be ready to answer your nature's calls, right in wide open nature :)

Before you leave the camp fire site, please make sure that you pick up all the waste things, particularly plastic and carry with you. Do not leave any fire out carelessly. Save the forest!






Day 2 - 9 AM
 After an amazing effort of guiding us, lifting luggage when needed, bringing in firewood, showing us swimming areas, helping us cook food, keeping us warm with fire at night, and keeping wild animals away, our guide Ganesh Naik had to return home to Mundaje. So with tremendous thankfulness we said goodbye to him. Remember, this man climbs this mountain every week, and he can do in 1.5 hours!! A real Indian stud... If you want him as guide, contact us in comments, or on Facebook. He directed us for remaining trail, and headed back.




Soon, we were on our own, heading towards Durgada Halli village at the base of next mountain. But on the way, you will see dozens of world class views. Clouds, prairies, fully bald hills, windy cliffs, steep descent, patches of forest... In western ghats, once are above 3500 feet, finding trees is tough. The terrain becomes like grassland and weather windy and tough.

Here is one video while moving to next mountain.
Trekking on the way to Balla Rayana Durga.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_atTVcV4nlY

You can dance, you can sing.. you can have leisurely fun as you know that your destination is just 4 hours away - provided you don't lose the way. Keep enough water and snacks all the way. Don't empty things ahead of time.



Day 2 - 11 AM
Maidhadi View Point or Phantom Hill. This is in my view the BEST view point. Clouds hitting the mountains, steep cliffs.
On a good day, you can view 50 KM towards Kudare mukha mountain range in Chikkamagaluru district.

You will be at around 4000 feet above sea level and literally above clouds!
 
Just be a bit careful.. the vertical drop will be least 500 feet if one slip happens.

This is how the heavenly view is from this point! See the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbllolGxoRk


Day 2 - 12 PM
Finally reached the highest point of the trek. The Ballarayana Durga. Ballaraya was a Hoysala Empire's chieftain sometime around 800 years ago. The durga or fort is named after him. 

Click this link to see the video with Praveena's commentary ->
https://goo.gl/photos/nwWscirEo5TQ7Vj69

Standing behind the fort, we could observe a longer version of the fort, which resembled from a distance the Great Wall of China! At this point, you will get 100s of thoughts. How did our ancestors maintain a fort here. How did they defend it. The terrain is vast and harsh. In any direction if you have to get to a village nearby, it takes a lot of time. During monsoon season, it would be so tough to get here. Life would have been tough for chieftains and Kings/Queens trying to protect the Western Ghats landscape, where peaks are 4000 to 6000 feet tall! Remember, Western Ghats is India's tallest mountain range outside Himalayan territory.



Day 2 - 2 PM
After a tough 36 hours of trek, you are coming back to civilization, via a mini forest again. We had fantastic conversations from Vedanta to Cosmology on the way. Enjoy your journey! Make sure you have your driver's number handy and arrange ahead of time for pickup near Durgada Halli. There is no facility here after a long and tiring trek. Your driver and vehicle must be here on time.



Finally we are back to human civilization!

Then.. we drove 40 KM to Horanadu from there. Here our multi language Singer Karanth (Sg) kept us entertained with nice songs. There we took bath in Bhadra river and then took darshan of Annapurneshwari Mata. Of course, nice anna prasada they give in the temple to end our long trek.


On the way back to Bengaluru, more fun and conversations. Our Stud Jaya Shekhara (St) took us through history of Cuba and south America. Our Expense Master Vivek (Em) made sure everything is computed by Jeewan and Prathap accurately.


You can watch more pictures here:
https://goo.gl/photos/Ty9nkTuGTTfRxjUA7

In one video, the entire trek to Bandajey waterfalls summed up here in a minute.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwVoZu7x1sE

Here is another short summary of the whole trek in 90 seconds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvifxddTtRw


Vehicle cost from Bengaluru - Rs. 14000....
Food, Water and Other cost - Rs. 14000.... 
Meticulous planning, training and preparation -  21 days.... 
But the view you see from the top rock of Bandajey water fall... PRICELESS!!

There are some things money can buy.. for everything else, go trekking :)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Airline Displays at Bengaluru Airport

This one would be a very quick blog post, with pictures. And less words compared to my earlier blog entries.

During the past two moves through Bengaluru's Kempe Gowda International Airport, I noticed this. A few weeks ago, heard the same in a talk at Munnota bookstore in Bengaluru. So I told myself, why not? Let's really check how different airlines are advertising themselves via their airport counters. 

As of 2016, Kempegowda Airport in Bengaluru (BIAL) is the third busiest airport by passenger traffic in India, behind the airports in Delhi and Mumbai. It handled over 2.22 crore passengers in 2016 with little less than 500 aircraft movements per day! The airport also handled about 314,060 tonnes (346,190 short tons) of cargo. So in short, I am talking of a very busy airport in India, which does fantastic commercial business.

So these airlines operating from the third busiest airport of India, based in the capital of Karnataka, must be eager to get your business and mine. So I went to 12 airline counters next to departure and arrival gates. There may be more, but let's use these 12 as comparative examples.

Here is India's most used domestic airline today. Indigo.


                                Next, Jet Airways..

                                Then, Go Air.
Then walked over to Air Asia.

                                   Then to SpiceJet..
                              Followed by Air Costa

Then the newcomer TruJet.

              Lastly to Vistara another small domestic airline.

Those are the 8 domestic airline counters that I visited.

Then I went to a few international airline counters, starting with the popular German airline Lufthansa.



                     Then Air Arabia.. from West Asia.

                                           Later Air France / KLM from Europe.
There might be more international counters, but I was tired and wanted to just get home.

And finally, our dearest "India's National Carrier" Air India's counter.

Now... Did you observe carefully the 12 pictures posted above?

1) ALL the 12 display boards at airport counters of these airlines, had English prominently displayed. That's because English is the language of business in Bengaluru for white collar crowd, and no one doubts it.

2) Eleven out of the 12 display boards had a small Kannada writing. Kannada is the state official language where this airport is situated, and all the businesses respect the state language by putting a small mention of their name in Kannada. Those who can't read English, will use this. Though for most part it is ornamental in small font as most get their business done with English writing only.

3) Only ONE airline put Hindi in the display. That too with equal size font as English, and positioned above English. Also, this was the ONLY airline which did not put Kannada on the main counter display. And most importantly, this was the ONLY airline whose staff is paid salary using the tax money generated from Karnataka.

I wonder....
  • It is not about for one language or against one language. But how come 11 airlines, including the French, Arabian and German ones understand the basic business etiquette of Bengaluru, but India's "national carrier" does not? 
  • Don't the Air India staff who work at the airport see other boards right next to them daily, and ask themselves.. how come we are ignoring Kannada and putting Hindi on the board, while none of the other airlines, including those from France, Germany or Arabia are doing it?
  • If Air India has to put Hindi display, let them put it. I don't think most people will have any issue with it. If you observed, Air Arabia from UAE is putting Arabic display in Karnataka and no one has issue with it. But Air Arabia is also having common sense to put a prominent Kannada display on the same board!

This is a classic example where business is NOT the primary purpose, but promotion and demotion of languages is... Very disappointed with this irresponsible attitude of Air India and more so because my tax money is paying such people's salary :(