Friday, February 26, 2010

A Matter of Honour (Part - II)

Part - 2 (Ombattu Gudda)

After a good 8 hours sleep, we woke up early morning at 6AM before the sunrise. Our camp fire had been raging all night and gave us the warmth required to stand among the clouds to watch the sun rays make its way through the mountains. While we enjoyed the morning colors, Miltan was busy barbecuing his Jockey in the camp fire. Krishna, Miltan, Debarshi and myself then started packing the tents while the photographers were excused to make the best use of the morning light to capture nature through their lens.

By 7:30AM we put out the fire and began our climb down towards Bhaireweshwara Temple. The declivity was constant and we reached the plains withing 1 hour. We then walked to the nearby farmhouse and inquired the route to Ombattu Gudda. After a long discussion with the farmer, our guide informed us that path lay behind us and the two peaks that was obstructing our view needs to be crossed first. Despite some reluctant faces we pushed ourselves towards the mystery peak. I was excited at the very thought of conquering the peak this time. We walked at a good pace towards the base of the first peak. Piyush, Ramesh and myself were the sweepers and weren't comfortable with our water bottles being empty. Our shouts for stopping at streams for water died down and no one seemed to realize the importance of water. When our ascent for the first peak began, we set our foot down and declined to take a further step forward until our water bottles were refilled.

Manju had relied on the Guide on the water sources, but then after few minutes of argument we went back towards the nearest water source. However, the water was relatively stagnant and close to where a Porcupine was skinned (or dethorn-ed) and eaten; lucky, I had bought some water purification tablets. We finished our breakfast, filled our bottles and began our climb. The climb was pretty steep, but having trekked just 2 weeks back, I found it less demanding, except for some backward force from the bag.

Within 30mins into the climb we were at the top and the guide found a shorter route to second peak without much descent. Surprisingly, when we reached the top we could find the jeep track running in front of us. Having done extensive study on Ombattu Gudda during our last expedition Piyush and myself realized our location and proximity to Ombattu Gudda. We were enthralled by the green and dense Kabinhale Reserve forest. We took few minutes to cherish the moment; the moment of conquering Ombattu Gudda.

Without wasting any time and energized by the thought of no more camping, we walked on the jeep track following the guide. Having walked nearly 3kms in the open sun and exhausting our water supply, we halted under a tree to find that we were not making a descent to Lakshmi Estate, but walking in the opposite direction towards the last OG peak (Remember 9 hills). This major mis-communication between the leaders and sweepers resulted in a argument that had to be settled logically. With our water supply exhausted we had three options, continue our walk towards OG last peak, head to Sarswathi Estate and get some water there or walk back to Lakshmi Estate. After a long discussion and voting, we planned to first head to Sarswathi Estate to get some water. Decision was made but route to Sarswathi estate was not known. Believe it or not, we had mobile signal out in the middle of the forest!. Phone a friend, Ramesh placed a call to the Guide's partner and after an elaborate conversation declared that we were on wrong track to Sarswathi Estate. Like it wasn't hard enough, we had to trace back our path by 1Km and take a detour. Driven out of options we walked like Zombies back to the detour point. We then halted, while the guide set out to find the route ahead.

Within few minutes, the guide returned with a bad news, no route ahead. Walking with minimal water, and the heat above us were perfect combination for insanity to creep in. Everyone were releasing reserve energy in the form of abuses. Not arriving at a conclusion, we then decided to walk back 7Kms to Lakshmi Estate with just 4L of water. This 7Km was never ending walk, or atleast looked like one. With the first glimpse of Lakshmi Estate, we pushed at full throttle forwards.

As we entered Lakshmi Estate, we were crying 'Ner, Neri Elli' (Water, where is water). The estate workers then showed us to the hose pipe and I stopped not for a minute to drink from it. After quenching our thirst, Ramesh and Manju struck an amicable chord with the estate workers. The workers not only showed us the way to the most wonderful waterfall, that massaged our torn muscles but also prepared the best sambar that I have ever tasted in Karnataka. After a sumptuous meal, the workers offered us beetle nut and their rooms for a quick nap. While Ramesh, Manju conversed with the workers, I made my best attempt to understand the Kannada and enjoy the conversation.

After nearly a hours rest, we set out to the entrance of Lakshmi Estate. We reached the main road at 5:00PM and had our fingers crossed at the TT driver arriving on time. Withing 20mins we were back in our Tempo Traveller and towards Bangalore.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Matter of Honour

Part -1 (Ettina Bhuja)

Our last week trek to Ombattu Gudda was adventurous but unsuccessful being lost in the middle of the forest. We returned back to Bangalore with disappointment but determined to conqueror the peak eventually. After a few days of postmortem Manju, Piyush and myself decided to utilize the Shiv Rathri long weekend and scale two peaks this time, Ettina Bhuja (shoulder of an ox) and Ombattu Gudda (9 hills) with the help of a local guide. Our plan was to trek to Ettina Bhuja on Friday, enjoy the sunset at the peak, camp the night there and walk through the jungle towards OG on Saturday and try our best to return to Hosakere by the same day evening.

Manju did the entire planning from arranging the guide to buying the food. We started on Friday night 10:00PM to Shashila. The winding roads of Shriradi Ghats had given me enough spin to throw up everything that I ate the last evening, leaving me exhausted and hungry again. We reached Shashila at around 6:30AM. Our guide had arranged for breakfast at a bhatt's house where I hogged on enough idlies to keep me going for two days. The Bhatt also packed fresh chappathis and sabjee for lunch in banana leaves. We decided to keep our food at minimum and carry organic plates and covers so that we don't have to carry volumes of litter. Despite our preparation, my backpack was weighing nearly 10kgs (1.7Kg bag+1.5Kg Sleeping Bag + 3.5Kg tent + .7Kg food + .5Kg clothes + 2Kg Water)
Around 5kms from the Bhatt's house was our starting point for the trek, where we had our first glimpse of the peak we had set out to conquer. It was steep climb right from the beginning. The sun was burning us and I had to take breaks every 15minutes to control my hear rate and avoid hyper-ventilating.

We walked for nearly 4 hours under the shades of the thickets and stopped for lunch at about 2PM. We had a wholesome food and decided to take a 'power nap' for 20minutes. The sun was at its peak and we had another 1 hour walk ahead of us in the open heat. With no water source to replenish our bottles we just drank water sufficient to wet our throats. We reached the peak just in time to witness the sunset. We pitched our tents and collected water and log for our night camp fire and cooking. We then left our backpacks at the camp and climbed up the almost cliff section of Ettina Bhuja.

The climb was challenging both physically and mentally. After climbing nearly 90% , I gave up and sat fearing a fall while returning. (I forgot the saying never look down when you are going up). But then it was Manju who made me continue upwards. (Actually, it was more like if Manju can do it would be self humiliating if I didn't make it. :P, no offense Manju). After enjoying the sun set, we returned to our camp to start preparing for dinner.

While I was cutting the vegetables, Manju and others went to collect water from a stream nearby. We then cooked our maggie and began our discussion on our plan for the next day trek to Ombattu Gudda. Only then did we become aware that the guide was not familiar of the route through the forest to OG. The guide informed us that OG was three peaks behind towards east, but there was no defined route. We were left with two options, either to climb down and reach Lakshmi Estate and climb back from the end point or to climb down to Bhariavashwara Devasthanam and inquire the locals about the path to OG. Since our trail was unknown we prepared ourselves mentally for another day of camping. We finished our dinner and slept with little disturbance from the strange sounds that filled the night.

[Day 2: to be contd.]