Trekking in Charmadi: Amedikal

The month of October had been quiet without any treks as our planned trek to Charmadi was getting postponed due to rains in the Ghats. While I had covered Kodekallu, Jenukallu, Barekallu and Kallarabhi falls during my first trek to Charmadi and Minchukallu and Dondale falls during the second trek, we were aiming at Amedikallu this time. After much waiting and postponing we decided to ignore the weather forecasts, and explore the Ghats during the 3rd weekend of November. This time we were a group of 7: Me, Veena, Ananth, Gautham, Naren, Ashok and Ramya. Expect for Naren, Gautham and Ananth, others had at least one experience with the Charmadi Ghats.
Ashok,Ramya,Veena with Amedikallu in the background(3 stones and turtle-shaped rock can be seen)
Amedikallu
As usual we boarded a bus to Dharmastala on Friday night. We were supposed to get down at a place called Kokkada which is 15km before Dharmastala on Bangalore-Hassan-Sakaleshpur-Dharsmatala route. But due to traffic jam on that road, our bus took us directly to Dharmastala via Modigeri-Ujire route. Our local contact from Shishila village, Gopu Gokhale had sent a jeep to pick us from Dharmastala itself. We then traveled to Kokkada and further 18km from Kokkada to reach Shishila village. Gopu Gokhale’s house was our base camp. After a refreshing bath, we had a nice breakfast at his place. At around 10.45AM, after a 30min jeep drive from Shishila we finally reached the starting point of the trail to Amedikallu (~250m). We had our first animal sighting on the road itself when the driver had to apply the brakes hard to let go a passing snake! We were being led by two guides: Chennappa and Kumara. Though the weather forecast for Saturday was rain, the sky was holding up, but it was very cloudy. With no direct sun, it appeared to be a perfect weather to start an arduous trek.

View1

Amedikallu is one of the significant peaks of Charmadi range and apart from the route we were taking, there is at least a couple of other approaches to this peak. The name Amedikallu is a combination of two words: Ame – Turtle and dikkel – Tulu word for Stove. Amedikallu has a huge monolith at the top which appears like a giant turtle and 3 huge stones which give an appearance of a stove. The initial trail was through a fairly dense forest, but the trail itself was pretty wide. That was because the trail was being used by the forest department quite frequently and they had even planted quite a few saplings in the area, may be as part of reforestation. After a while the trail narrows down, the forest cover increases and the climb becomes steeper. The weather was humid as expected and by the time we take our first break, most of us are drenched, not due to rains but because of sweat. Even Gautham who belongs to the neighbouring Karkala wasn’t spared from sweat. We witnessed a complete skeleton of an animal probably killed and consumed by a carnivore.
A view of Yerikallu(appearing pointed towards right) in the background
view2

The forest had leeches but not too many to bother us really. More than leech, it was mosquitoes which were troubling us. At around 12PM, we come out of the forest cover and entered the grasslands (~600m). That’s when Amedikallu peak becomes visible clearly. All along the route, the other nearby peak, Ettina Bhuja (meaning Ox’s shoulder in Kannada) remains visible. For the next 3 hours we climb continuously, mostly through grasslands. The grass was dense throughout and it was head-high at many places. This part of the trek would have been doubly tough if there were no clouds to guard us from Sun. As we reach higher, many surrounding mountains become visible; Minchukallu, Yerikallu, Ettina Bhuja to name a few. We had many photo-breaks throughout this climb. While the married ones were searching for that next good photograph to fit the frame, the eligible bachelors were busy photographing themselves to get that one good shot to help them in bride hunting.

An other view

view3

At around 3PM, we had reached the base of the 3 stones (dikkel). We finished lunch here. We had Chapattis with MTR side dishes for the main course and biscuits with jam for the deserts. One could camp here for the night but it would take considerable effort to fetch water from the nearest water source. But since nothing can compensate for the feeling of reaching the absolute peak, we decided to move ahead. The target was to reach the top of the huge turtle shaped monolith rock from here. But since the rock facing us had 90degrees gradient, we had to cross over to the other face of the rock by walking along its side through the dense forests. The moment we entered the forest growth, we were completely cut out from the rest of the world. The growth was thick and since we were the first ones to take this route to the peak for this season, we had to make our way through the forest.

Making our way through the forest growth
Making our way up

The guides led us excellently from the front by clearing out the forest growth. While we were climbing an Indian Sambar rushed down making big noise. Only Ramya could catch a glimpse of it through the thick vegetation. The commotion created by Sambar disturbed a squirrel which was spotted by Naren and he claimed it to be a red tailed malabar squirrel. It was 5PM by the time we came out of the woods and entered grasslands again. Now we were at the back side of the turtle-shaped rock and it took another 30min of difficult climb to reach the peak.
view4

We had finally reached the camping ground which is about 25m below the absolute peak. Our guides suggested that we camp at the absolute peak on the rocks. So we had to again do some climbing on the barren rocks this time. Except for Ashok, Naren and myself, others in the group were pretty new to climbing on rocks. With some effort we finally made it to the peak with all our backpacks and tents. My altimeter was measuring 1250m, so we had gained an altitude of 1000m while covering a trial distance of probably 6-8km. While we sat down to enjoy the surrounding views, the guides went down looking out for a water source. We just had enough time to prepare refreshingly hot tomato soup before it become dark and started to drizzle. Ashok’s 4-men tent was quickly out and we managed to pitch it up on the only stretch of grass present at the peak adjacent to a rock. Though we had another 2-men tent; there was not enough space to really pitch it. The dinner was finished in a hurry under a rock. Though we had carried stove and utensils, the conditions weren’t suitable for any kind of cooking.

Our camping ground (we spent the night below this rock)
camping ground

After dinner the rain stopped but it had become very windy. Without other options, 7 of us occupied the 4-men tent and tried to catch some sleep. But for some of us, it quickly became unbearable. Naren and I decided to brave the winds rather than getting cramped inside the tent. Soon we were out with our bed sheets and occupied an opening below a rock. The opening below the rock was so small that we could only lie down. Though the rock provided us some shelter from the rain, we were thoroughly exposed to winds from 3 sides. It was a Herculean effort to keep the bed sheet in position due to high velocity winds. We managed to get some sound sleep until 11.30PM when we were woken up by the flowing water under our mats. Parts of our bed sheets were wet by this time. We then realized that it was raining heavily. But we didn’t have any options apart from staying put under the rock. From then on until morning we got up every hour, adjusted the bed sheets and tried to sleep again. The situation wasn’t any comfortable for those in the tent. Water seeped in and they had to hold on to the tent frames to make sure that tent doesn’t collapse.

Early morning view
Early morning view

Finally our ordeal ended at 6AM when it became bright outside. The place looked nothing short of any heaven. We were above the clouds and we could see the lower mountain ranges completely covered by clouds. This was closest to Ksheerasagara (metaphor to ocean of milk in Kannada/Sanskrit) that I have seen. We could even see our own shadows getting formed on the moving clouds at a great distance. Occasionally the moving clouds would result in a completely circular rainbow. Sometimes the clouds would cover us entirely and reduce the visibility to a few meters. Thus our morning at the peak turned out to be colorful and spectacular.

clouds

Since we didn’t have much water left, we decided to postpone breakfast until we reach a water source. By 8AM we started getting down. Since it had rained in the night, the ground had become very slippery. By 9AM we had reached the point where we had lunch yesterday. We took a long break here. We started with tea, had Chapattis and finally ended with jam. There was no water here also. Guides had to bring water from a far off distance. Water can be a concern for trekkers here. Unless accompanied by guides who are willing to fetch water from far off valleys, it can be difficult. In fact in this whole trail, except for one place, I didn’t see any water source. It was always the guides disappearing into forests and brining us water.
Ocean of clouds
Ocean of clouds

From here onwards it was a continuous descent through the grassland. This time we were not fortunate to have cloud protection and were directly exposed to Sun. It was a pretty tiring descent in hot and humid conditions. Looking back, it would have been very tough had we encountered this weather during our ascent. This time we could spot a Sambar grazing at a distance clearly. As it usually happens in all treks, during the last lap through the forests, we literally had to drag our feet to move forward. We managed to reach the end of the trail at 2PM. A jeep sent by Gopu Gokhale picked us up and dropped us at his place. Gopu Gokhale served us luxurious lunch on plantain leaves. After such a sumptuous lunch Naren, Ashok and I decided to take bath in the River Kapila which flows adjacent to Gopu Gokhale’s farm. It was a soothing experience exposing our tired bodies to the cool flowing waters of Kapila. While we were relaxing, the fish were busy cleaning our wounds from leech bites.

Surrounding mountains

From Shishila we went to Dharmastala in a jeep. We visited Shishileshwara temple on the way. The temple is on the banks of Kapila river. One can feed fish here and we could see hundreds of them fighting for the rice which people offered. The fish have grown so fearless that they come and fetch the rice directly from our hands.

Dharmastala was crowded to the brink as the Lakshadeepotsava (festival of a lakh lights) was to happen the next day. As always we had food in the temple and left for Bangalore in the night.

To those who want to do this trek:

– Gopu Gokhale in Shishila provides excellent service including arranging for guides, transportation, food and even probably stay.
– Camping at the peak is not such a good idea. 25m below the peak there is a fairly decent camping ground.
– Amedikallu is not a day’s trek if you are serious about reaching the peak. Excluding breaks, it took us 6hrs for ascent and 5hrs for descent. Of course we took a bit more during ascent since we had to make our way through the forest towards the end.
– Water availability can be a problem in this trek. Be sure to hire a local guide who knows where to find water.

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