AGUMBE.....A MYSTIQUE BEAUTY OF SOUTH INDIA...
Jewel of Western Ghats
It would not be an exaggeration to say Western Ghat rainforests are Pantanal of India. Western Ghats run about 1000 miles from south to north along the western edge of the Deccan plateau bordering the Arabian Sea. Like in Amazon rainforests, Western Ghats still today offer many unexplored territories and species. Western Ghats have many heavenly peaks and many are famous hill stations. Kodaikanal, Madikeri, Kumara Parvatha, and Kodachadri are few famed to mention and some of these are trekkers paradise.
Agumbe - Highest Peak and Wettest Land..... Southern Cherrapunji..
Then, there is this place called Agumbe in Karnataka which is also a gem in the Western Ghats. Travel from famous temple town of Udupi towards east, after around 40 kilometers or so, the humid climate starts to cool off; and as you approach Someshwara, a small hamlet, you certainly sense the cool breeze and there you see in front of you the majestic and sudden elevation, Agumbe. Its sudden elevation from sea level resembles Kilimanjaro of Tanzania in Africa; but Agumbe is unique for many things. Count on now,
Hairpin and horseshoe curves....
Hairpin and horseshoe road curves. Over 600 feet elevation within 9 kilometers and those breathtaking hairpin and horseshoe curves, number more than 15. Now, one can understand how and why the sudden elevation. From the peak, one·can sight the Arabian Sea from this peak which is almost 50 kilometers west.
Myriad waterfalls, many are inaccessible and many are seasonal which can be seen from Someshwara in rainy season, but hold on some of these seasonal waterfalls are more than 200 feet high. Barkana, Koodlu Thirtha, Vanake Abbi,.. the list goes on and on.
A place of medicinal plants; unfortunately some are endangered. Some of these treasured plants are more than 500 years old. This is also land of black cobras or King Cobras. Nowhere in the world you can see these species so rich and so vivid. It is arguably the place of highest rainfall in India, of course not to forget Cherrapunji.
· Getting onto the peak of Agumbe is nothing. Agumbe offers many peaks for trekkers. Kundhadhri, Nishane Gudda, Sunset Point are few to mention. Kundhadhri is an amazing destination. This place is like an Agumbe on top of an Agumbe !!!!!!!.
What we all remember about this picturesque place?...... An old dilapidated bus station, a small intersection with old road signs, a big 100-year-old Mangalore-tiled house (Malgudi Days fame), and of course the curves. Most baffling thing about this place is it attracts people from across the world for various reasons.
Just forget about these attractions for a moment, just travel that 10 or so kilometer stretch, I am very sure you would like the place for just the essence of the rainforest. Agumbe without any question different things to different people; from trekkers to medicinal plant specialists to herpetologists, all are attracted by this dense rainforest. Venturing deep into the forest without a guide or map is highly dangerous as this place is full of Cobras, spiders, and leeches.
Of note, Agumbe had to welcome an unwanted guest.......... naxalism.... Red uniform made quite a raucous for sometime and now seems to have cooled off, but still police forces with flashing Kalashnikovs is not a pleasant sight. I asked Sudeendra, who runs Mallya Residency and ferries the visitors, about the naxal problem. He says they are not bothered about the naxals, because he says it is highly impossible for naxals to survive in this thick rainforest with cobras and leeches. Seems so true, mere dampness is enough for leeches to survive and sustain their presence.
As mentioned earlier, this place is known for variety of medicinal plants. Some of these species are marked as endangered. Government of Karnataka, with the help of various NGOs trying to save these precious medical plants:
If I do not tell the other side of the story, it would not be a fair thing.
Over the years, Agumbe has borne the brunt of many things. The major one is deforestation for agriculture land. Number of large patches of farming land appear everywhere in the rainforest. Dunno what is the future of the rainforest.
One more thing threatening the place is hazardous plastic. In Someshwara, Agumbe, near the waterfalls, and the whole 12 kilometer stretch from base to the peak, plastic bottles and covers strewn all over the place. Wonder what we are doing to our own land. How bad we are going to present it to the future generation and is there any end to it…???