The last minute dropout of my dearest co-trekker was a disappointment since the fun part of the trek would come down drastically, and then I met the new group for exploring the Rangaswamy Betta near Kanakapura district. The enthusiasm shot up soon after I met them in Banashankari (my pick-up point) and soon we started with our traditional dumb-charades. Upon reaching the base of the hill, we lost the way of the exact entry point. After several exploratory work of Patrick, we finally started our trek. The time was 11.30 PM and yes, it was a night trek.
Bilikal Rangaswamy Betta located close to Kanakapura is around 50 km from Bangalore. The hill stands tall at 3,000. It is part of Eastern Ghats, and is covered with shrub forest. There is a shrine at the hilltop devoted to Lord Rangaswamy. Temple priest lives near the temple and one can spot elephants and other animals in the night. The Trekking Trail starts from Koonala Doddi. From the top, one can see the hillocks of the Kanakapura range, including BM betta and KabbaLa durga. On a bright sunny day, Savanadurga can be seen.
We had the head count as per the protocol and started ascending at 11.45 PM. Patrick and Rajesh led the trail through the agriculture fields, then finding the way to base of the hill. Rangaswamy Betta is a part of Bannerghatta National Park and is a well-known home for wild elephants & buffalos. As we ascended, the vegetation got thicker and the routes became narrower. There was a heap of elephant dung that was dry, giving a relief that it has passed this place a long ago. We could spot the stamping of vegetation that indicated the elephants trail, but we continued with all enthusiasm to reach the peak. We made three stops; first stop was on a fairly flat area in the middle of the peak. We rested here for a while, ate some energy bars that could help us ascend well.
The gushing wind and the pushing enthusiasm were just enough for the group to get going. All along the trail there were lighter talks, which was necessary to gear up the mood of tired co-trekkers. Patrick had made it clear that we keep our voices low, since it was night and it was not good to disturb the wildlife. It was almost 30 minutes and then we spotted some fresh dung of elephants that did not scare us either. It was very important to maintain silence and keep our senses open to the sounds of nature around us.
A very important thing that I learnt about elephants is that, when an elephant attacks, we should either run in a criss-cross fashion or just run downhill. It was a very valuable information for this trek.
The second stop was at a point where we could see the town below, making it a perfect resting spot since we could also enjoy the marvellous view of the beautifully lit town.
We continued our way to the top after some rest but from then the routes became steeper and every step was atleast 3 feet height. The ascending slowed down quite a bit and it was really important to pass those areas, since we could spot more and more fresh dung. Every step had to be watchful, since there were other wild creatures that could pose threat. What we hold on during the walk, where we step to ascend had to be carefully done, because snakes and other reptiles may thrive on the tree barks and there was every chance of getting bitten.
A highly positive face of involving ourselves into trekking is quite obvious if we observe, we are tuned to be alert, our concentration on our surrounding becomes optimum and we tend to push ourselves in the adverse paths of rocks and boulders to reach the final frontier. This is so relevant in our daily life activities. All these things surely help us get through tough times in life, leading us to the ultimate peak of success.
The third stop was quite interesting as we finally were reaching the clouds and the visibility range was just a meter. The sudden precipitation resulted in mist formation and the weather became quite pleasant. Initially, it was bliss since we were tired and needed that cool weather to calm us down. It became intense by some time and we started shivering. All the jackets and warm clothing were taken out again to save ourselves. We were still walking through the mist and Patrick indicated that we had almost reached the peak. The peak was about 100 mt far and then we heard Tree breaking sounds!!!! We stopped abruptly. Patrick and I continued leaving others behind to check if the trail was safe to continue. We had switched off the torch and took help of natural moon light. Upon walking a few meters, we heard the bamboo stems being crushed. We were sure that we had encountered an elephant, but had not seen it yet. As we moved further, the sound appeared to be approaching towards us. This was the point where I was freaked out and stayed behind while Patrick still kept walking.
When he realized that it was time to return, he wanted to communicate his decision to me and he turned back, I was all the more freaked out and before he could tell me anything, I started running back. It looked very important at that time because of fear, but then Patrick turned the whole situation into a funny sounding situation later that day.
After this near – to – visible encounter with wild elephant, we decided to descend back to the base, since it was important to stay safe. Trekking is always about exploring the nature but within safety limits of a human being. We had a very tough ascending that had already given us a feeling that we have trekked. We reached back to the base at around 5.30 AM. By then I had already exerted more pressure on my left leg and it had already started paining. We took some rest at the base. Headed back to our vehicle where we freshened up for next trail near Chunchi falls.
At 10 AM, we started trekking towards Chunchi falls and it was only few steps and my left leg had already started refusing to walk anymore. I ignored the pain and managed on the other leg.
This part is something I will never forget. It was a very small step from one rock to other, and I had to manage with one leg to do it. My right leg got stuck into one of the root; I toppled myself and fell on a rock face-first. World stopped for a moment, I could not hear anything; all I could hear was the strange buzzzz. I immediately got up and sat for a while, but the damage had already happened. Right side of my face was swollen, had hurt my jaw very badly and had a small cut on my chin. Although there were no major visible injuries, I observed bleeding through my nose and was spitting blood quite frequently. The impact was very high and thought I had broken my jaw. I and Anwesh, another avid trekker rushed to the nearest dispensary and got a dressing on my wound and a tetvac shot (an injection).
I must say, Bangalore Ascenders is the right organization for any trekker, because they are not only experts in organizing treks. Each one of them are great humans, who love fun, who believe in protecting nature, respecting the interest of every trekker and more over who care very much about the safety and well-being of each one.
They were ready to withdraw trekking but then I did not want to be a party-breaker. So I requested them to complete all that was planned, while I could take good rest in the bus. Some started to trek down the valley and reached the base of the valley. From there they climbed the other side of the valley and reached the stream from where the Chunchi falls originates. Finally reached back to Bangalore by 8.00PM.
All in all a mixed experience of enthusiasm, fear, pain and excitement. What more could a passionate trekker ask for!?
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Written by: Pradeep
Date: July 20th
The Crew: Patrick, Kiran, Pradeep Damle, Anand Kumar, Prashant, Harshit Shrivastava, Ankita Nanchahal, Vikas, Rakshith Shetty, Ranganath Mukunda, Rajesh R, Ravindra Joisa, Srivatsa Sharma, Chaitra Joisa, Rajesh Suvarna, Miten Odharia, Arun Kumar, Chandrasekaran, Sivaraj, Shweta Hunagund, Anvesh, Satish Anand, Anitha, Tulsi, Sanjib