For a while now, I was annoyed by the fact that it has been more than a year and a half since my last trek. So when I saw a call for people who want to join a trek in Shimoga in the [Orkut Bangalore
Trekkers group](http://www.orkut.com/CommMsgs.aspx?cmm=63252&tid=5202222619863645450&start=1), I jumped at the chance.
A few days later on May 30 night (i.e. last weekend as of this writing), I was on a bus to Sagar in Shimoga district with 13 other strangers I had never met before. Thankfully, all it took was a few smiles and laughs and we got along very well. There were people from varying age groups - 18 to 55 although majority were the young IT crowd.
Then the inevitable happened. Bangalore traffic jam. It took 2-2.5 hours just to get out of the city! There are so many bottlenecks especially near the Jalahalli cross. No wonder the bus drivers are so stressed out. God save us all, I wonder how much worse it can get. Because of all this hungama, we reached Sagar more than a couple of hours late which threw our trekking plans haywire. We had to ditch the idea of trekking till the Belli Gundi waterfall and do a shorter exploration of the area.
To start the day (May 31 Saturday), we got into an open jeep to transport us to Kattinakaru. We had a fun ride through the scenic locale. We even saw the Linganmakki dam from far.
After the food materials were distributed among us, we gathered our rucksacks and started walking from Kanchina Gadde along the Goodanagundi stream. Half an hour later, we heard a bear. Then we ate many wild berries that our guide Narayan suggested.
We were lucky to have such a knowledgeable and trained guy like Narayan. Interestingly, the guide Narayan, the organizer Sampath and a few others are the only ones who organize trekking trips in the Shimoga area. They know nooks and crannies of this area that most of humanity doesn't!
Sampath does this for interesting reasons - to show people that fun can be more than just boozing and partying, to encourage people to lead more simpler and ecofriendly ways, to sensitize people towards rural people and at the same time, provide a source of income for the locals by way of us travellers! I thought it was a beautiful way to combine all these goals and Sampath, an avid trekker gets to trek himself. Lucky guy.
And then, we were reminded the monsoons were coming. Why? Leeches. Slimy crawly blood-sucking leeches.
After much discussion, I arrived that the magic to avoiding them is a three-pronged strategy - rub your legs and feet with dettol (the strong smell repels them), sprinkle salt over your socks and shoes (they can't tolerate salt) and put a chakravyuha of lime paste/salt/chunna on your shoes. I am not sure if the lime paste makes a difference but the dettol and salt are very important.
Leeches will still manage to get on to you. If you find yourself doing some blood donation to these creatures, just put some salt over them, they'll curl up and then you can remove them. You may be able to pull them out directly but that way you'll end up bleeding more.
Yep. It sucks. Err, the leeches suck. Ugh. Whatever. I'm bad at humor.
Surprisingly, I was less bothered by the leeches this time. I guess some experience in dealing with them made me okay about it.
The best part (or worst depending on your point of view) undoubtedly was stopping in the middle of the forest at 4 pm and our cook Umapathi prepared anna-saaru right there! We devoured it like we haven't seen food in years.
After that, we continued trekking towards Padubeedu. I realized that I so missed the forest. It's good to get away from humanity once in a while, especially the daily bhaag-daud, and be amidst nature. They say that the color green is good for your eyes and I was seeing plenty of it.
Our night halt was going to be at the home of a tribal Chota Nayak. Their family were friendly and fun to converse with. After a little relaxation, we started walking to a place where they crush sugar cane. We got to see some beautiful views of the DevkaaNbare hills. If only we could have reached 10-15 min earlier, we could have catched the sunset.
When we reached the sugarcane place, I was amazed to see a crusher machine in the middle and two bulls walking in circles to crush the sugarcanes!
The crushed juice goes down a pipe to collect in a huge vessel. And they were kind enough to let us drink the fresh juice made right in front of us. It was simply heavenly. What you get in the cities are so diluted. This was fresh and pure. The difference was remarkable.
And it seemed, the best part was yet to come. We got to taste fresh liquid jaggery! I personally don't like sweets but this was so good. So good. It's apparently referred to as 'joNi bella'.
Thinking back, these are the kind of experiences that I look forward to in a trek/travel. Money can't buy you this stuff. It was remarkable that they didn't take any money for this and yet encouraged us to drink and eat to our heart, err, stomach's content. I guess it's true that villagers are more open-minded and more giving than urbanites.
Our group's non-stop jokes and banter continued during the short campfire and we even played dumb charades. And then Umapathi did it again with sumptuous palav for dinner which was the perfect way to end the day.
We were all so tired especially with the back-breaking journey and the leech-avoidance running and dancing. We just crashed on the mats in the open area.
Next: Day 2 of the trek