20 August, 2010

Water - falling from a height


It is almost the end of the rainy season - the time when all waterfalls are at their glorious best. Even the little wayside ones, that exist only during the monsoon, have their own charm.

It was around Aug- Sept, one Sunday afternoon, about 3-4 years ago that we decided to check out Sirimane Falls, a locally known waterfall. An hour's drive from home took us to the Sringeri- M'lore highway. A right turn, and, 7-8 kms later, we were at Kigga. Kigga is a town that is connected to Sage Rishyasringa. It has an ancient Shiva temple - active on important days only, I think. I vaguely remembered an Amar Chitra Katha story I had read long, long ago - about the sage with the horn. By the time my brief recollection ended, we had reached the end of the macadam road. There was no sign post around. Only, a school - which wasn't deserted on a Sunday afternoon!
A group of young men had converted the corridors into a temporary adda. They gave us the directions and cheerfully added that nobody visited the falls during this weather (The next stretch was motorable, but not during the monsoon). We decided that after coming all the way, it would be foolish to go back without seeing the falls. Since rain had taken a break, walking for about 1.5 km would only enhance our spirits - so, we thought!
Armed with umbrellas, in case it rained, we began our walk. The first couple of minutes was fun - light breeze, the earthy smell, skipping around puddles, slipping through the slush,... After some time,
Kid: How much more do we have to go?
Me: Not much. Maybe, another half a km.
Soon,
Kid: I think, we have lost our way. There's nobody here. I'm getting scared :(
Me: There's no other road. So, we haven't lost our way. We must be close by - can you hear water?
Turned out to be a small brook. We had to walk over it!
Kid: The wind is sounding scary. That tree looks like it will fall on us.
That was what even the husband & I were thinking! We changed the topic and walked on - with false cheer! Sometime later,
Me: 1.5 km? We have already walked more. That man has no sense of distance.
Matter that wasn't debated.
Some more minutes of silent walking, along some areca plantations (a strange sense of comfort that humans were around!) and, we reached a small clearing. Yeah, that noise was definitely that of a waterfall :) There was a confirming signpost (!!) and a ticket counter that also served as a canteen, grocery store,.... There were a few houses too. A friendly couple (this shop was part of their home) tore out the tickets, and asked us-
'Will you be wanting tea? Actually, nobody comes here during this weather and we don't have milk. We can give you black tea.'
By now, we were feeling like 'ET's - for venturing out in unpopular weather! We assured them that we didn't want anything other than a view of the falls! We went through the gate, and there she was!

Sirimane Falls at her best! It began to drizzle and we couldn't have asked for more! Someone has taken a lot of trouble to develop this place. Sheltered spots for viewing, a little kiosk for changing clothes- I guess, during the right time (Oct to Jan-Feb), one could go to the foot of the falls. After spending nearly 45 minutes, drinking in the view from different heights, we decided to head back - after all, we had the trek back.
Near the shop, a group of armed cops were waiting - for us!! Someone had been keeping an eye on us?! Scary!!
While one questioned me, the rest took on my husband. The kid held on to me, quite sure that we would be going to the jail next! Satisfied that we were harmless, the cops let us off - with advice to go back quickly. The cop who questioned me added- 'I don't know what you people see in waterfalls ma'am. Water falling from a height. See one, and you have seen all'. And, at that moment, I totally agreed!
The presence of the armed cops puzzled us throughout our return trek. And, half way through, we discovered that leeches had latched on to us! With great force, we managed to pull them away. That done, we sped and felt very relieved when we reached the school!
The mystery of the cops' presence was solved the next morning. The newspapers carried reports about Naxalites burning a bus- somewhere within the 10 km radius of Sirimane Falls!!! Good of the cops to have kept quiet about it - we would have definitely panicked!
Naxal activity in the region is almost non-existant now. Going by the signposts advertising the falls along the Sringeri- Mangalore highway, the approach is probably better now - I wouldn't bet on it though!
It just happens that we haven't been to a waterfall since. Speaking for myself, I don't mind. For me, just a view of this one makes up for all the waterfalls that I may miss/ have missed.

Non-existant during the summer months, playing hide and seek with the mist during the wet months, seemingly inaccessible & nameless - to catch this one,one has to look far and straight towards the mountains - somewhere near the top of the Agumbe ghaut (jasoosi on Google tells me that this is Barkhana Falls - popular with trekkers - challenging too). And, everytime I see this one, the cop's words come back to me!

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