Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Savan Durga Trek

It would have been just another Sunday morning if it was not for this trek. This was my first trek around Bangalore. Yes! being a Bangalorean and a trek enthusiast, it is a bit sad that I hadnt done any trek around Bangalore.

Savanadurga, is the largest monolith in Asia. It is around 60 kms from Bangalore towards Magadi. Drive towards Magadi is around 50 km. Once yo reach Magadi take the Left turn on to the Ramanagara road and drive for 8 km before you get an arch welcoming you to the Savandurga road.

Another 2 km drive along the almost non-existant road you reach an old temple of VeeraBhadra(Some believe an incarnation of Shiva, while others believe him to be one of his close associates). The Gopura of the temple has a "Nandi" (the vehicle of Lord Shiva). Just beside this temple is a small park where one could spot various birds and animals. This place is called Savanandi.

Further down this road, we reach the famous Lakshmi Narasimha Swami Temple at Savandurga. Large number of devotees throng the temple to seep the blessings of the Lord. There is also a medical herb plantation situated close to the temple. This is the starting point of the trek.

The Savandurga monolith is visible from the road much before Magadi, but one needs to almost circumvent the rock before being able to begin the ascent to the peak. At 4050 ft, this towers over most of the surrounding hillocks, or any man made structure - Normal human beings around 6 ft is negligible.

The best time to begin the trek is early morning when you could see the sunrise on the east and enjoy the serene beauty that could be associated with it. The whole feeling of the effort to make it to the peak, completely exhausted and then savor the divine feeling of the sunrise is definitely an occasion in the person's life.

We began pretty late from Bangalore after our breakfast. We traveled by car to the base from were we decided to trek to the peak. It was almost 11 am when we reached the base.

After a quick sip of the tender coconut, we were ready to begin the trek to the peak. A quick walk through the shrubs along an established trail, we immediately reached the base of the monolith. The recent showers had left some watery trail along the sides of the monolith were the natural process of breaking stones into soil was in progress.

It is really amazing the patience nature has in breaking the large rocks into smaller one, then continuing to break them further. The hot sun heats the surface, the rain water then tries to cool it in one go, leading to formation of cracks, and then seeps in. The wind then continues to cool it further over time Widening the cracks further and then repeating the process. One can easily see these at Savandurga. The work of nature over millions of years is very visible. I could see some rock broken probably a few years or decades back.

The rock side close to the temple is very smooth and poses some good challenges initially. The trek begins on a pretty steep note. One needs to maintain the stamina and push consistently to get to the first level of the fort.

Many people tire up at this level and return. There are some vendors who sell fruit juice along the way adding to the pollution (inappropriate and inadequate disposal has the tetra packs hanging on the side of the monolith).

Continuing along the slope of the hillock, we find many stones and slippery patches. One needs to navigate these carefully to avoid any damage. If there is no cloud cover, this phase might get really hard.

There are numerous routes from here to get to the next level of the fort, where the watch tower is constructed. The climb is pretty manageable till one reaches the steep uphill just before the tower. This is the second challenge and many people give up at this point to return without visiting the peak. It is not really difficult, as there are number of small steps/grips that people have made to make it easy for their followers.

At this juncture it is a real test of character for many, do the embrace the uncertainty and move ahead by stretching themselves to realize a new self or do they just accept the complexity and stay with the status quo! The question is of the mind set and the toughness!

Once a person crosses the fort besides the watch tower, there is whole different world that one gets to see. The confidence of having tackled an almost seemingly tough task is a great booster. One could rest here for some time, watch the surrounding areas from the Watch Tower and then resume the trek. From this point onwards, the bubbling city of Bangalore can be seen - some high rise buildings also could be spotted.

The next part of the trek is pretty much at the top of the peak. A small climb uphill and we come to a Mantapa. The Mantapa was probably the resting place of the watchman of the fort. The watchman could see all the sides in the surrounding given the peak and inform the King who could then take appropriate action to handle the situation. There is also a small tank that is created here, this might have been used by the watchmen for their daily purpose.

The final peak which has a Nandi Mantapa is pretty is separated by a small cave-like formation. There is some thick vegetation here which provides a good shade from the scorching heat.

The final phase of the trek is a steep climb along the side of a rock and then an easy walk to the Nandi mantapa. We reached the peak around 1:30 pm. The clouds had moved in and gave a good cover from the sun's hear. After spending around 20 minutes at the peak, we decided to get back to the base and on the way have some of the snacks that we had gotten along.

We rested near the Watchman's pond and had our food, and then continues on the descent.
We could spot the another majestic hill the Shivagange at a distance, I could feel my hear call for another trek to that hill, I would be going there soon.

Continuing on the descent with some exciting and adventurous moments we reached the base around 3 pm. With another dose of tender coconut, we were ready to get back in our car and reach Home.

This trek was a memorable one for me given that it was my first trek around Bangalore. I began to appreciate the difference in trekking in the western ghats and the rocky mountains around Bangalore.

The trek wouldn't be complete without a mention to the few typical characters I met along the way.

NCC Cadets:

The NCC cadets were on a trekking expedition with one of their group leaders. The enthusiastic people were in a hurry to climb leaving their not so able compatriots who were lacking the confidence. I guess they should have spent some time in encouraging the morale of those people who were on their own mental wars along the trek.
Another instance I saw was the rigidity in the mindset of some of the cadets to innovate and explore. There were alternate routes to a common path don't be blinded by a single choice.

The fruit juice Vendor at the Nandi Mantapa:
This guy taught me a lot about economics (- monopoly and the like), Strategy (first mover advantage)

The Director's son:
The talkitive boy got me to realize the power of dream; when one is young and how one pursues it in all (s)he does.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Leader Who Had No Title

I have been an avid follower of Robin Sharma's books for over five years now, since I first read the book - "The Monk who Sold his Ferrari". His narration has been a constant source of inspiration which pushes me into action every moment. This book is another to the series.

Unlike the Monk who sold his Ferrari and its sequel which had the "Monk" as the main character across the books, this book - "The Leader Who Had No Title" takes a war veteran as the protagonist and narrates using the trauma he goes through. He finds his mentor in an old friend of his father who leaves a life changing experience for this young lad. The story then revolves around the protagonist meeting other mentors and learning the essential features which make one a leader with out title.

The lessons that the book gives could be encapsulated with some of the following acronyms:
You need no Title to be a Leader
I - importance of innovation
M- mastery
A - authenticity
G - guts needed for business
E - ethics

Turbulent Times Build Great Leader
S - Speak with Candor
P - Prioritize
A - Adversity breeds Opportunity
R - Respond versus react
K - Kudos to offer

The Deeper your Relations, the Stronger Your Leadership
H - Helpfulness
U - Understanding
M - Mingle
A - Amuse
N - Nurture

To be a Great Leader, First Become a great Person
S - See Clearly
H - Health is Wealth
I - Inspiration Matters
N - Neglect Not your Family
E - Elevate your Lifestyle

With his usual style of writing, the book is studded with a lot of quotes - these are worth a treasure!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gavi Betta

Trekking is probably the best I can expect on a weekend - it rejuvenates me. My excitement is always towards exploring new places - the places I have never heard of. It had been three months since my last exploration to Dedupe & Jamalabad, I was on the look out for an opportunity and Sampath from Sharavathi Valley had posted a trek for the weekend - I decided to join in primarily interested in exploring the "Gavi Betta", associated activities though present didnt really interest me to begin with. It was 2 Day outing with a lot of itenary including rappelling, water sports in addition to Trek to Gavi Betta.

I know I am pretty delayed in writing this blog - almost 2 months since I trekked. The trek was on 21st and 22nd of the August.

Day 1: We began our journey from Bangalore early morning. Inspite of a delayed start from Bangalore, we reached Shanivara Sante by noon. Here we met our guide here who suggested an alternate route to the one planned through the coffee estates.

The guide took us to his relatives home were we received awesome hospitality! After a brief break and getting to know the hosts well, we continues our journey from the starting camp. I spent most of my trek time with the guide getting to know the specialties and the mindset of the person. He worked in Bangalore but returned tiered of the noise and the pollution to set up his own studio in Shanivara Sante.

The initial part of the trek was through a common jeep route, but since the road was blocked with a tree falls (thanks to the rains), we moved into the coffee estate. This was were some of our fellow trekkers had some trouble with the leeches.

Continuing the trek further, we reached another estate - there was an artificial lake created by building a dam. It was just beautiful. This water tank acted as the source of supply for the plantations downhill. A small distance further, our guide plucked a cardamom, and showed us how it looks before being processed and it reaches the store. The taste of the cardamom was sweet. He also showed us another fruit which they generally use instead of tamarind, this fruit is dried and then canned for storage.

Further on the route we reached an open area were we found granite pieces laying scattered. We climbed the hillock and were mesmerized by the panoramic view around. After a brief session of photography we continued our trek on another trail.

We crossed few valleys, stream and some beautiful scenery before getting to a fresh green opening besides a pristine lake. The weather this far was awesome with cool breeze, clouds on the horizon, clear view of the route ahead.

We rested beside the lake and I had all the time in the world to explore the small falls that the lake water made as it overflowed its boundary. The accessibility of the falls makes it a really good place for photography and probably cinematography too.

We then had our lunch before resuming the next phase of the trek. Mr Sampath of Sharavathy valley relies on his expert cook for the taste - Mr Dharmanna. He reached the peak via a different route and had prepared an awesome lunch for us to savor.

The "Vana Bhojana" (literally meaning forest meal), besides the lake and the clouds slowly moving closer created a very memorable lunch for me. We as a team had gelled well by this time and were in full flow with our jokes and comments. Post lunch, we got some wild berries as desserts which made the lunch even special.

Just as we resumed our phase two of the trek, the weather turned form pleasant to cloudy and really challenging. We couldn't spot each other at a distance more than 3 mts, the clouds were so dense. One of our trek companions had pulled her muscle and decided to stay back at the spot accompanied by Sampath. The remaining team continue the trek with our guide leading the way.

A 20 minute simple trek given the terrain, we reached an awesome clearing(actually a ridge) atop the hill. This was the peak - made completely of stone. If the clouds cleared up, we could get an awesome view of the Western Ghats and its thick vegetation from this point. We weren't really luck and so we continue with the trek, moving along the boundary of the ridge, we reached a dense vegetation from where we had to get into a steep descent along the ridge to the Cave.

The clouds had now begun to pore and the descent was getting really messy. With some heavy weights (including me) the supporting shrubs were giving way and the sod had turned slippery. The light dimmed and visibility problems were high. The high moisture & rain was instrumental in avoiding us from any shots here.

After a 10 minutes descent we reached a cave formation. "Gavi" in Kannada stands for "Cave" and "Betta" for a "hill" - this the secret of the name this hill has. Getting to the last part of the cave is really hard; it requires us to creep through low and narrow opening between the rocks, move on slippery rock to finally get to the cave. This cave has a religious significance and villagers come here to offer their prayers to the deity here.

After a really hard photo shoot given the low light intensity, we resumed our trek to return to the lake. We reached the lake in around 40 minutes.

We then began our walk back to the Tempo Traveller, which had now been stationed at the main road were the jeep route ends. Continuing along the jeep road which had turned slippery post rains; we moved ahead to get to the TT.

The consistent rains had drenched every one of us, so we were quick to change and get seated in the Tempo. The tempo moved on, taking us back to Shanivara Sante - We had hot coffee and thanked the guide before leaving to a Camp Stay were we would spend the night.

We reached Camp Leapord Rock at night, had dinner and caught some really hard earned sound sleep.

Day 2:

After an hot cup of coffee in the morning, we went on an early morning safari through Nagarahole and then reached our rappelling spot.

We had an awesome Akki Rotti (rice pan cake) and Avalakki (pounded rice recipe) along with the famous Kashaya (herbal tea) which gave us a super bunch. We then completed our Rappeling activities and returned to our base camp.

Delicious Lunch was served and post which most of us spent time in the water sports facility available there.

I enjoy trekking a lot more than the other activities and thats one of the reasons for not having all the energy to write more about day 2, but none the less the second day too was equally exciting as the first one.

We began our journey back to Bangalore, and I got down at Mysore as I needed to get to Surthkal the next day for classes.