Netravali – Kundan – Kumbharwada – Dandeli – & Back.
It was almost after 2 years that we were planning a trip together, all of us cousins, thanks to Chinmay. It was going to be a fun, trekking cum river rafting experience. And it was lots of fun; exhausting, muscle-cramping, sweat-drenching, moral-breaking, pain-in-the-ass kind of mind-blowing fun. 30 kilometres on foot, 9 kilometres in water and approx 300 kilometres in vehicle covered in 2 days has to be ground breaking stuff.
DAY 1 – 28 February 2009: Trek till Kumbharwada, stay at Dandeli
9.00am: Pitch report: Pleasant morning, clear skies, temperature about 30D Celsius – perfect day for adventure! A group of 15 adventure enthusiasts ready to start off. Food – check, water bottles – check, camera – check, asthma patient carrying her precautionary medicines? – Check!
As we started walking from our base, we had a wonderful view of the fields and the village life around us as we slowly progressed towards the towering Western Ghats. The plan was to walk through the jungle and the mountains onto the Deccan plateau on the other side of the Ghats towards Dandeli, the destination for river rafting.
9.15am: Evidently the first ever climb decided to test our stamina and determination. The steep ascent left us pink faced and gasping for breathes. Personally, I was panting like I had just conquered Mt. Everest and my head was spinning. Every breath was sharp in the chest and I was all ready to give up. Among the 15 climbers, I was one of the few who had quite a bit of trekking experience and had boasted liberally of my earlier expeditions. But the very first climb had left me ashen faced and I could feel that my reputation as a trekker was coming crashing around my ears. Sure, I had not done much in the past year and turned into a couch potato, but I had always boasted a strong stamina. But this time, my body was revolting and I had to take notice of the fact that I was perhaps taking myself for granted. Immediately resolving to work harder when I got home, I concentrated on getting there alive with everyone else.
11.00am: After completing the gruelling climb and pushing the first mountain behind us, we took a break for breakfast. Thankfully, we were carrying a lot of water and food with us, and we happily ate our way through Methi parathas and garlic, groundnut chutney
11.20am: After the 20-minute break, everybody was back on their feet, geared up for the second mountain. But being past the initial hump and full of the delicious parathas, we completed this one after much less effort and in much less time.
12.30pm: We reached Kundan; a small village perched on the mountain with straw humps, mud houses and cattle grazing in the dry fields. We also passed a bunch of school kids in blue and white uniform playing outside the recently painted pink school compound walls. There was a tap just outside the village premises where we filled up out bottles once again.
1.00pm: Reaching Kundan meant that the mountain and the steep climbs were over. But it also meant another thing which we learned as we saw what was happening up there. They were building the tar road up to the village and that would mean that the next 19 kilometres till Kumbharwada were on hot mix. Worrying about our joints and knees was pointless, we had come this far and we unanimously agreed to go on.
2.00pm: Approx 5 kilometres into the journey from Kundan, we took another halt near a dried up spring. We quickly took off our shoes and socks and dipped our sore feet and aching toes in the stagnant water for some relief, before settling down for some lunch. By now, the water supply was beginning to run out, although food was plenty. We ate more parathas with mango pickle and bread with cheese and tomatoes and then some chicku.
2.20pm: 20 minutes later, we grudgingly put on our shoes again and started to walk. It quickly dawned upon us that once we had gotten ourselves into it, there was no way out except to keep walking. The jeep that had left for Dandeli with Vandana and Radha (a cousin and her 3 month baby) along with 3 older folks was coming back to collect the 15 of us in Kumbharwada. There was no way to call it up to us as the entire stretch was through thick jungle and there was not a soul in sight, except a few PWD workers and although all 15 of us carried our mobiles, not a single one showed any network. The only way to any communication was from Kumbharwada, 13 kilometres away.
5.00pm: Walking, halting, cursing the shoes, nursing the swollen toes and ankles, all that I could think of was the kilometres left to cover. We were out of water by now and our feet were screaming in protest. And although the scenery around kept changing from tall mountains to thick forests, beautiful springs with small bridges, who in the ruddy hell really had the patience for sightseeing? We passed a majestic dam under construction and also heard some animals move in the dark canopy of the forest. But all that occupied the brain was the time ticking away as we had to somehow make it to Kumbharwada before nightfall.
7.00pm: Kumbharwada! Never thought I’d get there alive. Dragging my feet, somehow trying to summon all the energy and determination from the unlikeliest of the places, I had made it; we all had made it! Every single one of the 15 weary and distended faces was lit up with smiles of relief. We gratefully drank the water from the first general store we came across and got into the Trax waiting for us that took us straight to Dandeli.
8.00pm: We checked into the hotel – got out for dinner – Ravenous, we ate whatever was put in front of us – got back – had steaming hot shower – covered our feet with pain relief sprays and ointments – and dropped off to sleep instantly.
DAY 2 – 1 March 2009: Rafting in Kali River and back to Netravali.
8.00am: When the alarm rang somewhere in the vicinity, I opened up my puffy eyes, grabbed my mobile, turned it off, rolled over and slept again.
9.00am: Someone shook me awake. We had to be at the Jungle Lodges and Resorts by 10.30am, ready for rafting. I staggered to my feet, feeling other blurred shapes emerging out of the blankets. I went through my morning routines with my eyes only half open, and threw on some clothes from the bag.
11.00am: Jungle River Lodges and Resorts!
As the name suggests this place is in the middle of the forest, on the banks of Kali River. Very spacious and comfortable, it’s quite peaceful and the perfect getaway from the strenuous city life. Small cabins and tents are separated by strings of hammocks hanging from trees and the front yard has two tires strung by ropes where we tried a few tricks before it was time to go.
From 11.30am – 3.00pm: As we were being taken to the location of rafting in jeeps bearing ‘Government of Karnataka’ on their bonnets, we had a perfect view of the Kali River. The River with its water volume and considerable width looks slightly intimidating. Although having done rafting there earlier with friends in April 2008, I knew exactly what to expect, but it was fun to watch the other apprehensive faces, especially of those who did not know swimming. Rafting at Dandeli is perfect for amateurs; it's neither too arduous but not any less exciting. For those who have at least done boating earlier, you will find that rafting is not much different, except for the rapids. Just a few instructions beforehand provided by the excellent instructors there and you are set to go. 9 kilometres of sheer fun covered in a little less than 2 hours by the end of which you are only left wishing for more! What more do I say in words? It's something you need to go and try for yourself to know… So do it! And oh, carry lots of sun block!
3.30pm: All too soon we were back in Dandeli, packing, ready to go. We had a hurried lunch, checked out of the Hotel and split in two groups. Those who were going back to Pune and Sangli would be taking a bus directly from Dandeli and the rest from Goa were to return to Netravali. We said good-bye to each other and were back in the Trax enroute to Netravali via Karwar, all the way singing Nursery Rhymes for the benefit of the 3-month-old Radha! :)
At the end of everything, for those willing to try this out, I’ll let you in on some general advice. It will be best to avoid trekking the entire 30 Km as the 19 Km tar road is not meant for trekking after all. Instead you could leave early from Netravali and aim at getting to Kundan before 12 noon and you will be able to catch the only bus that leaves from there and reach Dandeli in less than 2 hours. That way, if you are not willing to stay overnight, you could do rafting in the afternoon and catch a bus in the evening back to Goa. Just make a point to check the Bus Schedule before you leave though!