Wild Wonderful Karnataka

From Hirebailu to ?

        It had been a long time since I trekked. Last time I did some trekking was around a year ago. After that I always wanted to go for a trek in the Himalayas, once I thought of doing it during the season in October (after monsoon) last year and next was during April-may (before monsoon) this year, but again none of them came through. You know how difficult it is to get leave, and there are hajaar things that come in your way to stop doing this. This is one of the reasons why I hate the so called "Responsibility".
         Somewhere in the month of May, I read about this waterfall called Muktihole in honnavar district in one of the newspaper [ http://www.prajavani.net/apr292004/thug.asp ]. After reading the article, I always thought of going to muktihole first, if I had to go for any local trek again. Initially I thought of doing it during the monsoons but this time the Monsoons were in full swing and so I was waiting for it to get over. But there seemed to be no respite for the wait, the monsoon which was a dreary last season had any signs of stopping. Finally, we decided on the following dates 25th & 26th September and were accompanied by Nitya, Sathish, Pradeep & Sushma.

        According to the article you can reach Muktihole from two sides. One by going to Hirebailu (via Hadinbala, Gundabala & kadehalla) and the other from Kodigadde (via Dodda mane). Hadinbala is on the Shimoga to honnavar road while Dodda mane is on Shimoga to Kumta route. I picked up some maps from Survey of India (almost all the districts of Western Ghats) and this helped me to plan out the route too. This site [ http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/EART/india/250k.html ] also has amazing map details which is online, but beware, since it's huge map, it might take some time to show the detailed ones. We finally came to conclusion that we would trek from Hirebailu and accordingly made bookings for the KSRTC bus to honnavar (via Shimoga). trek_route
flower          We got down at Hadinbala at around 7:00 a.m. and the next bus to Gundabala was at around 8:30-8:45. We decided to walk on the road rather than waiting for the bus. We found some small streams in between where we freshened up and had our breakfast etc. Actually, for me it?s very boring to walk on the road but it was much better than waiting and you had very good view on the either side of the road with lush green hills around. We were within reach of Gundabala, we got a school and a bus stop where we decided to wait and get into the bus to reach Gundabala or Kadehalla. The locals told us that it goes till kadehalla and we can go till that point and then start trek. Most of them also told us a lot about leeches etc (which seems to be usual where ever we go), but it?s amazing to see the co-operation and help you get from the people when you visit these remote areas. I always wonder why the people in city can?t be the same, but of course everyone have their own reasons for it.

        The bus which goes to Gundabala & kadehalla runs from Honnavar. During the rainy season it goes only till Gundabala. Once the rainy season is over it extends its path and goes as far as Hosagodu in summer. The reason for this is, there are many streams which flow across and during rainy season and just after the rainy season (say till December) the streams flow in full and gradually dips down. This makes it difficult for the bus to cross the stream. For the time being it was going till Kadehalla and people informed us that it would go to Hirebailu starting from January or Mid December. We took the bus and got down at Kadehalla at around 10.

enroute_hirebailu          The actual trek started from here. It is on the path which is around 10-12 feet wide and muddy. It?s difficult to go in 4-wheelers coz, if it rains the whole path becomes slushy and it would be really difficult to drive. Many villagers were also accompanied or rather we accompanied them as they were going to their villages which were on the way, or some houses deviated somewhere inside and things like that. It was never hot as the path is such that it traverses through huge trees and there is always shade on the path. We saw a lot of huge butterflies (I had seen them earlier during Sharavathi valley trek) and man, they were really big. But it was really difficult to shoot them as they never rested and we solaced ourselves that we don?t have better lighting to shoot them and carried on.

On the way we were also greeted by a snake, which seemed like a cobra which traversed along the bushes so casually as if it was relaxing. We crossed some streams and looked around the beautiful lush green hills of Western Ghats. We also had our brunch near one of the streams and by around 12-12:30 we reached Hirebailu.
There are many villages in that vicinity and you find many paths deviating on the way. At any point of time if you are in doubt do check with the people nearby and they will definitely help you. Otherwise too, the road to hirebailu is a prominent one and it?s difficult to get lost or so. Even if you miss your path, you will end up in some village or the other and it?s not difficult to get back.

         With the help of one of the locals we managed to locate Mahadev Nayak?s house. It was described about this person in the article and so we wanted to find more information regarding the path from him and finally reached his house at around 12:30. Unfortunately he was not at home. We decided to find Muktihole with the directions that his family members can provide. We dumped our entire luggage at his place and just took a sack with cameras, water bottles and some food & proceeded towards Muktihole (following directions given by his family members). cross_stream
kadehalla_stream          We knew (from the article) that we need to climb one of the hills and had to get down to the valley to find Muktihole. So we started climbing one of the hills on the right and as per the directions given by Mahadev Nayak?s family members. The path was a bit steep and you need to climb the hill for about one and half to two hours (is around 4-6 kms). We met one of the shepherds by name Sadashiva and he too confirmed that it was the correct path and after sometime you need to take a right and get down to the valley. We reached the place which seemed like top and started to search any path which is towards right and leads down to the valley. We carried on like this for like almost an hour but we were not able to find the path. Fortunately we found one of the villagers coming in the opposite direction. He was a bit old (around 45yrs) and was walking with a small girl (around 8-9 yrs). We asked him where this path lead, for which he said it leads to another village called Kodigadde and he had started from kodigadde and was going to Hirebailu.

         I had read about this in the article and this place was another 2 hours of walk. When asked about the deviation he said that we have crossed it and he can show it to us if we walk back with him. What really amazed us was he was walking with this small girl barefooted (I can think of all the resistance and sustainability these people have). We followed him and we came back for another km or so and then he just showed us the direction we could go. But there was absolutely no path. He said, because of recent rains you have lot of plants and shrubs grown and you need to make a way for yourself to reach the valley. He also suggested not going on our own as it would be dangerous (He was so courteous when he said that). For a moment we thought about it, the problem was not to reach the valley, but to trace back to the path.

We decided to get back and come tomorrow with some local villager. It was also getting dark and cloudy. We thanked the villager and handed over some chocolates to the small girl (which in no way compares to the help we got) and decided to rest there for a while and get back.
After resting there for about 30 minutes we started walking back. Gave the entire luggage to Pradeep and Sushma (they are planning to trek in Himalayas during the next two months) so that it would train them better for their Himalayan trek. It was such a fun and joy to have such a company and with in an hour or so we were back in Hirebailu. The other reason for us to get back early coz we wanted to go swimming in the nearby stream. We reached Mahadev Nayak?s house by 4:00 and by this time we had clouds cleared and the sun was shining bright and we reached the stream with in no time and enjoyed swimming in the stream for the next 3 hours.

Sadashiva          We got back to Mahadev Nayak?s house in the evening. For some reason there was no power and it was raining a bit. We decided to have dinner with them. In the meantime put our rug sacks in order at one place and started chatting & relaxing. I had taken a small rope (7mm of around 8 mts long). We were practicing knots. The belay knots like Figure-of-eight, bowline etc to anchor knots like clove hitch, double fisherman, prusik loop etc. We nearly passed some time when Mahadev Nayak joined us. We checked with him if we could do reach Muktihole tomorrow and get back to hirebailu. He said it?s possible but we can come back only by around 5 p.m. in the evening (provided if we start at 7-8 a.m. in the morning. It was a surprise for us; we had thought it was only 6 kms from hirebailu. He clarified that it would take around 5-6 kms to reach the valley and from there it is around 4 kms to traverse in the valley to reach the falls.
        Unfortunately, the last bus from kadehalla to honnavar was at 3 p.m. in the evening and we had to reach kadehalla the next day by 3. So that meant we had to leave hirebailu by around 12-12:30 if we need to get back the next day. For a moment we were dejected and were wondering what to do? Then Mahadev Nayak himself suggested another waterfall (all our sensors were again tuned to him!!). This waterfall is called Medini or Hosagodu falls which is around 4 kms from hirebailu and can be done in half a day. Start of at around 7-7:30 in the morning and get back by 12. This was more than a welcome suggestion for us and it was more exciting coz we were to discover yet another falls. We had an amazing dinner that night, and also had a music session in which Mahadev Nayak's son and others did their usual practice. Since we had walked quite long that day & were tired, it did not take us long enough to sleep. falls_view_from_below
falls_mid_part         After having a good breakfast in the morning, we took minimum luggage (some food, cameras & water) and started towards Medini falls. We were again greeted by a snake. It was almost similar to the one I?d seen on the previous day, but this was big and long. We crossed couple of streams and proceeded towards the Medini falls. We were able to see the falls from quite a distance and were excited and wanting to go to it as soon as possible. On the way we were accompanied by Sadashiva (the shepherd whom we met the previous day) and Suresh. Mahadev Nayak called them to join us. By around 9 or so we were at the foot of the falls. This fall is around 150 mts high and it creeps, curves, crawls, jumps & finally smoothens at the foothill. Meaning it does not fall at one go from that high.

With the help of Sadashiva and Suresh we climbed along the falls and sometimes on through the other side and reached up to around 80-100 mts. It was an amazing feeling. We were trying every different photo shot of the falls at every jump and tried capturing it at various exposures and shutter speeds. We spent quite some time there and left back to hirebailu.
On the way back we were treated for a lot of snacks and goodies by Sadashiva?s and Suresh?s family. We got lot of goodies to eat, some nice chat and photo session with them. The word ?Athithi dhevobhava? would be the best word to describe the treatment we got even though we were strangers when we visited them. We bid them good bye promising them to return early to quench our thirst of trying to reach Mukti hole again. We reached Mahadev Nayak?s house and packed our bags and started of as it was 12:30 and we had to reach kadehalla to catch the last bus at 3:00. We got the information and address from Mahadev Nayak and bid good bye to all, satisfied with what we were treated to by Mother Nature and people around for two days.

swim_kadehalla_stream After some strenuous walk for about 2 hours we finally reached kadehalla at around 2:45 p.m. and we were glad we did it in time and sat down resting near the small petty shop (the shop was closed). We were completely wet with sweat. All the water bottles were empty and we were looking for some water to drink and to get freshened up too if there was a possibility. But we had only 15 mins more for the bus to arrive and we had dropped any idea. In the mean time the owner of the petty shop came in and offered us some water. After enquiring we got to know that the bus is at 4 p.m. and not 3 p.m. So what to do now? He said there is a small stream nearby (around 100 mts) and we could get ourselves freshened up there. Oh maan, this was amazing. It was like offering a beggar with some extraordinary treat when he was hungry.

We had a nice swimming session and enjoyed every bit of our outing. We couldn?t have asked for more. We finally took the bus to Honnavar and then to Bangalore and got back home by 6:00 a.m. in the morning. All in all, it was a memorable one and I?m just waiting to return to complete the task.

        The trek to muktihole from Dodda mane side via Kodigadde would also be interesting. There is also possibility to climb up to Medini village. If one reaches hirebailu there are possibilities that you can do the Muktihole trek in a day, Medini village trek and Medini falls in one day and just going around and enjoying the streams etc another day.

~~ S Laxminarayan.

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