Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trip to Kolli Hills, Tamil Nadu

Kolli Hills is a quiet hilly area in Tamil Nadu ranging around 3000-4000 feet above sea level; around 85 kms away off the city of Salem. On my first trip with GHAC group (a group which encourages various trips/treks with different people and this was my first such trip); it was an enjoyable experience to meet new people, amidst awesome weather and serene background.

21 of us started on a bus from Hyderabad to Salem (a 12 hour journey) and reached the city next morning 6am. To reach Kolli Hills from the city of Salem; one needs to interchange three buses to get there. We freshened up at one of the stoppages and eventually reached the start point of Kolli Malai after the last bus took us through 70 hair pin bends on a uphill road.

(As a side note, must admit I was impressed with the steering ability of those bus drivers. On every bend I thought, here we go colliding into the wall; and just at the last moment the wheel spun away leading the bus to smoothly stay on the road without a fuss.)

Post those bends, it is a 12 km trek to the Agaya Gangai waterfalls (refer link above). We had lunch (it was lunch time by the time we got here) and started off on a fun-filled trek. The route was easy, and not laborious; we stopped multiple times for photos and had good fun along the way.

Misty - green hills
The scenery around the place was full of greenery with a misty backdrop lending an easy-on-the-eye pleasant background as we walked along. The weather was an unexpected bonus as it stayed cloudy throughout the weekend with occasional bursts of rain but essentially cloudy and misty for most parts giving the place a 'serene-mysterious-uninhabited-countryside' look.
Beautiful greenery with a misty background
 Towards the evening, we stopped at an off-small-waterfall around 15-20 metres high and had a good time there. After that, we continued our walk/trek to the intended destination. As it grew dark, we accidentally separated into groups and one half of the group got lost. Walking and asking about our way (luckily there were folks who knew Tamil); we managed to find the other half after an hour of hunting.

After reaching our destination, we set up tents with the help of our group lead; and had dinner under torch lights. Our dinner was pretty basic with some energizers like chikki (i don't know its english name), dates along with ready-to-eat sambhar/lemon rice which we heated using a stove.

We set up watch in batches over our belongings for a stipulated time period during the night which was good fun until it started raining on my watch. A good night's sleep still (for most folks at least); and we were fresh and ready to move next morning.

Early morning - ghostly trees
Continuing our walk to the waterfall; we were in for a disappointment. The road to Akash Gangai waterfalls (a series of 1200 downhill steps - a real trek) was blocked because of an accident a couple of days ago. That notwithstanding; we found another mini falls and spent some good time there trying to go as close to the force of water flow. (It never ceases to amaze me what power a simple chunk of water falling from a height seems to generate).

After lunch, we were ready to go back and completed our return journey to Salem in bus and Omnis. Thereafter the bus back to Hyderabad capping off a nice weekend.

It is a little inhibiting when you plan to go on a trip with folks unknown. I am glad to say that after this trip; there are no such inhibitions and I ended up meeting and befriending a lot of folks along the way.

For further pictures, visit this link.


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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A trip to Hogenakkal falls from Bangalore

Three of us went on a trip to Hogenakkal Falls from Bangalore. These falls are on the Karnataka -Tamil Nadu border and off the river Kaveri.

The falls are approximately four hours and 180kms from Bangalore. We booked an Indica, left at 8.30 am in the morning stopping for breakfast on the way. The drive along the way was beautiful with lush green mountains visible in the distance as we neared our destination. The roads were wide with divider for the most part.

We reached the town of Hogenakkal around 1pm and our first sight was one of chaos. The town is an extremely dirty one with heavy crowds – people getting oil massages, fish curries flying here and there – for a fair bit of time we were perplexed as to why this place is rated so highly. We followed the directions to the waterfall and the falls only mildly impressed us. The crowd was the overbearing oppressive factor especially as the intent to go on such trips is to be away from human beings. People washing, bathing, dripping in oil and what not off the various multiple waterfalls (which were actually beautiful had it not been for the crowd) really repulsed us.

Waterfalls near Hogenakkal town
At that point, our desire for a brief instant was to go back and never tell anyone we came to this place. Glad, we didn’t follow that thought. The other pending thing on our agenda was the Coracle ride (a small basket-like boat in which you’re taken around the waters) which had been rated very highly on the internet.

We bargained for the ride - 3 people for Rs 900 (typically the boat contained 5-6 people; but I suspect we overpaid by a fair bit) and went off on to the Coracle. It was totally worth it! Period. The Coracle ride was the first thing that happened which was great; if nothing else, the fear of colliding into oil-dripping human beings was gone.
View from the Coracle ride
We enjoyed the ride, got drenched off a small fall, had good fun and stopped off at a different point from where we were asked to walk to another point. Without understanding the local language, we just followed directions and instructions and then we had a pleasant surprise in store. We then realized why Hogenakkal is so famous and for nothing it is not called the Niagara of India.

The real falls for which this place is famous is away from the town and reachable only by Coraikal (not sure if this is correct – might be reachable by road – if so, any one should attempt to directly go there and not waste time near the town). We were left awe-struck on our first sight of the real Hogenakkal Waterfalls.

There is a giant pit or cavern – extremely wide (maybe 100 metres perimeter) and water flows off from all direction and flows down with a stunning force. We spent a lot of time at the falls just gazing into the water and taking photographs. The height of the falls is probably around 20-30 metres.
Some images on the web seem to indicate you could take the coracle near the falls – but given the monsoon time and force of water which we saw it seemed scarcely believable. The only other point of note was a solitary giant rock (see pic) which seemed to be right in dead center facing the brunt of those waters and still managing to maintain its dignity and laugh off the pressure. Wonder how many years pass before it is finally eroded ! But whilst it stays, it bravely has to constantly withstand the enormous pressure and force of those waters.
Hogenakkal Waterfalls

Due to time constraints, we left the falls to continue the remainder of our coracle ride which in stark contrast was through absolute serene back waters and reached back to the Hogenakkal town. There was also a Crocodile Park in the town which we couldn't go to due to time scarcity.

We left back at 4pm and entered the city of Bangalore around 8pm. All-in-all capping off a satisfactory day’s trip!

For further pictures, visit this link.


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