18-Jan-2004 -- This confluence was a part of the long trip we intended to set off on in the last week of January. However, my Uncle Jagan and I found that it would be a good idea to attempt this one before we undertook the long trip. On January 17th, we made plans to set out the next day (Sunday, Jan.18th). We also wanted to make use of this opportunity to visit a very good friend and fellow amateur radio enthusiast T. S. Ganesh (callsign VU2TS ) who lives in his farm in the Biligiri Rangannapeta Hills (B. R. Hills for short) which was a short drive from the where we thought the confluence would be.
This confluence was attempted in January 2003 by the Parthasarathys. Unfortunately, they were not able to reach the confluence. We studied their account of the visit and it helped us to plan the trip to it. We set off from Bangalore at 0630 hrs on Sunday (Jan.18th, 2004) and decided to reach the area of the confluence by traveling towards Kanakapura, Malavalli, Kollegal and Yelandur. The Kanakapura road (NH209) was delightfully devoid of any traffic at that time of the day and we made good time to the busy town of Kollegal. My friend Ganesh had given me detailed directions (almost as detailed as a tulip chart used by rally drivers) to reach his location. We figured out that the confluence was closer than his location and decided to attempt it before heading to his farm.
After a brief halt for breakfast, we continued towards Yelandur. The GPS indicated that we were approaching the confluence quickly. At Yelandur, we checked our maps and the GPS and decided we had to move towards Chamarajanagar. A few kilometers out of Yelandur, the GPS indicated that the confluence was about 4.5 kilometers left of us. Happily for us, as it usually happens, we found a dirt road leading left from the main road almost immediately. We checked with a couple of folks waiting for a bus on how far the dirt road would go. They told us that it lead to the village of Kempannapura which was about 2.5 kilometers down the road. They also mentioned that the road continued through Kempannapura towards Alur. This was good news because we were now certain that we'd have a motorable road that would take us very close to the confluence.
The dirt road was bordered by thorny bushes that seemed to reach out to our Jeep as it happened on a previous trip to 14°N 78°E and 14°N 77°E. This time, we had also mounted a VHF amateur radio antenna on the roof and I shuddered every time I heard the antenna make contact with the bushes! The going was good for a couple of kilometers, but the dirt road started getting narrower and narrower. Now, we heard our Jeep getting scratched almost constantly on both sides. We also came upon a few bewildered village folk who must still be pinching themselves to see if they were dreaming of seeing a huge Jeep bearing down on them on that narrow road! We reached the village of Kempannapura and the GPS indicated a distance of 1.7 kilometers to the confluence. Unfortunately for us, the dirt road turned away from the direction of the confluence. So, we asked a few village folk on how far a narrow track that we spotted in the direction of the confluence would go. They told us it would end a few hundred meters away. We decided we'd give it a shot anyway as the GPS pointed in that direction. True to what they told us, the track disappeared and we found ourselves in open land dotted with larger versions of those thorny bushes that bordered the road earlier. We found a pair of tyre tracks heading the general direction we wanted to go, so we kept moving forward. Finally, after meandering its way for a little distance, the tyre tracks disappeared away to our right, away from the confluence. We were now 500 meters away and it seems like we would have to walk through thick thorny bushes towards a coconut plantation we could see further ahead.
We picked up all our equipment, locked the Jeep and started finding a path between those spiny bushes. I was carrying a small length of PVC pipe and this came in handy to push thorny branches aside and move on. We had to climb up and carefully find a foothold down high embankments and after about 30 minutes, we reached the banks of a stream. Thankfully, the stream was dry and we had another 130 meters to go after climbing the bank on the other side. By this time, both Jagan and I had picked up a few nicks and scratches from the unrelenting undergrowth. The coconut plantation came into view and we realized we were almost there as the GPS rapidly counted down to 12N77E which lay in the middle of the plantation. We reached 12N77E at 1040 hrs and the elevation at the confluence was 672 meters.
As we reached the confluence, a couple of folks working in the plantation approached us and asked what we were doing. So, we tried our best to explain what brought us there. This was a 30 acre coconut plantation of about 1400 trees and was owned by the Suguna group of companies based in Coimbatore. The caretaker, Nanjunda Naik, asked us why we came through all the undergrowth and not on the main road (!) on which the farm was located. Since we had parked our Jeep on the other side, he offered to go with our driver Mohan and show him the path that would lead to the tarred, main road. I took the mandatory photographs and Jagan and I sat under a coconut palm to wait for Mohan and Naik to return. (Of course, we made sure there were no coconuts high above us before we sat down!!!). I also tried to make an amateur radio contact (my callsign is VU2LBW) on VHF with Ganesh, but he apparently did not copy me as I was surrounded by trees and foliage. Finally, after about 20 minutes, they were back and I took a photograph of Nanjunda Naik and we requested him to take a photograph of us, which he obliged. I also took a photograph of him and his assistant Manchiah on my Zire 71 and showed it to them. After thanking them and taking directions to head back to Yelandur, we started off again.
On hindsight, it looks rather comical that we spent a lot of time, often in pain, to walk across bad terrain and undergrowth when a much easier alternative was just a little distance away. I guess this happens when we follow straight-line direction from the GPS. But then, there's no doubt that it gave us a lot of pleasure to do it the way we did! I would rate this confluence among the tougher ones I've done (16°N 81°E, 14°N 77°E were too such ones). Driving 7 kilometers back to Yelandur was uneventful and we were treated to scenery of large sugarcane plantations on either side of the road.
I made contact on ham radio with Ganesh from near Yelandur and told him about the successful attempt. He asked us to follow the directions he'd given us to find the correct road to head towards B.R. Hills. We found the road without any problem and started driving down. After a few kilometers, our driver Mohan felt a wobble and pulled up to find a flat right rear tyre. It was just a week ago that we punished the tyres and ended up with three flat tyres. The thorns we drove on were not doing our tyres any good today too. As we changed the tyre, I heard a hiss from the front. On closer investigation, I found the hissing emanating from the right front tyre....another flat! As has become customary for us, we were carrying two spare tyres and they certainly came in handy! After changing both tyres, we decided to head back to Yelandur and get them fixed as we still had a lot of distance to cover. My friend Ganesh gave us pointers on where to find the tyre repair shop (there was only one in Yelandur). As the two tyres were getting fixed, I also noticed that the front left tyre had deflated a bit. The third flat! So, we replaced it with a newly fixed tyre and left it with the tyre shop from where we would pick it up on our way back to Bangalore.
B.R. Hills is a protected reserve forest which boasts a large variety of flora and fauna. It is 22 kilometers from Yelandur. It was past 1300 hrs when we entered the forest through a checkpost. Visitors are allowed in only after they state the reason for their visit. Wildlife protection laws permit people to travel through the forest only between 0600 hrs and 1800 hrs. I told the guard that we were going to visit "Ganesh Rao" (as my friend is known out there and he made a note of our registration number and gave us directions to Ganesh's farm. It was a hot day and we were not fortunate to spot any wildlife. I guess all the animals were having a siesta at the time we passed through. Due to a l mix-up in interpreting the directions, we missed Ganesh’s farm and arrived at the highest point on the hills where a temple is located. We asked the locals and they gave us directions to reach Ganesh's farm.
Ganesh was waiting for us and we washed up and sat down to a tasty meal that he had conjured up for us. I'd heard he is a great cook, but this was the first time I had the pleasure of actually experiencing his magic! I hadn't met Ganesh for almost a decade and it was fun catching up with a lot of ham radio gossip. Ganesh was licensed to operate ham radio in 1965, the year I was born!!! He is a die-hard fan of CW (continuous wave, ham radio parlance for Morse code transmissions) and has made many thousands of contacts around the world. After lunch, we visited his "ham shack" and I've pictures of him at the radio. I also took pictures of his antenna and had a picture of him, Jagan and myself taken on his verandah. Ganesh grows coffee in his farm. His coffee is completely organic, grown without the use of chemicals of any kind. I wanted to walk around his farm, but we realized we were behind schedule and so decided to wind up our short visit and head back to Bangalore before dark.
The drive back was uneventful and as we approached Bangalore, our pace dropped a bit due to traffic. Jagan dropped me off at home (I live in south Bangalore, very close to Kanakpura Road) at about 1900 hrs. It was an exciting day.
One more successful confluence visit and the chance to meet up with an old friend … it doesn't get better than that!