It was only last August that I embarked on my first trekking trip to Antaragange. Seems long ago and no wonder am so pleased to have had another - Madhugiri on 29th May. And for that, I thank wholeheartedly to BMC (http://www.bmcindia.org/). Click on the images below for larger view.
I will try to keep the narration short, but my penchant for writing mundane details might prevent doing so. Let me begin with how to register for an event with BMC. My office being near to BMC office, I called them up and Krishna (guide for this trekking trip) obliged by collecting the fare at my office premises itself. Isn't that convenient? And then they sent a confirmation email.
Friday evening and I was really thrilled thinking about the trip. With much enthusiasm I brought snacks and water bottle, much needed for a trekking trip. Curbing my liking to read about the place, I took to dusting off the bag to carry the needful. And thankfully I recharged my camera batteries. I watched a movie and cooked too. Yes you read it right, I 'cooked' :).
I tried to sleep early as reporting was 6:45AM sharp at Domlur. But believe me, the excitement meant an intermittent sleep. I groaned each time I woke up to see that 5:10AM was still far-off. And when it finally was time to wake up, power-cut greeted me. That did not deter me getting ready by 6am. Had a cup of tea (to prevent headache) and reached Domlur by 6:25AM! I saw a buddy there, in jeans and t-shirt with a backpack. My guess was right that he (Rajendran) too was coming for the trek. And lo! I wasn't the only one coming all alone. Presently a group - an elderly man and woman with daughter, arrived there. They were joined by a foreign lady shortly. Rajendran observed that BMC must be very popular indeed.
Right on 6:45AM (ok, 6:46 to be precise) the cab arrived. Krishna ticked-off the people assembled and to my surprise, the elderly couple were coming too! The next pick-up was at Lifestyle (7AM) and here we waited about 5 mins for others to arrive. I engaged myself observing the vehicles passing by and was amazed to see so many at this hour on a Saturday morning. At one point it looked to be all white - cars, jeeps and buses alike and immediately came a procession of varied colored ones! By this time the last of the 12 member party came. So that made 'unlucky' 13 including the guide Krishna, but I would say 14 to include the driver, who had a good part to play in our very pleasing experience.
Bangalore is really very big and traffic flow is tedious just about everywhere! After evading through the morning traffic, we reached 'New Agarwal Bhavan' on the Tumkur road around 8:10AM for breakfast and packing lunch. We bought water bottles and cold-drinks too. Soon we left the highway behind and villages started to show up. The narrow 2-lane road was good enough for a smooth ride. Like I always do, I was sitting near window seat and enjoying the view outside. Among various interesting things I saw, two stood out. Near a police-station in one of the villages, there were lot of trucks and vans and autos dumped for good covered largely with ivy. The other being a 'BSNL OFC' stone-mark surrounded by barren land.
Other vehicles passing was so infrequent, making me wonder where they got petrol/diesel from and however they coped with breakdowns! The roads started deteriorating and large number of hillocks became visible. Many of them had temple on the top. Or some scribblings in large white fonts. They were just too many of them that it seems by chance was this space available for road connectivity. Around 10:30AM we were nearing Madhugiri. I saw a very steep hill, higher than the surrounding ones and started taking pictures. I wondered if anyone can climb this one. Little did I know that it was the very hill we were headed too. And indeed, the climb was from the other side which is not so steep as the side I had seen.
Krishna assembled us in a circle and we introduced ourselves. Our elite party consisted of an ex-army, his wife (the elderly couple) and their daughter, a photographer (from the equipment he carried), a foreigner and other enthusiasts like me :P. We were to climb 3930 ft (perhaps lesser, as the height base from sea level is not known) which is more than Tirupathi and approx. half the height of Ooty.
And so, we started our ascent around 10:45AM. The fort entrance and wall-fencing were still in good shape. Initially it was all steps and easy to climb. On big rocks, small steps were carved out for convenience. The fort is centered near the base of the hill and circular towers few hundred feet above. A large flat surface below the towers was well fenced and a pool built which was completely dry. After these towers, it was all bare mountain with few resting places in between.
The ascent was quite easy for most part except for the hot sun. Continuous breeze dried our sweat leaving crystallized salt on face and neck. We had to frequently rest, drink water and continue. About two-third of the hill upward comes the most dangerous climb. Iron poles were rooted along the path which were around knee level and not much of use. For inexperienced trekkers like me, one had to lean on the hot-rock with bare hands to feel a bit safe. The heavy back-pack made it worse. Thankfully they had built a fence near the steepest portion above to reach an entrance. I felt very very relieved to have make it. Taking a break there, the climb was resumed. Now it all seemed easier after the steep climb, but exhaustion meant more frequent stops. We did not mind sitting on the hot rock for it was nigh impossible to move on more than 2-5 min at a stretch. Ofcourse, there were large rocks here and there providing cool shade.
After what seemed an eternity, the summit came in view. I say 'came' as I never felt like reaching the top. Ruined temple greeted us with scattered vegetation. Beyond the temple, one could go down to reach large rocks strewn on relatively flat surface. We chose a big rock providing shade all around to camp and have lunch. Grass, flowery plants and trees had somehow found their way to grow there. Whats more, we could see clear signs of goats having come there.
The veg-biryani from 'New Agarwal Bhavan' was very spicy but to our growling stomachs, it tasted sweet. After lunch, the ex-army gentleman shared his experiences in Infantry, 1971 war, snow-blindness, beauty of Ladakh, exported apples and so on. The foreign lady too enthusiastically shared hers. And to my surprise, the mobile signal strength was very good there!
Around 1:45PM, we started our descent. (But logically, we had to first climb to reach the summit again and begin the descent :P - to quote the ex-army gentlemen). The descent was faster compared to the climb, but one had to walk sideways for better grip. As in my first trekking trip, my legs started shivering, for reasons unknown. And the thighs too started paining. Somehow, I managed to climb down steadily, and sometimes running down small stretches. The steep slope I mentioned during the climb proved too tricky way-down. Mortal fear took control of me that despite good advice from the guide to do it easily, I did not turn my bodily-position. I was leaning on the rocks and nearly crawling along. The rocks were too hot by now. The forceful drag with palms resulted in two burn-like bubbles. Anyone watching me without knowing what went through my mind would have laughed relentlessly. I cannot describe what relief I felt on crossing that dangerous path. And to top it all, the ex-army gentleman just walked freely through the steep section! Of course he had 37 years of experience, but goes to show that perhaps it is only the fear that makes it very dangerous. The shivering and thigh pain increased and I took an extended rest. The rest of the climb was all about pushing myself to go. I kept the pace sedate and talking with the fellow trekkers helped a lot.
Apparently, we had finished the trek well ahead. Replenishing with water and cool-drinks, we started around 3:45pm. Some wanted to have another trek, but most including me were not upto it. Here came the driver's role. Apparently he was a local guy and knew the surrounding area pretty well. He suggested to visit 'Sri Yoga lakshmi narasimha swamy' temple on a hill which could be reached via road. We reached there around 4:45pm. The temple closes by 5pm, so a guard placed at a diverging road halfway up the hill was going to stop us. But the driver got us through. The hill is populated with 'wild' monkeys. Lots of hills surround the place and this one had a provision for guest-house too. We had cucumber and tender-coconut and proceeded for the temple. Monkeys were on the lookout to snatch anything. They even 'attacked' the shoe stand near the temple. Some of them showed acrobatic skills hanging by the tail on trees, other monkeys or water taps. One intelligent monkey was peeling off a tender-coconut! And the skin which it tore were in other monkeys' mouth!
It started raining and the mist cover on the surrounding hills was a great sight. We hurried to the tempo, took a group photo with some missing and started our way back to Bangalore. But hold on, we were not done yet. There was another famous place 'Namada Chilume', around 2-3kms from the temple. Here again our driver got us permission to go through. It was light drizzle here and the climate too good with cool breeze. Apparently, during Rama's Vanvas, he visited the place and pierced a hole on a rock to get water. One story goes that Sita was thirsty and according to wiki, Rama needed it for his Thilak which is how the place got the name. Whatever be it, water continuously flows out of it throughout the year. Whats more, we saw for ourselves the water flow increasing when coins were devoted.
Finally, we started our way back to bangalore. Rain had picked up here too. Both the path we came for the temple and the one we took to Bangalore is surrounded by thick forest. Wild animals are supposed to be living there, but we did not cross any. After a while, I slept due to sheer exhaustion and when I woke up, we were on the Tumkur road jammed with traffic. It would be around 9pm when I reached home. Took a hot bath and slept peacefully.
What a day it was. Climbing more than a km tall hill, and two bonus visits to beautiful places among the hills with rain in the air.. oh inexplicable pleasure indeed. Antaragange was fun with friends, this was personal satisfaction. I am far-off from becoming a good-trekker, what with my legs giving way to fear. But it is one step forward in right direction. Both in the Antaragange trip and Madhugiri one, I had trouble while descending. And both times, it rained while coming back :D. All in all, another day added to unforgettable ones :)
PS: Some of the photos from Madhugiri posted here courtesy Rajendran :)