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