Monday, October 29, 2007

Moonlight trek at KalavarahaLLi beTTa

My mamma says, when a plan gets interrupted too many times before it gets underway, then something will definitely go wrong with it.

Not really, I think... At least, it wasn't so with this trek of ours. I have lost count of the number of times the plan made by me and my friends, to trek the kalavarahaLLi beTTa (also known as Skandagiri) had been scrapped, before it was finally executed early in the morning on 27th of October. And despite the hiccups for over two months, during which we made and dropped the idea umpteen number of time, almost every weekend - the trek was simply superb.

Mamma's rule had another exception.

The gang of Shetty, MaaNi, bhatta, Kothari and me started off on three bikes, at 2:30 am on the 27th from MaaNi's place in Jayanagar. Shetty had been to kalavarahaLLi once before, and was the driving force behind the mission. In Physics terms, that force, was just a scalar, and not a vector. He knew where to go, but didn't have the direction!! Worse still, he didn't seem to see the need for it either, and i could instantly visualize a wild bull running amok in a jungle!

We rode 70 km through Jayanagar - Hudson Circle - Cubbon Park - Mekhri Circle - Hebbal Flyover and then on NH 7, thorough Yelahanka and DevanahaLLi, to reach ChikkabaLLapur. There's more than one way to get to the foot of the kalvarahaLLi hill. It is a hill next to Nandi Hills, and you can get there from a couple of routes to Nandi hills too. We chose the route through chikkabaLLapur for three reasons - firstly, it was straightforward. Secondly we could hope to find some people in dhabas or in the village to give us the directions, and lastly and most importantly, the four of us just did not trust Shetty, because his plan was to try and discover the path riding aimlessly on deserted roads at wee hours in the morning.

All the above reasons worked in our favor. We reached ChikkabaLLapur, took a left at a prominent Ganapathi temple, and rode straight for about 8 km to reach the Papagini matha, at the foot of kaLavarahaLLi beTTa. On the way, we took directions from some nocturnal tea shops and early village risers, and also picked up a guide to show us the way up the hill.

We started trekking at 5 am, with an aim to make it to the top to watch the sunrise. Despite the short time at hand, with the help of the guide, we made it right in time. The route was pretty simple from this end and we climbed up at a good pace, taking just a couple of breaks for five-ten minutes each, in between. It was extremely foggy and cold, but within half an hour, we had begun sweating so much, that, had it not been for the protection the jackets gave us, from the thorny shrubs on the way, we'd have taken them off right away. It was just a day before the full moon, but the moon was behind the clouds most of the time, giving us just a few fleeting glimpses here and there.

We made it to the top right at sun-break, and beyond that, it was an hour of bliss. Literally, standing above the level of the clouds, the magnificent view from atop the hill just took our breath away. Words can probably never explain that beauty, while the photos can still do some justice. With gales of winds sprinkling the moisture from the clouds on our face, you would be tempted to stand with your arms wide open on the mountain edge, forever. The clouds all around and below of the summit of the hill looked like a field with cotton strewn all around. It was a photographer's dream - picturesque and romantic!

We stayed there till around 7 30, and made our way down. It took us about an hour downhill, and we met some other trekking troops on their way up. Although the cloud cover remains till around 8 - 9 pm, they would have surely missed the grandeur of the place, going that late. We reached the place where we had parked our bikes at 9 am, grudgingly paid the guide Rs 250, as against the earlier agreed 200 bucks, and rode back. On the way, I got a chance to give a lift to couple of school going girls of the village. After breakfast in ChikkabaLLapur, we reached Bangalore at lunch time.

Some other key points to remember:

  • Don't forget to take torches (ideally, one per person) with back up batteries, if you are trekking during the night. Also carry the regular stuff like water, eatables, warm clothing etc.
  • If you are going for the first time, especially in the dark, it is better not to risk going without a guide. But beware of the guides who might try to fleece you. Ideally 200 - 250 rupees should be the max limit. They mostly start off with 500. If you can bargain for lesser, good for you!
  • The best time to go there is now - September - February. Make sure, you are on the top of the hill to watch the sunrise (and/or sunset)
  • While trekking in the night is one option, you may even trek there there previous evening, pitch your tents there, watch the sunrise the next morning, and come back. If you do this, please take tents, sleeping bags etc. Chances of making a campfire may not be bright, owing to the fog and moisture.

More photos: