Rock-Climbing at Savanadurga

7-8 February 2015

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For the accomplishment of any task, you first have to start. This adventure of ours was a great example for how things fall into place once you get going. I called upon the usual team- Veer and Sid, the MVIT guys, Sandeep and Amar too this time. My college mates Kishore, Kiran, Srinivas, Mrityunjay and Pramod agreed readily. As it turned out MVIT guys were busy with Hockey Tournament so I had to go ahead and plan the trek without them. I had looked up for possible trekking getaways and Savanadurga seemed a good destination and Savanadurga it was.

The plan was simple. We had to catch the 1:20 pm BMTC bus to Savanadurga from KR Market. It was the easiest and the quickest way there was given our budget. The USP of all these treks we did was that the expenditure per person would usually be within Rs.300. Accordingly I instructed all my team members to be present at KR Market by 1:00 pm. Things do not always go according to the plan. The best of the plans fail and simple ones succeed! It turned out that Kiran was being held up at his lab as his instructor wouldn’t allow him. The whole morning I had been busy trying ensure everything like picking up our camping equipment and calling up the other members to check their status. So I quickly wrote a letter to his HOD, Kishore and Mrityunjaya got it signed and he was set free! It was too late though. We would never make it in time for the bus and the next trip wouldn’t be until after another few hours. I took a leap of faith and hoped that things may just fall into place once we got moving and wasn’t I right?

We boarded the first bus that came in and guess what? Veer and Sid were in the same old rusty bus! They had been running late too. Meanwhile Sandeep and Amar call me up inquiring as to why we hadn’t turned up. I calm them down and gave them a big shopping list (not very big) to keep them busy. We reached KR Market by 2:00 pm. I introduced my college mates to my Sainik School buddies. I apologized to the punctual duo on everyone’s behalf. Together we made our way to Kalasipalyam bus stand where we could board a bus. As it turned out we were just in time to board a bus to Magdi and Savanadurga is not very far from there. The journey was long and I dozed off for most part of it. After all, bus journeys do make me feel like I’m in a cradle. By the time I woke up the scenes had changed from dusty tall buildings of cement to pleasant greenery of nature with the backdrop of hills. The conductor was from my place and he stuck a chat with us. He put us down at Magdi and I thanked him.

The ride from Magdi to Savanadurga was awesome. The whole team, the ten of us made ourselves comfortable in a single auto! It was exciting as we could witness the nature’s bounty all around us. The road was dusty but we were in Savanadurga even before we knew it. The driver dropped us off in front of Veerabhadra Swami temple. It was ancient and to our misery was closed. So we started along to find the trail. The team was hungry. Of course we all were because we hadn’t yet had our lunch. I and Veer arranged for a tiffin of ‘Tatte Idly’ from a local place for everyone. We savored every bit of it. After the meal I borrowed some utensils from the hotel as we had to cook our dinner at night.

Savanadurga is considered to be among the largest monolith hills in Asia. The hill rises to 1226 m above mean sea level and forms a part of the Deccan Plateau. Savanadurga is formed by two hills known locally as Karigudda (black hill) and Biligudda (white hill). The earliest record of the name of the hill is from 1340 AD by Hoysala Ballala III from Madabalu where it is called Savandi. Savandurga provides for some top class serious slab climbing routes in the world. There are a dozen routes, bolted or otherwise on the south face of the monolith. These range anywhere from 700 to 950 feet of technical climbs, providing sport, trad or a trad-sport mix. We were to climb the usual route which was clearly marked. The trail started off like a jungle track but soon we were facing a gigantic rocky hill. Lucky we for starting when we did or we would be baked to black in the scorching sun.

The climb was steep. The hill was littered with tourists all over. I spotted a few photographers here and there. We made our way up carefully. Every now and then photography sessions would start and I had to keep pushing everyone to get moving fast for we would be losing light in a hour or so. As usual Siddu was a great company. Who didn’t love the cat fights of Veer and Sid with my guest appearances? It was amazing. Pramod and company were too busy taking selfies every now and then. Sandeep and Amar were climbing well. In fact they were keeping up with me. Any normal day at Sainik School, they would have put me behind in a few minutes but like most of us, they had put on some weight too! Between me leading and Veer sweeping, we made good progress. The views of the valley below were amazing. The nature was rich in flora and fauna.

The climb only got steeper at each stage. But that did not deter our spirits. In fact it made us more enthusiastic. Several stops were called for to rest and chocolate bars consumed to keep the energy levels up. The latter part of the climb was memorable for we had the company of 4 dogs. They seemed to be following us in hopes of food.

The top of the hill was partially covered with grass and trees. Two ‘mantapas’ stood strong against all odds. They seemed to be centuries old. Kishore and Srinivas stayed behind while the rest went about exploring. We still hadn’t reached the peak of the hill. That was not a very favorable place to camp so we decided to camp in one of the mantapas. The path to the peak twisted and trailed. It was adventurous and I was disappointed when it ended after an awe-inspiring walk that included a cave! The peak was home to ‘Nandi’ temple. It was facing due south. Looking below, a chill ran across my spine. It was a sight to behold. Everyone got busy clicking photos and I had to remind them that the light was fading. Soon we made our way back to the campsite.

I assigned tasks to everyone. Veer and Sandeep were tasked with collecting firewood, Pramod with the task of getting the stove ready while the rest were involved in pitching tents. Soon the campsite was a sight to behold. We had outperformed ourselves and kudos to all the teamwork! Now it was time to get the fire going and cook a delicious and tasty meal. It took us almost half an hour and some teary eyes to realize that the wood stove we had rented was no good. So we switched to cooking the old-fashioned way.  While the rest of the team were busy cooking, me and Veer decided to watch the tents.

The dinner was mind-blowing. It was plain noodles all right but after all the climbing and mind-numbing cold, it was heaven. After the dinner everyone quietly sneaked into the tents as we had 2 tents capable of housing 4 each. Five of us easily fit in the Quechua T3+ while another four in the other tent. I had to sleep near the door of Quechua T3+. It was actually between the entrance and the windbreaker of the tent but I was more than comfortable thanks to my mat and sleeping bag! At around mid-night when all were fast asleep I hear Sid searching for something desperately. Apparently the guy was sleeping in his shorts and cold was too much to bear! That apart the night was beautiful. The sky was full of stars and moon shone bright too.

The whole team was up and about in time to witness a beautiful sunrise. The sun as it made its way up the horizon through the white clouds was an enchanting sight. Soon everyone was busy getting their photos clicked. After a photo-frenzy of 30 minutes, we were back to our senses. We  had a light breakfast of bread and jam. I reminded everyone that we had to pack up all our stuff, reach the peak and then start our descent. This time we were all atop the peak and what a sight it was!

The distant calls of birds echoing through the valley, the serenity of the blue sky filled by a sudden glow, the silver strokes of the water body meandering the forest below and the entire range of hills glittering gold in the dawn light, filled my soul with joy.

Like the famous mountaineer and adventurer- Ed Viesturs put it,

         “Climbing to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory”

After taking in all the possible views we started our descent. It was pretty easy and quick. The same route back. However climbing down the steep hill was easier said than done. Most of the times we would lose control and overshoot. I had to warn everyone to slow down. Otherwise it was all right. We also witnessed some daredevilry from hardcore rock-climbers who were making their way up a different and steeper route than the one we had taken.

Once down, I ordered fresh cucumbers to eat so that we could stay hydrated. We were right on time for the BMTC bus that would take us back directly to Bangalore. The journey back was memorable for the fact that we were the only ones for most part of the journey. On reaching Majestic, we had to part ways. I bid adieu to my Ajeet friends and boarded the bus back to Bagalur cross. We were in college by 12:30 pm on Sunday. On our arrival, we faced the wrath of our warden for the next half an hour because we had not informed him before leaving for the trek. We apologized quickly, after all we were in a hurry to have our lunch!

This outing with my friends was as memorable as any trek I have ever done. Although it initially seemed like a lot could go wrong, things just fell into place and we had one hell of a time. All thanks to the support and co-ordination from everyone, without which I wouldn’t have been able to organize the trek. In the end, moments like these are the ones cherished and talked about from a million others cause these we enjoyed them together!

                                                                                                                            – Sameer Desai                                  

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Trekking and Camping at Skandagiri

[ November 2014 ]

                         No matter how many movies you watch or games you play, you always want to be a part of action. It’s a craving. It’s a mystery that cannot be solved. Life is a mysterious journey loaded with ups and downs and it’s on us to choose what defines us. It had been months and I wanted to go trekking and camp for the night too. My buddies Kishore, Mrityunjay and Kiran were all aboard with my plan to buy a tent. It was the time of our internals and M3 was scheduled the next day. But we crazies were browsing online for tents! Anyhow we had our tent in days and even practiced pitching it.

It was the dawn of winter, the month of November. The cold was already making its presence felt. We boarded the local train from YNK to CBP. By 10:30 we were in the city of Chikballapur. My SJCIT friends were game as usual, despite the fact that they had their internals going on! Veer, Mahesh and Sid were these heroes. Every time I plan a trek these guys support and co-ordinate so well that the weight I’m carrying somehow feels lighter. They joined us at the city bus stand. We did not know our way to the base of the hill so we hired an auto to take us.

Standing at the base of hill, staring up towards our destination, we kind of felt thrilled. The way I saw it we had two choices: To take the usual trail up or to explore the road not taken. But by general consensus it was decided that the usual trail would be better as we had several first timers like Kishore and Srinivas. We didn’t have a complete picture of the hill until we had covered two kilometres at least. We rested under what looked like a stone eroded through time. Sitting there looking all around I realized that the beauty of nature lies in the fact that it is serene, so powerful. The very sight fills our hearts with joy. A sudden wave of shame and disgust swept through me as I thought of all the various ways we were destroying her inch by inch. We are SELFISH indeed.

The ascend was fantastic, Veer leading and Mrityunjaya sweeping. We made our way up rapidly, taking stops as and when I decided. Sid was a complete entertainer. He kept the group alive by throwing a mix of weird humor and slangs. My friend from NMIT were getting along nice with our local boys. The beauty of these treks is that we can start as complete strangers but by the time you leave you know so much about each other that you hate to part ways!

The trail was around 5kms long spanning the body of the hill. The vegetation was getting greener, different plants and trees emerged as we got closer to the peak. The hill was used as a vantage point sometime in the last few centuries and it was dotted with all these ruins of once majestic forts and guard outposts. The last few meters were not so easy and Srinivas’ backpack gave in. So we had to quickly fix that up and got moving.

The peak was defined by a flag post that had the national and state flags over it. Several members let out a sigh of relief right then. More like a plateau I thought, as looked all around. The right portion was covered in thick vegetation while the rest was just boulders. There was a large cavity in the far right, that sort of looked like a perfect home for lions and tigers! It was a kind of place we only had seen in Nat Geo. The temple of Shiva in the center left was monumental. There was even a ‘mantapam’ in ruins at the back. Its outer rooms were being used by a couple of guys for storing firewood and stuff. My friends were overjoyed to see the bundles of firewood that lay stacked so beautifully. I had to tell them that we had to purchase it and it was not free!

Soon we were all exploring, taking photos and posing. When exhaustion kicked in we all brought ourselves back to the middle-ground. Oranges, bananas and bread were soon filling up all our stomachs. It was a satisfying meal. The oranges really rejuvenated us. Now it was time to look for a probable camp site. I and Veer found a place that was completely on the far side of the peak. It was actually on the other side of fort. The place was isolated, clean and we had solid ground. The only underside was that the spot was open to winds, breezes and it could get really cold at night.

Unfortunately for us, our SJCIT friends had to bid adieu, courtesy the exams. It wouldn’t have been possible for them to spend a full night and the day next. So they left us after some memorable moments. Once they left, we ‘campers’ got to work. We cleaned up the camping area, plucking weeds and clearing the ground. Srinivas and Kishore cleaned up good under Pramod’s guidance. Pramod was sort of experienced in these grueling tasks working at his farm. Then we pitched the tent nice and proper, set up a nice fireplace to cook and keep us warm at the same time.

By 6:00 we were already beginning to feel the cold. The light was going away for the night. We sat around to make our meal. Pramod got the fire going and Kishore was cutting the vegetables while I was setting up the place for night watch. Together we cooked a meal that we can never forget for two reasons. Firstly, it was an awesome experience and second, the meal was delicious! We gobbled up all that was there. For the next few hours we sang and shared our experiences. We shared our wishes, our future plans. Pramod and Srinivas took the first watch, so we all slipped into dreamland.

I was damn sure I hadn’t slept for even a few minutes when I was woken up for my turn. Well it always feels that way because we were tired I supposed. The next two hours on my watch we spent tending the fire and minimizing the wood as were running low. It was dawn soon and were all up. Rise and shine! We packed up our stuff, after all we had a sunrise to catch!

I was dumbstruck when I made my way back up the peak. I might not have mentioned the fact that that there were hardly anyone the previous noon. Right then I could count at least a hundred faces! They had all camped right there. Some had just made their way up trekking all night. Several fires were doused and smoke still hung in the air. We literally had to squeeze through everywhere. I was happy we had decided to camp out there else we wouldn’t have had such an out-of-the-world experience!

We had missed the sunrise. We still took some photos, enjoyed the breathtaking views and the beautifully patterned sky and started for the descent. The descent was easy. Pramod was leading while Mrityunjay was sweeping. It took us an hour of slipping and walking before we reached the base. It was fun. I asked the team to rest for a while and told them we were to go on foot to the city and no auto this time. Initially reluctant, (Kishore especially) they agreed to walk. It should have taken us an hour of walk filled with talks and made pleasurable by the melodious calls of the birds. The countryside was too beautiful and I was reminiscing my days at Kukanoor. I spent a decade, the better part of my childhood in that little town and it was the best. I just couldn’t help but think of giving the same opportunity to my future generations to spend their childhood in the countryside.

All thoughts aside, we reached Chikballapur, boarded KSRTC bus and left for college. By 10:15 we were in college and lucky too for we were just in time for hot ‘Paranthas’ the mess sereved as breakfast on Sundays. Well I enjoyed this one especially the camping part and it wouldn’t have been so wonderful if not for this great team. Hope we brace ourselves for more adventures in our life.

After all, “The beauty of life is in the fact that you only get to live it once!”

-Sameer Desai

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One-day Trek to Makalidurga

[August 2014]

The vacations were over. Two months of vacation without friends is a very bad idea. I spent most of my time hooked on to my newly acquired laptop, watching movies and TV shows. At least the mornings and evenings had been productive. I would go birding with my father. That was something to look forward to each day but otherwise my days were plain useless. I even went trekking to Coorg for a couple of days but it was over even before I knew it. Well most good things are.

Back in college I was just getting accustomed to my new hostel and room-mates when it hit me that we should be planning a trek. I did my research and Makalidurga it was. Thanks to VTU, my SJCIT friends weren’t back yet. This time it would be just us and surprisingly as it turned out, just the three of us. The trinity comprised of yours truly, Mrityunjay, and Kiran. We stocked up and packed our stuff on the last night of August. I really couldn’t sleep out of excitement.

That Sunday morning we made our way to Yelahanka Railway station from a route I had discovered previously. We used the second gate and soon were walking along dusty rail tracks enjoying the green cover and the lake. It was a good 3 km walk and soon we were on the platform. We boarded our train at 8:30 am and enjoyed a good ride as the train was empty! We just couldn’t believe our luck. Soon were in Makali, our trekking getaway.

Even the sight of railway track makes it look like there is a lot to be explored in the place. The rails went on and on curving around the hill and out of sight. On both sides the vegetation was ample and gave a feeling of the wilderness. Walking along the trail we soon stopped for a quick breakfast. Bread and biscuits were shared and we were all set to start.

The trail was picturesque, curving around at the foot of the hills like a miniature valley. It was in fact where water flowed as a stream from the hills and to the lake nearby. So the path was full of rocks and pebbles. We asked for directions from the shepherds and went on. Soon we came across few farmers who asked us to start climbing the hill right away as the actual trail was still a long way from where we were. Taking their advice we started our uphill climb and so began one of the chapters of my trekking experiences I can never forget.

We never really found the right path! Initially all the rock climbing was fun but soon it was taking a toll on us. We were resting more often and our water supplies were getting scarce. Our movement if you traced it would look like a sine wave. That was because each time we made our way up the hill we would encounter a very steep climb that was almost impossible for us. Then we would make our way down and skirt a few hundred feet along the hill and then go back up. It was tiresome yet we kept going. Part of me knew that the only reason we weren’t giving up was that there were only three of us. Anymore and negativity would have started to creep up.

We took turns navigating. While others rested the navigator would go on ahead and look for a possible route to the peak. It had been almost two hours now. We were starting to curse ourselves for listening to the locals when we found herds of cattle grazing the lush green grass of the hills. In our desperation we had failed to take in the beauty of the hill. It was completely rocky and lush green grass enveloped it. Trees stood there like beacons welcoming people. Anyway the herds of cattle meant that there would be farmers in the vicinity. We found them. They asked us to keep heading in the direction we were currently in. He said we would find a dilapidated old entrance on the top.

We continued in search of our stairway to the peak! The climb was actually memorable. It’s not as easy as it looks on TV. It’s exhausting yet exhilarating. Once we were sufficiently high above we could see the landscape of the village underneath and the muddy lake that shimmered in the golden light. It was a treat to our eyes. The last stretch was treacherous but we were in no mood to give up. I went ahead and found a way up top. We were almost done when it started showering! Yes that was what we had been waiting for. The rain cleansed me, rejuvenated my mind, body and soul. We took shelter in a nearby cave to avoid the heavier showers. Soon the shower turned into a drizzle and we were back on. It took less than half an hour to reach the peak.

The top of the hill was amazing. It was really worth all the effort we had put in. Solid rock fort encompassed the top. It had stood the test of time. Some parts were crumbling but the rest was in perfectly good shape. The views from there were stunning. I put my camera to work. We were soon getting a lot of photos clicked. Adding to all this was the fact that we were the only ones on the peak! Yes we took a good look around and there was not a soul to be seen. Solitary and serene. That was our Makalidurga experience.

We started exploring the fort and other structures. There was a Shiva temple on top and a very oligotrophic pond at the back of the temple. It was rich green in colour. The find of the day was when I discovered our national flag hosted atop the far end. It was supposed to be the highest point. We lost all our senses when we saw it. We ran all the way to the top and saluted our flag. Took some photos and lost a really nice cap to the wind! Yup, Kiran was the unlucky guy. The wind was too strong up there and there was nothing to be done. It was a fitting end to all our climbing and trekking memories.

We were short on our water supplies. So we shared whatever that was left very carefully. I made a mental note that from next time on I would ensure everyone carried extra water no matter the discomfort. Food was eaten and our energy was restored to us. The time for descent had arrived. Exploring further we found the supposed trail that we should have taken coming in. But we were starting to agree that it was actually better to have come the way we did. All that fun and despair, there was no way in hell that his trail could have provided us that. The way down was pretty easy and quick. That was also when we found people after a long time. They were enjoying their evening walk up the trail. I envied these guys for living so close to serenity.

We hit the bottom, at least I did! Yes, yours truly missed his footing and twisted his foot. But after all I had been through I wasn’t going to be deterred by a silly fall. It hurt but carrying your pain around teaches you not to repeat your mistakes. Soon we were in a village. The smell of cow dung and manure filled our senses with joy. Where there are people, there is water! We filled all our bottles and drank like a camel. Then we walked another few miles to reach a town from where we were told the buses plied to Bengaluru.

The journey back was nice and comfortable. BMTC buses are good, probably the best in my opinion. We were back in Nandini hostel- our abode by 8:00 pm. I had a nice hot bath that relieved me of my strains, at least temporarily. Then we enjoyed a satisfying meal at our mess. As always the food was good but that day it did taste a lot better!

Another great journey had come to an end but not before we had a wonderful time and had learnt our lessons for a lifetime.

“Never give, up. No matter what the circumstances are”.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This trek while being true to the former statement also ended with a single step to my bed .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       -Sameer Desai

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Monsoon Trek to Nishani Betta

(PC: Vinay KGS, Ashutosh, Sandeep K)

                                                                 It was the month of June and my college was closed for vacations. A whole month had passed by and all I had done was watch episodes of Doctor Who and go out birding now and then. So when this trek was announced I jumped into action. I had never been on a monsoon trek before and my patience was wearing me thin as I was put on waiting list. Soon there was a dropout and I was in!

On 27th of June I made my way to the starting point in the Majestic. Vidyasagar was already there and all the others started to fill in one by one. We introduced ourselves and not surprisingly I was the youngest member. By 10:30 PM the group of 21 was complete, we hopped on to the minibus and off we went to the land of Kodavas.
The morning of 28th saw us reach the serene land of Bhagamandala. It would be 9 AM until we got the permission from the Forest officials. We washed up. Shrinidhi Sir and yours truly bathed in the chilling and pure waters of the Triveni Sangama. Soon we made our way to Sri Bhagandeshwara Temple which was built in the Karavali Style. After the darshan we answered the call of our stomachs at a nearby hotel and also packed our lunch for the noon.
We were drawn to the sacred Talakaveri, the source of river Kaveri. Drinking the pure and holy water we made our way up the Brahmagiri Hill and had our first photo session. After our descent we prepared ourselves mentally. The trek was a moderate one involving 16-18 kilometers of trekking. We packed our bags and readied ourselves for the trek. This included smearing our legs with anti-leeching agents like snuff. We would soon find out that leeches were not perturbed one bit by all the precautions we were taking as they drank our blood away to glory.
 The trail started off pretty straight and soon it was twisting and turning into the woods. We were accompanied by two forest guards. While Vinay Sir was leading the party, Suresh Sir was sweeping. The path was laden with elephant dung and the guard remarked that it was just a day old. The forest was dense and I had the feeling of being in the cradle of nature. Beautiful cold streams of water running through the trails, refreshing us every now and then and so we moved on. This was my singular most experience with the leeches and the path was laden with tons of them. Soon we found them sticking to our shoes and some already busy feasting on our blood. Those wearing anti-leech socks were more fortunate!
After hours of trekking our stomachs were craving for food. The guide made a detour and took us near a fresh stream of water. We were soon gobbling up our packed lunch, pulav and all the other snacks. Filling our bottles with the fresh mountain water, we got back on our journey. The trek was labeled as “Monsoon Trek” and rightly so it started raining. Initially the rain was a delight but when it started pouring, our shoes, clothes got heavy and the ascent became more challenging. The rain was to me the least of worries.
I was more worried about the leeches which seemed to have increased after the rains and were sucking blood like crazy but we were too distracted by the climb to notice them. Anyway the path tested our grit and determination. The way up was not easy but we were tougher. Enjoying the forest produce (Guavas) on the way we kept climbing.

The climb became very steep for a few hundred meters and I had the feeling that this would be the stepping stone to the Himalayan Trek we all dream of. Ashok was a real motivation to many who were at the back. The view up top was mesmerizing. We were surrounded by hills covered in dense forest through which streams of fresh water ran like the arteries.

The peak itself was a small area where we could stand comfortably. There was a pile of stones flying a flag marking the summit. We had a group photo session and all that was left was to make our way to the base camp. The light was fading and the sun would soon set heralding the night. So we made our descent taking in the view, savoring each moment of the trek.

By 7 in the evening we arrived at the base camp only to be greeted by ferocious barking of the dogs. We changed, bathed in hot water (that was a great relief),and checked our equipment for leeches. Soon our hosts got a fire going and we warmed ourselves. Vinay and Suresh prepared ‘Pongal’ for dinner and everyone had a nice meal. While most of the group retired for the night at the base camp, six of us retired to bed at the house of a farmer nearby. We slept like stones. The sleep rejuvenated us but many were still tired from the previous day’s arduous events. I was more tired of the bloodthirsty leeches than the trek itself.

The second day was supposed to be a visit to Kurudi waterfalls. Soon the general opinion emerged and it was decided that we would make our way down and start back for Bangalore. The way down was pretty easy and quick. The path was slippery but nothing more. Once down I was already starting to miss the place. Our ride arrived and we got into the bus. Peering through my window I realized how different this place was and yet very similar.

The ride back was memorable. We had an ‘intro’ session in the bus and got to know each other really well. The time just flew on. We had our lunch in Kushalnagar. After that we enjoyed a matinee show of ‘Ugram’ in the bus. Taking one last break in the evening we were back in Bangalore. One by one we departed, bidding farewell to everyone.

Personally I enjoyed the trek to the last and many thanks to every member of the group , for without you the trek would have been meaningless and not as fun as it was. I only wish and hope that we meet on more treks like this and share many great moments like this in the near future. Many thanks to our organizer Vinay KGS for a wonderful trekking experience. Looking forward to meeting you again.

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Trek to Nandi Hills (25 May 2014)

[ May 2014 ]

                                            Adventure is an addiction. Having tasted it once was not enough. Soon my II Semester exams were nearing their end and accordingly I planned a trek to Nandi Hills, just 50 km away from here. My friends were excited too, especially because they had been studying non-stop for exams. Well so was I, but I was starting to like all the pressure and the exam evironment. Anyway having completed all the major exams we were all set to go trekking.

We were a group of 8, five of us NMITians and my friends Veer, Kiran and Mahesh who joined the team at Chikballapur. More like we joined them. We were graciously accomodated for the night at chickballapur in our friends’ rooms. Early in the morning at 4:30, Veer woke me up saying “Let’s go get the parcel”. As it happens, Veer’s room flanked the highway. So his parents could send stuff right from Bidar all the way up to Chickballapur via buses plying between B’lore and Bidar. Soon we were sitting in the cold night watching vehicles buzz past on the highway waiting for the drop. It was already 5 am by the time we made our way back to the rooms. Then we woke the rest of the sleeping beauties and got ready for the great time ahead!

We started from SJCIT college. Veer was our local guide having been to Nandi several times now. So we kick started our journey with several photographs. Soon we were walking through the countryside enjoying the sight of grape vines and orchards. The cattle, the farms, the smell; it only got better every minute. After a brisk walk of 2 kms we arrived at the Bhoganandeeshwara temple in Nandi village. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. The original temple, identified as one of the oldest temples of Karnataka, dates back to the 9th century A.D. and was later renovated successively as in the Dravidian style of architecture. It is located at the bottom of Nandi Hills. The original temple was renovated regularly during the successive five dynasties under Chola, Hoysala, Pallava and Vijayanagara kings. This big temple houses three temples within the temple complex, viz., Arunachaleswara, Uma Maheshwara and Bhoga Nandeeshwara. The other portion of the temple houses a large indoor water pond, called Sringeri Teertha and has rock cut steps on which many lamps are lit by the side of the tank on certain festive days like Deepavali. This pond is believed to be a source of Pinakini River. Inside the temple, certain stone carvings are also depicted. We had our ‘darshan’ and enjoyed the beauty of temple. Taking a lot of photos, we left for the hill.

We had to walk another few kilometers until we were at the base of the hill. The hill had steps carved into it that made the climb easy. We began our ascent and soon reached the first checkpoint which was an ancient resting place. I never really get tired of admiring the architectural practices of our ancestors. All these monuments were so built that the interiors were cool despite the sun’s scorch outside. These days we need expensive ACs and fans to do the same all the while living in expensive villas!

The climb was athletic, adventurous and exciting. We kept making detours to explore more in the vicinity. The flora and fauna had a deep impact on our souls. I couldn’t help but admire the peace and serenity of the place. All my troubles seemed to wash away without a trace.  We encountered an entrance to the fort. It was or rather would have been used in the past as a sentry tower. We made our way up the tower without caring for the thorns and bushes that had crept all over the place. We felt majestic standing atop there imagining what the past might have looked like.

During this great time of personal realization I became aware of the fact that I had left my spectacles somewhere at our last rest stop. I had to race down all on my own while the others got bust in photography. I found them easily but the hard part was getting back up all that way. It was difficult but a memorable, personal adventure. Having rejoined the team we kept moving. We reached the top in another forty minutes.

The ‘Nandi Hill Station’ as it is popularly known is a beautiful trekking and trip destination. At least it used to be. The latter because, what should have been a nature’s paradise and home to Tippu Sultan’s Summer Palace had turned commercial. There were vehicles all over the place and people walking around with ice-creams and chips. We were glad we came by the way we did or else even that part would have been miserable. The Summer Palace was a historical monument. We explored around.

We rested for a while and then started looking for potential places to sit down and have a meal. We found a place behind a  construction site that blocked our view from the general population and offered us some privacy. The meal was delicious. It motly comprised of ‘Jolada Rottis and Shenga chatni and Bunde‘ that we had recieved earlier that day. Our mates Sanjay and Pramod were looking at it strangely cause thet had never eaten these before. We assured them that this was going to be the best meal they would have ever had and wasn’t that true? It was great.\

After some napping, we were exploring the place. It was mostly vehicles, people and hotels. But now and then one of us would find something not adulterated by human presence and we would enjoy the sight.  I chanced upon several beautiful sights and captured them in my camera. The monkeys were in abundance and I loved their tactic of getting their lunch from these senseless tourists! I even spotted several different species of lizards near the historic ‘Tippu Drop’ where the prisoners were sent to their deaths.

The climb down as it usually is with these small treks was quite easy and quick. We were literally running down the hill in excitement. The Rottis had done their job perfectly! All pains were forgotten and our sight set on the ground below. We took an hour and half atmost before we were back to the base of the hill. The legs and feet were already ‘vibrating’ from all the effort. Soon we caught a us back to our respective retreats.

The trek was really amazing thanks to the enthusiastic members. Their cooperation and support made it happen. Though I had organized it, the onus was on everyone for it’s success. For a whole day all our troubles were forgotten. All our differences set aside. While we undertook this adventure.It’s crazy but these treks and adventure activities sort of boost our confidence in ourselves and make us a better person. I looked forward to having more of these adventures in the coming days.

SO FAR SO GOOD !

-Sameer Desai

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Photo Trek to Chitradurga ( Jogimatti, Chandravalli Caves)

[March 1,2 – 2014]

(PC: Ram Roop, Ashutosh)


                        On the last day of February, my spirits were on a new high! Not that I hadn’t gone trekking before…but because it was my first time with BAsc. This trek offered a break from the monotonous routine and sure enough, it came as a breath of fresh air for many of my friends too.

Once at the railway station our SPOC, Shreyas got us all assembled ,we boarded the train and off we went.I was kind of nervous noticing that I was the youngest member and everyone there was employed. But there was no reason to be, as I would soon realize. The morning saw us set foot in Chitradurga. Our organizer Mudassar Sir put us together for a round of Intros. We then had a group photo and IT WAS ON!!!

We met Ranganath Sir, the local organizer who took us to our accommodation directly overlooking the fort, after our hungry stomachs gobbled up hot breakfast. The accommodation was comfortable and we soon freshened up. Exploring the fort was the plan for the morning and we soon left for the “Yelu Suttina Kote” with our gear.

The fort built entirely of stones beckoned us.We soon found ourselves at the top of a sort of plateau that offered all of us a quick peek into the first layer of fort and the temples. The guys with professional cameras hopped on at the opportunity-Devansh ,Jawahar ,Ram ,Ashutosh ,Premnath , Mudassar ,Ranga , Arvind ..wait a minute…What was I thinking??  It was a photo trek after all and there were some great cameras at work there.

The rocks were treacherous , slopes slippery but nothing short of a natural calamity could stop us.We made our way up the top of peak.The peak housed what was an ancient “Watch Tower”,the place where king placed his sentries on watch. This site was shadowed by a huge boulder that could easily be mistaken for an airship in the dark. Before we knew some of the crew were already on top savoring the view. Tripods were put to task,taking panoramic shots,some posed while others captured.

Our descent back into the main area of the fort was over by 1:00 and great heavens,there was an eatery and we were treated by spoonfuls of Pulav , Curd Rice and Glasses of Buttermilk. Adding to this ,there was a film shoot in progress based on the story of “Koti Raj”,the famous climber and we had some fun. Dutta had memorized  few lines and man! we had some LAUGHS. The lunch worked a little too good. We were feeling lazy even to move but Ranga and Mudassar put us back on track.

Exploring the fort,watching temples,and the towers was mesmerizing. Taking the rocky path,following the age old impressions cut on those rocks we “ASCENDED”. It was a climb that tested our grit and soon our adrenaline levels were pumped up. Once atop.we tool shelter under what we guessed might have been the ‘Lunch Retire’ of soldiers back then.Snacks were shared,tiredness relieved and people were back to clicking photos. Some of us got our pics taken and it was a running joke that Surabhi was always having selfies taken. The journey down was even more challenging, for we took the “path less traveled ” and had some adventure.

The wait for OBAVVANA KINDI was finally over. Everytime I thought of Chitradurga,that scene from the movie “Nagarahavu” would rush through my eyes and yes looking in there got us excited. Next up was SUNSET PHOTOGRAPHY and we slowly made our way up to reach the spot that offered the best view. We got there early and explored around. Usha and Ranga found a way up the cluster of those sinister boulders and we were all thankful.

Soon the sun came down announcing his leave for the day and some memorable pictures were taken not just by cameras but by the very best optical machines in the world-OUR EYES!!!

The way back was LEGENDARY! for we had an amazing and unexpected “Night Trek” as the sun was down and it was dark soon. All of us made our way down the hilly terrain and torches were finally put to use! After what was a memorable trek for 2-3 hours we were back at KSTDC, Mayura hotel. Soon we dined and retired to bed as we had to leave by 4:30 a.m the following morning, so as to catch the Sunrise at JOGIMATTI PEAK.

The trek to the peak of Jogimatti will forever be etched in our memories for 2 reasons:-
01. It was longer than we expected it to be,so it was easily the longest of the treks there.
02. Since it was really long, we missed the sunrise But as they say
“JOURNEY IS THE REWARD”,we enjoyed climbing those snaking paths.

Our hungry stomachs gobbled up all the biscuits and cakes we had brought while others went on to take some pictures of the valley below and the glittering peaks. We had a great view from the tower and Arvind as we were noticing was having power naps at ever pit stop we made. We then made our way down the same path. Premnath, Shreyas and Arvind had taken to playfully trouble me and it was that talk,those conversations and the comforting smiles that made the way down bearable.

The ZOO(mini-zoo actually) of Jogimatti was perhaps our last stop before lunch.It was amazing except that we were worn out and so were the poor animals in the searing sun.

Then we were back at the hotel dorm , checked ourselves out and were on prowl for a good lunch. Ranga took us to a local “Khanavali” and we had the “Meal Of The Trek”.The food was good and Ashutosh had taken a liking to it and was asking for more “Chapatis and Shenga Pudi”.

However the heavy lunch came at a cost.We had to make our way to Adumalleshwara Caves via fort and we had our entire luggage to carry.The sun was no kinder. Me and Kamal regretted packing two bags.. The way up was made easy by occasional rests and talks. The route we took slowly went up the fort and then dropped all the way down the hills.

THE TERRAIN WAS TOUGH BUT WE WERE TOUGHER!! 

In absence of Ranga , Dutta took the lead and navigated us. Soon we were resting in the plains and Ram was sort of fascinated by the skull of some herbivore he found.

The last and perhaps the most exciting part was finally there – CHANDRAVALLI CAVES. All the weariness, disappeared the moment we went inside the caves. The guide very beautifully described the purpose of the cave and its history. The caves nearly 80 ft. under the ground were extensively beautiful.Later we explored the surroundings and the iconic ‘Garudanagalinga Bande’ and had some ice candies. We savored in the view and with that the trek was officially over. Of course we still had to make it back to to railway station but all in good time.

Just 2 days,but the fun we had ,we really bonded and felt like a complete team. Thanks to our organizers Mudassar Sir and Ranga Sir. And a great many cheers to the entire team for this trek was lively and successful because of you.

May we meet again and have more of such awesome time…
Looking forward to another trek soon….

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