May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
– Edward Abbey
I went in search of crooked, winding and lonesome roads and I found peace and quiet,
I went looking for water in violent motion and I found a strange stillness.
I went somewhere to get away from myself and ended spending more time with myself!
A few old friends and their better halves decided to head to the hills to spend a night in the middle of nowhere. Being pampered for choice,by the options on Team-BHP, we zeroed in on Mallalli falls. After some research and a quick check with a friend who had been there, we decided to stay at Chiguru homestay which is right on the falls road. We were told that the road to the waterfall was recently paved with concrete road and one can drive up almost to the top of the falls view point. All plans were in place and we waited for 23rd July to hit the road.
Old sights with old friends
We hit the road at 6.30 am and after a quick stop at our usual Swati Delicacy for some crisp dose and piping hot coffee, we quickly get onto SH121 and I couldn’t stop thinking about the view from the top of Maavinkere Temple. Soon we start winding our way up through the windmills to the top of the hill. A quick photo-shoot and a temple visit later,we are on our way to the Katte.
Small detour and some bad roads
Holenarsipura – Arkalgud – Shanivarasanthe could be called uneventful but the greenery around you increases as you put more distance between you and that 4 lane highway. We get to Shanivarasanthe and Google Mata decides that its easier to get to Chiguru via Uchangi – Kudrasthe that via Somwarpete. I was on navigation mode and did not realize that I was on my way to Bisle till we hit a crossroad which is around 7 km from Shannivarsanthe towards Uchangi. The locals there tell us that we are on the wrong road and need to go back and the way we came and then get to Somwarpete.
We drive back and then google decides to “optimize” the route once again! Instead of taking the butter smooth SH112 to Somwarpete, it directs us onto SH8, which is a narrow broken piece of road till it connects SH112. The time is 1.30 PM and we are all hungry and the broken roads dont help much. We join SH112 and quickly get to Somwarpete.
After driving all this while through some really green stretches and winding roads, one would think that you have seen it all.
Now I know why they call it green shoots – it really does stand out!
- Evergreen forest – check
- Green shoots – Check
- Wet winding roads – Check
- Plantations – Check
And then you drive from Somwarpete to Mallalli falls and its like you have been blind all this while. You are transported into different world – one which is lost in the hills of Pushpagiri range.
A different world
Some background – Mallalli falls is located very close to Pushpagiri hill or Kumara Parvatha, which is the 2nd highest peak in Karnataka. Kumaradhara is the river that crashes down those granite steps and winds it way to Kukke Subramanya. My guess is that most of the forest cover around the falls is part of the Bisle forests and on clear days, you could probably see the slopes of bisle from the falls viewpoint (again – this is my guess as I haven’t found any evidence for the same).
All it takes is 10 minutes for you to be completely cut off from civilization. Once you take that road to Mallalli falls from Somwarpete, you are driving on freshly laid single lane road that slowly winds its way through the hills and valleys of the mountain range. This road was not created to take you quickly from point A to B. This was created to entice and lure you into a different world.
A world where moss and erosion measure the passage of time
Here cloud cover is never an issue. Every instance that the sun threatened to break though, all the trees would create wisps of clouds which would quietly join the ranks of grey rain clouds.
Here trees and clouds are the only constants and everything else is just a transient instance. It’s strange to measure time in years,when,clearly these hills & trees have been around for centuries. They saw warriors brandishing their swords, riding around these hills fighting the cunningness of Hyder Ali & Tippu Sultan. They saw the Gora sahibs walk their horses through plantations and hunt wildlife for sport and now, they see people without roots come back into their fold, searching for lost culture and fighting their own strange battles.
Its a beautiful winding drive to Shanthalli after which the road narrows down to a single lane from 1.5 lanes and the climbs and drops are a little steep and sudden. This is not the place for swift cornering, most times you end up going up or down in 2nd gear wondering what is around the corner…
We wind our way through ~18 km of these winding roads and finally reach Mallalli falls road. The concrete road is freshly laid and is being cured and hence the entry gate is locked (was informed by home-stay owner about this and hence had to walk ~1 km in the rain to get the home-stay caretaker to unlock the gates)
No shoulder to ride on
The road has no shoulder and if you had the misfortune on driving off the road, then you better call a tow truck. Oh wait – there is not network & hence you will need to walk 4 kms to get to spot with coverage. Its strange that people here have Dish TV but are content without mobile network & WiFi!
We reach the home-stay and gorge on some sumptuous home cooked food. After we eat and settle down in our rooms, we realize that there is no TV, no mobile network, no electricity at the moment and we are marooned! Thankfully we were prepared for such an event and few packs of uno cards and some music kept us all engaged.
During the journey you do not really consider the incessant drizzle that sometimes turn to rains. Once in the room, you can hear & feel it reaching out to you. The cold creeps into the room and whispers in your ear to step out. And when you do, you are enveloped in this cloud migration which can easily put you in a trance like state. Don’t believe me? watch this
Chiguru home-stay is a dorm style home stay on Mallalli falls road. The rooms are clean and the food is simple but tasty South Indian fare (they do serve chapatis). They have 3 rooms which can accommodate 4,6 & 13 people. Please note – this is located in the middle of nowhere and hence you will find a lot of spiders & insects of all kind trying to join you in your room and the only sound at night is the gentle murmur of the stream proving the beat to the incessant crick crick & ribbit ribbit of frogs. In the middle of the night, I saw fireflies circling the high ceiling of my room
Light to heavy rain along with shifting cloud cover led us to believe that we might be better off trying our luck with the falls next day morning. Hence we spend the night chit chatting and tasting some local brew.
One step at a time
Sunday morning – 7 am and we start off towards the falls. Half of us decide to hire a M&M hardtop to get to the falls as we dont want to walk through the muck in the rain and the other half decide to walk to the falls. We take our seats in the hardtop and cruise on the cement track till it suddenly stops. The last 600 odd meters to the falls is only mud, stone & boulders and the hardtop eats up the muck without a hiccup. We get down stretch our legs and the only sound is the roar of water hitting rocks. But the sound is a little muted as all you can see is cottony white clouds drifting away into nowhere.
First glimpse – We walk to the steps and we can see the falls. To say that its breath taking will be an understatement
Walk down the stairs and the view just gets better. Its a honey trap as the further you go, the better it gets. What you don’t realize is that walking up is going to be a killer!
Stairway to Heaven
Apparently there are 600 steps to the bottom after which there is a mud path which takes you very near the 3rd outcrop over which the river leaps. I was unable to trek down because of my wife & kid but my friends did go down and here are few pics that shows what one might expect.
Needless to say that clouds were playing hide and seek all the time and this was probably the clearest shot of the falls that my better half was able to manage.
The complete trek from the gate at the start of the concrete road till the foot of the falls and back up to the gate should easily take 3-3.5 hours if you are moderately fit. Also if you plan to visit during the rain, do ensure that you wear a jacket or carry an umbrella and wear shoes as the concrete road is layered with hay, which retains water and becomes a pain to walk on with slippers/floaters. On the way to the falls, there is this small shop near the stream that serves hot coffee, omelettes and some local brew as well. If you have time, walk down to the shallow stream and sit on the boulder. I did that for 20 minutes and that was probably the best 20 minutes that I have spent in a long long time. Did spot the usual list of common birds around the stream and hence should be a good spot to get that 70-300 out for some up & close action.
After a heavy breakfast we drive back towards civilization and mobile connectivity. On the way back, we stop at every available chance to click a few pics and soak in the lethargy of the place. Believe me, this place is like the perfect destination for all those who want to do nothing but immerse themselves in the arduous task of wasting time. You will not have any of the modern means to while away time and hence you end up walking down that muddy road or finding a way into the freezing stream to keep yourself engaged.
SH121 – What a road!
This was the perfect getaway to celebrate 6 months with the TUV 300,our Dwarf.. This monsoon has been all about the hills and we have loved every minute of our every trip and the next few months promise to be wet, winding & cloudy!
Route: Yeshwantpur – Channarayapatna – SH121 – Holenarasipura- Arkalgud – Shanivarasanthe – Somwarpete – Mallalli Falls road
Pit stops: Swati Delicacy & IndianOil petrol pump – Shanivarasanthe
Drive time: 4 Hours 40 Minutes
- Yeshwantpur – Channarayapatna – 4 Lane toll road
- Channarayapatna – SH121 – Holenarasipura – Beautiful 2 lane state highway
- Arkalgud – Shanivarasanthe – Somwarpete – Winding state highways with very good roads (except for the first 5km stretch from Arkalgud where the roads are broken – nothing alarming but need to drive slow)
- Somwarpete – Mallalli Falls road – Single lane road through beautiful countryside and steep curves. Last 4 Km stretch to the Falls road has broken tarmac with a few potholes.
Note: Majority of road signs & distance markers after you cross Shanivarasanthe are in kannada.
Thanks for reading!