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.
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.
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].
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Originally 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. 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.
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.
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.
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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
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