Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tranquility to Turbulence - A trip to Sita Nadi, Agumbe and Sringeri

Caution!! Long (and may be boring) post ahead - Just putting it down here so that I don't forget any silly or tiny thing also about this trip.. Read at you own risk ;-)

March 7th 2008, 11:14 am: Mail from Manz.. Guys,
I Know it is too early to plan for the next trip, but when it is time for the next trip, lets see if we can make it to this place... It sounds really interesting :) http://naikutti.blogspot.com/2006/10/rafting-trekking-etc-at-river-sita_20.html
~Manasvi :-)

Just a glance at the above blog was enough to frame an idea of visiting this place in monsoon. Hats off to the guy (Kartik I guess) who posted that wonderful experience with few amazing snaps of river rafting and mountain biking. Manz had just thrown a stone hoping that it will strike few of us, but eventually it did strike all of us and made us eagerly wait for the monsoons for our adventurous trip to Agumbe. Well...Everyone knows that if something is being planned too early, the efforts will go in vain. Sita nadi trip set an exception to that statement. We all waited for this trip for months and the plan worked out just as expected, may be more than that. Everyone I met since I heard about this place, I kept mentioning about this place and kept making false promises except to "this group". I am thinking of a better name for "this group". Any suggestions from "this group" are most welcome. As the clouds thundered and sky started showering, all of them who were convinced with my false promises, started buzzing me "boss, monsoon arrived? You said we will go sita nadi.. are we going??" - I didn't know what reasons I would give to avoid them.  

1st Aug 2008, around 9 PM: 
The late night discussions about plans, long chat with San who was in Denmark, a telecon of 1 and 1/2 hours between me, Manz and San to get convinced about San's plans and list of places to be visited, home made food preparation by Hari, Shy, Nidhi and Thrish, Larry and San's shopping for snacks - everything put together made us occupy our seats in TT with Raghu (driver) all set for the river rafting and leechy trek in the Agumbe Ghats. Gang - Below in the video :-)

Though we made sure we had everything set for next 2 days including food, we had to get down for dinner at 10PM. After having delicious grilled sandwiches, pretty costly though, the TT took a left turn on the Tumkur road, towards Haasan. The road was pretty good and we reached Beluru at around 2 AM. We got down from the TT to stretch our body a bit. After a while, we had to get back into TT and close our eyes in search of sleep. I desperately prayed for a proper sleep, but the curvy roads and on/off rain made it difficult for me. The road was so calm in the late night, rather an early morning; I could easily count the number of vehicles that our TT encountered on a stretch of 50kms. 2nd Aug, 4:30 AM, Sringeri: Highly opposed place for the first visit, Sringeri was the place where Raghu insisted us to stop by and look for lodge. I was happy that my plan was working out. We took 2 rooms (for 100 rs!!!), in the vicinity of "Sharadambe Temple" to sleep for some time and to get fresh. Except for the "no hot water" and the colorful cold water the rooms were pretty good. Most of us took bath and headed towards the temple which was very close the rooms.

I believe there wouldn't have been a better start to this trip than stepping into Sringeri Sharadambe temple. It was a cloudy morning, with a drizzle now and then. We took Darshan and visited small little temples around, went near the bridge. The place looked awesome and peaceful; water current below the bridge was setting fear in the mind for the river rafting that was supposed to happen on that afternoon.
Soothing atmosphere and a Holy place - Sringeri 

After eating Idlis that we carried from home, it was time to start to Agumbe which is 18 kms from Sringeri, a 20 minutes journey. We reached Agumbe, Malya Residency, right opposite to Agumbe police station, at 10:30 am. We had booked rooms over the phone 2 weeks before. After dumping the entire luggage inside, we got ourselves ready for the much awaited River Rafting in Sita Nadi. At around 11:15AM TT left Agumbe, and drove towards Sita Nadi Nature Camp, which is approx 20 KMs from Agumbe. To reach the place, one has to drive down through the Ghats crossing 14 hair pin bend curves and Someswara. 2nd Aug, 12.15 PM, Sita Nature Camp: As we reached the Sita Nature Camp gate, our excitement to see the river Sita reached heights. When we all got down, eyes first searched for the rafts to get the feel of rafting but unfortunately there were none because the morning batch hadn't yet returned. We met Sharat from Adreno Adventure club through whom we booked for long run rafting for 3 hours. We had to sign the security paper to own our life's responsibility. It was precisely 12:15 PM when reached there and the rafting time given to us was 2:00 PM. Sharath asked why we were so early and I told him that we wanted some time to set ourselves. In the mean time we had lunch and roamed around enjoying the serene beauty of the nature camp for a while. The current in Sita River was setting more fear and excitement as we assembled on the banks of Sita. A beautiful voice emerged in the middle of the silent nature camp; it was Nidhi's melodious voice which we were all entertained with, "Tere bina zindagi se.." one of everyone's favorite songs, was heard more fluent when she was singing that. San was busy with her handy cam, Manz & Kumz with photography, Shy in imagining zuiinnnnn swim in the river, Amit and Monty still trying to make themselves more comfortable with new group, Trish was busy taking "close up" pictures of her sis - Hari and Larry were on the branches of a tree which was leaning towards the river.
Waiting for the rafts - Sita Nature Camp                                  


It turned out to be a much longer wait than we expected. It was already 2:15 and we could not see the rafts coming in. Also Sharat was telling that there were some problems. Everyone kept their fingers crossed, waited eagerly near the Shores. Finally we could see the rafts after half an hour and there were instructors too. The wait seemed to be over when we were asked to assemble to listen to the instructions. We then wore, with all excitement, the raft wear which were all over the rafts. As the guides and organizers were pumping the blow inside the rafts, we felt the adrenaline pump. Then we moved close to the river for further instructions. Basically there would be one instructor per raft who will sit at the back and give us the commands. It all started with "Paddle forward, paddle backward, right forward and left backward" etc... Then Sharath moved on to explain the consequences if we are detached from the raft in the middle, if the raft itself topples, not to panic since the life jacket could helo us float for 24 hours at least! (After that!!!???) - Those instructions were really scary - scary enough to change manz's facial expressions. "We will all practice few commands for sometime, near the shores.." - That’s what Sharath told and our rafts moved on.. Hari and I occupied front rowers' position. We were watching the current in the water waiting for the raft so long and now we are on it!! Initially it was scary. There was a specific position in which you have to sit and lock your legs to the raft; however we weren't that perfect in doing that. Within few minutes of our rafting there was one huge rapid, which came as a surprise and since it was the first, we weren't prepared for it at all... My god! I became upside down and water gushed through my nasal cavities. Huh.... That was really a spine-chilling experience. However I was still attached the raft and the paddle was with me.

"Kaalu" was the name of our guide; let me call him a commander. The guy looked tall and dark. He held a paddle with a larger blade than his subordinates'. He looked Nepali but spoke Hindi and English. He is an expert in this art of rafting and he does this in both India and Nepal it seems according to the seasons.Truly a memorable adventure - Sitanadi                                   


Kaalu kept pestering me to hold the raft properly, to bend forward while rowing... Though it was annoying, it was for my safety and it was lesson for me for my next rafting (If I do!!). The river seems silent after a while's rafting. Kaalu said that we can jump into the water but holding the rope along side the raft. San had got free pass to jump wherever she wants even without any support. She just utilized her chance and jumped straight into water; Shy sitting on the raft was imagining herself in San's position - "zuuinnnnnnnn..." - Yes she just imagined, did not make an attempt to get down. Sangeetha was flowing away faster than the raft and finally a small thin bush helped her to give support. Even the bush would have felt happy that in life it could give support to one creature at least. :-) Kaalu stretched the paddle towards San and managed to pull her back into the raft. She kept smiling as though nothing would have happened. 60 odd years old uncle who was sitting behind took this opportunity to praise her and ask her name. When an old man does this, nobody says that he is flirting. On the other hand, when I asked the old man's daughter who was sitting behind me about what she does, everybody thinks I was flirting. Bad people!
The river Sita, which takes birth in Narasimha Parvata, and flows down through the western Ghats of Agumbe to meet Arabian see, was flowing wild, wide and full. The trees along side the river remained serene in the midst of the turbulent wind and monsoons... We could catch the sight of many birds every now and then... Just to add more attraction to the present beautiful view, a peacock, flew just few meters above our head from one end of the river to cross it and find a place on a tree's branch. Our raft was gushing down through the wild water but still we could turn back to have a glance at the peacock... It was a typical Indian Blue Peacock.

After 15 minutes of rafting we all got used to it and the fear of water and the current disappeared; in fact we went in Sync with Sita. We desperately waited for more dip rapids while Shy prayed for calm water to swim! Everywhere balance is required you see! When we neared a bridge where the other troops were parking their rafts, we thought it was over! :-( However it was a break for the people who were registered for long run and an end for the people who were on a short run. It was already 1 1/2 hours of rafting. The raft mates changed for the next half and Larry occupied the front rower's seat along with me.
When we got close to the other rafts we spilled water over them as though we had caught up a fight with the other gang; it was fun though. The stomach started complaining for food after a while; I was really damn hungry. However just to deviate thought of hunger, some interesting things happened in next few minutes. Monty never wanted to get into water since he had back pain and all; as soon as he mentioned that, there was rapid waiting for him to make him upside down. Well as expected he was dipped in water for a while but he managed to hold on to the rope and the paddle. Hari on the other side, in the same situation, just missed his paddle - that he realized after climbing the raft. We could see the paddle taking the other way, and we somehow wanted to get it back. To add more curiosity to this there were lot small bushes spread across the river widely, right in front. I thought the paddle would get stuck with a bush on the way. As we decided to turn back after crossing the bushes, we could see the paddle crossing our raft in all its glory. That's it, one long stretch towards it; we could get hold of it. After another while there seemed to be huge rapids, and it was scary enough to see; but our rafting ended just before those rapids. Larry wanted to cover those rapids and then stop. He didn’t know that there was a water fall just few meters ahead. We had one more adventure to do there; we had to carry the raft on top of our head and climb a steep little hill to park it near the road. It was really painful and we all struggled to carry it.

Labour work - carrying the rafts to the main road :-)

There was a bus waiting for the rafting candidates; we had to walk for a kilo meter to board the bus; as we entered the bus we could see all the wet bodies occupying the seats; as usual I chose the last row, my favorite from college days :-). Back to the nature camp, we dried ourselves with the warm clothes. A cup of tea/coffee with Bajji after that ended our tenure at Sita. We came back home after a shopping for pickles, ghee and Curd, prepared steamed rice, had a peaceful dinner with our home made chaptis and parathas. Carrying food there turned out to be a wise decision as far as I think.

3rd Aug, 2008: 10:00 am "What's today's plan?" - That was a question everybody asked while having breakfast, and question, obviously, was to San. She said she had no idea; as per our discussion before the trip our avid trekkers’ gang had decided to trek to Koodlu Theertha falls. However, trek to this falls should be ventured only in dry season otherwise people will come back with leeches everywhere. ;-). Lodge's owner suggested me to route the gang to Barkana falls which was quite a small trek and there was a view point of the falls and another falls called Jogi Gundi falls where we could get into water.

We took his suggestions seriously and started our Sunday's ventures with trek to Barkana falls. That was the best time when we visited; looked green everywhere. There was a threat of leeches while we stepped down from TT to start off the trek. There were small little water streams on the way; I liked them and few hated them the most. As we were pushing ourselves hard to catch up with Baabanna, the local guide, Shy lead him and moved fast like never before. Moreover all the way through we were busy detaching the leech attacks; by the time we removed one, there were five stuck on the other leg.

The entire group was split into 2, one lead by Shy and another by no one. Hari, Thrish, Nidhi, Law, San and I lost the leading group. Though we were walking along the correct road, we thought we were lost; we decided that it's wise to go back and see if there was any other turn rather than walking a long way and messing it up. We suspected a right turn which we left behind. We came back and checked with suspected turn but it was not the one as there was no leading path towards that direction. We had no other way than get back to TT. We lost the way on the way back too. I was totally messed up with the directions. However Hari and Law made the best efforts to guide all of us to the correct road. Also people who saw the falls were coming back and we could hear from them; finally we got the right track towards TT. It was a real disappointment for me that I could not see the falls. There was nothing that I could do though. The thing which cooled my temper down at that moment was that we had one more water fall to visit.

Though, it was disappointing not to see the water fall, there was a lot of fun trekking through the thick green forest and getting lost twice both ways. There were few awesome clicks by my camera too. It rained on and off; standing head up towards the sky facing the crystal clear rain drops amidst the thick green forest certainly gave a feeling of "true happiness".
       There was much more fun waiting for us when we neared the TT; I hesitantly asked Raghu to allow me to sit on top. He reluctantly said No! However, Hari and I moved back and climbed the steps to conquer the top of TT. Raghu had nothing to say than to drive. There was heat inside the TT because of jealous as some people did not make it to the top. We reached Jogi Gundi water fall's starting point soon after a small drive. Amit and Monty did not come out as they had warmed themselves with warm clothes and did not want to get the new clothes wet. All others went down to see Jogi Gundi falls. I made sure this time that Mr Baabanna was with us, though there were little interruptions by someone ;-). It wasn't a long trek; we reached the falls in just 10 mins. The fall wasn't that height, but there was too much of water and the falls roared in the middle of stupendous field of trees. The water was damn cold. It required little adventurous efforts to get into water but eventually we all got into water and shared a rock to sit, watching the falls closely. I tried to get close to the fall, but the buoyancy created was threatening. After spilling water over each other like small kids, we said bye to the falls and we literally ran towards the TT for occupying the top seat. Well... shy missed it this time and Amit, Monty were already sitting inside..
The ride while we were sitting on top of TT, certainly was the best of this trip. We enjoyed this as much as rafting a day before. A Drizzle , a narrow road, Raghu's "wonder la" sort of ride, trees along the way, the green grass on the sides, the shining wet faces with smile on the face - everything put together was just like "time of life" (as manz described it right then and there). It was truly superb, amazing ride. Words can't explain it better.
We got down just a half km before Mallya Residency, where we stayed. We did crazy stuff while we walked till the lodge. We bent down our knees to take a race as if it was some Olympic track; never realized there was a van coming from behind. A man inside the van was totally confused to see what was happening there, he peeped through the window while the TT passed us, still confused!!

We went back to the lodge desperately to change dress. Before that everybody enjoyed eating "Neeru Dosa". It was a great satisfaction after making sure that there were no leeches on the body, and when we warmed ourselves. It was time to vacate the rooms and say bye to Mallya Residency. After checking out from there, we drove to Someswara and visited few temples in the evening. The plan was to reach Sringeri by 7.30 PM at least. It worked out as expected. We had lot of group photo sessions near Someshwar, before we left the place.

A decent gang with a set of dependent and independent individuals ;-)
As planned we reached Sringeri at the right time, before "Maha MangaLaruthi" that happens at 8.10 PM. San, Hari, Shy and I preferred to wait for the Puja before we had dinner. Others preferred Pet Puja first. There was a little fun when we had our dinner. San could see a leech there also, and I can't forget how she ran from there to sit next to Hari who was sitting a little away. After a round of walk around the temple, we left the campus in search of TT. That also turned out to be dramatic. We could not find our TT in the vicinity of the temple. We played Sholay trick.. aadhe idhar jaao, aadhe udhar jaao.. and it worked too, we could finally spot the TT. So just like that our visits on the trip ended with start as Sringeri and end also as Sringeri.. Couldn't have asked for more..

We played Hitch while coming back to Bangalore, which got stuck half way through - but not before Hitch conveyed a message - "Life is not the amount of breaths we take; it's the moments that take our breaths away" - which went in sync with our trip to Agumbe. There were plenty of such moments that took our breaths away. The fun, the wonderful rides, the laughter, the trip ended at around 4:15am in the morning when I buzzed the door bell to irritate my brother and woke him up to open the door.

4th Aug 2008 10 AM: Back on my Honda activa and on my way to office towards Jayanagar; mind has stopped calculating the routine roads and is still sailing in the fond memories of Agumbe trip.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fly High

"How? Why? When? Where?" How does it feel when you are flying? How do the landscapes look when you see them from a height? This curiosity and excitement remained for a long time in life till I really experienced it. When I was in schools, I used to watch these things on TV, and always wondered "When will I do such things?" - May be money was the factor which made me wonder that way.. Today it's not about money, it's about I wanted to experience something like this and I am going for it, that's it! This parasailing was an inspiration from one of my friends who celebrated one of the special days in her life in a grand way by doing parasailing. I grabbed the instructor's phone number and details from her blog. That's it, I got in touch with Mr Neeraj (9886797597) who conducts this adventurous sport.. Everything was set for the weekend, but then on a beautiful friday, the day IT people long for a long week, though it comes every week, turned out to be a shock to the entire, B'lore. The entire city was stunned, menaced by few creatures on this earth who belong to nowhere and who love no human being. Serial bomb blasts, 4 according to one tv channel, 5,6,7 according few other news channels., startled living beings in Bangalore. Nothing affected my plans for the parasailing though. My eagerness to pull out few people from my team in office went in vain. It was such a disaster that, 1 out of some 60 people accepted my invite. It was Amit who accompanied me and my previous colleague, a friend, Lawrence.. Landmark: On a fine Sunday morning, all the roads of b'lore gave a feeling of the old garden city, when there were not many vehicles around.... The roads were empty like never before.. becasue of the bomb blasts' after-effect. We were supposed to go to KR Puram hanging bridge from where the parasailing place was exactly 9kms towards Chennai & Tirupati. From the hanging brindge we kept riding till we reached a "Bharat Petroleum Bunk" on the LEFT side.. (one comes on the right side also, but that's not the one). We stopped by and called up the instructor, he directed us from there to the destination! On the field: While we entered the field, we could see the instructor was already there with his gypsi. and his 007 son was getting ready for the sailing. As we entered the field we were getting scared. But this kid, Jaswant, who had so much of guts to sail alone in the air, quite a good height, really inspired us. Jaswant - a fearless dude! We signed on a sheet of paper, didn't read a single line then, but I guess it was about out we bearing our life's responsibility.. Amit was the first one to go... He was all excited as the parachute was being tied to him. The gypsi which had the other end of the rope, started and move a 100 meter away.. and then 1 2 3 start....in few seconds Amit reached heights! Next was the Lawrence's turn. He would also reach quite a good height but he was cribbing that it was not as high as the one he had done before in Jakkur..
That was quite a good height

Finally it was my turn. I don't know what was going on in my mind then, but it was a great feeling... As the intructor took his gypsi forward, I was asked to run 2 steps; yes with those 2 steps in next few seconds I also reached high high on the sky.. I carried Amit's Nokia N95 cell phone with the camera switched on to video mode.

start of the adventure
I can't explain the feeling when you are so high in the sky, your legs are hanging down, and down you see the large green field, all of my friends looked so tiny, there were many cattles on the field, everything looked so beautiful; I didn't want to come down. But for the money we were paying, 300 RS, 5 minutes was like too much of time. Landing was smooth. Mission accomplished feeling :0).
Landing was smooth but it was me who gave it little twist
We then paid him money and thank'd him for the wonderful experince he provided us through parasailing, I promised him his son's photographs which I had captured in my camera. It was then the time to say bye to everyone and the field. On the way back home it rained heavily, and we were supposed to go a friend's place for lunch, we went there, had lunch and reached home early in the evening.