MM Hills

Mahadeshwara Betta or MM Hills is well known for its association with the notorious forest brigand Veerappan. After his death in rather mysterious cirumstances last year, the forest department has opened up several trails in and around this area. The details are at http://www.mysterytrails.com. We tried to book the toughest trails listed there, but unfortunately it was the eleventh hour. So finally, we settled for a one day trek from Ponnachi Cross through Yerekem halla to Gopinatham - the birth place of Veerappan!!

Route - We decided to go to MM Hills through Kanakpura - Malavalli - Kollegala - Hanur - MM Hills. BIG MISTAKE!!! The road was PATHETIC!! Our butts were subject to such torture that Iraqi war victims would shudder before coming here.

The distance was 220 kms and around half of that was on realllly bad roads. I was surprised and happy to find that the road till Kanakpura was good now, but horrified at the condition of the Kanakpura - Malavalli road. ( I hear the Maddur - Malavalli road is better). We took a break at Shivanasamudram - disappointed at the lack of water and the only entertainment was this monkey playing around with Bhattaz bike cover!!!



Nevertheless, we continued undaunted -- enjoying the view of the lake after Malavalli and marvelling the plethora of birds at the lake just before Kollegal, when the worst roads from Kollegal to Hanur hit us!! After Hanur, we couldnt see the road as it was dark and so it didnt matter much!!! With the moon almost full brightening up our path, it was a pleasant journey.


The Night -- The first thing that caught our attention when we reached MM Hills was a board which announced that Hogennakal falls was just 65 kms away!!! We calculated earnestly ..... 120 kms from Hogennakal to Bangalore meant that it was less than 200 kms away!! and the road from Hogennakal was good too!! Weren't we excited!!

In all the excitement, we didn't think much about gettin a roof over our heads for the night!! Every guest house we went to announced that it was full. With all options exhausted, we went to the RFO office and the very mention of the RFOz name got us an instant salute from the watchman!!

Hiding the laughter, we got ourselves the services of this able watchman to hunt for a shelter for the night. But then, it took us half an hour of roaming all the entire bredth of MM hills before we found a room spacious enough to accomodate the four of us!! And the able watchman swindled cash from us - an amount equal to the room rent we paid for the night!! That was fifty bucks :D.

Early the next morning, we were at the RFOz office - ready to embark on a journey through Veerappan territory- when we were suddenly told that we couldnt complete the trek in one day!!! Apparently, Gopinatham isnt a place where u can get buses back to civilization from easily and so we had to stay there for a night. And that was something none of the four could afford to do with software chairs beckoning us to spend another day in front of the goddamn computer. The only bus from Gopinatham to MM Hills was apparantly at noon - the same bus which departs MM Hills towards Hogennakal at 0900 am.

So, I pondered, y not we take the bus to Gopinatham at 0900 and start trekking there by 1100 and reach MM hills by evening!!! That would suit everybody's requirements!!! True -- everybody's except the RFOz. :(

And since he wasnt open to the idea of us doing something that wasn't 'permitted', we made the last offer - we would shell out Rs. 800/- to get us back to MM hills in the RFOz jeep!! By then, we had understood that it would work out for the department only if we stayed over at Gopinatham and paid the same Rs.800/- for the night stay and food!! Since we had hauled our asses all the way here, we didnt think much about paying this!!

So, after hajaar fight, we finally started the trek at Ponnachi cross and we were apparently progressing very rapidly according to our two guides - one of who was called Veerappan and was from the same village as his notorious namesake!! This was when Bhatta felt it necessary to shed some load -- this is what came out ----


The trek, by itself, wasnt much to write about. But what was engrossing was the folklore about the legendary bandit. Every crossing we passed had a story about Veerappan linked to it!! Both the guides were highly enthu to feed us stories about Veerappan, Harikrishna, Shakeel Ahmed, Srinivas ........ the names went on ........ We heard stories about his childhood, his brothers, the forest officers, the STF, the nexus ....... leading upto his death.

The only aesthetic pleasure was in these algae-filled streams which looked beautiful, albeit the sun shining down on us reminding about the impending summer .... It was fine till we were walking by the stream, partly in the shade, with each intersection having the story of some STF or Forest Officer being brutally murdered.


Things got a little bad when we ended up leaving the stream and headed off towards Gopinatham. The sultry weather, the lack of a breeze .... all that led u to wonder why you are putting yourself through this ordeal. Suddenly, a rustle of leaves by the side and we saw a wonderful sight - a fully grown stag was being chased by a wild dog!! Watching the stag leap and bounce away was poetry in motion..... Even before we could get over this sighting, we found a fox staring at us - although a few hundred feet away.

And before we knew it, we were at Gopinatham!!! The first view of the lake left us all enchanted and we wished we had trekked there on the previous day so that we could have spent the night at the Guesthouse right by the lake and probably gone on coracle rides on the lake later that evening...... Ah well, therez always a next time!!!


With the trek done, we hopped onto the jeep with the RFO and set off towards MM Hills. Gopinatham falls on the way from MM Hills to Hogennakal and the road was still under construction. Nevertheless, I spotted a few bikers zipping by and one of them was Praveen Chavan!! What a rendezvous in the middle of nowhere!!!


And that wasnt the only rendezvous we would have - we spotted this bunch of spotted deer munching away to glory with no care or concern about what we were upto!! A nice encounter to end a memorable trek.


What remained was a 250 kms bike ride all the way back to Bangalore. We decided to go through Mettur - Dharmapuri - Krishnagiri and Hosur to get to Bangalore. The saving grace was that the roads in Tamil Nadu have a motorability index which is ten times that in dear old Karnataka :)

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