Bandaje Arbi Falls- The Conclusion

{Check out the video of the trek by Vedant below} 🙂

Our respite was brief, and we continued. A little way further, we reached a parting in the trail when Danish recalled out loud that the guide had asked him to wait at the stream we had crossed a few minutes ago. Abhishek and Parag volunteered to go and wait there, as the rest of us continued. Amidst quick munches on snicker bars and water, we marched on. Turns out leeches weren’t the only thing to be afraid of, as Prajyot soon discovered a spider bite on his leg. I asked to take my bag back from him since it was heavier, which I believe he was in too much pain to deny. And away we continued, under fallen branches, and over logs, through bushes and leach-ridden ways, we persisted on. Needless to say, my love for listening to stories hadn’t bated a bit, and I was persistent on knowing the stories of the people around me. Radhika, Prajyot, and Kartikey got the brunt of it I’m afraid, and the next day Jaydev.

I’ve always loved listening to people’s stories, what brought them there, what kind of life they’d led to be present here, in this moment, what was unique about them, to understand them. Maybe it’s the ceaseless story sessions from childhood, my persistent and unrelenting younger-self begging my father for stories every night before bed, and his unceasing acquiescence, or maybe just a morbid curiosity to know things.

After maybe a couple of kilometers of uphill climbing, and almost desperate for some rest, we reached a clearing of sorts. It was the face of the hill, with long blades of grasses rising out of the wet earth. Mist rose around us and made it impossible for us to see the view. Most of us plopped down for a breath before we continued. Very soon, Abhishek and Parag had also joined us after waiting a while at the river. Gosh, they were quick on their feet.And very soon, it was time to move on. We were all surprised to see elephant dung this high up and on these inclined slopes. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would look hiking these narrow paths. Imagine an elephant in a tutu, twirling gracefully along the trail… And up and up we climbed, for a long, long while. Rain soon followed, keeping us company for the climb, as everyone got out their waterproof stuff.  After a while, we realized we were lost, and a phone with offline maps (thank goodness for those) appeared, and I handed over my compass to Parag. We retraced our steps and turned south-west and began the upward climb again. If it weren’t for Prajyot muttering encouragements and lending a helping hand now and then, I’m sure I would have given up in frustration. The climb was steep, rocky, slippery and never-ending.

We’re here!”, couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, which was followed by shouts and whoops of joys, and tired, heavy sighs.  Danish took out this giant bottle from his bag, which he said he ‘reserved for moments like these’, since we had all run out of drinking water a long time ago, everyone crowded around him, like animals around a watering hole perhaps?!

 

 

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We saw a few people camped out on the top and decided to make our way down to the top of the falls and find a camping place there, which we ultimately did, after crossing the stream of flowing water. After a lot of strategic maneuvering, and help from Danish and Abhishek, all of us made our way to the other side. Having had nothing since the meager breakfast in the morning (other than the occasional chocolate of course), everyone opened their lunch packets and began gulping down food. We needed to put up the tents before the night set in, barely managing to put up all the four tents in time and ended up working on the last two in torch lights. Since it had rained earlier, our attempts at lighting a fire failed, and pretty soon everyone retired to their tents.

Morning came quickly, and some of us decided to go the waterfall. Some of the guys, went over to the edge, over slippery rocks, at the crown of the falls.

 

 

By the time we got back, it was time to pack and make our journey to the Ballarayana Durga fort. We climbed steadily uphill for a kilometer before it opened up to undulating grasslands, where it was much easier to trek through. The view was beautiful, and the trek kept the nip out of the winds making it rather pleasant. The total distance from the falls to the fort would be around 5-6 km. We hiked on, as Vedant and I discovered and then waxed eloquently about our mutual affections for dogs and cats alike. Why choose, when you can have both?

Very soon we saw a wall loom forth. Well, quite honestly, there isn’t much of a fort left there to see. There were long walls that climbed hills, walls that were crumbling and covered with creepers and moss. But we were happy, we made it this far! (and hey, not bad for a first trek). A few pictures, some looking out over the sea of greenery that lay unfortunately covered by mist at the moment, we made our way back to civilization (or tried to). Within the next 30 minutes, we accepted we’ve royally lost our way and made our way back to the fort to hopefully stumble into another group of hikers, which we thankfully did. The mist had cleared by the time, and the view was beautiful. The sheer expanse of nature that surrounded was almost a relief.

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Finally at the fort!

Before we knew it, we were on our way downhill, through forests. Jaydev’s conversation kept me in good company as we tread on. We met a lot of people hiking up to the fort, and amidst camaraderie exchanged information on the distance uphill and downhill. When the road finally did come into view, we were ecstatic, and even more so on reaching our tiny little bus. Could I feel this much affection for a piece of machinery? I thought, smiling at no one in particular.

 

 

Some last minute de-leeching and cleaning up, we made our way back to Bangalore.

What was meant to be a stop for some light snacks, turned out to be a full-blown attack on the tiny little roadside shop, which incapable of feeding so many hungry people had to get back up food from other shops. So filled up on hot vadas, dosas, idlis and more and more vadas, our journey continued. A quick dinner, some negotiating with the bus owners about the prices, we made our way back home. And just as the bus had gobbled up its passengers at the start of the journey, it dropped them at their respective stops. By the time we got back, it had started to rain pretty heavily, and it was 2:30 am. After a long, long hot bath, and cleaning up, I was ready for bed. But before that, I took out my little book of travels, made some quick notes, whispered a drowsy thank you, lost again, and gratefully drifted off to a long dreamless sleep.

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Oh, but this picture 🙂

 

Note: You require permissions from the forest authorities to trek through here and a guide. If you’re planning on trekking to the falls and then the fort, an overnight stay is recommended and hence tents and mats for the same.

Picture Courtesies: Abhinav, Abhishek, Vedant.

Check out the video by Vedant on the trek here-

Danish’s blog (Click Here)

Vedant’s YouTube Channel (Click here)

Vedant’s Instagram Page (Click Here)

Some other writing you might be interested in: Acquiescence- Thoughts, Writing, Experiences, and Motivation (Click Here!)

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