Waterfalls of North Karnataka: Sathodi and Magod to begin with !

This trip began as a not-so-used-to early morning wake up call for me, an almost 50km cab ride to catch up with the rest of the group, and finally whizzing along with a ‘rock-star’ driver to make up for the time lost as a result !

Visions of overflowing waterfalls in north Karnataka’s western ghats kept coming to me, even as we were now enjoying the early morning sunlight; driving past towns that were waking up slowly on the near-empty Tumkur Highway. We still had the early mover advantage I’m sure ! My gaze went to the speedometer intermittently but only initially; as I soon realized that it’s best to keep faith in my prayers instead. I was happy indeed, when our vehicle took a deviation from the highway and we made it safely inside our first pit-stop on our way, Davangere !

We ventured into the town through a not-so-existing road, and were relieved to find our breakfast stop not long after. It was named, quite like many others of it’s kind, after the most famous dish that is served out of this place, the Benne Dose ( Butter Dosa ). Served along with a portion of delectable but spicy chutney, it does accomplish it’s role in ‘spicing’ up your trip for a bit, literally so !

After filling up our stomachs and ‘firing’ up our palates, we were back on the highway once again. With our rock-star driver showing off his skills once more, we crossed Ranebennur ( stop here for the black-buck sanctuary if you can ) and Haveri in ‘record’ time, before making a final deviation from the highway once and for all. This has to be done soon after the toll gate near a place called Bankapur, and well it’s not hard to follow the GPS.

The road from here is a 2-lane state highway all the way to a place called Yellapur, which was our final stop. The quality of the road is nothing much to talk about, but it’s not bad either. Passing through small towns and villages, the road takes you on to the periphery of western ghats, and then inside it. The vegetation starts getting greener and greener even as you approach Yellapur, interspersed here and there with calm water bodies. The drive is a pleasant one for sure, made even more so by some banter and photography discussions along the way !

We reached yellapur well in time for lunch ( 400+ kms; close to 6+ hrs, including our breakfast stop ). It’s a small but comfortable place and we didn’t have any difficulty in finding our pre-booked abode ( Pai’s Sambhram Lodge; 08419262288; 500/- for a double bedroom; 800/- for a 4-bedder ). It’s a pretty basic place but centrally located in town, with all basic amenities nearby ( including liquor shops ! ). It has a restaurant too, but expect only basic fare for food. It’s simple and light breakfast/lunch should be a good enough option to prepare you for your trips ahead, as well as fire you up for the oncoming evening !

I’d recommend another Mumtaz hotel nearby if you want to have something tasty ( and a bit luscious ) in the evenings. It’s a place that is very well known for it’s non-vegetarian fare, and has people coming in from afar. Take my word, you won’t regret being there !

Our temporary dwelling was also centrally located as far as both the falls are concerned, which are roughly 15 kms from the lodge but in opposite directions ( half an hour to 45 mins one way, coz of the road conditions ). Once done with lunch and the usual chit-chat, we got on to our business. We decided to cover Magod falls and the nearby sunset point ( Jenu Kallu Gudda ) for the later half of the day, and made our escape soon after lunch.

The roads in these parts, as I have already said, are nothing much to talk about, and once you’re off the main road, you have to be careful if your vehicle isn’t good on ground clearance. Waterfalls are quite beautiful in the rainy season ( quite a few waterfalls in these parts are seasonal so to say ), but unfortunately mud roads become worse. For us, however, it was the November month and manageable quite much ( no mud, only dust ). We managed to reach Magod falls in about half an hour ( the rock-star driving, as well as the vehicle’s capabilities helped ! ), and well, once the engine died down, it was all calm and peaceful; we could all hear the sound of the falls hidden somewhere in that dense vegetation !

It was not long before the falls came into view. I was a bit disappointed since it was nothing compared to it’s full-bloom view ( see below ), but it’s still a good site to loiter around and click your pictures. Apart from the main attraction, such places provide ample opportunity for some macro and bird photography.

Magod Falls - what I saw.
Magod Falls – what I saw.
Magod falls - full bloom. Pic taken from the internet.
Magod falls – full bloom. Pic taken from the internet.

We would have spent more than an hour at that place, after which we decided to head out well in time for the sunset. The road to ‘Jenu Kallu Gudda’ cuts out on your way back from Magod falls, although there’s not much of a signage at some of the turns. Keep asking around to be sure, and well, if your network keeps abreast, GPS might still be useful ( It may show another jenukallu gudda option at Hassan; don’t get confused ! ).

This place is utter bliss. No words or pic ( well, some can ! ) can match the feelings that whirl up inside you when you get there and get to see nature’s bounty first hand ! I had never expected such a lesser known place to be so grand in terms of it’s offerings !

Rolling hills ( and a valley ) in front of you, with a river meandering between them, and the sun setting behind ! A perfect picture-postcard scene, and much much more ! You will forget everything else once you’re there, and do well in spending some time taking it all in. Prior to my visit, I had thought of this place as a gap-filler for some free time in between our falls’ visits, but then it turned out to be one of the more endearing stops in our way; We had a nice surprise early next morning too though ( more about it below ! ).

Going by my pics, I don’t think I have done justice to what was in front of us that evening. The pics can be much better from an experienced photographer. Nevertheless, my 2 cents to give you an idea of what to expect  ! I wanted to keep this as a surprise for you guys, and not to set any expectations, but then you need to know that all that I wrote above, is no sugar-coated sweet talk !

DSC_4630

That sunset - Full Screen please !
That sunset – Full Screen please !
and then a bit closer !
and then a bit closer !

I think this place saved the day for us, although Magod was a good view too ( let’s not talk about the water therein though ! ). We returned happy and content at our abode for the night, and slept off early after a lot of photographic discussions, and some delicious food at Mumtaz. Next morning had it’s store of surprises too !

As is usual on such photography trips, it was an early morning for us. We set out this time in the other direction, and veered off the main road pretty soon. It was a tarred road for quite some time, after which it turned on to be the same ‘loose’ gravel patch. Pretty fine for our mid-sized vehicle though ( a Ford Ecosport ) !

An early morning tea stop behind us, we were now relishing the play of early morning sunlight amidst the dense vegetation on both sides of the road. It was a hilly patch but nothing too narrow, and we were happily cruising ahead when a turn in front opened on to a vista of a huge lake in the valley below. We were stunned at the scene but kept moving forward coz the lake didn’t seem approachable. We had just finished discussing about the same when the water body made itself visible again. This time, it was not as below, and there were steps to climb down for a bit too. It was an opportunity not to be wasted !

Climb down we did, and lo behold ! Opening up in front was a view of a huge water body ( What we thought would be a lake, turned out to be a river meandering it’s way through ), tree trunks jutting out of the same ( Can you imagine already ?? ), and verdant hills yonder ! We knew this is a place to spend some time in for sure. Even if you’re not into photography, you will still want to sit here as well as wander around for a bit. It’s so calm and serene, with not a soul around except for some locals. An inquiry with one of them revealed another interesting fact; that about wild animals ( including black panther ) coming in on the opposite bank for water during the evenings. An opt photo-op, and that which tempted us quite a bit to stay on even in the evening. But go we must !

That beauty of a place !
That beauty of a place !
Holding it's ground even in adversity !
Holding it’s ground even in adversity !
and then, around another corner !
and then, around another corner !
an abstract view of ??
an abstract view of ??

We would have spent close to 2 hours at this place; wandering around, taking in the scene and clicking it, clicking birds, and clicking abstracts as well; one of us going in to call the other, and then another going in to call both of them, and finally the whole group joining in and clicking once again !  This beautiful surprise was something that we hadn’t even dreamt of even as we had started our day, and we were all too happy and jolly at our sheer luck in spotting the place. It was difficult to believe that this had even happened, but then these are the kind of surprises that lesser known places sometimes throw up ! Anyway, After about 2 hours of clicking the views therein, we made a conscious decision to move forward towards the real agenda of the day: Sathodi falls !

A short drive further down the road led us to the falls; albeit to it’s parking area 😉 !  The falls are further inside, with at least a half km walk on a very well paved pathway. You can soak in on the greenery on the way, and shoot some butterflies too ( We got busy with a gliding species in particular ). You can get yourself content with a few more subjects if you keep your eyes open ( spiders, and plenty of dragonflies included ).

We must have spent half an hour on this walkway itself, giving in to our photographic instincts. The sound of the waterfall kept getting louder but it was nowhere to be seen, until suddenly a turn gave way to an opening. The vista in front of us consisted of quite a few boulders ( of all sizes ) stacked against each other, and the water still some distance apart. It was still quite good to be shot from this distance ( the cover pic of this article ), and of course we could zoom in too, so we got busy trying to find a good perch.

DSC_4917
A closer view of the falls ! Can you see people on the bottom right corner ? That’s how close you can go !

A good close-to-an-hour was spent here, enjoying the scene from the distance, clicking up the bigger falls and of course some smaller ones just in front of us. Macro photography was done to a certain extent again; while a snake managed to slither past us. Taking the camera gear closer to the falls was deemed quite a risky proposition, as it seemed difficult to balance all of it ( tripod included ) while traversing those boulders. I would not recommend it unless you’re quite confident. You can, of course, enjoy the ‘walk’ if you can somehow leave your gear behind and go as close as can be ! Up to you !

On our way back from the falls, we took a small diversion to a newly built hanging bridge over the same river that we had encountered in the morning. Views were good from the same too, but it was mid-afternoon and the sun was scorching. We clicked a few shots, and made good our way back. The rest of the trip was the drive back to our cozy little homes, enjoying the views till it got dark, and then finishing it all with a nice dinner at an open-air dhaba somewhere along the way ! The rock-star driver made sure we got back just a little later in the night !

I’m sure a trip during or just after the monsoons would be a much better proposition, but we got decent shots nevertheless ! The river early in the morning was quite an icing on the cake, the sunset point was fantastic, while food at Mumtaz was simply yum !

View from the bridge - Harsh light leading to muted colors !
View from the bridge – Harsh light leading to muted colors !

All set for the next one ! Chau !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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