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Goecha La – A trek to remember

7 Jun
    After covering the Himalayas of Kashmir, Uttarkhand and Himachal, our natural progression was to cover the Himalayas from the North-Eastern part of India. Tintin dug-in and found the Goecha-La trek suitable for our schedule. An 8-day trek across one of the most naturally gifted and beautiful places on earth – The mighty Himalayas. What better way to use 8 of the 12 allotted leaves per year?? 🙂
    Monks the usual culprit in being the first guy to sign-up and drop out of the trek. The last time, it was for Leh and this time he wanted to compensate for that and go-to Leh instead of joining us for this trek. One can’t blame him though, but, he would be missing a trek with 10 of his friends. Tintin, Manja, Blank, MoMS, sk (formerly kaddi), ppr(me), Sen, Adarsh, Nagi and Boyz were among the final list of trekkers in a group of 24 who signed up for the May 19-May 28 batch of Indiahikes. Since 6 of us were working in the same organization, leaves required a bit of haggling and finally, we booked our flights, trains, arranged for local transports and on May 17th we were ready to leave but without my camera, which I forgot to pack at the last minute after charging the batteries overnight. It just proves that being too careful can be hazardous too.. 😛
17 May 2012
Day 1:  Its time to roll.. 🙂
Bangalore to Kolkotta

    We took the 5:40pm Indigo flight to Kolkotta (my god!! what a humid city) and then a 45-minute taxi ride costing Rs.180 to NJP station. It is advisable to have your food at a hotel en-route to the station. There are no good restaurants close to the station and even after 1 hour of frantic searching, we had to be content with just the station-provided food. We then caught the 10:55pm Padatik express to New Jalpaiguri(NJP) close to Siliguri in West Bengal. Adarsh was the only guy who had to be content with a RAC seat instead of a berth in the train. That’s the punishment for booking late.. 😀
18 May 2012
Day 2: A day wasted.
NJP to Gangtok Singtam – 120km drive – 6 hours

    We arrived at NJP around 9am the following day. Our plan was to reach Gangtok, a 6 hour drive from NJP, spend the night visiting the famous boulevard and the early next morning visiting the palace, ride in the rope-way and visit the Rumtek monastery. About 4 hours into the journey, we arrived at Ranipool, 15km out of Gangtok, where got stuck in a traffic jam for 2 hours, caused due to a road-block setup by the Sikkim-Manipal University students. Based on the suggestions from localites who said that in the previous instance the road-block eventually cleared only at 10pm late in the night, we turned back to a Singtam, a small town about 30kms from Gangtok. We found a good hotel at Rs.1200 per room (a bit costly… but people were tired and were in no mood to negotiate) and had a sumptuous meal with MoMS throwing a tantrum about spilling food on the ground.. 😛 One suggestion is the Lychee fruit found on these parts, is a must have. Also, one should try to buy jersey’s of various football teams costing mere Rs.250 (including the shorts).

Onboard the Padatik express heading to NJP

@NJP station

View of Singtam town

19 May 2012

Day 3: Journey to the base camp
Singtam to Yuksom – 110km drive – 5 hour
    Our destination for the day was Yuksom, the base-camp for the trek. Our first stop was at Rabong, where we had some of best paranthas and momos. The town also hosted the first sight-seeing spot in two days – a small monastery. Our next stop, was at the famous town of Tashiding which hosts one of the most beautiful and sacred monasteries one can find – Tashiding Monastery. Mt.Kanchenjunga in the backdrop, greenery all around, serene atmosphere. Just the right ingredients to let ones spiritual desires run free. Among all things, the Buddhists have a superb skill at finding the SPOT for constructing a monastery. 🙂 We arrived at the former capital of Sikkim -Yuksom around 5pm. Lying around 5600ft, Yuksom is a small town with tourism and trekking being the major source of income for the local populace. By 11pm, we had packed for the trek and  raring to start the next day.

Teesta river
Tashding monastery
Our stay at Yuksom

20 May 2012

Day 4: Start of the trek-  A day to cross the bridges and the attack of mini-mosquitoes
Yuksom to Sachen – 3 hours
Altitude gain: 7,151 ft – 5,600 ft = 1551 ft
    We began the day by taking permission for the trek from the police station which requires us to submit an ID proof with photocopies and doing a final bit of shopping and re-packing. By 10am, we were all set to leave. Amit Pandey and Preetham were the representatives from Indiahikes. Pemtuk, a 36-year old localite who looks like a 20 year old was our trek guide and Kamal the actual 20-year old was the co-guide.

    The initial part of the trek is through the village and half an hour into the trek, with a small climb and gradual descent we arrive at first bridge over Pha Khola. On crossing the bridge, the trail is through thick forest and an hours journey takes us to the second bridge over Tshushay Khola. The view of the river and the bridge is a beauty in itself. Again the journey continues through the forest, with a small cement bridge – Mentogang Khola signalling the arrival of the first camp. The camp-site is about 15 minutes from here-on and present in a small clearing to the right of the trail, with the kitchen hut to the left, which has easy access to water. The area surrounding the kitchen left a lots to be desired. Hope Indiahikes takes care of cleaning up the area. Also, one thing is easily noticable, the mini-mosquitoes. My god are they in millions!! They are hard to be noticed on the skin until they bite and they outnumber us aleast 1 to 10000.. 😛 So the only way to protect oneself is to wear long-sleeve T-shirt, apply mustard oil (suggested by Pemtuk) or use mosquito repellant. As the temperature dips the insects are no where to be found. So, just bear the brunt during the 3 hours of sunlight. 🙂

First view of the terrain at the start of the trek

Bridge over Pha Khola

Our camp at Sachen

21 May 2012

Day 5: MoMS’ tryst with his twisted ankle
Sachen to Bhakim to Tshokha – 4 hours
Altitude gain:  9,689 ft  – 7,151 ft = 2538 ft

    The day has a steep climb to Bhakim. So, there were some streching excersies early in the morning. MoMS, the ever-hungry-man, wanted to enquire about breakfast and while walking towards the kitchen in a hawai-chappal, twisted his ankle. 😀 wah! He hobbled around for a few minutes complaining about pain and then was ready for the trek in a flash. Ever-hungry, incomplete statements during talk and quick healing – now we were begining to doubt if he was human. 😛 By 8:30am, we were good to go. The start of the trek is literally a walk in the park. No steep climbs or descents. About 30 minutes into the journey we come to face with a very steep descent which lasts about 15 minutes heading straight to the huge bridge over Prek adorned with prayer flags. This marked the begining of the huge climb we were facing for the day. This part of the trek is again through the forest but though the climb is tiring, the cool air doesn’t let one buckle down to tiredness. An hour into the climb we arrived at Bhakim lying at 8636 ft (an ascent of 1500ft in 1 hour), which has a teashop with one of the most amazing views of the valley below. It is noteworthy that mobile coverage is available at Bhakim. We settled here close to an hour, while MoMS restarted his complain about the ankle. By now it started to swell and he was unable to even walk on plain ground. A painkiller, few quick-relief spray shots and an ankle-brace was all it took for him to get back to his feet and continue the walk towards Tshoka. This won him a few hearts but only a few know the truth that all that was drama to grab the sympathy and attention!!

    A small climb of 45minutes takes us to Tshoka, which has one of the better campsites we have been to in all the treks. The camp is at the hill top with the view of the valley on one side and the view of snow covered Mt Pandim on the other. 🙂 By the end of the day, everybody had a doubt that MoMS was faking his ankle sprain because for the second time in the trek he ended up in the group finishing first. Though the girls in the trek saw MoMS as a hero. The attention seeker got the attention he craves. 😛 We visited the local monastery close to a pond and ended the day with a Karaoke session singing songs from various languages including Kannada, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and English.

Bridge over Prek

MoMS with the twisted ankle

Tshokha monastery

22 May 2012
Day 6: Super-serene climb amidst Rhododendrons
Tshokha to Phedang to Dzongri = 5 hours
Altitude gain:  12,981 ft – 9,689 ft = 3292 ft

    The D-day of climbing. According to the guide, completion of this day’s trek in good shape implies that the GoechaLa trek is majorly done. We began the day in similar fashion with streching excercises. By 9am, we were ready to confront the climb. The trek begins with a gradual ascent, with wooden logs added as steps enroute, to protect the trekkers from the slush in-case it rains, as the entire path is pretty muddy. One begins to notice a lot of Rhododendron blossoms in different hues of red, yellow, white, purple and pink enroute. A trek of an hour and half takes us to Phedang which stands at 12,068 ft. The camp was looking like a set from a movie with beautiful Rhododendron flowers on almost all the trees and the mist covering the entire camp. We had a break of about 30 minutes where we also took a 5 minute path taking us away from Dzongri and towards Kockchurang, to fill up our water with ice-cold water.

    We restarted the second major climb of the day with the path covered entire with Rhododendron trees on either sides. It is the most beautiful part of trek and looked truly a like a “stairway to heaven” or rather “pathway to heaven”. Then the path evens out before a steep climb along the ridge where we can see a lot of prayer flags put up. We didnt spot any shrine near-by in the mist. From here on, the path descends gradually towards Dzongri with Pandim, Khabru and Kanchenjunga range visible as one comes closer to the camp site which lies amidst the grasslands. This was the trek day which I enjoyed the most. Alone with nature for a major part of the journey – nobody in sight ahead or behind during the trek. Not a care in the world, the colorful birds chirping away, the beautiful Rhododendron flowers, the mist and the trek path. Wow! Just reliving this part is refreshing. It was a good day to trek… 🙂

Trail heading towards Phedang


Walk through the Rhododendrons to Dzongri

Last stretch of the trek to Dzongri

23 May 2012

Day 7: First sunrise view of Kanchenjunga range
Part 1: Dzongri to Dzongri top and back to Dzongri  =  1 and 1/2 hour
Altitude gain:   13,676 ft  – 12,981 ft = 695 ft

Part 2: Dzongri to Kokchurang  to Thansing = 4 hours
Altitude gain:  12,894 ft – 12,981 ft = -87 ft

    This day was divided into two parts. The first one targetting the sunrise at Kanchenjunga veiw from Dzongri top. And the second part ofcourse the travel to next camp at Thansing. Pemtuk awoke us at 4:30 am so that the 30minute steep climb is covered before the sunrise. Trekking without bags, a majority of the 24 people decided to go and a tiring 45 minutes later we were at the top insight of one of the superb sunrises ever. Dzongri top holds a 360 degree view of the valley, along with the view of Pandim, Khabru and Kanchenjunga range. The snow plume that emerged out of the snow clad peak when the first sun rays hit the mountain will always stay in our memory. The rays of the sun were distinct as if photoshopped for us right in front of our eyes. Wish one of us had a DSLR or a good camera to capture the moment. But we did have good photographers if not cameras in tintin, manja and blank who clicked away happily at the amazing sunrise. After an hours stay at the peak, we descended and found that mist and clouds began to cover up the whole view and a small almost circular rainbow was visible ahead of us with the sun exact behind us. This caused our shadows to be cast at the center of the rainbow. Looked surreal to say the least. But these two views just “made our day” irrespective of what the trek had instore for us.

    Early in the morning, before the start of the trek, we were made aware that one of our co-trekkers, Sandeep had some breathing trouble even after regular use of diamox since the start of the trek. So, the Indiahikes representatives – Preetham and Amit, decided to wait for a day at Dzongri, to confirm if he gets better and in the worst scenario, travel back with him to Yuksom to get medical help. So, the rest 23 of us were left with just 2 guides along with a few helpers, mule-men and yak-men. But the days journey was supposedly very easy and the major part of the trek was gradual ascent and descent of small hillocks holding meadows. Two hours into the trek, with the gang moving slow as the mist might misdirect trekkers at the end, as the path is not clearly defined, we arrived at a steep descent point. 20 minutes into the descent we arrived at Kokchurang (12,096 ft) lying adjacent to the river Rathong Chu which joins Rangeet river, which in-turn finally joins River Teesta. The view at the camp is one more highlight at the trek. On crossing a few wooden bridges across the river, the final climb begins with the walk along small boulders on the hill which takes about an hour and half leading straight into the grasslands at Thansing, lying amidst the mighty hills in all directions.

Sunrise view from Dzongri point

Our shadow forming at the center of the rainbow due to sun lying directly behind us

Trek path to Kokchurang

wild yak

Rathong Chu river @Kokchurang

24 May 2012

Day 8: Penultimate day of the climb and visit to Samiti – the mesmerizing lake.
Part 1: Thansing to Lamuney =  2 hours
Altitude gain: 13,600 ft – 12,894 ft = 706 ft

Part 2: Lamuney to Samiti Lake and back to Lamuney = 1 and 1/2 hour
Altitude gain: 14,100 ft – 13,600 ft = 500 ft

    This day’s trek is as much about preparing for the next day, as much for acclimatization to handle the higher altitudes. So our next camp at Lamuney lay just across the valley so much so that the campsite visible to the trained naked eye from the hill nearby. A slow start to the day and a lazy couple of hours trek through the valley following a river, took us to the military camp close lamuney. Our camp lay about 10 mins from the military camp – the only one we saw during the entire trek. The walk is on flat ground most of the way with a very slight ascent. Most of us were preoccupied with the challenge facing us the of the next day. We dumped our luggage and left to Samiti lake allowing for the porters to arrive with our tents and setup the camp and prepare our lunch.Our gear changed from here-on, ready to adjust to the harsher and colder climate by wearing two layers of clothes and started using our gloves even at 1pm. An hours climb along the steep and barren hill took us to blue-colored Samiti lake lying in the midst of hills. Our visit to Pangong-Tso was the highlight of the trip to Leh and similarly this lake with its serene and mesmerizing beauty though on a smaller scale was a sight to behold. This just proved a saying “Less is More”. 🙂 We spent close to an hour at this spiritual lake for the Buddhists, making a pradakshina (a full-circle) of the lake before making the return journey to Lamuney, for the much needed rest as the BIG day of the trek was finally upon us.

Trek following the river path to Lamuney

Military camp @ Lamuney
Blue watered Samiti lake

25 May 2012
Day 9: The D-day of the trek. Time for some fist pumping.. 🙂
Part 1: Lamuney to Goecha La and back to Lamuneyvia Samiti Lake   = 10 hours
Altitude gain:  16,000 ft – 13,600 ft = 2400 ft

Part 2: Lamuney to Thansing = 1 and 1/2 hour

    The D-day had arrived. We were woken up at 1:30am when the first batch of trekkers started moving towards View point 1. Wearing multiple layers of clothing and only carrying things that was necessary, we prepared ourselves in the dark. A small delay cost us precious time and we were only ready to leave by 2:45am, a good 30 minutes late. Walking in the dark with our torches was very slow and some of us were very worried that we would miss the much expected sunrise. But by 3:30am, the brightness increased and so did our pace. The climb is steep at most places and it is advisable to take small breaks inorder to acclimatise oneself to such high altitude. We arrived at View point 1 just as the sunrise happened. It was a big relief for entire gang of 22 except1 person who didnot make the days journey. We had finally completed the major part of the trek and were insight of the Kanchenjunga range at sunrise. The beauty of the Himalayas in full glory was in our sight. 🙂

    People returning to Lamuney decided to rest and then move back with Kamal while, Pemtuk led us towards View point  2. The journey is a very steep descent of 300 meters taking us straight into Zemathang which has a desert/barren landscape. One can enjoy this part of the 30 minute trek. Then begins the 700 meter ascent towards View point 2. 14 of us headed towards the summit. One can enjoy superb views of the range even during the the entire trek. After two hours of the journey since View point 1, I was out of energy. One should praise Sen and blank for continuing even with literally zero energy while I stopped 20 minutes short of the summit due to the cold causing a nose block making breathing tough. A 20 minute push might have taken the count of people to a record 13 in one batch. But sadly that could not be. Though, in hindsight, that was a wise decision as Pemtuk had adviced me not to trek the last part with a cold. As usual sk, MoMS, tintin, boyz and nagi were in the batch completing first which showed their good fitness.. 🙂 We returned back to Lamuney as 12 heroes conquering Viewpoint 2 with me and Shantala, one of the other trekker just falling short of the final hurdle. No matter, it was worth a try, as major views of Kanchenjunga were seen en-route. Resting a couple of hours after lunch, we made the return journey to camp Thansing. It was another good day of trekking, which tested the physical as-well-as mental fitness of each and every one of us. 

View of Sunrise upon Kanchenjunga range from View point 1

@view point 1

Cold desert at Zemathang

Goecha Lake

View of Samiti lake enroute to Lamuney from Goecha La

Samiti Lake

26 May 2012

Day 10: Return journey – Its blackout time.
Thansing to Phedang to Tshokha = 6 hours
    Since the trek was as good as done, most of the people were already thinking about a good nights sleep on their own bed at home or home-cooked meal or even a chicken biryani from a specific restaurant in one case… 😛 During the descent to Tshokha, we took the same path along the boulders and rough terrain heading down straight into Kokchurang and enjoying the view. But from here on the path is different, as we head towards Phedang instead of Dzongri via an alternate route. The terrain is simple but not usable by mules and yaks, which took the route through Dzongri to reach Phedang. About 30 minutes after Kokchurang , my health got the better of me and I blacked out. With the help of Raghu(doctor), Ram, Gandhiji (the veteran 60-year old trekker) and several of the gang (manja, bl, MoMS, sen, boyz and nagi) through constant ORS and glucose water helped me out. Pemtuk with the help of Komal and 3 of their helpers literally carried me to Tshokha. This just shows that one should not ignore minor signs and indications our body provides after having very less water and food since the previous day. I was lucky enough that there were people to help in the time of need. A small suggestion is to keep oneself fit for such a huge trek and make sure one has lots of water each day.

@Thansing campsite

Rhododendron in full bloom

View of Tshoka town

27 May 2012

Day 11: Back to civilization –  A Blitz to the end of the trek
Tshokha to Sachen to Bhakim to Yuksom = 3 and 1/2 hours
    With my health showing minor improvement but still having weakness, the same trend continued. Pemtuk and co just ran a marathon helping me out, with MoMS, sk, Boyz and tintin making a beeline to help if there is trouble. We met Amit and Preetham at the bridge soon after crossing Sachen. With minor breaks, the total journey was cut short to a mere 3 and 1/2 hours, which usually takes about 6 hours. I will forever be indebted for the help these people made. On completion of the trek, me and MoMS went to the Yuksom Government hospital for a checkup, only to find dehydration and weakness as the root cause for me and MoMS leg was just a sprain. All in all, a good report to take back. After our lunch at 5pm, we held a small ceremony to thank the guides for their help, all along the 8 days of the trek, before heading out to Yuksom town to gobble up some local food/drink. It was a trek which tested the physical and mental boundaries of every one of us. Few of us like boyz and sk excelled at it while a few like MoMS got the attention they deserved :P, while in common many of us got what we came for – 8 days in the cradle of mother nature with not a worry in the world… 🙂

Pemtuk and co entertaining us with a song and dance at the appreciation ceremony

The 24 trekkers upon completion

28 May 2012

Day 12: The long return journey and a trip to Kirateshwar Mahadev Mandir
Yuksom to NJP = 8 hours
    Adarsh was the first guy to leave, as he booked a flight from Bagodara to Bangalore. So, the gang reduced to 9 members and after a few goodbyes to other trekkers, we left towards NJP with some time to kill inbetween. The Shiva temple at Legship also known as Kirateshwar Mahadev Mandir is renowned and we spent close to an hour in the temple premises, built on the banks of the river Rangeet, which has to be crossed via a metal-bridge. Our next stop was at Jorethang where ATM’s are available. We were running short of cash and this was the town where we had planned to have our lunch and do a bit of shopping. But as luck would turn out, all the 3 ATM’s in the town were dysfunctional and the nearest ATM was at Siliguri a good 3 hour drive away. So, we dropped all our plans and moved to Siliguri to withdraw money, pay the driver Rs.4000 for the day before he dropped us at the Railway station, a good 3 hours before the departure of our train – Padatik express at 9pm. A few went ahead and visited the market buying the famous Darjeeling Tea, arriving just in time to have some edible but tasteless food at the station before departing to Kolkotta.

Ymmuy momos for breakfast

Kirateshwar Mahadev Mandir @Legship

29 May 2012
Day 13: Sweat and hurry in the “City of Joy”
Kolkotta to Bangalore

    The last day of the trip had finally arrived. At Rs.500 per taxi for two of them, we were taken to Howrah bridge, Vidyasagar bridge and then dropped us off at Victoria memorial. After the trek, these concrete structures are not much to look at. A 10km journey costing 1000 bucks in 2 taxis. And a road side shop selling nimbu-sherbet gobble Rs.25 per small matka. Talk about “shavara” (getting cheated) in the morning.  (that’s my personal opinion). I suggest people to move such visits before the trek. Even at 9am, it felt very humid. Since the memorial/museum only opened at 10am, we had a good hour to kill in the park in-front of the memorial. By the time everybody gave a fast tour of the museum, we were running late to catch the 2:10pm flight. To add to the delay, KKR -the newly crowned champions of IPL decided to take out the victory parade on the same route and we had to scramble among thousands of cheering fans to catch the metro train from Rabindra Sadan to Dum Dum station. A few last minute sweet eatery purchases was done before taxi’s costing Rs.150 took us the airport just 5 minutes in-advance to the 45 minute criteria for domestic flights. The flight departed at 2:10pm to Bangalore from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. A frantic end to a memorable trek/trip – A trek to remember for many reasons. 🙂

Victoria Memorial

Pics link:

From L to R:

  1. MoMS – Got what he deserved. I mean the “attention”.
  2. ppr(me) – no comments 😛
  3. Adarsh – once in a lifetime trek for him.
  4. Sk – finished first everyday of the trek. Though he might claim otherwise.
  5. Tintin – best all-rounder. Always in the first batch and a good photographer. Only he can do that.
  6. Sen – My trek partner, matching my pace during majority of the trek days.  🙂
  7. Blank – Modern Shri Krishna for obvious reasons.
  8. Nagi – Fell in love with the trek on the 6th day. Thankfully! I was afraid he might complain that this was a poor trek.. 😛
  9. Boyz – The best trekker. He could compete with the guides and match their pace!
  10. Manja – Our best photographer.
the gang of 10 @ Yuksom before the start of the trek

Kaiwara – Bheema Bhakasura Betta & Kailasa parvatha

6 May
    6 of us – monks, raghu, finny, Ummi, skm, ppr(me) – on 4 bikes decided to visit Kawiara, the temple town with mythological significance, situated in Chintamani district, about 75kms from Bangalore. We met at the Tin factory near K.R.Puram at 7am and took the fly-over heading towards Hoskote along the SH75. A 20 minute ride took us to Hoskote, and just after the toll booth near the Government Hospital, there is a deviation to the left heading towards Chinatamani. Another 30 minute ride, covering 25km of straight SH82 Chintamani Mani road (some one must have had an easy time designing this route because there are few little curves to be handled), and we arrived at the H-cross (intersection of Chintamani Main road and Kolar-Chikballapur road). One can find super-soft Thatte idlis here for breakfast. After the H-cross, the road deteriorates and is under construction for almost the entire 16km ride. The arch leading towards the town appears to the left near the Kaiwara cross and a 3km ride leads one straight to the temple complex.

Entrance to Bheema-Bhakasura Betta

    One can park their vehicles at the complex for free of cost. Our first item in the itenary was climbing the Bheema-Bhakasura betta situated opposite to the temple complex. According to Mahabharatha, this was the place where the battle took place between Bheema and Bhakasura. A small trek of 40 minutes along the stone steps with a good tree cover leads to the peak where one can find paintings of the fight between the two on the boulders. Along the trek path you can visit the Chamundeshwari temple, Hanuman temple and Lakshmana teertha. Lakshmana teertha has significance from the Ramayana. The water source is believed to have been created by Lakshmana to quench Mother Sita’s thirst by cracking the hill open. The view at the top is good.

mural depicting the Bheema-Bhakasura fight at the peak

Amar-narayanaswamy temple

    On climbing down, we visited the Amar-narayanaswamy temple. The ashram is build under the name of Narayanappa also fondly called Kaiwara Thathayya. We then rode upto Kailasha giri situated about 7kms from the temple complex with the roads not in good shape. The hill is famous for its cave temples and meditation hall inside the man-made caves. Upon completion, we rode back 6kms to Vaikunta along the route to Kaiwara. This place is famous for Yoganarasimha Swamy temple and Gavi Amarnarayanaswamy temple which is present in a natural cave on the hill. From there, we rode back to Bangalore by 2pm, completing a mini-trek and small ride combo which is our target for all single day trips.

Enroute to Kailasha parvatha
Cave temples at the Kailasha parvatha

Stone arrangements for blessing

Gavi Amarnarayanaswamy temple
Points to be noted:
1. Route: Yelahanka-K.R.Puram-Hoskote-H cross- Kaiwara and back.
2. Bike distance: 170kms
3. Time taken for trek: 40 minute climb.
4. Difficulty: Very easy.
Pics links:

Kudremukha – A trek through the land of Iron ore

7 Mar
    Lying at a height of 1894 meters, in the dense Western Ghats of Chikmagalur district, Kudremukha ( literal meaning in the local dialect Kannada – face of a horse) is the second highest peak in Karnataka for trekkers to conquer. Kudremukha is home to the famous KIOCL (Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd). This particular trek was lying in the back of our mind for about 2 years now. The only reason why we were avoiding it was the hassles involved in getting the permissions for the trek from the Forest office due to fact that Kudremukha is a sanctuary to both the tigers and the Naxals. Our summer trek for this year, Ombathu Gudda, had to abandoned (again!! wth!!) due to permission problems and when Monks found a contact point, Sathish, for Kudremukha trek, through “prashant’s blog”, we jumped at the chance and booked the trek for the 1st weekend of March.
    Seven of us – Tintin, monks, MoMS, skm, Ummi, Raghu and ppr(me) boarded the 10:46pm Bangalore-Horanadu bus to KaLasa, which is about 20kms from the base of the peak. On arriving at KaLasa at 6am, we took the local bus to BaLegal, which is a 15km ride taking about 30minutes. At the bus stand, our guide had sent the jeep to take us along the 6km muddy trail to Mullodi village. We had a sumptuous breakfast of Idlis, packed our lunch at the stay and started the trek at 9:15am. Permissions for overnight stay in the forest range is not given. Hence, the trek has to be completed in a single day. The initial part of the trek is along a dusty path with small uphill and downhill movement. After 30 minutes, we reach the first stream with super cool water. One noteworthy point about this trek is that, no one has to worry about drinking water, as there are plenty of streams all along the trek path. Being a summer trek, one need not worry about leeches too but that is superseded by the scorching sun, which makes sure to sap the energy out of us inch by inch. MoMS, monks and skm never even bothered to get a cap for a summer trek. Way to go guys!! Hope you love the new tan + sun burn combination!! 😀

First view of the entire forest range

Picture taken at the first stream
    The trek continues into grasslands with huge valleys to the right side of the trek giving beautiful views for photo-enthusiasts. Then, we enter into thick forest cover which has a small stream running through it and again the process repeats three times (grasslands and forest) with several uphill struggles, making sure to catch our breaths after each steep climb. Controlled forest fire had cleared out major parts of the grassland and at some places the entire greenery of the grasslands is replaced by the black charred remains. Even as we trekked, we could see smoke rising around the trek path in the nearby peaks. Naxal area + forest fire + tiger reserve = now we know why the trek permission is so hard to get!! After trekking close to 8kms, one can find the sign displaying 1.5km from the peak. From here on, the trek becomes easier and almost flat-land walk with the final few hundred meters of uphill climb. At 1:15pm, we were at the peak. Standing on top of a peak taller than any other in the surrounding peaks has its advantages. The views are superb and at such high altitude, the sun does not seem much of a worry, as the cool breeze, fog and clouds take care of us – Its the gift/reprieve from the peak for the tired bodies 🙂
One of my favorite pics..

View from about 2kms from the peak

Thats “model” MoMS posing.. 😛

Cloud cover at the peak
    After a 30 minute break at the peak for picture clicking and MoMS doing a lot of posing :P, the guide took us to a small water fall close to the dilapidated church, which is about 0.5km deviation from the trek path, that can be reached after a 10minute walk down the route from the peak. Here, we rested on a huge boulder and had our lunch right next to the stream, which on moving a few feet changed to a mini water-fall. The view was beautiful with a stream, surrounding forest cover, a water fall, a gang of friends and to cap it all – food for the hungry souls! 🙂 By 2-45pm, we began the descent at a faster pace again through the scorching sun. By the time we covered half the distance, tiredness took over and the descent became much slower. At 5pm, we were back at the stay, dropped our luggage and headed straight to the small falls near the stay. Majority among us took a dip in the cold waters and on return were treated to a plate full of hot chilli bajjis. Curse you chappars! x-( for gobbling every one of the bajjis even before me and skm could lay our hands on one!!! 😛 Played UNO till late in the night with MoMS, monks and tintin pulling a trick or two on the rest of us (one of these days guys!! some one is gonna smack you people right across the head!! waiting eagerly for that to happen 😀 ) And finally, slept on the allocated mats in the verandah.
A dilapidated church close to the peak

Our lunch spot

Skeleton of a dried leaf preserved in water.

Controlled forest fire right next to the trek path
    Our second day our initial plan was to cover the Kurinjal peak. But, when Sathish mentioned that the trek fee of Rs.275 per head had to payed all over again to cover the second peak, we were confused whether to go ahead with the not-so-famous 6km trek along a jeep track. Rs.500 for the guide + Rs.400 per head for the 4 time meal and stay + Rs.450 for the jeep each time + Rs.275 for the Forest office permission took the tally to a whooping Rs.1000 per head for a single day and that too, without including the travel charges. The trek was becoming way too costly for our liking. So, we decided to drop the plan and instead visit the Hanumanagundi falls about 30kms from Kudremukha. 
Hanumangundi falls
Horanadu Annapoorneshwari temple

    We took the 10am local transport, which took about 1 hour through the ghat-section. At Rs.20 per head, one can gain entry into the falls, which stands 22m tall. Even during the summer, one can find lots of water gushing out. Swimming is banned at the stream near the falls, so we trekked the small path to the top of the falls instead. We left the fall in the nick of time when a school tour consisting of about 100 kids swamped the place.. 🙂 The security officer at the falls informed us that there were not many places to visit. So, we decided that it was better to head to Horanadu instead. We took a 1 & 1/2 hour drive to KaLasa, had a BIG meal and arrived at the temple town of Horanadu – the home to the famous Shri Annapoorneshwari temple. Had rest, visited the temple twice and returned home by the 9:45pm Horanadu-Bangalore bus. A costly trek but this might be the peak punishing us for not trekking it from the past two years even when we wanted to do it… 😛
The seven trekkers

  1. Trek distance: 21kms from Sathish’s home in Mullodi to the peak and back
  2. Cost per head: Rs.800 for the bus tickets and Rs.275 for permission + Rs.400 for the stay + Rs.500 for guide irrespective of the number of trekkers+ Rs.100 for local transportation bringing the sum to Rs.2000 per head
  3. Time taken for trek: 8 hours -> 4 hour climb and 3 hour return. Single day
  4. Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.
  5. Contact info of guide – Sathish
    • Mobile: 9481074530
    • Land line: 08263249595

Pics link:

MakaLidurga trek – Ending 2011 with a trek.

5 Jan

    After a 3 month sabbatical, it was time to restart the trekking experience. Almost everybody have plans for partying or trips to start a new year. But our gang is unique. We welcome the new year by lying around in the home lazily  as usual.. 😛 We wanted to finish 2011 with a small trek and zeroed in on MakaLidurga, a small hill near Doddaballapur close to Ghati Subramanya. Standing at 1350m, MakaLidurga is a small trekking spot and has a Shiva temple at the top along with a dilapidated fort.
MakaLidurga hill – our trekking destination for the day
    Seven of us Manja, Skm, Ummi, Monks, Blank, Manish and me (ppr) were supposed to meet at my home in Yelahanka at 7:30am. Thanks to monks, who arrived 2 hours late, we were only able to leave by 10am.. 😀 We travelled for an hour along the Yelahanka-Doddaballapur road (SH9) with the initial 20minutes being four-lane and then changing to two-lane road and then found ourselves at the MakaLidurga railway station. We parked our bikes at the employee quarters and walked along the railway track to the base of the hill. This took about an hours walk. One suggestion here is that if you don’t want to trek along the railway line, you move ahead along the SH9 for another 1km and there is a small mud road leading to the base of the hill. One can park their vehicles there and then begin the trek.
At makalidurga station. L to R: blank, monks, manja, skm, ummi and manish

Trek along the railway line to the base of MakaLidurga

    We began the ascent at 11am. The trek is amidst a heap of boulders thrown about with an easy path to climb. The view of the hill-range is beautiful and the weather was ultimate for trekking – No searing sun and mild cool breeze blowing across the hills. The path we took initially gave a view of the railway line and SH9. After the initial climb of 15minutes, we cross over to the other side of the hill which gives a view of the lake at the bottom of the hill and finished the climb all the way to the top. This way, we got to view two different sides of the hill during the trek which is not the case in most of the small treks. Took a couple of breaks and reached the fort at the top in an hour. The top most point of the fort had a small mound with soft dried grass. We spent half an hour time there having the 360 degree view around us. We explored the small but sturdy fort, visited the Shiva temple and gobbled up the snacks. 
View from the top
SH9 and MakaLidurga station visible from this side of the hill

    By 2pm, we were ready to leave and the climb down was a lot easier. On reaching the base of the hill, we found a pathway leading to the railway station parallel to the existing railway line (this path is for the new railway line). I suggest people trekking the track route to use this path, as the majority of the walk is on the single railway line and its quite risky to use, with so many trains running around. 
Framed monks 😛

    At 4pm, we took our bikes and headed to Ghati Subramanya temple. We travelled about 500m from the railway station back towards Yelahanka where there is a deviation towards Ghati. A 3km ride took us to the parking lot near the temple. We had a good darshan and had lots of snacks including “special” Bhel puri.. (Please don’t ask me what was so special about that.. 😛 ). The ride back had a lot of traffic probably due to many people heading towards the city for new year and reached home by 6pm. A smooth ride, beautiful weather and a mini trek to finish of 2011  – the year of good treks and trips. It was really a wonderful year for trips.. 🙂
the 7 trekkers – Monks, manja, me, blank, Ummi, skm and Manish (L to R)
Points to be noted:
1. Route: Yelahanka-Doddaballapur-MakaLidurga-Ghati Subramanya temple- and back.
2. Bike distance: 90kms
3. Time taken for trek: 1 hour climb and 1 hour climb down and two hours trek along the track.
4. Difficulty: Easy.
Pics links:

Siddara Betta – Trek as a meditation… :)

1 Aug
    Siddara Betta, as the name implies, “Hill of Saints” (in Kannada) is renowned for numerous the Hindu sadhus and their meditations. Thus the name. But currently there are very few of the sadhus/saints left in the hill. Siddara betta fulfills the likes of different genre of people and hence quite famous among a variety of people – 
1) Pilgrimage to the temple of Lord Siddalingeshwara(Shiva) inside a cave – families and the old/religious kind.
2) Cave exploration – adventure seekers.
3) Trek to the top of the hill with a visit to the sadhu dhyana sthana – regular trekkers and photographers.
    After the deflated count to Madhugiri for a single day bike ride+trek trip and to add to that tintin’s MBA admission reducing the count even further, I assumed that the chances of going for such a trip was done with. But then again, the word “assumption” has proved to be wrong for me multiple times… 🙂 As I found out, 7 people  – Manja, skm, Ummi, blank, Raghu, Finny and me(ppr) – many first and second timers on bike trips on 5 bikes were eager for this trip and to top it all, it was “blank” who started the trip idea – The very same blank who cringed at the idea of a bike ride and who refused to join us on any of the bike trips. Indeed, it is a big turn around… 😛 We zeroed in on Siddara betta as we had this trip in the back of our head from a long time. 
The ride:
    At 7:30 am, on a fine Saturday morning of 30 July, 2011, the 7 of us met at Yeshwantpur railway station. We rode along the superb Tumkur road till our first break at The Kamat just before Dobbaspete to have our breakfast. We continued our journey totalling 40kms and took a deviation to the right at Dobbaspete and followed SH3 for the 35kms to reach Korategere. We stopped at a small lake where we can take our bikes all the way to the shore and took ample pics. The road turns to the worse on reaching Koratege and the ride is slower until we reach Birdena halli by travelling another 7kms. Here we take a left at a huge arch directing towards the hill. The ride from here is again good for 11kms to reach the base of the hill.
the 5 bikes (all red)
Super roads and my loyal bike.. 🙂
The trek to the temple:
    By 10:30 am, we parked our bikes in-front of the Shaneshwara swamy temple at the base of the hill. The 3km path is pretty easy, with steps carved all the way upto the temple entrance, thus making sure that, the Pilgrims ranging right from kids to the old do not find the trek intimidating. This means one simple conclusion, this trek is not the like the usual treks where we find ourselves amidst nature with no one else for company – Just peaceful and serene surroundings… The crowds throng the temple in quite large numbers considering that a trek of just 1 hour is required to reach the premises. This means there are shops close to the cave temple serving lunch too.. The temple itself is a small hollow/crevice in the hill which is home to Lord Siddalingeshwara. The kalyani in temple premises is said to hold medicinal value. There are lots of monkeys in and around the cave temple. So, watch out for your bags and eatables.
steps carved in stone

trek path

Lord Siddalingeshwara
Naga, Ganesha, Basava and Hanumantha(this ones looks life like)… 🙂
The caves:
    The main attraction of this trip is the cave exploration. There are several shopkeepers who also act as a guide in the caves for Rs.15 per person. It is almost impossible to navigate along the caves without a guide. So, we went along with a guide crawling, climbing, wriggling through the crevices and holes between rocks and boulders that form these wonderful caves. The guide was pretty good with him explaining the significance of the place and showing us the different spots of interest. Cave exploration is one of the many items to be done in my long list of items. And I must say the experience had us craving for more. By, 12:30am we we out near the temple entrance again. 
Room of the swamyji

Eyes of Iron-man(this 1’s made of stone though) 😛

Our guide helping others crawl through the crevices
The climb to the top:
    We had to cover another 1km along the path available to the right of the temple, to reach the hill top, which is a flat barren boulder providing an amazing 360 degree – panoramic view of the beautiful hills and surroundings. The weather was too good with an occasional drizzle of 30 to 40 seconds and return back to the cloudy cool Bangalore (though in this case Tumkur) is renowned for.. 😛 There are a couple of rooms made of stone available at the top along with a Shiva Linga temple. We spent close to 45minutes at the top exploring and photographing the pond, the rooms, clicking lots of pics of the unobstructed 360 degree view.. Also it note-worthy that 15min into climb, there is a small pathway leading away from the hill top, this leads us to Tapasvi mandira where sadhus used to meditate and also has a small pool of water close to it. We go trekking to enjoy nature along the way and not just to reach the destination alone… “the path is more important than the destination in itself” has always been the way for the trekkers. But if the view at the destination is worth climbing for, then it is an added incentive. 🙂

View of one of the two stone rooms at the top

Pond at the hill top

Climb down

Tapasvi mandira
40 minutes of nerves and tension:
    We climbed down to the temple premises and took back our shoes from the store where we had kept for safe keeping. Once ready and started the climb down, I checked my pockets to confirm if I had the bike key and alas it wasn’t there… 😦 The peace and enjoyment which we had in the trek went out of my mind in an instant. Then the nerves took over and started fearing the worst: 
1) If I have lost the bike key then, the bike has to remain here near the temple and we have to return to Bangalore to get the spare key back the next day and hope no one has hijacked the bike.
2) The second option, if we have to break the lock open, I had all the documents inside the bike so we had to give a complaint in the near-by police station for that to happen.
3) And finally the worst option which brought out the worst possible feelings: If I have forgotten the key in the bike then GOD save me and hope no one has seen the key in the last 3 hours… 😦
    Skm and me went back up the hill, to check if I had dropped the key, when I took my phone out to check for signal to call home. Ummi and blank went into the caves to check if I had dropped it when I took Skm’s camera out, which he had passed when he had to crawl through a crevice. Manja, Raghu and finny went down the hill to check if i had left the key in the bike. Frantic searching at the top and in the caves was to prove a waste of time and after 40 minutes, we got a call from Raghu/Finny saying that I had left the key in the bike. I am such an irresponsible guy right??? 😛 Seriously, I am lucky to be still having my beloved red-Pulsar 180 of close to 3 years and nearing 32000kms with innumerable rides… I will never repeat that mistake again. We learn the responsibilities from the mistakes we make and I hope it is absolutely true in my case this time… 🙂 Wah-re-wah! i have become a philosopher too.. 😀
View from the hilltop

View from the hilltop

Return journey:
    By the time all this hungama got over and we started our return journey, it was 3:30pm. We had our lunch at Korategere and then we made another mistake. The leading pack of bikers Finny, Blank and me missed the turn towards Dobbaspete and moved 7kms in the direction of Tumkur driving along one of the really bad roads. I advice bike manufacturers to go for Suspension regression testing along this route… 😛 I waited to confirm if others had made the same error to find Skm following us to inform the mistake. But by that time, finny had gone all the way and joined the NH4. So we followed him and wasted 10kms of journey along horrible roads and finally met Manja and Raghu back at Kamat. By the time we reached home it was 7pm. So, a 12 hour trip having bike ride + trek + cave exploration + a bit of adventure + tension + relief + friends = a weekend well spent… 🙂
Points to be noted:
1. Bike distance: 230kms
2. Route: Bangalore-Dobbaspete-Korategere-Birdena halli-Siddara Betta- and back.
3. Trek distance: 3kms to the temple + 1km to the hilltop = totalling 8kms
4. Time taken for trek: 1 hour climb to the temple premises. 45 minutes for cave exploration. 20 minutes to the hill top and 1 hour to climb down.
5. Difficulty: Easy
6. Unlike other treks, not many precautions are required. Just carry a water bottle. That should be good enough.
Pics Link:

Brahmagiri – A trek of blood, sweat, wet and moolah amidst natural beauty

15 Jun
Day 0 – 10 June 2011, Friday
    An 18 seater booked for the trek – A first in our gang’s outing. 18 for a trek!! Still could not believe it when it was done. After a total of 10 modifications and cancellations and confusions and rate haggling with TT owners, 12 members – tintin, manja, monks, raghu, finny, me(ppr), Ummi, skm, Sai, boyz, Subith, prashanth turned up to trek the Brahmagiri hill (1608m high), in Kodagu district – our monsoon trek for the year. What a drastic change from the abysmally low 3 person trek we went to Arbi Bandajje… 🙂
    We started at 11pm, from Vyalikaval police station, home to Ummi. P.S: Ummi doesn’t reside in the police station but close to it, as confused by a certain police constable in Yelahanka… 😛 When 12 pickups were done, the clock had stuck 12 and moved a further 30 minutes ahead, and we had roamed half of Rajarajeshwari nagar to pickup Monks, who seemed to have an unusual idea for fun, by not giving us the correct directions…:P
Day 1 – 11 June 2011, Saturday
    The cab traveled through the Bangalore-Mysore SH17 to Srirangapatna and then the ring road to join Hunsur road, then took a deviation towards Hunsur taking the Mysore-Madikere road (SH-88). On reaching Hunsur, we took the Virajpet-Mysore road (SH-90) towards Gonikoppal. Then, took a left turn taking the SH89 which led to Sirimangala. Once we cross the Bangalore-Mysore highway, the roads start moving from super highways to pothole filled irritating double lanes. You can rest assured that your sleep is not contiguous and you wake up at sporadic bursts of huge potholes.
    Sirimangala is the usual Indian quite and beautiful town in the midst of natures beauty which we strive to see every day. We have to take permission from the forest office to enter the forest, as well as to stay at the IB guest house at Narimale, to spend the night. Camping at the peak or anywhere else in the forest is not allowed. So, don’t bother about carrying tents.

    The forest officer arrives at 9am and it is advisable to phone him once and confirm about the availability of trek and guest house before hand, instead of arriving at Sirimangala and then requesting for the same. Only a few people are allowed to trek each weekend. So, it can be termed as reservation. There are a couple of hotels near the forest office and the breakfast was tasty enough to let ourselves take parcel for the afternoon lunch too. The officer’s advice was to not go for the trek because of the rains as we had to cross a stream in the middle of the forest, which would be overflowing in this season, due to the incessant rains over the past 15 days. Since we had arrived from so far and had the entire trek to ourselves with no other batches for the week, decide to take a chance and paid the sum of 3500 for two days for the guest house, 200 per head for entry, 75 trekking fee per day per person, 500 per day for the guide, 350 per head for the trek permission. This came up to an enormous 8700 for 12 people!! My god, when did trekking become so costly!! I guess being so close to Kerala, the authorities decide to charge for every possible thing for the trek or is it a tactic to lessen the crowd in the forest reserve, which is forcing the elephants to come towards towns and villages?? Either way, we paid though our noses and this is the highest we paid for a two day trek.

Irupu water falls

     By this time, everybody had their morning chores completed in the guesthouse near the office and we were ready to leave by 10am. The trek starts from Irupu falls which is 9Km from Sirimangala. It was a 30 minute journey through scenic land but there was ample cloud cover hanging around. On arrival, the forest guard who was supposed to accompany us for the trek as a guide was furious that we were being allowed to trek in this weather and said it was impossible to cross the stream. By the time skm used his convincing skills and the guide agreed to join us, it was already 1pm. What a waste of time! We waited at Irupu falls and after numerous phone calls, the guide finally arrived at 2pm testing our patience to the limit and we had cursed him quite a few times under our breaths…

Protection from onslaught from the leeches
    Our first stop was at the Guesthouse in Narimale which is a 4km trek from the falls. A trek of 2.5km takes us across a small stream which needs to be crossed over the wooden logs laid across and a further 1.5km after that to the Guest House. It began raining 30 minutes into the trek and ceased only to give us a few glimpses of the beauty through which we were traveling. The leeches had a gala time, suddenly it was a fair for them. 5 days of lone time and then 13 fresh pair of legs to suck out blood from during this particular weekend. We literally ran across the forest cover many times, to minimize the number of leeches that grab onto our shoes.
First sight after the rain abated
rain water flowing down the trek path

    The grasslands provided a bit of relief with fewer leeches and the rain had stopped by then. Finally arrived at the guest house after 1 hour and 45 minutes. The guide informed us that we will not be able to trek in this weather to the peak. So, just when we thought of covering the caves and hoping for the peak the next day, another disappointment was waiting for us, as we were informed that there was no permission to trek to Munikal Caves which is a 3km away from the guest house as it lies in the Kerala province. 3pm on a sat in a guest house in the middle of the Brahmagiri forest range, with no fire wood, several leech bites, most of them bleeding and severe rain. You can term it a disaster but it wasn’t, all this is part of the trek. If you didn’t face any of these then where is the question of a “sense of adventure” or “being with nature”??? Passed our time playing Mafia, our very own Monks favorite game and dumb charades. It was a fun filled, lazy and relaxing time. 🙂
Guest house in Narimale
    With no firewood, our plans of having noodles for dinner went out of the window and we had to settle for bread-jam and chocos. Also, note that there is a stream very close to the guesthouse and we can get drinking water. By 9pm, we settled into the 2 rooms available in the guest house. And to add some more fun into the stay, people with the rented sleeping bags who attached it to their bags found it totally wet due to the rain and couldn’t use it.  Book and then rent sleeping bags for 6 people, carry them all the way in the trek and dump them without any use. Talk of waste of money, time and energy… 😛 Few of us who had their own sleeping bags had them in the trekking bag and luckily had no such worries… 🙂
Day 2 – 12 June 2011, Sunday
    Travel so far spending so much moolah and unable to trek was a disappointment we weren’t ready to take. We literally prayed to god the previous night to let us trek Brahmagiri. Our prayers were answered by a pleasant morning, with a bit of cloud cover and the guide woke us at 6am and broke the good news that we can trek to the peak. 🙂 By 7am, we were geared up with an apple and an energy bar each and a few water bottles to cover the 12km to the Brahmagiri peak and back.

    The trek is majorly though grasslands, so assuming that we will not to be bothered much by the dreaded leeches, did not take enough precautions for a possible onslaught on us.. 😛 What a difference that turned out to be!! It all started when 1 hour into the trek, the leading pack did not inform and took a left turn towards the peak, we under any natural scenario took the straight path which in-fact deviated away from the peak. The entire stretch was forest cover and leech filled. We refused to even bother about flicking them off the shoes coz, every time we stopped our walk and removed the leeches, more numbers would have already climbed the shoes than the numbers we flicked out. We saw a forest guard tower and headed towards it. Our guide, 30 minutes into the wrong turn, came back to call us to inform that we were in-fact heading into Kerala and would have been detained by the forest guards for not having permission from the Kerala forest department to enter that part of the reserve. But we have no regrets to have taken the route, as the views the range provided was quite spell binding. The mist and clouds just above the green hills and super cool breeze blowing across.  It was a deviation worthy for us. The previous day accounted for just about 10pic due to the rain but this time it was click-mania. It was better to get lost in such an amazing place and be found rather than just follow the actual trail… 🙂

some amazing views near the Kerala border

Kerala watch tower. 30minutes into the wrong route

     After 2 and 1/2 hours, with an hour’s wrong deviation included, we arrived at the base of the peak. The last part of the climb is pretty steep and took us about 20minutes to complete the super-slippery surface. On reaching the top, views were not much to be appreciated due to the mist but the views en-route made up for that.

the final ascent
    The descent from the peak turned out to be an adventure in itself. Quite a few of us slipped at-least once and Finny cramped up badly in-between. After a spray of Volini, he was able to pick up pace. A return journey of 1&1/2 hour was again through the serene, pristine and scenic hills was a good one.

the descent

     On reaching the guesthouse we packed up and had a few of the snacks left out before moving out. By 12pm, we were ready to move but the rain gods assumed that we had requested their services back, began to show their full prowess. The return journey was again mostly through the forest cover through the home of the leeches and them punishing us again for treading into their home. By 2pm we came to the end of the trek and forest guard took 500 for his services in the rain. I believe, it is better to have the trekking privatized. The government officials collect the trekking amount literally twice  -One part to the government and one part to their own pocket.

Disciplined set of guys walking in a single file.. 😛

     Had a wonderful massage by the Irupu falls, with the water falling directly over our aching body. Being directly under a water fall in full flow is amazingly refreshing. I suggest every one try it after a trek if possible. We returned back to the waiting cab at 3pm and started out return journey to Bangalore. Had a couple of big breaks for lunch and snacks. This along with the amazingly slow driving by our driver led us into Bangalore limits only at 11:30pm. After dropping 8 people as close as possible to their homes as time permitted, the clock was pointing 12:30 am and we were at Vyalikaval. The driver had a big argument with the owner of the cab about the payment and this delayed us by another 45 minutes. Finally skm came to the rescue again (i tell you this guy should do his MBA… 🙂 ) to convince the driver to drop me and Finny home as we stayed the farthest. Reached home around 2pm. It was going to be a tiring day ahead but no regrets due to another good trek. I and many of my trek mates will take it anytime and everytime… 🙂

gang at the peak
  1. Total trek distance – (5.5km to Narimale + 6km to the peak) * 2 = 23kms.
    • Time taken for climb = 4 hours maximum.
    • Time taken to trek down = 3 hours max.
  2. Total cost 2000 per head including the cab charges.
    •  3500 for two days for the guest house
    • 200 per head for forest entry
    • 75 trekking fee per day per person
    • 500 per day for the guide
    • 350 per head for the trek permission
  3. Contact number of Forest officer, Brahmagiri: 08274246331 and 09481989970.
  4. No tents and sleeping bags required. Carry enough cash to pay for the entry fee.
  5. Trek Difficulty level : Easy to moderate.

    Madhugiri fort – The acropolis of Tumkur

    25 Mar
        It had been some time since we had a day’s bike trip. As Tintin would call it “Back to the basics”. With quite a few places left to be covered in and around Bangalore, we decided to visit Madhugiri fort near Tumkur. After too many drop outs(again and again… this is becoming quite a trend since the last few months… 😦 …. ) me(ppr), Tintin and finny were ready to leave on a fine Saturday morning in mid-March.
    About Madhugiri fort:

        Standing at 3930 feet, Madhugiri hill in Tumkur District is the second largest monolith in Asia. The Ganga Dynasty, dominated by the Jains began the construction of the fort. Raja Heera Gowda of the Vijayanagar dynasty completed the fort. It was ultimately taken over by HyderAli/Tipu Sultan and at last became a part of the Mysore empire under the British control. There are quite a few trekking spots in the surrounding which include Chennarayana Durga, Devarayana Durga, Siddara Betta.

    Madhugiri hill visible enroute
    The D-day: Saturday, 19 March 2011
          Got a wake-up call from Tintin for a change. Usually, the trend is such that, I call up people and say that I am ready to leave… 😛 By 7:30am all 3 bikers were ready at the Nice road – Tumkur road junction. There are several routes to reach Madhugiri and we took the one via Koratagere. NH4 is a 4 laned ride but take the flyover every time. We tried to take the service road route and were perplexed by the number of road humps in place. 4 huge road humps for almost every crossing. This considerably slows you down. We had breakfast and packed our lunches in Kamat. After 30km, since the Nice road-Tumkur road junction, we reached Dobbaspet. Take a deviation to the right under the flyover and this leads you to a 2 lane SH3 in pretty good condition. 35kms into this road and we cross Korategere. Take a left at the junction. The roads are in pretty bad shape as we reach the Madhugiri town. Pothole ridden and in poor condition. But the slow ride had its advantages. There are quite a few lakes along the route. We spotted one very close to the road and took out bikes to the edge of the lake and it was snap time. Had a mini slide on the sand. Continued our journey and by 10:30am we were at the entrance of the fort.

            10:45am, cool breeze blowing around and we started the trek. The entrance to the fort is well maintained by the government and we have to commend them as there are only a few good things that showcase our history and one such instance is this Madhugiri fort and the signs were that its in pretty good shape. As we entered the stone slab filled steps of the fort, we craned our necks to see that the end of the hill was pretty close by and assumed our friend Monks taking 2 hours to complete it was a lie.. 😛 As the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, The same goes for the trek to this fort as well. Huge boulders lie around everywhere along the path. Stone steps are available during the initial few stages of the fort. Then as the steepness increases, the steps are replaced by carvings in the boulders which act as footholds and huge metal railings are placed for support all along the footholds.

    Levels 3 to 7 visible at this point of the trek
    Footholds on this boulder look like a spine of a monster

            You can notice all along the way that the place is ruined with scrapping and markings of foolish and unwitting men. Who in the world would come to know if X loved Y and why in the world that has to be inscribed on a such a historical place with paint on every possible nook and corner of the fort. I do not blame the government but the foolishness of the people who visit such a people and ridicule it to a lovers park. In some cases, with no place left to write such inscriptions/graffiti, people have written them on the few cactus lying on the hill too…

    Graffiti on walls to graffiti on a cactus…
           We had not done any survey about this trip. So, each time we crossed one level of fortress and felt “Is that it?”, another level would be readily visible after a few steps. Can you imagine crossing 10 levels of this stone fortress with the enemy firing down from the top and throwing down water for you to slip?? And each time you cross over a level of fortress, the next one with the same if not more security was staring at you in the face to be conquered. It would have taken a huge effort to conquer this peak and yet it has changed so many hands. It is not sufficient if u have strength, you should know how to use it to your advantage too…

          On crossing level 3, we found a huge tank to store water. It shows all signs of one of the first models of rainwater harvesting. Major part of the rain water flows down into stone pathways made to be later directed towards the reservoir/tank. Seriously commendable skills of the architects of the fort. We finally reached the 10th level of the fort by 12pm.

    Huge water tank after level 3

    Madhugiri town can been seen clearly along with a few other surrounding hills.

    Fort at level 10
    Reservoirs/granaries in front of the single floored building
    Beam of light from the ventilation visible in the dust particles 

    Shri Finny Baba and Tintin swamy
    Natural lake and a man-made tank visible from the top

          We had our packed lunch 10 minutes into the descent. By 45 minutes, we had reached the bottom with the weather gods showing their pleasantness in mid-March with a cool breeze and a not-so-harsh sun… 🙂 Had moosambi/pineapple mock-tail at the entrance to the town which tasted very good and we rode back to our homes by 5pm feeling pretty good covering an engineering marvel of historical significance.
    A whale shaped boulder
    Points to be noted:
    1. Bike distance: 230kms
    2. Route: Bangalore-Dobbaspete-Korategere-Madhugiri- and back.
    3. Trek distance: 3kms up and down.
    4. Time taken for trek: 1 and 1/2 hour climb and 1 hour climb down.
    5. Difficulty: Easy.

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