Dandeli – A trek to Kavala caves


Way back in 2006, a few of us friends decided to take a holiday trip in one of those long weekends that we came across in oct.. While deciding on the destinations, Dandeli got the max votes. Accommodation? Well, Jungle Lodges and resorts..where else?

Our plan –

BLR-Hubli – Train.

Hubli – Dandeli – Bus

And vice versa for return.

Kewl, plan was quite exciting and quickly called JLR and booked accommodation for 6 of us for 1 day. Also booked train tickets. Suddenly everything fell in place !

D day.. our train was around 9.30 pm. It was one of those festival holiday weekends and everybody in Bangalore was going out to some place or the other like there was a plague. We quite knew this and therefore decided to leave early.

Suhas and I were from around J P Nagar and decided to take the Volvo city bus from J P nagar 3rd phase to Railway station. We anticipated the crowd and blocked roads and did the most sensible thing – leave early. We left by around 6pm.

Now the travel from J P nagar to railway station during 2006 was quite easy and would take 50 mins at max. but then, like I said, there would be total chaos around. Travel we did and as expected, all roads leading to the railway station/ intercity bus stand area were clogged. Most People who did not anticipate this rush got out of the bus and ran baggage et all. Some who did not get down risked missing trains/bus. As for us, we were absolutely comfy in the bus watching people run around helter skelter. Many more agonizing minutes later we reached railway with a good amount of time to spare. Raghavendra, Prakash and Renu reached from different parts of the city. Nobody got late. With that challenge done, we waited for our train to pull into the platform. Guess what, the train got late too !! some holiday special trains created some schedule issues.

We now had some time to spare. We just then realized that there was a bottle of Vodka with us which we were taking to the resort. No alcohol available in resort you see. One amongst us decided he wanted to drink a bit while on train and sleep. Not a bad idea but then, straight up? No mixing? Mix in what? With the time we had to spare, we went hunting for a bottle of 7up and some disposable cups. Finding 7up was not difficult at all but then, the cups. We went around all stores asking for cups but everywhere all that we found were cups big enough for 1 by 2 coffee. Now 1 by 2 coffee is a big thing in Bangalore. More on this in a different post. Oh yes..it is a big story. Anyway these 1 by 2 coffee cups were big enough for 40-50ml of whatever you put in it.

Us : “do you have cups? “

Shop : “yes, here you go.”

Us : “this is small , do you have any bigger cups? “

Shop : “no..go look elsewhere. “

This continued for 6 -7 shops till –

Is : “do you have cups?”

Shop: “ here you go”

Us : “this is small , do you have any bigger cups? “

Shop : “to mix drinks?, that is sufficient..go enjoy”

Us (look at each other blankly) :”ok, thanks. How much?”

Shop:”its free. Take it. Have fun”

A bit embarrassed as our intentions were exposed, we ran towards our coach. The train had just pulled in.

While on the train, our pal pours in a bit assuming he can mix properly but then, the rocking train made sure he more or less drank it raw ..like shots !!..

Next morning we reached Hubli, teamed up with Anup who was already there and we took the bus to reach JLR, Dandeli at about lunch time.

Quickly signed in and took up 2 rooms and 1 tent. the place is just mind blowing. it is along the banks of the river with lush green surroundings.

I must add, the food in this resort was just mind blowing. The buffet had a spread of some very good food for sure.

Post this, we relaxed a bit and then decided on the evening’s activity- Trekking. We spoke to the forest ranger and he suggested we go to some caves around the area I forgot the name…..aah got it got it…Kavala Caves.. The only way to reach this place was through the forest. Which meant we had to drive till a distance in their 4X4 and walk down to the caves. Cool no? no..it was late noon that we made this plan..not cool with the forest guys as all animals start to walk around the road inside the protected forest. We had to do some coaxing before he agreed to take us. Luckily, the manager of the property also decided to join in !

We assembled at the portico of the property,jumped into the covered truck bed of the Mahindra Bolero Camper and plonked on the side facing bench seats. The seats did not bother us as much as the soft top. I mean, the truck bed was so covered up, we could see nothing outside.

We hated it and asked the ranger, who was driving us to the location, to remove it…he was hesitant but he eventually did open it up..phew..what a relief.

Anyway we drove into the reserved forest and saw a lot of not so wild animals and suddenly he stopped the car !!..we were wondering why and he quickly pointed to something and said “tarantula !!”

“this is a rare sighting here.”..more than observing the insect, we were shocked to see how this man could spot this small creature when driving and moderate fast pace..this man really knows the forest then..after driving for a lil while more, we ended up at a spot from where we had to go trekking downhill.

We had another guide who came with us. The forest ranger and Suhas chose to stay back at the vehicle.

In the beginning , all we were walking through was tall grass…. I then remembered somebody mention some facts about this forest..I then check with the guide –

Me – “isn’t this forest famous for King Cobras?”

Guide-“ yes it is..some of the rare kinds are found here”

Fa-kin-sheet !!!..and I totally hate snakes. Well, I hate the sight of one too.

Me-“boss, this area has got so tall grass, even if the snake was standing we’d have no way to make out..I don’t want a snake kissing me while all I want to do is have a fun trek”

Guide-“hahahaha..don’t worry”

Me-“how not to worry? It is getting dark and we have to return the same way..in daylight I can’t make out if there is one around..how not to worry?”

Guide-“ don’t worry we will go back on a different path.”

It was only a momentary solace coz I then had the realization that snakes know no boundary.. it’s the jungle remember? We are visitors..

With this fear still deeply set, we carried on downhill via some run down set of stair after the grassy fields were over. After a brief while we did reach the caves…suddenly the fear was all gone..no no we did not find a snake repellant or something..just that the caves were nice and beautiful. We walked into the caves and got back. Felt good. We rest for around 10 minutes. It was late evening by then and darkness was setting in..walked up the same run down set of stairs by which time, it was already dark. Now came the moment of realization- we had no extra Torches !! we were relying on one torch which was with the guide- the leader of the pack. What about the rest? Well, some of them walked with the guide..he needed the light to take us back via a narrow path..good thing it was not the same tall grass fields..

In the middle of the pack were Raghavendra and me. Behind us was the 3rd group..the manager guy was with them.

Each of us had unique ways of lighting our path..as for us, we had a Sony Ericson W800 mobile phone with us. This gadget was my camera and now the most vital function – Torch. Its flash was bloody bright which now did the job of a torch!

Raghavendra aka Ragee (whispering) – “hey avi, what was that sound? “

Me (whispering back) – “what sound?”

Ragee – “that sound (pointing to some bush)..it sounds like some animal walking next to us”

Me – “well, it could be a deer..lets be optimistic”

Ragee – “could be panther also..or or it could be a snake as well”

Me – “oh shit..did you have to mention? Lets walk faster and keep pace with the guide”

Ragee – “ok..but it sounds like this animal is following us”

Me- “ignore it my friend..we will survive”

More walking in darkness later, suddenly, Renu’s phone rings. His was the only phone running on BSNL network which apparently works well in the Jungles too.

Suhas –“Renu, where are you guys? I’ve been trying to call all numbers”

Renu – “somewhere in the middle of the jungle..we should be some 15 minutes away from you”

Suhas-“ watch out..the Forest Ranger just noted a Panther in the vicinity”

Renu – “oh shit..what next? Where is it?”

Suhas – “it is probly 50-100 mtrs away from us..watch out”

New fear added. Ragee and I look at each other and wonder if that was the panther walking next to us..a lil more walking and we finally reached the spot. Phew. What a relief. No snake encounter.

Ragee – “Suhas, how did you know there was a panther?”

Suhas- “this forest ranger knows all the animal sounds and can identify the right kind of sounds when there is danger..we heard it a lil distance away. He asked me to duck and made some animal sounds..and then told me that there was a panther close by”

Kudos to him..no seriously, these guys know the animals more than humans. Their respect to animals and the forest in general shows that. We then drive back in the Bolero with us in the truck bed again..standing and trying to spot animals…elephants in particular. I love elephants you see. Partly why I look like one. Hmm..well, no,.. I look like a Buffalo….aargh..we’ll debate later.

After a while, we reached the resort. We rested for a while and had dinner all the  while talking about the entire episode.. we then retired for the day..what a day I tell you…

next day’s activity in next post..

note : all pix from mobile phone. rubbish..i know but that’s what we have…



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