Bandaje Arbi Falls Trek – A challenging route
I was pretty much pumped up to do any trek in the Western ghats which could offer an extreme challenge as well as scenic beauty. It was December and weather was pleasant. I was deciding between Kudremukh and Bandaje Arbi (Bandaje falls) and I chose the latter. Bandaje Falls gives an amazing trekking experience for it brings along with it the beauty and serenity of nature. Add to this, if your destination is the famous Bandaje falls, then it can give adrenaline rush to the trekkers. Also, the trek in itself involves steep climb and I was up for the challenge. My colleagues in Intel joined me for the trek. We were a group of 8 people.
We took a tempo from Bangalore. Adventure Adda trek group helped us with the stay and trek lead. The nearest town is Ujjire. Bandaje trek is almost 22-23kms distance (to and fro). We started the trek at around 10 in the morning. The forest department doesn’t allow to camp near the falls in the night. But there are places (Bandaje hill-top) where one can stay overnight which requires permit from Range Forest Officer (RFO). We had decided to complete entire trek by the evening.
Our first milestone – Ballala Rayana Durga Fort
The first part of the trek takes us through the dense forests for almost a hour and half. There are few steep ascents, which might be very slippery if hiked in the monsoon period. The forests open up into vast grass lands. The Ballalarayanadurga fort (ruined fort) is visible from here. The climb to the fort was painstaking because the sun will deny to hide behind the clouds. We had to keep ourselves hydrated as much as possible. It’s advised to take at least two liters of water and liquids for such a trek. Ballalarayana Durga Fort – Was constructed by the wife of Veera Ballala l who was the king of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. The fort was once used by the Hoysala Empire to place the soldiers and artillery to protect the kingdom. The climb to the fort is excruciating. Some stints are literally breath taking and nonetheless awarding. When I meant breath taking, I really meant almost everyone would stop once in a while to take deep breaths as it was cardio-vascularly tiring. The views were spectacular and I fancied to take photos every time we stopped. Lakshit had brought his DSLR for the trek. He clicked lot of classic pictures of us and the views. Thanks to fellow trekkers, Abraham and Prafful who lent us enough time to take fancy pictures throughout the trail.
Abhishek, our trek lead was pushing us to climb faster as we had to return back down the same day. And he knew if the weather goes cross, it would be a difficult descend. The first timers Akshay and Lokesh, who were timid initially, were pacing quite well. Sumana was trekking for the first time in the Western ghats. We spent sometime in the fort, had couple of snacks and liquids and started our descent towards the Bandaje falls.
Towards Bandaje Arbi
After descending from the fort, Bandaje falls can be reached by crossing 3 hills. As you trek up and down the three hills, the views it offers are quite beautiful. The last hill was quite steep in descent. The trail was not very visible and was filled with wonky bushes above knee height. I slipped multiple times. This stride was through a vast grassland all over. Needless to say, the sun was at it’s beaming peak.
By the time we finished our descend to the falls, the time was almost 1.30 pm. Our trek lead suggested we must leave by at most 2.30pm to ensure we reach back well in time. We ate our packed lunch which we carried with us. The water from the falls was very reviving. But, due to lesser time, none of us bathed in the water.
Descent towards starting point
We started back at around 2.30 pm. The first part was the toughest ascent after a sumptuous lunch. For the first time, amongst all the treks I have done, I was feeling quite low in stamina and breath. I was struggling to walk up the not so steep hill for the first time. I would blame it on the lunch and sun. Generally most of the western ghats treks have descent after lunch making it easier. After sometime, the clouds were gathering and the weather changed quite drastically giving all of us some retreat. We had the whole trail to our own. No other group was trekking that day.
About Bandaje Arbi Falls
Bandaje Arbi is waterfall formed by a tributary of Netravathy River as it flows down off Bandaje Hill in the Western Ghats near Bandaje village of Dakshina Kannada District. Locally this falls is called as Bandaje Arbi, where Arbi means falls in Tulu language. Bandaje falls is considered as the best water fall in Belthangady taluk offering relaxation to the trekking enthusiasts. In fact, several trekkers trek on Bandaje only to view the amazing beauty of Bandaje falls. Permission from Belthangady wildlife range office, Kudremukh national park is required to trek to Bandaje falls.
Bandaje Arbi in fact are mid-way for the hikers trekking to the top of the Bandaje Hill. That trek is almost 15 kms one way and quite strenuous to be completed in a day. The long journey to reach the hill top, does not allow the trekkers to return back and reach the base on the same day. Also, it requires permit from RFO to stay overnight atop the hill. The village guides are also available to lead the trekkers. There are many professional trekking groups such as Adventure Adda which organize trek in the region. If you plan to hike on your own, it’s better to hire a guide as chances of getting lost are pretty high.
How to reach Bandaje from Bangalore
By bus – One can take bus from Bangalore towards Mangalore – get down at Ujire or Subramanya. Ujire is about 300 kms from Bangalore.
By train – One can take Karwar Express from Bangalore and get down at Subramanya. If you get down at Subramanya, you need to take another bus to Ujire.
Bandaje village is located 25 km further from Ujire. There are jeeps available from Ujire to Bandaje.
Route: Travel 6 km from Ujire towards Charmadi Ghat, take left at Somanthadka, travel for another 6 km, then take a right turn, and travel for 2 km to find a village named Kadirudyavara, from where you can start the trek.
Also, at about 15 kms from Ujire is Dharmasthala village known for its 800 years old Dharmasthala Temple. The temple houses the shrine of Shiva, Manjunatha, Ammanavaru, Chandranath and the Dharma Daivas (guardian spirits of Dharma) — Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumaraswamy and Kanyakumari.