Trek in the Cobra Country

Narshima Parvat  is a modest hill close to a nondescript village in Karnataka, called Agumbe. This little known hill (I couldn’t find it in google maps!) was the destination for my next trek. The trek had been organized by the Club – Adventura, a group of passionate trekkers and die-hard adventurers. These guys have trekked to some amazing places all over India, and have very interesting stories to tell about their adventures.

Agumbe village is where most of the shooting of the acclaimed TV series “Malgudi Days” was done.  Also, the region is claimed to be the “abode of the king cobras”.  Not only are the forests in this area infested with the deadly serpent, but also by the Naxalites. So it’s natural that I felt this trek is going to be one of those interesting ones.

We were eleven enlightened beings who had considered trekking to the little known hill worth risking our lives to the venom spitting snake and the Naxalites. Brave souls I must agree. Gathered at the Shopper’s Stop at around 10:30 on the night of 24th Dec, we waited for the Tempo Traveller, our transport, to arrive. After a long wait, which we utilized to introduce ourselves and and to get to know each other, the vehicle arrived. Some of us required additional gear (sleeping bags etc.), so we headed to Vishal Dave’s (an honorary member of Club Adventura) house, where all the additional gear was dumped. (Club Adventura lends out essential gear to participating members at nominal rates).

To thwart any attempt of espionage, Vishal has chosen his pad in a such a place that no navigational aid can help you locate it. After a good forty five minutes of driving through narrow streets in Bangalore, and after our driver, Mr. Murugan, lost his mind ample of times, we finally managed to reach Vishal’s place. Dumping our gear into the boot of the bus, and grabbing some stuff to much on, we headed out of Bangalore towards Shimoga via Tumkur.

As the animated discussions died down in the bus, I started to think how would it be to walk through the jungles with snakes slithering all around? I thought what if a snake sneaks into my sleeping bag while I am asleep? Feeling increasing uncomfortable with the idea of being surrounded by snakes, I decided it’s time I asked for some divine intervention. I had to decide which god I should direct my incantations to. With snakes occupying most of the background of my thoughts, it was natural for me to chose Shiva as the deity of my choice. And it so happens that I consider Lord Shiva as a rock-star deity, an therefore I was mighty pleased with my choice.

The thought of rock-star god started to amuse me then. The idea of Lord Shiva head banging to a rock tune, while the scared ganga gushes out of those revered locks and the frail crescent tries to balance itself on that  holy forehead, made me giggle and the thoughts about snakes creeping around me faded away.  With these ungodly thoughts about the Destroyer God, I fell asleep.

Some incessant honking woke me up next morning, and I realized that we had reached Shimoga and our bus was parked in the bus station, which explained all the honking. After stopping there for a while, we continued our journey towards Agumbe. The sleep fairy paid me another visit soon. I was asleep all the way to Agume and woke only when the bus had come to a stop in the village.

The village is an idyllic place, sparsely populated with few houses with titled roofs. There are grassy fields with cattle grazing and you can see the village folk sitting beneath the trees, talking to each other. We all had a feast of a breakfast in the small shop next to the bugs stop of the village. All of us were famished and we ate so many idlies and managlore buns, that the shop owner started to eye us suspiciously.

Having fueled our tummies we started a hunt for our guide, Mr. Krishnappa. After a short search, driving from one house to another, we finally located him. Krishnappa turned out to be a short, lean man in his late fifties, with diminishing hair line, beetle stained teeth and sunken cheeks. He had a no-nonsense look and didn’t look the kind of person who would appreciate smart-alec comments. He instructed us to pick our bags and get moving. We were to climb the hill during the day and walk down to the other side of the hill next day. Leaving our tents in the van (we had been informed that there is a hut near the peak where we can spend the night in), and informing our driver to reach the pick up point next day, we commenced the much awaited trek.

The trek starts right at Krishnappa’s backyard and withing ten minutes of walking we were into the jungle. We were headed in the general direction of South-South East.

From Narshimha Parvat

The landscape was mildly undulating for the initial few kilometers, and I was forced to ask our guide whether will climb a hill or not. I was curtly informed that soon there is going to be a steep climb and it will remain steep till the top. Having my doubts cleared, I trudged on, the dense undergrowth snapping at my heels and face.

Soon the scene changed from a sparse jungle to a dense forest, with very dense undergrowth. This made walking very difficult as branches and shrubs kept getting in the way. Also, this made visibility very limited and we had to stop frequently to gather the gang otherwise there was a high possibility that someone might get lost, especially since the trail was not clearly marked.

After walking about two hours, we came across a stream called “Sita”.

From Narshimha Parvat

The stream flowed down a steep gorge close by, creating a pretty waterfall. Since we were on the top of the cliff, it took some adventure to stand at the edge and look down at the fall.

From Narshimha Parvat

Having made it so far without meeting either the snakes or the naxals, we relaxed, ate some stuff and clicked a millions pics by the stream. We filled our water bottles with the clear cool water of the stream and saddled up from the climb.

The trail immediately became steep, and I thought to myself “now we are walking”. Not only was the trail steep, under the thick forest canopy, the trail was damp as well. An infantry of leeches attacked our ranks. I was only person who was not latched on to by a leech. But since I was wearing shorts, a squadron of mosquitoes launched a full fledged attack on my legs. In the heat and covered with sweat, my legs must have smelled like lamb chops in BBQ sauce to the mosquitoes.

I could notice that our guide was struggling with the relentless steep climb, he was panting and his legs were shivering. I felt sorry for the old man, and was concerned if he can make it to top or not. But he told us that he is asthmatic and hence all the panting, he will manage the climb.
Like the light at the end of a tunnel, I could see a break in the forest canopy up ahead. We all climbed out of the forest into wide open grassy slopes. The view was beautiful, with forests gradually giving way to the grass. The grass were golden in color with occasional remnants of green, reminding us of the monsoon long gone.

From Narshimha Parvat

Our trek continued and with the slanting rays of sun we arrived to the top, Narshima Parvat.

From Narshimha Parvat

The setting sun painted a serene picture, in reddish hues, on the canvas of the clouded sky. The whole view was breathtaking!

From Narshimha Parvat

We turned our attention to immediate need for locating the sole water source in the vicinity. The guide led us down some half a kilometer to a small pool of water, covered with green algae. However it looked like the pool was fed with a very tiny source of fresh water from the ground. With the hope that the water was palatable we filled our bottles.

With the setting sun, the wind picked up and brought in clouds rolling into the hills. Our group moved into the small hut, just below the top of the hill. The hut consisted of two small rooms, the floor of the hut was clean and it didn’t take us any time in selling down. With our backs resting against our back packs, we started munching on snacks and started to discuss our experiences of the trek.

From Narshimha Parvat

Vishal lit a stove and started to heat the ready to eat dal which we all savored with lots of theplas. I was feeling sleepy so I jumped into my sleeping bag and feel asleep. Soon the whole gang joined me in creating a symphony of snores.

In the morning we woke up to see a grand sun rise on display. The valley below was covered with clouds and the rising sun looked like a ship sailing over the cloudy seas. It was the most dramatic sun rise I had ever seen.

From Narshimha Parvat
From Narshimha Parvat
From Narshimha Parvat

Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, a thousand pictures cannot reveal how mesmerizing the view was. I just sat there in a trance, watching the whole cosmic drama unfold in front of my eyes. I was woken from my reverie by the noise of the rest of group
members waking up.
With a lot of cajoling last of the members of the group finished their morning ablutions and after a hefty breakfast of maggi and dal with thepla, we headed downhill. The way down was much easier and the trail was clearly marked out. The descent being easy, we covered a lot of ground quickly. On our way down I found some pamphlets addressed to the Naxals, urging them to surrender. I dropped the pamphlets back with the hope that some Naxal will pick it up and might be influenced to surrender indeed. Only that the pamphlet was picked up the radical in our group: Sagar.

The trail finally lead us down to the village Kigga, which is is known for Shri Hrshya Shrungershwara temple

We found our bus waiting for us at the village, near the temple. And after having refreshing coconut water, we headed back, leaving the jungle of Agumbe, to the urban jungle of Bangalore. Sitting in the bus, nodding off occasionally, I thanked the Rock Star God, for neither did a cobra paid us a surprise visit nor did a Naxal came to parley.

PS: Links to photos galleries:
1. Sundeep’s Picasa album
2. Sagar’s Album
3. Avinash’s Picasa Album

8 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Maithani,

    Although your heading was scary but I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing the unexplored place with us.

    All the pictures are awesome especially the sunset one.

    Keep sharing your experiences with us.

  • Nandan says:

    Welcome aboard Sundeep.

    The title was catchy enough to warrant a read and after going through, I can only praise it more. You got the knack for story telling :-)

    For fellow Blr’ians, I guess information around ‘how to join’ might be helpful.

    Look fwd to read more.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for sharing this brilliant piece of writing on the trek to Narsimha Parvat, a name which I heard for the first time.

    The pictures, especially the sunset is simply scintillating.

    Would look forward to your other travelling experiences.

  • Jerry Jaleel says:

    A good post though no Cobras; reminds me of Kenneth Anderson’s ramblings in other parts of Mysore forests in search of man eaters, and in one occasion he did encounter a king cobra. Back then (in the 1940s and ’50s King Cobras were considered to be very aggressive and dangerous, attacks any one on sight etc.) But the modern naturalists found these snakes being shy and goes out of their way to avoid human contact. King cobras can grow up to 18 feet.

    A trek through the hills and bush country is most refreshing. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with pictures.

  • Anuj says:

    Nice one mate. Well written and great pics.

  • vibha says:

    Nice Post Sundeep and beautiful pictures too!

  • venkatt says:

    Excellent post Sundeep. The members of your group are really brave and adventurous souls. Keep trekking and keep posting.

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