Total Pageviews

Friday 31 July 2015

Nishani Motte / Nishani Betta Trek

Nishani Betta Trek - Day 1
Write-up: Anish

Our next trekking destination was Dudhsagar falls through the mountain railways of Goa. Had planned to drive in with two cars and 10 members but unfortunately due to several deaths and accidents that place just got its first ban for tourists and trekkers. Still had a week's time to decide on a new destination. Called up Range Forest Officer (RFO) Mr.Uthappa to finalize about Nishani betta and Kurudi (Kerala border) two days trek through Talacauvery wildlife sanctuary and staying at their Anti poaching center (APC). I was constantly in touch with him and all arrangements were perfectly done by Mr. Uthappa and we thank you for your co-operation.

Coorg the Scotland of India has always been a favorite spot to be with the mountains and moist deciduous forests,  the balmy weather and matchless greenery especially in the monsoons are the first thing which strikes you. Nishani Betta is a much lesser known 2 day trekking trail covering nearly 40km. It was a challenge for all of us because 33km was the longest we have done till date. And when you go through the limited number of other blogs available about Nishani betta, not a single group had done the second day in monsoons terming it as the most leech infested region in Karnataka. And to our despair it was the peak of downpours and happily we all were expecting the worst.I had reached from chennai a day before, next day continuous night driving and trek was a bad idea. So Loga, Shanmuga and myself decided to start early and stay at Bhagamandala 31st night.

 Sreejith,Anas,Athul and Vijesh started from different places and gathered at calicut. 31st night they started driving to reach us by 5 Am. As usual I couldn't sleep. Not sure when am I going to get rid of the 'Insomniac' mode only while trekking happens. As planned they reached the sleeping village by 5am. They jumped on to the beds and sleeping bags to catch up with some sleep of whatever time we had. But to their misery there wasn't any time left. I had planned to visit "Talacauvery" nearby. The exact place where river cauvery originates.
 Had a peaceful morning misty visit and felt like the place left us an energetic effect. Back to the lodge by 7 am, we all were ready by 8.30 am. Had breakfast from their hotel and packed lunch. For night and next days cooking we had to get all the required ration, fruits and snacks from the nearby stores and by 9.30 reached Bhagamandala forest office. Mr. Uthappa was not there but our guide Ayyappan was waiting for us. Without loosing more time we hired a jeep to Talacauvery where the trek began.

Geared up with all the anti leech agents and socks available on planet earth we gradually started walking through the forest roads. The bushes have grown up and there was no sign of any department jeeps running over it for the past several months.

  We spotted footprints of a wild dog and a Tiger. Ayyapan told us that there are chances of spotting the Big cat if we are lucky, thankfully we were so lucky that we didn't spot any. On a safari i am ready but not on an unarmed trek any day. After 3km deviated into the thick forest without any trail.

As the surrounding deepened and thickened we could actually listen to eerie wild sounds. Just as we expected it started raining. With tons of leeches on the ground and dark clouds above our heads it became dark inside. Ayyappan with his machete went ahead to clear up the blocked way through the bushes and fallen trees. Walking straight passing through a slanting mountain we reached a small stream with some rocks, the only place to get rid of leeches.

After filling up the water bottles jumped onto the next phase which was even more thicker. Spotted remains of a  prey left over most probably a left leg of a pig hunted down by a tiger, the flesh was still fresh.

Our guide slipped twice while trying to cut through the blockages and caused a small injury in his hand. The steep woods led us to a green carpeted meadow stretching more than the size of 2 football grounds. Trees were 3 or 4 meters apart. Even dried up trees were showcasing their utmost beauty exorbitantly. Lowering down on our knees we could actually see through till the upper curve end.

It was hide and seek play between the mist and rain. Both don't occur at the same time so if the mist starts clearing up then its sure to rain is what I noticed. Crossed 5km everyone was scratching their bodies. With leeches clinging all over our legs we couldn't think of stopping anywhere until we find some rocks to deter them. Shanmu slipped and injured his left palm causing a deep cut. Sreejith and Athul cleaned up the wound and applied some antiseptics. While checking ourselves leeches were rolling through our bodies. With leech socks, dettol, lemon, eucalyptus those bugger's have managed to get inside our clothes. It was just half a day into the trek and some started to calculate an average number of bites we are gonna receive till next night.

Getting down to the slopes the landscapes were breathtaking as we saw the first view of Nishani Betta very far. Beautiful forest flowers greeted us. Climbing and descending  one after the other hill kept on altering the structure with new views. It was a complete ridge walk. Our eyes were curious enough to know what laid next. As we walked on I realized that each and every place we were enjoying all the nature's 3 dimensional (mist,rains,clear) views in quick succession.
No where to stop, no place to rest our clothes became wet and reflected red stains from leech bites. Whenever a scanning was done we could fetch one or two leeches inside our clothes. After some 7km a marking stone was built where two people can sit on top of it. Some of us rested for a while. For the next 1 km it was a fog walk, at some places it was so thick that the person next to you would be invisible a couple of meters away. And when the mist cleared up suddenly there appeared two huge green mounts.
Yes we were in England now! It was like watching an old English Sherlock Holmes movie in HD. The setting was just incomparable, the rocks were pale white with dried up trees. Captured those moments and continued. One stretch of forest led to an other green lawn. It was like passing through hundred's of the best botanical gardens all put up in one place. Loga was the one guy who was walking relentlessly without getting any bites. Before the trek we both had a challenge that if he doesn't get any bites I will have to pay him 100 bucks. At some point I even thought of grabbing a leech and placing it somewhere inside his nose but due to the non availability of blood and existence of only skeletons and bones it was of no use.

10 km into the trek turning backwards Ayyapan helped us spot the tiny Talacauvery temple. Altitude wise it was almost equal to the place where we stand now. The next one km we started gaining height, through the highland ridges a final wet shola stretch welcomed us.  Huge fallen trees blocking our way had to be climbed and jumped. Crossing the slippery muddy patches opened up the final grassland just before the steep 60 degree climb to the peak.

We had some great views from there and clicked some group pics. Everybody was hungry and Athul was keen on having lunch, but I nicely turned down the request saying lunch will be served to only those who reach the peak. Ayyappan suggested that we move quickly towards the peak as there are chances of clear views. From the base we could actually see the entire climb so I thought we should be there in another 30 minutes. But later on we realized that it was a false peak and the real one was a km away. Shanmuga, Loga and Anas went ahead. 20 minutes into the climb the mist gradually flowed from either sides engulfing the entire mountain as we lost all views. With a couple of breaks and a mind map we kept on walking to the highest point. Finally reached the peak by 3:30 pm. I can see overjoyed and "What the hell did I just do" kind of faces especially on a first timer Vijesh. There was 360 degree of mist, If we had views from the top it would have been a bonus. But no one was disappointed because it would be insane to cry for views on a monsoon trek. Now everyone was hungry as a bear. Even at the top we couldn't sit anywhere because of leeches. I wonder how are these creatures surviving at this place. We had bought a car cover and placed it on top of the grasses. All of us removed our shoes and jumped into the leech proof dining table. Two plastics covers with Puttu and Pathiri.

Just imagine what's gonna happen with 8 strong hands with all the food dumped into two plastic covers.  Grabbing some food from the cover to ones own mouth was a long journey. I would steal it from others hands so only half the job has to be done.
That lunch under the drizzling rain and leeches trying to crawl through the dining sheets was the craziest of all the lunches Ive ever swallowed. By 4:30 pm rain started pouring heavily and we decided to bid goodbye yet to an other peak named "Nishani Betta". With wet clothing's and drenched shoes the ascending track was through the opposite downhills. Still an other 3 km to APC camp, it was steep and deep on either sides. A small slip would land us back to the sea level. Turning back to the peak it slowly faded away.
After climbing down 4 hills nonstop the group slowed down for Vijesh as he was keeping his steps slowly. After crossing a shola forest Ayyappan told us the camp was nearing. After 15km we reached APC by 6pm. Welcoming smiles from the Guards Jayaprakash and Praveen we greeted each other.There were two cute doggies very excited to see all of us. To get rid of the all the leeches and follow up activities like mass massacre and cremation they were ready with fire sticks and hot water.

We all were in awe with that quaint little place inside the forest. Black tea was served by Jayaprakash, wished we had some snacks like leech masala fry too. The house had one room with 3 beds and a kitchen. Solar power for basic electricity. Happily each one of us went for a bath inside the bolt less steamy bathroom and returned weeping and chocking smoke. Loga started preparing rice and veg curry with the ration we bought and the guards helped him. Meanwhile we were engaged in playing cards and chatting about the days trek.
Food was ready by 9 pm and guys had pretty good things to say about Loga's cooking. After cleaning up the place several times we could still spot many leeches inside the house but who cares!!! By 11 pm we decided to sleep and the lights went off. I was next to Vijesh who was snoring loud into my ears but somehow I slept till I heard Athul screaming Atta..Attaaa..(Leech) at 2Am. I Thought he was bitten but there was no reaction after the scream..It went on a couple of times until I realized that he was dreaming. At 3am the dogs started barking, hearing this Jayaprakash woke up and rushed outside with his torch. I thought I would follow him but he vanished into the dark, after sometime he came back saying there was a baby elephant roaming nearby. By that time Shanmu and loga moved onto the floor vacating their bed. I shifted there to get some sleep but finally ended up waking the guards from the kitchen at 5 Am reasoning we had to prepare food for the day.

Nishani Betta Trek - Day 2
Write-up : Sreejith Kannan

Yesterday's trekking through the snow and rain with the add-on leech bites have left us all with a slight trembling effect. I was sleeping, a terrified leech biting dream scene was on and suddenly heard someone calling me (kanna kannaa) it was Anish ettan waking me up saying its already 5:30 Am.  Got up and saw all the others sleeping tightly. Shanmuga and Loga who were sleeping on the cot yesterday were on the floors. Anish ettan had to jump on to the next cot to find covers from Vijesh's snoring. Poor guy Vijesh who had just tasted the first trek of his life was tired and still snoring at his best as i watched him. Night had some funny incidents as Anish ettan narrated Athuls nightmare with leeches and an elephant roaming nearby the Apc. Just by seeing the faces of guards i knew they too were not sparred by Anish ettan. They got their knock at 5am itself. Loga was woken up as he was the main chef responsible to cook food for today's outing. He too had a couple of bites while sleeping. Slowly its dawn at Apc and a very beautiful sight emerged from the front to the forests down below. Yesterday night it was misty and windy but today morning i didn't feel so cold. Our guide will be here by 8 am, we had less time so rest of the group was woken up. Anas was shivering with cold and took some time to gather up.  Meanwhile i packed up the bags. Today our trekking was to Kurudi nearing kerala boder which is 22 km up and down back to Apc. Lunch was prepared by Loga. The rice which we bought yesterday took nearly 2hrs to boil and time was pushed. We should have specially asked for something which boiled quickly. Borrowed a vessel from the house and packed the food.

Before starting the days trek we were chatting with the guides and they said very few groups opt for the second days trek and when monsoons arrive there's hardly any trekking.  Leeches are the only reason and not the terrain. Waking up with a nightmare like some of us had I think people are scared to death by just thinking about the second day.  All of us were charged up, ready for the fun and whatever may bite we were just prepared to enjoy the day with nature. Vijesh wasn't quite sure about the 22 km ride moreover he was too tired which meant a risky business so he decided to stay back. Our breakfast was bread and Jam. Within minutes we made sure not a single piece was wasted. Anish ettan and myself took the remaining leftover rice and curry and cleared up the bowl. With hot black tea served by Jayaprakash the fuel is filled up and we were ready. My total outfit for today was like i was going for some fancy dress competition. To prevent leech bites my legs were rolled up with  plastic covers. Everybody was laughing at me. While clicking some group pics inside the torn shed next to Apc i somehow tried not to show my legs but i couldn't withstand these pro candid photographers. A new guide appeared from somewhere named Ganesan, but what happened to Ayyappan who came yesterday, he was inside the kitchen and showed his legs. Yesterday he was wearing sandals and he was feasted and roasted by the leeches, all he could say was "Im not coming sir".
We happened to meet two dogs, kukri and its little puppy mahesh. Kukri was so clam and quite but the little puppy turned out to be so naughty when he saw us. Both were so loving too. It did not take much time for a hardcore dog lover like me to be in close with them. We fed them with bread, later they too seemed happy to join us ahead. We started at the earliest after the breakfast. That might be the reason i started trembling soon. I geared my speed back and walked slowly.
Throughout the way we could see tiny heads of our enemies hopping and waiting for our blood. I even had a doubt whether these suckers would have had their ancestors from Somalya! How eager!!! Anyways, the trial should go on...
Walked through the the way which we declined yesterday to Apc and later turned left to the darker side of the forest. A little later we could see the guys popping onto the rocks to separate the clenching leeches apart. With dettol spray we had and succeeded detaching each and every leeches. I was just thinking how fool i was to wear the plastic instead of leech socks. It neither helped me walking nor saved me from the leeches. I still remember the valuable warning of Anish ettan to wear the leech socks!. That was a late reflection of my blunder mistake.. Ahead, for 2 km , it was a beautiful trek through the grasslands which stood up to our hips. We were also proud to pass through this way where no trekker had crossed it in the last 3 months...
Athul seemed fed up with his leech socks, it never stood fit in his legs. After a few trials to make it tight, he left it unnoticed. We continued walking. At times, we even forgot to enjoy the scenic beauty because of the fearful leeches. One thing i concluded was that we should never underestimate the ability of leeches to suppress the emotions of people. Leeches are really fearful! As we moved we could see the fog blending into the grasslands. The grasslands then lead to a dense forest. We never failed to take a look back at intervals to see the changing frames of the serene beauty. Ganeshan suspected that we had a chance of seeing a "kaatupothu" (Guar). Grasslands ended up in a beautiful valley spread ed with rose colored flowers. As i turned back, i saw our dear kukri and puppy helplessly standing with leeches clenched to their legs. I tried my maximum to make them relieved.
We entered the forest then. Yesterday it was a 70% trek through the grasslands but today its a 70% trek through the dense forest. We hardly saw the skies through the thick high trees. The earthen smell of the mud, the warm climate, the dark green tone all hooked up to boost our energy. Found an apt bark to pose for a few clicks in that dense tone.
We could spot a waterfall far away throughout the thick high trees. That was a breathtaking view. We continued towards our sight. Expected to witness any of the wild animals as always, unfortunately we couldn't spot any. Our trek was paused when we found a suitable rock to rest in. Regained our energy with some snacks and also did not forget to feed our lovable companions.Though me and Athul took care to avoid falls and slips, our body couldn't resist  slipping a couple of times.
This time we enjoyed the scenery as there were no leeches to bother us. Our prolonged walk lead us to a small river. As it was quite slippery i had to carefully carry kukri and puppy by two trips. Anishettan's attire resembled that of a sky skater, the only difference was he wasn't skating through the river. I wanted to sit there and take breaths back but Ganeshan our guide convinced me to walk a little more to rest in a better river cross.

He was not wrong, the next river cross was much more beautiful and suitable to relax. We unloaded our backpacks and started searching for our enemies inside our shoes. In the process someone in our group noticed a shoe flowing through the river. Unfortunately it was Shanmuga's. Our guide immediately followed the flow and grabbed it somewhere down. We never thought he could wear it anymore.
I soon wrapped up a towel and got down to the river. Oh it was so chilly and thank god there was no leeches inside the water. Shying away from the cold stream finally Anas and Athul jumped in. After sometime all the tiredness just flew away and i felt deeply refreshed. Loga opened the food pack and it was lunch on top of the rocks surrounding wild and flowing waters. Very Similar to yesterdays style of eating on top of Nishani betta all six of us just cleared that vessel within seconds. Kukri and her son joined the party.
After lunch we saw some stunning butterflies with different set of colors and shapes hanging on there. They even posed silently for some close-ups. Shanmuga who is a Naturalist kept on naming them one by one. All of us choose different rocks hear and there just to relax and listen to the nature. We still had 1.5 km to kurudi but its just a plain walk instead we thought of spending more time here. Anish ettan had found a good place before and he settled there.
Nobody spoke or disturbed that silence for quite some time. It was like we were in meditation with just the sounds of stream and nature. The freedom which i felt at that particular moment is what i am searching for on each travel. Nearly after an hour we wished we could spend much more time but we had to start kicking back to Apc in order to reach by 5pm.
From the river by 2pm It was a steep 7km climb to the top of grasslands. Just after the lunch we were feeling heavy and started off slowly. The plan was to stick on with the slowest mover. But after sometime Athul started walking backwards, i meant he was left way behind. Anish ettan was accompanying him, we waited at each points until they reached. A couple of times Athul lost his way and Kukri was guiding him. Through the dense slippery forest the climb was tough on each of us and after 6km we reached the grasslands.
One more km through the stony path we reached on top of it. It was 4:30pm. Splendid views from the top which we missed today morning due to mist. 8 layers of mountain ranges could be seen and the 4th layer was Kerala border.
Today we trekked up to somewhere near that. Vijesh just lost a terrific day i thought. Rested for a while and carried on to the last leg through wet shrubs, it was spread with leeches. We were crossing it in a good speed but suddenly spotted a group of 6 elephants and a baby far away on the slopes of the opposite hill. Towards the end of the trek it was a moment.
By 5pm we reached Apc. Everybody was checking up their bodies. My two legs were eaten up by the monsters. By the time we finished trekking they have trekked all through our bodies. Anish ettan and loga escaped from severe bites as they were using all precautions whenever required. Jayaprakash again served us black tea. Vijesh said he had a long sleep throughout the day. As of now we have completed 33km in 2 days. That is when i heard the shocking news that we still had 4km walk to the nearest tar road. I was thinking the jeep would come somewhere nearby. But there was no other choice other than walking down. Finally good byes and thank you to Apc, Jayaprakash, Ganeshan, Praveen and Ayyapan. Such humble and nice persons.
As we left couldnt forget how well they treated each of us past two days. I personally felt too good that they were not malayalis. Started getting dark and after 3km through the mud track, coffee estate roads, mud roads with paddy fields on either side we reached an isolated bridge.
Ayyappan went ahead in search of a jeep. We lit some candles and waited. Again walked through the tar roads the jeep arrived at 7:30 pm. Ayyappan left us and we were on the wheels to Bhagamandala reaching there by 8pm. Straight into a tea shop everybody was craving for some snacks and tea. I took a torch to explore my legs once again and after seeing the damages i was laughing and crying at the same time. All i want to say is " Leeches are the most vulnerable creatures on earth".
Took our cars from the nearby forest office and reached Virajpet by 9:30pm. Anish ettan's Biriyani with grilled chicken treat was yummy. Copied all the pictures. Anish ettan and Shanmuga will be staying here tonight. Myself, Vijesh, Athul and Anas said goodbyes to them and left. Each trekking resulted in different kinds of experiences and this one surely had the best of it. Finally my first monsoon trek with rains, mist, grasslands, sholas, the innumerable leeches and above all to the friendship which has made this trek a cherish-able and memorable experience.

Author   : Anish Vk, Sreejith Kannan
Clicked by :Vijesh, Sreejith, Anish
   Team: Anish, Sreejith, Athul, Loga, Shanmuga,Anas, Vijesh, Ayyappan, Ganeshan
Place  :  Nishani Betta, Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctaury, Karnataka
Kurudi (Kerala Border) 
Km Covered           :   2 days || 37 Kms