Short Stories, Treks and more :)

Channarayana Durga day trek - 31 August 2014

No matter how many treks one does, there is freshness on the next one. Turned out to be double bonanza on this last day of August with BTC. A large ensemble of 21 enthusiasts gathered by 7 AM at our usual location - Shanthala Silk house near Majestic. Deepthy and Hiren were on task to keep us on leash. Hiren and Abhishek (another organizer) were just coming off from 2 day trip from Kodachadri (talk about trek addiction :P).

Funny acting evokes real expressions :) (PC: Ritu)
Soon after our mini bus was on its way, the usual ice breaker - Dumb Charades started. And this time, thanks to Vikram, I managed to not make a mess :P Ritu's guessing were too unnatural to be often asked for a ban! We stopped at Dabbaspet for breakfast (idli-vada, good but a little spicy for my liking) and packed for lunch (Vaangibath and Chitranna). The enacting fun continued until we stopped for our first trek - Devarayanadurga.

Intro session
This hill is more famous for its many temples and well built steps from base criss-crossing its way through forest and road. We started barefooted from one rung lower than temple entrance after a round of introductions and snaps. A guava tree stood at the start of steps, but pilfered of any worthwhile fruit - which perhaps explained absence of this hill's notorious monkeys at that spot.

Despite starting high above, there were many steps to climb. It was a cloudy day and there had been overnight rain too. Which was good considering we had left our bags and water bottles behind. Past the steps and a pond, our climb was an interesting mix of abrasive sand, slippery wet black mud, boulders, bushes - making us crawl on occasions.

Bare foot, interesting trek
Atop Devarayanadurga
We stopped at hill's shoulder for a while - chit chatting, pics, enjoying views around - with someone naming many of the surrounding hills, some prank. A short climb later, we reached the peak. An open temple like structure devoid of idols was there. Quite breezy, threatening to blow stick figures like me and Ankit. Discussion and plans for Dudhsagar trek too.

By the time we reached base of Channarayana Durga, it was half an hour past noon. Villagers were playing with color powder, not unlike Holi, besides Lord Ganesha idol. The still gray sky and breezy conditions lessened the difficulties of climb that lay ahead.

Steep climb
A difficult slope right from base of hill, we found ourselves struggling to ascend continuously even for a minute. Numerous breaks and snaps kept us going, surrounding view of hills and lakes and fields pleasant too. The good news was that this arduous stretch required only half an hour, including breaks. Potential bad news was rain which might make our remaining climb and descent trickier.

Outer walls of fort and an entrance marked the end of this steep slope section. Once inside, easy trek wasn't the only welcome relief - trees growing on wall, lively lush green grass, couple of mangrove like trees at the edge of pond, various shelters and ruins greeted us. Rained for sometime, but didn't ruin our way much.

Pleasing views

Another 20-30 minutes to reach peak. Spotted Madhugiri in the neighboring hills on the way. Apparently that trek has been banned due to some bad incident, it would be shame if it doesn't reopen soon. As we neared the shoulder high bricked walls of peak, rain blanketed all around us. Drizzled a bit on us too but cleared and spared us again. Windows in the wall blew cold air - a natural freshness like no AC.

Atop Channarayana durga, rain all around
Hidden steps
The best and fun 'climb' was maneuvering stone projections and tree branches to reach a platform on the walls. Guess it was Abhishek who spotted it first, afterwards everyone had a go at it.

Vaangibath (Brinjal rice) was very tasty, which meant lesser wastage compared to previous trips. Followed by slices of cucumber. Abhishek managed to get extra piece promising oranges in his bag left back in mini bus (turned out he did have fruit contrary to our belief at the time, only it was mousambi not oranges).

A village group had reached peak by then. They were scouting for some particular type of grass, which they explained was used to prepare a medicinal mix.

We started our way back after entertaining and daring attempts of group pic. Descent didn't pose any trouble as rain had dried off. We stopped by the pond for a nice and long break. We had got separated into two groups - the first one reached the pond along a different path. It resulted in us meeting on opposite banks. We eventually figured that there was a path alongside the outer fort wall to connect the two, the mangrove trees made it difficult to spot.

Mangroves on a hill?
The steep slope portion on lower hill was much easier and faster to cross than it had been while climbing up. Three kids, full of wonder and curiosity about our group, saw us off while leaving. We stopped for refreshments (tea, coffee and rather colorful sodas :P) and feedback. Regulars were happy with continued good work from BTC while newbies expressed their joy of climbing seemingly insurmountable hill.

Rayakottai - 24 Aug 2014

The moment I saw Sangamesh's mail, I registered immediately - as I had never done a trek outside Karnataka. Not that man made boundaries matter when it comes to nature. It just added a superficial reason to choose between two treks on offer that weekend by BTC. Sangamesh couldn't make it though, so Deepthy and Ashwin were in charge instead. That meant all my 6 BTC treks with atleast one new organizer ;)
We were to gather at Bangalore City Junction at 6:45 AM. Learning from last trek's mistake, I arrived early. The passenger train 56514 (Bangalore to Karaikkal) was scheduled to depart from platform 1 at 7:15 AM. The huge crowd rushed to reserve seats when train arrived about 15 minutes before departure. We managed two compartments, more than enough for our 15 member group. Not noticing train number or details, two had caught some train leaving around 6:45 AM :P They got down at Cantonment to wait. And filmy style, one member got in just as train was leaving :D

Crowd swelled as stations came and we had to adjust - forcing ten of us in two seats and other five in adjacent compartment. As our ride was more than 2 hours, Deepthy asked around what to play - Dumb charades or Antakshari. Enacting it was to be, much to my dismay. And it soon turned worse as I botched mine in worst possible way - I missed my team mates guessing the answer correctly (Mandaakini)! :( :( :( Nonetheless, two rounds was loads of entertainment for us as well as to fellow passengers.

Intro session
Around 9:40 AM, we reached Rayakottai and had official intro session, right on the station platform. Most were BTC regulars. Deepthy and Ashwin re-iterated rules & regulations and informed that this was an easy trek. We had to walk about a km to reach main heart of this small town. One hotel was done with breakfast but helped us find another. We had dosas and packed Lemon rice for lunch (only 11 packs available) - which we almost forgot to take away while leaving :P

We bought a kg of Cucumber before walking a short distance to reach base of the fort. The villager in charge of gate keys had spotted us on our way and opened after short wait. There was a side path we could have taken, only later we realized that all the fuss was to get money for his 'services'. Our costumes and mannerisms brought fair share of curiosity especially amongst village kids.

Fort ahead
Another group of four were just ahead of us. Scattered cloud cover played hide and seek with otherwise hot day. Steps greeted us, some first timers wondering what the buzz was all about trekking. Few snaps and 20 minutes later, we came across a tattered brick entrance.

Time to climb
Still under the impression that it is an easy trek and loads of time to spend, we stopped more often and clicked more snaps than can be used as profile pics :P Deepthy was probably impatient to reach peak that she branched off different direction than Ashwin, rounding us at back, had intended.

We realized the error only after we had reached the dead end this way. A small temple had been fashioned in the gap between rocks - sort of cave with wide open space on one side. We didn't need second invitation to rest a bit and then cross over to the side for plenty of clicks.

All smiles :)
With this topsy turvy hill, one had no idea which is the peak and if it can be reached at all. We retraced and went the way Deepthy had taken initially. Caps and scarves were worn as it had become quite hot now and not much wind. 

We passed ominous looking boulders (and some more cave like spots) to the left, while the view of surrounding hills and town at the base was pleasing. The way curved around and was hiding the ruined buildings on one side of the hill. These brick structures didn't offer much shade for us to sit down for lunch, so on we marched to climb the one peak we could reach. Bit of wind cooled the temperatures, also helped reduce our water intake - we certainly weren't expecting this much effort for what was supposed to be 'easy' trek :P

Peak ahead
A large lamp, presumably lit by villagers on festival occasions, was at the edge of peak. And a small platform made of cut rocks in middle of the clearing. No shelter from heat though. We could see a lake at base of a surrounding hill as well as the train tracks on other side. Center fresh was passed around, water sipped, group pics taken and a decision made to reach the temple for lunch. People fantasizing cold drinks and juices and ice creams made others want them as well.

Organizers alloted 20 minutes to reach there and we surprisingly managed it - no stopping in between. Why not, when cool comforts and lunch was beckoning. But surprisingly, some were perhaps still full from heavy and late breakfast that even the 11 packets weren't all opened. Of course, our own ration of snacks were gobbled eagerly, topped at the end with cucumbers - cut using Deepthy's handy blade :P and miraculous procuring of salt-chilly mix as if it had been brought along for this very purpose. Some of us learned a handy hack too - rubbing the ends of cucumber to remove the bitter milk!

It was then time for nap for most. The rest chit chatted a while and then couldn't help ourselves from a bit of entertainment at the expense of sleeping beauties. Some snoring were recorded and then Ankit rolled a paper napkin to poke ears. I played my part in video recording :D

Train and Rain
Around 2:30 PM, it was time to descend again. Nature thought it appropriate to treat us with rain in the surrounding hills. And then a train came along to top it up. 20-25 more minutes to reach base. We stopped by a juice shop at cross roads - to partially fulfill our thirsty appetite built up at the peak. After lots of choices, we settled for two - lime juice, plain and soda filled. Our order left locals waiting long time for theirs.

Mission accomplished
With plenty of time still left for return train, we made full use of buying vegetables and eateries outside the station and more water as well. Another group pic by the sign board on platform. An argument whether nellikkai was a type of small amla or not. And then came the rain - slowly at first and then heavily. For some reason, platform was changed as well.

We weren't as lucky as morning this time in getting seats. But good enough to find standing spaces within same boggie, some climbing to upper berth and seats for few. Handy blade was utilized again - for guavas this time. About half an hour later, enough spaces cleared for all of us to adjust and sit/sleep. Expenses came to grand total of Rs 170, including Rs 5 for BTC fund. One way train ride of 99km costs Rs 25 compared to Rs 19 for bus ride from Indiranagar to Majestic :P Feedback was yet again positive along with some suggestions to improve. Kudos to Deepthy, Ashwin and entire BTC team :)
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