Thursday, November 26, 2009

Channagiri Trek - November 21-22, 2009

A group of 6 CTCian's ventured into the hills of Channagiri dreaming of a night out in the hills and return next morning. But this became a night trek which ended at 4 a.m. follwed by 2 hours of sleep and then trekking again. I believe no body had seen this face of Channagiri as we climbed from the steep side, experienced the dense thorny forest and beautiful campsite.

We started from Bangalore at 5:30 pm and reached Doddabalapur by 7:30 pm where with much difficulty, we were able to buy the ration for the camping. It was nearly impossible to find a shop stocking soup packets there. We started from there by 8 p.m. and fortunately got the last bus to the deserted village of Sadhu Math. At 9 pm, Sadhu Math was spine chilling windy. Few villagers whom we could spot suggested us not to climb up as it was slippery and very dangerous. They were surprised as to what these city dwellers are going to do in the night. Have they gone crazy. Nevertheless, we were adamant and were soon set on track. Within an hour, the windy atmosphere made us think of hot soup and there we were out with our mumbo jumbo to prepare the juice of the heaven.

I was prepared to take the group through a rather less steep but long route. Our GPS genius Claudy couldn't digest this idea after he figured out which side was north :) He suggested we climb up from the west instead of taking a long route. I always trust his navigation skills rather than mine as I often need GPS to navigate to the toilet. So, we changed course and set to climb from west.

The initial jeep track was full of animal traps primarily set up for rabbits and we were amused at the dexterity of the hunters. Then we came across a waterfalls which seemed to have formed by the stream coming down the hill. I was little surprised seeing so much water in this rather puny hill. We continued to climb up the hill and water was trickling down from almost everywhere, the whole ground was wet.

I had seen dense forest in some part of Channagiri on google maps but this never trickled down my mind that we might have been climbing from that dense side. Anyway, it was too late now for this info to be any worth as we had already climbed quite a bit. So, we continued on the same direction, often to be obstructed by thick bushes and thorns. Finding an open space to walk wasn't easy and Claudy was constantly at it. I was laid back as Claudy took care of navigation. His energy and skills are even better at work in such insurmountable situations.

Claudy had a big doubt about the altitude. Topo suggested the peak was at 1400 m, but the GPS was not suggesting much of a gain in height and we were at 1100 m after quite a bit of climb. I too became suspicious after we were almost near the peak and yet at 1250 m.

The clouds were looking like ghosts, sometime like dinosaurs approaching from far, merging with each other. And there it was a huge animal made of clouds, rather stationary. We could sit there imagining the shapes and stories of these fictions creatures, hours passing by with ease.

It was 6 hours now since we have been trekking and no were near a camping site. By now, the supposedly picnic had become a difficult trek. And then it was a surprise when we reached what we felt was the peak. It was 3:30 a.m. now. An excellent camp site with flat rocks to sleep on and huge boulders giving the appearance of ruins of a building was welcoming us. We decided to place our butts here and fill our bellies. Anala and Priyanka took charge of cooking the avalakki and payasam! Yes, we did make payasam on a trek, that too at 4 a.m. in the morning.

It was too windy and chilling for anyone to have a comfortable sleep. However, we managed sleeping next to each other and getting cover from the boulders. We were prepared for a nice sunrise but nobody woke up at 6 a.m. and I was the last to shed the coziness of my sleeping bag. As it became necessary to reach the peak and get down by 9:30 a.m. (the bus from the village was at 9:30 a.m. and next at 2 pm), everyone had to push their limits.

We were surrounded by mist and the beauty or rather feeling of it was such that I had felt very few times in my life. It was difficult to see things barely few meters away, capturing them on camera was just a day dream.

After a while, it was dense thorny shrubs laden with dew drops and moisture. Often we had to duck and crawl through this patch. Then came what seemed like dead end. Almost impassable shrubs on the right, deep gorge on the left. By this time, we were at 1350 m and hence guessed that we must be very close to the peak. It was matter of just 50 more meters. Soon Claudy and I were able to figure out a way to an open grass land covered with mist and dew. The clouds would hit the body of the hill and melt. We were witnessing the birth of streams and rivulets.

Another few steps and we were at the peak which was marked by an old temple and few other deserted constructions. It was 1445 m now. I regret not being able to witness the sunrise as there wasn't any sunrise on that Sunday! It was too cloudy for the sun to rise. However, we did encounter the foreplay between the clouds and sun. The pristine blue sky and clouds rising to the top of the adjoining hills. By this time, we had already forgotten about the 9:30 a.m. bus and were aiming at 2 pm bus, with doubts whether we'll be able to catch hold of that or not.

Breakfast of dates, tea, and photo session followed and we were set to reach the bottom of the hill through an open path. This was a pretty much defined trail going to the base. And I was not surprised to find that it was going towards the southern side, which had previously been decided on. However, later I found that this path was deviating quite a bit from the one I thought of.

The trail was fairly even and open to walk on. We came across a stream which would eventually lead to the lake at the base. These streams would dry up soon as the rains stop in the region and we were lucky enough to find ourselves at such suitable time. Milky white clouds had scattered themselves throughout the visible range with the backdrop of pale blue sky. White clouds, blue sky, and the hills. What else would a guy with a camera wish?

In few more hours, we were at the base and headed towards the village. The wild Mildi berries loaded with ripen fruits were too juicy to avoid. Hence, we took time to pluck them and blacken our tongue with the berries.

The villagers informed that the next bus was at 1:30 p.m. and we were at the bus stand by 12:30 p.m. I suggested that we go back to the waterfalls and enjoy the bath before boarding the bus. But the team was too apprehensive about missing the bus. So, finally me and Anala headed towards the fall with the intent of coming back within 1 hour. We ran as it would take almost 20 minutes to reach the falls. We didn't want to miss the it. It was a small waterfall but certainly rejuvenating. We enjoyed the limited time and ran back. Thanks to all who stayed back at the bus stand so that we could leave behind our luggage.

One lesson I have learned in life is that one should never trade the current joy which is certain with the probability of future trouble. We always, always regret not enjoying that moment later in life.

We were back with the team and no sign of bus. Villagers were getting tired answering our repeated questions about the bus timings. Our patience was waning. Thoughts were appearing that whether there was a bus or not at 1:30 pm. It is always difficult to wait for things especially when things never wait for us.

The village bus stand was transformed into a playground for kids. Various games were being played and our photography gurus, Srikanth and Claudy, were at work capturing these moments. At regular interval, the kids were questioned about the bus timings. Soon, we heard the noise of the engine and then team was liven up again, the joy of returning back home was visible on the faces. The fruit of waiting so long at this in indescript part of the world had come to us.

That was it. The end. Nothing much was of any significance after this. These delightful days will remain memorable, but often it is not only the trail but also the people on that trail that makes a trek beautiful and unforgettable.

News - Whats its use

I have been growing more and more skeptic about the worthiness of news as it is being presented to us. Not only I would question the worthiness of news, but also raise questions about intoxication of our minds by these half-baked news stories.

The news sellers want the government to save its pupil from being treated by quack doctors. Yet they like to enjoy the freedom to intoxicate the minds by whatever way they wish and call it freedom of press. Isn't it the responsibility of the government to protect the citizen from the perils of wrong and misleading information?

Keep the above seriousness aside, here is a forwarded mail by Anala by which I was kind of surprised as it bore much similarity to my own thoughts. Here it follows:

Prashant (TV Anchor): Two persons have been injured in a freak climbing accident. Jai and his
companion Zeenat had gone up a hill to fetch a pail of water when Jai fell down
and broke his crown. Zeenat came tumbling after. Live from the hill, our

reporter, Amrita Shah, takes up the story.

Amrita Shah: Thank you Prashant. Well, as you say, two persons - Jai and Zeenat - had gone
up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Suddenly, Jai fell down and broke his
crown and Zeenat came tumbling after. Prashant.

Prashant: Thank you Amrita. What do we know about the hill?

Amrita: Not too much. Jai was going up the hill to fetch a pail of water when he fell
down and broke his crown. Zeenat came tumbling after

[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: "hill breaks crown of pail-boy Jai"]

Prashant: What news of Jai and Zeenat?

Amrita: Prashant, it seems that Jai had gone up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
We know nothing about the pail, or how heavy it was but it seems that Jai
fell down and broke his crown and Zeenat came tumbling after. I have here with me,
an eyewitness to the accident, Mr Shahid Trivedi. Mr Shahid, tell us what you

Shahid Trivedi: Jai and Zeenat went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jai fell down and
broke his crown and Zeenat came tumbling after.

[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: "Boy and girl tumble down hill. Water spilled"]

Amrita: Jai and Zeenat. What do we know about them? Are they brother and sister? Are
they married? Just what were they doing on the hill together?

Shahid Trivedi: Jai and Zeenat went up the hill to fetch a pail a water.

Amrita: And what happened next?

Shahid Trivedi: Jai fell down and broke his crown.

Amrita: Go on.

Shahid Trivedi: And Zeenat came tumbling after.

Amrita: Prashant, there you have it. Two people innocently going about their business
to fetch a pail of water when one of them falls down, breaks his crown, and
the other comes tumbling after. Back to you in the studio Prashant.

[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: "Water errand ends in tragedy"]

Prashant: I have with me in the studio now, Professor Chandrashekar Belagare from the
Indian Institute of Applied Hill Sciences. Professor: a hill; Jai; Zeenat; a
pail of water. A tragedy waiting to happen?

Professor: Well that depends on the hill, the two persons, the object they were carrying
and the conditions unde rfoot. Let us look at the evidence so far.

Jai and Zeenat
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jai fell down
And broke his crown
And Zeenat came tumbling after.

Clearly, one would suspect that if Jai's fall was severe enough to break his
crown then the surface of the hill must have been slippery or unstable. But I
think were overlooking something quite fundamental here. Who was carrying the
pail? Jai fell down and broke his crown and this is the key Zeenat came
tumbling after. If Jai and Zeenat had been carrying the pail together, would
they not have fallen at the same time? The fact that Zeenat came tumbling after
suggests that Jai lost his footing first and perhaps knocked Zeenat over as he

Prashant: Professor thank you very much. So there we have it, two persons Jai and Zeenat
went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jai fell down and broke his crown
and Zeenat came tumbling after. Later in the programme, Osama bin Laden
captured in Afghanistan , President Obama says he did not deserve the Nobel prize,
and Pakistan launches nuclear warheads against key Indian cities. But next up,
join us after the break for a studio discussion about hills, boys and girls
and whether water-fetching trips should be supervised. Well be right back...