Ombattu Gudda/6 - Nov 14-15, 2009

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When: Starting on Nov 13 (Friday) 10 pm, Return by Nov 16 (Monday) early morning.
Where: Kabbinhole Reserve Forest, Karnataka.
Terrain: Boulders and rocks, dense forest, crossing streams.
Difficulty: Difficult.
Distance: 35 km trek.

So it was happening finally - A year after it came to my knowledge that there existed the mysterious jungles of Ombattu Gudda, A year since I’ve been yearning to climb the peaks of Ombattu Gudda - It was happening finally today on Nov 14th 2009. This time I ganged up with the Chennai Trekking Club aka CTC in short.

Alright, before starting I would like to clear some things first.

Firstly, if you are looking at this post for information on the trail to OG, I am sorry I would be of no use.

Secondly, DO NOT ENTER OG WITHOUT A GPS OR A MAP! The place is like the land of the lost. Inevitably you'd end up getting lost and this is not a place you'd like to be stranded.

Thirdly, negotiating and navigating through these jungles can be overwhelming. It helps to have an experienced trekker in the group.

Now let’s get down to the trek. After a quick meet up with the trekkers from Chennai and Bangalore, we took the overnight bus to Gundiya. At 7.30 AM Saturday morning, we found ourselves waiting on the roads after Gundiya Check post stuffing our bags with cream buns and fruits and whole lot of other rations. Nobody seemed to care about freshening up. After all we were headed to the wild. Having thoroughly explored the jungles of Eastern Ghats previously, for most of the CTCians, this would be their first tryst with the leeches of Western Ghats. Snuff powder mixed with oil was given to everyone before embarking upon the epic journey. Well yeah! Snuff (tobacco) powder or salt or volini (or any pain relief spray) or turmeric too for that matter works well against leeches. Ravi and Claudy were also armed with GPS gadgets and some maps for our aid. And we were ready for GO!

The initial part of the trail passes through the village to your right. Well frankly I didn’t know where we were headed – to OG or simply to get lost and come back. Either way worked fine by me. The trail keeps you company for the initial 4 to 5 hours and we were following a trail now. At 9.30 AM we reached our first big stream. You must’ve seen this picture in many a blog by now and the place has been looking the same since then. At 10.30 we hit the second big stream and trust the guys to make a huge commotion in the placid waters.

But among all this, the fun was to act as the “know-it-all” person about the leeches. Had a fun time explaining all the leech fundas to the willing (or maybe the unwilling) listener! Yes, there were a couple of leeches. Monsoon time would be a leech fest though.

An hour later we started again and we were still following a trail. I must say that I was kind of getting bored now. The same kind of forests and we were following a trail – nothing exciting was happening. Soon we reached another gushing stream and it goes without saying that the guys jumped into it.

Another hour passed by and I would’ve slept on the way had we continued on the trail. It was now that Ravi deemed fit to introduce some excitement in the trek and took us on a small detour – not as much as a detour as a roundabout way to reach the same trail. But some excitement at last, climbing through the thicket of the jungle! We went up, took some photos on a collapsed tree bridge and came down to the same stream again. We did the same thing a couple of times, trying to lose the trail through the thicket but ending up on the same trail again.


Also in the process, the overconfident yours truly stepped on a loose rock in the water and proved yet again that gravity works just about fine whilst the waters claimed my camera! Yes, my dear companion has abandoned me!

It was around 2.30 PM and we were keeping close to the stream. Many a times we would get down to the stream and walk among the slippery rocks, wade through waist deep waters or simply try to climb up to the thicket growing alongside. But we kept doing the same thing in turns. Climb down, walk some distance, climb up and walk some more distance and so on. But all the while we were walking along the stream. Now the excitement started building up. On my previous treks, we had grasslands for most parts but the crossing streams I never did. This one needed a lot of team effort. With our backpacks humped on our backs, we had to cross streams many times. And I kept slipping on the rocks many times too.

One particular time was even interesting, I did nothing. I was standing on the rock and waiting for the rest to start when I realized I was just slipping down the slant! No change is position, maybe change in centre of gravity (: P) but I was slipping down just like that. Thanks to the amazing reflexes of Shivi and Sai Ganesh, I evaded the fall just in time

We stopped for lunch at 3 PM by the stream side. Having lunch and being lunch as well – as Shivi put it. Well the blood suckers (leeches) were still by our side. A quick lunch of the polis and we were back on track. Same routine followed, walking through the jungle and walking along the stream. And I don’t think I have explained well what I meant by walking in the jungle. This is not your typical walk along huge trees jungle. This is the dense undergrowth along with huge trees jungle that I am talking about. Bamboo trees and thorny bushes block the way and they are just about everywhere. As I said already, no trail which meant walk through the bushes which wouldn’t budge at all to give us way. Cut through them – either you get cut or them. But someone has to get hurt!

Claudy was leading ahead with the GPS tracker while Vinod was the tail end. We were looking to reach a campsite by the stream side which was flat enough to accommodate 36 people. It was 5.30 PM and still I could see not a patch of flat ground. It’s either all rocks or all bushes on uneven land. By this time, I was getting a bit wary about the nightfall and us still not finding any campsite. But it helped that we were 36 of us and that’s a crowd. So I wasn’t too worried about being lost in forest. Soon it was 6 and we were wading through yet another waist deep watery path. This was it for me! I didn’t want another step in the water as the last of the light faded. But the leading guys realized we missed a turn somewhere behind just before we crossed this stream and were contemplating going back along. I had my heart in my mouth right about now! It was dark and walking through that slippery water and rocks was by no means inviting. Some considerate person decided against it and we decided to move ahead into the jungle and find a campsite somewhere.

It was pitch dark and we switched on our torch lights and stayed close as we walked. 15 minutes into the forest and we came to a small clearing amidst the huge trees and a respite from the undergrowth. It was by no means looking like a probable campsite for 36 to my eyes but to the experienced it was close to perfect. Only downside being, the stream was flowing around us and camping at a watering hole is not advised much. Lack of options and time made us call it a day for trekking and now we got down to the task of transforming the clearing to a campsite.

It was 7.00 PM and totally dark. Immediately we got down to work. Some left to collect firewood while the rest cleared the stones. A huge tarpaulin sheet was spread and the guys settled down with knives and their victims – onions, potatoes, carrots and more. Not to worry - not the humans. Soon the fire was lit and an hour later our soup started boiling! While I was totally drenched from the stream crossing, a hot cup of soup felt divine. Another hour and a half later, delicious poha was ready. We helped ourselves to generous servings and now it was time to setup the tent. It was the very first time that I was camping at such a location in the forest. And the tent was not so much of covered protection, but huge tarpaulin sheets instead. We tied them to the trees around and we settled beneath the spread.

As I lay down and stared at the trees above, a firefly was glowing! The stream flowing around us was creating a perfect harmony. I was at peace and I was asleep. It is the timeless moments such as these that beckon us time and again back to the wild.

The morning next day was pleasant. It was just then that I realized the stream was flowing so close to us. After a blissful morning tea, which got better only with time, we set off towards the elusive Ombattu Gudda peak at 9.30 AM. After a few minutes walk away from the campsite, we reached the stream yet again and yet again it was time to cross it – Only this time it would be the last time. After this, we decide we would just gain altitude no matter what!

So the quintessential climb begins. Slope or not, climb we shall. Thorns or not, climb we shall. And that’s exactly what we did. This as well was a new experience for me. Always having trekked in grasslands, negotiating steep and slippery 70 degree climbs with nothing but roots to hold on to was an exhilarating experience. And if I forgot to mention, it was loose soil and loose rocks everywhere. But, I was back on familiar turf. I was climbing a mountain and not wading through slippery stones in streams. I was back in shape powering through. I was almost ahead with the leading pack. This sort of climbing through the thicket continued for a while. Until 1 PM we were doing the same thing. After which, we hit a small patch of grassland. It was just now that we were above the tree cover and could get a glimpse of the mountains that surrounded us – from all sides! Couple of “been there done that” group photos and then we set off towards Ombattu Gudda which was seen at a distance. We just had to cross one valley before starting the climb to Ombattu Gudda peak. It was the same thick thorny forest we had to hike through. At 2 PM we hit the grasslands again and now just some small peaks were in between us and the OG peak. We stopped for lunch here.

I still couldn’t believe that I was finally going to reach OG peak in a couple of hours. It was a dream, a dream which came true soon enough. At 2.30 we started the climb again. It was grasslands all around. At a distance, we could see the clouds playing hide and seek with Deepada Kallu, another lovely rocky peak in the Western Ghats. I couldn’t wait any more to reach the peak. Claudy was leading us and he didn’t want any of us to go ahead leaving the group behind. The group was busy taking pictures of the beauty around and I was getting restless. Slowly we started to ascend trying not to create huge gaps in the line so that everyone is close by and no one is left too far behind. We would’ve climbed three peaks probably and then we could see OG towering right in front of us. Pavan, Vipin and I were walking along with Claudy and after we reached a height of 850 meters, we three along with Christelle headed towards OG which stands at 970 meters above MSL.

From here, we could see vast vistas of rounded mountain tops and clouds covered peaks all around. Distant waterfalls on the distant mountains were also to be seen. Pavan went a little ahead of us and reached the third peak from here and he had a funny expression on his face when he called out to us. The thing was that, the climb was not over yet and we were not on OG yet. There was another peak to be seen in front of us. We climbed that one too and yet another peak was seen. We climbed that one too and I guess another was seen. Bottom line, there were not just three peaks between us and OG as I contemplated earlier instead there were several. And finally after climbing the false peaks we made it to Ombattu Gudda!

Yes, Ombattu Gudda Conquered! We four were the first ones to reach the peak that day at 4.00 PM. This was OG1 meaning the first of the nine peaks of Ombattu Gudda (nine hills). OG2 was at a tad higher altitude than OG1 and was right in front of us. Sagar, Ramjan, Sai Ganesh and a couple more were already headed towards OG2 and Claudy told us that we would need to cross that peak on our way down. So we four also headed there. Only few of us were there and it was silent. After two days of trekking, we wanted to revel in the glory of making it to the peak. Few were wandering around and the rest of us were lost in a world of our own. It was a while until the whole group made it and once we were all there, photo sessions and bumps sessions started. After considerably disturbing the eerie silence of the mountains, we decided it was time for us to get back to civilization. Victorious and reluctant we started down the peak while the setting sun was casting its fiery rays over the distant mountains. We could see the jeep track on the mountain in front of us and there was again a valley to be crossed before we could reach the track. We reached the forest and Claudy went inside to check out the trail to the jeep track. Unfortunately, the monsoons had erased any signs of trail to jeep track. As it was getting dark already, getting into the forest without a trail was not an option.

Claudy and Ravi decided we’d go further ahead and try to find the trail through the forest. We went ahead in the grasslands along the forest and here they tried to locate the trail but to no avail. Perplexed, and in desperate measures Guna went inside the forest with the knife to check out and a little inside, he found a proper trail. Elated, we all entered the forest in a race with the fading light. Very soon we reached the jeep track.

And just as it began, it all ended too! We still had a good 10 kilometer walk to the nearest estate where the bus would pick us up, but that was nothing compared to the last two days’ ordeal. It was 7 PM and it looked like it was about to rain. Thunder storms and lighting strikes were making it an interesting walk. We walked and walked ..under the open skies, along with the twinkling stars, with the cool wind in our hairs and earth beneath our feet. Sometime later we took a diversion to Hoskere through what looked like a jungle to me in the darkness. But we walked along and finally reached the village and the bridge at 9.00 PM. There was a small stream flowing beneath the bridge where many freshened up and it was now that Vinod stamped on my leg right on!

A rather delayed candle lit dinner at a dhaba for reasons that no light should be lit after 12.00 AM in the night was another interesting experience. Soon we were back in the bus headed towards Bangalore. It was 6.00 AM as we reached Bangalore station. It was farewell time and I hate GoodByes! Each time I am on a trek, it transports me to an altogether different world and each time this bloody goodbye drags me back to this world.

In Retrospect –

It was an epic journey!

We trekked 12 hours straight each of the two days!

It was super fun and the fun can be attributed to the fact that there was no existing trail and we made our own path!

For the coming one month, my legs will look like I am just out of a cat fight! Scratched left, right, center!

I missed my dear camera!

Fact File :

Base camp for the starting the trek – Near Gundiya Checkpost
Distance from Bangalore – 275 kms approx

Time required – 2 days
Existing trail – No
GPS or Map required – Yes
Difficulty – moderate to difficult.
Distance covered – 40kms approx
Alternate route – Yes, through the jeep track which was our exit point. From Lakshmi Estate.
Water Sources - Plenty till you are in jungle. Once you hit the grasslands no more water.

Written by: Ponderingmusings


With leech-bites itching on both legs up to the knee, smarting scratches all over the body and soreness in muscles I didn’t even know that I had, I wonder whether the two day trek at Ombattu Gudde was worth it all. Then I recollect the cool green confines of the forest, the gurgling streams, the superb vistas and the wonderful camaraderie shared with the other trekkers and all these minor inconveniences fade into insignificance.

The trek started from Gundya on a comfortable trail which was almost like a walk in a park. Once we reached a stream we stopped for breakfast and a bout of splashing around in the stream. One needs to be hot and sweaty and then hit a lovely forest stream in order to realize how enjoyable the experience can really be. After about an hour of sojourn there we proceeded on the trek.

Walking through virgin forest, jumping from boulder to boulder on the stream bed and wading up to waist deep while crossing streams we proceeded towards the first day’s campsite. The trek was not too strenuous in terms of effort or terrain and, but for de-leeching breaks, we could probably have comfortably reached the campsite in daylight.

When someone who hasn’t trekked at all thinks about going into forests, the idea of being close to Nature is exclusively benign. It doesn’t always work out that way! One of the less comfortable facts of Nature is the leech. An amazing creature which first anesthetizes the site of its bite, de-coagulates the blood and sucks blood enough to bloat from needle-size to a near-globe and then falls off. One can look on it in amazement till, of course, it practices its act on you!

Our trek group had four schools of thought with regard to the leeches. The organizers had come prepared with snuff and oil which was formed into a paste and applied on the legs (one of the very few healthy uses for tobacco, I suppose). Another group believed in eucalyptus oil and yet another believed in the miraculous effect of lime(chunna). The last school of thought, who included yours truly, believed in allowing the leeches to have their fill and drop off without either preventive measures or any effort at interrupting their feeding. The impact of the last school was that my leg bled as though it had been mangled in an automobile accident! The first three schools of thought were probably foiled by the fact that wading through streams washed off the applications and, thus, guys spent a lot of time plucking leeches off their legs or spraying painkillers to make them let go. (Pharma companies note! One more use you can advocate for painkiller sprays!)

Thanks to this repeated de-leeching the last part of the trek was completed in darkness. This was the first time I had trekked in the night with only torches to illuminate the way through a dense forest. The experience was eerie but extremely enjoyable. Well! But for the photophilic insects that clustered around my headlamp and made me wish for a flypaper attachment, it was thoroughly great! We eventually reached the campsite by the side of gurgling streams.

My treks, hitherto, had been either with people hired to set up tents and cook or with camps in forest rest-houses or both. It was, therefore, amazing to see the organizers and co-trekkers pitch in and convert an unpromising site into a cozy camp. Open air though it was it looked like home away from home! People cleaned up the site, fetched wood and generally got ready for dinner. The chefs got into the act chopping vegetables and soaking the avalakki/avul (beaten rice, I suppose, is the English term!). Naveen dished out a delicious avul upma/Ogranai and how good a camp-cooked hot meal can be only experience can tell.

Just as we were lying down to sleep it started raining. Being prone to acidity attacks and having had one just then I was in too much distress to help the guys who rigged up tarpaulins above us to keep us from being drenched. (With my fabulous aptitude for messing up the simplest physical tasks it was just as well that I did not get in their way!).

Next day we woke up to some delicious black tea (of course, there were the generous souls who woke up and made the tea that we woke up to!) and set off on what promised to be a strenuous trek. Crossing the stream that had lulled us to sleep the previous night we proceeded through the forest. Our constant companions – the leeches – were with us still but the group had to hasten to complete the nearly 20 KM trek for the day. Ploughing your way through creepers that trip you up when you try to bull your way through them and readily break off when you hold on to them to avoid a fall is an unforgettable experience. After nearly four hours of walking through the forests (Well! We did rest a lot in-between!) we reached the grasslands.

A steep climb up and we were on the peak. To stand on top with valleys displaying all shades of green stretching out into the distance and gazing at fluffy clouds lazily moving across distant peaks is an experience that uplifts you but does not lend itself readily to descriptive phrases. It is at times like this that you truly feel that you are on cloud nine or should I be saying in cloud nine since we appeared to be in the clouds?

After taking a fill of soaking in the blissful atmosphere and a couple of group photographs down the line, we set off on our way back to civilization reluctantly. There was a kicker in store for us, however. It was near dark and there was some confusion about the way forward. Guna went into the jungle and found us a way back to the jeep trail that was to lead us back to where our bus was parked. (Considering that this was the place that three trekkers had lost their way and their lives a couple of years back and that another group of trekkers who were there at the same time as us had also lost their way and sent out an SOS, this feat is worthy of mention!)

Another spell of night trekking through the forest and a 10 KM walk on the jeep trail and we were back at the bridge where the bus picked us up. A scrumptious dinner down the road at a Dhaba (sans beer, alas!) and we settled down to sleep in the bus to wake up in our mundane everyday world!

It is difficult to adequately praise Ravi Ghosh who organised the trek and Claudy who was the pathfinder. Nor indeed can one forget all the other guys who selfless pitched in to make the trek comfortable on the way and at the campsite. If Nature provides the aesthetic component of joy on treks the emotional satisfaction of trekking is provided by such wonderful people who not only create the camaraderie on the trek but also make it possible for the group to enjoy nature at its best.


Also read : Aswin Anand

Organized by: Ravi S Ghosh

Image Galleries:
Ravi Gosh

Previous treks to OG:

Mission DFS , OG 4, OG 2, OG 1



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