Narration:Guru,Vasanth.
Review,Editing,Special effects : RK

This is the story of our most successful unsuccessful trek. I am always blamed for organizing surprise trips/treks. Sorrowfully my critics failed to realize the main reason – heap of uncertainity, gifted by our software industry. But still seeing the efforts which went into organizing some well-organized treks v/s the enjoyment and effort v/s the probability of a flop show, I always feel that surprise trips/treks worked better.

Preparation & Planning:
It was a long time since our last trek i.e Green Route trek. So I asked my trek-guide Prashant to suggest a tough one. He suggested us to trek to ‘ombattu gudda’ which was on the hasan-chikmagalur border. The trek to start from Gundya in Udupi Dist and pass through the dense forests of western ghats to reach Ombattu gudda. From ombattu gudda a jeep track would take us to hosakere. From there a bus ride to moodigere, mudigere to Bangalore back.

Meanwhile few words about Prashant. I met Prashant for the first time at Air Force Selection Board, Mysore during our 5 day selection process. He is a real enthu guy. He has a big group of friends who are regularly in search of new places for trekking. After that I’ve not met him in person, but he has been continuously the source of good trekking places and a guide for me.
This time I decided to give my critics a chance to rest, especially Kaat who had complained about me to Capt. Zabi. So, the bill was circulated well in advance (about 10 days). After lots of harate, inclusions and dropouts finally a team of ombattu decided to go to ombattu gudda on 03-09-2004.

Though the planning started long before, we could not escape the last moment uncertainties. We faced more challenges before the trek than during the trek. After the struggle to get tickets, fight to acquire sleeping bags backed by the punctuality of Naveen L, the final blow was a last minute drop out, sardar. And to the surprise of our punctual team, the bus which was about to leave by 9:50 PM was not to be found till 10:30 PM. Our team of 8, me, rk, vasant, sriram, Naveen L, srinivas, abhishek,anand welcomed this since it would save us from reaching our base location Gundya in odd hours.

Start:
Our bus journey was smooth. We had a good sleep often interrupted by the thought of our conductor’s reminders to handover the tickets to seat no.15 before we get down.

Day 1:
We reached our base location at 5:30 in the morning. Without wasting much time, we started off trekking. Our only guides were prashant’s document and map, backed by some guidelines. Keeping all our pressures under control we walked for about an hour on the jeep track with the Kabbinale river flowing parallel to our paths. Then we decided to take a break, finish the formalities and have a nice bath in the river. It was here that we started finding mysterious wounds on the legs of our team-mates. At this moment we didn’t know that these were due to leech bites and this was just a beginning to a lasting ( blood-sharing ) relation we had with these creatures for 2 days.

Refreshed by the bath in the cool waters, we continued our trek in search of the fireline where we decided to have our breakfast. All along the path the forest was getting wilder and wilder. We also received a warm welcome by a viper which was carelessly crossing the path. Our path was cut by innumerable streams. With lots of circus (crossing the streams) and some leg pulling sessions we reached a point where the path divided into two. Now, we realized that we had already crossed the fireline. Now, we decided to have our breakfast. To our astonishment we realized that our blood had broken the fasts of many bloody leeches. Almost all of us were bleeding. The most essential commodity was salt. After freeing ourselves from the leeches we walked for some more time and we had our breakfast at around 10 AM.

The path was now wide enough only for one to walk. We came across the kabbinale river cutting our path. The best place to cross the river after some investigation was found by sriram and shek. Meanwhile the other team members freed themselves from the leeches. Crossing the river was an adventure in itself. With all the luggage, shoes in our hands, stumbling, falling and sliding on the slippery rocks, we reached the other bank.

As soon as we crossed the river, we found a path and starting walking along it. Here the path was not much distinct and it was playing hide and seek with us. Suddenly we were unable to find our path further. Our only guide was the map and everything seemed OK according to the map. At this point I felt the seriousness of my mistake of forgetting a compass. Since we were now at the base of a hill, we thought climbing the hill may give us a better picture of our location so that we can get back to the right track. Map supported out thought,or so it seemed.

So, without a second thought, we started climbing the hill. The whole hill was covered by dense forest. The presence of thorny bushes and bamboos added to the complexity of uphill climbing was. Myself, sriram and Anand were leading the uphill climbing and making some sort of way to the other team members. The humidity was killing us. Our look for the alternative was cut short by dead ends and steep downfalls in all directions. Weigth of the food we were carrying kept reminding us of the hunger. Thirst reminded us of empty bottles. Ready to attack from all directions, leeches made sure we never stopped at one place.

We reached the summit finally- wet due to perspiration, dry due to thirst, hunger,. But to our disappointment, the hill had no clear patch on the top to help us find our path. Unloading ourselves on the summit, we decided to camp there, and send some of us in search of the main stream which we were supposed to follow. I, sriram and anand set out in search of the mysterious main stream. Seeing the sun, and calculating the direction we set out in the northwards direction. After some steep sliding through the jungle, we found a small patch of grassland. From there we could see most of the major hills mentioned in the map. The condition of the grassland at some places, the dung gave us a lot of clue to prove that the place was host to elephant herds. Continuing our downhill journey, we met a dried stream, further we could hear some water source.

The whole down hill journey had cost us 30 mins. So, fearing the plight of our worried teammates, we decided to return , even without checking if it was the main stream, which we hoped. Gasping for air and water, we again reached the summit. After a light refreshment, we set out to take our team mates to the supposed main stream.

Now started the real confusion. It was here that I realized how confusing a forest can be. All the directions appeared to be the same. It went on 2-3 times, we would take the team in one direction, then feeling it was not the way we went, we would climb up again. By now, it was past 3, we were all hungry. And the confusion brought down the spirits of many. Some were of the opinion to go back and try to reach gundya by EOD. Some were against it. Finally overcoming all the difference of opinions and after Very Intense Discussion about the route to be followed ,a final decision was taken and we headed towards the North direction approximately to climb down the hill. We somehow had to manage to sneak through the tough terrain and the hill seemed to be sloppier and at one point it was around 80 degree slope.
Fortunately all our teammates managed to climb down the hill successfully and reach a stream which was flowing in the valley.
It had its tense moments – like when a small rock almost uprooted Shek who had reached out to get back the slipped sleeping bag.

By now everyone was exhausted with energy and we all knew that we are completely lost in that wild jungle. So here we had to apply some common and direction sense and with bit o
f discussion we all agreed upon that the destiny of the stream we found would be kabbinale river.

We couldn’t dare to take rest or sit for a while b’coz of those leeches, we walked for about 2 hrs along the stream and finally we could see the boisterous water of kabbinale river.

By now it was around past 5 and uncertainity about our location still prevailed. Finding small patch of dry and vacant land , big enough for our gang, was like finding an oasis in desert. We found the tailor made oasis and almost immediately decided to rest there and spend the night there. This is where we encountered our second snake, think it was king cobra, black in color and about 6-7 feets. May be because of our foot steps it rushed away from us and disappeared into bushes in Nick of time.

On river banks, sufficiently away from river could be the best thing on earth for us to spend night. But the next day we heard from localites , that place is not visited by them ! Fear of wild animals like tiger and elephants stop them from going around that place, let alone spend nights! Over overnite stay there almost shocked them.

Preparation for night camp was done : Accumulating dry sticks, getting water from river, getting ourselves rid (as far as possible) of leeches. The agenda for the night was that 2 people would stay away for 2 hrs and turn by turn all would sleep/stay awake. Their activity would be to chat and to keep the fire alive Music of the dark jungle and some food was the company. Their another important responsibility was to shoo away the wild animals by making sounds (hitting the plates with spoon), or so we planned !!

Day 2:

After a strenuous day, naturally we all slept well in the warmth of sleeping bag. Our day started lazily, trying to wake up and trying to wake others. Hesitantly we wore the same stinky clothes, stained with blood. After our morning activities and a quick breakfast, we started off at around 7:30.
One thing I can’t forget is the sweet water of Kabbinale River. The river is true to its name. The water is as sweet as sugarcane juice. We all drank water heartily.
Our path was all along the river. Ups and downs, rocks, bamboos… oops, by then even my bag had given up. The 150Rs was worth only for 1 ½ days. I had to tie up the bag to my shoulders using towels, this added to the thrill.

The whole path had its excitements and challenges. We had to walk through the bamboo, slide on the fallen trees, climb rocks etc… Etc. We saw some of the beautiful curves of the river as we walked along. As the path became difficult to walk along, we crossed the river and trekked along the right side of the river. We had to face some more challenges. The challenge was to recognize the place where we had crossed the river. Along the river side, full of boulders and rocks, it was not a easy task to recognize the place where we had crossed. As we walked along we started finding clues of human intrusion, like bamboo cut using a sickle, foot prints.

I forgot to mention, we had also found feline foot prints along the riverside. By this time we had also stopped worrying about leeches; RK had become their best friend. Especially after being bitten by mosquitoes in the night, he was in all praises for the leeches, as they would silently suck blood even without our knowledge. No evidence/pain left. And they would silently retire after their job is done.

At around 10:30 we came to a place which according to shek and sriram was the place where we had crossed the river. But, rest of the team members were in doubt. Then our detective shek discovered the IKON sticker of RK’s shoes to convince the rest. I fear what would have happened if RK had not shed those stickers. Probably, we would have to go till the sangama and again trek all along the river to reach gundya. In that case, I doubt if we could reach Bangalore by Monday morning, since river side trek takes horribly long time due to slippery path and rocks.
After much discussion and argument, we found a path which we presumed to have used to come till the river. All along the path shek would try to convince the already convinced team showing their shoe-marks that it was the right path. Rest of the trek went smoothly.

We could even find some local villagers by now. We also met a group of shikaris. They had killed a large squirrel which I doubt would not even suffice them for a day’s meal. I really wondered, “the purpose of it’s living” only to fill the stomachs of 2-3 people ? and that too would not last there more than 4-5 hours. This is nature. The weaker ones exist to fulfill the needs of the stronger ones. We were helpless. We silently saw the magnificent animal being taken away. After having a small talk with them, we went to have a bath in the river.

After a hearty bath, we had our lunch on the way near the stream. Also a paper boat race kindled the child in us. We had lots of photo sessions too. By the time we reached Gundya, srinivas was limping due to the bad state of his shoes, shek due to the rolling rock.

Final Phase:
By God’s grace we all reached Gundya in full piece by 3:30PM. From there we alighted a bus to Hassan. The whole journey, was spent sleeping. We didn’t even bother to think of the state of our fellow passengers who had to bear with our stinking clothes and shoes. At Hassan, our team minus Vasant alighted a bus to Bangalore. Vasant departed us to meet his sister.
We reached Bangalore by 11PM. With the sweet memories of the Kabbinale river trek and a burning desire to go again and reach ‘OMBATTU GUDDA’ we departed to our HOME SWEET HOMES.

And though we did not go where we intended to , this trek gave our mechanical life all the required masala, – we had more adventure, more uncertainities , faced more challenges, did more trek than it would have been possible if we were to trek to original destination. After the strenuous trek, we really learnt to appreciate the luxuries of city life. But, we have also learnt to live without it. And also to enjoy the journey along the path the destiny dictates us rather than we choose.

(If guru was thinking about the wild-life we lived, I was actually discussing with sriram the plight of those leeches for whom I might have given a free ride till Bangalore. And their city-life in Bangalore !
-RK)
See here for the log embedded with pics.

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