When I sat at the edge of Bandaje Arbi, I knew my heart would sing. I thought it might spontaneously sing “Hold me now, I am six feet from the edge” from Creed’s One Last Breath considering the plunge of about 200 feet from where I sat, but I was less than six feet from the edge, dangling my feet down for a wild creeper to miraculously wrap itself around me.
That’s when my heart sang Phillip Phillips’ Home which soothed my tired mind along with the mild summer roar and the splash of the waterfall. Why wouldn’t my heart sing that song? I felt more at home and it was so peaceful there, away from work. You would probably understand what I mean if you were there sitting beside me and listening to these songs. When I looked down from where I perched, I couldn’t help wondering about where I would hit first if I was to fall down from there? Would I fall on the canopy of the jungle on the banks of the stream that continues from the waterfalls or would I fall flat and splat on the rocks, and maybe my blood would say cheers? Yes, my thoughts would have sounded crazy enough if it was not for Hemanth, a fellow trekker, who came down to sit with me and echo my thoughts. I had already missed the sunrise, but wasn’t ready to miss the rest of the view.
When we started the trek from Bandaje village passing through the fringing estates of coastal commodities, a good lady confirmed the presence of water at the top. Her assurance was more than enough for me to keep drinking enough water to keep myself hydrated and not carry too much of water. You never know when the steep changes and when the private estates turn into forest area.
You just keep going and realise you need to stop when the trek organiser asks to stop. That’s what Sharath did. His intention was to group trekkers into two and trek again, but as and when we went ahead, we regrouped and re-regrouped as per our convenience, and let Sharath throw his hands in air in exasperation. But it doesn’t matter, does it? Because, we all made it to the peak and to the camping site. Trekking through the thick jungle under the canopy, with elephant dung here and there, was not exhausting. This situation turned barbaric as soon as we entered the grasslands. First of all, no trees to stop and rest in their shade. Last of all, forest fire burnt all the grass that had probably turned into hay. Trees that were randomly clawed by big cats gave way to raven coloured land sprinkled with soil.
But we had to keep going. For all we knew, there was water at the top for sure, but we were also sure not to get the easy place for camping. Why? Because we started somewhat late and there were about forty people already on that mountain ahead of us as per RFO’s information. Oh yeah, you have to pay trek fee at the base before entering the forest area.
When at the grasslands, you take a curve at a certain point on the trail and you see Bandaje Arbi for the first time on the trek.
I had seen Bandaje Arbi from far while returning from another trek a few months ago. On one side you get to see the beauty, and on the other side, you realise you still have a long way to go. To all those who want to know the difficulty level of this trek, I would say moderate to difficult, but if you are going during summer, it is effing gruesome. It felt like I was trekking for the first time in my life. I had to remind myself of a lesson that I learnt from my first trek. When you have come so far and not feeling like ascending anymore, you have only two options. One, to stay where you are and you can’t obviously stay midway. Two, go back. If you have enough energy to go back why not use the same to go ahead? We slogged to the peak to find the early birds already camped there. So, we heroically went down the valley using the rope which was secured down the way by even more heroic trek organisers of Alpha Trekkateers Club. Thus, even after reaching late, we got to camp beside the waterfall.
Somehow, I felt like Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. Don’t ask me why. We pitched tents and cooked dinner. We said good night, and I dozed off.
I reluctantly got up from where I was majestically seated and got going. All of twenty-three of us had breakfast that was cooked there, decamped and started to find the means to an end of this trek.
Meanwhile, many of us had taken a nap on the boulders in the shade of the trees. After the initial reluctance, we had no way but to go to Ballalarayana Durga.
Supposed to be fort back then and now a barn, and a disappointment. Not much of the fort left there. It was all downhill from there, literally, and descent isn’t as easy as it seems to be.
If you are wearing shoes, your toes curl up. If you are wearing floaters, try to keep your mind from not thinking about what would happen if the straps tear. Also, not to forget the grassland torture in the summer heat. Durgadahalli village was our trek’s end point. But the route to that village was confusing. It turned out that there is a spot for rappelling where we didn’t want to go. The routes to Durgadahalli and rappelling spot go together and can be misleading. Shouting each other’s names back and forth, all of us safely made it to the jungle and to the end point of the trek.
Sometimes you to get confused with the trails, especially during descent. Otherwise, you can find your way carefully through the forest. If during and post monsoon, leeches are your worst enemies, then in pre-monsoon or summer, the Sun is your enemy. About 300km from Bangalore, the Bandaje village from where you start your trek, is easily accessible through roadways. That’s the best thing about planning to trek in Karnataka. The total distance of the trek, that is ascent + descent, is about 25-26km.
By the way, Bandaje Arbi doesn’t bend much while plunging, but you would to take a look at her.
P.S. Arbi means waterfall.