Sangam and Meke Dhatu: A walk alongside a river...

Location: Sangam and Meke Dhatu, 30km from Kanakpura town
Date: Jul 12th 2009
To get there: [Click here for Google Map]. Go on Kanakpura Road from Bangalore. Take a left turn at the 2nd circle when going through Kanakpura town. Ask the locals for way to Sangam to make sure you don't take the wrong turn. This road leads directly to Sangam. Road condition was good all through except for short patches. You will also enjoy a bit of Ghat section with 3 hairpin bends couple of kilometers before Sangam. From Sangam, you have to cross the river and then have the option of a trek or bus to reach Meke Dhatu which is about 5km away.
Distance: Kanakpura is about 60kms from Bangalore. Sangam is another 30 kms from there.
Trail type: From Sangam to Meke Dhatu. Dirt track, wide enough for a Bus. There were parallel walking tracks which may have taken us closer to the river but we didn't get a chance to explore them.
Facilities: Couple of Darshini like places in Kanakpura. Lots of Roadside shops in Sangam selling chips/juices etc. A decent looking restaurant called "Tender Coconut" was also there but we didn't try it. Juice and snacks also available at Meke Dhatu. We spotted a brand new toilet facility at Sangam...which again we didn't really check! :)

After a really long time since our Muthurayana Betta trip we were set to go to what we hoped was another good "family" trekking spot. We settled on Sangam/Meke Dhatu or Mekedhatu as its on our side of Bangalore (south). Sangam is where the river Arkavathy meets Cauvery. Meke Dhatu is a nice spot where Cauvery flows through a narrow gorge of spectacular rock formations. The group comprised of 6 adults and 7 children from 4 to 11yrs. All could comfortably fit into an Innova and SX4 which spared me from taking my Indigo also!

So, Sunday morning 8am saw us on the road to Kanakpura, packed with a picnic style breakfast and looking forward to a nice trek and good weather. The drive was great especially from Kanakpura to Sangam where we get to see panoramic views of the hill ranges. The final little bit of Ghat section adds to the excitement.
Soon we were at Sangam and after unloading the food bags stood staring at the river wondering how we could cross without getting totally wet. This section of the river is quite broad with patches of land and rock scattered around. We spotted a White-breasted Kingfisher dive and catch a fish from the water surface before flying away with it which is a fantastic sight to see. There were also lots of White-browed wagtails around. Strategically, we waited and watched others crossing before deciding on a path where the water seemed to come only up to the thighs for adults and nearly the waist for the kids. Bags distributed and toddlers carried by adults....we ventured out into the river and reached the other side safely. The same could not be said for the return trip....more on that later. Since it was already 10am....first order of business was breakfast. Once done we enquired about the shuttle bus for the return trip from Meke Dhatu as we knew 4-5km trek both ways would be quite strenuous. The bus itself is quite a sight and one wonders how it is still running... esp along the rough dirt road between Sangam and Meke Dhatu. Anyway, on the advice of the bus folks, we bought the 40rs round trip ticket even though we intended to trek at least one way. The round trip ticket would enable us to catch it anywhere on the route in case the kids were too tired to complete the trek... a kind of hop-on, hop-off! :)
We started out bravely with the goal of trekking all the way to Meke Dhatu. The older kids set a fast pace and were soon out of sight from the second group with the toddlers. We managed to make it to about 3 kms before the younger kids were tired and the shuttling bus was a welcome sight which we promptly boarded for the last kilometer or so. The trail is a dusty road with great views on both sides. River Cauvery flows about 50mtrs from this road all the way. Hills and a shrub jungle make up the other side. It may be possible to take some side trails for a bit of adventure but we didn't attempt that. I also noticed some kind of viewing point on top of a hill, so surely there must be some path to reach that. Next time maybe.

Meke Dhatu spot itself was wonderful. From the end point where the dust road ends, one has to descend about 50feet using roughly cut steps and footholds in the rock face. At the bottom there is a nice and fairly clean sandy spot for toddlers to play. Scramble over the boulders there and you get to see the awesome sight of the river hurtling along in the deep gorge. The name of the place meaning goat (meke) crossing (dhatu) in kannada is probably not relevant now as it is too wide for any normal goat to jump across. Maybe it was narrower some time back? When we went it was not wet or slippery. If it is wet, as is often the case, one has to be very careful as a fall is usually fatal! The area around here had the customary trash and stink in some places but the sights of the rocks and river more than made up for it. After spending about 30mins or so here we got back to Sangam taking the bus all the way.

The return river crossing was not trouble free. At 1pm, river was more crowded than at 10am filled with people who liked to splash and rag the river crossers. The path we took was direct and slightly different from the one we took before. This however was a little deeper and we all got wet up to the waist with the older kids up to the shoulders. Only when the group reached the other side did we realize that we had cellphones in our pockets! 2 of them came through the bath fine while 3 others went dead with quite a bit of water logging in them. Big lesson: Keep your cell phones safe and dry when crossing the river! Thankfully the cellphones got back their life after some repair else it would have ended up as the costliest trek ever for us! After some futile attempts to dry ourselves we heading back to Bangalore for lunch. The pizza hut guy did not comment on the bunch of wet people who walked in around 3 for a well deserved lunch! Maybe it is quite normal there given Bangalore's weather these days... :)

Overall the trip was good and better than we expected. Sangam s dirty and crowded and not worth staying too long. The trail from Sangam to Meke Dhatu is quite nice and can be done slowly to enjoy it better. Meke Dhatu itself is wonderful and has great sights to be savoured.
So, if you do make it... please do not litter the place especially in the wilderness areas. There are some bins at Sangam which can be used to dispose your trash.

You can find more images from the trip uploaded to picasa.