07 March 2005

walk walk walk

it was a friday morning.i was looking forward to a pretty realxed weekend doing some reading up for my exams which are scheduled 5 weeks from now. { ah not that im studious or something but only if i start now do i have any semblance of hope of clearing it. }

"are you coming to sakleshpur ?" my brother's voice over the phone ! i asked him for sometime to say yes coz i needed some time to replan my schedule.having done that i said ok we shall.

make no mistake folks the sakleshpur trek is perhaps the most ardous trek.two days of walking over unused railway bridges and tunnels will definitely give you the shivers and is a real test of your stamina.now for a little background.the trek starts from donigal and extends till subramanya.there is an unused or i should say used for a little while railway track, which is now being converted into broad gauge.as my travel companion kept saying it's a shame that so much money has been spent on a track that is little used ! anyway it's a different issue that it is a trekker's paradise.

My brother had met a few of like minded trekkers at Orkut and then chose this place.We met up at bangalore bus stand.There were five of us.Hemant, his sister and a friend and me and my brother.Before starting hemant tells us that since track conversion is going on there are a lot of stones and difficult paths along the donigal-yedukumeri route.The time beaten route is you start at donigal, walk till yedukumeri station, halt there for the night and start off the next day, walk from yedukumeri till either gundiya or subramanya.Hemant told us that the path is pretty bad from donigal to gundya and suggested that we shorten the trek to a single day ie from gundya till subramanya.In hindsight that was a good decision.By the end of the day the fellow travellers were all pooped ! The idea was that we anyway would not miss out crossing the "killer brige", so named because it takes a lot of guts to cross a 700mts bridge without knee shaking and crawling on all fours.It's a different matter that even if you fall while crossing the bridge you will not fall onto the valley below ! It's another entirely different matter that your's truly cracked that bridge without crawling/knee shaking :-)

So we boarded a bus bound for dharmashala and decided to get down at gundiya checkpost, walk a few kms uphill and join the railway track.10.30pm we were on a bus bound for gundiya checkpost.5.15am "gundiya" shouts the bus driver and we get down.We brush our teeth and fill up our bottles at the tea shop near the checkpost and wait till dawn.Hemant makes a few enquiries here and there and gets some totally conflicting replies ! Finally we get the right route.We were indeed at the right place.A 3km-4km uphill walk & we should reach the track.6.30am we set off in search of the track.Make not mistake folks, the uphill climb is not for you if you are not physically active.I mean you cannot wake up one day and say i want to go to sakleshpur and do the uphill climb.7.30am we rest a while filling up our water bottles in a small stream.Again march is not the right month for this trek.Early jan is the best.You will have the mist and some streams running around.March is hot and the heat adds to you being tired ! Now me and my brother decide that we shall lead as by that we can push up the pace atleast.so off we go at a fairly quick pace and at 8.30am we see the track.we decide to stop for some food.bread, jam etc.there is a small tunnel which we cross as a trial.there is also a bridge.I have a patent fear of heights and im reduced to a crawl to cross that bridge.I immediately think if this is so tough how am i going to cross that killer bridge and that too with a huge back around my shoulders ? Anyway we rest a little while and at 9.30am start again.The plan was to reach shirabagalur station by around 3.00pm and reach subramanya by around 4.30-5.00pm and take bath in the kumaradhara river, see the subramanya temple and leave back to bangalore.
We walked and walked for about an hour.Some brilliant viewpoints were there.I kept thinking that these would be really gr8 if we had come a little earlier ! We first encountered a tunnel that said 337mts length.Ok we missed the 500mts tunnel but we had something close to it.We did have torches with us but that was not all that enough.With bat dung smell and the screeching noise of their cries we managed to cross across.
11.30 am we halted for some water and some biting into cucmbers and stuff.Start off again.The first of the bridges was encountered.I managed to cross this only by crawling.Then again a tunnel.Then we came over to the second bridge.I told myself im going to see only the next railway sleeper in front of me not the fact that im crossing the bridge or if i fall i might fall into the gorge below ! That trick worked.My fellow traveller recounted that story from mahabaratha when arjuna felled the toy bird by concentrating only on it's eye ! Once i learnt this trick every other bridge was a piece of cake folks, including the killer bridge which i crossed *without* crawling.The main problem in crossing a bridge as a team is that if the person ahead of you stops and crawls you are now struck by the same morbid fear ! However i did not allow that to come over to me.Ok enough of self gloating :-)
12.30pm halt for some more refreshments and at 1.30pm we halt near a tunnel for lunch.We had MTR pre cooked food with us.Hemant wanted to light a fire but we persuaded him to eat it as it is and he found the food pretty tasty.I had some more bread and jams.I personally think that is the best food when you are trekking.The jam gives you that glucose.Anyway after about half an hour of walking at exactly 2pm we reach shirbagalur station.We make an enquiry with the locals how long to the main road for subramanya.They say that if we take the railway track it is 3km but if we take the dirt track it is 5km.We opt for the railway track.You need to cross just 3 bridges they tell us.Though it was hot and the heat was getting to us, the railway track seemed the best option because we might loose our way if we take the dirt track.There were some reports in the internet about ppl loosing the way when they had taken the dirt track.
4.00pm.we had crossed 3 bridges and lots of tunnels.Still no road in sight.The locals at the station told us that at the third bridge we can see the the road below and we just need to take that road ! It was later that we came to know that when the locals say a bridge then it needs to be atleast 100+mts in length !
We pushed and pushed.The ladies in our group sarted getting tired and it was getting difficult.My mind was making plans of searching for a clearing, in the event we needed to stay back for the night.At this point i decied that if me and my brother move with the gang then we may not be able to make to the exit point.See the point is you need a leader whom the gang can then follow.So off we set slightly ahead of the gang but stil making sure that the rest of the gang is still in sight.4.30pm we meet a local.In the kannada that we know we talk to him.Hope was in sight.He tells us that we need to travel just about a little over a km or so to get to the road.We mark 4.45pm as the target.We tell the rest of the group that we are going and shall wait for you at the exit point.At precisely 4.45pm we see a clearing.We decide to go a little bit and we meet a local again who tells us that we just need to walk a few more meters along the railway track.A few more meters and we see a huge crane loading the sleepers.Yes we were there finally.We then wait for the rest of the gang to catch up.They catch up with us at 5.10pm.
We get down to the road and wait for the bus to reach subramanya.The local we met had told us that the last bus was at around 5.00pm.It was already 5pm.It was slowly dawing on me that if we need to walk the remaining 10km to reach town except me and my brother and possibly hemant the ladies will not be able to walk that distance.I was thinking about how to get there and whom to leave as help for the ladies just in case.I had been to many a treks and i for one can never be optimistic during treks.Prepare & plan for the worst is my motto always.Luckily at around 5.20pm we see a bus bound for subramanya.We board it and after a bouncy ride we reach the kumaradhara river.
At a roadside shop we have kalthappa and dosa's.What surprised me was that the sambahr was pretty spicy unlike the jaggery tinged sambhar that we get in bangalore.There is prety strong mangalorean influence i guess ! Anyway we then went to the river to take bath and have a look into the temple and then have dinner.
7.15pm we finished our bath and then without any auto's in sight we walked the remaining 2kms to reach the town.We then booked our tickets for the return journey.
Subramanya temple is a pretty intresting temple folks.It is totally kearlite architechture.Predominantly wood is used here and laquer is used as the polish for the stones outside.However there are some dashes of the chettinad influence with the huge pillars outside the temple.
There was a ritual going on inside the temple.We deposited our bags in the cloak room and had a look at the diety.The temple does not allow males devotees to enter with their shirts on.So we had to remove it and enter it bare bodied.Another trace of the keralite influence !
We had the darshan though i was pretty surprised at the crowd that had turned up.It was real huge.
After much persuasion from hemant we proceeded to have the dinner served by the temple.In general i do not prefer to have food at the temples.However seems like it is a form of prasadam.Almost everyone who came to the temple were having the food there.Having had that food i polished it off with an apple milkshake in the shop outside.
10.15pm we boarded the bus.It had been a looong but an intresting day !
5.15am we were back the bangalore bus stand.Took a local BMTC bus reached home to see narain karthikeyan had managed to finish ahead of schumi in the qualifier and goa having president's rule.
It was so very refreshing to be in that natural sourroundings !
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:20 AM

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