Sunday, 6 July 2014

Midnight Trek to Skandagiri

A midnight trek was never there in my wildest dream until my friend, Prashanth came up with a trip idea of trekking the Skandagiri hills (also known as Kalavara Durga) at midnight. Now Prashanth himself is a trip enthusiast. He has some great friend circle & they have gone to hell lot of places & if they start blogging those travels, it might turn out to be an encyclopedia itself.
To know more about Skandagiri read this (Skandagiri or Kalavara durga).
Below is the route map.

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Including me, we were four persons in number namely Prashant, Mahesh, Uday & myself. That night I left from my home to Prashant's house. Plan was to start from there late night. We started around 11pm in the night. Mahesh came along with Prashant, while Uday was picked up on the way. There was less traffic with occasional truckers blinding us from opposite direction. Being late night you have none to confirm if the route is right or not. Uday was one person among us who has visited Skandagiri numerous times. But still in pitch dark places where even street lights are not there its really tough to determine the route. We missed a diversion and later when we found a person on the way, he showed us the correct path. Anyway in less than 1.5 hours we reached the place. As soon as we reached the place, there were villagers awake at that time. They were running towards us, introducing themselves as Guides. Finally after so many negotiations we zeroed in one of the youngest guides available at that time. As this trip was done back in 2011, I dont remember how much we paid for the guide. I remember we bargained a lot & definitely the elder guides were not happy to serve.

Our Young Guide
First we parked our bikes in a house as directed by our guide guru. He said it will be safe there. We started our trek in pitch dark with only torch lights for our rescue. Had no idea where we were going. We just followed him. On the way he asked, do we prefer short route or long route. We opted for short route but little did we know that short route was more tough with high steep terrain. We literally crawled in some locations.

Prashant & Mahesh

Uday & Mahesh

Due to tough terrain we had to take pit-stops every now & then. We drank water & had some snacks in between. We also found many trekkers on the way.

Posing in a mantappa kind of architecture
The above is the only group photo we had taken & thanks to Mr. Guide for snapping my head off :D.

Thats me the blogger!!
BTW its not safe to lie down cause this is what we found nearby.

Lord Shiva statue engraved
As we neared the hill top the temperature dropped pretty low and it was full foggy atmosphere.

Once we reached the top of the hill, it was too windy and soo cold that my jerkin was completely in-effective. Was forced to wear my riding gloves which too, was not helping much.

The guide bid goodbye & left us on our own. The plan was to rest/sleep for sometime & get up by the time its sunrise. But the climatic conditions was too harsh that I havent felt such cold in my entire life and was awake the whole night. Luckily there were villagers who prepare maagi and sell it for 40rs per plate. Even though the rate was on the higher side, at that time you want something hot to gulp in. They were selling Bread Omelets too. It was at that time I noticed that the shelter where they were preparing these food is a temple which was built long back. I felt really bad at this. They are supposed to maintain these temples, not destroy them. I could see Lord Ganesha sculptures inside.
By the time it became 6am we understood that its completely cloudy & there is no way we can see sun in near proximity. Also the view point was too crowded and strong winds were bit risky to stand there for long. We could hardly stand there, lest forget taking snaps. So we started to move on.
By now the visibility of surrounding areas was much better. Spotted the Nandi Statue & the Temple.

Nandi Statue

Old Temple remains now used for preparing food.
The fog was still dense & it was too chilly. Took a few snaps here & there and moved on.

Once we started climbing down in the morning light , we understood how tough the terrain was. We had no idea which way we came the previous night. There was already a gang climbing down, so we followed them.

Add caption
From here onwards the landscape was a treat to our eyes. This was the best part of our journey. So I wont bore you guys talking much & let pictures do the more talking. :)

The slopes were slippery and so it was a really risky climb down.

Luckily no big crawlies spotted on the path. :D

Some fortress wall
 In between we lost the other trekking group. Probably they would have taken the short cut route.

A pit stop session

 From here, when we looked up to the hill, this is what we saw. We can still see the area is engulfed in fog.

Skandagiri hills view from mid-way down.

Monolithic rock
Some flora & fauna.

Some old mantappa

Rain clouds approaching

The pictures dont show justice to the real beauty of this landscape. It was soo mesmerizing to the eyes.

The village down beneath

Spot the lake


Rain clouds so near

And more pics... :)

Pathway down the hill

Almost slipped

Trying the sun bath...Its more like a cloud bath. :)

Nice shelter under the rocks

Below is the view of the hill from that point.

Almost there

Final steps
In between it was really confusing whether we were going on the correct route. But some how finally managed to get down the hill but on the other side of the village, so we had to walk a long way round.

Arrow marks showing direction
View of the hill from the starting point.

Spotted this temple on the way to our bikes parked location.

Finally by the time we reached our bikes, I was literally tired, legs aching & wanted to get back home as soon as possible. The previous night climate had taken a toll on my body & by the time I reached back home I fell sick. Whatever, the experience I had was great & the landscape view was a treat to my eyes which will always remain in my mind. A few days later I came to know from a newspaper that a trekker slipped from that top view point and died, after which they had close all trekking activities in Skandagiri. Dont know what is the current situation, but if they have re-opened, then its a place every trekker should go. But also make keep in mind that we are no super-human being. Dont try stunts for the sake of photo posing. Your life is more worth than a set of pics.

Things to carry include:
1. Water (v.imp as you wont get it at the top of the hill)
2. Snacks (Glucose Biscuits etc)
3. Torch with enough batteries.
4. Proper thermal wear & woolen gloves. (I had a nightmare situation there. So take this as important)
5. Trekking shoes & no sandals. (Terrain is slippery & steep)
6. First aid

I hope you enjoyed reading the travelogue and please do comment down your feedbacks.
Ride Safe!!