It has been a long time since I trekked again, looks like I barely remember my previous trek. This is one such trek that sometimes doesn’t go wrong at all when perfectly planned even an hour or two before. Well, watching the sunrise from one of Tipu’s fort hills on a Sunday is something to watch out for trek-hungry people…
I really don’t know how fast this long ride + trek was planned among the Wing Riders. But since Sunday was a holiday plus bandh, it was a good thing that people turned up in a good number bracing the cold biting winter.
Skandagiri is one of Tipu’s fort hills in the Nandi Hills range. The dilapidated walls of Tipu Sultan’s fort can be seen even today. History says this was a small but strong hill fort. Tipu reportedly captured by bribing two milk women (or herdsmen according to the locals) who used to supply milk to the ruler to poison him and his men to death. It surrendered to British Troops on 19 Oct 1791. It remained in British hands until the peace treaty of 1792, which concluded the third Anglo-Mysore War.
There are two caves, one starts from the base and as per locals, leads to the temple at peak and another one is somewhere midway which is about 30 feet only. Both are yet unexplored, especially the first one. Locals say that there are pythons lurking at the caves and had swallowed their goats at times. Supposedly, there are 6 Graves (Samadhis) in that cave.
The trek is pretty tedious as the hill is precipitous and high. The trek starts from the Papagani Temple at the foot of the hill. The fortress is in full sight throughout the trek uphill. This steep and fantastic trek through a maze of Skandagiri is a teaser. Just as you have topped the hill, you see another ring of fort. No sooner do you reach there, than you find another majestic fort wall waiting to be conquered. There are six such series of stonewalls protecting an abandoned temple on the hilltop.
The entire hill is haunted and people say that they can sometimes hear the battle cries of the long dead soldiers still waging an endless war against an endless army. Some say, once you reach a fort wall- you can hear the war cry of the timeless soldier guarding his post. Okay, just kidding I made that up!!! Hehehe!! The only war cries we heard were of one of our friend’s who was ahead than us.
The trek-trip started in Namma Bengalooru, 11 of us gathered at Mekhri Circle as planned and the remaining 4 joined mid way. A small break before and at CCD helped us refuel, refresh ourselves, chatter and plan for what was to come besides deciding on the way. Since we decided to keep the returning members’ number to 15 itself, a small strategy of speed limits and other stuff was discussed before setting off.
Everyone went in pairs with the “Swift” keeping track while tailing us. For me, it looked more like an Army armed with a Tank and guns going in a uniform pace with a pattern set to conquer Tipu’s fort. Wonder how it looked from the top. 5 pairs of 10 bikes and one cool looking “Swift” tailing us.
While we were waiting in Mekhri Circle, two cops stopped by the bikes (parked without violations). Since all of us were sitting in the bus stop on the opposite lane, we had a good view of the bikes as well as the traffic. Anyways, after we told that we were planning to go trek Skandagiri, the cops told us not to get into any sort of trouble (which might relate us to the bandh) or over speed. Someone from the group later said “Probably they got scared when they saw 11 guys stand up at once and head towards them without thinking.”
Finding the right way was not a problem, we declined a guide, planning to explore everything ourselves. And since we already noticed a couple of bikers going in ahead of us, we thought we didn’t require one. The trek started at around 2AM by the base of Papagani Mutt. The hill is at an altitude of 1350mts. Though all of us started out in one big group, we split into 3 different groups on way. 2 started running ahead of us. Besides the moonlight, the torches surely helped us a lot on the way filled with loose wet stones, horny shrubs and a narrow goat path. There were times in the mist where we were able to see only the person next to us while the remaining looked more like shadows out of a ghost movie. Try to take a snap with the flash turned on in the mist, you are bound not to see anything for the rest 5-10 secs.
All of us, the three groups reached the top with an interval of 10-15 mins. Two warm fires near the Temple on the top of the hill welcomed us with hot tea and some snacks. Everyone was completely drenched owing to the clouds all over us. When the last single person whom we thought would’ve gone back to the car and sleep proved us wrong by arriving at the top 10 mins after us, famished but exhilarated. All of us, whooped, cheered and burst out shouting celebrating the reunion of the entire gang on the apex of the hill which once held one the strongest forts of the “Tiger of Mysore”.
The warm welcome boosted up his as well as everyone’s spirits and energy, so, we set out exploring the entire hill that was filled with people. The abandoned temple that we heard about was Not So Abandoned after all. It was a combo of a micro-mini cook room and a temple. No one bothered to check the temple since nothing was in it, besides the stone room and a small Nandi looking expectantly towards the chamber expecting the Idol to disappear at any moment in the swirling mist.
The wait for the Sunrise sincerely tested our patience not to talk about our restlessness. Obviously all of us were tired and the hot food did little to warm us up. And to make another fire required an extra amount of hunting for dry twigs and leaves in that foggy condition which no one were ready to give up for their comfortable huddled up positions. The Temple/CookRoom guys didn’t have any extra firewood and even if they had they would need it for making food. Besides, the entire place looked too windy and wet to hold or make a fire. And we weren’t able to find any non-windy place in that darkness (once the sun light came up, we found two such places with the remains of soot of a previously held fire).
It was nearing 7AM and the Sun hasn’t risen though there was light everywhere. Other people started to leave by 6-6:30AM. And we didn’t want to give up hope. But when a local guide said that it usually doesn’t rise till 10AM or so on TOP OF THE HILL, the reality started to sink it. Peak winter season, and clouds refuse to leave till the Sun is hot enough to drive them away. Armed only with snacks and water we reached the peak in time but none of us imagined sitting with empty stomachs and empty water bottles on the edge of the mountain over looking the small town of Chikkabellapur expecting to witness the birth of a new day with mist clinging all over us like sea weed.
So, we decided to start our trek downhill before our stomachs started growling and fatigue overtook us. We took a couple of snaps mid way, and we were in the company of a professional photographer and so had some photographic and photogenic fun. Trek downhill proved to be quite dangerous, not tough but dangerous, filled with loose dry stones and dry sand sometimes with sloping paths.
While returning, we tried to form some patterns together taking full advantage of the nearly empty NH7. But looking at the size of the formations we were making, a group of 9-10 cops stopped us mid way and suggested us not to try it since it might attract attention and reminded us of the bandh to add to our formation-making miseries. A breakfast plan was formulated but abandoned for various reasons (a smaller group had a breakfast in a different place) and everyone left the place for different destinations at various KmPH!!!!!!