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 :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

India Aus warm-up match Feb 13, 2011

After countless refusals, my friends convinced me for a WC match. The swaying point for me was India-Australia and warm-up match. And perhaps a chance to see Sachin from close quarters - hence the Rs 500 ticket (plus Rs 66 in tax) in D stand rather than Rs 250 (plus tax) in 2nd tier stands.

The match being a day-nighter starting at 2:30pm, I didn't have to worry about my friends getting up early in morning. But inevitably, plans of going early went awry. Eating 'heavy' lunch had to be canceled and instead me and Thiru cooked mixed-vegetable-rice (Anyone wanting the recipe can contact me or Thiru - absolutely free :D) Poor Yokesh, tired from roaming on Saturday and Sunday morning as well, had to gobble it :D

Around 1:20PM, we left for the match and any last minute chance of buying chart dispelled as the only nearby stationery shop was closed. Fortunately, the very first autowala was ready to come at meter-charge! Nearing the stadium on MG road, we could see crowd pouring in through various gates. Must have to applaud traffic management for not allowing too much jam and by 1:40PM we had reached gate no. 5. To our overwhelming surprise, there was NO QUEUE!! Going through the security was 5-min and by 1:46PM, we had 7 seats secured and I had taken my first photo.

Clear blue sky 

Reaching well before toss was the only consolation, as Team India were practicing on the other side :( (In 2008, when I had gone for India-Australia test match, Team India were practicing on our side of the ground). We could make out Ashish Nehra and Sreesanth bowling and there was huge cheer when the Indian captain arrived in blue jersey. MS Dhoni miraculously won the toss (and predictably chose to bat) but the big news was that Sachin had minor niggle and rested. By 2:20PM, our juniors had also arrived. A local band played before the start of match. The big screen was thankfully functional and the loud-speakers were well placed (but hard to make out what was said, thanks to 35K+ crowd)

The crowd were momentarily silent as it dawned upon them that Sachin wasn't going to play, but immediately started cheering as Brett Lee came steaming in to bowl at Gautam Gambhir. Despite maiden over, we cheered and let out oohs and aahs. Brett Lee's run-up was just awesome. When the over ended, it was like did we wasted our time and money for this? But it was Sehwag to be on strike now and everyone started chanting Sehwaaaaaag Shewag followed by clap-clap-clap. And when Bollinger's first ball full-toss was dispatched disdainfully, the crowd went delirious. We were sitting in the cover area (mid-wicket from other end) and expecting Sehwag's booming cover drive which never came our way.

Gambhir fell early and by 4-5 overs, the cheering was down to the odd boundaries by Kohli and Sehwag. The 7 of us were making too much of cheering that the viewers behind us couldn't see the play on field properly. We didn't stop our dramatic cheering much though and they permanently left the seats :D. Kohli and Sehwag put on semblance of a good partnership to keep us going but once Kohli and Yuvi were out, it quickly became a bore, what with MSD coming to crease. Around 14th over, I asked Srini and his friends to check out what the catering services were and to bring water. He came back empty handed and before I could reprimand him, he explained that nothing can be brought inside. What an idea Sirji! Reduces litter and potential throwing of bottles onto the ground! So, me, Thiru and Yokesh went (as it was only Dhoni batting). Prices and food items were reasonable whereas bottled water free and overall lot cleaner than my previous visit. And there's verification of ticket to get back in!

After we came back, our frustrations grew as Dhoni dragged onto his stumps (after a change of bat :D). Sehwag's sixer to reach his fifty brought crowd onto their feet again, but very next ball Sehwag got out draining our hopes. Raina and Yusuf were on crease now (the ground announcer kept saying new batsman comes into 'attack' :D) We were hoping that these two can drag on to atleast 40 overs to get to a respectable score. To bring some excitement, we started "We want Sachin" chant and very next ball Raina was out!

I kept reminding my friends about the 2008 test match against Aus where India had lost quick wickets and Bhajji and Zaheer played good knocks. Bhajji came and immediately dispatched Brett Lee for a four. But yet again, our hopes were dashed as Brett Lee's fiery ball knocked Bhajji's middle stumps. Piyush Chawla  was next and I said that he is not bad as a batsmen. He was out for a duck :D (After previous wickets, I had said that atleast no duck so far :-/ ) I repeated the same for Ashwin saying he has scored 100 in Ranjis, and this time I got lucky :P With each run, crowd cheered up and our hopes for 175+ score grew. Yusuf Pathan showed great restraint against the pacers. When Bollinger came back into the attack and threw the ball back at Ashwin, the crowd got all worked up and roared. Few viewers to our left had chart. They made a loud-speaker kinda shape out of them and started boo-ing (which continued intermittently till end of the match, inspite of police patrol very near them)

As partnership grew, we wondered why hasn't batting power play been taken. Then as David Hussey came on to bowl the 39th over, Yusuf Pathan cut loose. 2 sixes and the stadium roof was threatening to fall off. 2 consecutive wides were cheered raucously, but when Yusuf fell next ball trying for another six, the silence was deafening. And the next over, batting power play was taken with Ashwin and Viv Richards incarnation Ashish Nehra on crease. But Nehra must have somehow known our distaste - he hit a clean cut shot befit of top order batsmen and soon the partnership got India past 200, which at one stage looked improbable. During the 39th over, the big screen showed 38.9 overs!

Arun had gone for refreshments and came back with hardly believable news that Bisibellabath+curd rice were being served free. Someone explained that D-stand had a tradition (or was it because the ticket was 500+?) for serving free food. So, except me and Srini went to have it to avoid rush at innings break. Nehra hit two more fours and Srini wondered if we would end up batting all 50 overs. I said Nehra would try a sixer and get out which soon proved true.

After the innings ended, Tait came to practice. He initially took just two steps and bowled, which looked liked 140+ :D Soon he was in full flow, sending down balls with fiery pace. Srini and me then went to see if could get a bite or two. There was huge bottleneck at the doorway, with people going in both directions. When we finally got in, there was probably 1% chance of getting a plate and rice. So we got lays and a plate of watermelon, which actually filled our needs for the moment. Again, I liked that the workers actively cleared out used plates.

The lights had fully bathed the stadium as we went back. The sky looked grayish as if covered with rain-clouds. But in truth, not a single cloud hovered. The gentle breeze was cold enough for people to put on jerkins and sweaters. But we hadn't brought and kept ourselves warm by being active all the time. The local band assembled again just before the Australian innings start. They had done well with their beats and dance throughout Indian innings and did a brief one on the ground.

The local band

Soon the Aussies innings started with Dennis Lillee incarnation Ashish Nehra to start the proceedings. Shane Watson promptly dispatched the first ball straight down the ground, hardly breaking a sweat. I clapped, not mocking Nehra, but enjoying Watson's batting B-). Sreesanth started from the other end and surprisingly bowled well first few balls. So out came the Sreesanth chant all around the stadium and Tim Paine promptly hit a four. That put an end to our cheering for a while. After 3.1 overs, both Watson and Paine had identical score of 9* and we had a laugh at it. Munaf Patel replaced Nehra after two overs, only to leak more than him. I guess thats when people starting leaving or started contemplating leaving early.

Sreesanth bowled pretty well, but gave away the odd boundary as soon as we started cheering for him. Then the miracle happened - Sreesanth got Watson's wicket, that too Piyush Chawla holding onto a good catch. Though we thought there's not even a remote chance for an Indian win, we cheered so loudly that Ricky Ponting coming onto bat must have wondered if India was on the verge of world cup final win. Ponting was obviously boo-ed to the crease (unlike the TOI reporter from corporate box within closed wall reporting that there was no boo-ing). We said to ourselves that, if even one ball hits Ponting on the pull, it would be worth our ticket cost. When Sreesanth returned to his fielding position, he was more willing to respond to the crowd's call, as well as punching his fists in the air.

But Ponting and Paine set out to kill any tiny bit of expectations after Ponting got lucky start with edges missing the fielders in Ashwin's first over. We started discussing when to leave and resorted to seeing how run-rate was dropping, making fun of Ponting and laughing at a peculiarly odd sound made by the loud-speaker-charts. We targeted a particular cameraman looking like an Aussie with Merv Hughes like mustache. All seven of us pointed our mobile phones at various angles and clicked (or simply made action of clicking) whenever he seemed to point his camera in our direction.

The aussie looking cameraman whom we mocked

After a while, Yokesh and me started discussing on how effective Yuvraj was and he got a wicket as his is won't these days. But what was astounding was the one-handed running catch by Munaf Patel. Perhaps Aussie players went into a shock state seeing that catch? :D The crowd let out a loud cheering for the wicket, but by that time some had started leaving. The Pup and his master were on crease now.

Chawla picked up Clarke next over for a duck, but 120/3 and 95 to get from 27 overs hardly looked a case for Indian win. We thought we'll leave after 25 overs. Thiru said 30 overs. And Chawla then produced his magic - White and Hussey dismissed in consecutive deliveries. Crowd were well and truly onto their feet now, creating ear piercing decibels. Mexican waves started doing rounds (very very nice seeing the raising of hands passing from one stand to the other), I think there were 1-2 rounds in the Indian innings. Every ball was cheered and we were egging on with chants of "India Jeethega" And when Chawla dismissed Ferguson, the match had become irresistible to miss anymore. Somewhere between the wicket carnage, I was so confident of Australian win that I gave my word to Thiru to pay his ticket cost if India won. (See, ultimately, this bet on my part only won the match for India :D) And sometime during this carnage, the police doing rounds found viewers in front of us using camera and confiscated the batteries (perhaps for their use or to sell it :-/ )

Our expectations had grown out of bounds, so when wicket didn't fall for 3+ overs with Johnson looking confident to give company for Ponting, thoughts again crept to leave the stadium. Around 55 was required with Lee and Hastings to come. It was 35th over, and I said that we are definitely leaving after this over. But Bhajji ensured that we would not leave without witnessing an Indian win by stumping his bunny Ponting. The celebration for Ponting's dismissal must have lasted around 5 minutes (including the 3rd umpire referral). Johnson's big hit seemed to threaten a comeback for Aussies, but Bhajji effectively sealed the deal for India next over with two wickets. In Ashwin's last over, so much was happening so quickly that I failed to get a look at the final wicket, but who cared. The outbreak of victory with hi-fives all around will always stay in mind.

Some events which am not able to place in chronological order:
  • Zaheer going across and coming back was cheered throughout, he acknowledged for a while too.
  • Justin Langer moving around, but not turning around for our calls x-( :P
  • During the initial stage of the Indian innings, a lady in front row just stood like a pillar! After several calls did she relent and sat down.
  • Throughout the match, one of the cameraman came very near to the barricade to show people sitting/standing there onto the big screen. As he used the camera below the barricade height and horizontally, we had no chance of coming onto the screen. We thought of going near the barricade just for the camera, but never did.
  • One of my junior had brought head phones (of Nokia mobile), the security didn't allow them inside, took it from them and asked to collect after the match. Both the security and head phones were missing after the match. The place where the security had collected them had batteries and other stuff thrown around. Advice: Don't take anything other than wallet and mobile to the stadium
One of the best experiences to date for me (am I using such words too often these days? blame it on  cramped busy life :D) The way we shattered invisible wall of restriction around us by dancing, cheering, boo-ing, mocking, shouting our throats sore(it still is sore) and what not. Felt like true freedom. And yes, an Indian win - icing on the cake :)

Arun's blogpost on this match can be read here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Awesome Antaragange caves - Jan 26, 2011

After my last trek to Makalidurga, MS classes and other things kept me away from treks. So, as my sem exams approached, I started planning for trek. Jan 26 was the first holiday available and BMC had a trek to Antaragange on that very day. Being Wednesday, I knew some of my friends would be available and I was pretty much desperate from 1st week of Jan for the trek. After all, Antaragange was my first trek and the place where I found my love for trek.

Initially, I had 5 of my friends convinced for the trek with possibility of further additions, but finally came down to just two - my room-mate Prakash and colleague Thiru. Still, better than none in my previous two treks. But come Jan 25 evening, I wasn't much excited about it. Partly because of the exhausting and physically draining open book test I had given on Sunday. Or perhaps my longing for so long quenched the thirst. I went through the previous trek on my blog to get a feel, but was more like a chore. My room-mate's enthusiasm was a welcome relief and I started feeling better.

Woke up at around 5:35am (what will we do without alarms :-/) and got to the bus stop around 7am (Me and my room-mate were the only ones in the BMTC bus from cmh road to Domlur, talk about freedom on Republic day ;) ). While we were waiting for the BMC cab to arrive, 4 trekking enthusiasts arrived on the opposite side of the bus stop. I knew most likely they were coming with us, but I thought let the cab arrive before letting them know the right direction. My bad luck, the cab arrived shortly in the direction they were standing! The cab was late and had not yet picked others from Life-style stop on Magrath road. But since, all 7 of us had already arrived, we saved the round-about trip via Domlur.

By the time we picked up all of them, traffic had built-up steadily and took a while to escape city limits. Me and Thiru tried to recall landmarks from our previous visit, along with prepping Prakash up. The one thing that me and Thiru agreed upon fully was the road widening work still going on (from Aug 2008! ). But I wasn't yet looking forward with eagerness of previous treks. The prospect of possible rain (as it was cloudy) assured me that everything was right - there was rain all 3 times I trekked before. When the hillocks became visible, I picked the tallest one and told Prakash that we are gonna climb it. Thiru understood my pun and joined in casually. We drew nearer to the hillock so close that Prakash must have started thinking about how we were to climb it :D

Around 9AM, we reached the Sagar hotel to have breakfast - the same one we had in 2008, with perhaps few more letters of the hotel's sign board missing. The 3 of us conversed with Arjun - the guide for the trek, he is a final year student but looked more like a 25 year old working professional! Antaragange is his speciality, which was evident during the trek.

We reached Antaragange around 10AM and after brief intro, we started our climb via the steps (I was disappointed a bit that we were not going via the other path). The most visible change from last time were the increased eateries at the base. And no. of monkeys. We climbed the steps leading to temple at good pace dodging the attacks from monkeys (a particularly vicious monkey scared the hell out of two kids, God knows how long they cried). 

We had a brief stop watching the kids bathing in green pond below the perennial water source from rocks near the temple. It seemed all so very familiar, as if I had come there just a week before. The weather was perfect for climb - cloudy and little windy. As usual, I frequently troubled my camera (magically still working after the drop at Makalidurga) often so much so that the count was 224 pics by end of day! (800Mb). The trek felt pretty much like walk in the park and I was drawn rather to blooming cacti than enjoying the trek. 

We reached a fairly large monolithic rock and stopped. I couldn't recall that place from previous visit. There were large boulders few paces in front, some of us went to click pics and came back to ask Arjun (our guide) if there's a way through it. Thats when he said it is the cave entrance and we were to go through it! What followed is a 3 hour experience I will forever cherish.

I am sure I won't be able to describe how we passed through the narrow, irregular, low, dark and tricky and put-your-own-adjective pathways. I will however strive to do so with pics! After all a picture is worth 1000 words ;)

Click on the images for larger view

Cave entrance

Thiru is obviously enjoying ;)

Prakash too!

Am too tall :(

Pretty 'cool' place

Notice the use of torch - it was very dark

Around 12pm we reached the lunch spot

A pleasant rest in ac like weather (which is conspicuously missing in Bangalore these days). My friend Kathik called me (Airtel, good tower strength even inside caves :D) and asked where I was. I said 'inside a cave'. He was trekking at Kodachadri and stuck somewhere. He asked me how to proceed, but to his dismay I had to reply I had not trekked there yet :D He and his friends did eventually find their way and had a great experience. Now am wishing for a trek to Kodachadri :-/

After lunch and rest, we climbed atop the cave
Clouds had thinned out Sun's warmth was pleasant

Can you spot a group climbing? It looked pretty
dangerous to us

Time to go

Out of the cave - relief! But Arjun wooed
few of us to go through that gap!

Here's how they went!

We were out of the caves and had good rest. But it was only 2pm yet. In Arjun's experience so far in guiding here, it was one of the quickest. As we had enough time left, I suggested to visit the fields to which everyone agreed! It was around 20min climb. It's a pretty flat space with land used for agriculture. There is even road connectivity beyond the fields as well as power lines.

Around 2:30pm, we started our long climb down with blazing hot Sun hovering over us. Surprisingly, we reached the temple within 30mins in one stretch. My legs were badly aching for fairly short-trek and I wondered how would I do Madhugiri trek again! After watching more monkey mania, we were on our way to Bangalore. Stopping at Sagar hotel again, we had snacks which were very tasty, thanks to our exhaustion.

Alternating between sleep and watching through window, I noticed a two-line rhyming 'sentences' written on a Lorry:
गाड़ी चलती है तो उड़ती है धूल
दुश्मन जलते हैं तो खिलते हैं फूल!

So, yet again a wonderful and memorable trek. Hoping for more in the coming days. And probably it will be Kodagu next ;)

A note of caution: Please do not attempt these caves unless there is someone well versed with the cave routes - it is very tricky and full of dead ends.

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