A homecoming to Iruppu Falls

A chance trip to Iruppu Falls at the foot of the Brahmagiri peak in southern Coorg brought back a rush of old trekking memories
The falls, not yet at their most splendid, are captivating

In 2006, a little after my broken humerus had regained its sense of humour, I ventured on a drive to Iruppu Falls from Bangalore with my still rather newly-wed wife and camper extraordinaire Sahastrarashmi, whom I’d known for about a year. Along with us were four others.

The Lakshmanatheertha flows towards the temple after descending from Brahmagiri at Iruppu Falls

We freshened up at the rooms behind the very serene Rameswara temple at Lakshmanatheertha (Rama’s brother Lakshmana is believed to have meditated here) and passed the falls, after which we began our climb to Brahmagiri with great aplomb. Having driven all night and having stayed up sleepless with excitement for unnumbered nights before that, I was pretty blown. A kilometre into the steep climb I realised with anguish that the five heavy bird books that I was carrying in my backpack were an unnecessary and foolhardy choice of reading material, especially considering the fact that there was not going to be any electricity up there at Narimala. 

Behind every ambitious but unsuccessful climber is a woman who knows better. Anitha propped me up by my divine behind every time I skidded back under the weight of my burden. When I reached Narimala, we pitched tent. I passed into a deep, snoring slumber and woke up only just before sundown when dinner had been cooked. That was that (read more about that trip here).

In March this year, I happened to visit Iruppu Falls again quite by chance on a writing assignment for Outlook Traveller with photographer Jyothy Karat

It was a strange sort of homecoming for me, though this time climbing the peak was not on the agenda. On my last visit the temple wore a serene, old-world charm. Five years later it had been given a concrete facelift of which the management was doubtless very proud. The temple office even controlled our access to the falls. Though we reached there at 7 AM, we were turned away and asked to return an hour later. 

The Rameswara temple  at Lakshmanatheertha in Iruppu has got itself a concrete makeover though the old temple looked far more tranquil

Returning as appointed, we lingered about the falls, taking pictures and marvelling at the butterflies mud-puddling beside the rock pools — Jays, Blue Mormons, Paris Peacocks, Malabar Banded Peacocks, Bluebottles… Nabokov would have run amok! 

A few men enjoying a pounding shower under the falls began to perform for the camera (or the cameraperson, I imagined). After humouring them for a few shots, Jyothy got down to business, trying to click women bathing (fully dressed, of course) under the cascade. One of those splendid shots made it to Outlook Traveller’s May 2011 issue along with my travelogue

An ant-mimicking spider (Mymarachne) overwhelms a cricket nearly five times its size

On the steps leading up to the falls, a great breakfast battle raged on — an ant-mimicking jumping spider (Myrmarachne) was overwhelming a brown cricket with its venomous bite. The encounter must have lasted a good ten minutes until the dogged little predator beheaded the immobilised cricket, which was at least five times its size.

Around us the day warmed, though we were still ensconced in the cool comfort of the forest. A Crested Serpent Eagle whistled from high above as it soared on a thermal. Great lianas hung like enormous pythons over the stepped walkway. Wood spiders sealed the gaps in the canopy with giant, invisible orbs.

Ancient lianas cleave the view

An Asian Fairy Bluebird’s chirrupy gurgle sought me out but the bird itself was a shadowy presence concealed in dense foliage. Racket-tailed and Bronzed Drongos flitted in the glades. Malabar Whistling Thrushes hopped on the path ahead, unruffled by our presence. Punch-drunk sunbirds brawled over blossom nectar while peaceable White-eyes cheeped feebly from the tender, sun-drenched treetops. 

Bright red Coral blossoms dropped spent from the canopy in the aftermath of a morning feeding frenzy as mynas, sunbirds, orioles and starlings tucked into a nectar binge. On the earthy path black ants with piercing bites (as I discovered with agony while trying unsuccessfully to photograph them) marched in steady lines. 

Iruppu is still fairly wild despite the rush of pilgrim-tourists and sundry merry-makers. Yet, the odd plastic bottle still bobs in the stream and the rocks are slippery with effluent soap, shampoo and oil from the bathers. Trash appears to be collected regularly, for we did not see too much litter on the path. 

Everywhere, the forest department has erected signs persuading tourists to be on their best behaviour. Despite the noble intent behind them, most were hilarious. And since those are best seen to be believed, I’ll leave you to enjoy them. 

Tigers on honeymoon are perhaps on a meatless diet, eh?

Shikari Shambhu redux
Perhaps the macaque ought to wear its loins in the right place

Thanks to Jyothy Karat for her picture of the ant-mimicking jumping spider
Text and other photographs by Beej



  • Beej

    Founder-editor of The Green Ogre, Beej began this blog as a solo writing project in 2006. A communications professional, he has worked as a corporate storyteller, journalist, travel writer, cartoonist and photo-blogger. He was formerly the founder-editor of Yahoo India's travel site.

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