Karnataka gets adventurous, but experts worry about safety and ecological harm

Adventure sport is growing in the state, as people make weekend getaways to different parts of Karnataka
 Karnataka gets adventurous, but experts worry about safety and ecological harm
Karnataka gets adventurous, but experts worry about safety and ecological harm
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Eight years ago, Meghna Samyak, a 27-year-old IT professional trekked up Savandurga hill, about 60 kilometres from Bengaluru.

“It was my first trek and I had gone with some of my friends from college who had trekked up Savandurga before. But I was a little scared. It is about 1,200 metres above sea level and that seemed like a lot at that point. Halfway through the climb, it started pouring. This got me thinking that I may just slip and die before I make it back,” she recalls.

Meghna and her friends sat down for a few minutes until the pouring stopped and slowly began trekking up.

“When we had almost reached the peak, I slipped and tumbled down. I hurt myself but it was nothing big. I did finish the climb though. Adventure starts only when things don’t go your way. My love for trekking began in 2008 and I haven’t stopped,” she says, while adding that the number of people interested in trekking has increased hugely when compared to 2008.

"Even in 2008, there were very few people who actively pursued trekking. Now you can see batches of them go out to different treks almost every weekend," she adds.

With social media and the internet connecting a large number of likeminded individuals, Facebook groups solely dedicated to trekking, bouldering, rock climbing or even adventure sports have been responsible for the increased numbers, adventure enthusiasts from Bangalore Mountaineering club say.

They also say that apart from trekking, rope and bouldering activities, the sea and air-borne adventure sports are not a feasible option in Karnataka mostly because of the climatic conditions, the geographical restrictions and also regulation by the government due to previous mishaps.

“The Skandagiri and Savandurga night treks were banned this year as the forest department says that people cannot venture into forest territory after 6 pm,” notes Ajinkya Hande, a trekking instructor with Bangalore Mountaineering Club. 

In Karnataka, sky diving activities took place at the Kabini reserve. But after a woman, who went on a static jump (jumping without an instructor), died when her parachute failed to open, the government banned sky diving this year, Ajinkya says.

Karnataka also had a beautiful spot for waterfall rappelling at Cheluvara Falls in Coorg but was banned two years ago following several mishaps. 

“The base of the waterfall is just 5 m wide but has a depth of 100 ft. Most people who went there were not swimmers. There were several droning incidents after which the activity was banned,” said Prasanna Bandragall, another trekking instructor.

However, all of them say that the region has beautiful spots for mountaineering activities.

Kumaraparvata, Ramnagar, Turali forest, Antargange, Chennarayana durga, Badami and Hampi are the most popular trekking spots.

While water sports are limited, Gokarna, and Karwar offer para sailing activities.

“I think that every region has geographical conditions suitable for only certain set of activities. These conditions also play into why certain activities are not feasible for Karnataka. Parasailing, paragliding and other air-borne sports need to have certain velocity of wind and also terrain to be pulled off, which Karnataka does not have in abundance. Hence the mountaineering activities are more popular here,” said Prasanna, who also has an advance certification in mountaineering.

Meghna, who is also passionate about other adventure sports besides mountaineering feels that people would not be persuaded to travel to other parts of the country to try different kinds of adventure sports if it was all available in one area.

All of them also feel that as the number of people exploring the line have increased, it becomes important for them to not harm the very spots they go out to enjoy.

Hitesh Kataria of Nirvana Nomads has been pursuing mountaineering since the last 16 years.

“My first trek was in 2000. My mentor from school and five or six of us had gone to Kodachadari. It was a mixed group and Bangalore was beautiful back then. But this trek felt like home. I have been to so many treks and I still haven’t figured out why I keep going back. The day I am able to do that is when I will stop,” Hitesh says.

 “Since I started trekking, I have seen a huge change in the number of people who want to pursue it. Earlier, we interacted with locals for information and relied on their input. There was no precise planning. We had to enquire with forest officials, call people. We had to go to the spot and find out how to reach the peak. Now, everything is planned before the trip itself begins. There is a direction to follow and it’s not old school anymore,” Hitesh says, with a tinge of nostalgia.

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