On a trail of mystery and enchantment
Watch tower at Jodigere
The muted thunders beyond the silhouette of the mountains kept the dark grey skies in a ceaseless flicker. The rain was imminent, it was easy to say. The moon was a tiny blob high in the sky but radiant enough to light up the track that had just brought us here. It was the same blissful feeling of letting one’s thoughts wander aimlessly as we stretched our legs on the stairs of the watchtower. One of us was soon quizzing the rest about stellar science, another was reminiscing about the day’s adventure and I was hopelessly attempting to capture the lightning on a friend’s digital camera. Our conversation soon reduced to a trickle and we were all beginning to enjoy the silence that enveloped us. We were all simply in love with time.
We, five city mortals, were recent victims of the Karnataka forest department’s latest venture to promote eco-tourism in the much dreaded and infamous forests (thanks to Veerappan) of the Chamarajanagar area and we had nothing to complain about. Accompanied by three awfully friendly souls – Shankaran, a local youth to show us the way, Dasappa our cook and Ramesh, a uniformed forest guard complete with a double barrel gun to keep the wildlife at bay, we trekked up to Jodigere from the little village of Bedaguli one evening. The trek took us through deciduous jungles rich in teak that were just taking on the brown and yellow hues of the approaching summer. As we approached Jodigere a large concrete watchtower amidst rolling grasslands, that somewhat fitted the picture of a utopian forest dwelling that I had had, awaited us. We were glad that we had to spend the night here although it didn’t hold much luxuries inside that would promise us a good night’s sleep.
We left the stairs a while later and gathered around an oil lamp that was lit inside the watchtower. Words resumed once again and our guide with his tales of the forest – of tigers and creepy others, of mountain passes and secluded peaks, kept us engrossed. The rains followed soon, lashed the watchtower for an hour, and finally left behind the winds to howl softly in the dark. Dinner was served, the sambar tasted divine and soon everyone was asleep but the burning lamp.
The morning was bright and calm. The sun warmed our skin and spirits and we were soon off tracking wild gaurs that were just spotted on a far-off hill. After successfully capturing some of the beasts on camera we returned for breakfast. At nine we said goodbye to the watchtower and headed east for a long day’s trek. We passed by the twins lakes that presumably gave Jodigere its name, walked through a short stretch of shola forest and approached a mountain pass where we broke the journey for a few minutes. The views from the pass were simply stirring. Mountains lay in layers of grey and blue, some looked real, some ethereal. From this point the rest of our route was pretty much apparent. We were to trek on an undulating terrain on the Karnataka -Tamil Nadu border before we turned left to head for Bylore, the trek’s end.
We began our descent passing through lengthy stretches of unspoiled forest. Some trees were almost barren, some were shedding leaves while others still showed off their mottled leaves. Few others seemed rebels, still green in the heat of March. On our way a wild gooseberry tree stood right on our path and we merrily collected as many berries as we could that had fallen on the forest floor. Our next stop was at a stream whose waters almost seemed stagnant; after which the trek got tougher and the path inclined upwards. A while later we paused for a moment to enjoy the sweet scent of a wild jasmine shrub. A few sweaty hours later we finally hit the road out of the thickets. Our trek was over at Bylore.
Bylore could easily be anyone’s dream of a perfect village – a few tiled homes on an elevated earth, tall coconut palms on the fringes and verdant paddy fields on terraces, dark blue mountains in the horizon and a little lake to complete the picture! We really didn’t mind whiling away a couple of hours under the shade of a tree at Bylore before a local bus picked us up back to civilization – to Kollegal.
The bus stand at Kollegal was the prefect place to fill our tummies with the supremely tasty Najangud bananas for one last time before we caught a bus back to Bangalore. The journey had to end, but this time we were carrying home more than just memories – the tingling after taste of the wild gooseberries and the scent of the jasmines from the jungle.
Prior permission is needed from the office of the DCF, Chamarajanagar Division, Phone: 08226-222059. You can either pay the entry and trekking fee well in advance or in person at the office in Chamarajanagar on your way to Bedaguli (entry fee: Rs.100/person, guide fee: Rs.300/day, night halt fee: Rs.50/person/night, trekking fee: Rs.100/person/day). To get more details about this trek or to explore other options log on to mysterytrails.com
Reach Chamarajanagar (197 km from Bangalore, 5 ½ hours) before 1 in the afternoon. Walk down to the private bus stand and board the only bus for the day headed towards Bedaguli. It leaves at 1:30 pm and reaches Bedaguli at 4:15 pm, from where you start the trek. You can either call it a day at the beautiful 2 room forest rest house at Bedaguli (double room/night: Rs.400) and start your trek on the next morning or start on a 1 hr trek to Jodigere the very same evening. You will be accompanied by a forest guard, a guide and a cook on your trek. The watchtower at Jodigere has enough room to accommodate a group of ten but you need to bring you own sleeping bags and carry enough provisions.
The next day’s trek to Bylore is longer and tedious and takes approximately takes around 4 to 5 hours. From Bylore there are buses at 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm to Kollegal, from where you can catch another to Bangalore.