February 25, 2011

Bandaje TreK: Amid Falls, Fort and Forest

Exploring the world around him(or her :P) is deeply embedded in man's genes  , it is his basic instinct (not talking abt the one popularized by the movie :P).With that instinct pretty strong in me it was really a drab for nearly 2 months where I went nowhere other than home and office. Having some personal commitments couldn't find the time off to do some traveling. Finally everything fell into place and it was decided to do some trekking on Feb 19,20 weekend. Initial plan varied a lot from Ombattu Gudda(postponed yet again :( ), Green Route Trek to Mukurthi Peak, but these treks had some or the other problems creeping up and finally we decided to head back to Charmadi Ghats having trekked in these hills some 2 months back. The destination was Bandaje Arbi and Ballarayana Durga, but unfortunately only 3 people (Chandan, Prasanna and Me) made it this time making it a compact yet mobile unit, with no laggers or leaders (since I was burdened with the tent :P).

Forest and Falls : 
Feb 19, 2011- Bandaje Village->Bandaje Arbi (8kms..steep climb)

Ray "un-Ban": Bandaje Village
We took an overnight bus from Majestic to Dharmastala. The Rajahamsa bus reached at an unearthly hour of 4.30 in the morning, much much earlier than my expectations (which was 7 am :P). With no other option we decided to rent a room until daybreak and then proceed towards our destination. For 250 bucks we got a room (Gayathri Guest House) and killed couple of hours catching up on our sleep. At around 8 am we finally left the room , had breakfast in one of the hotels nearby, packed chapathi for lunch and caught a bus to Ujire(8kms).

At Ujire we were pretty much clueless in which direction to head to since for this trek I had not researched much and after poking around we got to know we had to head towards Bandaje Village via Idya. The KSRTC operator was very helpful and he gave us all details regarding where exactly to catch the bus and where to get down etc(Idya). As we were waiting for the bus one jeep driver approached us, seeing our trekking gear and all, offering to drop us at Bandaje Village(the beginning of the trail) for a flat 250 bucks. Not having the patience to wait for the bus decided to take the much luxurious means of transport to our destination.

Spring Collection 2011
Landed in front of Narayana Gowda 's house. He is the local contact point for all the treks. Guide or no guide its best to have his number in your contact list.(Considering that nothing is predictable in a trek) He enquired whether we wanted a guide. We politely rejected since we had a rough map and a compass to guide us all the way and considering that in this season the path being well defined (thanks to numerous trekkers before us) Mr. Gowda also supported our decision. I would like to add that even though we completed the trek without a guide doesn't mean the path is less confusing. We wanted some adventure and were even mentally prepared in case we got lost in the jungles :P.

Lost in Time
A Huge Tree Trunk
Off we started in the trail at 9 am . It can be said that the initial part of the trek is the most confusing part. Lots of trials and errors  and on top of that numerous paths branching out. When we saw another team (whom we met during the overnight bus journey) behind us we got confirmed for sure that we were in the right path, but we soon overtook their team since they were way too slow for our pace and forest path is a very steep climb.(Considering that we took 4 hrs to cover 8 kms :P )

Also this being the spring season lots of trees where in full bloom with new set of leaves which came up in all sort of bright colours, a treat to the eyes. Even though the entire path is canopied with dense forest the heat started to get to us, imagine if the same climb was to be done under an open sun..phew..exhausting.Soon we reached the Bandaje river, which was lot smaller than I expected. Just 20-30ft wide and can be crossed without a fuss in this season. Also in many crossroads the directions are marked in yellow paint on the nearby rocks which was very helpful for us. We took a break at the river , refilled our bottles (last water point until the falls), removed our shoes and dipped our aching feet in the freezing waters of Bandaje river.... Soothing to feet and soul :P.

Front View Of Bandaje Arbi
Top View :P
After a break of 20 mins we again started towards the peak. There was lot of fresh elephant dung strewn across the entire path giving sure shot signs that elephants had traversed the same path a couple of days ahead of us. On and on we went along the well defined path in this section until we reached a open space, a grassland from where we get the first view of the Bandaje Arbi falls. After so many numerous treks I have understood one thing , the more effort we put to reach the place , even an average looking thing looks really spectacular to our eyes (same with girls I suppose :D ). Had our lunch of dry chapathis at this place. Even though the falls seemed to be well within a stones throw away , the final battle was yet to be won. The afternoon sun was up in full glory and there was literally no shelter whatsoever to shield us and added to that last section is a steep climb. By this time we caught sight of another group of 15 struggling ahead of us. After the grueling climb we reached a platform sort of place from where there we had to climb down a steep and slippery section to reach the falls.

Water Dance
Finally we reached the falls and it was literally an oasis in the middle of a desert. Easily one of the most beautiful camping spots I had been to. So many small and beautiful waterfalls before the giant one at 200ft. The flowing water offered such a soothing cadence. We explored a lot of spots upstream and also went and sat near the 200 feet falls and had a spine chilling peek of the drop. Awesome View :).

After exploring around and we decided to take a dip in one of the natural jacuzzi. Even though the water was near freezing we couldn't let go of an opportunity to take a dip in such an awesome settings (resulting in a terrible cold 2 days later :P ). After bath we decided to  start looking for our camp spot, since the camp spot just behind the waterfalls was completely occupied by the 15 member group we had to look for an another one and got a flat ground , but completely exposed to elements.(Winds are terrible during the nights). But having no other option the 3 brave souls decided to pitch the tent and collected firewood for the bonfire cum stove. This was followed by a great sunset, which I cannot get enough of  even after watching them for countless number of times.
Beside Our Jacuzzi Point
The Glow: After Sunset
This was followed by us cooking maggi noodles (consuming a lot of smoke in the process... blaaaah :P. ) our dinner for the night and followed by some high pitched singing around the bonfire , the most popular being Sheila Ki Jawani :D :D :D. Finally at around 9 pm we were into our sleeping bags , taking in the much needed rest.
Full Moon Peeking Behind Trees

Fort and Grasslands:
Feb 20, 2011- Bandaje Arbi->Ballarayana Durga->Sultanpet (16kms.. easy gradient)

Had a deep sleep of nearly 10 hrs and woke up when the first rays of sun fell upon our tent. Since the sun rises from behind a mountain it was no use trying to catch the sunrise at this spot.Finished our morning chores and having a quick breakfast of bread and jam we were ready to leave for the fort. Since the entire path from the falls to fort is covered with grasslands we had planned to leave early in order to avoid the sun's gaze , but managed to leave the camp spot only at 8.30 am.

From the waterfalls one has to start climbing the grasslands in the left flank of the falls(i.e. North direction). Once the topmost tree line is reached there starts a well defined route all the way to the Ballarayana Durga. The initial climb is quiet taxing , but apart from the that the remaining part of the trek can be termed as a stroll.  The entire path is filled with sun dried grass lands,offering a completely different scenery than with their greener counterpart. Within some 45 mins from the falls we start to get the first view of the fort at a considerable distance, perched snugly on top of a mountain. The entire path is surrounded by some awesome mountain views.
Barren Landscape

We moved towards our destination at a leisure pace, taking a lot of snaps, absorbing the scenery around us and reached our destination within 2 hours of leaving the falls. The fort as such has nothing remaining and is in a completely depleted condition, but the views which we get from the strategically placed fort is simply mind blowing. Also this is a good camping spot with lot of protection from natural elements but the only thing missing is the water source.

First View Of The Fort

From the fort we now had to move towards Sunkashale. Were again a bit confused with the path down, but with a bit of scouting from me and chandan's side we were able to find the path (well defined path starting from the south of the fort and takes a 'U' turn along the mountain ridges to reach North). We started from the fort at around 11 am and started to climb down and within some 15-20 mins we heard 2 gunshots :P. Now my imagination began to run wild since this region has reported some Naxal activity in the past. But anyway we decided to move ahead and check it our ourselves.

Soon enough the trek trail ended and we joined a jeep track . Moved along this path and came across a pickup truck , a couple of trekkers and localites and soon we came to know the reason for the gun shots.
The localites had heard some wild elephant cries and they had fired the shots in the air to scare them away. They told us to wait some time since they predicted that the beast might be along the jeep track. Also they told a story of how a villager was trampled to death a month back. So having no other option we waited and waited and waited some more.

3 Wild Idiots : DCH style :P
Finally a hour later a villager came from the opposite direction and he confirmed that there were no elephants along the path. Feeling happy we are finally moved and came across a small village. Now came the real twist in the tale, when we informed about the elephant cry to a villager. He told that its not any elephant  but his cow which cries like an elephant and it indeed does when we went near it :D :D .

From this village we tried to take a shortcut towards Sunkashale , but the path was very confusing so we decided to take the motorable road itself and walking in this road was not that enjoyable. Finally we reached Sultanpet some 4 kms to Sunkashale and decided to take an auto from the local grocery shop. While waiting for the auto to come we devoured a couple of tender coconuts, some fried stuff and some chocs(per head).

The auto driver dropped us in Sunkashale and from here we caught a local bus to Kottigehara. Since the time was already 3 pm we decided to break for lunch here and had a good lunch at a totally deserted Kottigehara Hotel (visible from Bus stand). Coming back we tried to catch a bus to Dharmastala , but whichever bus came was totally packed to brim , and our tired souls were least interested to travel in such conditions. The reason for such a rush was the majority of buses had been diverted to a political rally ... Damn You Political Parties x-( .  Finally having no other options we decided to travel in a jeep, i.e. in cattle class, where they stuff people till people start complaining, but at least we had some real estate for our bums, which was all that mattered to us :P.

Reached Ujire and from Ujire we took a bus to Dharmastala. Yet again Dharmastala was jam packed with pilgrims and after a lot of searching we finally got a room in Saketh Guest house for a measly 70 bucks , which we used just for getting freshened up. Had a good dinner at Tripti Hotel and caught the 9pm bus to Bangalore. The bus reached Majestic at around 4.45am and when I went to catch a local bus to my house was in for yet another shock. Buses were packed to the brim with people, even at this unearthly hours. Traveled the majority of the distance standing , swaying right and left in my drowsy condition. Since the ratio of people inside to outside was close to infinity, reached my house within 30 mins. Finally Home sweet home.

Overall a good trek with a lot of varieties thrown in .We had dense forest, rivers, water falls, grasslands, fort, mountain views, and even an elephant cry :P. I had not seen so many varieties in a single trek apart from the Himalayan trek. Also this is the last trek of this trekking season before the summer sets in, waiting eagerly for my next in the month of June, perhaps a monsoon trek :).  As is the norm with my other trek blogs ending with a funky quote :P.

"Nature is my God and trekking is my pilgrimage" :P

Group Snap: Prasanna, Me and Chandan
Trek Details --->

Total Trek Distance --> 24 kms
Total Cost Per Head --> 1500 bucks
Narayana Gowda Contact No ----> 9845693661, 08256274231
Mobile Signal Info---> BSNL and Vodafone at falls/fort (Yet again no airtel :P.. Vodafone rocks :P)
Useful Map ----> http://www.dreamroutes.org/dreams/hemant_bandaje.html

Snaps Link ---->


February 22, 2011

Oscars 2011: The Hitlist

With the Oscar's just round the corner , just had enough time and patience to watch all the 10 movies nominated for the best feature film category. Doesn't mean that the nominees are the best (American and British) movies for the entire year , but these satisfy a quality benchmark. Had watched 7 of the movies prior to the announcement , that gives me 70% coverage of good movies. Below is the brief description of the famous ten and my favourite to win.

1. Black Swan

"Good Girl Gone Bad" should have been the quote of this movie. Jokes apart this is one of the darkest movies I had watched during the recent times. It is more of a psychological thriller and no way is it a movie for the masses. The story begins with Nina(Portman) who is a goody good , innocent ballerina performer. When there is a casting call within her ballerina school for the title role of  "Black Swan" which requires a performer to portray both White Swan and black swan. She is selected , on the grounds that she is perfect for the white swan part but has to find her inner darker self to play the alter ego. She finds those grey shades of her personality but with disastrous consequences.

My Rating -----> 4/5

2. The Fighter

From the title one would assume this to be an action movie, but this is far from it. I had expected to see some "David Vs Goliath" (which never gets boring even after watching n number of movies :P) kinda movie such as the Cinderella Man, but this more of a family drama than a boxing movie. This true story starts with a local boxer Micky(Walberg) who has the chance to make it big in boxing , but for that he requires the help of his elder brother(Bale), a pot addict ex-champ. And the movie is all about their relations. The saving grace is the one and only Christian Bale. This guy is so versatile as an actor and to fit to his role he has lost tons of weight(Not as much as The Machinist) .Walberg on the other hand gives his usual expressionless acting once again.  The family squabbles did get on to my nerve. An overall average movie.

My Rating -----> 3/5

3. Inception

Every now and then comes a movie which is so out of this world that people just watch it 3-4 times just to understand it, a movie which requires a different level of imagination altogether. In the 90's there was Matrix now we have Inception. "Dream within a Dream" has become one of the most popular phrase of this year. One of my favourites to win the oscars.

More detailed review here

My Rating -----> 5/5

4. The Kids are all Right

This post-modern tale is an interesting take on the present family values (at least in US :P). The main centre of focus is an unconventional family headed by two lesbian women and 2 children born via donor sperms. The twist begins when the children decide to meet and get to know their biological father(Mark Ruffalo). Both the kids and the father open up and begin to grow closer. But the problem starts when one of the mother (Julianne Moore) falls for the guy. Even though the father has some questionable motives , the audience cannot resist sympathizing with him. Overall a good hatke movie.

My Rating ----> 4/5

5. The Kings Speech

A movie which everyone would identify with, after all who is comfortable with public speaking (still remember my sleepless night before my first, in front of school assembly in 7th grade :P). Movie starts with how spectacularly the Duke Of York(Collin Firth) fails to deliver a speech in front of a live audience, partly because of his nervousness and other being his stammering problem. But that doesn't bother him much until is pushed ahead of his elder brother to be Englands new King.With World War II in the horizon King is expected to rise to the occasion and inspire the entire Kingdom and to achieve this goal he is helped and supported by the Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). Amazing acting by Firth who surely deserves an oscar for this performance.

My Rating ----> 4.5/5

6. 127 Hours

After "Slumdog Millionaire", Danny Boyle had become "our guy" and there was so much expectations from his next which happens to be this "127 Hours". In short I was a bit disappointed, the major reason of which could be that I was expecting too much. This true story starts with Ralston (James Franco) going on a hiking trail in an isolated canyon range. Pleasure soon turns to despair when he gets his hand stuck under a huge rock. Trapped, he is forced to make some serious decisions which a person in normal circumstances wouldn't even dream about, as time starts to pile up odds against him.The initial scenes are just too good including the biking across the desert. Scenes like these in movies would encourage more people to take up biking than any ads would even dream of. Overall the flow of the movie is good except the part where he starts to see hallucinations which I thought to be overstretched a bit.

My Rating ----> 3.5/5

7. The Social Network

The movie about the latest craze of the recent time, "Facebook" and its creator "Mark Zuckerberg". While the director seems to have taken a lot of artistic freedom , we do get to witness that having a great idea is not good enough, but its how you capitalize on that idea to make it super big. Story starts with Mark(Jesse Eisenberg) who is grad student at Harvard and a complete computer geek who implements some cool ideas even though it pisses a lot of people. From one idea to another he keeps jumping until he comes across the idea of Facebook and the ensuing story after that. The major part of the movie is occupied by the legal suit proceedings that the co-founders file on Mark. Overall a good movie which has to be taken with a pinch of salt :P.

My Rating -----> 4/5

8. Toy Story 3

Being a great fan of both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 , I had high expectations from this movie and I was greatly disappointed. After watching this I feel its time to wind up the franchise so as not to mess up with the memories of the previous 2 movies. The main skeleton plot is more or less repeated, with the others toys in danger leaving Woody and Buzz to rescue them. Andy is ready to go to college so he donates his toys to a daycare. This daycare is controlled by the evil soft spoken Teddy Bear, and the toys have to fight back to earn their freedom. The jokes are not so funny, it might be said that I am too old for movies like these , but as I said the first 2 installments still tickle my funny bone :).

My Rating ----> 3/5

9. True Grit

A watchable western movie after a long time. Even in western genre there are 2 categories, one is the straight forward "white hero vs black villain" and nothing in between and the other category which has some new story to tell like the Unforgiven(1992). This movie belongs to the latter category. After the murder of her father by a bandit a 14 year girl looks for vengeance, an highly unlikely candidate for one. She hires the services of the best gunslinger in town Rooster(Jeff Bridges) to see the job done. This unlikely group is joined by a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) who is after the same bandit and the movie is about their journey capturing the bandit for their own means.

My Rating -----> 4/5

10. Winter's Bone

The least publicized movie of the lot and no hype whatsoever associated with it. Also the last movie I saw in this list.  Movie begins with Ree in search of her missing father in order to save her house and property. She digs around to find any info regarding him and faces stiff resistance everywhere. One by one she starts discovering the truth. More or less the pace of the movie is pretty slow and the accent of the characters makes it tough to understand the dialogues. An average movie with no chances of winning the coveted prize , which I was wondering how it got nominated in the first place.

My Rating -----> 3/5

Finally I would be routing for "The Kings Speech" and "Inception" to win the award, but with all probability "The Kings Speech" has better odds of making it all the way,  having already won the BAFTA awards. Also got to check the movies in the foreign language category which are generally more interesting than the above listed nominees. But the main problem are the subtitles which makes one concentrate just on one part of the screen leaving the other parts to escape our vision :P.
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