Sunday, October 16, 2011

Revanasiddeshwara Betta Night Trek - 2nd Sep 2011

I always wanted to do a night trek once the trek-bug had bitten me more than a year ago. But for some or the other reason I couldn't go for one and on one occasion I had booked for the trek but got cancelled. Finally on 2nd September, 2011, I did make it to Revanasiddeshwara Betta night trek organized by BMC. Even this one was after some difficulty as my friend who was supposed to come along cancelled at the 11th hour. I went ahead nevertheless.

Kiran, whom I met in Thirumaleguppi trek, was our guide. Being Friday evening, I was tired but excited about the night trek. I slept now and then until we reached a spot near Ramnagaram. Kiran, as is his wont, had suggested that we do a short forest walk before we climbed Revanasiddeshwara. We reached this spot around 12am. There were small hills around and temple at the base. The forest started pretty close to the road and the temple.

Kiran giving us the prep talk

Armed with torches and cameras, we set forth for the walk. Many of our group were first time trekkers and most certainly all were coming for first night trek. Kiran started with his usual warning that there could be snakes and sloth bears and what not. We had no option but to be careful. The entire walk took us only 15min including a short break in between, but it certainly seemed much longer. Nevertheless, with the night atmosphere, bushes, uneven surface with stones and skiddy mud at certain places, it was worth it. There was a large rock onto which we climbed and rested. We did introductions, some chatter and returned to the tempo. The way back seemed even shorter than 15min. We collected some wood near the temple to use for camp fire.
Halt point inside the forest
Starting for the climb at Revanasiddeshwara Betta

By 1:45am, we had reached Revanasiddeshwara. Stuffing the sleeping bags, we started the climb. The climb was first on road which had some mending work and then for some distance on mountain rock along the outer edge before the steps started for the final climb. Revanasiddeshwara is famous for temples - there were some at the hill base, one along the way and one at the top. It started drizzling slightly by the time we reached the steps. We had to remove our shoes, for the religious aspects, but that helped in our climb too. The slab based steps were only a connector from relatively flat surface to the steep slope towards the peak. Steps were carved on the mountain rock all the way to the peak. There were iron railings to support the climb and we really needed them due to the slope coupled with the rain and wind.

Atop the peak was the temple surrounded by bare rocks. Kiran led us to a spot around the temple where the steps started again, only this time they were leading down. The steps led to yet another temple, not surprising us anymore. This one had a well built veranda and some construction material near the edge. The place was sort of a cave with two big rocks intersecting. It also meant that we had a safe place to rest away from the rain. The climb had taken us about 30-40min or so.

Kiran immediately set about arranging for the camp fire. The construction materials meant we had a good spot on sand and the bricks helped in protecting the fire from wind. But still, we needed diesel to get the fire started. The coconut shells strewn around were also helpful. We sat around in a circle around the fire to enjoy the warmth as it was getting really cold. Kiran as usual narrated some anecdotes from his treks, some of which were familiar to me. Sometime later, people brought out snacks which were consumed with relish.

Preparing to sleep
The wind blew hot and cold, sometimes even putting out our fire. The wood and diesel ran out soon enough and most of us went to sleep. It must have been around 3:30am. Kiran woke us around 5:30am only when there was light just enough to walk without using our torches. When we reached the peak again, we were treated with a pleasant view of hills and lakes all around. Rain had stopped, but the wind still made it difficult to climb down the steep slope. After reaching the road, we had a short break. And when we started again, Kiran took a good look of the rocks around and gave us a basic course in bouldering.
One of the lakes around
Memento (The hill behind is famous for bouldering dares)

By 7am, we started to Bangalore. For breakfast, we stopped at Bidadi and had the famous menu of the region - tatte idly. After which most of us slept peacefully until we had to get down. All in all, a nice outing :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thirumaleguppi trek - a western ghats treat

Ah! The lure of western ghats. Irresistible, especially in the aftermath of the worst semester of my academic life. And BMC had just the medicine I needed - a trek to lush green Thirumaleguppi in fading monsoon season. I was yet again apprehensive of rain spoiling the trek in more ways than one. Thankfully I took the risk and heeded to my heart's wish.

Friday evening - 19th Aug, 2011. Time - 9:14pm. I had arrived one minute before scheduled departure from Domlur bus stop. Result - as usual the tempo arrived almost an hour late. We reached a place near Kalasa around 6am from where we had to take a jeep ride to Samse village for our home stay. I must say it was one heck of a jeep ride. For more than half an hour, we climbed the mountain 'road'. The road I mentioned was a muddy one where I wouldn't trust myself to even walk - it was like one of those dirt race tracks. Overnight rain had made it worse. At certain places, the jeep's tyres had made about a foot deep impression. I thank the jeep's manufacturer and the driver for safely transporting us.

Mullodi house - Samse village
Our home stay - Mullodi house, was quite close to Somavathi falls. Coffee plantation was all around along with awesome flowering plants and a big jackfruit tree. By 8:20am, we were done with breakfast. Getting ready for the trek was quite a sight. People had got all kinds of ointments and creams and salt to prevent leech bite. That includes me, I had got salt which I sprinkled on socks and shoes!

As it had rained overnight, we carried a stick to support our footing during the trek. We were a 14 member group including BMC guide Kiran and a local guide. With just one turn around the home stay, we got a larger view of the mountain ranges around. Clouds painted the sky white and grey. To our right was the Somavathi falls with a small temple built very close to water flow. The muddy path was uneven with overnight rain making it slippery.

The picture says it all :)

Somavathi falls


Within 15min, we were into the forest path which goes circularly around the mountain with streams flowing on the inner junction of a curve. It reminded me of the Tandiandamol trek which had similar pattern. The flora was quite similar too, a trait of western ghats I suppose. Our guide Kiran, a hard-core trekker and nature lover, quite easily trekked through the slippery rocks of the stream and had a dip in freezing cold water under a small waterfall! We were conservative and declined his request to follow suit. The local guide had a wry smile. The moses and ferns and other grasses growing everywhere on stones too had an eerie feel like Tandiandamol. The difference was that the path was a bit tougher and leech filled due to rainy season.

The circular path with streams

Soon we were out of the circular path and out in the open grassland. 30min into the trek, we took our first break which was more to allow the rear group to catch up. We had some photo shoots, and then the local guide here asked whether we were interested to do another peak adjacent to Thirumaleguppi (I think it was Irumaleguppi, if I remember correctly as it was two peak close to each other). It was an interesting prospect to consider, the path certainly looked more inviting and steeper than Thirumaleguppi. However by the time Kiran and others had caught up to us, we decided to stick with our original plan. Trek to Irumaleguppi would have meant more time and rain would have hampered us badly. In retrospect, we missed a golden chance :(

First view of Thirumaleguppi

The interesting landscape

The landscape around us was an interesting one. Due to high winds, there weren't trees on the higher slopes of the mountains all around. However, where ever there was enough shield from winds, there was dense forest. All this and the beautiful weather certainly made us feel blessed to be there. It took about an hour or so to cross different valleys before we could set foot on the main climb towards Thirumaleguppi peak. All along it had been a stroll in the park on the grass covered path.

Crossing the vast grassland 

Steep climb ahead

Irumaleguppi to the left of Thirumaleguppi

The real climb started as the path became progressively steeper. The breaks became frequent and longer. We had climbed sufficiently high when we had to peep to see the valley to our right. The local guide spotted three deers grazing below and asked us to be quiet so as to observe them without driving them away. It was my first time of spotting a mammal (other than monkeys) in the wild. Being higher also meant that we could observe mist/cloud decorating the valley below. It really did feel heavenly.

Spotting deers in the wild

 Nearing the peak

In all it took about 40-50min to reach the peak once we started on the steep section. Thanks to grass, which at some places were knee high, we had good enough grip inspite of loose and slippery mud. At some places, the steepness was too high that it was a bit scary. The wooden stick we had carried came in very handy to support our climb. The view of Irumaleguppi to our left was both scary and pleasing to the eye. The mist covered peak was pleasing, but the steepness did give a shudder thinking if we had gone to that peak instead of Thirumaleguppi.

Reaching the peak was a welcome respite after the steep climb. It had taken us about 2.5hours for the entire climb, so we weren't exhausted. But we weren't complaining. After the customary photo shoots, we found a spot on the other side of the peak with rocks strewn near the edge and giving us a view of the valley below. We camped on the rocks and removed our shoes to remove leeches. I had two bites adding to the one I got in Sakleshpur. But the interesting point was all three were on my right foot. Leeches: anything wrong with my left foot??


We decided to have lunch even though it was only around 11:40am. Cloud and mist would cover us now and then. After lunch, some were gossiping and some of us simply enjoyed the tranquility. Around 12:30pm, we started our descent back. It was nasty to put the wet shoes and socks back. As always, descent was trickier than the climb. It took about half an hour to cross the steep portion with quite a few stops in between. And another hour to cross the vast grassland back into the circular paths with streams in between. On the way we spotted locals with their cattle grazing the abundant grass. It was confounding to think how the bulky ones had climbed to these spots.

We had a long break at one of the streams. By virtue of stopping a long time there, we could spot colorful frogs and dragon flies and swimming-spiders and flora. Around 3:15pm, we reached the home stay. Just before the last turn, we spotted a 'dung'-beetle hauling a nearly spherical 'dung' upwards the slope!

 'Dung' beetle

Having come pretty early, Kiran suggested that we go have a bath in the Somavathi waterfalls the same evening. For the next day itinerary, he said he will try to arrange for river rafting if sufficient people agreed to come and subject to availability. Initially many were skeptic about it but slowly there were enough numbers. So Kiran contacted and told us that by evening he will confirm one way or the other.

After some rest, we started for the falls. By now, it had started drizzling and temperatures were nose diving. That only served to shrug off our exhaustion. As we were started around the corner from the home stay, people ahead said they spotted a cobra. Now I cannot be sure that was true or false :P. But we sure were cautious. As I mentioned before, the waterfall was quite close. The path was trickier than anything earlier in the day, but we made it to the falls without any trouble.

The fun began near the falls. We had to climb on a wall constructed on the side to reach another man made concrete floor directly in path of the water gushing out. There was a dam like wall constructed with two openings through which water flow was pretty rapid that one cannot cross without huge balancing act. Kiran, the maverick that he is, planted one foot in the middle to allow others to cross. Some of us just climbed the wall and jumped across the opening. And in a final act, Kiran crossed the more dangerous second opening all by himself.

We made it thus far, only to find that we couldn't actually go under the falls and had to settle for the large pool that was at the foot of the falls. The water was too cold that it took awhile to adjust. We played around some half an hour I believe. Some had actually got soap and had bath while some were busy collecting stones.

By 5:30pm or 6pm or so we reached back to home stay. After change of clothes, we sat for what turned out to be mini dinner. One opened a pack of snack and shared it and soon one by one everyone brought out their own. I had brought newspaper, so we spread it out in the middle, kept the snacks on it and sitting around we finished them all, hungry like a lion that we were. Gossiping too had started while we munched and that continued even when the snacks were finished. Kiran spoke about his trekking in Agumbe and techniques for survival in the wild. He started about snakes and leopards and it continued around about dogs and before we knew it eventually reached the topic of God. There was a Psychiatrist too in our group who gave some scary accounts of the patients he had encountered. And while we were at it, dinner arrived much to our relief.
The rain which threatened all day long came with full force in the night. Various colorful insects took refuge in our room, perhaps attracted by the lamps. We even got to see a firefly with two LED like green-glow in its abdomen. Kiran had got confirmation for the water rafting by now. As we had to leave early in the morning, we went to bed (i.e sleeping bags) early for much need rest for the body.

After freshening up and breakfast, we left the home stay around 9:30am. The jeep ride down was lot more bumpy than first day. We could see the effect of heavy overnight rain in form of streams and increased water flow in the river on the way to water rafting spot. We reached there (forgot the place name) around 11:30am. Except me and another guy who had had fever past week, the rest had registered for the rafting. It was some basic level and the water flow wasn't rapid. Plus it was brownish water than the claimed 'white'-water rafting :P. After the rafting had started. the tempo took us to the other end where we waited for about an hour for them to finish rafting. Meanwhile me and the other guy took a nice little walk around with coffee plantations all around.

'Brown' river rafting

Due to the rafting detour, we could have lunch only around 3pm at Kottigehara. Neer-dosa and vada varieties coupled with our hunger made it special. We even got to spot some sparrows. For most of the rest of the way to Bangalore, we slept peacefully. Like I did for Tadiandamol, I promised myself to return, if not for Thirumaleguppi for Kudremukh.

Sparrows - rare to spot them in cities :(

Monday, August 29, 2011

Savanadurga trek - June 4, 2011

This was a trek I was reluctant to go because of rainy season. However, when my junior, Srini, requested me to come, I couldn't resist. Plus the fact that this one day trek with BMC had also included rappelling and some fun activity in water.

As is the norm in recent days, the tempo from BMC arrived late. Srini and his friend Satish had boarded at wind tunnel road stop leaving me alone at the Domlur stop. At around 7:30am, the tempo arrived, my mood resembling the dark clouds hovering above. However, I was soon gearing into trek mood talking about the nuances of trekking with Srini and Satish. We reached Savanadurga at around 9:45am after having breakfast on the way. Towards the latter half of our journey, Savanadurga teased us, playing hide and seek, going left and right to our view as a result of the rather twisted highway.

Savanadurga and the temple at base

Right at the base of Savanadurga is a temple lending grandeur to the location. The hill at around 1200m high was daunting. It seems, rock climbing enthusiasts can enjoy grades 1-7 on this hill. After customary photo session, we started towards the forest. Our first task was trekking through forest and caves followed by rappelling. When inquired about fun activity in water, we were regretfully informed that it won't be possible due to some reason. So much for bringing along changing clothes for a day trek.

Muthu from my previous Sakleshpur trek along with Rohit were the guides for the trek. Infact Muthu was a localite from that area. Starting around 10am, we reached the entrance of caves in about 20min. The forest path wasn't much interesting, with thorny flower plants covering most of the way. The same thorny plants would become a nuisance later in the afternoon. Once inside the caves, I was immediately reminded of the Antaragange caves. The look and feel were eerily similar, though this one was much darker inside and turned out to be more adventurous. There were trees growing inside the caves using which we climbed a petty steep rock.

The flowery plant with thorns

After about 40min, we emerged outside and reached the rappelling spot. Reaching the top of the rappelling rock was another challenge which was more frightening than enjoying. On the way, however, we climbed onto another rock and spent good time enjoying the awesome view of the hillocks enhanced by the cool climate and wind. Because of the danger in climbing to the top of rappelling rock, I missed bringing along the camera. I hope someday I would go again and capture the beautiful view on camera.


The caves - tricky and fun

Rappelling was fun, though scary for a newbie. One has to climb down perpendicular to the rock with the help of rope which is tied firmly to a tree or rock on the top of the rappelling rock. When my turn came, I was making sure that I was tied securely. But just before climbing down, Muthu informed me that he forgot to put the helmet for me! We nevertheless continued without the helmet. Only initially, it is scary to get our position perpendicular to the rock. After that it is just a matter of continuing to move down with the help of ropes. It was fun.

Rappelling rock

That's me doing the rappelling! - notice the absence of helmet :(

For about an hour or so the activity continued, some of them doing it twice. Afterwards, we trekked back to the temple at the base of Savanadurga. For lunch, BMC had arranged with localites and brought to us in an auto-rickshaw. The food was awesome, each item tasting good and filling our hunger and more. After lunch we resorted to some rest and photo shoots. As it was already around 2:30pm, there wasn't enough time to climb Savanadurga and be back. Added to the concern was looming rain, which never came.

So we settled for a walk through the forest behind the temple and facing both the peaks of Savanadurga - Karigudda (Black hill) and Billigudda (White hill). Like in the morning, the path within the forest was surrounded by thorny bushes, only that this one was worse and gave scratches to many. After about 40min, we emerged out of the forest path and onto the rocks. There was an abandoned temple which can serve as an excellent camping spot. Soon after the temple was a wall constructed near the edge of the rocky platform. Must have been part of the fort which was about half a km to the left of temple.

The illusion of 2D

We rested awhile there gossiping. And then took another round of photos trying to jump high in the air and using 2D illusion to show as if one was jumping from the fort wall to the other side. We started again to complete the rest of trek on rocky base towards the road. On the way was the fort along with a rather very extended outer wall. There was a small pool too formed conveniently between rocky base and small hill rising.

With few more breaks, we finally reached our tempo which had already arrived there. Muthu had cleverly led us on a path which ended close to his home. Thus ended a trek which promised a lot but was compromised because of various reasons. Hope to go sometime again to fulfill my wish of climbing this hill.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sakleshpur trek - a memorable journey

It had been nearly 3 months since I went to Tadiandamol. Longing for a trek was at a high and so I couldn't miss golden chance for Sakleshpur, and more importantly a chance to go western ghats again. Infact, in the past two treks, I had heard trekkers praising highly of this place. And so, the journey began on May 20. Little could we have anticipated what followed.

Learning from Tadiandamol mistake, I reached the pick up point (Domlur) 15min early and nearly immediately spotted two trekkers and got in a conversation with them. Slowly I could see others filling up and understood why BMC had closed registration previous day itself. As ill-luck would have it, we had to wait more than an hour due to unforeseen issues at BMC office. We only wished that the trek wasn't called off.

And when the bus did arrive, one of us had gone to get water bottle which meant a bit more delay. I was pleasantly surprised to see Ram as last minute addition as an extra guide (making it three along with Muthu and 'talkative' Satya). After the remaining trekkers got in at the last pick up point, Satya immediately embarked on his 'talking' mission - meeting all of us individually and recalling some of us from previous treks. I was tired but as usual sleeping on the go was proving elusive. That the driver was in a tearing hurry (going in shortcuts to cover up for the delay) and seats not so comfortable added to the trouble.

We reached a spot(3km from Donigal station) around 5am, well before our expected time. We were not going to stay in an accommodation and hence we stopped there till day break and went to a hotel to freshen up and have breakfast. We reached Donigal around 8:15am. Satya, in his inimitable style, gave us the prep talk about the trek and then Ram got us going with a very funny warm-up.

Loading Mini-apartments

After the customary group photo, we started on our 16km mission on railway track, carrying tents and sleeping bags and MTR ready-to-eat packages. It really felt like mini-apartment, as Ram often terms it. But ofcourse, like any new trek or for newbies, the enthusiasm overrode the feeling of heavy-backpack. The Donigal station is about 5min walk from the highway. This was finally our real start to the trek, most of us taking a good look at the station as well as capturing it on camera.

Donigal Station

Walking 16km in itself was going to be tough - added to it was the challenge of walking on ballast (crushed stone) filled track. On many occasions though, the ballast were not filled to level of the pre-stressed concrete sleepers (the railing onto which the track is tied) and provided a sort of horizontal stairway. Walking on it was much preferable even though it had the danger of slipping and getting hurt. But once one gets used to it, it provides relief compared to walking on mix of concrete sleeper and ballast. Also, at few places, concrete walls were in place outside the track which again we took advantage to avoid walking on ballast. But, overall for more than 50-70%, my estimate, we had no way of escaping.

Our large group of 30 split into smaller groups, so the guides separated out into three regions - Muthu leading, Ram in middle and Satya bringing up the rear. Satya, fortunately likes taking care of the back group as he has to match slow pace of the group as well as be doubly sure to not leave behind anyone. The guides had walky-talky for co-ordination and early warning of train approaching from either side.

First few kms went off without much trouble. As is my wont, I slipped twice on the ballast, but escaped with only minor scratches. And very nearly would have damaged my new canon SX130-IS camera. The picturesque houses with mountains on the background made us envy the localities. After about 45min we came across the first bridge. We knew there were plenty to follow, but there's nothing like experiencing the crossing of railway bridge for the first time. A person with fear of heights might have found it tough to cross, but the newly constructed solid and wide-enough side-path of tracks provides both easy crossing as well as safety if a train comes along. Most of us proceeded to capture the bridge in the most bizarre angle possible as well as shooting through the gaps to highlight the depth. And within 10min came our first train 'interaction'. We made elaborate over-acting of reaching a safe spot. But soon enough few of us kept their ears on track to try and hear/feel the vibration. As we were near a curve, some daring in-front-of coming-train-pose were shot too. As for me, I took a video of the goods-train passing from close quarters in HD mode, which in retrospect feels silly.

 First Bridge
 Excited like a kid on train passing

The monotonous walk continued until about 20min when we came across a stream flowing. We rested to catch breath and relieve our shoulders of the increasingly feeling heavier back-pack. The stream was densely surrounded by thick vegetation and insects were making constant-irritating chirping sound. The chirping became part of the environment for most of our trek. After resuming our walk, we came across a bigger stream and this time with a bridge to cross. It was only 20min since the last break, but with sun-shining, we were getting tired and rested again. There was a jackfruit tree near the end of the bridge and some of us brought one fruit down. One member insisted on carrying the jackfruit right to Bangalore, but eventually sense prevailed and the fruit was left behind.

After about 10min, we reached the first tunnel - 239.20m. The tunnel was pretty nicely shaped and completely cemented on the insides. Muthu gave safety instructions and armed with torches, we excitedly went ahead. It became pitch-dark within few meters and we had to concentrate on the ballast and sleepers to carefully move ahead. There was a small opening before the tunnel ended which gave us good view of the western ghats and a beautiful gorge. We seemed to cross the tunnel too soon for our liking but when inside the tunnel all one can do is cross it soon enough to avoid any remote chance of getting caught inside with train crossing. The noise would have been terrible.

Crossing tunnel for the first time - by walk

Within 10 mins, we had crossed the two back-to-back tunnels including the time of clicking pics from the small opening. And almost immediately another bridge came. Time was only 11am, but we had already seen all variations - bridges and tunnels and bridges-with-streams-under-it. It became a boring routine - so we tried to walk faster with lesser rests and photo-shoots. I went nearly an hour without shooting (not a mean achievement for compulsive-photographer like me :P). At noon, we stopped for a big break and also to let the Sathya batch catch up.

We had stopped right before a bridge - this one longer than most others. There was a train scheduled to cross around that time. So in small batches, we crossed quickly, each time checking if train was near. The train seemed near but yet took an eternity to come. By then we all had crossed and in position to shoot another round of pics. This time it was an express train - most people waving their hands seeing us and we too waved back in earnest.

We soon reached Kadagaravalli - the only station between Donigal and Yedakumari. I was by this time at the front of our group and we were going past the station when the guides asked us to stop at the station. I thought lunch was to be taken - it was 12:30pm. But that meant we won't be having it near a stream. Soon it became clear that we were only resting again. There was an open water tap and we refreshed ourselves. Some of us took off the shoes, the walking had taken toll and it felt good by simply removing the shoes. The hot water from the tap helped too.

Refreshed from the break, we re-started the trek earnestly. For more than an hour we crossed a series of bridges and tunnels with more sightings of trains - this time a petroleum goods train. We came across perhaps the largest bridge with large stream flowing under. Peeping from the bridge was real scary and with wind blowing one had to be very careful. As with long bridges, there were railings on the side to stand incase of train passing. We spent lot of time taking snap here with different poses for our wallpapers. Just after the bridge came the largest tunnel of our trek - 569.18m. It was real thrill to cross more than half a km in darkness. Being accustomed to crossing inside tunnel, we trusted our brain to place our legs onto the next sleeper, while we focused our eyes on the small circle of light from the torch at 3-4 feet in front. Those 10 minutes were once-in-a-lifetime experience (unless ofcourse, I do this trek again :P)

Pretty long bridge - and a bit scary

After crossing the tunnel, we began searching for a bridge with stream under it. It had gone past 2pm and our stomachs were growling. We spotted a bridge with seemingly a manageable path to the stream but proved false. Meanwhile others had crossed the bridge to try from that end, which was successful. Heaving a sigh of relief, we reached a spot with rocks around to have our lunch. Some had bath in the stream, while some of us teared away at MTR packets. While they tasted awful (as we had no way of heating them), our hunger made it possible to eat them. There were large rocks from which the stream formed a small waterfall. This helped people like me take bath who didn't know swimming. The water was refreshing and the pounding of water on the body was a welcome massage for difficulties ahead.

We must have spent around 1-1.5 hours around the stream. We had a rough estimate of having trekked 10km and 6km to go. The Sun had started to play hide and seek and we were worried of reaching before possible rain. With no idea of how far the station was, or perhaps the guides purposefully didn't tell us, we were walking longer with less rests. Finally, just before 5pm, we sighted double train tracks - which meant the station was nearing. The tracks were taking a turn and when we finally sighted the station, Kumara Parvatha too came into view. Yedakumari was actually named as sister to Kumara Parvatha :D. (A valuable hint to whoever goes for this trek having read this blog - follow the milestone markers - it is roughly 51km at Donigal and 67km at Yedakumari..)

It was around 5pm. Relief and joy engulfed us. I was elated to see myself finishing a 16km trek. We dumped our back-packs unceremoniously on the platform and started photo-session with cloud-covered Kumara Parvatha in the back drop. I soon felt the tiredness creeping, and like others, laid down on the platform. My legs felt like ship anchors, I wondered if I would be able to trek the next day. After everyone had assembled, Satya mentioned that there is a nice stream further down the tracks. So after some rest, around 10 of them trudged to the stream. I was in two minds whether to go or not, as I was feeling really tired. But when few others started around 6pm, I couldn't resist and went along. It turned out that the stream was more than a km from the station. I half thought of returning mid-way, but that would have meant a bit of embarrassment :D. Reflecting back, it was rather well that I didn't go back midway.

Well earned rest
Kumara Parvatha ranges

The path to stream was tricky and steep. I slipped for a third time that day, and yet again escaped serious injury. In the process, I think I broke a tree branch that was there for support. Darkness was starting to creep in, but there was enough light for half-an-hour or so. Like the stream where we had our lunch, there were rocks which formed a mini waterfall with water gushing with enough speed for massage :D. It was a nice time spent gossiping in one of the most serene location with occasional train passages.

Around 7pm, we started back. The tracks were hardly visible in the twilight. And then the fun started - we had a running race on the tracks! And, even now astonished that I was able to run few 100 meters after all those tiring walks that day. Passing through a tunnel was really really dark, but the path had only a small tunnel. For rest of the way, I jogged/walked-fast to finally give my body an extended rest.

 Tents for sleeping - another first

By 8pm, we had set up tents on the platform. It was a first for me. For dinner, the remaining MTR were consumed. But I really couldn't have eaten them - the snacks I had brought along were the saving grace. There were hundreds and thousands of fireflies twinkling on the mountain rocks opposite the platform. They made such a beautiful sight that one could watch them for hours. But along with them, were irritating and loud insect chirping. Though we were used to them throughout the day, the noise level was really high here.

We had to get up early for the next day trek, but sleep was hard to come by. There was cloud cover which made us sweat inside the tent. Keeping the tent open was not an option due to snake scare. It was one heck of a troubled sleep. Tiredness got me through to around 5am, but no more. A train/engine had passed which woke me up. I came out of the tent, but the cloud cover still hovering meant that it wasn't cool even early morning. With time to kill, I started trying different modes in my camera with Kumara Parvatha.

For breakfast, it was bread - with very little butter/sauce. I had few more of the snacks and saved a little for day ahead. Around 7:30am, we started our trek - this time through the forest adjoining the station to reach highway. What a trek it was!

The forest known by Bisle is one of the famous rain forest in Western Ghats. Surrounded all around by mountains and Giri river separating the highway, it is one of the favorite among trekkers. The forest starts almost immediately behind the station. The path is small enough to allow only one person at a time. It was steep, slippery and bushes often coming in the way. But with frequent trekkers, the path in itself was clear cut. The station being at elevation, we were actually climbing down until first contact with a stream. Most of the vegetation was bamboo and elephants often 'climb' up for food. Muthu expertly watched for signs and soon enough found trampling of one as well as dung which obviously wasn't more than few hours old. We trekked with caution and as for me, I wished both not to be confronted and be confronted with elephant :P. While we were examining foot marks, someone near me showed me a leech - another first for me.

We took a short break at the stream. After which, we had to climb up a path which was wide enough for jeeps. It was the start of, well I am bored of writing it again and again, one of the memorable trek ever ;). Fallen leaves covered entire pathway filled with moisture. It is where the leeches thrive. At the start I didn't spot them and I didn't care about it. After awhile, people stopped and were busy checking their shoes and socks for leeches and removing them - that is when I checked mine and saw one merrily drinking my blood. I hastily removed it only to hear someone saying that I shouldn't have done that. My action left the wound opened - blood trickling. The leech when it bites, injects anesthetic and anti-coagulant. Anesthetic prevents us from knowing the pain - and thereby the knowledge of leech on our body. Anti-coagulant is what causes blood to trickle if we forcibly remove the leech. If the leech goes by itself, it will seal the wound, or if we apply spray like moov or salt-water we can force the leech to leave. One can push trouser end inside socks to prevent leeches from climbing up.

We were tired both from previous day's trek and meagre breakfast. We tried to cover as much as possible and stop at relatively dry areas to remove leeches sticking like glue to shoes and deftly moving to bite. The irritating insect chirping followed us here too. With elephant risk still looming, we had to keep the entire group within calling distance. But with leeches around, some of us wanted to finish the trek asap. Eventually, a pattern emerged, the ones in the front would cover some distance, stop till the group behind catches up and then move on. While waiting, we would tend to the leeches. Fatigue was creeping in, but thanks to the leeches, we kept walking. Along the way, we spotted colorful spiders, some of them even flying few cms and some group even spotted a young viper!

After covering about 3/4 the distance, we spotted an old tree broken and blocking the path way, which as I said before was wide enough for jeeps. Now, near the broken tree was a path going downwards which was the shortest route to reach the highway, but with enhanced risk of elephant. After much deliberation, we took the longer route. We must have covered around 1-1.5km along this path, when the guide told us that the path was much longer than expected and that we would have to retract. It was almost unbearable - tiredness, leeches, hunger, elephant risk, lack of water, heavy backpack and so on. With no choice, we walked back to the broken tree. And tell you what - in any trek, walking back a path is the most difficult thing to do. Somehow, our spirits are good enough as long we 'feel' that we are 'moving forward' in the 'right direction', no matter the distance. And it didn't help that some of the groups were only just reaching the tree spot after some of us had done a 2-3km detour.

The short-cut was worse - narrow, slippery and steep path with wetter leaves and fallen trees. We were back walking among trees (or forest if you like, somehow forest evokes an image of trees 'and' animals not 'insects and leeches'). Red-ants, big ones, got added to our growing risks :D. Being narrow path, we had to doubly make sure all groups were together - and so more frequent stops among the leeches! This route must have been another 2-3km. Halfway, we could hear the vehicles on the highway and we saw sunshine too. But it made humidity worse and our thirst increased.

After crossing another small stream, we finally emerged outta the forest to the leech-free stone-filled river bank. We removed our shoes one last time to free ourselves and washed our legs in the river. But water re-opened the leech bite and blood started trickling again :D. We gathered at the river crossing place after quite a bit of walking around the banks. Now came the best(most risky) part of the entire trip - crossing the river.

Due to the rains, stones in place to cross the river had washed out and steady inflow of water meant walking/swimming across the river was not an option. For more than an hour the three guides searched for a nice path where water won't be more than knee deep. During that time, we rested nicely under the shades of trees, applying dettol or skin ointments to the leech bites. Finally Muthu found a good spot around half-a-km from our resting place. But twist in the tale wasn't over for us... yet.

The crossing was about 100m or so and water was relatively still compared to earlier spot. Muthu showed to Ram how to cross and went off in search of our bus (as mobile tower was nil). Being satisfied, Ram took charge and Satya as usual brought up the rear. The idea was to form a human chain with Ram guiding after midway. There was a tree midway of our crossing and that is where the depth increases. The tree's trunk wasn't wide enough to walk freely on it and being under water, it was slippery too. Some of us boldly walked on it and others who were tall enough used the tree as support and went inside thigh-deep water. After crossing that section, one needed a little more support to pull one-self up to the bank as it was on a higher platform and the backpack/wet-heavy-trousers made it all more the difficult.

However, first half of the group could cross it without any alarms as the water level was still below our waists and water wasn't flowing fast enough. And then the problem started. There was sudden inflow of water raising both the water level and increasing the speed of flow of water. For some it became chest high. Backpacks were first passed on and one-by-one there was human chain formed near the tree trunk too. When only 3-4 were left - it happened. I was on the bank helping the ones reaching the bank to climb up. I saw Satya losing his footing and literally carried away by the water flow. I didn't know swimming and others had climbed up from the banks to highway. Ram left the ones near the tree trunks and swam to help Satya. Fortunately for Satya, he could get hold of another tree and waited till Ram reached him. What happened was Satya was carrying lots of baggage and one of the tents had got loose. Satya tried to catch it and in the process lost his footing. The water flow did the rest. Even though he knew swimming he would have found it tough to control his body movements unless he caught that tree. I was only thankful that I wasn't the unlucky one. But to his credit, Satya kept his cool and his presence of mind helped him. And he laughed off the incident saying it is another addition to his long list of misadventures!

River crossing - everlasting memory

And now the wait started for our bus to arrive. With no mobile signal, we were in principle crippled. With nothing to do, we changed clothes right near the highway :D We no longer cared for what the world thought - we had had a life changing experience :P. We kept our bags and towels and shoes and socks near the highway for drying. And talked and talked. For a brief time we even considered hiring a vehicle. But patience paid and our bus finally arrived. Both the driver and Muthu displayed their own presence of mind - the driver, seeing that there was no tower at the agreed spot where the guide had said would meet, went to another spot where he could get signal. Muthu, for his part, brought with him bananas for temporary relief from hunger. I can vouch that those were the most tastiest bananas I ever had.

After lunch, we settled nicely for a nap. But the driver had more in store - he put an excellent video/audio quality movie : 3-idiots. What a timing. For one, we laughed throughout the movie, even though most of us had already seen it. For another, the theme of the movie advising to pursue our interests fit very well with our trek experience. A particular dialogue which resonated was the one related to fooling our hearts - what is difficult is only relative - I am used to around 3km walk everyday for office, however I was also able to do 18km trek on a day - just because I love it! Looking forward to more such treks ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tadiandamol trek and Chelavara falls : Feb 25-27, 2011

Its more than two months since the trek to Tadiandamol and I have been the bitter lazy self instead of sharing and immortalizing yet another unforgettable experience. I kept fooling myself that I will do it today and 'today' never materialized - until now that is. I forgot the most basic lesson that any trek teaches - 'It all begins with a single step'.


Chelavara Falls

For more photos, click here.

It was my first two-day (ad)venture with BMC and it was memorable every moment. Started on friday night - Feb 25, was supposed to reach Domlur bus stop by 10:15pm. 10:10pm at CMH road and not a bus in sight. I wasn't worried though, as in my experience, it was always a late start at pick-up points. My phone rang even as I was contemplating to take an auto. It was Ram, the guide for our trek. He said that the van had already arrived at Domlur and waiting for me. Thankfully the first auto-wala I asked was ready to ply the 2km distance. I wondered how could they have arrived earlier. As I reached the stop (must have been around 10:15pm) it became clear that the van had just arrived and trekkers were arranging bags in the dickey. Good ploy by the guide.

My bag was too bloated, but somehow fitted in the cramped space behind the driver. Ram called it as 'apartment' :D. As always, I found it difficult to sleep while traveling, which wasn't helped by the fact that we were getting to know each other and that I couldn't hide from bright light from oncoming vehicles. Also, Ram had to constantly talk to the driver to keep him awake. Around after 1AM, I woke from my disturbed sleep due to thirst. I kept myself busy with my favorite past-time of window-watching. And slept and awoke, the pattern never ending like an infinite loop. As we neared Kodagu (more commonly known as Coorg) district, fog showed up intermittently. Where there was no fog, it was pretty clear and I enjoyed the many stars I had perhaps not seen before. We went through so many twists and turns as we climbed up (lowest area is 900m above sea level in Kodagu district), I wondered how the driver and guide Ram remembered these (I could hardly see any sign boards). It was only when we were closing our homestay I realised from the talks that there was huge mix-up in finding the route.

However, we made it before 6AM. The house was typical of the district, with women in charge of the estate surrounded by coffee plantations. The various flowers in the house garden were a treat and subjected to intense clicking by us. We rested for awhile, freshened up, had breakfast, packed lunch and by 9AM, we were on our way to base camp. The picturesque landscape with tall trees and coffee plantations and view of western ghats throughout our route (5-6km I suppose) were a sight to behold. No one can forget them for years. We reached base camp at 9:35AM, which is the farthest spot van/bus can climb up. Stream of fresh water from waterfall flowed nearby. My excitement had no bounds as I geared up for my longest and tallest trek.

Tadiandamol - (broadest and tallest in Malayalam acc. to wiki) is the highest peak in Kodagu scaling to 1748m. As I pointed out earlier, the point from where we started itself must be 1000+m above sea level. But to reach the peak, its about 6-7km from the spot we started. We were lucky in two aspects - it had rained two days back making the area cooler and it didn't rain during our climb.

As is my wont, I clicked at everything and anything. The variety of flora awed me and I had to force myself to stop clicking and climb. Two liters of water, snacks and heavy bag slowed the pace. But that hardly mattered with such a beautiful setting for a trek. After about 5min climb, we came out of the tall trees and got first glimpse of surrounding peaks. To our right, the valley was thick with trees and misty cloud cover hung around the far mountain range. The path diverged here and we took the inner path (the outer one seemed to go down)

The path was wide enough for a Jeep to travel. And like other mountain roads, it went on the outer edge of mountain and spiraled about 3-4 times before the path became too narrow and climb became steep. On each of those circular path, one can enjoy the beauty of surrounding peaks and the trickling waterfall on the inside curve surrounded by trees. Variety of flower plants and trees adorned the entire stretch till we moved out of the circular path and began straight walk towards our destination.

What followed was a flat valley for a stretch of about 500-1000m. Near the end of this stretch, one could see thick tree vegetation below the Tandiandamol peak. An opening of free space was nearby beyond which the mountain ranges formed a formidable V-shape. On the other side was the path to climb towards our peak and to its left a thick grass and small sized plants leading to the last reachable spot of the waterfall stream. Some of us stopped for pics with the V-shaped ranges as back-drop, others took rest on big rocks around. While we were shooting pics, an army of atleast thousand bees alarmed us. Felt as if an helicopter was in vicinity. We all stooped to on our knees, thankfully bees didn't find a distraction and went ahead. By that time, our guide Ram and some had gone to the water stream. We had not noticed the path they had taken and at that time we didn't know about the stream. We had started along the clear-cut climbing path when we realised that the guide wasn't visible on the trail ahead. We stopped, asked everyone to stay close and started shouting Ram's name. After anxious minutes, we heard them reply and heaving a sigh of relief we started towards the stream.

The place around the stream was pretty cool and surrounded by tall trees. The water was cold, clean and sweet. Some filled their water bottles, rested on rocks and chatted for about 10 mins. It had taken close to 1:15min from our start point and there was no sign of tiredness. Perhaps because of the easy path and the fact that all along it had been pretty flat path. Also as we were more than a km above sea level, the heat wasn't a trouble. I had taken perhaps only 2-3 sips of water upto this point.

As we started our real climb, we could see clouds building up at the peak. Cloud's shadow were upon us and we braced ourselves for the difficult climb ahead. We could also see another group of trekkers far ahead of us, giving us an idea of the distance and the breadth of Tandiandamol. After about 10min, we came across the first real steep path which was full of light-green or brown grass intermittent with rocks. It was then we felt the pinch of heat and exhaustion. The key in such situation is to let our body acclimatize by not resting often. I was starting to feel difficulty in breathing but I went through the steep stretch until reaching a big rock to rest. I was thankful of having brought a 200ml fruit-drink. 

The trail continued to be barren with dead grass with few trees. But the steepness was gone. And there were thick tree cover on nearby mountains. After about another 10min, we reached the forest region. I was pretty excited as it was my first trek inside a forest. Well ofcourse, no animals could be seen, but seems elephants are spotted from time to time. It was humid inside and I got drenched with sweat. I can't remember when that had happened last to me. There had been rain 2 days back, but thankfully no leeches were there. We rested at a spot with tree trunks criss-crossing across the path and holding the soil. The sweat dried and with wind blowing lightly, it felt great. But the forest path lasted only for 15 min and we were back on the open. 

Clouds had fully hidden the sun and climbing felt pleasing than the expected accumulation of exhaustion. By now, we had caught with the other trekking group (who actually had taken wrong path leading to 30-45min extra climb). The path was barren again but thick trees were close-by. Now started the teasing peaks of Tadiandamol. We could see a steep peak, climbed it only to see another peak. This steep peak is a bit dangerous, what with the mud moist and soft. If it had rained (dark clouds were hovering), it would have been impossible to climb (atleast as I perceived it). But with every climb, we felt refreshing in the cool weather and our legs were ready for more action.

The view of the surrounding peaks was stunning, and I was very very glad to have made the trip. I also decided that I would come back to experience it all over again ;). As we climbed higher and looked back, the trail was clearly visible and the cloud shadows tricked our eyes to perceive as dark green trees. Finally, after 2hr 20min of climb, we reached the top. It was not even noon time, which meant we had climbed with good pace. 3 hours is the norm for casual trekkers :D. I actually wished there was more to climb to experience the sheer exhaustion of reaching the top, which clearly wasn't the case here.

Sun had completely disappeared with cloud and mist mingling and wind blowing steadily but not threatening. The mist cover is something I won't forget in a hurry. The open space around us looked all white while sunshine at far away mountains looking unreal. Sunshine did eventually break once in a while, but predominantly we were sitting inside the mist and cloud cover. We felt as if we could touch the dark clouds hanging around us. We rested, chatted and clicked pics at various angles and different poses trying to show the open space behind.

After about 15min, a dog showed up and we continued our shooting with it. At around 12:30pm, we went further to another corner of the peak from which we could see western ghats extending into Kerala. We met a 50+ aged English guy who likes trekking in India. He asked Ram about possible routes to reach Kerala from the peak. He is a core trekker and it seems he had climbed in 1hr 15min! 

We settled around to have our lunch. There was content in having food - perhaps the farmers and laborers feel that with every meal? Like in Rangaswamy betta, we fed the dog. Perhaps that dog was used to receiving from trekkers on most days? It was very calm and well behaved :D After lunch, we had more shooting sessions and rest. After about 40min, we started our descent. 

As with any descent, it is faster to trek down than the climb but at the same time tougher and fraught with danger. The moist and softened mud didn't help either. The little grass cover held the mud and we were able to descend fairly easily once we got into groove. For about 20-30 min, we trekked down non-stop covering most of the steep paths. We had a short break and again did 30min at a stretch. Looking back, we couldn't believe ourselves that we had climbed that far and come down. We took a long break this time, settling near the stream. There was sense of achievement amongst us.

It had been the longest trek for me, yet the exhaustion wasn't showing. Which was good as well. There was another hour of climbing down. We had split into many small groups as the trail was fairly simple to follow. But at one point, the path diverged. We took the path going down only to find it wasn't the one we took in the morning. As we trekked back to take the other route, we started feeling weariness and just wanted to reach base asap. It didn't help that the sun was shining majestically. 

Finally, after little more than 6 hours from start of trek, we reached back the base. We waited under cool shade of the tree for others behind to join us. I washed my face in the refreshing cool stream flowing beside us. And what's more, I was surprised to see that I had survived the entire trek on 1 liter of water + 200ml fruit juice (apart from food and snack ofcourse :D). I shared the remaining liter of water with others who were in need. 

We had told our driver to expect us back around after 5pm, but it was only 4pm when all of us had gathered. So we started another walk for about 2km. Walking on the steep road was more difficult than our entire trek. Some even started to walk backwards. I kept myself going by watching the coffee plantations and various kinds of flowers on both sides of the road. It took half an hour I think and we reached a bakery near Nalknad palace. Again we waited for everyone to gather as well as waiting for the driver who had been sleeping when we called. When he eventually reached, thoughts of winding up for the day had crept in only to find out that we were going to the palace!

Nalknad Palace is a brilliantly built structure around 1792 where the king sought refuge when in danger. The hideout room was pitch black. The building is in good shape even now. Some paintings inside were damaged, but overall one would definitely be awed at the brains which created the design.

After reaching the homestay, we were served tea/coffee and snacks. Needless to say we wanted it so badly. Some of us slept, while some had bath. We played dart and carrom and by then it was dinner time. We watched Pak-SL match and actually cheered Pak! We had to get up early the next day, but went ahead to watch till the end with intermittent sleep. I slept peacefully that night :)

Got up around 5am the next morning and enjoyed the morning chirps of birds. Dew had set all around and I took to another round of photo-shoot. One of the servant took us for a walk around the plantations and explained about the coffee plants and the other crops normally planted within the plantations like pepper, jackfruit, etc. A coffee plant normally lasts 100yrs! Its flower looks fit to be used in decorations. Again the various kinds of plants/grass were a treat for the eye. After the walk, we had Coorg special - steamed rice ball (named kadumbuttu, if google is right) for breakfast. Around 9:30am, we took leave and left for Chelavara falls. The stay was every bit pleasant and enjoyable.

As we left for the falls, I tried to recollect as much as I could of the previous day to cherish the memory forever. The tall trees and greenery will stay forever. But for the moment, I was excited about the falls. We had to walk only about 100-200m to reach the base of the waterfalls after getting down from the van. I had no intention of getting drenched fully and I rued not knowing swimming or that there was no life-jacket. 

But I wanted to simply stand in knee deep water and walk around. After sometime, when I wanted to climb back onto dry rock, I slipped. I knew the rock inside the water was slippery and I had actually taken care to climb, but I slipped. The dread hanging over me for past two days of when I would slip came true, but thankfully, there wasn't even a scratch. Only my trousers got wet. The rule was broken, I had to drench now.

The water was pretty cold even though it was around 10:30am. Even as I went chest deep, I found it difficult to breathe. I took two-three dips for the body to adjust before I went ahead. And I did so only on the assurance that I wouldn't go below water level and that people who knew swimming were guiding me from the other side. There were rocks just below the water gushing down which were a bit rough and not slippery. Anyone who doesn't know swimming can easily reach that spot and stand on the rocks without fear. And enjoy the full force of water falling on the heads. I was so glad that I had slipped :D. But only disappointment was that I had run out of memory in camera - I had taken 518 photos and 4 videos!!

And so, after wonderful one-and-a-half-days, it was time to leave. There was a sense of happiness of having visited this beautiful place but also disappointment that we were going back to normal life with its tensions. I decided I would come back for sure. Perhaps this year itself. On the way, we stopped at Virajpet for coffee purchase. I got some cookies too which were pretty good. It was too early for lunch, so we went ahead and stopped at the next town (I think Gonikoppal). Veggies among us had it in Kamath restaurant, which is pretty decent and not costly. On the roads, we could see people dressed in Coorgi tradition, which was nice to see.

Attempt to pass time by playing movie inside the van failed, so we stuck to music/sleeping/viewing-photos/cricket-score. On the way we passed Rajiv Gandhi national park and then caught the Mysore road towards Bangalore. By then we were discussing more on cricket as Sachin was nearing his 100. We stopped at a hotel to catch glimpse of match only to find no TV :D. Just as we were happy that traffic on Mysore road wasn't that bad on Sunday evening, we were stopped in between for a diversion. Seems some domestic fight led to violence and strike!! Any hopes of watching England 2nd innings were fading away fast. The diversion route (towards Kanapura, NH 209, soon got crowded and within the diversion route we took another diversion on suggestion of villagers. Now that seemed to turn ugly at a junction but ultimately proved to be our saviour. And the route was in itself good with various hills in vicinity. Some maniacs were even trying to overtake on the narrow road, and again somehow that did not lead to blockage. At a long curve, the parade of vehicles could easily have been shot and placed in a film. The strike must have ended, as we didn't face oncoming vehicles and soon we reached Bidadi. Now we faced another problem - how to cross the NH!! Thankfully there was a U-turn about a km ahead or we would seriously have gone mad. The light beam pointing to sky from Wonderla was visible and along with giant wheel, it surely is a great marketing gimmick. The road was virtually empty in our lane, but tragedy had stuck the opposite lane at a junction where a lorry was involved in an accident. The traffic behind must have stretched more than 2-3km! We thanked heavens that the accident wasn't on our side. After stretching our legs on a petrol pump, we waded through the bangalore traffic and I reached room to catch last 7-8 overs of the India-England clash. I was again thankful of the memories from Coorg and was able to accept the 'tie' verdict of the match.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Trek to Rangaswamy Betta - 19 Feb 2011

Am on good trekking form, Rangaswamy Betta this time. My 4th trek with BMC. I decided to do this trek just for the variety of easy trek and as preamble to Tadiandamol trek on Feb 26-27.

There were only 7, including the guide Satya for this trek. Chetan from previous Antaragange trek had also come. After having breakfast at Krishna Sagar and crossing city limits, we hit the NH 209 towards Kanakapura. The road was fantastic with trees on either side forming archway at certain places. Satya is very talkative and throughout the journey we discussed about our trek experiences. Which meant, I had very little opportunity for my customary window-watching.

Wonderful NH 209 with archways

To reach Rangaswamy betta, one has to take a left turn from NH 209 (don't remember a landmark). Throughout the 6km stretch, one can enjoy the brimming village life. The farms, the huts, broken red-brick walls, villagers working in veranda of their houses, their enthusiasm of watching vehicles go past them, etc etc. By 10am, we reached the base of Rangaswamy betta. As is my wont, I was clicking away at anything and everything around when Chetan brought my attention to some sort of growing on a tamarind tree. I clicked a snap and saw that spiders were moving around on that hairy growing on the tree. I presumed that spiders were hunting for food. Then Satya came and exclaimed he has seen nothing like it and asked me to take a video. It was then we realised that infact the hairy growing was perhaps a nest built by the spiders! At the base of the tree were like millions of spiders. When Satya went close to the nest, spiders moved as if to attack him!

The Spider nest

Satya then brought us into a huddle and gave a brief of our day's itinerary and some note points to follow. It was sunny, hot and I regretted the decision to have only 1 liter of water despite Satya's insistence on 2 liters. I was arrogant on the fact that I did Madhugiri trek in searing hot conditions with 2 liters and hence I should be able to manage with 1 liter here. After about 10 min walk, we started the climb. There's a clear cut path for almost the entire trek path. The path is a mix of black sand, tree trunks/roots and stones. Workers from the village were ahead of us. As I mentioned before, our talkative guide Satya kept us interested with his experiences and his memorable incidents. During one of those talks - related to Kumarparvatha, we were rooted to our spot for about 5 min of his narration. 

Lion King anyone?

The pattern repeated itself throughout the climb - some or the other topic was discussed, we stopped - for the discussion/photo-shoot and continued. It meant too frequent a stop, not suited for a climb through arid conditions. I wasn't panting initially, but was sweating profoundly. By halfway, it seemed all too easy - nothing challenging courtesy the clear cut path. Some enthusiasts had even finished the climb and were returning. Satya stuck a conversation with them too! And so we stopped again for him to join us.

By now, we started feeling difficulty in climbing. So, our resting became even more frequent. Discussion had now moved to Cobras and Vipers and Black Mambas. As we neared the top, we met more trekkers returning. An old-aged worker caught up with us, and on seeing us resting said that the peak was just around the corner. And he kept climbing with ease.

To our frustration, lots of ice-cream covers showed up. The last part of the climb was like - trek 1 min and stop 2 mins! I was panting and puffing and not wanting to climb. But I did finish it and on reaching the flat peak, my relief knew no bounds. Cool breeze was flowing and the view from top is just awesome. Hills all around and farming fields of villages at the base could be seen. Also visible was a long trench on the work at the base. A dog followed us for a while. There were painted rocks (mainly of elephants) besides the Rangaswamy temple. We settled on a large rock sheltered with a mango tree's shadow nearby the temple.

Peak. The temple is on the other side of this rock

Luckily, got the macro-shot right ;)

It was around quarter to 1pm. I was yet again with my camera clicking away the flowers and hills on the horizon. As I turned to the group relaxing on the rocks, I saw that people from the temple were distributing 'prasadam'. It was a mix of rice, coconut, banana and jaggery. One of the best I have had and the exhaustion only added to its taste. Having to eat the oily masala dosa after the prasadam was more of a pain. Satya liked the prasadam so much that he didn't have his pulav, keeping it to give to some laborer. But, they were the ones giving us prasadam and later pongal too which only Satya and Chetan had. And the old-aged worker was kind enough to fill a water bottle - twice.

 Our resting spot, the old-aged worker in the background

We relaxed for about an hour. To me, the amount of discussion among 7 of us was surprising, perhaps Satya's talkative behavior seeped into us as well ;). Around after 2pm, we took a walk around the temple. There are couple of nice spots for the camera enthusiasts to take pictures of the valley below and hills around. Clouds were dotting the sky and their shadow mixed with trees in the valley betrayed the eyes to be a chunk of dense forest. Only after few minutes of deliberation did we realise it was cloud shadow.

 Cloud shadow

There is road connectivity from other side (relative to the trek path) and hence the peak is self sufficient with amenities like water. When we were leaving, some sort of ceremony was going on outside the temple. And at the far end of the peak, some were cooking meat. We met another group of trekker there! There's a small pond too with green water and plenty of frogs. The view from this 'edge' is stunning. I could spot atleast three big water bodies around.

Burger anyone?

The faithful

Around 3pm we started our descent. The dog magically appeared in front of us and started following again! We thought it would leave us around the trek path, but no. It followed us all the way to the base. The descent was a bit tricky and we had to climb down sideways. But once we got used to it, we kept going at a good pace. We stopped after about 20-30 mins and by now we were sure the dog would come with us to the base. Was it following us or leading us will remain a question. When we stopped and having water, we thought the dog might need water too. Now the problem was how to feed it! Chetan tried to pour directly which the dog shooed away. We saw a rock with some capacity to hold water and poured there. The precious water just flowed off and the dog did not even make a move for a sip. Satya had got his benefactor for the pulav but decided to give it to the dog only after reaching the base. At some point after, the dog ran off and came back with its back drenched in green-pond water. So much for our concern.

We reached the base in less than an hour. I was fully exhausted, wanting no more than to rest peacefully. And zillion liters of water. I finished my last drops just before the base and had to borrow two sips from the others. Pretty embarrassing. And a lesson learnt. We had about 10 min break, having snacks and water. Satya, as promised, opened his pulav and kept it for the dog which was gobbled up in less than a 1 min I think! We also gave the dog a biscuit as dessert ;)

The dog still didn't leave us and came upto the car as well. After some tamarind hunt and group photo, we left for Bangalore around 4:30pm. The faithful animal ran behind the car as well. The memory of the dog running seen through the window glass adds to my ever increasing unforgettable experiences on treks :)

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