Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bus Diaries #1 - KPN

Subramani arrived at 9.55PM as usual 5 minutes before the departure and went ahead to check the ticket. As expected, there was a change. The Thisaiyanvillai Bus supposed to pick us up at 10PM broke down on the way and they had to arrange an alternate. This is the second time, i heard the same story for the same bus from K.P.N. Few months before, they had called me up at 8.30PM and asked me to come at 9.00PM to the boarding point. This time, they offered seats on a sleeper that was scheduled to leave at 10.00 PM. Improvement!!! Can't complain i guess :-) Boarded the bus wondering, why the Thisaiyanvillai bus breaks down every now and then or is there something fishy happening. After a few confusions with seat allocations, we were given upper berths. Sleeper bus gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs and get into sleeping position, but keeps the mind in panic state since every sharp turn gives a feeling of falling from somewhere (Thookam varum aana varathu).

Three hours later @ 1.30AM, reached Salem. 220KMs in 3 hours. Decided to set the alarm to wake up early as it looked like it may not take more than 3hrs to reach the destination. So far so good. 2hrs later, heard the driver calling for 4 passengers to shift to a new bus, 5 minutes after that learnt that bus has developed a mechanical problem. At this point, KPN one of the biggest transport corporation in South India gave its passengers only one option, shift to a different KPN bus which might pass through that route and where seats might be available. One by one passengers got down, and waited in the highway, bearing the cold weather and hoping for some KPN bus to arrive and pick them up. Amidst all the chaos, a snoring sound reverberated inside the bus. Somebody was in sound sleep. Blessed should be the one who can sleep amidst all the sound, unmindful of what was happening and not worried about the next step. Who could it be ? Vera yaaru namma Subramani thaan.

Around 5 to 10 passengers had found an alternative and around half of the crowd was still waiting. No alternative arrangements made. Spent the next one hour waiting in the cold, and hoping we would find some KPN bus with free seats. Unfortunately all that crossed were full. Few passengers could not digest the fact that they had paid exorbitant money but and left stranded in the middle of the road with no alternative arrangements and took it up with the driver and had a talk with the KPN head quarters. The only result was increase in passenger's blood pressure as both the driver and people at the head quarters remained unresponsive (pimpilika pilapi thaan). KPN transport which boasts best service and customer satisfaction neither had a spare bus nor a mechanic and no way to track which bus could accommodate us. After around 90 minutes of wait, a bus from Sharma travels had some seats left and we had to pay Rs. 250 for the remaining 1.5hrs of journey.

My roommate came in the 9.15PM KPN bus the next day and looks like his bus too broke down around the same place and the same solution was offered it seems. Seriously wonder, is this some kind of trick ? What haunts more is that the unresponsive staff.

So what next ? Though IRCTC sucks big time, and tatkal booking is near to impossible task, try to stick to train as much as possible and keep KPN as the last option.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kodachadri Trek

A trek after a long long time. Kodachadri was on the list for a long time. Since it is a beaten and little easy decided to try it. The gang too pitched in and the trek was on. There are two or three ways to trek to Kodachadri Peak.

1) Starts from Karikatte. This is a shorter route and easy one. Most of them start from here and go via the Santosh Hotel/Kaka Angadi. The trek goes via a Jeep route till Santosh Hotel and the actual trekking starts after the hotel.

2) Starts from Marakuttaka (locals pronounce it differently something like Marakudukka) which is near sigandur cross. This goes via Hidlumane Falls and is a little longer route. Even here the trek goes via jeep route till Hidlumane after which the real trekking starts. Check these out - Sigandur Cross: /Sigandur-Cross & Marakuttaka Bus Stop -

We decided to climb up from Marakuttaka, visit Hidlumane Falls and then trek to the peak via PWD guest house and camp at Sarvajna Peeta. The idea of visiting the "Hidlumane Falls" in the middle of the falls was exciting. And while coming back, decided to come via Santosh Hotel, and if possible visit Arashinagundi falls.

Late Start: There is a KSRTC bus from bangalore that stops at Sigandur Cross. Starts at 8.30PM and reaches there at 6.00AM. Walk back towards Nittur for 2KM and there is a small bridge with a Jeep track on the right, which is Marakuttaka or the trek starting point. Tried adding it to Google Maps, hope it is visible now. Anyway that was the plan initiallly. When one of our friend wanted to join at the end, had to replan, and choose SRS instead of KSRTC due to unavailability of tickets. SRS reached Kollur at 9.30AM after a 12 hour journey. Checked into a hotel, quickly refreshed and finished breakfast, and hired two autos to Marakuttaka. There is a bus from Kollur to Marakuttaka every 1 hour too  from Kollur Bus Stand. We reached Marakuttaka, a little after 1.00 PM. And the trek started. One thing was clear, we are going to trek in the night with torches to reach the peak.

Trek to the Hidlumane Falls: The initial trek take you along the well established jeep track. All we had to do was follow the main jeep track. After a little walk, there is a small stream to cross after which it continues once again on the jeep track. There were locals moving around in bikes and cycles to help us. Soon we crossed a lonely hut, where we asked for direction and then a school. The jeep track ends at Hidlumane or Gururaj's home. To go Hidlumane falls, cross Hidlumane, and cross Gururaj's fields. Can ask Gururaj for direction too. After few minutes of walk, reached the base of Hidlumane falls. Hidlumane is a cascade waterfall with a total of around 7 cascades. Cross the first one and second one and continue on the trail on the right side of the falls to reach the main falls. The second or the third one too has enough water to take bath, but the final one is majestic. We reached the falls at 3.00PM and the water was ice cold then too. It was more like small icicles falling on your body. The bath was exhilarating.

Trek to the peak: After spending quite a good time in the falls, started the trek towards the peak. We took the path on the left(when you are facing the falls) of the falls and later learnt that there is no route there. Had to do a bit of climbing, jumping, sliding to reach that conclusion. You can try that and then go the neat trail on the right or go to the trail on the right(right when you are facing the falls). This trail is neat and leads you to the jeep track. Takes around 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the pace to reach the jeep track. Take right on the jeep track and continue to the PWD house. Jeep drivers warned us about putting tents @ sarvajna peeta. Looks like forest guards took away the tents of few people a week back. One guy said, we can camp if we are planning for camp fire. And one more guy said, we can camp, there are one or two there already. We had no other option too, so we continued to the peak. It was dark, people were descending after the sunset, we were climbing up for the camp. Few were puzzled at the idea of us camping at the peak, few had got sarcastic comments about it. Anyway we continued and reached the peak at around 7.30PM. One good thing was it is very difficult to miss the path in Kodachadri, unlike other trekking places.

Camp: Spent sometime searching for the best place to camp. After a futile search, decided to camp near the peeta. Set up the tents, finished the dinner with the food we had carried, and then dozed off at 9.50PM, only to wake up at 2.00AM. I heard sound of someone scratching our tents from outside. Pushed the tent from inside, felt a strong push from outside. And i felt i heard some footsteps. Next 30 minutes went in listening to the sounds intently and trying to guess and also envy my friend(Sai) who is having a peaceful sleep amidst all this drama :-) Blessed he is.  Atlast he too woke up at 2.45AM. Together we slowly opened the tent and looked around. Nothing. Closed it, we could hear all nonsense. Open, nothing. Anyway after some investigation decided it was the air outside and the sound of footsteps could be that of the dog outside. Later learnt that our friends in other tents were awake from 12.00 to 3.00 and slept only after we woke up and started talking :-) Nice & thrilling, as long as there are no misadventures.

Sunrise & Trek down: Woke up at 5.30AM, packed the tents and waited for the sunrise, which didn't happen till 6.30. While Mohan & Anoop spent time munching snacks early in the morning, Sai was busy putting water bottle cap on a torch light!!! After a few hide and seeks, the sun emerged above a sea of clouds. Awesome it was. Clicked a few snaps and started trekking down at around 7.20PM. Trek down to PWD guest house, and then take the narrow trail opposite to PWD guest house to reach Santosh Hotel. The trek to santosh hotel was easy and we did it in around three hours, with a 30 minutes pit stop in between. Had Puttu-kadala at Santosh hotel and then enquired about Arashinagundi falls. Looks like the entry fee per head is 250 Rs and then we may have to take a guide, since the path cannot be easily found. Decided against it, took the jeep track to Karikatte, and walked for the next one hour to reach karikatte. Took a jeep from there and reached Kollur at around 12.30PM. Checked into a hotel, took bath and rested for a while. Also Kollur Mookambika temple in the evening. Think this is the second visit to the temple in five years. It was not crowded and had a neat darshan.

Started back to bangalore in the 7.00PM bus and reached bangalore in the morning after a not so tiring, nice and wonderful trek with hidlumane falls being the highlight.

Snaps: Mine & Sai's