Wild Wonderful Karnataka

Trekking around BallaLa Rayana Durga, Bandaje Arbi.

Date:12/13/14 April 2003.


  The route planned was to trek to arbi bandajje and ballalrayandurga fort.The season promised some hot weather,but forecasts showed that we might get some rain,and hence,some respite from the heat. Seven of us caught the bangalore to dharmasthala overnight bus.Since there was some uncertainty about the place we were to get down,we alighted at dharmasthala itself.There are 2 access points to this route,one at mundajje(16kms from dharmasthala) and sunkasAle(83kms from dharmasthala).We decided to go start from mundajje.

  From mundajje leads a dirt road to Narayan Gowda's house,behind which a path (only a single path,as the locals put it) leads to the arbi waterfall.This house nestles in the shadow of a hill(name unknown),on the shoulder of which one can see arbi (arbi means waterfall in kannada).What we decided ,was that instead of taking the dirt road,we would trek in the forest towards this house.As it turned out,this was extremely difficult because there are many paths in the forest that lead to houses here and there,but none to the house.We ended up getting lost many times,and only with the assistance of two local guides did we reach the house in the evening.There are cairns in the forest that mark the way,but the trail is not clear and simply finding the next cairn is difficult.

  By this time ,one of our team members was unwell,it seemed,due to dehydration. Thanks to the assitance from Mr Narayan Gowda,we were able to get a doctor who pronounced him fine,and a day's rest should see him through.

   Next morning after seeing off our friend,we got a local guide to show us the path to arbi.From the house,although the waterfall is visible,there are many forks in the forest path. It behind the house through some nice tropical jungle,although very humid and sticky.After breakfast near a waterpoint,we continued.The path is almost always climbing,sometimes steeply. It traverses around the shoulder of the hill and into a grassland(though,i suspect,this was earlier a forest which was hacked away). Another steep climb and a shola walkthro later,we were at arbi.

  Arbi is a 200+ft waterfall,but the path leads to the top of it.Going by the amount of junk there,it seemed to be a popular spot. After bathing ourselves and cleaning up the place,the rains came down in force,so we huddled in the covers and finished our lunch.We found a small overhanging rock that served as a cave about 20minutes walk upstream ,and we settled in for the night.

An early breakfast and we were off to the fort.Ballal fort is visible from the topmost point of the hill about an hour's walk up from arbi,and another hour's walk along a clear path later,we were at the fort.The fort is supposed to have been built by the hoysalas,is about 100m square,and has nothing except a few trees and ramparts.The views,however are worth the effort.The walk to the fort from arbi is also very nice,it proceeds on top of the ridges with views of shola forest and valleys as well.Eastward from the fort,one can see oorikan estate and below that lies sunkasAle.The trail down is well frequented and one passes houses and estates.It took us 2 1/2 hours to reach sunkasAle,from where one can take a bus to horanadu(via kalasa) or dharmasthala(via kothigere) to reach bangalore.

Useful Info.
Route: mundajje narayan gowda's house (jungle walk 5 hours) house - arbi bandajje (4 hours steep ascent) arbi bandajje - ballalrayandurga (2hours,no water available) ballalrayandurga- sunkasAle(2 hours ). Road access is at mundajje,gowda's house and sunkasAle. Petrol ,hospitals : at ujire(8kms from mundajje).

Shelter is available at a school near the house,and in a small cave near arbi(about 7 can sleep).There is no shelter at the fort,but there are houses an hour's descent away.

These might be useful: insect repellant,machete/sickle for the forest walk,tents(if one goes in rainy season).A guide for the route from house to arbi.

Watch out for: ticks,leeches,insect swarms(near the fort).

Possible variations:One can do the route the easier way (durga-arbi-house),but the descents wont be kind on the knees. Another one would be from mundajje to arbi directly,but this would need a guide.

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