Uttara Kannada district is a paradise for nature lovers. Its lush, green and dense forests have a diverse wildlife, fast-flowing rivers, majestic and picturesque waterfalls, placid blue lakes and ancient temples.
We started our journey of the ghats in Uttara Kannada district with Castle Rock. Lying close to the national highway connecting Belagavi and Goa, it is on the Londa-Vasco rail line. It was the frontier between the Portuguese-held Goa and British-held India for many years. During the colonial era, the Goan towns of Vasco and Margao were connected to the rest of India by metre gauge rail, and at Castle Rock, the passengers had to clear immigration and customs. The tracks and remains of the old metre gauge can still be seen at the railway station.
Located amidst lush forests, Castle Rock is situated at an elevation of 600 metres above sea level, and is a beautiful place to spend the weekend. Famous novelist Manohar Malgonkar used to live close by. Located about 11 km from Castle Rock by the side of the railway line is the famous Dudhsagar Falls. It is a majestic four-pronged waterfall that’s one of the tallest waterfalls in India. We trekked along the railway line, passing through many tunnels, to reach the falls. Those who don’t want to trek can enjoy the falls sitting in the train itself or reach Dudhsagar by road from Belagavi. The road journey is inconvenient, and most trains don’t stop at Dudhsagar station.
Later, we proceeded to Dandeli, famous for its tiger reserve, dams and adventure sports. On arrival, we went to Kali Adventure Camp, run by Jungle Lodges & Resorts, whose lovely traveller’s bungalow is on the banks of River Kali. The adventure camp is especially famous for water sports. Apart from white water rafting, which is a big hit with tourists, the camp organises many other water sports. The camp also facilitates jungle safari. Dandeli forest is home to tigers, panthers, sloth bear, barking deer, elephants, and many birds. During our foray into the forest, we saw a bison, many herds of deer and a few elephants also.
Dandeli is also famous for Supa Dam, built across River Kali. Over 100 metres high and 330 metres long, this concrete gravity dam is the second largest dam in Karnataka. Near the dam are attractions like Sykes Point, which affords one spectacular views of Kali river and the reservoir. Due to security reasons, a visit to this dam is restricted and one needs to get a pass for the visit.
From Dandeli, we proceeded to Yellapur. Located on the Hubballi-Ankola National Highway, it became famous after the Kannada movie Killing Veerappan by Ram Gopal Verma was shot in the forests here. Curious to visit the movie locations, we went into a dense forest about 30 km away from Yellapur and enjoyed the drive through the forest.
Close by was Sathodi Falls, which is a rectangular 15-metre-high waterfall. The beauty of this place is that a visitor can actually go below the waterfall and enjoy a shower. After falling from a height, the water gently gushes through a rocky surface, where tourists enjoy a dip.
From Sathodi, we went to the backwaters of River Kali to see a newly constructed hanging bridge. Constructed in 2015, this bridge connects the village of Shivapura to Yellapur. Before this bridge was built, the villagers were using a wooden raft to cross the waters. We crossed the river in the raft, which was very thrilling. From Shivapura, the famous temple town of Ulavi is quite close, but due to a lack of time, we returned to Yellapur.
The next morning, we went to Magod Falls, about 20 km from Yellapur. Here, River Bedthi cascades from a height of 200 metres, and the sight is as spectacular as Jog Falls. From there, we went to Jenukallu Gudda, a point where one can experience a spectacular sunset over the hills.
Our next stop was Mundgod, where we visited the Tibetan Monastery. Established 50 years ago, this is one of the first resettlement colonies for Tibetans in India. It has a lovely Buddha temple also. What attracted me more were the Tibetan handicrafts and Tibetan food available there.
From Mundgod, we proceeded to Sirsi and visited the famous Marikamba Temple. From there, we drove on the Sirsi-Kumta Road towards Hegdekatta and reached a place called Archave after traversing about 50 km. We parked our vehicle at the welcome arch of Vibhuti Falls. We trekked approximately one-and-a-half km on a steep road to reach the point from where the falls were visible. The mere sight of the lovely falls made us forget the exhaustion of the trek. The multi-tiered Vibhuti Falls is as pleasant as any other waterfall in the district, but what makes it special is that it is relatively free from crowds.
We then headed to Jog for our night halt and stayed in the iconic British Bungalow. It is near this bungalow that River Sharavati dives down a huge precipice. The point where the water jumps has been immortalised in the famous Kannada movie Mungaru Male.
It took us six days to do this thrilling, adventurous and invigorating road trip. During our trip, we had seen five beautiful falls, verdant forests teeming with wildlife, and lovely rivers. Everywhere, we came across hospitable locals. We enjoyed ‘kashaya’, the local drink, and loved the local meals prepared with ingredients such as coconut, banana, cashew, and the like.