Date: June 18-19, 2005
The gang: We had a healthy mix of bloggers and non-bloggers! Adel, Arnab, Chander, Dheepak, Nithya, Kavitha, Kripa, Suman, Sathish, Retisaint, Vasu, Anjana, Anuja, Ganesh, Roopa, Tulsi, Sathish, Senthil and yours truly.
â€˜Where the hell is Honnemardu’ is one reaction you might get when you mention the place. Many folks actually have no idea where it is. By the end of this, you’ll soon find out.
Maintaining decorum on trains:
There should be some law not allowing people to make noise on the train after 10 pm. And big fines. We got ticked off by a gentlemen for making too much noise on the Shimoga Express. Most of the noise came from Suman, Bunty, Adel, Vasu and Venx.
The antiquated way:
Have you ever taken a railbus? If you haven’t, here’s your chance. It’s a little similar to the trams in Cal, and moves pretty much at the same pace. It takes 3 hours for a 100 km journey. It moves at about 30 km/hr. It’s a good idea to get friendly with the conductor. In our case, it was a very cute gentleman who Vasu chatted up along the way. He also allowed us longer tea breaks. A few team members took the chance to catch up on some more sleep. Others created a ruckus. And yet others started on the â€œsnakesâ€. Along the way, hanging out of the railbus, I soaked in fresh air, beautiful green sights everywhere and the sun coming up on the distant horizon over the hills.
The bumpy ride:
We decided not to walk to Honnemardu to get extra time in the water. Two jeeps were organized and all of us bundled into them. The road was bumpy but we were willing and eager bunch (to reach, HM, I mean).
Single file circle, everyone:
Our instructors got us into a single file circle (a term we would hear often then on). We were told the basics of the camp. No smoking, no drinking, no bad behaviour and teasing other team members. Everyone listened like good school children.
The loo situation:
After primer, we were off to look for the loos. A word of warning here. They’re hardly there. When they decided to make people rough it out in the wild, they were serious! We spotted 2 basic loo-like structures and that was really the gist of it. No proper latches, which means that someone needs to stand guard while you’re in there. Baths had to be taken by the well, infested with frogs (they apparently have medicinal properties, but do we want to find out?). Not wanting to make spectacles of ourselves, we avoided the well. Thankfully, it poured and poured therefore reducing BO and eliminated need to take a bath.
Water, water everywhere:
By noon, we were in the water. Manu and Ganapathi, our guides, gave us lessons in staying afloat. Those who did not know swimming were initially hesitant, but once the strength of the life jacket was proved (it kept Vasu afloat after all!) everyone got into the water.
Mastering the art of going straight in a coracle:
After much struggling, shouting, and loads of nonsensical fundas (thanks to Suman), we figured out how to keep the coracle moving in a straight line (and forward!). After that, it was good fun as we circled a small island, braving the elements (as Bunty called it). It was rather divine out there in the water. All you could see miles around is just water and hills. Fun things were done, including staying afloat, jumping off tree branch into the water, coracling and generally walking in life jackets feeling cool.
Sambar, and rice:
Lunch was served – sambar, rice, unidentifiable sabji and papad. Let me tell you that food never tasted so good! Everything was polished off in super speed. I have never ingested so much sambar in my life 🙂
More sambar and rice::
After a change, at about 5.00 pm we set off for our night camping adventure. The weather was getting ominous. As soon as we reached the island, it started raining. There were some valiant attempts to start a fire (with the help of someone’s AXE) but the rain was too persistent. So after a few rounds of dumb charades, we started retreating into the tents. Food was brought from the mainland. No brownie points for guessing what we had : sambar and rice.
The tent episode:
The thing about camping is that there is really nothing to do except you and nature. And since we had no fire around which we could do cool things, the only option was to get inside the rather small tents. Trouble started at about 10.30 in the evening when it had been raining continuously for a few hours. Bunty baba, one of the tent’s inhabitants suddenly pointed to a space under him and stated the obvious, â€œThere’s water under me!!â€
Almost all the other inhabitants started singing the same tune thereafter. Now, considering there was a major downpour, a statement like â€œThere’s water in the tentâ€ sounded really incredible coming from 4 adults, who I presumed, had been exposed to the elements before. Mistaken, I was. Adel, who meanwhile was ensconced in his sleeping bag, safely, got up exclaiming, â€œThere’s water hereâ€¦ We need to plan this out, folks.â€
Plan this out? Heavens help me. I was trying to grab some shut eye (I was after all an experienced camping pro 🙂 when this stream of conversation continued. Bunty even tried peeping into other tents to find shelter elsewhere but to no avail.
Finally, at the end of my tether, I wailed out angrily: â€œWhat the **** ya?! What did you expect, ya? This is a CAMP, ya!!â€ That, folks, shut up all 4 of them so effectively that for the rest of the night we had relative peace 🙂 Except for occasional gasps and screams from other tents. We were too tired to care.
The swim back:
Early morning, after having recovered quickly from night ordeal, we set off for the mainland again. Sathish, Roopa and I decided to swim it back. The others went off in their coracles. It was really beautiful out there in the water. Miles and miles of water and there you are floating on your back, feeling like you’re in some version of Paradise Found!
Rowing, capsizing and getting boat back to shore:
After a hearty breakfast, we were back in the water, this time learning how to row. I found my partner in Roopa and we did a rather good job in manipulating our boat across to the small central island. We left the boat on the side, and went back into the water. Somewhere on the way, we decided to have some fun and capsized the boat that had Chander and Kripa. One problem with capsizing a boat is that it’s very difficult to get back in again!
Chander in the meanwhile was getting a little nervous since he couldn’t swim. And since we were quite some way from the island, water baby Roopa had to do the honours and guide him to safety. Hats off to the gutsy woman (good things come in little packages I say ;). I shouted my encouragements all the while of course (I’m rather good at that).
Well deserved oota, I say:
After all the fun and frolic we headed back for lunch again (sambar, rice, anyone?!). We had planned to walk the whole way, but since it started pouring cats and dogs and everyone had exhausted their dry clothes we decided to get the jeeps again. Unfortunately there was only one. One batch started off for Talguppa and then sent the jeep back for the second load.
When we nearly lost Sathish:
On the way back, we caught a bus from Talguppa to Sagar. And then another one from Sagar. At Sagar, we were stocking up on our supplies when the bus started moving. We realised that Sathish was not with us. He had deviated to find a medicine shop. After much screaming and shouting, the conductor adding to the general melee, Sathish surfaced. Ah, relief (did not want to lose valuable team member, as I was to find out later).
The TT episode::
At about 8.30 pm we were all at Shimoga station. The adventure was not over yet. After wolfing down the only edible thing at the station – khara bath – for dinner, we found out seats and settled in. We thought we were good for the night. We had 22 berths for 19 people. Unfortunately, the TT had other ideas. I had made the mistake of making one of the passengers Kripa, a female instead of a male. I never imagined life could be so hard!
Convincing the TT that Kripa was a male and not a female proved to be really tough. The guy was adamant and kept pointing at his paper, saying, â€œI want female!!â€ Yeah! And so does everybody else, man!
This continued for a while. Sathish (bless him, now I realised why we couldn’t have left him behind!) patiently tried to explain to him that we had made a mistake. I was close to strangling the guy myself. Finally, TT called his superior. Kripa fished out his license yet one more time. Superior TT seemed to be convinced that Kripa was all male 🙂 Ah, what a relief that was for all of us, and especially one!
The TT disappeared into the night. Relieved, I sank into my berth. I think I dreamt about water and sex change operations. The others partied till 12.30 (this time we didn’t get too many complaints) and then at the unearthly hour of 4 am in the morning, our train docked into Bangalore city junction.
Back to business. And reality as they say 🙂
MORE TRIP REPORTS:
Honnemardu is about 2 hours from Shimoga.
From Bangalore, you can catch the Shimoga Express, that leaves at 11 pm from Bangalore City Junction.
From Shimoga, you need to catch the railbus at about 6.30 am in the morning. It takes about 3 hours to reach Talguppa. Or you can take local buses.
From Talguppa, you can either trek (2 hours) or take a jeep (costs about 200-250 bucks depending on your negotiation skills) to Honnemardu.
The camp is run by Adventurers and they can be contacted on: 91-80-23305508 or 91-80-23409712. You need to book about 2-3 weeks in advance.