Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Agumbe trek. (Narasimha parvata trek)

All right, after a previous trek, a friend suggested an idea of posting the actual logistics of my next trek. Hence, the following will give you an information regarding trekking to the "Narasimha Parvata" from Agumbe. The itinerary is the one we followed. There are other routes/options available. I'll try to point them out best to my knowledge.

Trek to Narasimha parvata:
From Bangalore to Agumbe:
We  hired an Innova for the six of us. The cost per kilometer was 12 along with the daily allowance for the driver. There is a bus available from Bangalore to Agumbe (KSRTC) which leaves Bangalore around 2230 every day and reaches around 0700. The time taken by a taxi or a personal vehicle is around 6-7 hours based on the number of stops and the quality of driving.
There are two routes to Agumbe:
  • Bangalore to Shimoga to Thirthalli. The route is good till Thirthalli. A small section of the road is bad near to Thirthalli to Agumbe. Buses take this route.
  • Bangalore to Hassan to Chikmagalur to Agumbe. This route is good till Chickmagalur. After this, the road is good but its a complete ghat section which might slow one down.
Agumbe is the place where the famous Malgudi Days series was shot. The village in itself has nothing interesting to see. There is a hotel, a lodge as well. But the most famous place in Agumbe is "Doddamane". This is where most of the trekkers arrive in the morning. You will have to inform the residents of this house beforehand and they will keep breakfast ready for you. They even prepare packed lunch on request. And yes, the best part is, they do not have fixed price tag. You can give whatever you feel is right.


Routes to Narasimha parvata:
There are two routes. One from Kigga, one from Agumbe. Both require forest permits. The route from Agumbe side is thickly forested and there are multiple routes. If you are trekking from Agumbe side, you need to catch a transport to a village named Mallandur and start trekking from there. Remember, none of the routes from Agumbe side are well marked. We availed the services of a guide. I am not sure if solo trekking is possible from Agumbe side. The forest can be penetrated only by someone who knows the route. The trails get lost in the thick forest and getting lost here seems highly probable.
A view from Mallandur village.
The easy part of the trail.
Thimappa, the guide. (He has worked with discovery channel for a documentary about king cobras)
Trail broken by fallen tree.
Negotiating the thick forest.
The guide (Thimappa) took us through a very thick jungle to get us to the top of the Barkana falls. From here, you can actually see down the falls. The rocks are super slippery and a slip here make you loose 850 feet in a jiffy.
Barkana falls plummets a staggering 850 feet. (This is at the top of the falls)

After Barkana falls, the trek turns into a steep forest and the route from here till the grasslands is taxing. The humidity held by the forest can sap you. The forest gives way to grasslands after a climb of around 2 hours.The grasslands are a welcome change to the thick forest due to the possibility of cooler winds. The climb doesn't end though. The peak is around an hour and a half from the start of the grasslands.
The high grassland.
Within the clouds.
The climb continues.
The peak:
The peak in itself has very little to do. If lucky the lack of cloud cover will allow for a good view from the top. Most probably, by the time one gets to the peak it'll be around 4pm and time for the later afternoon rains.
Trekker arrive in thick fog.
The campsite:
The campsite is different from the peak. You need to get down to an old building at a lower level. Here, you can actually get access to a water well and a flowing stream. The building has two rooms and possibility is that the room will not be clean enough for anyone to camp inside. By the time we arrived at this site, it was raining heavily. We had to wait for an hour for the weather to clear up before we could pitch in the tents.
The campsite. The building with two rooms. And a few tents.
The night and the morning after:
The night wasn't cold. It didn't rain either. But then, prepare for the worst and assume that it will rain when in the Agumbe region.
The morning was clear. We couldn't really see the sunrise as the clouds at the horizon blocked the view. The view of the distant mountains was a view to behold. Our guide had left the previous evening itself and he had shown us the trail to be followed to reach Kigga. We started off almost immediately. The route for Kigga is very well marked. Some places are slippery due to the fungi on the rocks. Still it's not challenging or dangerous. For us, the walk down to Kigga took around 2 hours.
The view from the campsite.
The western ghats.

We had called up our cab driver while coming down and he was already there. From Kigga, you can go to Sringeri to freshen up and then move towards Bangalore. There are quite a few buses from Sringeri and a booking can be done beforehand. If you have rented a vehicle, the route from Sringeri is straightforward (Again either via Hassan or Shimoga).

Things to keep in mind:
  • Carrying tents is a better option if you plan to stay at the top. Relying on the building to be empty or clean is risky.
  • The forest is a leeches galore. If you are scared of leeches or blood, think twice before attempting the trek.
  • As I've already mentioned, you need to get permit in order to trek to the peak (This is a reserve forest). We gave the guide three photocopies of our ID proofs and he took care of the rest. I'm not sure where exactly can one get the forest permit. You can contact any forest office and get the information.
  • Mobile connectivity is available at the peak and the campsite. You might not get connectivity in between though.
  • If you plan to camp at the top and cook food at the top, make sure you carry some inflammable stuff with you. Most probably the firewood at the top/campsite will be moist and will not catch fire easily. 
  • Make sure you have the mobile number of an ANF official. This being a naxal area, it doesn't hurt to take precautions. 
  • The campsite is clean. There are very few human leftovers. PLEASE KEEP IT CLEAN! Carry the plastic/paper back and do not litter along the way.
  • Thimappa's mobile number: +919483496142
Leeches leeches.


Harshavardhan said...

Hi bharath,

Thanks very much for the detailed info. We actually planned to trek to this place in December last week and heard that camping at narasimha parvatha is not allowed now due to naxalite problem .
When did u actually trek to this place ? how to get permission to camp on top of hill?
Please let me know.

Harshavardhan B

bharath hegde said...

Hi Harshavardhan,
Camping is allowed at the top. We had been to Agumbe during October end 2013. We had hired a guide named Thimappa(Mobile number mentioned in the blog) who arranged for the permit. If you don't want a guide, you can get the information at Sringeri forest office. I would suggest enquiring at Kigga, Sringeri and if possible Agumbe forest offices before you start with your journey. Else, just hire the guide and he'll require 3 photocopies of your ID proof which he will submit at the forest offices. And yes, this is a naxalite area and it might be wise to keep the number of an ANF(Anti Naxal Forces) official.

s singh said...

We have been planning this trek for a while now. Is it still possible to camp up there? We do not belong to karnataka. Are the guides able to communicate in hindi or english? I've been to agumbe and i understand only bsnl has network there. So the network at the camp site is of bsnl only, right? And finally, how serious is the leech threat in this month? Some members of our group are very wary of them.

bharath hegde said...

Hi there. Yes it is possible to camp up there. The guides can manage a bit of english and hindi. But don't expect any good amount of communication skill in those languages. Regarding network, Airtel does have good coverage even on the top of the hill! Leeches during summer are rare on the western ghats (I hail from the western ghats region). I would suggest you still take precautions for the same. Also take into consideration the heat factor. It would be searing hot now!

s singh said...

hey bharat! thanks a ton. we've decided to go ahead with the trek. i just wanted to know one last detail. how much does the guide charge?

bharath hegde said...

Hi there!
I remember him charging us 2k. I guess the rates haven't changed much. I suggest you talk to him over the phone before you land up at Agumbe. Also, in case you want packed lunch, you can get it done at Doddamane but you need to inform them beforehand. This can be done after you speak to the guide.