After a bout of rain at noon, the clouds cleared a bit and the sun peeked out, as if it was greeting the birds that began to chirp and reptiles that emerged to bask. Thick forests surrounded the clear stream. Moments later Common Bluebottles flew down and settled around puddles on the muddy path I was on. August, rains, and the Western Ghats – while this is a familiar scene during the rains in this part of Karnataka, it was more mesmerizing for me because I was on a short trek to visit the massive karst rock formation and mysterious caves of Yana.

I began my journey a week before I arrived at Yana as I was leading a group of trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts who were exploring the hotspots as well as the less-explored locations from Teerthahalli, Agumbe, Hebri to Kodachadri and Kolluru. We entered the ever-beautiful district of Uttara Kannada, when we reached the coast of Murudeshwara early one morning. We continued our drive to Yana, a place I had planned to visit for a long time now!

From Murudeshwara, we made a quick trip to Apsarakonda and took a deviation at Kumta. While driving on the Kumta-Sirsi highway, the weather turned from hot and humid to cool and quiet. We crossed Kathgal and took the road on the left that goes to Yana. The drive through this well-made road was a delight as we passed by small villages and fields. Ten minutes later, we arrived at the parking lot. (An alternate route to reach Yana from Sirsi is via Sundholle and Anegundi.)

While the post-monsoon period between October and January is usually recommended as the best time to visit Yana, I think that it is an entirely new and different experience to be there in the monsoon season.

At the parking lot, a trail of three kilometers awaited us. With beautiful dense foliage on either side, the trail was a perfect start for adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Taking a moment to soak in the serenity and the hues of green, we began our walk through a narrow path to reach a broader one, while the rhythm of the cicadas kept us company.

A steady hum of gushing water became stronger as we trekked along, and we knew we were approaching a stream.

And then there we were, a stream on one side with shrubs, trees and small streams cutting across to join a bigger stream on the other side. A drizzle came down and birds began to twitter again. We saw sunbirds and heard a pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills calling before spotting them moments later.

The clouds cleared a bit to allow the sunrays to pass through tall trees. When the light reached the ground, the time was right for us to take our cameras out and start photographing everything around us – leaves, streams, insects, millipedes and spiders. 

We came across some garden lizards and just as we were about to cross a small rapid in the stream, we sensed a slithering movement in the bush on our right. Out came a Green Vine Snake to bask in the sun.

At the end of the trail, we had a fantastic view of the first of the two marvels of Yana – Mohini Shikhara (90 metres high).

At a distance of another 100 metres from this rock is the second one – Bhairaveshwara Shikhara (120 metres high). These monoliths at Yana are composed of solid black, crystalline karst limestone. Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum.

There was a magical feel as we stood in between the two monoliths, enjoying the panoramic view of the pristine thick forest that surrounds these rock formations. The constant drizzle made the experience even better.

Just below the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara is a cave temple referred to as Swayambhu Shiva Linga. The water that drips from the roof on the temple adds to the aura of the place. A small opening in the rock face leads into a cave, which has a bronze statue of ‘Chandika’, an incarnation of the goddess Durga. A small stream that emerges from here, called the Chandihole, merges with the Aghanashini River at Uppinapattana.

Folklore connects these rocks to mythology. It is said that the demon King Bhasmasura was once granted a boon by Lord Shiva. With the help of this boon, the King could turn anyone into ashes simply by placing his hand on their head. Ironically, the King desired to place his hand on Lord Shiva himself. With this development, Lord Vishnu stepped in, disguised as a beautiful woman called Mohini. She charmed the King with a dance and succeeded in making him place his hand on his own head. Strong flames erupted, turning the limestone black and the King was reduced to ashes. This is how the monoliths get their names.  

We took another look at the rocks and spotted beehives on the surface. When you look up, the magnificence of these black rocks is imposing. Two openings between the rocks allowed enough light inside to brighten up the cave. Rain continued to fall on us through these gaps. We could smell the bats much before we heard their calls. We made our way out of the cave and feasted our eyes on the lush green forest again.

We began to walk back on the same trail, but not before I spent some time looking at the flora near Mohini Shikara. The walk along the stream on the way back gave me more opportunities to take macro photographs in the rain. We also paid a visit to the Vibhuti falls, a natural waterfall located 8kms from Yana.

Whether you are a trekker, geologist, naturalist, wildlife enthusiast or an explorer, Yana has something in store for you to cherish.