The many faces of Charmadi

The many faces of Charmadi

Those who wish to relish the beauty of Charmadi ghats in a more safe and unhurried manner, there are many treks that would transcend you to a different world, says B V Prakash. 

Among the many ghats that traverse the mighty Western Ghats in Karnataka, the one that is known for its outstanding scenery is undoubtedly the Charmadi Ghat. 

A stretch of about 25 km between Kottigehara of Chikmagalur and the village of Charmadi in South Kanara, called Charmadi Ghat, connects the two districts by the national highway with its own attributes of panoramic vistas. 

The road passes along verdant valleys on one side and high rising hills on the other. Numerous waterfalls are tucked away in its dense forests that roar in the monsoons. 

An awe-inspiring drive

A drive through Charmadi Ghat would be a soulful experience. 

But the road is also fraught with treacherous curves and steep bends which needs alertness. 

But for those who wish to relish the beauty of the place in a more safe and unhurried manner, there are many treks around the ghats to choose from. 

The fact that these hills and jungles are within the designated reserve of forests with wild animals and the frequent reporting of naxalite activities in the region makes it mandatory to obtain necessary permissions before going into this area. 

Our recent journey here was to climb a tall hill called Baalekallu Gudda. 
Raviraj  Narayan, DCF at Chikmagalur was kind enough to permit us and also issued necessary instructions to the range office at Mudigere. 

Arriving at Mudigere in the morning, we freshened up before we met the range officer and spent some time listening to his thrilling experiences of the forest life. 

“A herd of 15 elephants has been roaming in the area for the last week,” he said and sent an armed escort to go with us.  We made it to Kottigehara check post, bought some food and proceeded towards Biduruthala. 

This is a tiny settlement with a dozen houses or less, perched on a high plateau above the road. 

We struggled our way up for an hour as our feet sank in the powdered soil of the trail to reach the village, which devoid of electricity and communication, is cut off from civilisation. 

Call of the wild

It was already afternoon but there was time to scramble up a smaller mountain called Hasman Betta to the north. 

Vikram, our guide showed us a stone called ajjanakallu, where his forefathers used to give a shout in evenings and all the cattle grazing in the hills would return at once. 

The warm-up climb brought us to the top giving us lovely views of hills all around. 

In the west, the Sun seemed to be setting through a sea of clouds painting the sky in vibrant colours. The main adventure began the next morning. 

After breakfast, we set out for our trek to Baalekallu Gudda, also called Baale Gudda. It is named so because in the olden days, there was a rich banana plantation, that was eventually abandoned when the area was declared a forest reserve.

Breath-taking viewsA herd of buffaloes and cattle accompanied us initially before the trail went up at a steeper gradient. 

Jenukallu Gudda is a high point named for the numerous bee hives under its overhang. 

As we had already gained a higher altitude, we skipped going there but we were treated to a picturesque view of the valley with the ribbon of Charmadi road skirting the mountainside. 

Though the sun was getting hotter on the path devoid of trees, the cool and crisp air was refreshing. We soon spotted a uniquely shaped huge rock. 

This was kodekallu, we were told, because of the umbrella-shaped rock (kode means umbrella in kannada). 

The way the giant boulder sits pretty on a narrow ledge providing a good shelter below is wonderful. From here, the peak of Baalekallu Gudda seemed to touch the sky. 

We ambled further along an easy trail and rested a few minutes before taking on the steep face of Baalekallu Gudda. 

Pushing through grass and bushes, we finally reached the summit. With the range of Ballalarayana Durga in the distance separated by a deep valley, the overall view was simply astounding. 

We spent a long time there, having fulfilled our desire to savour the beauty of mountains before strolling back to the village.  

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