“How far is Yana caves from here? Will there be people around?” I asked the driver on our way to Mirjan fort. I had done my research on Yana caves before hand and some of the blogs suggested to go only in groups as it is deserted.
“Not very far madam. Another hour from here. And it will take about an hour to go up and come down. Total we will need three hours. But you have to climb! Tourists will be there.” We quickly decided to head on to Yana caves. Cannot really miss a place after reading about it and being so close to it. The road from Gokarna joined the Kumta-Sirsi highway and a deviation from there goes towards the Yana caves. The mood suddenly turns into thick forest, silence and roads winding up the hill. It was noon, the sun was blaring but dense trees provided enough shade. We arrived at the base of the peak and there were two other cars. The small refreshments shop owner looked out for prospective customers but it was just me.
A little bit of history and geography – Yana is a village which is a little away from Kumta Sirsi highway. There are two ways to reach the rocks. If you are coming from Kumta, you have to trek up the hill a good distance. If you are coming from Sirsi, you go to the top of the hill and climb down the slopes to the rocks which are easier. From Gokarna, you can take either of this route. I took the Kumta one and so I pushed myself up the hill. Coming to the history part, yana rocks are two huge black monolithic rocks sticking out of dense forest. One is called Bhairaveshwara shikara and other Mohini Shikara. Long long ago there was a demon called Bhasmasura and as his name suggests, whatever he touches will turn into ashes. He then decides to test his power by placing his hand on Lord Shiva’s head (note – he got the boon from Shiva.. Think twice before you give your word!). So they run around and Shiva descends to earth, seeks help from Lord Vishnu. Vishnu comes in the form of Mohini, seduces the demon, dances together and She places her hand on her head, Bhasmasura imitates the move and gets burnt! And so the rocks are all black! Not just the rock, anything you touch in that area leaves thick dark soot stain.
The Walk – It was noon and so no tourists were around. The path starts with beautiful dense foliage on either side close enough to touch you. I stand to admire the beauty of the colors, to grasp the serenity of the place, to hear the jingling of the stream and the cricket went creek creek creek rhythmically. This was in the moment decision and so I was in slippers and not shoes. But then there were streams cutting across the path making your feet wet.
Almost no one in the vicinity I did not want to stop and catch a breath but kept moving. And then came the eerie sound of anklets jingling, like a distant bike trying to start combined with cricket creeking which all made me climb the peak super fast until I found some locals plucking fruits from a tree. I stopped wondering whether to proceed looking the four men standing in front with sickles in their hand. They gave the same bewildered look wondering if it is a ghost walking alone! I mushed up the courage to ask “how far and what they were doing?” And the bewilderment broke into a smile. They also told me the anklet sound was just an insect. Past them, walk walk walk I sight the steps. The moment you start on the steps, you can see the Mohini shikara. Myleapt leaped with joy that I did it in spite of me hating trek and doing it solo.
My joy was very short lived as the steps never came to an end! Bloody more than 200 steep steps and then comes Mohini Shikara. Finally, I bumped into a bunch of tourists who were trying to get into a smaller hole inside the cave! They told me the other cave is huger and I proceeded to walk up. Maybe another 50 steps, crossed a badly balanced wooden plank placed above a stream and then Bhairaveshwara shikara. What a relief. People coming in from Sirsi were more in number as I could see few other tourists walking down the other part (no steps that side). There is a temple here with a Lord Shiva Lingam which was formed by itself and there is water trickling down it all the time.
Quick darshan, I come out and there are further steps. The security looked surprised and asked if am alone. I nodded and he added, “Can you carefully go up and come?” Why not? Have to remove the slippers from now on because you are going to walk above the temple, more like circling the top of the temple. Then I understood why he asked me to be careful. The steps are steep, little rocks which can pierce your feet, plants growing near the steps hiding what is underneath and to top it all water is flowing through it making it slippery. I safely packed of my camera, held on to the railing and made it to the top. The cave is not so big. It opens up to some wonderful sunlight. It is just after monsoon so there is nice moss everywhere, a little stream of water trickling in, the black sooty mud makes it a little slippery. Not much time to spend inside the cave I came back down. A small refreshment shop is available on top. Having some time at the top, I started my descent. Descent is always quick but just be careful on the slopes. Once my slippers got wet in the stream, it just got difficult to walk down. Wear something like floaters which can get wet yet tied to your feet.
It took me approximately three hours for the entire trip. I would say monsoon is not really the time to go. The place can get really slippery and I was able to see the smooth trails left behind by the water stream. You don’t get a grip at such places. Pack some water, hat and proper attire. I was not prepared, went in white and got all the dark soot and mud on my dress. Oh, the black stain from the soot on my feet just did not go away for two days. No leech bite, yayyy! I don’t like them. Very much doable for solo travel. Do it morning or after 3 pm when the sun starts to come down.
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