Monday, August 13, 2007


Skandagiri is about 70 kms. from Bangalore. This trek is known for the cloud formation atop the Skandagiri hill once the sun comes up in the morning. Hence, this was to be a moonlight trek [Though it ended up as a torchlight trek is another matter... he he he].

There were 13 of us including the guide [who joined from a village in the foothills of Skandagiri called Kalavarahalli]. We started from B'lore somewhere around 6:30 p.m. in a tempo traveller. I did not know most of the people who joined us for the trek but this was a bunch I was to become friends with and did not know at that time.

This trek was Vish's idea. He had been planning and chasing all of us for over a month. He did a bang job of organising it. There was Shobha, who brought her famous tripod. I had met her previously on last Diwali. Then, there was Asha, Sounder, Sanman, Arun, Gautam, Harish, Surya. Shobha, Sanman, Sounder, Asha, Harish are all seasoned trekkers. At about 7:30 we stopped in a place called Chikkaballapur for dinner. The place in itself was not good. But when you are with a group joking and laughing it hardly matters.

By the time we finished dinner it was already 9:00. We had to move now. We reached Kalavarahalli around 9:45. There our guide met us. He knew the terrain very well and walked up like a goat with Shobha following suit.

Our guide told us that there are two routes, one which is shorter and also steeper and the other which is winding and longer. Hands down we chose the latter :-) We wanted to enjoy the trek not hurt ourselves. There is no defined path way. You just keep climbing and finding out the way between the stones and boulders. None of the guys grumbled. Sanman skidded twice. Sounder couldn't speak after sometime. Shobha and Asha are goats!

One person, however, grumbled a lot! and cribbed! and complained! ... and that person was me!!! LOL. I was a first time [yes, there will be more] trekker. I was under the impression that the 12.5 kms walk to Vaishno Devi had prepared me for all this. But little did I know what this trek was to make me endure!! My knees have been under a bad spell lately; add to it a sheer lack of activity and cramps at night because of inactivity... a lovely concoction for disaster. I may not have the stamina, or exceptional health but I have my stubbornness and, on that trek, lovely people.

Everyone understood my predicament and no one complained! Even now thinking of how each one helped me or accepted that I'm slow, and that too without a word of objection, humbles me. Generous, generous people!!

Each one of them at some point held my hand and helped me move up. The camaraderie that I felt at those moments is indescribable.... so much for sentimental stuff !!! :-)

We took a lot of stops. sometimes because of me and sometimes because someone slipped or sometimes because someone was thirsty. All these stops gave us an opportunity to look around [wherever we could in that dark!!] and enjoy the beauty of the climb. We took photos or simply energised ourselves for the walk.

All the while we kept asking the guide how long it was to take us to the top! I suspect we were the slowest bunch he had ever walked with!! [poor guy] Of course, he replied and of course we did not like the answers!! LOL. Still, cribbing and joking, resting and admiring we walked along.

About 2 or 3 kms up the way [which, by the way, our guide told us was only 10% covered] we reached a huge boulder. It stood on a slant to the hill forming a roof. The gutsy amongst us [everyone except me :-)] walked upto the foot of the rock and sat there. Exhausted, poor me, I sat at the mouth and just lied back. I so badly needed that rest.

Lying down like that and looking at that rock made me wonder about the days when that rock was created. The tales it could tell me of the travellers who rested there before us, where it came from, how it came about to be where it was. I wondered how it must have come down hurtling and searching for a spot where it could rest. Then, it must have found that place - scenic, breathtaking and yet offering it much needed comfort. Then eons later a bunch of people came and rested there; finding similar peace in its lap.

Our guide began coaxing us to make a move as we had a long way to cover. Once again I grimaced, took a picture of the rock and moved.We walked further up taking a lot more breaks.

We reached the top somewhere around 11:30 p.m. We had been promised a temple where we could sleep and spend the night. The night was windy and cloudy. At that height clouds sail past you and leave you bedewed. Fun!!!

The temple is a stone structure probably never completed. The main entrance leads to a small room with floor on both sides. This room opens into another bigger room that can on a good day host about 8 people. This room again opens into a sanctum sanctorum. Neither the room nor the sanctum sanctorum have a flooring. The roof leaks. No one has any idea who attempted to build the temple or why was it never completed.

Behind the temple there is a similar structure. The pillars have caved in. The entire structure was dilapidated. The main temple has pillars that were never completely carved and are being used to sit upon by tourists.

Another thing that needs mentioning here is that on the way to the temple there was a stone structure in the shape of a tiny room. In this structure there was a small opening that had been closed off.

We tried to brave all of this and spread some polythene sheets and sleep on the floor. I tried to do the same but realised soon that I was not prepared to take the cold floor. I offered my place to anyone who would be brave to attempt the feat and Asha took up the challenge. Brave sleepy girl!!

Sunish had slept long ago!! Asha took my place. Sounder managed in whatever way he could. Sanman followed suit. Shoba, Gautam and Surya spent the entire night sitting outside the temple. Vish and I tried to walk to and fro and tried to keep ourselves warm.

Dawn broke very slowly. Never have I welcomed the sun like I did then! Slowly and persistently the dawn broke. My teeth chattered and Gautam and Vish have photos to prove... lol.

Winds gathered speed. Gathering Sounder and Shobha was the toughest. They couldn't have enough of the dangers that the lovely spot afforded. Somehow the feat was attempted. We paid up for all that we had bought over the night and left the place.

The journey was not without breaks. These were longer as now we could see clearly and photograph easily. Rounding up everyone after each stop was not easy. Left to them they would have gladly stayed there the entire day :-)

Reaching ground was pleasant. Now I didn't have to battle slippery rocks and moist earth. But by now most of our bunch had walked past us. Vish had hurt himself and I decided to stay by his side. So, there were were Sanman, Gautam, Vish and myself.

It was a lovely trip. I enjoyed it despite cribbing and complaining. The grand hills and the panorama, the wide canvas of the earth kept reminding me of the Creator. I wish I had larger eyes and sharper intellect to capture the sights. A poet once said he needs a thousand eyes to admire the beauty of the Mother. I feel like that.

Sometime, climbing down, I once again thought of the days when the hills were in the making. Or perhaps there were huge dinosaurs that, roamed those hills. for them these hills may not have felt as huge as I felt.