It was my Bangalore room buddy’s birthday and we celebrated it the typical guy’s way – cake cutting followed by ‘birthday-bums’. Birthday-bums is the ceremony of lifting the birthday boy by his arms and legs and others taking turn to kick his butt. I've always wondered why guys do such crazy things? I mean, there are other ways to act crazy… Pack your bag one fine morning, hit the jungle and get lost and finally find your way back; greet your girl with a wicked grin, say “hi, care to go for a ride”, get her on the pillion seat of your bike and just go somewhere… anywhere… That’s what appeals to me as being crazy. Ah! But no five fingers of our hand are the same, right? Anyways… When the others gifted him with wrist watch, t-shirt and other stuff, I had an entirely different idea about his birthday gift.
“Care to go trekking?” I asked them.
It was past midnight and everyone stared at me as if I blurted out a bad joke.
“Guys, stop staring at me like that. I mean, what I said”
Moonlight trekking at Skandagiri is what I had in my mind.
There were twelve of us including two girls (girl friends of two of the guys) on seven motorcycles and it didn’t take us much time to pack our bags. In fact there was nothing much to pack except to load our camera with fresh cells, pull over our winter coats and fill a couple or three of flasks with steaming black tea.
I had planned this surprise adventure trip in advance and made myself familiar with the route in Google Map. Well, gazing at the trailing yellow lines on Google Map and a night trail along it are entirely different things and we did have little difficulties finding our way up to the foothills of Skandagiri Hills at Kravarahalli Betta, around 65 kms from Bangalore.
The major part of the ride was through NH 7 and was comfortable except for the December chill seeping in through our sleeves. We had our pit stop at Chik Ballapur and had the black tea from our flasks. From there we took a detour and followed the country roads through rustic settlements, sometimes asking for directions to chance encounters on the way. Getting lost and finding our way back, we reached the foot hills of Skandagiri at a quarter past 2 at night.
I was surprised to find a few other adventurers who stood huddled around local guides who were to help us climb the treacherous rocky surface and reach the top. We started our trekking by around half past 2. Though the silvery hill under the moon looked inviting, the climb was very difficult with slippery slopes inclined at nearly 60 degrees. My mind went back to those two girls. “May be I should have left them behind in the comfort of their homes”. I turned back to see how they were fairing and guess what? It was pitch black. I wouldn’t have known if a grizzly bear stood and chuckled its shoulders right behind me. Well, that was quite scary!
I called up one of the girls and waited for her response. She answered and suddenly the numbing silence of the night was clamouring with those typical feminine giggles. I let out a sigh of relief and continued climbing until I reached a plane ground. The mist kept sweeping in front of me and through that I saw a faint glimmer of a fire. I walked towards it and was too glad to find some of us sitting around a canvas tent and steam rising from it. I was even shocked to find the two girls sitting and smiling at me. I must confess that the sight was a light blow to my macho ego. It was a refreshment camp of sorts set up by the locals and they served us with omelets straight from the frying pan and black coffee. Thinking back about it I still can’t help but feel that the tent, the fire and all that were just figments of imagination from a dreamy night.
We reached the top of the hill by around 4 in the morning. There was a bright crescent moon plastered on an indigo sky over our heads and I could see silhouetted figures moving around me through the mist. Each of us rested our tired bones at whichever spot that we found appropriate for us; the lover birds seeking their privacy behind the upturned rocks and boulders. Leaning to the wall of some stone structure and gazing at the star lit sky filled me with a sense of romance and bliss so deep that I really missed the presence of a lover girl who could have been by my side at that moment.
I don’t recollect whether I slept off because the next thing I remember is seeing the sunrise breaking behind the horizon not too long after I settled down. I stood up and saw the golden rim of the sun slowly coming up from behind what appeared to me as thick mist. But I was wrong in thinking of it as mist for, within a few minutes I saw the sun glowing bright orange and floating above beds of clouds and not mist! It was a spell binding view. I’ve never seen a sunrise like that before! It was like in a dream or, as if I was standing in some fairy land. There were clouds around me, bellow me, above me… Clouds being swept to my face by the mist laden winds… Oh mine! I’ll keep referring to this moment as “witnessing a sunrise in heaven” because the experience was nothing less than heavenly. I felt like 'Bruce Almighty' standing at the doors of heaven.
The day light showed us what was left to be seen at the top of that misty-hill. There was a little stone temple, a sacrificial stone which was once stained by the blood of many innocent animals and now washed clean and smooth by the changing weathers, a statue of Nandi (Lord Shiva’s holy bull) carved out of a rock and many other rock structures.
The climb down
The climb down was even more treacherous as our untrained muscles were aching out of the strain of the night’s climb. It took us around an hour to reach the foot of the hill and we were welcomed by little kids selling tender coconuts. At the foot hill was the Papagni Math (Aashram) with the inmates living in harmony with the nature around them and some monkeys jeering at us. And that’s more or less of what you'll find at this place.
Returning to our dingy old rooms in Bangalore, stretching out on our beds and slipping into blissful, dreamless slumber is all I remember.
Well folks, if you’re someone living in or around Bangalore and thinking of a weekend getaway with your gang of friends, Skandagiri is the right place for you. That is if you wouldn’t mind a little crack in your heels and a little scratch on your skin because it’s worth all the pain. I can guarantee you that Skandagiri would make your weekend a most memorable one.
Note: The trekking fee is Rs. 15/- which you can pay at the forest office at the foot of the hill once you come down and the guides charge you for their service too.
Some more interesting pics. taken at Skandagiri.
Incomplete rocky structures at the hill top.
Mountain ranges around us blanketed my clouds.
The dilapidated Shiva temple (front) and a mysterious stone structure (back).
The climb down.
Info. board on Skandagiri expedition site.
The climb down.
Info. board on Skandagiri expedition site.
Altitude: About 1350m above sea level.
Nearest town/medical help: Chikkaballapura (5kms)
Nearest airport/ railway-station: Devanahalli, Bangalore (60 kms)
Accommodation: Come on! No one goes there for a stay over!
For more details, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandagiri