Thursday, December 28, 2006


After a long break, I was all set to attend one another mountain’s or should I say a monolithic rock’s call? Yes, this time it was a one-day trek to Savandurga, 60km from Bangalore. Four of us joined together for this one-day fun activity. Well was it just fun?
7 AM was the time that we are supposed to meet and we made it by 7:30AM, which is very good on a Saturday morning. S got his car and we drove through the new four lane Mysore road to reach Magadi road. The drive was spectacular with good roads and the green scenery around for certain distance. And of course the lively chatting added flavor to this. One of the topics that was scrutinized is about a group that lost its way in Savandurga and it seems they spent a whole night in-between two rocks. Well, we(being avid trekkers) just discarded the topic as if it would never happen to us. Infact we went to the extent of saying that the group may have got lost intentionally :-).That was the wave of confidence in the air. Stopping for a quick breakfast, we continued our journey and reached the foot of the rock. Said a big “no” to the guides around who were offering to take us to the top of the hill. That was just another bout of our confidence!

Initial few steps were a bit steep, the stone was very slippery and few of us had a bit difficult time in doing the ascent. The shoes were blamed for the same, as they could not provide the grip that was needed to trek on a wet stone. With helping hands around, we crossed that stretch. Slow and steady we did the trek, climbed, jumped over the rocks and followed the arrow marks that were leading to the summit. The weather was perfect for the trek and many other groups also accompanied us that day.

Few breaks, photo sessions, views of the panorama, mandaps and small water pools added excitement. Finally we were on the top. Strong winds were swooshing us and this welcome was more than the relief of jus reaching the top.

There was a basava(Nandi) on the top of the hill. We reached the top from the backside of the basava. And we were surprised to realize that we covered this ordeal of climbing up within 2 hours..amazing..we are definitely good trekkers!! So it was decided that we stay much longer than planned at the top. It was time for snacks, juice and a nap.
The next few moments I don’t know what happened, as I was lost in the beauty of the winds that can be felt more than seen – the winds had so much power and the nudge from it was really enchanting. Reluctantly we started the descent down and with the surety that in 1.5 hour we would be in the car heading Bangalore. We estimated 1.5 hour cos the descent is easy than the ascent! The time was 3:30 PM.

I was personally sad thinking that the day trek is coming to an end so fast. Disguising that with a smile, I joined the others in getting down. Suddenly we were stopped by a huge rock that came as an obstacle. To cross that we need to do a steep jump or take a round about route. Three of us preferred to take the round about way, and H could do the steep climb inspite of a sprain in his leg. We (three of us) were confidently getting down and ensured that we followed the arrow marks that were going down. Strangely the path was very different from the one that took us to the top. We did not bother about that until the last arrow mark that had a note in kannada saying (Ganesha Idol). We were stunned to see that we have reached a big Ganesha Idol in an open area. Happy about the darshan of Ganesha-which was uncalled for, we realized that the arrows were not leading us down. It looked like a dead end. By then one of us saw the basava on the top and it was facing us directly..which means we have started from the back of basava and instead of reaching down , we came all the way to the front. We quickly put our thinking caps of what to do next. It was around 5:00 PM by then. We decided to call H – one lucky member of the team who decided not to come with us earlier, to ask about this place and the route back from here. We never thought the need of getting in touch with a person would become so disgusting when the phone connections are feeble. We could only manage the exchange of “hi(s) ” and “hello(s)”. After sending him a message, we discussed about our next course of action. One way is to retrace all the way to top and start the descent again in the right direction. Or just wait there, somehow get a guide with the help of H and come down. We gave ourselves a half hour time to get in touch with H, which failed miserably and we just had the option of going to the top again. Actually we had some tough stunts to do while reaching this place - somehow managed them thinking “we were anyways going down”. Now the idea of “action retake” of all these stunts gave an uncomfortable feeling. Another thought that was haunting us was our discussion about anyone getting lost in such a simple monolithic rock….we were just experiencing it !!
We started our way back up and slowly reached the mandap a few feet before the basava and tried to get in touch with H-by then we had shared a few messages. It seemed that H had reached the mandap a half hour ago to meet us there and the plan was to get down together. But he went down thinking it wud be too late for him to get any help if he had stayed further. It was becoming dark by then. We waited at the Mandap discussing whether we shld do the trek in the dark. We din succeed when there was light and the optimism of trek down without help just faded out. We also bounced the idea of staying in the mandap all night incase no help comes our way. Meanwhile we got a message from H, saying two guides are on their way with hand lights and water to rescue us..yes..RESCUE us J. We were waiting and got excited by any moving light in the tracks down. We forgot about food, water and our tiredness. Finally we saw the lights and the guides helped us back down. The guides said that such a rescue was nothing new for them and also advised that staying up whole night was not a good idea as there are some wild animals in the arena. It was one of the fast descents that I have ever done. It was steep-but as the light was not enough, we were just keeping foot after foot to reach down. We made it in half a hour!!

It was a glad reunion at the bottom of the hill..similar to “happily ever after” climax scenes in the movies. Thanks to H for the rescue mission! We did give some tips to the same guides whom we neglected when we started the trek. We headed to Bangalore after that and almost dozed of with the fancies and whims of the trek - except for S, who was driving the car smoothly as if nothing happened…after all the wonderful drama!!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What a Sunday!?

This time it was a casual question “what’s the weekend plan?” that turned out as a trip to Shriranagapattana(SR Pattana in short). U and myself were working on Saturday, which left only Sunday in our precious weekend. U was keen on going to SR Pattana to enquire her favorite deity. I joined her with the intention of covering a few places near by after the enquiry! After a debate we decided on 6:30 AM as our start time – very very early to be awake on a Sunday. We boarded a bus to Mysore at Majestic and set off to our destination. The ride on the Mysore road was amazing – the best companion that we had on that day was the weather – it was perfect for travel. After a quick breakfast at Mandya, we continued our journey. We felt that our bus was very slow as every other object on the road that was coming from the back zoomed ahead of us. It was almost three hours and we reminded the driver about our stop. After some time, the window at the back of the driver opened and he saw us – we decoded that as our call to get down.

The bus left us on a main road – we entered the SR Pattana bus stand and enquired about the temple. We got into a rick to traverse a distance of 1km to reach the temple. While traveling we also struck a good deal with the rick guy to go around places over there. Contented with our deal and the plan for the day, we entered an old temple that had a similar architecture of temples at Tamil Nadu. To our surprise, the crowd was manageable. It was an awesome sight to the see the smiling face of the Lord. We lost ourselves for a few minutes, got back and visited other deities around. After a couple of photo sessions in the Mandaps and with “Aannais” , we left the temple. Then we were off to discern the history of the place. It looked like Tipu Sultan had a lot of association with this place – we visted his Palace, Durgas, Masjid and Gumbaz. The museum had a very good collection of coins, ornaments, dresses and furniture that were used during 1700s.One observation made by U – all portraits and paintings of the lineal dynasty has been created by the white men. The expressions in the eyes of the Sultans were so real and sparkling! My friend liked the fifth son of Tipu as he was looking smart! After the stint in refreshing our minds with little history – we went to the next place “Triveni Sangam”. This place is the culmination of three rivers – our hunt for a place to sit and watch the river peacefully went in vain. I would only say that the beauty of the place has been defiled. We tried to capture the far away river in the camera, which quenched our thirst of drowning in the serenity of the place to a certain extent.

Our next stop was Ranganthittu – the bird sanctuary. According to the rick guy this was the right season to visit the place. So with the hope of spotting a variety of birds we went to the haven. There was a slight drizzle and it increased the splendor of the place. We took a boat ride in the river to get a close glimpse of the birds. We spotted Open beak Stork, Painted Stork, White Ivis and other brids whose names were not known to us. An astonishing thing is we could always spot a group of birds and we assumed them to be of same variety that turned wrong when we realized that one group actually has a variety of birds. We could see huge nests and some birds were fast asleep. My friend thanked me for the opportunity to exploit her photography skills – she managed a couple of good shots of the flying birds too. It was very nice to watch the flora and fauna around us.

After a quick snack cum lunch at 4:00PM, we headed towards Bangalore. We really still could not believe the way we spent that superb Sunday!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Week 1

Dreams....each one of us has a variety of dreams to pursue, ponder, cherish and transform them into a reality. One such longing in my mind has taken its due nurturing for quite some years to become a reality. And the reasons for such a longing to lodge are multiple - I like to trek or may be I just want to keep a few steps in the mighty Himalayas or was it the strong inspiration flowing from my bro? It could be anything and that does not matter now.
So, the planning for tapovan trek started with full gusto – we were a team of 6. After ransacking shops like Wildcraft, Eastern Store, Nike and Adidas we were all set for the D day of May 1st, 2006. First it was Bangalore airport – Thanks to V and her husband for not minding to drop me at the airport sharp 4AM- then it was Delhi airport, ISBT, oranges for lunch and finally Rishikesh! The eminent guide Shambu was all ready to receive and put us in a hotel. It was a ramble at Rishikesh that nite – Ganges banks, Chotiwala(a renowned hotel), ghanna juice, freshly baked biscuits and aloo tikkis. We had dinner and slept with the exciting visions of forth coming days. Next stop was at Uttarkashi, a beautiful place – the hotel we stayed was facing the mountains and a slight drizzle was accompanying us always. Another interesting thing about the hotel is that we need to enter through its terrace and go down the steps for the rooms. Then I realized that this funda holds good for most of the houses there due to its terrain – except that it was very strange! After relishing the home made food, we had a nice talk about our childhood days. It was such a lively discussion and I was amused to note the commonality that exists between us. This made us to turn the pages of our lives to 15 years back…and the “chaaya(s)” given by the lady added more flavor to the conversations. Then it was wandering at Uttarakashi – more ransacking for chocolates, dry fruits, trendy pouches and delicious samosas, which I missed. Following this was the dinner, “beer” time and sleep. Next day we were on the move to Gangotri – our onward journey always had the Ganges to our right side. Camping at Gangotri gave us the hint about our future stays in the tents. Apart from our team, we had another team of porters who would be carrying tents and food for our trek. Our last minute shopping included sweaters from Harshil, after the fresh pinch of cold and plastic papers for rains from Gangotri. We visited the temple there and sought blessings of “Ganga Mayya”. That night was colored by the candle light dinner, rising moon and stars, silhouette of mountains and of course melodious songs from each one of us.

“The” Trek

With our bags and sleeping bags, we geared up for the long trek that awaited us. The pace was slow and steady. The path that we were treading was narrow, sometimes had cliffs’ opening to ravines, Ganges below and the area around was enveloped by scarce vegetation. We were thrilled to see all this and also the mountains that were ahead of us. The fact that we would be there made our steps stronger. One smart thing that we did was to offload some of our stuff at Uttarkashi, which made our bags comparatively lighter. While walking, suddenly a group of people would zoom past us with a heavy load on their backs – they were none other than the porters going up and down. We were really dumbstruck with the speed they were traversing. We could only justify and convince ourselves by saying that – “ah! They do it daily and that’s y they r fast!” Another amazing thing is we met a German lady, who was 52 and had the objective of covering Tapovan within a day. Her charisma could only inspire us more. We reached Chirbasa, 9km from Gangotri and camped there that night. What came next was tea(s), biscuit(s) and lunch. Shambu’s specialty was hot garlic soup and veg noodles. We devoured them crazily throughout our trek. Campfire saved us a bit from the dashing cold and we did try to play some games with difficulty. Armed with sleeping bags against the cold we could sleep to some extent in the tents. After a quick toast for the breakfast in the morning, we headed towards Gomukh - 18km from Gangotri. We saw a place called Bhojbasa at 14km from Gangotri. Some people do camp at Bhojbasa as well. On the way, we did stop for good views, snaps, to munch and also had breaks near streams. One of us did have a slight breathing problem- his bag was taken by others and we did take rests frequently. But I must say that we were doing pretty well. We reached Gomukh around afternoon and the guide was checking out a camping area devoid of landslides. Landslides are another usual phenomena which we should be cautious of and we could always hear them happening in the mountains around us. After a quick rest, we strolled to reach near the Gomukh glacier. The glacier was looking like a cave - the rocky ice was falling as it keeps melting due to the sun and flows as the serene Ganges! It was such a breath taking site and matched the team’s usual phrase of “snow melting and water trickling”! We were almost sitting inside the Gomukh glacier which is a very risky thing to do. Few of us crossed the river and took snaps. The scene literally mesmerized us. It was soon time for us to leave to the camp site.

While coming back, an interesting thing happened - it was raining snow which we experienced for the first time and it was nice to see white spherical objects falling around us. This time our camp was in a vast plain area surrounded by the mountains – it was very windy, extremely cold with the sound of landslides. Infact we started having food inside the tents and food was the only thing that alleviated the existing environmental factors. We had three layers of clothing on us and a sleeping bag that night to fight the cold. Next morning we were relieved to start for Tapovan – this time the trek was on the rocks and glacier. There was no defined path, we were just following the guide. Here, we need to watch our steps to avoid falling into a glacier as the rocks sometimes opens up and you go deep down the chasm. Jumping and moving on rocks is fun as long as you don fall. One thing that was very challenging here were the steep climbs. The path of 600m took almost 2 hours for us to trek. The Ganges in between was the only motivating element – we took breaks near the stream to freshen ourselves. It was a great relief to reach Tapovan at last. Our hard work got its reward very soon – we were welcomed by a slope of a mountain covered with snow. Forgetting our lunch and tiredness - we started skating, playing and ‘snow hitting’ each other. It was fun. Then we retired to our camps – had our packed lunches of Paranthas & Pickle. Inspite of the food being very delicious we were bored by its monotony – which led to visualizations of Pongal, Idlis, Samosas and Chutney. In the evening we went to the lake of Akash Ganga – place where the water, mountains and clouds merge! The water was pure blue in color and very still reflecting the mountains around. It was such a striking sight. It seems there is an agreement with the people(mostly Babas) to use this water only for drinking purpose. While crossing the rocks there, I had a fall into the waters of Akash Ganga – that made me holy and the fall gave a physical mark on my left hand.I was very lucky to just get away with that. As I was recuperating from the fall, others moved around the lake – it was snow and snow everywhere. We did a few clicking sessions and then started towards the camp. The way back again had a “snow walk” – sometimes your foot would go 2 ft down the snow. The guide taught us good techniques to avoid this and walk easily on the snow. As soon as we reached the camp, they gave us hot soups which were equivalent to “Amirthams” at that point in time. That night was the peak as far as cold is concerned – it seems the temperature reached till -3. Morning, we could see snow on top and sides of our tents. Thank god! We survived it.
Next day we started for Nandanvan – the guide gave us the hint that the routes were very risky as the snow has not yet melted still during that time of the year. We were weighing the options available to us and finally decided to go near Shivling, Chota Shivling peaks and Kailash dome. We could catch the glimpse of the beautiful valley of Nandanvan and Gangotri glaciers beneath us. Also we did snow “sitting & skating” and thoroughly enjoyed each moment. While coming back five of us lost our way and our guide was far ahead of us. We were in such a place that there were no souls around to enquire and what you could see is jus the mountains all around you. Since we had a veteran trekker(who had been to Tapovan 3 times already) we could come back safely. On our way back, we also visited the ashram of Shimla Baba.

After a quick lunch, we started trekking back – the plan was to go till Chirbasa. We made it after a long break at Gomukh. The stunning scene at Gomukh was that the place where we were sitting 2 days before was submerged by Ganges – the river was very wild and it was very muddy. Later we get to know that there was a huge break of the glacier due to rains and infact a lady became a victim of the ferocious Ganges. The trek back was very long and strenuous as we covered more distance than usual. As soon as we reached Chirbasa we had tea and sleep. Next day we went to Gangotri and boarded the sumo back to Uttarkashi, That evening in Uttarkashi we had a gala time relishing the food in the streets – Chickanjees, Masala chaats, Chaaya(s) and Samosas. The funny thing is that we would enter a hotel - eat, come out and enter the adjacent hotel immediately..such was our thirst for the variety in the food. Then it was sweets’ time – hot jelabis, Rasamalais, Gulab jamuns and Pedas. I have never eaten like that in my life, though it was very common to the other folks around. It did not stop here – we went to a juice shop and ordered for large glass of juice – which apparently turned out a flop cos the glass was in the size of a water bottle with a huge radius. We restricted ourselves to medium sized glass that would be 4 times the normal glass. I must say that we became a “Gluttons’ group” that day due to our eating spree.

Week 2

As we did not make it to Nandanvan, we planned for Badrinath to use the extra days. We used the same guide , who took care of the sumo, hotels and food all the time. Well, using the same guide din not come out as a good decision, but we all just lived with that. The drive to Badri was amazing – it was via Shrinagar(in Uttaranchal), Chamoli – a beautiful village and Rudraprayag -junction point to go to Kedar and Badri. The temple at Badri was small but very powerful. Hot springs were another specialty there. It seems Badri is opened only for 6 months to humans and the other 6 months the temple is closed and it’s believed that the Gods do the pooja during that time. In the evening we went to a nearby place called Mana, a tourist spot. It had lot of caves – like Ganesh cave, Veda Vyasa cave etc. This place also opens up lot of treks to Kalandi pass, Kedar and other routes. One interesting thing here is we had Herbal Tea in the “last” Indian tea shop – actually the place was very close to the Chinese border and hence such a name to the tea shop – “Bharat khi Aakhiri Chaai Dukhan”. We bought hand woven sweaters and caps from the inhabitants there. That night we stayed at Badri and next we were off to another scenic place called Auli. We booked for the ropeway ride at 1:00PM and to kill the time we went to a Shankaracharya temple. “Kill the time” affair turned out to be a memorable one as the place was peaceful, it had a Kalpa Vriksh, a small Shiv temple, a cave, where Adi Shankarachrya and Thotakacharya meditated and the Shankar Mutt. One thing to note here was the tight security given for the premises mainly to protect the tree. Couple of us bought few “Rudraksha” stuff from the temple. After this we headed for the ropeway ride – around 25 of us were accommodated in a cable car and it passed through the tropical terrains of Auli. During January, the place would be a terrific skiing spot – It was so inspiring that few of us planned to visit Auli next January. They left us on the top of the cliff for 40 minutes to chill out. We relished the veg pakodas and chaaya(s) there. Horse riding was another happening event there. The ride back also revealed the pastures, log huts, sheeps and green valleys beneath us.
After this we started our journey back to Rishikesh – the way we traveled constituted of steep turns, hilly terrains and Ganges to the left this time. We could also spot fresh landslides – at certain points they had installed the bull dozers stationary to clear off the roads as and when necessary. It was raining very heavily as we reached Rudraprayag that night. Another fact that was shared by our guide was that while traveling if any “Gujjar”(shepherd) comes in front of you then it’s a indication of rain. But Iam really not sure how to evade them. Next day we reached Rishikesh – few of us went for rafting and I opted to freak out at Rishikesh. The foreigners outnumber the Indians there at certain places – they use the bikes to move around. We did some shopping – scoured a book shop, whose collection was amazing. We sauntered around for most of the day, explored some beautiful spots nears Ganges, did boating and visited a few temples. We could spot the most hi-fi internet browsing centers that dotted the streets of Rishikesh. We visited a coffee shop facing the banks of Ganges that served the most exquisite cuisine suiting to the tastes of the foreigners as well. We marked a few spots as our favorites to visit them next time..infact we went to the extent of planning out a few future weekends at Rishikesh. As all good things come to an end, we started seeing the end of this trip as that night we were supposed to leave to Delhi and catch the flight to Bangalore.
The “Dabba” bus that we boarded from Rishikesh broke down in-between and we need to get into another bus to continue our journey. We were all dead tired, almost drifted off to sleep in the rick from ISBT to airport. Quickly refreshing at airport we boarded the flight back to Bangalore. The air, traffic at the city, imminent visions of work tried to engulf our wonderful memories and they failed miserably, cos this trek and its accompanying thoughts would always be evergreen in our minds, close to our hearts and would invite a broad smile to our faces!!

Friday, February 24, 2006


It all started when I got acquainted with a person who shared a couple of dreams of mine..Yes the trekking spree in Western Ghats had begun!

First it was Tadiyanmol, second the Kodachadri ranges and the third one was Bisle forest which would be described here. As usual we left Bangalore at around 10:30PM on Friday. Having a break in-between for tea, we all reached the post of Bisle forest by 6:00AM. The group had a few first time enthusiastic trekkers. It was relaxation time for the next one hour. Some of us caught up with sleep and me being a light sleeper went out to the nature with a cup of hot tea. It was as if all the energies of the nature are getting into me and the tea supplemented this rejuvenation.

After freshening up and a quick breakfast, our trek started with all hustle and bustle. The first stop point was the “beauty spot”. I was wondering the whole place in itself was beautiful and why the discrimination with in nature itself…but I was wrong for a moment as soon as I saw the gigantic mountains and a river in-between at the spot – it was such a treat to the eyes. What followed next was a lot a posing for group photos!

The trek continued in the dense forest, it was greenery everywhere and the walking on dry leaves was fun. The sound of rivers Giriole and Kumaradhara was soothing our hearts as we crawled through the thick terrains of the tropical forest. As per the guide, we are supposed to see Russel Vipers, boars and elephants. What we did actually could spot was the fresh dung of the elephants  We took a break for lunch on the banks of Giriole..we just ravaged the delicious lunch and then played with fast flowing river. The water was amazing and it did more than jus quenching our pangs of thirsts. The trek continued and we finally reached the camp place at around 5:00PM. Well the camp jus had two raised platforms – supposedly one for women and the other for men folks. We were welcomed by sweet limejuice at the camp. Then came the tougher part, when the trek leader announced that we need to go for another 300m trek to get our bags from the van. Little did we realize that the 300m distance would include a strenuous river crossing and a steep climb! Helping each other we got our bags to the camp. This was followed by an interesting interaction program that had varying topics of discussion like sensors on aircraft carriers, brain mnemonics, traffic engineering and other shades of grey!

After sumptuous dinner, we had cultural activities and then we hit the bed of raised platforms. Sleeping in the open forest was a thrill, cos we were surrounded by dense trees and dry leaves were falling all over the place whenever there is a light breeze. It was such a memorable sleep! After the chores in the morning we started from our beautiful camp for a nature trail, where in we tried to collect the samples of flora and fauna and discuss them with the group. That session was really enlightening as we got to discover new facts about the forest, wildlife behavior etc. After the break fast, we again hit the 300m path to keep our bags in the van. This time we crossed the river with skill that was gained the previous day.
The second day trek started and the interesting thing about this was we just plunged into the deep forest with a guide, crossed the river thrice before reaching the final spot at 4:00PM. River crossing needs the talent of jumping in the right rocks to save ourselves from diving down into the river. and of course to avoid wetting our shoes. From the final spot we reached Bangalore by 1:00AM. On the whole it was such a wonderful experience and this was justified by the feedback comments that everyone shared.

The words used here sometime may camouflage our real experiences of the trek and if you really want to experience – you should go for this trek!