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Old 18th June 2012, 10:11   #1
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Default Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Many of us have grown up watching Hollywood movies that depict lost temples and forts, deserted by civilization and taken over by the jungle, be it in the 1967 animated feature "The Jungle Book" or the 1981 action flick "Raiders of the Lost Ark". But to venture out to see one in our own backyard is an adventure of a lifetime, that too when it provides some great off-roading opportunities !

So, with my Safari geared up, we headed to explore a lost fort deep within the western ghats, near Jog Falls, Karnataka. This is a remote area, and hence, the adventurer needs to prepare well before embarking on the trip.

Nearest Petrol Station : Talaguppa ( Approx 50 km away )
Nearest Mechanic : Talaguppa ( Approx 50 km away )
Nearest Facilities : Kargal( Approx 30 km away )
Nearest Big Town with Lodging : Sagar ( Approx 65 km away )
Mobile Networks : Airtel and BSNL coverage is spotty in some sections.

Originally built by Chennamma of Keladi about 500 years ago, this fort, known as "Kanoor Kote" is perched on top of a steep hillock with deep valleys and mountains surrounding it in all directions, literally like in island in a sea of trees. Chennamma was defeated by Shivappa Nayaka of Sagar and the fort was captured and plundered for treasure, with all temples destroyed and fortifications damaged. The forest took over the abandoned fort and now it is totally hidden in the undergrowth.The fort is within the boundaries of the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, though there are no manned forest check posts on the trail.

How to Reach ?

From NH-206 ( now renamed NH-69 ) Westbound coming out of Talaguppa, turn left at the fork beyond Gowri Kere on to Kargal Road, and traverse through the north ridge of the Sharavathi Valley to reach the town of Kargal. Enroute, the road crosses the Sharavathi river.
At the first junction in Kargal, turn left on to SH-50 Southbound towards Bhatkal. Continue on SH 50, passing through the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary all the way to the village of Biligaaru.

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At Biligaaru, turn right near the sign that reads “Kanoor Kote – 18 km “. The country road is paved and is in a fairly good state except for certain rough sections. This road ends at Kanoor village beyond a short culvert across a stream. It is approximately 10 km in distance from Biligaaru to Kanoor.

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The settlement of Kanoor is not more than a couple of old houses, and the only marker is a signboard that states the boundary of the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.Sedans can reach Kanoor Village, but cannot travel beyond. However, low-clearance sedans cannot make it even this far. Beyond this, it is about 8 kms of off-roading.

High-clearance vehicles can proceed further beyond a gate for about 1.6 additional kilometers up to the Trishula Shrine, crossing over covered jungle tracks and open grassland. This stretch is impassable during the monsoons. . However, 4X4 SUVs and jeeps can make it all the way up to the final stages, crossing 4 ridges and a guly-eroded track riddled with pebbles. Carrying a spare tyre is highly recommended.

Beyond the Trishula shrine, the track traverses along the crest of a mountain chain, most of it being in the shade of the jungle, with occasional patches of shola. In the next section, the trail descends a saddle between the ridges in open shola, with no shade for the next 2 kilometers. There are no human settlements beyond Kanoor except for a lone house about 2 km before the fort. The difficulty level in this section all the way through to the fort is HIGH.

The track culminates in two trails at a fork 1.5 km after the lone house, and the junction is marked by concrete benches installed by the forest department. The left fork is more used and descends further down the west face of the mountain, crossing streams and eventually ending up as a false trail. Therefore, it should not be chosen.

The right fork is less visible and ascends the south side of a hillock. After traversing a few hundred meters on this less-used trail obstructed by fallen trees, the fort wall comes into view to the right. The fort is perched on top of the hillock with sheer drop-offs on all sides, and is totally obscured by forest undergrowth. It is impossible to see the fort until about 100 meters from the entrance.

The track is impassable during the monsoons. Do not dare to attempt it even with a 1960 4X4 Willys jeep in the rain. Though I took my Safari before the rains began, I found some sections very challenging and parked the beast before moving on. A Mahindra Thar is by far the best one for this track.

Initial Sections - Shola
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-grass-track.jpg
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-shola.jpg

Near the sanctuary gate
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-near-gate.jpg

Grasslands give way to Jungle
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-track-2.jpg

Surrounding Hills
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-surrounding-hills.jpg

The fort is perched on that island hillock, completely obscured by forest and with sheer dropoffs on all sides
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-island.jpg

The end of the Track - The fork and the Two Trails
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-fork.jpg

First Views of the Fort
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-fort-1.jpg
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Entrance and Defense Walls
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-fort-3.jpg
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-fort-4.jpg
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-fort-5.jpg

Second Defense Line
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-second-line.jpg

An open well in the citadel
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-open-well.jpg

Ruins of the Temple Complex in the Citadel
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-temple-1.jpg
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-temple-2.jpg
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Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-temple-4.jpg

One final view
Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats-gate.jpg

Remember :
  • Enter with caution, take only photographs, and leave only footprints.This region is a bio-diversity hotspot in the heart of the Western Ghats. Please respect the sanctity of the place in all ways possible.
  • This is tiger country. I have seen tiger scat and gaur dung on the track and the presence of wild boar confirm the presence of the apex predator. Please respect the privacy of the finest of our fauna by staying on the track at all times.
  • Dry leaves cover most of the track and provide a perfect camouflage to the Indian Rock Python, Common Green Tree Snake and the King Cobra. Ensure personal safety by watching your step and prodding the leaf litter with a hiking pole or stick, and do not run your tyres over them.
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Old 18th June 2012, 11:08   #2
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

What a beautiful adventure. And you have penned it for us with equal beauty and economy. Thanks a lot.
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Old 18th June 2012, 11:17   #3
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Beautiful, Raghu. I have heard so much about Kanoor fort but have never done the the trek to this place. Possibly should do after the monsoons.
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Old 18th June 2012, 11:22   #4
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Very nice. Wonder why it is not being preserved and added to the Karnataka tourism map.
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Old 18th June 2012, 12:15   #5
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Do we need forest officials permission to visit this place?

In any of the picture you have posted i didnt find any terrain challenging that we should not do this in rainy season, any reason? or do you still have lot more to post?

Looks tempting and reminds me of movie CONGO, lol.
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Old 18th June 2012, 12:24   #6
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Amazing location and an excellent travellogue Raghunandanj. The 'how to reach' section could not have been more elaborate. Really tempting and enticing. The 'Remember' section in the end just adds to the adventrue quotient of the place. Hope theres more to come?
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Old 18th June 2012, 13:11   #7
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

beautiful pictures and narration - brings out the romance and the charm of visiting the old and forgotten places. Love it!
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Old 18th June 2012, 14:50   #8
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Nice pictures Raghu. I had been to Kanoor fort last August (right in the middle of monsoon). It is nice to see Kanoor in the dry. We trekked to the fort from Kanoor and stayed for the night at one of the houses near the fort.

Btw, did you have to take any permission to take your car? When I went, I remember seeing a gate somewhere.
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Old 18th June 2012, 18:00   #9
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Quote:
Originally Posted by brraj View Post
Do we need forest officials permission to visit this place?

In any of the picture you have posted i didnt find any terrain challenging that we should not do this in rainy season, any reason? or do you still have lot more to post?

Looks tempting and reminds me of movie CONGO, lol.
No, you do not need any forest permission to visit the place.

Actually there are more photos in the tougher parts of the track, but there are of poor quality so I dare not post them here. Nevertheless, the track is heavily gully-eroded at places, and those gullies are covered with leaves. So if your tyre gets in, it is quite a challenge to get it out ! That is the worst aspect on the track...

Quote:
Originally Posted by addyhemmige View Post
Nice pictures Raghu. I had been to Kanoor fort last August (right in the middle of monsoon). It is nice to see Kanoor in the dry. We trekked to the fort from Kanoor and stayed for the night at one of the houses near the fort.

Btw, did you have to take any permission to take your car? When I went, I remember seeing a gate somewhere.
Thanks, I wonder how you managed with those leeches around during the monsoons !

I saw one lone house on the track, and thats apparently where you stayed for the night ?

There is no permisssion needed. Its just about finding your way in. There is a gate in the initial stretch of the track but that is always unlocked, and I did not see evidence of any locking activity on that gate.
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Old 18th June 2012, 20:04   #10
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Quote:
Originally Posted by raghunandanj View Post
  • This is tiger country. I have seen tiger scat and gaur dung on the track and the presence of wild boar confirm the presence of the apex predator. Please respect the privacy of the finest of our fauna by staying on the track at all times.
We just missed sighting a Gaur somewhere in the open areas. It was behind a huge thicket and ran away when it heard us.


Quote:
Originally Posted by raghunandanj View Post
  • Dry leaves cover most of the track and provide a perfect camouflage to the Indian Rock Python, Common Green Tree Snake and the King Cobra. Ensure personal safety by watching your step and prodding the leaf litter with a hiking pole or stick, and do not run your tyres over them.
You missed one more. The Malabar pit viper. There is more chance of encountering this snake than the Python or the King Cobra


Quote:
Originally Posted by raghunandanj View Post

Thanks, I wonder how you managed with those leeches around during the monsoons !

I saw one lone house on the track, and thats apparently where you stayed for the night ?
There were plenty of leeches. Our 'leech repellent' worked fine I guess. IIRC, there were not many leech bites over 2 days.

Yes, that was the house. A family stays there. Apparently there are 2 more houses nearby, of which one is abandoned
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Old 19th June 2012, 11:17   #11
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Amezing location and good catch of Indian Heritage
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Old 19th June 2012, 12:26   #12
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Default Re: Off-Roading into a Lost World in the Bowels of the Western Ghats

Simply amazing locale! Great comparison to "Raiders of the lost ..." I felt a shiver of a thrill when I saw the pics of the fort

Is september too early to go? This looks like a great drive for my Gypsy.

--R
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