Narsimha Parvatha is a peak located in the Agumbe range in the Shimoga district. Along with 5 of my friends, I utilized the long weekend to take a trip to this famous peak and explore a side of Agumbe that we hadn’t before. The peak has several remarkable characteristics. One such unique feature of this hill was that it’s peak is marked by an old and abandoned house. Reaching this house signaled to us that we had conquered the peak. Most of the blogs online indicated that many trekkers had previously camped there either in the house (if they didn’t have tents) or in the area surrounding the house in the comfort of their tents.
Another feature is that it has two bases. One could choose which base one wanted to start the trek from based on the difficulty. The trek from one side (the Kigga side) is easy and that from the other (the Agumbe side-Malandur) is difficult. Understandably, scaling this peak had been on our bucket list since our first semesters and we pounced on the first opportunity we got to climb it.
Our initial plan was a 2 day trip, where we were to trek up from the Kigga side (6kms), camp overnight at the top inside the house, and come back down the next morning to the Agumbe side, returning to Manipal by taking a bus back from Agumbe. However, we had either overlooked the need for a guide and a permit, or we had overestimated our trekking skills, and this would come back to bite us at a later stage.
We reached Kigga by changing buses at Karkala and Sringeri (located 12kms from Kigga) and started the trek from Kigga. Kigga was a miniscule town and so there were hardly any people at this supposed ‘base’ and so we assumed it was a free-for-all trek. The trek was pretty straightforward and we covered the 6kms with relative ease. On our way there, we met a group of trekkers coming from the opposite direction. They were led by a guide, who asked us where our permits were. We explained to him that there was no one at the base and that there was nobody at the base who would give us any sort of permit.
Curious to know more about us and where we came from, the group started asking us questions about our plans and how we were going to go about things. They seemed extremely amused once we told them our plan and even more so when they found out we had neither a map nor a compass. Their amusement soon turned into concern and they strongly advised us not to descend the hill from the other side without a guide, as it was a dense forest. After some discussion within our group, we paid heed to their advice and returned to Kigga after completing the trek. The last half an hour of the return to Kigga was completely in the dark and it gave some of us an adrenaline rush, while others some sweaty palms. Nevertheless, we made it back to Kigga safely.
On returning to the base, we found, through the kind owner of the only small shop that was open in the entire town that there was no place to stay in in Kigga and we would have to go back to Sringeri to find accommodation. However, since the last bus for Sringeri had already departed, the owner called us a local auto which took us all the way to Sringeri. This shop was also where we refueled our bodies with energy biscuits and water. The kindness of some of the people that we meet while on the trail never ceases to amaze me. They help you in your time of need without expecting anything in return.
Our quest for cheap accommodation started as soon as we reached Sringeri. We pondered making the bus stop our night-stay but decided to scan the city center first in case we came across something reasonable. So we started making our way to the city center. Our stomachs had also starting grumbling by now and we stopped at a tiny restaurant for some hot and fresh dinner. Our luck was really good that day as the owner of the restaurant also turned out to be an angel and gave us directions to a Sharadamba temple, which had rooms to stay in in the vicinity. After a hearty supper and an enlightening conversation with the owner, we made our way to the temple.
The Sri Sharadamba temple was one of the most magnificent temples we had come across. Facing the temple across the street was a Sharada Peetham, which was a guesthouse of sorts run by the temple management and also the destination described by the owner. We were initially hesitant because we thought the tariffs would be exorbitant considering the lavishness of the Peetham and the temple itself. But to our utmost delight, the double rooms cost only Rs. 100! The quality of the rooms was good as well. We formulated our plan for the next day, which would be taking a bus to Agumbe and doing the trek from that side. Little did we know that we were in for something quite special.
Everything went according to plan and we reached Agumbe, where we had breakfast and requested information from an auto driver. It seemed as if he had had people ask him about the trek before and he confidently told us that he will manage everything; take us to the base and even arrange a guide and a forest department permission for us. Unfortunately, since we were time-bound by the last bus going back to Manipal from Agumbe, we were informed that we would not be able to make it to the peak. However, we could make it to Barkana falls, which would be 3-4 hours one way. Content with what we could do, we boarded the auto and were taken to Malandur, the base village. The village was littered with small huts and bungalows occupied by families. It was blessed with a stunning view of paddy fields with a backdrop of layers of hills in the distance. The auto finally pulled up in a bungalow and we were greeted by a boy, smiling from ear to ear, who seemed to be our age. He was the only one who knew Hindi in the family. We soon found out that his father would be taking us to the Falls. With a sickle grasped firmly in his hand, he wasted little time in getting the trek started and within the first 15 minutes of the trek itself, I was thankful that we had decided to take a guide. The trek was a first-of-its-kind for me. It was through dense forest with absolutely no sign of a trail whatsoever. I was bewildered at the memory of our guide, who had no trail to follow but was leading us with confidence. The trek, contrary to the notion of ascending a hill, was not at all an incline. It was up and down throughout. It also didn’t take very long for the leeches to find us. Since it was a dense rainforest, the blood suckers were in abundance and we had to exponentially increase the frequency of checking our shoes and feet. A sight that will always be etched in my memory is that of the guide scooping a leech off his foot with the sickle, pasting it on a tree and the cutting it into two or three pieces. What left me most dumbfounded was the casualness with which he was doing this. We tried to start some conversations with him, based on the few words we knew in Kannada, which pleased him and made him open up to us a lot more. I feel as humans, we all appreciate someone taking the effort to learn our language and interact with us, regardless of their fluency in that language.
There was a surprise for us when we reached. The trek took us to the top of the Falls, something that none of us expected.
And of course, the view from the top was spectacular. The dense trees gave way and as we walked towards the opening where the water gave in to gravity and thundered towards the ground, we saw a sight that took our breath away. The falls were overlooking the Agumbe Ghats, blanketed with thick lush green forest. It had even started to drizzle a little by now and we soaked in the view in silence, as a gentle shower provided the perfect aura. It was one of the most spectacular and divine experiences of my life. The astounding view coupled with the drizzle made for a memory that will be remembered forever.
With the time constraint weighing down on us, we decided to head back and the trek back was just as challenging and unique. On making our way back, we were treated to a meal by the family. They refused to take money for it, citing the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. They even offered to give us a student discount, but we insisted that they take the original amount, as we saw that as the only way to thank them for their generosity and endearment.
And so, we returned back to Agumbe in the same auto. Following which we boarded the bus back for Manipal. My leg is littered with leech bite scars till date.
The trek to Barkana Falls from the Malandur side was personally one of the most unique and challenging treks I have ever been on. With trees and bushes slapping our face for most part of the trek, we had to dodge and maneuver around them, while still looking out for leeches in the dense rainforest. The affection, warmth and generosity of all the people we met continues to inspire me. In retrospect, as I reminisce my time in Sringeri and Agumbe, I realize that we were extremely fortunate to meet the people we did and our encounters only enhanced the quality of the trip.