Treks are generally thought to be planned events, but I don't agree with the view. Treks are greater fun when you learn to accept the uncertainty that comes along with the new location. It is this uncertainty and the associated feeling that keeps me looking for more in every trek.
I had just returned from a long travel to Maharashtra, and was planning to rest when Rajat called me asking if I was game to a trek to Skandagiri. I had heard a lot about this from visitors to the place and the pictures that people had clicked. I was game but wanted some more people to join so that we had a larger company.
Rajat got along with him Vishwanath; I could get in Naveen, Umesh and Uncle Manjunath. It was a nice team of 6 people. Changing our initial plant to go by bikes we switched to car for ease of travel. With the team in place, we decided to leave Bangalore at 1:30 am.
I woke up at 1:00 am with Uncle along, and picked up Vishwa, Rajath and Naveen from Domlur. We got Umesh on board from Vidyranayapura. We fueled ourselves and finally left Bangalore at 2:45 am.
The night drive along the Bellary highway was a great experience, we reached past the Airport deviation, went further. Our idea was to reach Chickballapur as early as possible and begin trek. On the way, we saw a car with a drunken driver, whom we couldn't predict what the next move of his was.
We reached Chickballapur and 3:30 am. We were scouting for direction late night, thanks God! We found a rickshaw driver and asked for direction. Vishwa tried getting some inputs from the commuters in Telugu.
One you are in Chickballapur main road, go ahead till the Police Station, just before that there is turn take it. From there you have to continue till you find a Banyan tree (or rather move over 5 humps). Take a left there and you will find yourself navigating through the narrow lanes of some village.
At the dead end you could expect a Constable and the Inspector waiting in the jeep. You would need to pay an entry fee and get the approval. Missing or skipping this means you would find some more constables further through the way.
The next phase was through beside the lake (which is on the left) then through a village. The village road has a dead end, and just prior to that you would need to take a left turn. Keep driving and on the right hand side, you see torch light flashing.
Pretty soon you would find being interrupted by self proclaimed guides. The rates of their guidance depend on your vulnerability. They try dissuading you from venturing out on your won saying you would get lost. If you have trekked earlier, finding the path isn’t really difficulty. The guide charges vary from Rs 200/- to Rs 3000/-. Ensure you bargain well - else you would be taken for ride. The only challenge in the complete process is the starting point of the trek. If you are able to spot the starting point, getting to the peak is very easy.
Moving ahead without the guide, we had taken a chance here. We were new to the place, there was darkness all around. We weren’t familiar with the terrain to. Just beside the foot of the mountain, there is a small plantation of acacia trees, beside that there is a small stream - watch out for any water in this.
One you cross the stream, you are at the foot of the mountain. There is only one way which is pretty clear, and if you have crossed over earlier than the actual one - you might need to do some scouting just the way we did. Be ready for it - this is where the fun is; the usual route is not a great fun.
Ensure at each step you are looking out for the right route! Tough we began on the right route, we missed a small section of easy route and returned to the harder and then came back to the easier one at the fork. So, keep your senses open and watch out, even if you don’t, you will only be delayed to the summit, not denied of it.
The total time to the peak is around 1hr 15 min to 1 hr 30 minutes. Our detour cost us another 15 minutes. We started off following a small group of torches; we thought they knew the way, and it was only after some time that we realized that they too were looking out for the right way. After grappling in the dark for around 10 min, we spotted the right route. We continue along this route, and were able to spot the exact path. At one of the points we took a left turn instead of a right. This is where many people who were climbing too had mistaken and we were no exception.
This detour takes us to a steep rock phase where our confidence on our footing is tested. Most of the team members easily came up, but Vishwa, who hadn’t been on too many treks earlier, had some issues. He was looking his confidence, but made it up at this point after a struggle of 10 minutes.
The next phase we joined the other route, which joins here. At this point, the route is a bit slippery given the early morning mist. There are some step marks on the stone surface and we could use this to climb.
As we began climbing the trek, at the base we couldn’t see the peak, but as we continued the ascent the surface slowly unraveled itself and this was another challenge that our team had. Vishwa wasn’t expecting such a long trek to the peak given that this was his second trek.
We realized that in order to make it to the peak as a group, we needed to move ahead quickly. I decided to accompany Vishwa and boost his confidence. This seemed to have worked the trick and we picked up the pace. In less than 20 minutes we navigated some dangerous curves and reached the top. We reached the peak at 5:50 am.
Now was the time for the anxious wait - the wait to spot the Sun and the clouds if any that is so talked about of this place? We waited for nearly an hour and at around 6:45 Am we spotted the sun. All the while we had twilight, and the anticipation kept everything away from the mind. For many in the group, this was an early raise and probably the very few occasions when we had seen the sun come out from the horizon.
At a distance, one can spot two hills and I guess these would be Mulabagilu (not sure) which is where the first sun-rise is seen in the State of Karnataka. I think I would get down there sometime and have a look at the sun rise. Once the sun shown itself, it begun raising rapidly and just 5 minutes since the sun-rise the whole of the surrounding was brightly lit.
We spent the next hour clicking pictures and snaps of the surrounding. There are a couple of mantapas at the peak. One of these is the temple and the other probably was the guest house of the guard who would look out for enemy entering the vicinity. There is a fort which borders a very steep edge of the hill.
People have littered the peak and hence we find dogs and monkey a plenty there. There are a lot of stores that give u a tea and some quick breakfast like sandwiches, omelets’, bread jam etc. We had carried our own food - thanks to Vishwa for the wonderful palav he had prepared and got along.
We rested for a while and began our descent back to the base at 8 am. We had sufficient light and so the torches were all in the bag now. We moved slowly now that the whole day was there to make it to the base. With rests in between, we were having our tummy filled too.
We finally reached the base of the hill, a few meters away from where we began. We looked back and recollected what we had done over the past 4 to 5 hours. The memory of the night would stay in our mind for ever. The excitement and fun clouded with the experience is here to stay with us.
This was one awesome trip, as I drove back to Bangalore; we visited our role model - Sir M V's home town - Mokshagundam. There are three monuments that are put up at this place. The house of his birth has been renovated. There is also the house that he used while he was the Diwan - part of this has been converted as a museum and the remaining houses the SBM - which he was instrumental in forming. His samadhi is just beside these houses and has a beautiful lawn surrounding it.
We paid our tributes to the great engineer who inspires us and would inspire more engineers for the years to come. We prayed for his blessings and returned to Bangalore.
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We reached home by noon and had the remaining of the day to rest!