Short Stories, Treks and more :)

Hutridurga Trek - 3 Aug 2014

By strange coincidence, my 5 BTC treks so far has been with  5 different guides. And each time I have come back with feeling of time well spent, memories added to feel good nostalgia. Even unexpected no-show by tempo traveler couldn't spoil our fun (it rather masked my 20 minute late arrival to meeting point ;) ).

Hiren, our guide, explained the situation and suggested public transport as alternate option and everyone agreed. We first had to board a bus to Market and then got a private bus to drop us nearby Hutridurga. Many seats were empty but got overcrowded along the way. We did our best to have fun - bus driver happily accepted our request to play Hindi songs from pendrive (until crowd built up and Kannada movie was played instead). And then, we even got to play Dumb-charades! Some very tough movies there (mostly given by Neer and 'yahoo' search by Gaurav) - I was clueless when enacting 'Don Muthu Swami' (somehow my team mates got it). After a round we had to stop as it became too crowded.

After breakfast (dosa and vada) and packing Chitranna (lemon rice) for lunch, we hired a pair of autos to drop us at base of this short hill (relative to ground level). We got their mobile number to hire them again while returning. Somehow, on both rides, we arranged ourselves in 5-7 grouping rather than 6-6!

Weather was close to perfect - wind and overcast sky didn't feel as if the day had gone past 11 AM. We gathered for intro session (with a mention of some earlier trek joke of 'straight circle') only to move away to avoid loud phone conversation of a villager. Our group this time was - Hiren, Gaurav, Vikram, Purvik, Neer, Sushila, Rishi, Geetha, Nasreen, Srikanth, Hrishikesh and yours truly. Most of them had done treks with BTC before - if I remember correctly, Srikanth mentioned that it was close to a year with BTC for him!

And so, we were finally underway for the main course of the day. We walked for a short distance following the hair pin bends of pretty decent road. Gaurav was apparently known for his photography skills and had to shoulder the responsibilities this time too. And more of his charisma (pranks would be better word :P) along the way.

Leaving the road, we soon reached a clearing. Natural cue to have a break and photo session. Strewn rocks and trees around, it was rather dark but pleasant. As we moved ahead, we crossed a series of fields, most of them red but workers around to let us know about not walking on them. And soon enough, we were at out in open, able to view broken fort walls and the hill with its multiple protrusions. Trees, old and new, some with orange colored fruit, as well as the surrounding valley coming into view as we climbed higher added grandeur.

Stone pillars forming cuboid entrances reminded me of Madhugiri, but their frequency and number here was more. And like other hills with temple atop, explicit steps as well as carved ones eased the climb. Not that this hill was anything more than 'easy' grade - just about one or two small stretches that really qualified for a breather.

Despite all the mini-breaks (along with never tiring snaps from Gaurav), we comfortably got to the temple atop the hill in about 70 minutes. The cool weather helped no doubt. Shiny bugs, wild flowers including flowering cactus plant, little pools of greenish water (with grasses and toads and garbage), a funny cartoon pointing direction, view of village at the base nestled between Hutridurga and another hill, etc got our fair share of attention before reaching top.

A broken brick ruin and yet another greenish mucky pool were beside the temple. We rested a while before Hiren led us to more exciting exploration and other side of the rather large area atop the hill. An almost hidden passage made of stone steps brought a new level of excitement - in retrospect, this definitely was the highlight in terms of visiting the hill.

On the other side, we suddenly felt uncomfortable due to lack of wind. Hiren was mockingly admonished, as if he had failed to control it. We were walking on lush green carpet of grasses, reminding of the western ghats. Moving on, we were dealing with the first real difficulty of the trek - maneuvering thorny trees either side of a boulder. Some, including me, got scratches to show for.

And soon after, we had reached our lunching point - close to the edge of hill and strewn with huge boulders. We left our bags under the boulders and moved about, soaking the view and clicking pictures. Hiren and few others went further to check for possibly better shaded place. Sun played hide and seek as was the case with wind. Rain was a possibility but didn't come except for a very thin drizzle for just a few moments.

Gaurav now showed a glimpse of his prank side - doing it all with a convincing serious face. While Hiren and others had gone, he took one guy's mountain dew bottle, passed around for few sips and filled water instead. Afterwards, while the guy detected something amiss, Gaurav let few subtle hints by way of conversation and finally truth dawned.

Having decided to settle there itself, we had lunch soon afterwards - passable given the circumstances but really packed in excess of most of our appetite. Nasreen then came up with game to play - an object gets passed around until music stops. Whoever last possessed it was 'out' and had to do some playful thing decided by others. Mostly it involved telling a movie dialogue/first crush, singing song, saying a brief history appended with funny words/sound, proposing, etc.

PC: Gaurav

After group photos (Gaurav had a remote, better flexibility compared to timer), we started descent. The thorny section was dealt better going down but we briefly wandered off from the hidden entrance. We took pics on the steps and rested a while.

PC: Gaurav

Wind was fierce about halfway down, moving about required caution - cue half-hearted joke of my thin body getting whisked away :P Climbing down is usually tougher for me, but this gentle hill didn't pose a trouble other than wind. Judging we were close, we took a break and auto wala was phoned to come. It turned out to be a rather long break with discussion on languages.

As we left the rocky terrain and reached the fields, apparently an old worker mouthed us off for taking this path with women members. Probably cautioning against wild animals or some superstition. We were certainly careful to not walk directly on fields.

Emerging on hill road, we could spot the autos waiting. Just after reaching the crossroads, we could spot rain around the hill. And would not reach us until we had caught bus to Magadi (to avoid crowded direct buses to Bangalore).

Most of us had tea (the worker having forgotten sugar and then giving it in extra cups!) - some got mineral water bottles, some had pani puri and chilly bhajjis. Gaurav, apparently was told by pani puri wala that the 50 rupees note he got from bakery was fake and got it exchanged. After relating this little incident, he proceeded to tell us, with a serious face, how to detect a fake note. Fold the note multiple times and then tap with a hard object - say back of ball point pen. Open it again and check if Gandhi's spectacle is broken or not! And to boot, he repeated this to the few who missed the first time on our way to Magadi - with a better performance! Oh, we aren't gonna forget this for a while, and if possible use the trick some day :P

We got a BMTC bus (but KSRTC route, meaning passes don't work) to Bangalore. As in morning ride, we played dumb-charades. But after the usual end-of-trek feedback session. And again, nearly all of it was positives and some suggestions. So, all in all, yet another awesome feel good event with BTC. Looking eagerly now for Doodhsagar trek in September :)

Cadence90 Sunday morning ride to BU - 22 June 2014

More than 2 months since my last ride with awesome bunch of cyclists turning up for Cadence90 morning rides on weekends, I was joining again. After the ride, I was in two minds to write yet another morning ride piece on my blog. But after midnight robbery (somewhere between 2:30 AM to 6 AM on 26 June morning, if my landlady is to be believed), I feel like recording my last ride - the loss is hurting even though I knew the risk before buying the bike from Decathlon on March 8.

I stay on 3rd floor of an independent house and the one occasion of hauling a friend's cycle up and down the cramped staircase had almost proved fatal. The only convenient option was to lock the bike in the small passage to left of steps - easily visible to street goers and no challenge in intruding other than someone happening to pass by or extreme misfortune of making loud enough noise to awaken those sleeping in ground floor. The chain lock was left wound to iron railings of staircase - my best guess is that the thief simply unwound the 1 or 2 loops from metal bar below seat. Earlier this month, my brother had lost (or stolen) the smartphone I had gifted him. My camera was ripped from baggage during bus travel to Rajasthan in February 2010. Clearly, some conspiracy here? :D (Update: a car stolen from next street last night - anyone got a solution to track vehicles after it is stolen?)

So, unless I move to a new place where I can keep a bike inside my room, I won't be buying another :( My fitness options are now going to be limited to trekking and running, but the greater pain is losing a commute option from Indiranagar to say Jayanagar/JP Nagar/Basavanagudi and obviously the weekend morning rides.

Coming back to topic, I had kept two alarms to avoid earlier lapse, but woke with first one itself. As with my first Cadence90 morning ride, I actually ended up reaching first - few minutes before alloted 6 AM. We started from Jayanagar around 6:20 AM (myself, Parameshwar, Narayan, Satish and Manjunath) - the waiting time talk centered around Dipankar's 54 hr 10 minute 1000km brevet. Not long after, it was left to Manjunath to guide me as the other three went well ahead, being accomplished riders and later joined by Phaneesh.

As we joined Outer ring road (with many ups and downs) near Banashankari 3rd stage, I got to see complicated route bus 201 going past stops like Kathriguppe on the way to Srinagar (someday I hope I will get to ride end-to-end :P)

Crazy bus route 201 :P
While downhills were thrilling (crossed 40 kmph), the many climbs (often gentle up slope for considerable distance) was challenging. That I could keep pace with Manjunath proved mutually beneficial. Now and then he would pass me tidbits of info of places we were crossing, previous rides, etc.

We turned left from Outer ring road to Gnana Bharathi Main road, greeted by the sprawling campus of Bangalore University. Flanked on both sides by trees, a polluted tributary of Cauvery (Nagarbhavi Thorai), long stretches of ups and downs, the overwhelming feeling was that of passing through a hill. Lots of early morning walkers, runners, cyclists were around and play grounds never empty.

The four of them were waiting for us at the end of road joining Bangalore University Road. After few minutes of rest and chit chat, we started the apparently famous round trip of BU road. Many other cyclists were doing their rounds and some of them branching to side road as we went past. The down slope was quite mesmerizing, enhanced by grey sky and chilling wind. That meant the return steep climb was daunting.

After one round, we all had tender coconut, except for Satish who went ahead for his second round! By the time we had our fill and cycling discussions, Satish had finished round two. And then about to start back, decision was changed to include yet another round trip :D Though I wasn't as exhausted as some of my earlier long rides, I played safe and didn't venture to sleep downhill. I didn't also want to keep others waiting.

Our next stop was for breakfast. Phaneesh left us to go directly to his place. Narayan was telling about some 100+ rides in coming monsoon months. The uphill to join outer ring road wasn't as tough I thought it would be. But generally, the pace was lot slower way back on outer ring road compared to morning. Climbs kept coming and descents seemed few and far apart. One particular steep climb in Banashankari 3rd stage was overwhelming.

Around 8:30 AM, we reached Kavali off Vidyapeeta Main road. The hotel is quite small, with barely enough walking space between eating tables. As is my norm during rides or trekking, I preferred idli+vada without even checking the menu. But was swayed to taste the unusual varities of dosa - I went with Manjunath's choice : Sprout dosa. Turned out a excellent choice, can't remember the last time I enjoyed dosas so much - I even gobbled few green chilly. Followed by half pineapple dosa - the sweetness not so gelling well with green chillies and chutney, but still good in its own way. I noted baby-corn dosa to be tried next time. Next we had Coffee (small size tumbler, but still quite good for just Rs 6). Oh, I so wish Kavali comes to Indiranagar soon. Much of discussion centered around Railways - fare hike, politics, unions, etc etc.

Going back towards Jayanagar, Satish and Manjunath were hatching a plan to Nandi. As I left them near metro, they bid goodbyes and to meet again in future rides. I told I was leaving to Rajasthan for two weeks and hopefully join in July. Little did I know that my cycle itself was vanish within four days.

And so, I am going to remember this 50+ kilometer ride more than it warrants compared to earlier cherished rides. I hadn't even required to pump air for 100 odd days I had the bike covering 600+ km. Even though there were minor issues, the loss has heightened the feeling that I had come to like it. Hope whoever uses it next would enjoy too.
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