Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weekend trip to Mullayangiri Hills

It was quite sometime now that we were planning for a trek out side but near Bangalore. A bit of web-search and we zeroed in to Mullayangiri hills. In fact Mullayangiri was on our radar for quite sometime; this time, we finally agreed to make it. Mullayangiri Hills best suited our requirements: overnight from Bangalore, great scenery and treks galore. Mullayangiri, the highest peak of Karnataka, is one among the range of hills around the scenic Chikmangalur district. The town is about 220 Kilometers from Bangalore. The foothills of Mullayangiri have dense coffee plantations with little human activity. The peak is a little over 1800 meters above sea level, with a small, thousand year old ancient Shiva temple at the top. The temple has a fort-like surrounding wall, which we guessed could be due to the harsh winds near the peak. The hill sports a lush-green outlook with rocks barely visible.

Our plan was to reach Chikmangalur by the Rajhamsa bus from Bangalore, board another bus to reach Sarpa-dari and then start trekking from there. Beyond this we had not planned for anything... we wanted it to be some sort of an adventure and plan out our stay based on the availability of the resources. We were a fairly small team of trekkers, Bhavesh Heniya, Pankil Shah and me, Sourav Kundu [left to right].
On Friday we got our stuff ready for the trip… we had packed loads of eateries: dates, cheese, bread, chocolates, glucose and ITC biscuits [there is a story behind it, ;-)...]. We started from Bangalore on 22nd December, 2006 by the Rajhamsa bus for Chikmangalur at 2300 Hrs. Once we reached the KSRTC bus stop… it looked as if half of Bangalore was moving out. Finally we reached platform 23 where we were supposed to board our bus.

A few snaps were clicked to mark the start of our trip. We had the last seats to ourselves and were prepared for a bumpy ride for 6 hours or so. But to our astonishment, the roads were quite good and we had a not so bumpy ride. We were in Chikmangalur at about 0445 Hrs on 23rd December. We had a fantastic breakfast of “chow-chow bhath” and “idly vada” at Hotel Nandini and topped it with hot coffee and tea. The hotel waiter Suresh Prabhu, helped us a lot in our plan. We were suggested to wait till 0800 hrs for SMS. Now that sounded confusing… what does SMS have to do with our travel? A quick stroll out and we got our answer, the buses had SMS printed on the boards. We were joined by a lot of trekkers in the bus… out came a few ITC biscuits, and a small chat over the impact it would be making to the stock price of ITC. We were acquainted to a few other trekkers and came to know where to alight for the trek. The bus passed through a few beautiful coffee plantations… the weather was cool and the air fresh. Bangalore in the early mornings might be as fresh. After about 20 minutes of ride through the scenic beauty of the hills, we came to a place known as “Sarpa-daari”…this is supposed to be the starting point for the trek.
More than half the bus was down here… all trekkers. Bhavesh identified the starting point of the trek as mentioned in one of the blogs that he had read. Another round of photography followed. Finally at around 0900 hrs the trek started, in went my jacket and out came Cadbury… energy boosters. The path was filled with grass and some other sort of plantations. At times there were forks on our way… we kept on taking the left ones all the time. We’d read in one of the blogs to do so. The weather was just fine… the winds gained speed as we ascended up. Some places gave us breath taking scenic experience. We had one more group with us and hence were having company to decide on the right track. Bhavesh kept on insisting for photographs… but frankly… you can never capture the beauty in the lens… though we tried our best.We covered one hill after the other with no sight of the top. Finally after about 60 minutes we came to a place with a small cave like structure. 20 minutes later we came to one more place where we found “Nandi”… there is a tree and enough shade. We spent about a couple of minutes there and again started for the top. At times the route was extremely risky… but we never lost grip. There were places where we had to pull ourselves up…and the incline is close to 60 degrees. We were extremely careful at those places cause we didn’t wanted any casualties… being inclined towards the hill is a better idea while climbing. After about 5 minutes we came upon two caves. We left our bags at the entrance and ventured in. The air was cold and the cave dark. We went in and found excellent lime deposits. A few photographs clicked again. The low temperature in the cave was apparent in a way that we could see steam coming out of our bodies. Anand, a member from the other group showed me foot steps of what might be bats. We wanted to venture in but then it looked a bit risky… god knows what might come out… ;-). It seemed that the time spent in the caves was sufficient to get our strengths back. From the caves it was about 10-15 minutes climb to the temple at the top. The winds were pretty strong at the hill top and the beauty of the hills, breath-taking. Out came the camera for a few more snaps. We had a small break at the hill top. A couple of rounds of the temple followed by a visit inside the temple were enough for us. We then had a snacks break… chocolates, aloo bhujiya and biscuits. We came to know that the pujari was about to start cooking and if we had asked, he’d have cooked for us. There was a place nearby where a few trekkers had gone to have their bath. We washed our face and hands in ice chilling water. We could have waited and had our lunch there but then we would have been late for Babubudan Hills. We came to know that it was only 14 kilometers from Mullayangiri and hence didn’t spend time at Mullayangiri Hills. We set off at about 1210 Hrs for BB Hills. We were told that this is comparatively easier than trekking Mullayangiri, but we found that it’s equally riskier. At some places the descent is so steep that a step wrong could land you to nowhere. We had to be extremely careful not to lose our balance since the winds were very strong at this corner. Nevertheless we took many breaks and snaps on the way.One hill after another and we reached a place with Swami Vivekananda’s statue. We were quite hungry then and had a nice lunch. Bread, cheese, dates, biscuits and Cadbury. I had a small 10 minutes siesta, infected with Bhav’s persistent comments to start the trek. We could see the road from that place and only 5 minutes later we were on the tar road. We couldn’t find any trek track and hence preferred to stick to the road. We were planning to wave a few cars for lift, were lucky in the second one. We three packed ourselves in the last seat of a Mahindra jeep. We were packed, but that was better than walking the distant. The jeep saved us a couple of kilometers of walking. We came to know that we had about 6 kilometers more to trek to reach BB Hills… my spirits were already down… I hadn’t come to walk on the roads… give me treks!!! We were short on water…and refilled our bottles and ourselves in a nearby flowing tap. The water was not crystal clear… but then… who cares? I wrapped my kerchief on my head… it surely cooled me. We trekked for quite sometime when I could not take it anymore and diverted from the tar road and took to the bushy hills, while Bhav and Pankil stuck to the tar road. I reached the road faster than them since they took the zig-zag way while I took the straighter one. I waited for sometime, and when I didn’t find them anymore I left a message on the road “Sourav [top arrow]” to tell them that I’ve gone up the road. I did this about four times when I found a trek path again. I left the tar road and took to the trek again. This one was difficult. I knew that I’d reach the top of the hill but was not aware of what route to take. For sometime I moved amongst the bushes and then broke out to go higher up. A stick would have helped me in making my way a bit more comfortable. The thorny bushes were not kind enough to me. There were places where I could just not figure out where I was going… then I heard Bhav and Pankil. It seemed that they had also taken to the trek and now where a higher than me. I was not able to find a way to reach them….a few steps back… a right turn and bingo, I’m with them.They told me that they had read my messages on the road, but only two while I had left four; probably they had taken to trekking by then. On the way I had passed a beautiful stream… cool water and fresh air… aahh what else do you need? Once we’re together, it was fun as usual. We hit the top of the hills and that was BB Hills. We spoke to a few guys about the transportation options from there… this involved a bit of thinking and decision making on our part. The next bus to Chikmangalur was at 1745 Hrs. Our tickets for Bangalore from Chikmangalur were at 1500 hrs on 24th December. The earliest bus that can take us from BB Hills to Chikmangalur was at 1200 hrs. There was a catch now… what if the first bus gets delayed? Due to this inherent risk and moreover not having to do much on BB Hills, we decided to start for Chikmangalur by the evening bus. We had earlier planned at Mullayangiri to reach BB hills and stay there for the night; we had all the food that might be needed so we didn’t have any problems as such, just that the place to stay was not yet finalized. A couple of cups of tea with “aloo bhujiya” and a bit of discussion was all we needed to decide on our next course of action. We caught up with the old gang that we left in Mullayangiri when we started for BB Hills. They also suggested that there was not much of sight seeing in BB Hills… as they say, “The journey also needs to be savored not only the destination”. We boarded the 1745 hrs bus for Chikmangalur. The trip back was equally wonderful; traveling through the same routes… the sunset was just too beautiful to lose sight. The bus reminded me of times when we were single digit of age… yellow light inside the bus… good old days; the tar road did no justice to the already ageing bus… all the parts seem to contribute to the continuous band party that we were treated with. Nevertheless we did not lose the opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty that we were offered. We reached Chikmangalur at about 1900 hrs, and the first thing that we did was check for availability of the tickets for the same night to Bangalore. We were pleased, our next day tickets were cancelled and we got the tickets for the same night… 23rd December. We had a filling dinner… and then it was time to board our bus. We were pleased by the way things had panned out, though we had not planned anything when we started the trip. This time again we had the last seats to ourselves. At about 0445 hrs we were back to Bangalore. That is all about our trip to Mullayangiri and BB Hills. On the whole we had a fantastic time together and look forward for more such adventures in the future. There were a few things to learn from this trip. We took a lot of eateries, could sustain on lower ration. A sleeping mat is a must for any trekking, though we didn’t need one this time, but still it’s a must for trekking. The ideal way to enjoy this trek would be: Start from Bangalore and reach by the first SMS bus for BB Hills. Drop out at “Sarpa-Daari” and start trekking to Mullayangiri. Once at the top speak to the priest and request him to prepare your lunch… in the meantime you can have a bath in the chilling waters of Mullayangiri. Once you’re done with your lunch, just enjoy the scenic beauty of the hills… a stroll down to the caves will do no harm. View the sunset and sunrise from Mullayangiri, it’s worth it. Spend the entire night at Mullayangiri and start for BB Hills next morning.

1 comment:

java said...

Good one Sourav.It develops writing skills as well ! I have also been earlier there but missed the caves may due to the season ?
It is always pleasant to be in natural surroundings and enjoying it with a little bit of exertion