Ombattu Gudda Trek - Wilderness Personified!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

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.


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.


SPOTTED - PIT VIPER! Courtesy - Pavan

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 :
Location - Kabinanale Forest Reserve(Shiradi Ghat) , Western Ghats, Karnataka, India
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.

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  1. Hey, good post :)..liked the syle of narration...keep on writing!

  2. Nice one Neelima. Brought back memories before fading. Now, I have a reference to write my blog ;-)

    Nice narration.

  3. Wow.... Thats a great great great post.... Loved your experiences rather adventures... Sad that u missed the cam....

    Mahabalipuram-Poetry in Stones Part THREE (last) at My Travelogue
    My Travelogue, Savoir-Faire

  4. I love that Splashing is Fun pic. Very well taken :)

  5. fantastic!
    wanted to join chennai trekkers for this last yeat, but somehow didn't happen..

  6. @ machine_head, Trails of a Traveler - Welcome to my blog and Thanks for commeting. :)
    Do keep visiting !

    @ Pavan - thanks..:)
    he he.. good that i wrote about it soon..else i would've struggled to remember what happened when and your photos helped in making out the time!
    Write yours soon now.

  7. @ Mitr Friend - Bhushavali - Well it was quite an adventure! :)
    Thank you so much.. i hope my cam gets repaired.

    @ Rupa - Thank you..Thank you :D

    @ Sandeep - You should go with CTC! they are awesome fun i discovered. :)

  8. Bagundi amma ...nice pics and nice writing ...enjoy :)

  9. Wow! That must be an experience to cherish... forever.

    I liked the way you narrated it too :)

    Sorry about your cam though.

    The pics are lovely. The one titled "SUNSET FROM OMBATTU GUDDA" is unique. Seems like a General is marshalling/commandeering his troops... and leading the charge. Wonderful and breath taking! Look forward to more...

  10. @ Vaibhav - Thanks.. :)
    It's time you joined me on one of my adventures. :P

    Roshmi - Yea.. it was totally amazing experience. Very wild compared to my other treks.
    My cam seems to be fighting back though and is getting back in shape as in drying up.. happy about that! Thanks dear. :)

  11. Wonderful post. Really sorry to hear about your camera. I almost almost lost my camera in a stream about a couple of months back. Bloody slippery rocks! My body was saved but my favorite lens is gone!
    Nice pictures from your friend. And I liked yours with the guys splashing around. 9 peaks is one too many :)

  12. This sounds like so much fun! Sorry about your camera. Great pictures - especially of the pit viper!

  13. @ Sid - Seriously those bloody rocks! Ouch .. losing a lens must've been even sad.
    Being on top of the hill at sunset was lovely..if only i had my camera working. :(
    But maybe i enjoyed more without distractions this time.. :)
    Oh BTW, we did not cover 9 peaks. Only 5-6 can be seen and they are all almost at the same level. We went on two peaks. Seems Ombattu Gudda(nine hills) doesn't exist at all.

    @ Bindu - Thank you.. :)
    This was very much fun compared to my other treks because of the unchartered trail that we took to reach the peak!

  14. loved that shades ans sunlight photo and viper photo ... loved the whole trip description.

  15. cool! especially the first and the image you took just before your camera gave up!

  16. Very beautifully written experience. The snaps do full justice.

  17. @ Kichu $ Chinnu - Welcome to my blog! Glad you liked my posts and pictures. :)
    Thanks for commenting and do keep visiting.

    @ Joshi Daniel - Thanks.. i totally loved the first shot too.. :)

    @ Rajesh - Welcome back and Thanks for commenting. :)

  18. What a wonderful journey indeed. I'm so much mesmerized by this that I can't keep myself working on a computer. I have to get back to the wild immediately :)

    Garden Lizard

  19. @ Bhavesh - ha ha.. yes.. get back to the wild soon.. it's calling! :)

  20. Hi Neelima! Difficult to comment, but wonderful...

    Blogtrotter has an astonishing display of works of art by contemporary artists in the streets of Bilbao for you to enjoy. Have a great week!

  21. Wow! This time I managed... ;))

  22. @ GMG - Thank you so much for the taking the pain and commenting!! :)

    I am not able to find out where the problem with this comment box is coming from .. Am trying to resolve it soon.
    Although a small tip would be, the comment is published the second time you click on "post comment" button after it denies the first time.

  23. dunno how i missed this post - beautiful and eventful :) OG is indeed a challenging trek - both physically and navigation wise ... congrats on completing it :)

  24. @ Sandeep - Thank you..Thank you.. now that OG and KP are done.. i wanna do Vavul mala soon.. :D
    Navigation at OG would've been quite a challenge had i not done it with CTC.. But i totally loved the experience...not following a path and instead making the path.. :)

  25. Nice post neelima, feeling nostalgic :(

  26. Thanks Claudy!
    It was awesome. Nostalgic for sure, my first trek with CTC and also I had made some good friends on this trek. :)

  27. I guess, we were one of the very first groups to do this awsum trek way back in 2006. It was still a very much unknown one and rugged.

    1. Oh, super! What stories surround the legend of Ombattu Gudda!

  28. which trek route was tougher? Ettina Bhuja to Ombattu Gudda or the Gundya side?

    1. EB to OG is easy as long as you find the right track, it is mostly getting down the mountain and following the stream. Gundya to OG is more difficult effort wise but there's a track to follow. So I don't know. :)

  29. Hi Guys, Any idea about how to go about getting permission from forest department

  30. We a group of friends planning to trek Ombathu gudda in first week of June 2016. Kindly advise.


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