Western Ghats have been a centre of attraction for nature lovers and have always mesmerized with the beauty of it. To name a few, may be rolling hills in the Ghats, pristine waterfalls in deep gorges and valleys.
Bandaje Arbi Waterfalls is one such scenic places where Perinneal water flows and cascades throughout the year or 365 days. Bandaje Arbi falls is located in Charmadi Ghat in Dakshina Kannada district; around 12 km away from Ujire (near to Dharmasthala) and trek base point Mundaje. It can be either reached after a day’s trek from place called Sunkasale in Chickmagalur. The Bandaje hill trek is bit difficult and will require good strength and determination to reach this amazing destination.
It was during a monsoon time in year 1996 I while was traveling between Ugire and Somanathadka in Charmadi ghat. A silvery waterfalls cascading from Sky in the valley caught my attention and after a chat with the local folk came to know that it was Bandaje Arbi (Arbi in local dialect Tulu language means waterfalls).
I was yearning to trek and explore this waterfall once rains subsided. It was those days when there was no mobile, GPS or any gadget neither to communicate nor to locate the route. It was painstaking to find a guide. I finally succeeded in finding a local guide. After an overnight journey from Bangalore we a group of 6 friends who had willingness to explore new routes reached Somanthadka in wee hours of a morning.
We were greeted by the family in Valambara village. The Malenadu hilly folk people are known for their kindness and hospitality. After finishing morning chores and hefty breakfast headed towards the hills at around 8:00 am. In the beginning our guide Satish gave few instructions which are to be followed during trek. Satish clearly mentioned in his instruction to walk with a stick in hand to keep our balance proper and it also helps to check for the snakes may be hidden under the fallen leaves in the forest. As the trek towards this waterfall starts, everyone was enjoying the route and initially it was very easy. But as we started entering in to the forest area after couple of minutes, we started seeing the difficult steps. There were almost 60 degrees and the team was finding difficulties to move ahead. My friends and me took a small break to clicks the surrounding area and keep walking slowly and safely. Thanks to our guide Satish, we reached the stream by 11:30 AM.
I enjoyed the trail very much and till the stream, it was very clear and there is no chance to loosing the path. Our team was following the trail by enjoying the surrounding area with beautiful bird sounds. After reaching the stream, no one dared to play in the water as it was very cold and leeches too. After closing the water stream en-route and walking for another 10 to 15 minutes, there comes the unexpected things. The guide pointed the orifice of the waterfalls which was visible between the foliage and a waterfall cascading from top of a hillock was feast to eyes. It was a dense forest; Sunlight could hardly reach the ground. Even at 12 noon it was dark. Our stamina started decreasing. We had carried lime juice and biscuits with us. Our pace was slow; we had to reach grasslands at any cost before evening, because we can’t camp in the middle of the forest!! Time was already 2 pm and we were hurrying. Finally at 3 pm we reached the end of the forest and entered grassland.
At the entrance of grassland, we took half an hour break and had a glimpse of waterfalls face to face. After a small break in the grassland, we started our journey towards the waterfall. It was not easy as we had to climb in direct sun light during noon. To keep our self hydrate, we were talking small break and taking small sip of water. After couple of minutes, we had a marvelous view of the beautiful Bandaje waterfall. This view was real motivation for the team and we reached at the peak by 3:30PM. The peak was very beautiful and our team easily found a place for erecting the tents near the water stream. Within half an hour the tents were ready, thanks to our team boys and at the meantime we all got fresh up in the stream water crossing nearby.
Few set out to gather firewood for cooking food and campfire to keep ourselves warm from wild animals. We took bath in the mini waterfalls and rejuvenated ourselves. All this tiredness disappeared all felt fresh!
Evening we set out to have a view of waterfalls. The rocks were slippery by the water droplets rising from waterfalls. The sound of water cascading was soothing for mind, body and soul. !.We had a view of Jamalabad fort in west, Amedhikal peak to south, Kodekallu and Balegudda grasslands, Minchukallu and Kumba kallu in the distance. We sat on the rocky bed gazing the horizon in absolute silence. It was 5:30 pm the sun was making furious attempts to say goodbye after his duty. The western sky was in a riot of colours. Before the darkness fell we cautiously retraced our fall to the campsite. A fabulous dinner was prepared by the enthusiastic team. In the coldness of Night with star studded sky we played Anthyakshari,with the music of flowing water, all shared the experiences with a campfire. All slept after a long chat!
Morning we woke up the call of the Malabar whistling thrush in the bushes. A group began to pack the tents and prepare breakfast. After a cold bath in the waterfalls, followed by hot breakfast walked in the opposite direction on new path. We climbed uphill and reached the grasslands, we had a glimpse of ramparts of Ballalarayan durga fort. The shoal forest in the middle of grasslands added to the fabulous views. There was no water along the route we descended into the forest and visited the forest built by ruler of that time. The Ballalarayana Durga fort was constructed by the wife of Veera Ballala who was the king of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. The Hoysalas were known to be patrons of art and architecture and built several temples and a few forts during their tenure. The Ballalarayana durga (fort ) was built in the Karnata Dravida style of architecture, the architectural style that was popular in the Hoysala Empire during their rule.
We also got a chance to view an ancient Kalabyraveshwara temple located just below the fort. Situated atop a hill that is 1509 metres high, the fort overlooks the town of Sunkasaale. I lost in past and was thinking about the glory of this fort during its time. Currently visitors can see the remains of this fort as a proof of its amazing history of ancient time. This is the best example of how our ancient structures are getting ruined due to the lack of proper preservation by the authority.
After exploring the fort we reached Sunkasale by evening. All were tired and after munching Neer dose in sunkasale we reached Kottigehara by jeep. After An overnight journey we reached Bangalore early morning and it was end of one more epical explorative trek.