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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We didn’t know how much more distance was left to reach Yellapur. It was getting dark and cold. The light just went out so quickly as we were in the forests and winter evening are always short. The roads were the most discouraging part, but we didn’t expect anything better. It would have been better if it wasn’t rolling terrain. It had already been 110kms for the day, first day after all, but my first day ever of riding self-supported with load. Was it a mistake skipping the Dandeli stay and trying to complete two days’ quota in one? As we were about to take one more break we saw the main road, and the sign board too. Yellapur – 4kms!

DSC_4337When I was ten years old, I took my first ever cycling trip. I remember struggling to finish a 25km ride, it took more close to 5 hours to complete. And here I was, a decade later, attempting a 1000+kms self-supported cycling tour across the Western Ghats of Karnataka. This was a dream for me from the time I started cycling. This was on my mind when I was doing the Manali – Leh ride itself. Finally, after pondering about the route for nearly 6 months, I finally decided the route. Dharwad to Madikeri it was, entirely through the ghats. Never did we plan to enter the plains.

The Start!

DSC_4357But that’s how I wanted it to be. And we had started pretty well too. Day one went very well. Just a brief bit of plains starting off from Dharwad and we were inside the dense forests of Dandeli very early, which prompted us to push towards Yellapur that day itself. Now that we had an extra day which we saved, we planned to head to Sathoddi falls, the prettiest waterfall I’ve ever seen. (Un)Luckily it was 25km downhill till the falls, though we enjoyed it, we were thinking about coming back up more often. Sleeping inside the cool, crystal clear water of the falls made me forget all the pain we had yesterday. The backwaters we see on the way to Sathodi must be one of the prettiest too. It was like a huge mirror lying on the ground!

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DSC_4481Uttara Kannada is a less explored district in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. Though places are well known, it never gets too crowded. And there is plenty of opportunity to explore. There are innumerable waterfalls in this place! Wildlife too is so much more; we spotted many Langurs and Malabar Squirrels on the way! Though this was a pretty laid back ride, we had to keep going. Heard about couple of new waterfalls nearby but we had to stick to the plan. Magod falls was next on the list. The huge two tier waterfall didn’t disappoint us at all. Many locals told that there isn’t much water but it was more than enough to visit.

DSC_4406 On the way to Magod, we stopped by a Govt School in a small village called Nandolli. We planned to visit schools to bring about awareness regarding the importance of cycling in the future, preserving the Ghats and its precious resources. I spoke to around 110 kids. All were very interested about my bike more than what I was speaking. But they were all responsive and looked like they understood what I told them about. The teachers were also very optimistic and told us that they will promote cycling too. 40 out of 110 kids ride a cycle to school, which is a big number! The kids’ reaction to the whole thing was very humbling. Our very small try to make the world a better place. All their smiles and goodbyes can never be forgotten! :)

Magod to Sirsi

DSC_4589Ride from Magod to Sirsi was beautiful. There was a 15km stretch inside thick forests where we didn’t see a single soul. That was pretty much the case in the entire district. Dense forests, small villages, very few people around, just the way we liked it to be! Our accommodation in Sirsi was arranged by my friend whose parents lived there. That is something which I can never forget. We were treated like heroes, fed plentiful delicious local food, given everything we required. We had just about done 350kms by then and had plenty more to go!

DSC_4611The rest of the ride to Shimoga was through the rolling terrain. It gets irritating to ride but not too taxing on the body. The forest eased and opens up to the country side and plantations. Stage one was over before we knew. We had cycled 450kms in a week and I was counting backwards already. Only 10 more days to go!

Shimoga to Dharmasthala!

DSC_4556Stage II from Shimoga to Dharmasthala was for me the best part of the ride. I had carefully chosen the route as to cover all my favourite places. I’d been dreaming on cycling the Shimoga to Thirthalli route ever since I passed through it last year. Riding next to the Gajnur Dam backwaters inside dense forest was as wonderful as I expected it to be. Thirthalli is a beautiful place. We were welcomed by a gorgeous sun set on the banks of Tunga! I was especially looking forward to spending the night in Mr.Sheshadri Dixit Sir’s house. If you don’t know about him yet, you have to read this. He cycled 50000 kms across many countries in the Sub Continent from 1968 to 1971. His story still inspires me in many ways! Even there, we were pampered so much with lots of delicious food and all the care we could get. They had prepared Jamoon for us! The legend himself took time of his busy schedule and spoke to us. DSC_4587 I really enjoyed when he spoke about not many people understanding the hardships of touring on a cycle. I must say what we were doing was just a warm up ride compared to what he did! Next day morning was the best moment of the ride. It didn’t come when we saw the most beautiful place or completed a certain distance. It happened when Sheshadri Sir’s daughters gifted us a box of Cadbury Celebrations. It was such an awesome gesture! For me, this was the essence of touring. It is not just about the beautiful places we cover. It's the pampering from our hosts, the smiles we bring on those children and the village folk, the shout outs we get, the curious questions we are asked, the food, the people, the culture we see and the love we experience that make this journey special!

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Through Agumbe!

That day supposed to be our first test of climbing on the tour. Kundadri climb was awaiting us enroute Agumbe. The climb was just 4kms but it was insanely steep. With all the luggage on the cycle, it was super hard. If I stopped, I couldn’t start again as my front wheel kept on lifting up due to the incline. The scorching afternoon heat didn’t help us either. Finally, after many many breaks, we reached the top. We could see the Savehaklu backwaters far away, Narasimha Parvatha too on the other side towards Agumbe where we were headed. We decided to stay on top till the evening and the chocolates ended up as our lunch :)

DSC_4809 Agumbe side of Western Ghats must be the least explored part of western ghats in Karnataka. Due to Naxal problems, not many opportunities were there to trek around. I love the town, it has just one road. We were staying in Doddamane, the famous Malgudi Days house. We met a couple from Bangalore who offered to take us to Kundadri again for the sunrise in their car. Getting up at 5.30 after a long day was difficult. So Vishwa dropped out but I was very lucky to witness a superb rise. I always felt Sunrise is better than sunset in Agumbe. Last year too on Narasimha Parvatha we were lucky to get ‘sunrise above the clouds’! That day was supposed to be tough. We were climbing the big ‘Agumbe Ghat’ from the Coast side. We first went down the ghat, enjoyed the downhill like crazy because I knew coming back was going to be kicking ass. We were on our way to Koodlu Theertha falls. It is very secluded and has very bad roads but as usual, it was time for another bath after a long time! I absolutely loved it as we were the only ones around. Crossing the river too was a super experience. Climbing the big ghat was very hyped up. People told us it is very difficult. It is indeed full of hairpin bends but guess what, both of us did the entire climb without a break! May be because we were thinking it was way harder but people coming on vehicles were going crazy seeing us cycle on that route!!

Kudremukh!

DSC_4912 The next day was also going to be long. But I was very excited as we were entering Kudremukh National Park. I love the place. The day was long and hard. We entered the park pretty late so we had to hurry up. It was very late in the night when we reached the Kudremukh trek start point. We were riding in pitch dark, creepy sounding forests with the help of a full moon which gave us insane silhouette effect of the mountains around. We reached K’mukh at 9 in the night. Our host was Jinendra, the guy who drives the jeep till the trekking point of the peak. After a tiring previous day we were feeling very lazy the next day, we had a buffer day but we wanted to go as far as possible. We decided to stop 20 kms before Kottigehara as we found a super place to camp for the night. There is a 2000 acre tea and coffee estate in Kelagur near Kalasa. They have a small tea point, just next to a stream so we found it to be perfect! We slept outside their small shelter, in freezing cold but a super experience. Many nearby villagers who work in the estate welcomed us to their homes saying it was too cold sleeping outside, great gestures again, but we were more than happy with the place. I had a -10 sleeping bag anyway! ;) But I must say that was the coldest night I’ve spent in Southern India.

Descending across Charmadi Ghat!

Next day we were going down all the way. After just 5kms of uphill, we started our descent to Dharmasthala, 50kms down the great Charmadi Ghat. The views were fabulous, the road was newly laid and we were going crazy. I hit 60kmph speed. We were ripping! DSC_4895

We were joined by Narsimha from Dharmasthala for the last leg till Madikeri. The ride to Subrahmanya was uneventful until the last few kilometres until we could see great views of my favourite mountain, Kumara Parvatha. We were essentially taking a big round of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in stage III. Bisle Ghat was on my mind all through the ride. It was 50kms of uphill ride till Somwarpet. I was very particular about riding here in spite of very bad road conditions and height gain because this part is still not very popular. The road I must say was non-existent but the incline was very manageable for most part. There was a series of uphills as we finished Bisle and the landscape opened up. The road was absolutely deserted entire day and we simply loved it. DSC_4995

The mark of 1000 kms!

Next day we touched the 1000km mark on the way to Madikeri from Kundhalli, a small village where we stayed close to Malhalli falls. Vishwa was very satisfied about reaching this number. 1000 is not a small number and it did feel very satisfying about doing that distance self-supported. DSC_5161 For me, I had already got everything and more of what I expected from this ride. Everything went as planned and we got to see so much more than what we had planned.  We finished of the ride in the best possible fashion by going to Mandalpatti and enjoying its splendid views and returning to Madikeri. We finished with 1067kms. 17 unforgettable days through my beloved Malnad. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what we had done on the tour as I had already started thinking about my rock climbing trip to Badami the very next day. But after spending a month back here in Bangalore, I realise that we indeed cycled so much!

DSC_5193 It might look too formal but it is my duty to name and thank everybody who helped me make this thing happen. Bangalore Ascenders first for giving me an opportunity to organise for them, Sachin from Pedals and Wheels for providing me Panniers and Rack for free, My friends Muggy and Aditya for helping with getting accommodation in their towns, Sheshadri Dixit sir for their help, Girish in MandalPatti and Bee Tee homestay near Kundhalli for charging us so much more lesser than their usual price and finally my riding partner Vishwa for all the help and support throughout the ride.
It was a great experience for me to plan and execute my dream ride. I have so much more respect now for all those people who tour on a cycle, especially all the Himalayan tourers who ride more distance than us in great altitudes. With this, I think you know my next plan. ;) Himalayan self-supported tour. Till then, Happy Cycling :)

Join Bangalore ASCENDers @ CLICK HERE
Written by:
Sharath Vishnu
Date: December 7th to 24th, 2013
Composed by: Swetha Padakandla 
Event organized by: Sharath Vishnu

Image Gallery

The Crew: Sharath Vishnu, Vishwa &, Narsimha

Monday, December 23, 2013

This was my second trek with BASC and my first attempt, in trying to write a post event write up. It had been almost 3 weeks, since I had last headed out of town. So when I found that registrations were open for this event, I registered without a second thought, and I got shortlisted too.

The van arrived at Banashankari around 10:30 PM. After a couple of stops near Marenahalli and BTM layout,  we proceeded towards Hosur. In between we stopped a few kilometers after entering Hosur to pay the entry tax which costed us Rs 1250. There was loads of road work going on so many deviation boards along the way and yes finally we made it to Krishnagiri flyover, where we intended to take left turn in order to join the road which leads us to Thiruvanamalai aka the famous NH 66.

Last time I had driven on this road, I firstly had a flat, then seen foot deep potholes. But it was 1 year since that day, moreover I was not driving . The road was in a better condition, but still not the best. Road work was in progress with many such deviations and stretches where few hundreds of feet used to be gravel. After travelling for sometime, we encountered a manned level crossing. Unfortunately it was closed for sometime and there was traffic built up upto almost 1 kilometer. Strange it sounds, to come to a halt, in the middle of night, because of a level crossing.  To my surprise, I can recollect 4 trains passing through, within a span of 15 minutes. Dr Harish, made his way to the level crossing and instructed the driver to come as close to the gate as possible. To our surprise, we could hear passers by telling us that the gate wont open till 6 am in the morning which was almost 3 hours away. While everyone waited patiently for the gates to open, Ashish was at his best, in a deep sleep and loudly snoring. (Again, no offence meant Ashish).

Luckily couple of gentlemen told us about an underpass where a TT could pass, we took an immediate detour and came out on the other side of the level crossing, not without spending almost an hour and half. Then for sometime, I remember having some interesting conversations with Dr Harish, who told me, he was planning to explore Gingee fort since 2 years but it never had happend, until this day.

After sometime, at almost 3 45 am, yours' truly slept and I then recollect only waking up in the town of Gingee. We had arrived safe and sound and on time too. Dr Ramesh, a friend of Dr Harish, who practices in Gingee, had arranged couple of rooms for us, so we freshened up and got ready to start the trek by 8 45 AM. Gingee town had this one good hotel where we ended up having food for the next two days. The entire team enjoyed the breakfast, and got ready for the ascent.

Gingee fort complex comprises of three hillocks, Krishnagiri, Rajagiri and Chandrayandurg. The fort was built during Chola dynasty and then passed on to the Marathas and then to the French and the British. We started with Rajagiri which comprises of stables, granaries and meeting halls. Sri Kamalkanni Amman temple is situated at the top of Rajagiri. More on Gingee fort can be found over the wiki.

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Having Dr Harish for company is nothing less than "Icing on the cake". His tremendous insights into loads of topics (including history too ) kept everyone glued together, making each one wonder, how fortunate we are to be born as Indians. We entered the fort after paying an entry fee. There are lots of things to explore before even we start our ascent. Like the Kalyani, the Gymansium.

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5_Kalyani 6_groundzero

We spent minimal amount of time at the ground zero and immediately proceeded towards ascending the fort. The steps are a bit steep but they are not that difficult to climb, we can make it with couple of breaks in between. We encountered monkeys prying for food items. But we could ignore them and reach the fort at the top. The view on the way to the peak as well as the top was worth every drop of sweat we lost [ Strange comparison, but that is what came to my mind, since it was a relatively hot and humid day]. 7_onTheWay

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There was a temple, a big depot for storing grains at the top and also there was a watch tower. (There were couple of other structures too. ). The crowd was moderate, we took shelter under the shadow of a structure. Then began the introduction session, after which the group was engaged in a discussion on loads of topics. It was fun and believe me, I ended up losing whatever little (moderate) fatigue I had in this interesting conversation and rather gaining lots of insights. I guess everyone too felt the same, correct me if I am wrong.

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We were in no mood to end our interesting conversation, but a monkey came towards us with no fear and tried to snatch one of the bags which Rajat was carrying, which left us with no choice but to abruptly end our conversation and start descending. We were engrossed in the discussion to such an extent that, Vinay's introduction could not happen at all. ( He introduced himself later in the day). In between Ashish tried to catch some sleep using my backpack as pillow but on both occasions he could not succeed courtesy the monkeys (which were circling around us all the time). Finally when we decided to move, we just realized there were monkeys to our left, right, one angry male facing us, and to my surprise even on top of the structure under whose shadow we were sitting. It felt as though they had grouped themselves, and were about to launch an attack !(Sounds crazy but thats what ran through my mind at that moment).

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Quickly we started getting down and one by one we reached the ground zero, Vinay told everyone to get ready for a group photo. So we found a nice place to get ourselves snapped! Then it was time to leave Gingee fort and head back to town to the same hotel where we had breakfast earlier that day. We treated ourselves to some nice South Indian food and then started again towards Rani's fort aka RaniGiri.

RaniGiri took lesser time to ascend. We were up there pretty quickly. This left us with lots of time at the fort to have nap, talk, discuss, know each other better. The fort had a couple of temples which were plundered and were in ruins.

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23_Descend

Finally at 4 pm we realized we had to descend since the fort entrance gate closes by 4 30 pm. I admit, I am pretty slow while descending and I told Vinay I shall be moving down slowly, thinking they would catch me pretty quickly. There were 4 more people left at the fort including Dr Harish and Vinay. I started getting down pretty slowly. After I almost got down 60%, I ended up facing up a barrage of monkeys. Believe me they were huge in number, and mostly mothers with their babies were sitting directly in my path or coming towards me. I was kinda confused whether to proceed or not at the same time scared too. I avoided eye contact with any of them and somehow managed to cross them with some distance. I had kept two plastic bottles one each in the side pouch of my backpack, and few monkeys (little ones though) started following me. There was a railing (almost my shoulder height) on to which they climbed on to and started running parallel to me. ( I guess to snatch the bottle). Somehow I managed to scare them off but it was kinda close, that was it, I came down. It was Dr Harish who saw the alpha male and the entire (bigger) group. After few minutes he came down too. Glad everything worked out !. When Dr Harish narrated what the monkeys were upto, it was pretty scary.

1_Evening

So an eventful day came to an end, and we returned to the rooms to relax a bit. Again we headed out hoping to catch an exhibition in Gingee, but due to the much crowd, decided against it. Later we proceeded to the same hotel, to complete our dinner and we were done for the day. It was still 8 15 pm and we had loads of time to catch up on another discussion, well yes, and prior to that Vinay finally got an opportunity to give his introduction, thanks to the timely reminder by yours' truly. Sometime, after that, we decided to call it a day and returned to our respective rooms.

The next day was more of a relaxed one. Visit to a near by temple, Sathanur Dam and crocodile park was planned. We got up pretty quickly and one after the other we packed our bags and were ready to leave for the temple. Sri Venkataramana Temple was half a kilometer from the Gingee fort. While we walked towards the temple, the driver made his way out to fix a flat tyre. The temple was really, really cool. So many huge pillars each one put into place perfectly. Sad that it also had been plundered. we sat in the temple for few minutes quitely observing what a master piece it would have been during the glory days.

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After coming back we had our TT ready and headed one final time to the same hotel for breakfast. Time was 10 45 AM. Once we reached the hotel Vinay saw couple of dishes served for lunch were available. On enquiring we figured out lunch was ready!!.. I thought it couldn't be much cooler to wind up our Gingee town trip with yet another plaintain leaf meal, even though time was close to 11 AM. Not all of the folks had lunch, few did, including me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the mid day meal.

Before leaving, we met Dr Ramesh who had helped us with our accommodation (as well as itinerary). Dr Harish handed him a box of sweets and in turn Dr Ramesh gave us 2 pieces of memento. (I have one of them) We bid good bye to Gingee and headed towards NH 66 which would take us to Sathanur dam. We reached Sathanur dam site and first decided to visit the crocodile farm. Spent some time over there hoping to catch a glimpse of their movements. Few did move in and out of water but most were happily basking in the sun. After spending around 35+ minutes time we headed out to the dam.

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We decided to move on towards Krishnagiri and around 6pm something, we made it to Hotel Arya Bhavan in Krishnagiri. After having some food we finally made it to the highway with Bangalore being around 89kms away. There was relatively less traffic on Sunday apart from a single toll booth which had a build up of vehicles. We made it to Bangalore by around 8 35 pm and bid good bye to our friends one by one. I got down at Banashankari bus stand and that brought to an end one more awesome outing with BASC.

Thanks to all who participated and thanks to Vinay & Dr Harish for organizing, a very special thanks to Dr Ramesh.

Written by – Sandeep Kulkarni

Post 2

This was our first trip with BASC. We started from Bangalore around 11 pm on Friday. We joined our fellow members at Silk Board. Feeling all cozy in our Tempo Traveller, we reached Gingee at 7:00 in the morning, slightly late than the scheduled time because of some traffic hassles on the way. We all freshened up a bit, had some nice coffee, all the while talking to our fellow enthusiasts and getting to know each other a bit. We were not the only ones who are the first timers here. We had breakfast at the local Vasanth Bhavan which served some nice idlis and vadas.

After that hearty breakfast, we reached the base of the first hill, where the main fort is, called Rajagiri. Since we were already a bit lagging behind the schedule, sun was up and all brightly shining. Originally it was known Kamalagiri / Anandagiri, this fort is known to be most impregnable. Within the citadel, we visited places like Kalyana Mahal, the royal stables, the gymnasium, the Anaikulam water tank and the granary.

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8_onTheWayOriginally the site of a small fort built by the Chola dynasty during the 9th century AD, Gingee Fort was further strengthened during the Vijayanagar empire during the 13th century. The fort was built at a strategic place to fend off any invading armies. After the decline of the Vijayanagar empire, it was held by the Marathas until the Moghuls attacked it. The Moghuls could not capture the fort for seven years in spite of laying siege. After that it was successively held by the Moghuls, the French and the British. It took us about more than an hour to reach the top, all the while taking breaks and enjoying the views from the elevation. 3_GroupPic 4_canon Once we reached the peak, we spent time relaxing and chatting. We introduced ourselves and in the process we got to know each other more. It was a lot of fun. Then we started our descent and reached the base soon. Then we headed to Vasant Bhavan again for lunch.

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After lunch, we started the climb of the Krishnagiri Fort or the Rani Fort. Unlike Rajagiri, this had a relatively more of straight flight of steps. With breaks we did manage to reach the top battling monkeys who seemed to pop out of nowhere and very attracted to everyone’s back pack. Once we reached the top, we rested there on the cool stone slabs for a while. The descent, as usual, took less time and we were back to place where we had put up.

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The next morning, we visited the Venkatramana Temple near the Rajagiri Fort. It was probably built during the Vijay Nagar period. The original tall, graceful monolithic pillars from the temple are said to have been carried away to Pondicherry by the French and to have been fixed around the Place de la République, near the old pier. The temple complex is several sub segments all of which display relics of intricate carving and artwork in stone. Ranganatha is seen reclining on the serpent with his head turned to a side and accompanied by two female figurines on the side who are possibly his wives Rukmani and Satyabhama. The expression on his face is gentle and pleasant. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful Vishnu idols anywhere.

After brunch, we left for Sathanur which was about a 2 hour journey from Gingee. The Sathanur Dam is one of the major dams constructed across the Pennaiyar River. We also visited the crocodile farm there. The cool breeze blowing from over the reservoir was invigorating. After spending some time at the beautiful gardens by the side of the reservoir, we left for Bangalore. We reached Bangalore refreshed and rejuvenated by this weekend trip.

Written by – Srujan Desai.

Join Bangalore ASCENDers @ CLICK HERE

Date: 21 & 22 Dec 2013

Expenses per head: 997/- includes costs towards hired vehicle, lunch, miscellaneous, entry fee.

Composed by: Sandeep Kulkarni

Event organized by: Vinay KGS and Dr Harish Babu

Image Gallery: Vinay KGS, Sandeep Kulkarni, Srujan Desai.

The team: Sandeep Kulkarni, Dr.Harish Babu, Nishit, Srujan, Ashish Urs, Harsha, Gagan, Vinay S, Rajath kumar, Priyank Goel, Pragathi Agarwal, Vinay KGS, Jhanvi Lakshmi

IMG_7704When I saw this event on the BASC group, to be honest, I was elated. We are getting a chance to go to Hampi, which in itself is a great place to visit and that too on Bike. It is like a cherry on top of cheese cake. So I registered immediately and luckily got shortlisted.
DSC_5802PROLOGUE
Less than a week after my last trek with BASC, I was itching for a bike ride. I do keep going on solo rides, but riding with a group is a different song altogether. Having ridden before with other trekking groups, I was on the verge of asking one of the senior BASC guys to help me organize one.

Monday, December 9, 2013


DSCF3902Shadowed  last peak is Mullayanagiri  from where we started in morning.completed this long within half day.
Hitting the trail – Hard & Fast
The Trail: Sarpanadari Arch – Mullayanagiri - Baba Budanagiri - Kemmanagundi – Hebbe Falls – Kemmanagundi
The Distance: 60+ Kms in 1.5 days
The Team: Santhosh (Me), Patrick, Satya, Jijo, Anil
So, it all started with a call from Patrick. All he said was, we would be doing a fast hiking and it would be Mullayanagiri – Baba Budanagiri trail. While the first proposal was exciting, the second one made me agree as I already had an unfinished business in this trail. Of course, who could deny such a plan that’s both intriguing as well as interesting? I was itching to get back to my trekking ways after a three-month exile and there couldn’t have been a better way to start again.
On Friday, we gathered at Majestic and after the initial round of introductions, we boarded the bus to Chikmagalur. While we spent a large part of the time talking various topics, we did get some rest to prepare ourselves for the big day. Once at Chikmagalur, we hired 2 Autos, to reach our entry point for the hike.
Oh, and now I was excited, so.. damn.. excited at 4.30 in the morning. Soon we got into the trail and started walking upwards. Within 5 mins, Anil twisted his ankles and was in agony. He asked us to move ahead while he would return back. But we encouraged him to come up with us till Mullayanagiri and then re-evaluate his condition. 60 mins later, when the clock struck 6, we were at the peak. And waited for Anil to come. The peak was cold and breezy and refreshing, needless to say, early in the morning.