Bandajje Arabi Falls and Ballalarayana Durga Trek Highlights
A challenging weekend trek through dense rain forests, endless grasslands, clear streams and a beautiful waterfall for a reward.
Ensure you take breakfast either at Ujire (for Bandajje) or Mudigere or Kottige Haara for Ballalarayana Durga. If you are driving down, ensure you hire a driver (which is what we did). He dropped us at Gowdara Mane and picked us up from Durgadahalli, which is around 70 km on road (towards Chikkamagalur).
You can continue from Ballalarayana Durga to Bandajje Falls, which is easier than the other way round. But if you decide to camp at the fort (which, has excellent sites to pitch tents on), ensure you take precautions as there is high probability of elephants, bisons and wild boars entering the area.
If you want to do just Ballalarayana Durga, it can be a day trek taking about 2 hrs to climb and an hr down. You need not camp there. This route is very easy and we saw local families with their children trekking up wearing just slippers!
Time to Trek: Around 4-6 hrs from Gowdara Mane to Bandajje Falls. Approximately 2-3 hrs from Bandajje Falls to Fort. About 1-1.5 hr down to Durgadahalli
Distance: 8-9 kms from Gowdara mane to Bandajje Falls. 4-4.5 kms from Bandajje Falls to Fort. 3 kms down to Durgadahalli. Total ~15-17 kms
This trek can be done in multiple ways:
- Trek to Bandajje Arabi Falls alone
- Trek from Bandajje to Ballalarayana Durga or vice versa
- Day trek to Ballalarayana Durga and back
We chose to go to Bandajje Falls, camp there overnight and then trek up to Ballalarayana Durga the next day and get down from the other side.
Day 1: Bangalore to Mundajje
We started from Bangalore by 6.30 pm and reached Dharmasthala via. Hassan, Sakaleshpur, Dharmasthala by 12.30 am. A suggestion here – if possible stay overnight in Dharmasthala or drive down a further 8 km and stay at Ujire. Unfortunately, as it was a long weekend, we could not find a single room to stay. We went down to Mundajje – further 3 km from Ujire, where we found shelter just outside a government gym and no one had occupied it.
Day 2: Mundajje to Arabi falls
The next morning, we headed to the Bandajje village. Just a while into the Mundajje village, the road turns left, with a board that reads, “Kajoor.” Take this road and keep going until you find the Saraswati Arch on the right. Take that right turn and head straight on that road until the T-Junction. Here, take a left turn.
Now, once you are on that road, hit the dead end and you’ll end up at Gowdra Mane, where you can meet Kishore – the estate owner, who can provide you with a guide if you want.
Note: Kishore tells people that you need permission to go to this trek and asks for Rs. 250/head. We were five of us and he asked us to take permission for 4, but it is left to individuals to decide on the permission.
The trail begins next to Gowdara Mane, through the village and into the woods. You will start out by venturing into the thick rain forest with a slow ascent. The thick cover of vegetation provides adequate shade and keeps you cool. After about 45 minutes of ascending through the woods, you’ll cross a small stream and then the ascent becomes a little more difficult.
Another 20-30 minutes of ascent, you’ll start hearing a stream flowing. You descend into the valley and come to this pristine river, which you’ll have to cross. Ensure you fill your bottles with water here as there is no other water source after this point and until you reach Bandajje Falls.
You can easily cool off for 30-45 min without realising time by, as this place is so serene and peaceful. Continuing from here, the terrain becomes steeper and you continue for another 60-75 minutes. After this, you reach the edge of the forest line and the beginning of the grasslands.
The beauty of the place hits you the moment you step out of the forest, as you can see endless grasslands interspersed with shola forests! Around 5-10 minutes into the meadow, you can see the magnificent Bandajje Falls NW dropping some 200 feet from the vertical cliff. On your right, you can also see the Kurinjal Peak.
While the scenery is breathtaking, the terrain can be challenging as there is no respite from the sun. We reached this place by around 11:30 am and rested at the forest borderline for 30 min before getting into the hot sun. This terrain is steep and can be demanding, especially if you are carrying all supplies, sleeping bags, tent, etc.
Though the waterfall appears to be very close, you can’t see it for 15 min into this trail. You can’t get lost here as the trail is well-marked; just keep going up, towards the north-west. You first ascend a steep hill, then get a recovery time of five minutes before the next hill hits you. Then go on slowly to your left till you get to the beginning of the forest line on the left hand side of your trail. You should be able to see some markings in white paint on the trees and some tarpaulin sheets tied to the trees indicating the trail. Take a left where you can see an entrance into the valley.
This valley is very steep and descends 200 feet; ensure you do this very slowly. We took some 15-20 min to negotiate this terrain as the soil is loose and the terrain very steep.
Once you get down the valley, you are on top of the Bandajje falls and the river in all its glory will greet you. There is enough place for 3-4 tents to be pitched, some 20 ft from the river, but if it has been taken, then you might have to go to higher ground to find a good spot for camping. From there, you can walk down the stream and get a glimpse of the neck of the falls.
Note: This place can be dangerous as the rocks are smooth and it is a vertical cliff, so please exercise extreme caution if you want to see the falls. You may have to lie down on your tummy and get a glimpse of the entire falls.
This place is also excellent to catch the sunset. Also, there is ample firewood available, should you decide to cook or make campfire. If you are taking a guide, he will get the wood for you. We cooked tea, soup and hot vegetable Maggi for dinner. As it was a full moon night, we had excellent light at night and did not even need a torch!
Day 3: Arabi Falls to Ballalarayana Durga
Fill your water bottles as there are no water sources around Ballalarayana Durga. This day’s trek is not that demanding. The first kilometre is a climb, after which you’ll be traversing on gentle undulations of the grasslands, with 360 degrees of absolutely stunning views. About an hour into the trek, you can see the fort. Follow the clearly laid out path.
The final ascent to the fort for 15 minutes is a little steep. You’ll take around two hours from the waterfalls to the fort. We rested and enjoyed the view from the fort for about 45 min before heading down.
The descent is pretty easy, except for a small section of five minutes where you have to get down some steep rocks. But you can cover the entire distance to point where vehicles can come in about one hour flat. This place is called Durgadahalli, where the road work is still underway, but cars and vehicles can easily come. However, access to public transport will be available only at Sunksale, which is a further 3-4 km from Durgadahalli. If you wish to walk down, it is just a slow walk on the road.
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.
How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.