Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bangalore to Chitradurga trip

I had been planning a trip to Chitradurga for almost a year. While returning from Goa, where we had been to last Christmas, my friend showed me the dim outline of a fort and a mountain beyond and said “that fort is awesome, you should plan a one day trip here”. I vowed to myself to answer the beckoning calls of the awe-inspiring fort.

My swift was raring to go and so was I. I only had to persuade four other software engineers that this would be a worthwhile trip. No easy task this! After weeks of politic maneuvering and cajoling, pointing them to other blogs praising Chitradurga, they agreed. My troupe was now ready: Anand, Malai,Sandeep and Rajesh.

Being the only driver in the group, I had my task cut out. Chitradurga is around 230 kms from Bangalore and I had never driven around 500 kms in a day. We left home at around 7 a.m. I usually drive like my life depends on it (which in a city like Bangalore- it does). The speedometer touched 150 kmph in NICE road. My grey beauty zoomed on and we soon hit the Nelamangala stretch where even going at 15 kmph was an achievement. We had breakfast at Kamat( near Tumkur) and reached the fort at around 11.30.

The impregnable fort is designed in the shape of a snake to confuse invaders. The outer walls of fort are surrounded by a large space that would have been filled with water along with a few crocs and poisonous snakes during an attack on the fort. Our guide next led us to the first landmark in the fort: The gun powder grinder - A marvel of ancient engineering this. Young elephants were used to rotate giant wheels which churned gun powder.

This fort seems to be battle ready even today. Secret locations from where defenders could repel and shoot at invaders, giant walls that still bear the marks of Hyder Ali’s cannons - you can imagine how tough it might have been for Hyder’s soldiers to attack this place.

On the way to the top, we were able to see Jothi Raj (a.k.a Kothi Raj – Translation: Monkey Raj) perform some breath-taking stunts on the ramparts and boulders. A stone quarry worker who struggles to make ends meet, he practices rock climbing with a burning passion and desire. If you visit Chitradurga, find some pity in your cruel city hearts and leave this guy a good tip.

We next visited Onake Obava point, where a brave house wife killed Hyder’s guards to thwart a surprise attack and save her homeland using her onake(a pestle - iron pole used to grind rice). I could imagine a husky housewife dispatching soldiers in that narrow entrance in what can only be described as a grim and macabre fashion. Women those days seemed to be made of sterner stuff! Alas, we all know the fate of such brave souls: death. At least they had the decency to name that fort entrance after her.

The final part of the trek included a climb to the top of the fort. More like a crawl in which I held on to dear life on one hand and my sneakers on the other. Three of the guys backed out even before we got started and arguably missed the amazing 360 degree view from above. I realized it would take at least a day cover the entire fort, our guide had conveniently shown us only the most important locations.

We later visited Chandravalli caves – Dark (don’t forget your torch), dank and the smells of bats is pervading. There is a narrow path in the deepest location that leads to the treasury (If you can consider bat barf treasure!). Personally I did not have the heart to make that wretched crawl.

We had lunch in Chitradurga and later headed home to our beloved Bengalooru. I was totally tired by the time we reached home after the hectic drive, rock climb and cave exploration; a pleasant and satisfied tiredness that hits you only during such an amazing trip

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bangalore to Kudremukh trip

Bangalore to Kudremukh trip
Day 1 – Sravanabelagola and Halebid
Finally urge to blog gets the better of me! So here’s a travel guide sort of a blog about my trip to Kudremukh trip for 3 days along with my friends. The first thing that hits you when plan a trip to Kudremukh is that there are no hotels or affordable places for lodging. Fortunately I managed to find a long-forgotten-distant relative working in the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company and booked rooms in the company guest house. We were all set for the trip!
Left Bangalore via NICE road at around 8 in the morning towards the monstrous nelamangala road traffic. We were a boisterous group of around ten college mates and beer started to flow soon enough in the morning when I informed them that late breakfast was in store due to delayed departure.
First pit stop was Sravanabelagola at around 1 p.m. The colossal nude statue of Gomateshwara is a 57 feet monolith. Majestic is the only word to describe it. I was particularly impressed with the hoyasala architecture of using supporting structures to hold the massive stone walls. The view from above is surely worth the climb.
Had lunch at Hassan and reached Halebid at around 5 p.m. (just in time actually; the temple closes at 6 p.m.). I have been to many temples but Halebid blew my mind the first time I laid eyes on it. The grandeur of the sculptures, thought, vision and hard work that went into building that temple over a period of 150 years is seriously unparalleled. If you are a first time visitor, don’t forget to hire a guide.
The two massive Nandis in front of this multi layered temple, the imaginary creature Makara, the pillars in the dancing hall, combined with the intricate design and attention to detail on each of the sculpted images makes this temple the greatest example of Hoyasala architecture. And O-boy, talk about the planning and vision of the ancient hoyasala kings. In the software industry, we struggle to gather requirements properly and close projects in time!
Left for Kudremukh via kalasa at around 7. Be careful about the route you take as the roads to Kudremukh might be blocked due to landslides. We finally managed to reach the guest house in a totally exhausted and drenched state at midnight.

Day 2 – White Water Rafting and Hanumangundi falls.

Daybreak greeted us with a very heavy downpour and we were well advised by everyone in the guest house to avoid the Kudremukh peak trek altogether. My co-organizer and I didn’t want to let the folks know that we had somehow planned the trip to exactly coincide with the cyclone ravaging the west coast. We decided to go the Balehole for white water rafting.
I chose the first row for rafting and it certainly satiated the thrill seeker in me. Going through the tiger rapids and the rush of adrenalin just before the rapids is not something that can be put into words. Last word: Do it!
We later visited Hanumangundi falls in the evening. The gush of water forms a mesmerizing cadence of a sort. A few brave souls who entered the water and waddled around for sometime were the first ones to see a real leach at work! (On ourselves that is). There are streams for almost every mile between Kudremukh and Hanumangundi falls. We ended up making quite a few stops on the way and also took a few very good snaps at Kadambi falls on the way.
The way to Hanumangundi falls is full of prime grazing lands and we were fortunate enough to see the native fauna: a herd of bison and later glimpsed a few sambars. This place is totally a treat to any connoisseur of nature. Thankfully Kudremukh has not been commercialized and its eco-system destroyed like a few other hill stations!

Day 3 – Trekking at Kudremukh.
Kudremukh is after all known for trekking and no trip over there would be complete with out it. We choose the shortest trek of around 8 kms to Kurinjal peak. We took around half a kg of salt to avoid the leaches and smeared it on our shoes, legs and arms. The leaches attacked with a vengeance and we finally ran short of salt. I now wonder what the leaches feast on when there are no humans around.

The trek route was filled with mist and we could not see anything beyond 20 feet in all directions. Heavy downpours eased visibility and let us see the landscape beyond for a few moments. Nature at it’s pristine best.

The guys finally got tired of removing leaches from their feet and threatened to head back just a km before the Kurinjal peak. I obliged knowing that if I refused and moved forward, any black eye given to me later wouldn’t have been coincidental at all. Back at the tempo traveler, we finally removed all the leaches (or so we thought) and headed to Nature Camp for tea.

We left for Bangalore at around 12, had lunch at Hassan and finally reached home at around 9.30. The trip exceeded all my expectations and we all left with a sense of satisfaction. I should take my Swift the next time I visit Kudremukh. Now that would be some trip!