25 March 2008

Trekking through the Sharavathi valley

Usually people ask me why I go on a trek. I simply show them the photographs and they calm down. Some think it’s a risky enterprise. And there are some others who consider trekking in Sahyadris is not challenging at all… I simply invite them to Sharavathi valley, to trek with me. And after one expo, they admonish me for the same!

Sharavathi valley is a collective vast area that bears the streams which culminate in the majestic Sharavathi. The Sharavathi River is responsible for the lights we switch on every evening, the electricity that we use. She is huge, gentle, homely, beautiful, attractive and effervescent. Her effervescent charm is on display at the Jog falls, where she rushes down with an unprofaned descant. The Linganamakki dam that is built across her is huge to be believed, and is used for the sole purpose of electricity generation, and the amount of electricity generated here reaches out to 75% of Karnataka. The local people call her “Nadigella belaku koduva thaayi” (Mother who lights up every house in the country!)

She is powerful, and so is her land, rich with the evergreen forest, picturesque mountain range, rare variety of medicinal herbs and the fauna ranging from rabbits to leopards. All are living in the abode of this Mother, peacefully and contentedly.

As I said before, to seek peace I go here, to enshrine myself I go here, to educate myself about the pleasures of being alive I go here!!

The experience of being in a place that has pure air to covet, abundant water to consume, magical views to entertain, full view of the starry night sky, the naked land clothed in green by a thick layer of forest, is unique and is reserved for no words.

I have trekked thru the magnanimous Sharavathi valley many a times in the last two years, starting with a trek to the Meghane peak, till the very recent exploration thru the forests of Kanur. Each trek is independent in its offering, to an invader, from the other.

Meghane is the highest peak in the whole range of Sharavathi valley, from where we get to see a rave view of the Arabian Sea, only during the sunset (!). Kanur has an exciting fort not known to many. It is in such a pathetic condition that one wonders whether it was built in old-stone age.

There is another place called Basavanabayi, a temple on top of a high-land hill, beautiful in its own measure, with a small waterfall behind it, a stream running straight across the temple. Birds visiting here, I have not seen anywhere else.

I am a no botanist, a no zoologist; I am a no poet, a no proseist; but only a prosiest. Yet, the experience I gain by being with these here is magical. I forget my being when I’m here, in this Almighty’s abode, God’s own house.

I get to walk whole day over the grasslands, inside the shoals, thru the green bed of forests, climbing the mountains, over the dead trees, above the bear foot marks, touching the butterflies, hugging the slopes, hating the thorny groves, loving the vines spread on the pines.

How to get energized when on a walking spree under the Sun? Simple, drink a bow of the water that you get here! Yes, the sweetest water you can ever get to drink will wash away all the exhaustion from you. After a bout of walk, get into the first stream you come across, and your body pains are a history.

My account of the Sharavathi valley is incomplete if I don’t mention about the waterfalls we get to see here! Yes, every nook and corner of the forest, we get to see one or the other stream longing to meet the river, jumping down to form a magnificent visual before our eyes.

The one waterfall at Gudanagundi, I liked the most. It forms a platform like structure as it falls once and takes a break before falling on the ground again in its second fold. It further crosses a boulder to form another waterfall called Belligundi. For once I was so astounded that I was quizzing myself to see if I were not in the Africa or Amazon that they show on the Discovery channel! A shower under this water fall…a free massage and a seasoning treatment for your body.

Another waterfall worth a mention is that at Dabbe. Wow! I don’t really believe that I could trek all the way down, to the falls and back, up the hill again. To reach the foot of this falls, we need to trek on a virtually no path, that is sliding thru the hanging roots of adjoining trees and crossing the creeks on the plank of dead trees!! Imagine!! Yes. I did that with gusto, and had the joy of my life when I finally took to the water down there.

Waterfall at Bhimeshwara is another astounding visual one gets here. It looks different in different seasons, believe me. Summer you will have to search for a waterfall. Come Monsoon, you will struggle to distinguish the view of rock behind the rushing water! Winter, you get a decent flow that welcomes one to the adjoining temple with a musical background noise.

There were some tough paths too in the valley, for example, when we had to passé thru a huge mountain of thorny vines. It just seemed never ending, as we venture in, the hanging thorny vines would be stuck upon us from somewhere, bewildering us and irritating too. When we gently remove it to step up to rid, another would stop us…huh!

When I first went there, to the Meghane peak, I found the hill to be dead steep, damn scary, naturally mystic, heavily gifted with thick trees, wonderfully mangled with the long vines around them. It all seemed so much exciting and inspiring to me….. Same experience repeated in all the next endeavours.

The forest here...I must admit that it is really dense and mystic. It houses some dangerous species of animals and snakes. It certainly houses many colourful flowers and has a distinct odour about it. There are different varieties of fungi that look like an artwork by the creator; Uprooted trees, blunt vines, varieties of orchids, lines of ants spread across, and what not.

View from the grass top peak of Meghane was incredibly amazing, whole of Sharavati valley being showed from there. We were just a small point among the whole lot of things that was visible to our bare eyes. Gods must really be crazy for creating these beautiful views to teach us the lessons of life in this cryptic a way.

Once, we were treeking in our direction with renewed spirit and a hope to reach the destination faster. Darkness was soon arriving, as we marched un-interrupted. A few KMs later, a family living there welcomed us. As we went in, the man of the house came out with a jug full of cane juice, saying, “its our Dharma to offer the visitor something” or something like that. We all had the fresh juice. The family was doing an “aalemane”, where they extract jaggery from sugar cane in a country way.

Trekking thru night here is an experience in itself. Once, we were yet to reach the destination, and was already dark. We took out our torches, but the guide suggested we put them off and walk in the moonlight, which was skim that day! This suggestion was good as the batteries might warn the animals and they might turn violent, also, the artificial lighting would limit our vision to only one part of the road, and it doesn’t help us be wary of what’s happening around. It sure was scary, but a joy to be experienced, and a lesson to be learnt!

The Sharavathi adventure trails, our trek organisers provide us a guide who will take us to these unknown and untamed lands of the Sharavathi valley. The guide also doubles up as a wonderful cook who takes care of all the exhausted people, and who doesn’t seem to have a slightest hint of exhaustion himself!

We distribute the cookery items equally among everyone of us at the beginning of the trek, to be carried thru it. And at every brief halt, once at the lunch hour and another time for the dinner and camp, the luggage is brought out and relevant dish is cooked, to shove the hunger that seems so natural at that hour!

When the trek begins, we take an oath that “I will not harm any animal I find on the way, and I will not cook non-vegetarian food. I will not indulge in littering in any part of the forest; carry the plastic leftover with me. And I will not disturb the living of the local people. I will not smoke tobacco, nor drink alcoholic beverage. I will not cut any tree nor harm the forest.”

I appreciate the Sharavathi Adventure Trails for not only getting the oath from us, but also, seeing to it that we follow it! At a time when people, in the name of adventure, spoil the gifts of nature by throwing a plastic away or spilling the glass from the beer bottles wherever they go, this commendable effort must be widely appreciated.

They arrange for proper permissions from the forest department to venture inside the forest. So, not worrying about anything else, I get inside the forest, toil over a weekend or longer to energise myself to get back to the maddening city.

During the course of the trek, we get to meet a lot of local forest dwellers, villagers, and tribal people. Most of the times we get to spend the nights in their company. We interact with them and find out how pleasurable their lives are in the forest, how miserable it is at times when one seeks an immediate medical attention.

Once, we spent a few hours with a family that was among a few others who had sacrificed their lands and village when the Linganamakki dam was being built. The Government had given them this declivitous mountain as compensation. Them, the most humble as they are, accepted and moved the whole village here. They are living without electricity today. Can you imagine, those who sacrificed everything they possessed for the sake of electricity are deprived of the same commodity?! They are making the same sacrifice again and again, and they have no complaints about it. They are content and happy about how they are living. Is there any better education required to straighten these people. We must be at least happy that we got an opportunity to meet such kind and real gentle people, of all!

To that land of Sharavathi, to that abode of the Almighty, to Heaven, I venture to get the real feel of a living. I invite you too for the experience!! Are you ready, yet?