Trek from Jenukallu Gudda to Shivaganga falls

April 13, 2014

Any day I would prefer bone-chilling cold or even rain to scorching sun during my treks. Apart from Ombattu Gudda trek and beach treks, I haven’t done treks post December in any trek season. So I was a bit weary when Pradeep Hegde invited me to join his group which was attempting to trek from Magod Falls to Shivaganga Falls during 1st weekend of April. I have visited both of these falls but the challenge in this trek was to follow and walk beside the river between these two falls. But the invitation was hard to resist as I would be venturing into Karnataka Western Ghats region in Uttara Kannada District for the first time. Moreover, I was just a participant in this trek as opposed to being an organizer in most of my treks which sometimes is easy.

Though I had booked the bus ticket till Yellapura, I got down at Sonda for a quick visit to my in-laws place, had a good breakfast and got myself dropped at Magod falls (around 35km from Sonda) in bike by my brother-in-law. While I waited at Magod for rest of the group to arrive, Pradeep asked to me instead come over to Jenukallu Gudda, a view point overlooking a valley and which is around 4km from Magod. Apparently a local had advised Pradeep to attempt the initial descent from Jenukallu Gudda since descending down the Magod falls will be difficult and will need ropes. Though our group was equipped with ropes, we decided to start with an easy descent. The group had 12 members: Pradeep, his neighbor Satheesh, Avinash, Venkataraghavan, Vinayak, Nagarjun, Bharath, Ravi, Naveen, Sriharsha, Abhishek and I. The original plan was to reach Bedti river at Magod, follow it downstream till it joins Shalmala River and continue following Shalmala river upstream until it reaches Shivaganga falls.

View from Jenukallu Gudda

View from Jenukallu Gudda

We started the descent from Jenukallu Gudda (470m) at 10.45AM. The descent was mostly steep with dry leaves on the forest floor making the descent a bit more challenging.  We lost altitude quickly and hit a jeep tack (80m) at 11.30AM. We took right deviation into the jeep track and started walking with the hope that we will reach the confluence of Bedti and Shalmala rivers along the way. After a few hundred meters into the track we could see a dried up river bed towards our left and we continued the walk for an hour or so under direct sun before reaching a Siddimane (A house belonging to Siddi tribe) at a village called Kelase. To our surprise, we learnt from Siddis that we are way ahead of the confluence point and are in fact walking in the opposite direction! At Siddimane, we took a break to prepare lemon juice since fresh water was available here.

Dried up river bed near Kelase village

Dried up river bed near Kelase village

At around 1.15PM, we reversed our direction, continued to make progress on the jeep track and reached another Siddimane at 2PM. We had a good lunch that included “Avalakki oggarane” from Pradeep’s house and “Masala Majjige” (butter milk) mixed with lemon grass. Post lunch, a Siddi boy briefly accompanied us till the river and after which we were on our own walking upstream along Shalmala river (after the confluence with Bedti) which had a good amount of water in it considering that it was summer. We were now on the right bank of the river and the path mostly consisted of boulders. The heat was a bit too much for me and the walk was made further difficult by the blisters I had all over the feet.

IMG_4763

We went past a few Siddis who were fishing and finally reached the confluence (125m) of Bedti and Shalmala at 4.45PM. While the confluence point had a bit of depth and hence calm waters, the Shalmala side had gushing water and was rocky.

The confluence of Bedti and Shalmala rivers

The confluence of Bedti and Shalmala rivers

Many of us spent some time cooling ourselves in Shalmala while most of the group had an extended river time at the confluence point. Swimming and breath-holding skills were at display: while Satheesh excelled in swimming and managed to crossover to the other bank, Vinayak could hold breath under water for more than 2min!

IMG_4774

Our camping site was on the river bed at the confluence point which already had arrangements for stove (made of stones), all we needed was to get some dry wood which was available in plenty. Boiled rice Ganji with pickle, curd and butter milk was on the menu. Ganji was so very filling and was a bit unusual for me since we usually stick to ready-to-eat stuff to keep the logistics simple in our treks. The night was cloudy and warm and sleeping inside the sleeping bag wasn’t an option for many.  There was even a light drizzle past midnight.

On Sunday morning, we got up fairly early and wanted to end the trek before noon to avoid the harsh summer sun. The combination of pickle and freshly obtained honey (given to us in the morning by Siddis from their night’s catch) gave a distinct flavour to yesterday’s Ganji and I could see Ganji was more in demand than the freshly prepared maggi noodles! We started upstream alongside Shalmala river at 8AM after a round of lemon tea with honey.

Shalmala river side was very rocky and we were mostly walking over huge boulders. We had to cross over to the opposite bank multiple times whenever forward progress on one bank was difficult or impossible. With the amount of water in the river in April, we mostly could negotiate the river without much difficulty and I am sure the challenges on this trail will be totally different if the water level was high. But we were facing a different challenge and that was the dry heat. The rate at which I was loosing water via sweat seemed to be more than the intake rate. Given that we were walking beside a river, there was never shortage of water fortunately.

River Shalmala

River Shalmala

At 10.30AM when I was feeling a bit down, we had a lemon juice break. I must have taken close to a litre and it really helped to get my energy levels back. Next we climbed over to a small hill only to realize that it was more difficult than a small jump over the rock that we were planning to originally avoid. Thus we had to backtrack and make progress over the boulders itself. The quest for the end (Shivaganga falls) continued and we kept making progress in the hot sun. I even reached a stage where I felt just drinking loads of water wasn’t helping me and had to resort to Glucose which Pradeep was carrying. I can’t remember when I had taken Glucose on a trek, must have been in the last decade, but such was the harshness of this trek for me.

Shivaganga falls

Shivaganga falls

Finally we reached the base of Shivaganga falls (270m) at 1PM where we consumed chapattis for lunch with Chatni pudi, jam and honey. Next it was a steep climb to reach the view point of the waterfalls (465m) from where we had hired a jeep. Thus ended one of the most difficult treks I have done in recent times. Though the trail distance and the terrain was manageable, the summer sun brought out a whole new challenge to the trek. I have done treks earlier in other extreme conditions like winter trek at -20°C in thigh deep snow, altitudes upwards of 5000m etc, but this summer trek in seemingly easy terrain turned to be a trek to remember as far as endurance is concerned.

Map of the route we took is here, courtesy Vinayak.

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Around Sonda Sirsi

December 24, 2008

I was mostly unaware of the natural beauty of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka until my marriage to Veena who hails from Sonda. Since then I have done quite a few visits to Sonda and visited numerous places around it and amazed by the tourist potential (still not fully tapped though) of this green district.

Sonda is small little village in the Sirsi taluk of Uttara Kannada district situated at a distance of around 450km from Bangalore and 20km from Sirsi. It is mostly known as a pilgrimage center due to the presence of three prominent Mutts: the Swarnavalli Mutt, the Vadiraj Mutt and the Jain Mutt. These attract hundreds of pilgrims mostly through out the year. The green surroundings, typical to the Malnad area of Sonda and Sirsi add to the serenity of these places of religious importance.

Here are some of the places I have visited around Sonda, Sirsi, since last 3 years. Please note that all distances mentioned here are mostly approximate.

Madhukeshwara Temple, Banavasi
Sahasralinga, Sonda
Magod Waterfall
Unchalli Waterfall
Satoddi Waterfall
Sonda Kote
Muttinakere Venkataramana Temple
Hunasehonda Venkataramana Temple
Shivagange Waterfall
Mundige Kere Bird Sanctuary
Yana

Madhukeshwara Temple, Banavasi

Banavasi, which was once the capital of Kadamba rulers is situated at around 20km from Sirsi. The village road from Sirsi to Banavasi is very picturesque with green fields all round. There are a few sugarcane fields also which set up the traditional sugarcane crushing units for preparing jaggery (called Aalemane in Kannada) during Jan-Feb. If you are here during this time, you would want to stop by one of these places. You would be offered generous quantities of sugarcane juice straight out of Aalemane. One should taste this know how this differs from the cane juice available in the cities.

The 9th Century Madhukeshwara temple of Banavasi is dedicated to Shiva. It is a fairly big temple and is well protected.

Madhukeshwara Temple, Banavasi
Madhukeshwara Temple, Banavasi

The ornate pillars add to the beauty of the temple. Just outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, a stone structure is placed which looks like a throne or a couch.

Stone Throne

There is a beautiful bull (Nandi) in front of Shiva but interestingly it appears to be watching Parvati who is present in the adjoining temple.

Nandi

The temple campus has many beautiful stone idols of Gods and Goddesses.

Idol

Sahasralinga, Sonda

River Shalmala flows quite close to my in-laws house in Sonda. I have to just cross a few arecanut farms and paddy fields to reach the well known pilgrimage center in the river Shalmala called Sahasralinga. The place gets its name from the numerous (Sahasra = thousand) Lingas carved on the rocks of Shalmala river. Lingas with Nandi of all shapes and sizes can be seen here, some of them dislodged due to the force of water flow. It is better to visit this place when the water level is low when all the Lingas become visible.

Sahsralinga

Sashralinga

Sahasralinga, is approachable from Hulgol, on Sirsi-Yellapur road at around 15km from Sirsi. This place becomes a center of activity on Mahashivaratri day when people throng here to offer Pooja.

Sahasralinga

Magod Waterfall

Magod waterfall is formed by river Bedti which falls in two steps forming two falls. Though one could use an interior village route (Sonda – Upleshwara Cross – Magod Road – Magod Waterfall) to reach this waterfall from Sonda, the ideal way to reach this is from Yellapur which is around 50km from Sirsi. After traveling on NH63 from Yellapur for around 5km towards Ankola, there is a deviation on the left which goes to Magod Waterfall. The waterfall is around 15km from here. The road is reasonably well maintained and one can drive up the falls in a 4 wheeler.

Magod Waterfall (Sept)
Magod

Magod waterfall is visible at some distance from the viewpoint in the valley. From here, it is not possible to reach the base of the waterfall.

Magod

Magod Waterfall (June)
Magod

A nearby place to visit along with Magod waterfall is the Jenukallu gudda viewpoint from where River Kali is visible.

View from Jenukallu
Jenukallu

If you take the interior road from Sonda to Magod waterfall via Upleshwara, you could visit the Kavdekere en route which has a big lake and a temple.

Unchalli Waterfall

River Aghanashini forms a spectacular waterfall called Unchalli waterfall in a deep jungle. To reach this waterfall, start from Sirsi on Sirsi – Kumta road and reach Aminhalli (around 14km).  From here a left deviation leads to a village called Heggarne (around 19km from Aminhalli). The road is decent until Heggarne. From Heggarne one has to travel around 2-3km on a jeep track to reach the viewpoint of the waterfall. This last stretch is distance is best done in a hired vehicle or by walk.

Unchalli waterfall
Unchalli

From the viewpoint the falls is visible at a distance. Steps have been built from here to another viewpoint still down the valley which is built directly opposite the waterfall. The water flows down at a great force  raising up a cloud of water drops that could easily drench anyone at the viewpoint. It is common to find leeches in this area. Again one can’t reach the base of the waterfall from this viewpoint easily.

Unchalli

Visit to Unchalli waterfall can be clubbed with a visit to Benne HoLe waterfall which is approachable from a village called Nilkunda, around 14km from Heggarne. From Nilkunda one has to walk around 2km and descend down a valley to reach the waterfall. We tried doing this in September and were unsuccessful. The descent down the valley was so difficult and full of leeches that Veena and I got lost halfway, while the rest of the group went down. With so many leeches around, we had no option but to rush uphill. So no photos of this waterfall 😦

Satoddi Waterfall

Satoddi waterfall is formed by River Kali(or may its tributary) and is situated in Yellapur district. To reach this, start on Yellapur-Hubli highway (NH63), proceed around 2-3km and take a left turn into what is called Bisgod road. From here, proceed around 20-25km to reach a place called Kattige which has a Ganesha Temple. From Kattige Ganesha temple it is around 8-10km of jeep track to the waterfall.

Satoddi Waterfall
Satoddi

I visited this waterfall with my brother-in-law in September in a motorbike and it needed all the village-riding skills of my brother-in-law to negotiate the final few kilometers of slushy road. Even walking would on this road would be difficult with so much of slush all around. But all the effort is worth as this is one of the waterfalls whose base can be easily approached.

Satoddi

This waterfall is present upstream after the backwaters of the Kodasalli dam.

Backwaters of Kodasalli dam
Kodasalli dam

Sonda Kote

Sonda was once a royal city ruled by Swadi Kings and one can still see some of the remains at various places around Sonda. One such place is the Sonda Kote which is present on the banks of River Shalmala. Though it is called Kote, I couldn’t find any fort here. It looks more like a place where some royal remains have been protected by ASI. A small temple, a few cannons and a decorated single stone Kallina Mancha (Stone Cot) are preserved here.

View at Sonda Kote
Sonda Kote

Kallina Mancha at Sonda Kote
Sonda Kote

Muttinakere Venkataramana Temple

Muttinakere is a small lake in Vaja Gadde area of Sonda. Alongside this lake is a small but beautiful 17th Venkataramana temple built in Vijayanagara style. This temple has been renovated and is well maintained. A visit to this temple is worth if you are in Sonda. Daily pooja is performed here.

Muttinakere Temple
Muttinakere temple

Carvings on temple wall
Muttinakere temple

An abondoned temple near Muttinakere
Muttinakere

Hunasehonda Venkataramana Temple

This is another small temple present in Sonda dedicated to Venkataramana. To reach this temple, from Kamatgeri in Sonda, proceed towards Sirsi for around 1km and take a left deviation and proceed another 1km on the un-asphalted road. There is a lake alongside the temple. The carvings on the temple walls are interesting. Daily pooja is performed in this temple.

Hunasehonda Temple
Hunasehonda temple

Shivagange Waterfall

This waterfall is formed by River Shalmala (As far as I know). The approach to this waterfall is from a place called Hulekal, which is around 13km from Sirsi towards Sonda and 5km from Sonda towards Sirsi. From Hulekal, take the Jaddigadde road and travel for around 25km to reach Jaddigadde. From here it is around 2-3km on a Jeep track which is best negotiated by walk or a two wheeler.

Shivagange Waterfall
Shivagange

A viewpoint has been built from where the waterfall is visible at a distance. Me and my Uncle tried to descend down the valley to get closer to the falls but after a while found it too hard to negotiate the thick forest growth in the monsoon season. So had to return satisfied by the long-distance view of the waterfall.

Shivagange

Mundige Kere Bird Sanctuary

There is a small lake called Mundige Kere in Sonda which attracts hundreds of birds (mostly Cranes as per my very limited knowledge about birds) in June.  I am not sure if this can be called a sanctuary, but is definitely a place is worth visiting when you in Sonda and have some time to spare. From Kamatgeri in Sonda, proceed a few yards towards Yellapur and take a right deviation near Kasapal primary school and proceed a 1km further.

Mundige Kere
Mundige Kere

Yana

Yana has become a very popular tourist spot now with hundreds visiting it in the weekends. So no more details except for a few photographs.

Rocks of Yana
Yana

Yana

Yana

– with inputs from Veena Bhat, Vinayak Bhat, M S Bhat and Krishnamoorthy Bhat.