Friday, January 22, 2016

Antaragange Caves - 16 Jan 2016

First of something you love is always special. It was my fourth visit to Antaragange and it still had surprises in store. We gathered at the usual meeting spot - Shanthala Silk House opposite Terminal 3 at Majestic. 40+ BTCians (there was another trek to Hutridurga) mingled, old timers greeting each other while new comers eagerly asked all sorts of questions on trekking and BTC. Uncharacteristically the tempo travelers were late, so some of us went to nearby hotel for tea/coffee/breakfast. And we took the opportunity to click combined group photos as well.

About 15 minutes to 8 AM, we finally got our ride. Hiren and Sreemoyee gave an intro talk and then we all had to enact our names as our introductions. Some were lucky to be guessed soon, some were sly and lots of fun. We followed it with a bit of dumb charades with films and songs and moved on to Antakshiri. Around 9:30 AM, we stopped at Sri Shanthi Sagar hotel, very close to Kolar. While we had breakfast and another round of tea/coffee, we ordered tamarind rice as parcel for lunch. An hour later, we reached the base at Antaragange.


Before starting the trek, we stood in 'straight' circle for formal round of introduction, followed by remainder of BTC rules and policies. We then finally started our trek with everybody warned of naughty monkeys until 100 or so steps to the temple. This time, there weren't people filling pots from the perennial spring.


Just as we reached, a kid (didn't look the age to be studying 9th standard as he claimed) asked if we required a guide to lead us to caves. We said yes. The trek could reasonably be said to start amongst the hillocks past the temple, but few were already interested to know how far we had to go :P Admittedly, the steps and initial steep climb is of Moderate difficulty than the Easy tag for this day trek. And the mini rests turned out to be extended photo-shoots, given the large group :P


As usual, there were plenty of people climbing alongside as well as those coming back. About an hour later, the guide veered us from usual trail to the right - turns out apart from numerous caves, this smaller one had perennial spring, just like the one near the temple! It took us more than an hour for everybody to visit and come back. Our guide seemed very practiced at this: he would ask us to wash our hands just beyond the source and then scoop with our folded hands to taste the sweet water. All the while holding a torch in that narrow dark space. By just a few minutes, another group were behind us and had to wait for us to finish. Still, that didn't feel a boring exercise as numerous boulders around gave us opportunity for daring climbs and photo shoots.

We then continued on the regular path to reach the muddy ground beyond which are village farming lands and roads. The guide wanted to lead us to a viewing spot nearby, we asked him to take us to caves instead. I kept asking him to lead us on the path with butterflies and small pond which I remembered from my previous visit. Either he didn't know or didn't want us to go as it would take much longer time, so we didn't go that way. Perhaps next time ;)

But before moving on, we wanted to take some group shots given the wide space and hills behind. That soon turned into jumping spree, with everyone trying their best to launch themselves as high as possible.

And now, for icing on cake - the famed caves. Right from entrance, it was a series of narrow spaces. Only someone familiar with the route can traverse this maze. Another group was following us close behind as well. We took plenty of photos of course.

About 20 minutes later, we emerged into a wide enclosure. It doubled as our little break before continuing on. More narrow crossings ahead, usually taking about half a minute or more per person. We had to do all sorts of yoga - bend, reach out for a foot holding, watch our head/neck from scraping, etc

Finally, at 20 minutes past 2 PM we had emerged out of the caves (sense of direction only known to the guide) and settled for lunch between boulders and shade of a tree. We topped it up with snacks, cakes and biscuits.



For next 40 minutes, we traversed fields, large flat rocks, coming across dirty wells, etc to reach another temple with a perennial spring source forming a greenish pond. Teerhalli main road was close to this spot. By this time we were getting tired and running out of water. Though the guide was eager to show us more spots, we asked him just the way back from here on. After taking more group pics by the stepped pond, some of us climbed to near by tall boulders upon which a strange looking statue had been built. The rickety iron staircase with only the railings and outline of steps (no foothold!) was a risky undertaking in itself.


We then went back to the series of cottage like structures (apparently some sort of acting/art coaching is done there). The guy there was extremely helpful in many ways - gave clear instructions to our TT driver to come towards us on Teerhalli road, fill our water bottles, restroom facility and so on. The place was very well maintained including a garden. As we left after much needed rest, we fed their two dogs with leftover rice from lunch. I searched on Google maps and think this was the spot

Then we resumed our hike - walking towards Kolar highway to meet our TT on the way. It was interesting as well - cutting our way on rocks instead of following hair-pin bends, walking on foot high wall built on either side of road, some interesting flora, etc.

On our way to Bangalore, we stopped by Sagar hotel again for tea/coffee/juice. Feedback session was full of praise for organizers and constructive suggestions (especially for pot-luck lunches instead of parcel from hotel). And then while some took to resting and going through photos, back seaters put effort at amazing songs to sing. 

When travel and trekking meets amazing BTC group, magic day is assured :) 

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