Saturday, December 20, 2014

Conquer to Banasura Peak – Around Wayanad

It was very difficult long four kilometers final stretch with steep ascend; I was completely tiered and my legs were not ready move forward; the cool breeze gave some relaxation to my tiered body; the far away hills were playing hide and seek in clouds; at last reached the peak and the view was spectacular.  Yes!! Indeed it was the most beautiful valley of Banasura Hill.  The place is not known most of the trekkers. I conquered with lovely bunch of four new friends on 20th December 2014.

Bengaluru – Mysuru – Gundlupete – Sulthan  Bathery – Kalpetta – Varambatta – Banasura Peak

Varambatta – Banasura Dam – Pookode Lake – Edakallu Caves – Mysuru – Bengaluru

This trek was totally with new bunch of lovely friends.  I received an invitation from Kotresh (for more details please visit ) on 18th December 2014 for Banasura Peak.  The name was very new and attracted me at first sight.  Tried to collect the more information through google but could not.  Decided to join this new group and scale the Banasura Peak.  Confirmed over a mail to Kotresh and got ready to trek.  I was nervous till 10.30 pm on 18.12.14 since not received any official communication from Kotresh.

I can say it is very different trek and preparation was nil.  Believe me, Kotresh is such a cool, lovely and experienced person who managed everything during the trek.  Normally some preparation is involved in all treks whereas when I asked him ‘What shall I need to bring? And his reply was ‘NOTHING’.  Really appreciate the whole team who were very comfort, very co-operative and a lovely one.  Kotresh is managed to arrange from Water to food, tent and other trekking gears.

Kotresh gave me pickup option from BTM Layout & Mysore Road since we are travelling by owned Car.  My friend Sudhakar house is at RR Nagar and decided to board from this place.  The Red Ford Figo boarded around 11.15 pm and the wonderful journey begun.  Not sure how many had this kind of experience, within a very short time all four new faces were become friends.  Shared our previous trekking experience and at last reached near Maddur Emphire hotel for late night dinner.  Filled-up with tasty food and continued our journey towards Mysuru.

The car was comfort for five members and crossing Nanjanagudu, Gundlupete reached the Bandipura checkpost at 3 am.  The vehicle queue was huge and our pilot made a place very close to the checkpost gate.  We had another 3 hours to sleep since the gate will open by 6 am.  Not so easy to get a comfirt sleep in the Car and luckily we found a small hut near the gate.  Somewhat we found little place for three members to rest our back.  Suddenly the voice barked around 4 am “Yeddelri, hotel tagibeku… (Get up, I have to open Hotel)”.  The place was a small hotel where we slept, the teawala started his morning business.  With a great difficulty we slept few more minutes in the Car.

Forest gate was opened at 6 am and the people / traffic got awake; entire environment become honk of vehicles.  Surprised to see people are driving very rashly where the limit is 30 kmph.  Thanks to Supreme Court which provided peace to Bandipura animals at least 9 hours in the night.  The morning ride on the empty road was beautiful. On the way we got parceled morning breakfast since we were running late as per schedule.  Asking the address at multiple junctions at last we reached the trek base point of Banasura. 

The village name is Varambatta.  The smiling face Mr. Jorge welcomed us, who is an official in-charge of Banasura forest range.  He is a volunteer of VSSS [Vana Samrakshana Seva Samithi] appointed by Government of Kerala.  Jospeh briefed about the route plan and asked us to get ready at the earliest.  Parked our car near the check-post home and Kotresh distributed the essential things to among all us.  We had not enough time to have the breakfast and decided to finish on the way.

Within a very short time we all finished our morning duties and got ready to expedite the Banasura Peak.  The initial route itself is ascending one and gradually speeded up our pace.  The trail was almost remembering the Kuduremukha.  Most of the path is in open grassland and very less in the forest.  

After few kilometers trek we found a stream.  Wanted to relax sometime and decided have the breakfast. Almost 30 minutes relaxed at small stream and filled up our tummy with morning breakfast.  

Jorge wanted to make it fast pace since the last four km’s of trek is very difficult and reach to the base camp before the dark.  The grass was almost 3 -4 feet height and it itching the hands.  

Now we can see the Banasura Dam view.  The entire valley was really looking a green carpet.  In the month of December also the valley hold it green shade in its beauty.

The time could be around 11.15 am and finally we reached the most difficult part of the trek.  One side a big beautiful hill and valley is challenging us our stamina and other part Banasura Peak is not at all visible.  

Jorge informed us to walk silently since this entire region is inhibited with Elephants.  He warned about sudden attack by Elephant where we can find many bushes and tall grass.  While ascending the part we can see a tall hill opposite to us and Jorge told us that we are going to trek more than that hill height.  Slowly we started to ascend the peak.  We were enough lucky that the weather was pleasant.  Sun was never came out entire our journey and playing hide and seek in the clouds.  Definitely it is not so easy to trek in the summer. There is no water source of this final stretch four kilometers except at initial a small falls.

After one hour trek we reached a small falls.  The water was very chilled and it gave us little more energy.  Without energy it was very difficult to ascend the path.  It is a kind of typical path, there was no trail.  The shoulder height grass interrupts you to move forward and some time the foot on boulders or in the hole. It is very difficult to judge our steps.  Now the valley was looking more beautiful from the height and cool breeze giving us wonderful experience.

The opposite valley hill was looking now smaller, we covered maximum distance. Banasura peak is now visible from this place.  The four kilometer journey was not so easy; my legs were shivering badly and not ready to move forward. With great difficulties reached the Banasura Peak. Ohhhh my god; when I am above the peak and looks the valley, it was amazing panorama view from top.  

This is the official peak point of Banasura, however Jorge shown one more peak and said ‘It is the real Banasura Peak’. 

The lovely person was ready to take us to the ending point.  The stretch was again not so easy and said us the trail required minimum 1 ½ hour to complete the stretch.  I and Prabhu were completely exhausted and not ready to move forward.  They left us on the peak and headed towards the final peak.  I was relaxed some time on the big rock and enjoyed the valley.  The weather was changing each moment and sometime it looked like it may rain.

Within a short time I heard our friend voices and understood they could not able to reach the final peak.  There was no proper trail and it was covered with bushes. With time constrain they returned back from half of the journey.  I felt myself lucky not attempting the final stretch.

Now the time is 2.30 pm and decided to descend.  Took many group photographs and abide to Banasura peak.  The descending was also very difficult.  Took many tiny breaks and reached a big rock on the way.  Decided to finish the lunch and filled our tummy with instant foods.  We all shared our previous trekking experiences and humors.  Jorge, always smiling face guide shared his previous experiences with us.

Initially we planned to descend through another route.  We were not having the torches and very less time, decided not to take any risk.  Jorge advised us to trek in the same trail which we took in the morning.  
Jorge - Guide

Now the pace was really very fast.  The most difficult trek part took almost 3 hours to descend.  Almost we were running and reached the base point before it become dark at 6.45 pm.

We all badly wanted to refresh with hot tea and bath.  Jorge helped us to get a hot tea and arranged well-furnished independent cottage in Coffee estate. 

Kotresh asked me the option to go with prepared food or self-preparation, I suggested the second one.  Personally I feel, without our own preparation of food and camp fire with songs, is not a complete trek.

The cottage was really well furnished with all facility.  We have bargained for 1000 bucks for night stay.  One by one got refreshed by hot water bath and I was ready for dinner preparation.  The dinner was as usual Rice and Puliyogare.  The discussion and sharing the experiences went on till 9 pm.  The hot puliyogare rice was ready and finished our dinner and said good night at 10 pm.

The second day was picnic and sightseeing. Woke up early morning 5 am and got refreshed.  Today we had no any such scheduled plans.  Randomly Kotresh selected few places and decided to leave Bengaluru around 2 pm.  The plan is to hit Mysuru road early to avoid the heavy traffic.  CT [Chetan] prepared hot Maggie for breakfast.

We were about leave the homestay; the in-charge of homestay suggested to visit the backwater of Banasura Dam. It is hardly one kilometer from Homestay.  The path of a km is very scenic.  Spent a good time in the silent and scenic valley and headed back to homestay.

Left the Banasura Dam at 9 am and our next destination was Pookode Lake.  It was almost 30 – 35 km from Varambatta.  On the way witnessed the beautiful tea estates.  

Took multiple breaks on the way and reached the Pookode Lake. Pookode lake is basically a tourist place and it was crowded. Boat riding was the major attraction.  We just went on casual walk around the lake and had fun.

Road side shops are attractive in this region.  We had tasty Mango, Pineapple, Buttermilk and Amla.  

Out next destination is Edakallu which is again almost 30 km away from this place.  Reached the Edakallu around 11 am.  Hired a very young and energetic guide Jibin.  The place was completely crowded by tourist.  From parking lot to entrance of the cave distance is around 2 km.  Edakallu has mainly two caves which are formed by the natural disasters. Jibin is studying 2nd year engineering course. He explained in detailed about the place.  Suggest not visit this place during the weekend.

Spent little more time on shopping of Green Tea and Banana chips.  Left this place around 3 pm towards Mysuru.  The highway was fully traffic and our pilot CT was drove like a superman.  Mysuru highway was not much traffic which I had worst experience in the past.  We were enough lucky to reach Bengaluru by 8 pm.  The entire journey was lot of humorous and it was more and more talkative entire the journey.


Top Row: Balaraj, Chethan
Down Row: Me, Kotresh, Prabhu

The team was more energetic and I was very new to all.  I never thought myself unknown to the group.  Thanks a lot to Kotresh who gave an opportunity to be part of this wonderful trek and also thanks each one of team friends.

Very unique place which is very less known to most of the trekkers

You can reach out Jorge; who will arrange the forest permission, guide and accommodation

Camping is not allowed at Banasura Peak

Saturday, December 6, 2014

My worst enemy – Lantana after Bandipura CATT Workshop

Guest Write-up from Sindhu HV [My daughter] 

Sometime we never notice and bother until unless we know the adverse of the things. Certainly am talking about one of the fast growing evil in and around our environment i.e., Lantana.  I was not having much more information about this horrible Lantana before attending the workshop.  I got the complete information about it is in the workshop which was held at Bandipura.  It was truly an amazing experience with Conservation Awareness Team Trust [CATT - ] who organized ‘Lantana Control Management’ workshop on 6 – 7th December 2014 at lovely place Bandipura.


The workshop was comprised 30 CATT’s with all age groups, very young and old.  Many were very experienced wildlife conservers.  The workshop was arranged for two days.  Our first day plan was really good one and very interesting subject.  The event was went very cool and calm and relax in the mother nature. I was very excited and waiting to grab the information about Lantana.  Workshop started around 2 pm in Bandipura forest seminar hall.

There were three captains Prathap, Saradhi & Shyam uncles.  They were briefed about two days programs.  A special guest was Kantharaj sir, who is Director of Bandipura Tiger Reserve Forest , gave much more information about Bandipura and its origin.  I came to know that, during Mysore Maharajas they reserved Bandipura forest for hunting the wild animals.  Later during the British rule they declared this forest as protected area.  It is a part of massive Nilagiri biosphere.  Four rivers flow into the Bandipura reserve forest viz., Kabini, Moyar, Moolehole & Nugu.  It is identified as Tiger reserve in 1974.

Later Girish gave us complete information about Lantana and it adverse on the nature.  Lantana is toxic plants that are specially originated from Australian pacific region. This Lantana basically belongs to verbenaceae family.  These grow at height of 3 -6 feet and even more taller.  They have different colored flowers.  They contain toxin lantadene A & B that stops the growth of other nearby plants and trees.  Around 41% of Bandipura forest area is covered by this evil plant.  It impacted shortage of food for herbivorous animals.  So they are entering into the cities in search of shrub and grass.  This is resulting for the starvation of carnivores.  This Lantana is of no use to the animals in the forest.  The seeds of the Lantana get multiplied easily and starts to grow very fast.  Lantana plants produce toxic black – blue colored fruit that make the animals to die.  The leaves of this plant when it is touched it irritates a lot.

So to control the growth of Lantana Govt has taken many biological, chemical, mechanical methods.  However it could not able to control effectively.  Girish explained about how utilized the Lantana for different usage which motivate the local people.  Involving the local tribal preparing many household decorative items like Chairs, Tables and some decorative items.  The session was more interactive and debated one.  The session was concluded and now its break time.

Second session of workshop about my favorite Western Ghat and its present condition.  I was very interested about this topic.  This seminar was conducted by Shree Harsha uncle.  He explained about its origin and the seminar was more interactive.  I was determined to contribute little of my part of life for the conservation of Western Ghats for the sake of ecological balance of Western Ghats.  I am sure that I will do it.  Harsha uncle even gave presentation about the various types of census.  It is inspired me to dream of participating in tiger census. I found it more special for me.  I was much exited to get much more information about it.  I was truly amazed.  Really thank you so much  Harsha uncle.  I think it was almost become dark.  The overall session was over by 6.45 pm.

Relaxed sometime around the campus and now the time for evening documentary film which was telecast every day at 7.30pm.  Today’s documentary about the Nagarahole.  Documentary was more informative and entire one season cycle from Monsoon to Monsoon.  Really it was great film.

Now the time of dinner and had yummy food.  The time is retire for the day.  The dormitory was very nice and rest for the day.

Early morning woke up around 5 am and were getting ready for morning safari.  

Unfortunately we did not see any wild animals except Deer & Wild Indian Gaur.  We were more sad because yesterday evening who went for safari was delighted by a Tiger. We were enough lucky to see only the pug-mark of tiger.  Returned back from safari with great disappointed one and finished the yummy breakfast.

The next program was more noble cause.  Visiting the nearest village Kaaremala around Bandipura and distribute the notebooks to the needy poor tribal children.  It was one of the happiest moments in my life.  The cheerful kids smile and felt enough lucky and happy to be part of this wonderful event.  I thought CATT does only about the nature and wildlife whereas it struggling to bring happiness around the Bandipura tribal people.  Really it is great effort.

After this event we left towards the village where the tribal people preparing the items by Lantana.  There were around 8 – 10 people group who are in preparation of various house decorative items.  It was unbelievable to see the types, design and durability.  Never thought someone can make so attractive items as such.  Many of us purchased different home needs.  Got complete information about the preparation of item.  Now the time to say good bye and back to Bengaluru.

After reaching the Bandipura finished the lunch and now the time say good bye to wonderful bunch of people.  I was more delighted and two days worth time spending of the life. Two days workshop not only motivated and also brought more awareness and spread across the people about evilness of Lantana.  Thanked each one of them and left to back.

I have gained the below things from two day workshop from CATT

More awareness about Lantana and motivated to do something effort to control it
Many facts about my favorite Western Ghats
Census about various animals and specially more interested about tiger one.  Definitely try to be part of next tiger census.
Two days relaxed under wild environment of Bandipura

More delighted to know about the CATT and their sincere effort about conservation.  Salute to the brave soldiers.