Sakleshpur to Kukke Subramanya
The Railway Segment from Sakleshpur to Kukke Subramanya road junction is known as green route trek and very popular amongst the trekkers in Western Ghats. The length of the trek is some 52 km which comprises 58 tunnels, 109 bridges and about 25 waterfalls. The railway track was closed down in 1996 for converting it to broad gauge from meter gauge. Goods trains started running on the track since 2005 and operations for passenger trains resumed in 2008. Most of trekkers starts from Sakleshpur and continues till Yedakumari which is some 22 km distance. Green route trek offers absolute wilderness to the nature lovers. Length of the tunnels varies from few meters to 600 meters and these tunnel are unexplored eco regions with high possibility of poisons snakes, insects. Bridges are breath taking and a challenge to those who suffers from acrophobia.
Sakleshpur Railway Station
Points those were against me during this trek:
- I was doing this trek alone.
- I was not carrying torch, any food and any other stuff from the trekking gear, not even a blanket. Sheer underestimation of the trek.
- I cannot speak/understand Kannada.
- I started from Sakleshpur rather than starting from Donigal which could have saved some 6-7 km.
This account to Sakleshpur Green route trek will unfold some of the mysteries of emotions, strength, idiosyncrasies, sighs, hope, and hopelessness of human nature.... and may be much more.
- One can get the direct bus from Bangalore to Sakleshpur (Bangalore- Hassan- Sakleshpur). There are many busses from Bangalore to Hassan and then you can get a connecting bus to Sakleshpur very easily.
- There are many trains Bangalore-Hassan-Mangalore route and few also stops at Sakleshpur.
Western Ghats at Sakleshpur
Journey: 11:30 PM to 5:30 AM (Bangalore - Hassan - Sakleshpur)
I started from Bangalore at 11:30 PM by a bus and reached Hassan at around 3:30 AM. Luckily I got the connecting bus to Sakleshpur and I reached Sakleshpur at around 5:30 AM in the morning.
Accommodation and Sleep: 6:00 AM to 8:30 AM (Sakleshpur)
near new bus stand at Sakleshpur, there are not many hotels/lodges to stay. However if you walk to the main town, there are many near old bus stand. In early morning it was difficult to get a room but somehow i got one (not as economical as i expected). I woke up at around 8:30 AM, took bathe, prepared my backpack, had a light breakfast at a restaurant and headed out for further enquiries on the green route trek.
Green Zone Sakleshpur
Enquiries and findings:8:30 AM to 9:00 AM
- One can start from Sakleshpur Railway Station or Donigal (Donigal is connected by buses from Sakleshpur).
- You will need a permit to trek on the railway track.
- After some 18 km from Sakleshpur one will find a railway station named Muringad (Fake information which led to this blunder).
- Encounter to elephants, leeches, snakes, insects is quite common in this region especially near the coffee plantations.
Start of Sakleshpur Trek
Sakleshpur Green Route Trek: 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM
Initially I thought of starting from Donigal but later I started from Sakleshpur railway station which is very close to the new bus stand. I was expecting to meet other trekkers on the way. Initially the trek passes through the paddy fields, small villages. Surrounding was picturesque and refreshing and i was able to see humans around at some far distant doing farming or fixing the railway track. I had heard a lot about rich biodiversity of this region and it was certainly meeting my expectations. At times, I could also see coffee plantation. After proceeding further, I have witnessed bridges on the waterfalls, rivers. These bridges were offering incredible view to the landscapes of Western Ghats. Small streams were flowing beneath the valleys. Peaks were enveloped with the clouds. Soon after it started drizzling then I changed in the sorts and put over my raincoat.
Workers at Green Route Trek
Till Donigal, I had not met any other traveler on the trek which made a bit concerned but I was much excited in the anticipation of a tunnel for those Green route treks is popular.
Donigal Railway Station
Finally at around 11:00 AM, I reached Donigal which was a deserted station with no staff or office. I was also bit apprehensive of being caught by railway staff. So i passed the station in hurry. So far I had not encountered any tunnel. Finally I met a group of travelers from Bangalore. They were much interested in self-photography and taking bathe in waterfalls. They were planning to go back to Donigal to catch the ride further. I could not have a long accompany with them and headed further straight while they went down to a valley to enjoy in the river.
Amazing Water Stream Beneath
Going further, again i was expecting other trekkers or railway stations but I could see nothing. Now even there was no sound of people, civilization, transports etc. It was just sound of a jungle, chirping birds (some birds were whistling like humans that scared me at times), flowing rivers, and roaring waterfalls. Surroundings were pristine, green, complete, organic and original to nature with no influence of civilization. It was showcasing the version of planet that would have been thousands of years ago.
Bridge on Sakleshpur Railway Track
After another kilometer and so, I crossed a bridge and saw the first tunnel. Tunnel 1&2 are adjacent to each other and are not very long. While I was crossing the tunnel, a passenger train arrived and I ran back. Finally i crossed the first tunnel, then second and so on. enroute there were many tunnels and I was successfully crossing those till i saw the one 350 meter long and I was shaken. Following ideas prompted in my head.
- Wait for other group of travelers who may be carrying torch [possibility was very less and waiting was just a waste of time].
- Return back [Could have been a prudent decision].
Finally I decided to enter into the tunnel without a torch.
Tunnel 383 meter
How to cross a tunnel without a torch: First I was thinking that my retina will adjust with the darkness and I will be able to see through that sheer darkness. I stood in the tunnel for sometime but nothing was helpful. Then I thought of using my camera's flash light which was
offering me light for an instant but it was also making me completely blind just after flash. I was able to walk further with those continuous flash lights of Camera. Flash light turned out not a fruitful alternative. There were curves in the tunnel so every time I was falling on the ground, hitting the tracks and i even got hurt once. After few minutes of brain storming, I came up with a new strategy. I sat down and hold a railway track and started crawling further. It was painful but much consistent and reliable.
Longest Tunnel Sakleshpur Green Route Trek
I kept crossing the tunnels in the same pattern and then I saw a tunnel at some distant and it was 569 meter long. So far the longest tunnel I passed was 378m. Suddenly so many self contradictory thoughts enveloped me. I would not be honest if I say that I was indifferent to the length of this tunnel. The major concern was "While crossing the tunnel there should not be any train coming from any direction". I used the best of my senses to listen to the sound of the train and after confirming I headed inside the tunnel, every inch was a challenge in that absolute darkness. It was a sigh of relief when I saw the light from the other end of the tunnel. Just after passing this tunnel, first time i was apprehensive about near future.
Misty Afternoon in Western Ghats
Will I encounter longer tunnels before the next station?, It was a dire strait situation and I withstood with it till I saw the railway track diverging into double track which signaled the presence of some railway station ahead. The first glimpse of the platform drenched me with immense happiness. Finally I was relieved to see other trekkers relaxing there and waiting for the goods train to reach kukke Subramanya. But life is dramatic as it is life... Who knew what lies ahead?
Yedakumari Railway Station
Night at Yedakumari Station: [3:30 PM to eternity]
- Trains going towards Sakleshpur do not stop at Yedakumari station, not even the goods trains [may be due to the steep slope]
- Trains going towards Subramanya road stop at Yedakumari station for 2 minutes (Only when station master is paid hefty bribe)
- A mighty river was flowing on one side of the station and which was impossible to swim across in monsoon season. On the other side there was high and steep mountain series which was again impossible to climb up. A natural prison it was.
Western Ghats from Yedakumari
After reaching yedakumari railway station, I was quite content and hungry at the sametime. I had delicious Sambar rice at one of hut of railway staff. I caught up with the other travelers and decided to join them in the journey ahead till Subramanya. They already arranged the stop of the next goods train which was supposed to arrive at 6:30. Station master asked for the bribe for stopping and it was settled by the group. We all were desperately waiting for the train and finally train arrived but It was just an engine with 2-3 boggies. The train left and none of us could board the train and the patience of the individuals bypassed the threshold because this train was the last hope of getting out of this natural prison. All the 15 young chaps invaded into station masters office and engaged in aggressive altercation. We had escaped from a physical encounter just by a brisk (It's against traveler's ethics).The series of nasty arguments continues till 9:00'o clock and we lost all the hopes of catching a train from this station after humiliating the station master. The station master also did not agree to provide us the shelter for the night. Finally we realized that the only way out is to trek back and we decided to start early in the morning. We spent the entire night on the platform in the middle of the dense forest. Continuous downpour and wind made the night severely unfavorable. Despite of exhausting trek none of us could get proper sleep due to hunger and cold.
Color of Green
A Blissful trek in the morning: [6:30 AM to 9:30 AM]
As per the plan, all the weary souls started to trek back to Donigal at 6:30 AM. but luckily we met a local on the way who directed us to a shorter route which was a trek uphill to cross the mountains. We were ecstatic with the new route as it was taking us back to the human settlements in less than 2 hours. This mysterious route will fall just after crossing the long bridge while coming back from Yedakumari, There is a narrow trail on the right which heads uphill. It is just after the long bridge. Our gifted guide accompanied us through-out the way. This route is only known to the locals and less traveled. It passes through dense forest, thin waterfalls and has some steep patches. When we were walking on the hill top, we could see amazing view of Western ghats.
Agriculture Western Ghats
A thick layer of clouds was floating over the peaks and overlapping the green blanket of forest. The trek was some 5 km long which finally reached to a village from where there was a direct bus to Bangalore(Via Sakleshpur-Hassan). Before boarding the bus, guys arranged delicious breakfast (may be because of hunger) from one of shop of the village. Village was truly picturesque surrounded by lush green valley’s in Western Ghats. Finally the bus arrived and we all occupied our respective seats. It took some 2 hours to reach Sakleshpur from that village and time for me to say good bye to my fellow travelers. I got down, picked up my stuff from the hotel room and headed back to Hassan and then to Bangalore.
Recent Update (As of 17th Nov, 2013 from Anoop):
Railway police have gone strict against trekking on the tracks. Squads are stationed at Yedakumari during weekends and holidays. If you are caught, they will ask for your mobile and ID cards, which they will seize and will hold you there until Monday or Tuesday. Regardless of whether you bribe them or not they will register a case against you.
During our trek from Sakleshpur to Subramanya road, we saw two squads of RP passed us never bothering to stop and question. We were under the impression that may be they are ok with people trekking now even though we met quite a few workers who insisted that we should trek back.
We had stopped at Sirivagilu station 5 kms before Yedakumari and this is what we learnt from the station master there. It made sense then why the squad didnt bother to stop us or question us. He also told us that the squad picked up 8 trekkers from Yedakumari, who were camping there, took them back to the station at Sakleshpur and kept them there until Monday. These guys tried bribing them, they kept the money and a case was registered against them for trespassing railway property
We were also informed by the station master at sirivagilu that permits can be obtained from Sakleshpur PWD, but its difficult and they sometime asks for huge amount of money for the permit