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Following the recent trekking tragedies, many are turning instead to adventure expeditions in estates, including 4x4 off-roading, all-terrain bike riding.

By Niranjan Kaggere
Posted On Sunday, June 10, 2012 (BANGALORE MIRROR)

The tragic incidents of the recent past have in no way dampened the spirits of adventure seekers from the city. Rather, the onset of monsoon seems to have rekindled their interest in the woods. Individual activities, which have often ended in tragedies, have been given the go-by, and group expeditions, assisted by locals, have caught on.

Besides the complex deep jungle treks, several new activities, including 4x4 off-roading and all-terrain bike riding are drawing many adventurers to these destinations on weekends.

Off-roading is driving or riding a vehicle on un-surfaced roads or tracks - sand, gravel, riverbeds, mud, snow, rocks, and other natural terrain.

What was restricted to motorsports and rallies is now turning out to be a weekend passion for many Bangalorean’s as they drive their all-terrain vehicles or 4x4 vehicles along the undulating slopes of the Western Ghats.

DESERT EXPERIENCE

People used to go to Dubai and other middle-eastern countries to get a feel of driving such vehicles in desert terrain. Though these are all-terrain vehicles, they would drive only on sand. “Here (Western Ghats), you get to experience the thrill of driving them through fast-flowing streams, rocky hillocks and slippery mud tracks. The experience cannot be described but can only be experienced,” says Yogesh P, an adventure sports organiser and Founder of Campfire Circle which conducts these sports at the Wild wagtail adventure zone near Sakaleshpur.

ESTATE ADVENTURES

Unlike earlier activities that were held in reserved forests, these are held mostly in coffee and rubber estates. Wherever the trail passes through forest areas, the organisers or estate owners take the forest department’s permission. The department had banned trekking in reserved forests following the death of a student at the Kottuchatta waterfalls at Kabbinale.

A majority of these expeditions happen within the estates or near rivulets that flow at the foothills. Only the 4x4 off-roading requires a long route. “These tracks are not forest areas, but open spaces on the hillocks. During the course of the drive, no damage is done to the terrain,” says Yogesh, who runs the Campfire Circle Group.

CHALLENGING TERRAINS

The all-terrain vehicles are available for beginners as well as those at the advanced level. “Beginners will be made to drive within the camp area on a muddy track and once they gain control over the machine, we take them on challenging terrains,” said an instructor.

Sunil S, an adventure buff from software major, said he had driven all-terrain vehicles in Dubai during a business trip. But driving them here was a different experience and more challenging. “These tracks being a 5-6 hours’ drive from Bangalore, one would not want anything else on weekends. It’s the best way to unwind,” he said.

Places like Murkan Gudda and Kallu Gudda near Sakleshpur are a perfect getaway for off-road fun and adventure. You can get to choose from a wide range of automobiles, including motorcycles, dirt bikes, all- terrain vehicles and 4x4s. Driving along these tracks while passing mountains overlooking thick green forests is a great experience. These drives are a challenge to any driver,” says Dilip Kariyappa, founder of Tuskermark, which promotes wildlife tourism.

The auto adventure, launched a few months ago, is one of the favorite sports as many from Bangalore and the neighboring states flock to these estates.

WATERFALL TREK

A trek along the waterfalls and rivers is more enchanting than trekking in plain thick forests. There are about 10 small and medium falls in the state limits. A guided tour is conducted along these waterfalls.

And chances are you might get to see several water birds, aquatic animals and reptiles as they flock to these water bodies. “As these waterfalls are known to the organisers, you could even enjoy water sports activities like rafting, kayaking, etc,” said Dilip.

This apart, archery, target shooting, volleyball, angling and ropeway games have also been in great demand, and are being used as team-building activities.

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