Monday, April 20, 2015

Moonlit trek to Horagina Betta - 4 April, 2015

For Bangalore trekkers, summer has come when BTC goes on night trekking spree. For April 4th full moon night trek, they sent out 5 event invites. Turned out only 3 were 'real' events. April fool prank was handed a day early to those lazy enough to not notice change in registration form. As if I needed a computer program to confirm my laziness :P I saw the email just in time to prevent the same fate for Karthik (who writes excellent stories on his blog, by the way), with whom I was finally trekking together.

Heat and traffic meant few of us were late to reach Terminal 3 for catching bus. Starting 5 pm for a night trek was unusual too. I forgot the charging camera batteries too. Bad omens couldn't have been clearer. Nonetheless, half an hour late everybody but one were in (with Gaurav successfully asking the conductor to wait a little extra), while the last person somehow made it ahead of bus at Hebbal.

We got down at Devanahalli and then caught another bus to Karahalli Cross. Despite our late start, we actually started few minutes earlier than what Hiren and Gaurav had in itinerary. After our customary introduction session (now that I try to remember, straight circle wasn't mentioned!), the 15 member group got the flash lights out on the trail to Horagina Betta, the lesser known trekking spot in famous Nandi range of hills. Howling village dogs, perhaps fiercer under the wild full moon, welcomed us but thankfully kept their distance and didn't follow us.

For an hour we traversed the kachcha road, its unevenness posing more challenge than a moderate hill climbing. Under the cloak of night, clouds and moon playing hide and seek, flash lights shining, Horagina Betta and Nandi Hills up ahead - the former to our left, we greeted fellow trekkers and recounted previous treks. Hiren lead the group ahead, Gaurav and Monisha brought up the rear. Now and then Hiren would stop at a short-cut, Gaurav and others with previous experience on this trail would confer and decide to just follow the wider village road. Once or twice, we tracked back to take another route. As the circuitous winding climb started, so did the dry thorny plants, waiting to scratch inattentive trekkers. I must have got 15-20 or more bites, some drawing blood enough to flinch. Not to forget the copious sweat drenching us all. Until we reached the Nandi Hills road, the overwhelming feeling was that of moving away from Horagina Betta and on the trail to Nandi Hills instead. I immediately recognized the spot (previous trek and cycling experience), about halfway from the base to Nandi Hills - vendors sell cane juice, tender coconut, etc during day time.

With empty road and eerie silence for company, we took our first long break. And with it came first round of sweets. It was only about 8:30 PM, long night ahead. Refreshed, we marched on. A low wooden barrier marked the entrance of trail to Horagina Betta. A few meters ahead, someone had parked an expensive looking motorbike. Few minutes later, we were finally climbing rocky terrain of the hill.

The moon continued to play hide and seek with clouds - bathing us in spectacular shine one moment and vanishing another moment. Airplanes from Bangalore International Airport lit the night sky now and then. After relatively flat climb, steep hill climb required frequent rest. We had plenty of time anyway. The first such stop was best of the lot. A sloped rocky surface, with trees nearby, soothing breeze drying our sweat, seductive moonlight and a good view of Nandi Hills in front of us. Chocolates and Glucose got passed around. PJs cracked. Group pic taken. It was reluctantly that we got up to continue the climb.

In another hour or so, we reached the temple at top. Continuing past the temple, amidst more thorny bushes, we reached the wide hill top and gladly settled down. Out came oranges, dates, almonds and biscuits - healthy stuff all around after a solid climb. And then it was cup noodles for dinner :P Hiren and others took up the task of getting dry branches for camp fire. Fire pit out of loose stones was already there, courtesy previous night treks. Even the large tree trunk left over by Srikanth and company was found and brought. Until then, we tried to rest our aching body and particularly back on somewhat flat rocky surface. It felt good for a while and then the pointy protrusions robbed the pleasure and got irritating.

It wasn't very windy and lighting the fire was quick enough. Soon, water was being boiled, with little bits of ash getting in (Tip: carry a filter next time) After noodles, ready to eat packs were heated in boiling water. The stuff we were carrying could have easily fed 3-4 more :D All this done and still time was around 10 PM only if memory serves right.

And so we started favorite BTC pastime - Dumb Charades. 'Howrah Bridge Pe Latakti Hui Laash' promptly made the first appearance - funny thing is online search is returning only Dumb Charades reference to this movie!! After one round (where I managed to help the opposition team rather than distract them with false clues) we moved on to Anthakshri. That went for a while as two teams and then to just singing what came to mind. The night was still young. So we sat about and starting sharing ghost stories - Sneha and Gaurav (with his famous anti-climax fish story) leading the way. Others pitched in hostel death stories and the likes.

Scorpion pays us a visit

We were so immersed that a scorpion almost passed us unobserved, moving towards camp fire or perhaps to trees and bushes beyond. I first thought it was a mouse moving near the boot of Karthik and said so. And then slowly everyone noticed that it was a Scorpion! Everybody were up on their feet in a hurry. For about hour or so, we tried to chase it away. It wasn't brandishing it's poisonous sting until it got pissed by our flashing lights and attempts to climb on wooden sticks. We left it some yards away from us and returned to check our bags and surrounding for more of its kind. For a long time we refused to even sit, sleeping there driven away as unimaginable. Few took a stroll towards the temple, while others crowded by the camp fire (standing, mind you). Wind and chill had also picked up by then.

Some of us kept busy and warm by scourging around for more wood - small and big, dry bushes and branches alike. Slowly, fear lessened and people began resting in sleeping bags. The scorpion had left from last known location and wasn't spotted any more. We flashed around us now and then, just to be safe. The few of us awake discussed whatever topic came to mind, mostly in small groups of 2-3. By the time sky brightened, we managed to burn most of the very uneven left over tree trunk.

Sunrise was marred by clouds again, but for a few moments it was a spectacular sight, nestled within clouds. After sprinkling water over remaining fire, we started our way down. Past the temple, with Nandi Hills in background, we took a parting group pic. Climbing down was of course faster, a bit trickier though. As we reached the mud road, we saw a bunch of daredevil school kids on two wheelers revving up the hill, without safety helmets.

Day light drew a very contrasting picture of the hills - dry, arid and burnt hill sides. Underside of shoes turned black by the time we reached the kachcha village roads. We took every possible short-cuts and only once Gaurav and Hiren had to confer which path to take. It took about hour and half to reach Karahalli Cross, the summer Sun was already harsh. We had idly-vada and tea after freshening up. Feedback was again very positive from everybody. We didn't take the bus to Devanahalli, waiting for direct bus to Bangalore instead. Turned out, that bus wasn't going all the way to Majestic despite it's scheduled itinerary! So, we got down at Devanahalli after all and caught another bus to Bangalore (thankfully, got seats to sit). All in all, yet another awesome trek with BTC, a frightening encounter with scorpion and good bunch of trekkers - experienced and newbies alike. A tad long itinerary for a night trek though.

Photo Credits: Gaurav and Dishang


gaurav kamath said...

As always.. Very nicely putup! Remembered the night trek once again!

sundeep agarwal said...

Thanks a lot :)

Servus Austria! said...

nicely written sundeep..btw that bike was ours..we trekked on the same night :P

sundeep agarwal said...

Thanks :)

good to know the mystery is solved ;)

Other Works

Square Tic Tac Toe
Get it on Google Play

Beginner's guide to Command line and Scripting