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A Winter Trek in the Western Ghats, Ballalarayana Durga Fort, Chikmagaluru

Kudremukha Hills, Chikmagalur
Kudremukha Hill Range in Monochrome
 A long pending trek to Ballalarayana Durga fort finally materialized last winter during our trip to Horanadu. 'Ballalarayana Durga' hill is located about 40 km from Mudigere and the fort can be reached via two trek routes - the longer 2 day trek route via Bandajje Arabi Waterfalls from Mundaje and the shorter day trek from Durgadahalli. We decided to a take shorter route since our partner Adhi was a year and a half year old. Road is laid up to Durgadahalli, where we parked our vehicle and started our trek. The initial path of the trek took us  along a few local estates and a bit of steep climb welcomed us to this hill. The climb progresses amidst lush green grasslands which opens up into a beautiful natural landscaped vista.
Trekking in Chikmagalur
The Initial Trek Path
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
First Look of Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Shola Forest, Western Ghats
Shola Forest of Ballalarayana Durga
Trekking in Western Ghats
Break for the Little Trekker on Demand

The walk through the grasslands was quite easy and very pleasing to the eye. Undoubtedly, we spent more time on photography then trekking! As the trek continued through the grasslands, we reached a junction with two diversions and after much deliberation, we decided to take the route on the left and bang on! We were on the right track. We had to cross a few smaller hills in order to reach the base of the hill that housed the fort. We had a clear view of the fort hereon. The early winter weather was perfect for this trek and as usual, this time of the year is always pleasant. We entered the fort wondering about the reason of its being built here in the first place, later only to be abandoned and why no further attempts were made by other kings to occupy/modify/rebuild this fort. Much of the fortification still remains intact  giving us an idea of how magnificent it was, back then.
Trek route along the Grass land
Trek Route Snaking Along the Grass Land
Vigna vexillata Flower WesternGhats
Vigna vexillata Flower
Neelakurinji Flower Western ghats
Neelakurinji Flower
Flower of Western ghats
Forest Malenadu
Another Stretch of Shola Forests
Ballalarayana Durga hill range falls under the Bankal range of Mudigere forest division. This hill is said to have been fortified by the Hoysala Kings in 12th century, which also played a significant role in defence activities due to its strategic location. We did not get any further information regarding the history of this fort. It probably seems like the fort was abandoned with the downfall of the Hoysala dynasty. One can get a view of the entire Kudremukha hill range, Charmadi ghats and other hill ranges. While we were just about to start our descent, we spotted a few trekkers coming towards the fort taking the Bandajje Arabi route. We waited to speak to them and find out their experience uphill and assured them that the descent down the hill from here was not as difficult. They inquired from us about the possibility of hiring a vehicle at Durgadahalli and as we knew, we informed them that the chances of availability of vehicles were quite bleak. We offered them to join us so we can give  drop them all to the nearest place from where they can get a  bus back to Bangalore. Without a second  thought, they readily accepted our offer. After they rested for sometime, we all started our descent. All along, they were quite excited to see our little partner Adhi doing the trek! We reached our vehicle and as promised, we dropped the boys at Kottigehara. Overall, it was a wonderful experience of trekking amidst so much greenery!
Gaali gudda
Gaali Gudda Hills
Bandajje Arabi waterfalls
Towards Bandajje Arabi Waterfalls
Cheering Up the Young Trekker
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Fort Walls Snaking Across The Hills

Other places to Visit nearby: Kalasa, Horanadu, Chikmagalur, Sooramane Abbi Waterfalls, Khandya, Mullayanagiri, Bababudanagiri, Kudremukha and many such.
How to reach Ballalarayana Durga:  Cross Mudigere, proceed towards Kottigehara, take a right turn towards Kalasa and reach Sunkasale. Take a left turn here and proceed till you reach a dead end and take a  left turn to reach the starting point of the trek. This village is located about 34 km from Mudigere and 312 km from Bangalore.
Accommodation: There are no accommodation facilities inside the village, although one can pitch their own tents inside the fort or village premises with prior permission of the villagers. However, there are many home stays in the area which also offer guided treks to this hill.
Where to eat: There are no eateries here; Kottigehara and Kalasa are the closest and better options.
Permission: Not required for this route.  However, the trek through Bandajje Arabi waterfalls route requires prior permission, which can be obtained at Bandajje only. Also, guides are provided by the forest department.

Related Posts 
1. A Monsoon Trek to Kavaledurga 
2. Dandeli Resting in the Lap of Nature
3. Waterfalls of Agumbe
 
Always Remember to Respect Nature and Wildlife. And Do not  litter.
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A Monsoon Trek in the Western Ghats, Kavaledurga Kote, Shimoga/Shivamogga


On inquiring about the route to the fort of Kavaledurga to a local, he replied saying, "Are you guys crazy to venture out there during these rains!? The path will be very slippery. Go straight, walk along the field bund and you should reach the base of Kavaledurga".
Brightly Colored Mushroom Welcoming us to the Fort 
We nodded our heads and thanked him for the information and concern shown by him. We walked as per his directions and reached the end of the fields from where the path laid to the fort was visible. It was only when we laid our first steps did we realize we were in for something! As we started our trek uphill on a very slippery slope, we noticed our steps almost matched that of a disco! We surely would have proved to be a tough competition to Micheal Jackson or Prabhu Deva. Even carefully laid steps with caution were slippery, and after slipping and trekking uphill for a good 40 minutes or so, we reached the second gateway of the fort from where the climb seemed easy and the views from here were mesmerizing.
Walk along the Field Bund 
Kavaledurga Hill fort
At the Base of the Kavaledurga Hill 
Kavaledurga Kote
First Look of Kavaledurga Kote
Entering the Fort 
The history of Kavaledurga Kote (Fort) goes this way, "This place was also called as Bhuvanagiridurga owing its name to the temple of Goddess Bhuvaneshwari, which is located in the village and is of considerable antiquity. The fort was a stronghold of the Nayakas of Keladi, who fortified this hill post their liberation from the Vijayanagar kingdom. The credit of building this forest fort goes to King Venkatappa Nayaka, who also built a palace and village inside the fort walls. The fort is three tiered and surrounded by thick forests, which proves to be a perfect defense structure. Out of the many temples built inside this fort area, the three that have survived the test of time are the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Shikhareshwara temple and Lakshmi Narasimha temple.
Lajja Gowri, Lord Hanuman and Elephants on the Wall at the Fort Entrance
Slippery 
 The Kashi Vishwanath temple is a beautiful structure and a unique one due to the presence of 2 dwajastambhas or stone pillars in front of the temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a linga and is built in typical Keladi style of architecture. Besides the temple lie remains of another structure with only pillar bases. A small rock with a temple of Lakshmi Narasimha at its top is seen right opposite to this temple. A little further from this temple is the ruins of a huge palace where King Venkatappa Nayaka lived. These ruins are a feast to the eyes and a sight difficult to forget. Besides this is a small yet charming queen’s bath. Further from here is the topmost point of the hill, with the temple of Shikhareshwara. We did not trek to this spot as the rains intensified and the weather looked threatening.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Kavaledurga
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Kavaledurga 
The Palace, Kavaledurga
The Palace, Kavaledurga 
 There are many water ponds which were full owing to the incessant rains and were a sight to see. The descent also was too slippery with fresh rains and drizzle every now and then. The only saving grace was that we did not have any fall or injury. Though the trails were too slippery, we enjoyed the trek thoroughly and will always remember the enchanting views Kavaledurga offered .Overall, the trek was exciting and adventurous.
The Queens Bath 
One Among the Many Water Ponds Here
Other Places to Visit Nearby: Thirthahalli, Agumbe, Hulikal, Kolluru, Kodachadri, Nagara Fort and many more. 
How to reach Kavaledurga Kote: Drive on Thirthahalli - Agumbe highway; Take right at about 7 km from Thirthahalli and travel for about 10 Km to Kavaledurga village. The village is located about 18 km from Thirthahalli and 350 km from Bangalore. 
Accommodation: There are no accommodation facilities inside the village, though one can pitch their own tents inside the fort area or in the village premises with prior permission of the villagers. However, the closest and a better option would be to stay at Thirthahalli which offers good accommodation choices. 
Where to eat: There are no eateries in Kavaledurga; Thirthahalli is the closest and a better option. 

PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.

Sunset at Jenukallu Gudda, Sirsi

Jenukallu Gudda, one amongst the best sunset viewing points of Karnataka, Agumbe being the most popular.
 To know more about this place kindly click here

Devaragundi Waterfalls, Thodikana, Sullia

   "Thodikana" is a small village of Sullia Taluk, Dakshina Kannada District. This place is famous for its Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple. The name Thodikana comes from two words,  'thodu' meaning stream and 'kana' meaning forest. The Stream flowing here is Matsyathirtha (a tributary of river Payaswini ). There are two interesting spots near this temple namely, 'Meenagundi' (Pond of fishes) and 'Devaragundi' (God's pond) .
    Meenagundi has a shoal of fishes at a particular point. These fish are considered to be sacred and never killed, but fed by the temple authorities and locals who visit this temple. The temple is just like any other temple of the region. On the outer wall of temple are paintings depicting the story related to the temple. There is Yajna Khund (a pit where fire is lit and offerings made for the gods ) believed to be used by Sage Kanva. Even today, one can see the smoke coming out of it. Even we were shocked to see this.
Meenagundi
Shoal of Fishes
The Temple
      Though we had visited this place several times, we had only heard about Devaragundi but never been to this place, which is about 2.3 kms from the temple ( there is a small board directing towards the same). We came to know  about Devaragundi water falls from the BBMP wall paintings. This time, we were sure to visit this place during the monsoons and so it happened.
      Due to the heavy rains, the approach road to the falls was not motorable except for 4 wheel drives. Hence, we decided to trek the distance. There is a forest check post on the way. The final part of trek took us in to a private arecanut farm. This is the place where the Shiva linga was found and is currently worshiped inside the temple. The water from here is used for special abhishekas  in the temple. The waterfalls was ferocious, due to heavy rains. What a sight it was!
Amazing View
Monsoon Magic
Road to the Temple
Kids playing near the stream
Stream
Devaragundi Falls
A Closer Look
Ferocious Falls
       The Anna prasadam (meals) are served at the temple after the noon puja. This place is located off the Madkeri -Sullia state highway (about 8 kms from the highway).

To be continued .......... 

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Jaramadagu waterfalls - Chikkaballapura's Jog

      The name 'Chikkaballapura's Jog' definitely sounds interesting and different  . Chikkaballapura is one of the driest districts of Karnataka , with an annual rainfall average of about 750 mm (Karnataka's average is around 1250mm). "Jaramadagu Waterfalls" (locally called as Jog Falls), located in Chikkaballapura district  is a seasonal , 2 tiered waterfalls. The rainfall in the hilly regions of Chikkaballapura valley ,flows and falls as Jaramadagu from a height of about 75-80 ft. We had different plans ,but then we thought  it would be better if we visit this place , as rainfall over the last few days had been significant ,courtesy Cyclone "Jal ". We gathered information about this place and thought it would be great to explore but the only question passing our minds were whether these rains were sufficient to see the falls.
Kaurava Kunda hill, Trekking spot around Bangalore
Kaurava Kunda
     We reached the village of Jangamarappanahalli and drove until the last motorable point towards the waterfalls. On inquiring, we found that there were 2 approach routes to the falls, the shorter (about 1 to 1.5 km) but a difficult one and the longer (about 3kms) but the easier one. We decided to take the shorter route . We started walking towards the waterfalls and the first sight of it was amazing . Initial walk was through fields of Ragi and horse gram.Locals working in  the fields are quite helpful in giving directions and one person from their group volunteered to join us along as a guide. A few steps later, the path turned into a semi-forest kind of track .
A waterfall close to Bangalore
Initial View
Ragi Harvesting
The Landscape
Shadows
    The guide enlightened us about this place in general and talked about the number of people visiting and their behavior.He mentioned about a place (he called it as a temple) nearby the falls, where people have been worshiping the god for many centuries. He went on to say that the temple is not a regular structure but an open place where a few dolls kept are worshiped .We imagined all along our way to the temple about how this place would be. Completely involved in listening to the guide,  little did we realize we had actually reached the waterfalls .The guide bade us good bye from here. We had to walk down a little to reach the foot of the falls. Since we were the only ones present at that time, the whole atmosphere was peaceful and beautiful. Though the water falls was not ferocious,  we were lucky to at least see that little water falling. The view was  gorgeous and the water was really cold .
Chikkaballapura's Jog Waterfalls
Jaramadagu Waterfalls, Chikkaballapura
Jaramadagu Falls
Falls and the Valley

Top View
        After enjoying the falls, we decided to explore the temple the guide had mentioned about . Unfortunately, we had forgotten to ask him the way to the temple when he bade us a good bye!We walked further wandering here and there to find out the way to the temple . Luckily, we spotted our guide who had stopped mid way to gather some wood. He was happy to join us  and as we walked, he explained that nobody knows who kept these dolls, but people have been worshiping them for centuries. Now, the village people have decided to tar the roads leading to the the waterfalls and collect some revenue which could be used to build a temple here. The god worshiped here is "Paluvuraja Swami". We were amazed to see that, what the guide called as dolls were (or rather looked like) lingas with naamas on them.  He strongly told us that the god is very powerful and fulfills everyone's true and sincere wishes. Annually during Dussera,  a Jatra is held here .
The Temple
Forest Track
Car Park
Directions from Bangalore:  Bangalore - Yelahanka - Devanahalli - Chikkaballapura- left turn near the Church, there is a board directing towards Govt. Cocoon Market - Jangamarappanahalli (about 8 km from Chikkaballapura)
Distance from Bangalore: About 75 km
Places nearby: Muddenahalli, Nandi hills , Skandagiri , Chikkaballapura , Nandi and many more .
Fee: As of now, no entry fees.
Word of Caution : Just ensure to visit the falls during the right season. It is advisable to reach the place early morning due the mad rush after 12pm during weekends.
Languages spoken: Though this place is in Karnataka , most people around this place speak only Telugu.
Trip date : 14  Nov, 2010

Related Posts:
1. Waterfalls of Sirsi 
2. Waterfalls of Agumbe
3. Waterfalls of Karnataka