The blue tarpaulin sheet suddenly gives way and my feet impulsively tries to gain hold on the rocks. I lose grip and one of my slippers hits the rocks about hundred and fifty feet below. Even before I have time to think on what’s apparently gone wrong I foolishly tag the rope in my left hand instead of the right. And just one thought zips in my mind.. Damn! I shouldn’t have volunteered to be the first one to rappel down!
I pick the 4:00pm service back to Aundh and reach home at about 4:45pm only to learn that I didn’t have the room keys with me. A brief sprint towards Breman Circle and I manage to hitch a ride to Pune station. As Bhavana and Nikunj make their way from Kothrud , I purchase onward tickets to Karjat for the 6:30pm Indrayini express. At about 8:15pm the train hoots into Karjat. Amps travelling from Mumbai was to be at Karjat at around the same time. In about ten minutes she joins us. The plan was to camp at Kondu’s place at Kondividi that night. Folks from the Dhumketu trekkers group were to reach Kondividi early the next morning.
At about 09:00pm we get some light dinner packed for the night. Means of commutation to the Kondividi village is pretty scarce. Thankfully, for 250 bucks a rick. driver agrees to take us there. The 20kms of travel on the kutcha road devoid of any lighting with rain pouring all way through made for an indeed interesting start! To add thrill to the already distraughted travel , the rick’s headlight kept blowing off every time the rick bumped on the pothole ridden road. At about 09:40pm we reach Kondu’s place. As I learn later, Kondu’s place has been a vital pit stop for Dhumketu trekkers for quite some time now. We’re provided a warm welcome and a lady sets up the courtyard of their house for us to sleep. After a quick dinner we hit the floor. Sleeping in an open courtyard of an old village house with rain splashing on the extended roof of the house is not something that you get to experience nowadays! Besides company of a smelling dog all night long is also something that you never get to experience 😉 .
At about 02:30 am the Dhumketu trekkers core team arrives from Mumbai. The dog’s given me company long enough to keep my nose and eyes shut. At about 06:30 am we’re woken up from our slumber by Sanjay. In five minutes we’re up and start walking towards the Kondividi caves. The hike up till there reminds me of the Rajmachi trek. Kondividi caves is at the base point of the Rajmachi trek at the Karjat side.
By the time we reach the caves, the DT team had almost completed setting up the ropes for the rappelling. A blue tarpaulin sheet was being setup from the 150 odd feet rock to avoid bruises while rappelling down. A quick cleaning up of the caves and we’re set to have a great time. The Pune team was yet to reach so Nikunj and I hit to the waterfalls, while Bhavna and Amps pick a conversation with Sanjay and team. At about 10:30 am we decide to start rappelling. A quick climb up the hillock through the left side and we reach the top. Just another small yet powerful waterfall grabs our attention. A few minutes under the frothing waters and we’re asked to get back and adorn the rappelling gear.
Bhavna and I volunteer to be the scapegoats. This was my second attempt on Rappelling. The first was during the Skandagiri trek at Bangalore almost a year back. As I straddle the rope against my body, position my feet and let my body loose giving full control to the rope and the descender; a chill passes down my spine for no apparent reason. I get the go command and slowly start descending the cliff. The first few steps backwards and I already start faltering shamelessly by bending my knees and not giving appropriate distance to the feet. A stern look from the person above gets me back to my senses and I slowly gain control.
Rappelling at Kolar caves was on a low height, dry and flat surface all the way to the bottom. There you could get support from the vertical side too. But here after a few feet from the top, the cliff caves in and you have nothing to get grip on. The blue tarpaulin sheet in a way was misguiding and even before i knew the cliff was caving in, my left foot prods through the tarpaulin, trying in vain to get hold of something. One look down and I see one of my slippers hitting the rocks below. The rope suddenly swivels and I literally hang in thin air almost 100 ft above the ground – all at the mercy of the person controlling my speed of descent. In anxiety I let loose more rope from my left hand instead of holding it close to my body . Down I go faster than gauged. Fortunately, I soon gain control and stabilize myself. From then on the descent down goes pretty subtly and in about thirty seconds I touch ground! Bhavna follows suit in a few minutes. And it’s all done!
Nikunj and Amps warn me twice before I rappell down to click shots of them rappelling once I reach the base. I pick the cam from the bag and move over to a suitable place to get the snaps. In about another ten minutes they’re done with the rappelling too. It’s close to 11:00am and the team from Pune hasn’t yet turned up. Nikunj , Amps and I get back to the falls and spend almost an hour or so in the freezing waters. The pressure in the falls has tremendously increased. I finally manage to find my lost slipper amidst the rocks . At about 11:30am the Pune team finally arrives. DT folks give them a general precautionary briefing and starts the rappelling activity for them pretty soon. As we get out of the falls Bhavna asks Nikunj for a pic. This is when we realise someone’s stolen the cam from the bag. All cellphones, wallets and cards seem to be intact.There seems to be no leads as to when and how someone could have flicked it off!
Finally we decide to leave Kondivide by around 2:15pm. Amps was to get back to Mumbai and Bhavna had booked return tickets for three of us by the Deccan Express at 6:00pm from Karjat. So we had to rush! Bhavna’s throat gives in for no reason and she barely manages to speak a few syllables. We’re literally left penniless and hunger seems to be growing by the minute. Finally, At about 08:00pm we reach Pune station.
On another dimention, the Bombayz had already reached my home at Aundh. Nikunj drops me at my place at about 09:00pm. Pranesh and Tiwari join us for a sumptuous dinner at Rasoi Ghar and we head back home at about 10:30pm. As just another exciting day comes to an end, and as I hit the bed, I set the alarm to 04:45 am. The Raireshwar trek was planned for Sunday 😉 .
This is a chronicle of a two day eventful and highly physically exhaustive outing undergone by a sleep deprived moron. And there goes another bang on the keyboard as he types this post from a remote desktop. The reader is suggested to have a couple of caffeinated drinks on his/her desk to avoid the same.
Statutory Warning: Caffeine is bad for health! 🙂
At the end of the day, when I hit the bed, there’s one thing I always try answering. What is it that I’ve done different that day? I’ve never had satisfying answers most of the time. But this 15th night when I managed to catch a quick nap on the floor of a mazda, that question never popped! The whole day by itself was so very eventful; it’s an irony that question never popped!
It all started with, Suma asking me to get the Hydventura folks meet people from Adventura , sometimewhen she’d come down to the Hyd DC on official work. That day during lunch we laid down action points and as days passed, things slowly got hard lined and a trip to Kolar was planned for the second weekend of March. The initial count was just 9 and right when we were thinking of canceling the outing, people slowly started piping in. Surprisingly, the response soared so fast that we had to freeze registrations for the trip by 10th evening. The final count was twenty one – seven girls and fourteen guys!
On 14th evening, all of us met at the Gachibowli Y Junction and boarded the semi sleeper to Bangalore. Out of the 21, five of us ( Nayan, Reshma, Aishwarya, Gaurav and I) had been together for Hydventura’s first outing to N’sagar and Ethipothala. To break the ice we had a brief introduction of each of us and to make things interesting Srikanth AKA Jiddu suggested we add a tagline to our description. Fortunately the crowd was a bindaas cult! To while away time we had various activities like Dumb C and Anthakshari. At around 9:00pm we stopped at a dhabha for dinner. Most of us hit our seats by 10:00pm but nothing to beat the spirits of Jiddu, Vikranth , Aishwarya and Animesh! They kept singing till 11:30 at night sitting on the bus floor at the rear end.
Parasailing , Rock Climbing and Cave Explorations – Hoskote, AntharGange(Kolar)
15th Morning at around 5:30 pm I lose my sleep. I wake Gourav Baduri and Shiv up. We then decide to wake up the remaining eighteen folks. Baduri does what he’s best at, Hops around in a jiffy and even before the bus traverses another 100 yards everyone’s up! Did I mention, the three of us occupied the first row of seats and hence had a wonderful sleep all through the journey 😉 ! Literally swearing on us they soon get back to their spoiled slumber and even before they’re able to catch a good nap, by 7:30 we reach AnandRao Circle. This is where we were supposed to meet Sashi, from Adventura . We freshen up at the Yatri nivas in the Majestic bus station and leave for Hoskote in a Mazda . By around 11:00 am we reach Hoskote where we meet the rest of the Adventura team! Suma and Vishal da along with the Adventura team give us all a huge hearty welcome and with a brief introduction we have a wonderful breakfast of idli, upma and sweets and bananas !
The team from Adventura had reached Hoskote way before us, so they’d started the parasailing activity. It was almost 12:30 by the time they completed their flights.Meanwhile, Suma, Vishal, Sashi, Kedar and a few other folks shared with us their experiences from their previous outings. It was about 4:30pm that the hyd team finished their para-sailing. For most of them, this was the very first time they were flying. So they did have a wonderful time! Mudit, Ankur and Manish were really ecstatic after their flight. Last time I’d been for para-sailing I regretted not having taken a camera along with me up there in the air. I sorted it out this time 🙂 !
The Adventura folks had already left to Kolar for rock climbing and rappelling. So by the time we reached there, we had ample time to move around and finish our part of the activities. Rappelling was much easier and seemed pretty simple.I’m not sure if it was the height that made us feel that way or that we had higher expectations. For a few, climbing the rock to get to the peak for rappelling down seemed more challenging 😉 . Neha felt otherwise though! She’d accepted she had a phobia of heights but proved herself wrong by finally rappelling down with a bit of coaxing! Jiddu on the other hand, took the tether guy for a ride by rappelling with his back on the rocks, rather than his firm feet!
We had a very late lunch after this and then moved over to explore the rocky terrains around the place. Shashi took us out to a couple of interesting rock formations. It was real fun hopping from one place to another maneuvering through the volcanic formations! Snehith, Nayan and Shashi had a tough time trying to get hold of people’s feet 😉 and grooving them in the right spot for a safe descent form a steep rock. It was already 7:00pm by then and Suma had made a call for all of us to return to a central meeting point for us to further decide on the course of action. By the time we reached the meeting spot, Ruchi, Meera and couple of others were cutting Watermelons for us. It was a feast for everyone having walked and climbed a bit on slippery terrains.
Finally when most of us made it to the spot Suma and Vishal da suggested we explore the caves around the place and then get back to the same spot by 9:00 pm the latest. Having got a consent from each and every team member, we were divided into four teams – Each having one leader, one sweep and six other members. The leader had to keep a watchful eye on the surroundings and guide his team, the sweeper had to see to it that his team members were together and that the team following him wasn’t too far from his team. Every ten minutes the leader of each team had to whistle once and shout out the team name in succession. A dual whistle would mean that the team wants some rest and a successive three pronged whistle would mean danger lurking and a state of high alert. White Snakes, Black Hawks, Sholay and Ghost Riders were the names each team decided to have. Besides this we had Suma, Vishal, Sashi and a couple of other Adventura members patrolling across each of the teams to ensure that everything was fine. All through the trek, our main guides where Munni Raj and Girish – two village kids 🙂 ! I being the lead of White snakes – the first team, by default became the victim of their non stop chatter. Munni Raj would never move forward without the consent of his teacher ( read Suma ) and always kept his 10th class friend ( read me ) at a ears distance with his chitter chatter 🙂 .
We walked through a couple of barren lands whistling and shouting back instructions, before we reached the rocks where we could start our cave explorations. To start off, the rocks looked pretty simple to squeeze across. But with passing time, we soon understood we’re being taken for a ride by nature! Wriggling and Squeezing soon became the order of the night! At a certain spot the crevices between the rocks became so narrow that, it became quite difficult for a few people to get across. Aishwarya got stuck in between and it took almost an hour of coerced efforts by Jiddu and a couple of others to get her out . Looking back, this made things only more interesting 🙂 !
It was already 10:00 by then and we had not yet covered one fourth of the planned exploration. Shashi, Vishal and Suma took stock of the situation and soon decided to cut short the whole exploration with the group’s consent. Shashi and I moved a bit forward to judge the path and were thankful enough to find a path very soon. We waited for a few more minutes for the remaining teams to arrive at a common spot and then started moving towards the base spot finding our way. The way back was just a routine walk back but the whole episode of wriggling, long jumping, and navigating through the rocks with Bottles and torches in our hand, in a deserted land is just something unforgettable!
Back at the Anthargange base, we had two options – To camp there and move towards Kalvarhalli betta the next day morning or move right away to Kalvarhallibetta base and start trekking up the hill so as to watch sunrise early in the morning at the peak. The whole group was ready for the latter option. Suma had warned us that it had rained heavily the previous day and the rocks would be slippery,. nevertheless it was safe to trek upwards and we could always decide to camp at the base till the next day morning if at all the rocks were that slippery. In another ten minutes we jumped into the Qualis and Mazda and drove to the Kalvarhalli betta base. We reached the base at about 00:30 in the morning.
The Kalvarhallibettta trek
Once we reached the base, we had no reasons to deny our bellys the long needed nourishment. Vishal had brought a stove and quite a few Heat 2 eat dishes. Had a sumptuous dinner and then decide to start trekking to the peak. Meera, Kedar and Martina decided to stay back and get a good sleep. The rest of us regrouped into teams and started the trek guided by Vishal , Suma ,Supradeep and Shashi. Trekking was something that I perceived as a walk across a barren terrain with lots of trees and shrubs. Till yesterday, I never related it to climbing rocks and marshy lands atop a hill 🙂 . As the altitude increased , the trailing teams soon lost track of the frontal teams. Being the first team again, we had the privilege to halt and wait for other teams to pitch in.
Trekking at nights on a hilly terrain comes with it’s own advantages. One being that altitude is never a hindrance. All you need to do is watch your step and stay concentrated. The darkness of the night keeps fear of height at bay! The Kalvarhalli betta trek has taught me to love myself better! At one point of time, Shashi, Irfan, Ruchi and a few others moved from the teams behind and formed a new team – Team 0. We, the white snakes were to trail them. But it so happened at one point of time near the peak that I lost track of their path. Idiotically Sensing the path myself I led a couple of others on a path which I realised later, that I shouldn’t have. I’d diverted to a very small extent away from the path. But then that could have costed us our lives. Prasanna ideally decided to stay put at his position. The rock was pretty slippery and with moss all around, getting a hold was very difficult. Even before I realised my mistake I lose hold on my grip and start skidding down the mossy rock. Fortunately I could get hold of some sturdy grass and gained back control. All I did then was to stay put at that spot till someone came across me along the right path. A few minutes later Suma fortunately came across and led us in the right path. I realised the seriousness of the situation only during the trek downhill. Had I not caught hold of the shrubs at the right moment, things would have been totally different today!
The trek uphill took us almost two hours to complete. We reached the peak at about 5:15am. Most of us tried catching some sleep but the frost and the chilled atmosphere made things only worse. All we did was to listen to the soothening guitar strokes by someone who’d come up there well before us. People from other groups soon joined us at the peak.
By around 6:15am at the break of dawn all our eyes popped to the east, eagerly waiting for the Sun to rise. But as luck would have it it turned out to be a cloudy morning and getting a glimpse of Sunrise at that height on cloudy morning was something that nature would just not sell! Nevertheless, the frost, mist and the very altitude of the peak made the view breathtaking. Water dripping on your body, head and chilling wind sizzling across you at that altitude is probably one of those several ways by which you are reminded of your helplessness and stature, however high your position in social life be! Till today I was under the impression Pictures speak better than words, Pictures bring out the thick and thin of an event. But today I’ve realised there’s something else that pictures just cannot replicate, something that they would fail to evoke that the human eye captures in a jiffy.
At 7:30am we started our trek downhill. Downhill trekking was much more difficult than uphil! Thanks to the daylight , consistently reminding you that one wrong step would mean you wouldn’t be where you are now. Aching knees made things worse! Not even quarter way through downhill, I hear a sound of a female singing in pristine glory – rumbling rock on the way, give way. No second guesses of who she is – Suma! Later when I meet her about half an hour later at the base she tells me she’s created a record for herself- down the hill running in fifteen minutes!
Suma, Snehith, Ram , Ruchi, Sashi , Irfan and I reach the base well before others. Down at the base when I look at the height we’d covered, it makes me wonder how we tend to limit our own capabilities by the sheer first hand vision of a problem. I’m pretty sure, had we seen the height of the peak at night we would have taken longer than the two hours!
We reach the base location by 8:00am and fresh up at the close by ashram. It’s almost 9:30 by the time everyone gets down and gets fresh. We then have a sumptuous breakfast which Vishal, Ruchi, Jiddu and a couple of others have prepared and plan to leave for Bangalore. The Nandi hills plan is dropped as not many people are interested in visiting it. We Hydventura folks bid adieu to the Adventura team at around 10:15 am and leave for Bangalore city. Snehith , Surabhi , Shuvam and a couple of others leave by a qualis. The rest of us leave with us in a mazda. Kedar joins us in the mazda and is back to form in a few minutes snapping shots of people sleeping 🙂 . Due to time constraints, Animesh suggests we change the plan and decide to take the Hebbal route to bangalore. Vinayak and Rashmi get down at Mekhri Circle. Aishwarya and Neha leave for their relatives place at Malleshwaram. The rest of us hop into a Pizza hut and have a long deserved pizza! We reach the Yeswantpur station by around 3:00 pm and there begins our 1 hour wait for the train back to Hyd. Aishwarya, Neha, Nayan, Surabhi soon join us at around 3:30pm. Reshma, Jiddu and I manage to get some tight sleep moments after we board the train. At around 7:00pm Devyani, Surabhi and Pooja join us for dinner. We chat for sometime and as they continue playing Cards I hit the berth by 9:30pm.
Morning at around 4:45 am the train chugs into the Kacheguda station. This is when Devyani realises she’s lost her w710i and we get to know that Prasanna had lost his digicam the previous night. Real sad the two day eventful journey had to end at this note!
8:15 am and a couple of us are back to office!Rest follow soon…
All in all, it was a stupendous , unforgettable trek that I’ve done so far! Kudos to the Adventura teama and the wondeful participation from the Hydventura team!