+ Also see: Earlier trip to Yedakumeri – trek on the rail tracks
My association with KempuHole is more than a decade old. She flows down from the green mountains in the Sahyadris, boosted by several streams that join her along the way, carrying their cool, pristine and perfectly transparent water. Swimming in Kemphole was an idea I was toying with for a few months now.
Come Friday evening, we boarded a bus to Dharmasthala. The friendly bus conductor was willing to give is an unscheduled stop wherever we wanted, and after much thinking and debate, we decided to take the bus till Gundya cross. We reached there as early as 5.30am and were lucky to find one of the many shacks selling food already open. We barged in, threw our bags down the floor and got busy with a cuppa hot coffee. One of us, it seems was real hungry – he jumped on the bunch of bananas hanging in front of the shop with an eagerness no less than a monkey and helped himself to them one after other. The shop-keeper looked at us, smiled and asked us –
“ivarige ellu oota sikkilva antha..!”
This guy had not had anything eat for sometime?
I settled for just a cup of coffee since it was too early to eat anything. It was soon 6am and light started spreading slowly. Energized by the coffee, I decided to take a short walk on the Subrahmanya road, where I knew I will find Kempu Hole after a short walk.
It took less than five minutes to hit the river. She was flowing wide and clear down the bridge, amidst thick evergreens. I walked down and settled myself comfortably on a stone, with my legs dipped into the mild flow – a pleasure I have always cherished. A few minutes passed with abundance of calmness captivating the surroundings. Fish swam past me and a kingfisher – the early bird – hunted them close by. Egrets occasionally flew past, with their white dazzle reflecting in the calm waters of the river. Many birds were still waking up and murmuring their morning prayers.
Image of the region made three years ago during monsoons. Kempu Hole flows deep inside these jungles, somewhere in its valleys
When I came back, I saw my buddies had surrendered to slumber, tired after the night long bus journey. It did not take them much to find a place to sleep – one had slept off on a bench in the ‘hotel’ and the other had found a clean cement bench on the bus-stop nearby. Both were already fast asleep. I did not want to waste my time just like that; I found another good cement bench in the bus stand.
It was nearly 8am when we were up and ready to go. A quick breakfast later, we stood near the road, ready to flag every vehicle that came on the way. The first truck on the way stopped for us. Depressingly, it carried fat trees that donned the jungles somewhere deep in the Sahayadris. A 10 kilometer journey back towards Bangalore and we were near Kempu Hole, where we intended to spend rest of the day.
We got down from the truck, walked a little to find a nice isolated place in the river and settled down lazily on its bank. Lazing was the only thing in our mind. We found some comfortable place among the boulders on the bank. Listening to the soothing sound of the flow, we spent an hour or so quietly, and dozed of again on the rocks.
It must be a little more than 10am when I woke up. Now I was ready for a dip in the water. The place we had chosen had shallow water, which dropped down through a small waterfall of multiple steps and then formed a deeper and narrow section of the river. The current was not very strong but sufficient to drain the energy if I tried to swim against it. I was not well verse with swimming in the rivers and was worried and hesitant initially. Tense would be the right word. I was very unsure if I should take the plunge, as there was no one who could rescue if I were to be carried away by the flow or got injured by hitting a boulder. After a few minutes of contemplation I took the plunge!
Once I was in the water, it took no more than a few seconds to feel comfortable. I moved into the deeper section and swam freely as I pleased. Sometimes I tried swimming against the river and then would let my body flow down with the water. Occasionally I crossed to the other side, flirting with the current. I found a bounder in the middle of the river, with only its tip raising above the water, that was nearly in the shape of a bath tub. Perfect, I thought, as it served as a place to rest between swims. Lying down on it in the gentle current and listening the whispers of the flow is a pleasure that I don’t know how to describe.
I spent more than two hours in the deep water before I moved towards the waterfall. I lied below the waterfall that served as a jacuzzi, massaging my back and leaving me feeling good.
Nearly drained of all the energy, we eagerly consumed the lunch that we had packed in the morning. We then packed our bags and headed deeper into the forest. Walking upwards for an hour and a half next to a small stream, we arrived at Yedakumeri railway station around 4.30pm.
Image of the region made three years ago during monsoons. Train tracks leading to Yedakumeri
Yedakumeri station lies halfway up a hill, is surrounded by forest all around it and has no habitation or whatsoever except railway workers. We slept on the platform isolated by rest of the world, with stars twinkling high in sky and wind of the mountains soaking our body.
Next morning, we walked back through the forest into Kempu-Hole, crossed it and reached the road, and flagged a bus back to the city.