Sleep was hard to come by during the night as the wind continued to howl. A large part of the night was spent just awaiting the dawn. I was the first one up in the camp. I hastily got ready and decided to head off for a morning stroll along the stream.
By now the sun had risen but still wasn’t visible due to the hills in the east. The banks of such streams are rather fertile. These are the only spots that tree growth can be observed at such altitudes in the ghats. I proceeded to sit by the stream take a few shots of the stream and frogs I observed hopping nearby.
On heading back to the campsite I had some cup noodles and packed up. It was now time to proceed to our next destination, Ballarayana Durga fort. There is no genuine path to the fort. Most of route involved navigating our way through the tall montane grass over a series of undulating hills. After completing a series of these we could finally catch a glimpse of the ruined fort through our binoculars. A rather straight forward path along the ridge of a few hills became apparent and the excitement was evident among the group.
Far away, on the path leading to the fort, we suddenly glimpsed movement. There were excited cries among the group of the possibility that we may have spotted an elephant. On closer inspection the animal appeared bovine. We quickly assumed it to be a bison (gaur), a terrific find none-the-less. I was still rather sceptical though and decided to put my 300mm of zoom to use and take a snap. On observing the image on the LCD we realised it was just a buffalo and chuckled at our naivety.
At this point Phrabhakar began moving a little ahead of the group and assumed the lead. I was at the back and had lost sight of him till I saw our brave pioneer rapidly scampering backward while simultaneously taking photographs. A moment later we saw the cause for his panic, he was being chased by a rather angry buffalo.
The group tried moving forward as one unit and tossing stones at the bovine, but sadly to no avail. It seemed to enrage the buffalo bull further and made us scamper up a nearby hill. Any further and we’d be forced off the cliff.
If you know me or have read my blog before I’m sure you saw that coming. This is the third trek I’m getting into bovine trouble. Anyways…….
We thought of approaching the fort from an alternate route through the valley. This plan was soon scrapped on sighting more buffaloes grazing on the opposite hill.
Some of the guys were panic stricken by the number of buffaloes around us while others saw the funny side of it. Battle lines had been drawn, strategies meticulously planned and troops summoned….this was war!!
We observed that it was just a single individual and not an entire herd that was making life difficult for us. Eventually we decided to bide our time till the buffalo moved away from the path and then make a run for it. And run for it we did! Being towards the tail of the group I was forced to push myself hard. I sprinted and refused to look back till I was a thousand meters from the war zone.
From here on the path to the fort was a rather smooth one. We did see a few more buffaloes in the distance causing a little bit of panic in our ranks. But none of these seemed to take any interest in us. We quickly ascended to the fort with our cameras vigorously clicking away. We had won this battle and it was now time to celebrate with refreshments.
A panoramic view from the fort.
Not much is known about Ballarayana Durga. After a good bit of googling I’ve still been unsuccessful in finding information on the fort and would love it if you could provide me with some. One thing is certain though, the views from here are breathtaking. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
As per the plan, we were to start our descent from here on. Our first attempt to do so saw us reach a dead end. In the distance we could see the rain clouds brewing and pouring on distant valleys. As be backtracked we happened to startle a rather large dark rat snake who decided to quickly slither away from us. On walking a bit further we could see something that resembled a jeep track in the distance, down in the valley. There appeared no visible way to get to the track though. Johan decided to lead the way. We followed him, along cattle tracks, through prickly grass down into a valley. Along the way, we managed to startle some more wildlife, a hare on this occasion. After an hour or so we hit a trail that we assumed would take us to the jeep track.
The open grasslands were now only a distant memory as be began traversing through dense forest again. We all moved fast as we were hungry and were looking for a place to have lunch away from the festering leeches. We soon hit the jeep track that further led to a house that I assume belonged to a local priest. With civilization just a stone’s throw away, we decided to break for lunch at the house.
It was at this point it dawned upon me that till that point we hadn’t seen a single other person apart from our group mates for the duration of two whole days.
Form here it was a rather straight path through fields then villages. Before we knew it we managed to get a jeep to drop us to Sunkasale village. Our first order of business here was a nice cup of tea, my first in two days. Next, we boarded a bus to the temple town of Hornadu, where we were catch a bus to Bangalore later that night.
On getting to Hornadu we freshened up and decided to seek blessings at The Annapoorneshwari temple. This temple makes up almost half of the town, which just about tells you it’s prominence among the people. The temple also offers an evening meal to its devotees. Kind of like a South Indian version of the Punjabi Langar.
With our bodies fresh and our stomach satiated we boarded our bus back to Bangalore.
Route: (someone please confirm this)
Fro: Sultanpet>Sunkasale>Hornadu> Bangalore
GPS track compiled by Naveen.