In the quest to conquer every peak in the Western Ghats, Bandaje trek was next in the line. It was a post monsoon trek and a night camping expedition. This trail has Bandaje-Arbi Waterfalls and Ballalarayana Durga fort.
Bandaje is located in the Charmadi Ghats near the region bordering the two districts of Dakshina Kannada and Chikmagalur, Karnataka. There are two trails to reach this peak one that starts from Mundaje village near Ujire, Dakshina Kannada and other Sunkasaale near Kottigehara, Chikmagalur.
As per our plan we had to ascend from Mundaje and descend on the other side at Sunkasale. Just to bring in more variety into the trails and to trek the whole trail around the Charmadi Ghat.
All the treks have two main aspects — Places we visit and the people who we are going along. This trek was a amazing experience with respect to the second aspect. The night camping experience was the primary highlight of this trek.
As usual, we set off from Bangalore, a train to Kabaka-Puttur. Then took an early morning bus to Ujire and a jeep to reach the base Mudaje Village. The Gowdra Mane is the starting point of the trek and the trek requires permission from the forest officer.
As soon as we reached Gowdra Mane, we were surprised to know that camping on the peak was not allowed. We had made all arrangements carrying all the required materials from Bangalore.
Forest officer arrived and after many requests, he finally agreed to let us camp on the condition that we would be cautious enough while igniting the fire and keeping the place neat and tidy.
This forms a responsibility of all the trekkers to care the nature.
“Carry as little as possible, but choose that little with care” — Earl Shaffer
It seemed like Gowdra Mane was the only house in the locality. The trek starts exactly from this point onwards. We intimated them that we will be descending from the other side and will be camping for the night. They can arrange for lunch if it was informed to them before the trek day.
It would be a better idea to take the return bus from the descending point Kottigehara to Bangalore. We did not plan it well as we had already booked the train tickets from Puttur which makes us return to the starting point. It would be recommended to plan it as per your descend point.
Started trekking around 11 am, the sun was already above the head. The trail was moderately difficult and there were streams of water around the trail. The green patch was throughout as it was just a post-monsoon time around November.
Around afternoon at 2 pm we were at the peak, set up the tent after relaxing for some time.
As soon as the tents were set up, the sunset was about to be witnessed we set up the tarpaulin.
It started getting darker and cold. The preparation for cooking whatever we had on the luggage — Maggi, Parathas etc was set up. These were the easy ones to cook on the spirit stoves that we carried along with us. A tent lamp would be sufficient to provide enough light around the place.
The cool winds started blowing in all directions and caused troubles while cooking. In the distance, we could hear the thunder roaring and lightning striking in the sky. It was raining in nearby places.
After we had our hard-earned dinner with the limited resources we had just laid down on the tarpaulin that was spread, everyone gazing into the sky.
The cool breeze, pitch dark night, clear sky filled with the stars, light music in the background had setup a perfect camping experience.
Apart from us, there was one more tent and a group arriving late and setting up tents. The forest officers visited the camping sites late night and warned us to ignite any fire and left the place.
Next day morning we had tea, packed all the tents and started descending. Along the trail, we came across the Bandaje Arbi Falls. Its a stream of water falling from the edge of the cliff. The winds flowing in the opposite direction to the flow of the water made the water droplets splash all across the place.
At one point, the trail split into two. One of them would take to the Ballalarayana Durga this is a slightly longer route and the other was a shorter and easier bypass route. Ballalarayana Durga is a fort constructed along the hills to guard against the invaders. There are wonderful viewpoints all around the fort.
At last, we could spot the roads, it was a Sunkasale Village. We managed to get hold of a jeep that would take us to Kottigehara from where we could take a bus back to Ujire. The return train was booked from Puttur to Bangalore.
There were some mishaps in the trip planning that made us do some unnecessary travel but still, the team was intact though tired enjoying every aspect of the journey.
Bandaje trek offered many memories to cherish. Be it a pitch dark thunder roaring night, a clear night sky filled with stars, uncertainties in camping to begin, the best camping experience, planning mishaps and good teamwork. It was not only the place which made this trek memorable but the people who trekked along.
Photo Credits- Rakesh Rao
Video Credits — Travid Adventures