Varied landscapes......of Charmadi

Travel

When I chose to scale the Ballala Rayana Durga, BR Durga for short, the aim was to experience the varied terrain of grasslands, shola forests and deep ravines that are typical to the Western Ghats.

The top of this lofty hill also has a crumbling fortress. But its historical appeal is far outclassed by nature’s bounty that one is treated to.

Nestled in the Charmadi ranges of Dakshina Kannada district, the peak of B R Durga can be approached from two sides. The easier, shorter route from Sunkasale on the Horanadu road or the more difficult longer trek from Bandaje.

Opting for the latter, I arrived at the temple town of Dharmasthala in the morning and travelled to Ujire. The starting point of the trek at Bandaje was reached by a jeep. The house of Narayana Gowda here is the favourite place for trekkers as one can expect a decent breakfast and a guide. The services of a guide is generally necessary as the route that traverses the thick jungles for hours is broken at many points. However, I ventured out on my own. 

The ranges of BR Durga have a diverse topography. There are dense jungles with tall trees, creepers and climbers where the path often fades out. On the higher reaches of the mountains are grassy meadows with a thin tree cover. All through the pristine forests are streams and rivulets. The jungle is surely home to a variety of wildlife, but the chances of sighting or photographing them on a trek are quite slim.

The trail climbed steadily and I trudged carefully looking for the markings on stones and tree trunks for the route. At the first mountain stream that I reached after an hour, I rested a while. After two hours, I emerged out of the tree cover to an open land. Standing majestically over the valley to the left was the Kudremukh peak.

The next stretch of the route ascended steeply through the grassland with no shelter from the sun. What kept me going was the beautiful waterfall. When I reached the edge of a cliff the view of the falls thundering down some 200 ft in a single column of water was indeed breathtaking. Called Arbi Bandaje (Arbi in Tulu means waterfall), the falls is unapproachable. The head of the falls has a small ledge from where one can peer down. Certainly not for the faint-hearted.

I reached a small clearing and pitched up the tent. By evening, the sky acquired multiple hues of the setting sun and with the silhouette of trees it looked no different from a painting! In the morning, there was an unexpected visitor. A bright green vine snake was spotted on a bush. In fact, the BR Durga area abounds in snakes. We took a closer look at this lovely non-venomous reptile chequered with white and black on its leaf green scales.

The path was easy going from here and it was all the more enjoyable with stupendous views everywhere.  The grasslands and the tentacles of sholas on them, canopies with various shades of green in deep valleys and a cool breeze to refresh.

The relentless walk for two hours brought us to the top finally. Though a major portion of the fort has bitten the dust, the remnants of its walls extend far and deep into the canyons. In its hey days this must have been the most picturesque fort.

The descent (of our 35 km trek) was simple on a clear path interspersed with stone steps till Durgadahalli.

Getting there

Dharmasthala/Ujire can be reached by overnight bus from Bangalore. Food, tenting equipment and a guide are essential.

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