It was nearly 2 months I had done my last trekking Pangarchulla and the urge to go back and climb the mountain was increasing in me. The feeling in accomplishing the trek is totally different and I am sure every trekker can relate to it. On a fine day, I came across a post by Bangalore Adventures about the Night trek to Skandagiri.
Having heard from few of my friends that night trek is banned in Skandagiri, I looked at the post with suspicion. On the other side, the trekker in me was elated to experience as the dream of night trek to Skandagiri to witness the sunrise was possible now. After reading the complete post by the organizers, I was assured that the night trek(I would be more right if I call it as early morning trek) is legal with forest permission. Since it involved the forest permission and also in the night, I decided myself not to miss the opportunity.
On a Saturday night 11 PM, we arrived near the Majestic(Kempegowda bus stand) where the mini buses were ready for us to take the base camp of Skandagiri – Kalavara Durga. There were 2 groups named as Group 7 and Group 8 – 20 in each of them. We left Bangalore around midnight and reached Kalavara durga which is where our base camp was there.
Skandagiri which is located at around 70 KMS from Bangalore requires approximately 1 and half an hour to reach the base camp Kalavara Durga. As forest department allows us to start the trek only after 4 AM, we were forced to kill the time. Organizers conducted some team activity which helped to pass the next 2 and half hours.
As the clock was about to tick 4 AM, we started the trek. Within a few meters, we were at the forest check post. After quickly undergoing the check, the trek to Skandagiri started. Within a couple of minutes, the trail got steeper. The moonlight due to just completed full-moon day helped us to enjoy the trek without our torch. After nearly half an hour of trek, we were getting into the thick forest. The moon was helpless so were we. Few switched on the torch and others walked in the same path.
After the forest adventure, we then had to climb the mighty rocks.
Trekking through all the tough terrain in the dark was a new experience and fun. We took around 2 hours 15 mins to reach the top. The trek took a little longer as there were 40 of us and it was ensured that no one is left far behind. We reached the top around 6.15 and we were happy to make it before sunrise. However, the happiness was ephemeral as we realized the clouds forming and sun happily hiding behind them
Although disappointed for not getting sunrise view, the fact of trekking in the dark for the first time was something soothing.
We had samosa and also Soan papadi before we started to descend. On the way back we realized how big were the rocks that we actually climbed. It took us around 1 hour 45 mins to descend. After having a heavy breakfast, our target was to reach Bangalore and cover for the sleep of last night. I slept for continuous 8 hours 😀 had dinner and then again slept rejoicing the trek.
Here are few details of Skandagiri Trek
Total distance of the trek: 4 KMS
Total time taken: Approx 2 hours to ascend
Permission required? : Yes, from Forest department of Karnataka
.It was long pending to Visit Lepakshi temple – Veerabhadra swamy temple : at least from one year. We finally had an opportunity to visit the place and if I have to describe the place Lepakshi, I would say a place of great importance in architecture and also to the great epic Ramayana. Located at just around 120 KMS from Bangalore, we decided to make it a one-day trip to Lepakshi.
We started from Bangalore around 8 AM after an early breakfast and reached Lepakshi in around 2 hours. By 11 AM or around 11:15 AM, we entered the temple. As we entered the temple, I went looking for a guide. After my visit to Halebidu, I have realized one thing very clearly: for historical places a guide is a must and I was proven right again this time. Within seconds of our hunt, we got a guide named Virupanna(co-incidentally Virupanna is also the name of the person who built the temple). We asked him the fees and he replied with a sweet smile ‘We do not demand anything as fees. Any amount you give is fine’. We happily agreed and he started his explanation of the temple. Although the explanation of the temple is very much difficult to pen down, I try to put the most important things which seemed as wonders to me and my friends.
Wonder 1: Sita’s Foot mark
Since the crowd moving in the direction was clockwise, he chose us to take anti-clockwise. Due to this, the first wonder we saw was the foot marks of Sita Devi and the continuous flow of water coming from the foot mark. There is a story related to this and I have pen down in the 2 stories section.
Wonder 2: Half constructed Kalyana Mantapa
As he progressed, he took us to the Kalyana Mantapa where the architects depicted the arrangements of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. The Kalyana mantapa has many pillars and on each pillar one of the god has been depicted indicated their presence at the marriage. We noticed the Kalyana Mantapa did not have any roof only after Virupanna told us. The reason why the Kalayana Mantapa is left without roof comes in the story 2 which is explained below.
Wonder 3: Shivalinga guarded by Hooded Snake
As we came at the backside of the temple, we saw a huge hooded snake guarding the Shivalinga. The story behind this is what made me call this as a wonder. The architect came hungry to his mother who was cooking. The kitchen is exactly opposite to this wonder created. He approached the kitchen and asked his mother to serve him food. As the food was not ready, his mother answered him that the food isn’t ready and would need around 1 hour. The architect came out disappointed but to divert his mind from hunger and also thinking not to waste 1 hour of time, he created the hooded snake in that one hour. The snake covers the Shiva linga in the center. As the mother finished her preparation, she came out to call her son for lunch and was taken aback in shock looking at the creation of her son in such a short span of time. Due to this, the Hooded snake has a crack in the right side. It is said that it is caused due to the matru drusthi.
Wonder 4: The hanging pillar
As we came back to close to the entrance of the temple, we saw what is famously known as Hanging pillar. There are 873 pillars in the entire veerabhadra swamy temple. However, what makes this pillar stand apart is that the pillar is hanging. Meaning the pillar has no base. The pillar is not grounded completely. The gap between the ground and the pillar is clearly visible and we demonstrated moving a hand-kerchief beneath the pillar like every other visitor. You can watch the video below.
We were yet to come out of the amazement of the hanging pillar and Virupanna told us a mesmerizing story. He said the entire temple is based on this hanging pillar. the temple was in 1530. However, in the year 1902, the British came here, unable to control the curiosity wanted to test the pillar. They tried to move the pillar a bit and as the pillar moved slightly, they noticed the other pillars which were straight tilted as shown in the below pic. With an apprehension that moving this pillar might cause a breakdown of the entire temple, they immediately stopped their experiment.
Wonder 5: Nandi
If you are going to Lepakshi from Bangalore by road, you would see a huge Nandi 1 KM before the Lepakshi temple. The Nandi here is the biggest monolithic Nandi in India. Built with a dimension of 27 feet Length and 15 feet height, Nandi is undoubtedly a wonder. You also notice the Nandi is slightly tilted in the direction of temple Veerabhadra temple i.e. Lepakshi temple. Just few years back, if you would stand near the right ear of the Nandi and look in the direction of the face of Nandi, you would see the Shivalinga horded with a serpent which is nothing but our wonder 3.
Wonder 6: Building of temple
Another wonder is that the entire temple is built on a single stone. The stone was in the shape of tortoise. There is no basement for the entire temple. Hence you can see that the walls here are inter-locked so as to provide support to themselves.
Now let us move to the 2 stories related to Lepakshi
Two Stories that define Lepakshi:
The bird Jatayu was fighting with the Ravana when Ravana tried to abduct Sita devi. Ravana killed one of the wings of the bird Jatayu due to which the bird fell down. Seeing the struggle of the bird, Sita devi put her foot on the rock and the water started flowing helping the bird Jatayu to drink water. in the meantime, Lord Ram came to the place and after hearing the story said ‘Le Pakshi’ which translates to get up bird and so came the name.
There is another legend behind the name Lepakshi. Nirupanna, the treasurer of the Penukonda region built the The Veerabhadra temple. Several ministers complained to the King accusing that Nirupanna is wasting the money on building the temple. Agitated with this news, King ordered to make the Nirupanna blind. As Nirupanna heard the news, he decided to punish himself rather than being humiliated in the Kingdom. He pulled out his eyes from his own hands and thrown on one of the wall. In the early 20th century
The blood marks can be seen on the wall. In the early 20th century, British conducted a test and certified it was the actual blood of a human being thus verifying the story. Since then, the place came to known as Lepa – Akshi meaning a place of blinded eye.
The construction of the temple was almost done and only the roof of the Kalyana Mantapa was pending. As Nirupanna became blind, the construction was stopped completely and this is why the Kalyana Mantapa doesn’t have a roof till today.
Other Small Attractions:
Apart from these, there are many noticeable work in the entire architecture of the temple. We managed to capture few.
Located at around 120 KMS from Bangalore, Lepakshi is a one-day trip from the city Bengaluru.
The nearest airport is Bengaluru International Airport. It is around 100 KMS from the airport. One has to hire a taxi to reach this place from Bangalore.
The nearest station to Lepakshi is Hindapur which is around 14 KMS from Lepakshi. From Hindapur, There are frequent buses to Bangalore and one can board these buses and get down at Lepakshi
There are plenty of buses reaching this place from Bangalore. Board any Hindapur bus and you would be in front of the temple in just a couple of hours.
As always, going by own vehicle is always the available option. One has to travel around 100 KMS on Bangalore Hyderabad National highway and take a left just after Bagepalli.
An advertisement caught my sister’s eye in November and in February we were in the City with rich culture and heritage. We wanted to experience everything authentic in the city and there you go Rann of Kutch Utsav fulfilled it.
Day-1 of RANN OF KUTCH:
We reached Bhuj a day before we went to the Rann Utsav camp. So Bhuj is that city which faced a massive earthquake in 2001 and trust me it’s got a complete makeover now. We explored the streets of Kutch to experience the local food and local market, The Kutch centre, Bandhej and other shops which has a great variety of clothing, accessories and some amazing dabelis, pani puri and other Guajarati chats on the streets.
Day-2 Rann Utsav
We could experience the best hospitality. We were given clear instructions from start to finish; well-trained tourist guides helping us with the history and significance of the places we visited. There was a pick up point and a temporary structure as a lobby and our baggage were tagged to avoid confusion and the same was boarded in the bus to reach the Rann Utsav camp. The camp was set up in the city of Dhordo.
On the way to Dhordo, we stopped at a village where they make hand-made Khova by the villagers; we went gaga over the taste and bought some for our families back home. We even bought some namkeen (chips) which was from a local manufacturer, Trust me it was better than Lays, Pringles and other wafer brands. After a small stop over we were taken to the UTSAV where we stayed. Once we reached the Utsav check-in formalities were done and we were escorted in colourful buggies to our tents. Oh there you go an amazing tent with good sanitation facilities. It was Lunch-time when we reached the Utsav and we had some delicious all vegetarian authentic Gujarati Food. Options of Jain and Non-Jain food was present, a beautiful spread of soups, starters, curries and rotis (main course) and dessert.
We filled our stomach till we were tired of eating and headed to WHITE DESSERT to experience SUNSET in camels. It’s about 20 minutes’ ride and then you can walk inside the White dessert till your legs stop you from walking any further. Farther you go thicker the white sand. At about 6 PM the sunset is experienced. It is an absolute treat to the photographers to experience the sunset in WHITE DESSERT on a Full Moon day especially. We came back to our accommodation to eat dinner quite early to attend the dance performance, puppet shows and souvenir shops etc. Mind you, this is not a leisure trip, there would be events happening one after the other! The variety of tea stalls in the Utsav is a must try. It makes you feel warm as the temperatures dip down below 15 degree Celsius. We had a good night sleep as we had to experience sunrise at around 6:00am and we had to report at the pick-up point latest by 5:15am. The entire area is secured with the border security forces and it can be an all-girls adventure because of this reason. It is said that it is the border of India and on the other side is our neighbouring country Pakistan. Now you get Goosebumps standing on the WHITE DESSERT!
We experienced SUNRISE in the white dessert and had good breakfast which had a variety of south Indian and Guajarati breakfast to fill our stomach. Later, we went to Gandhi nu gham which is a village. We bought bed linens in abundance and jewellery with beautiful intricate work. Every piece of art is so beautiful and we wanted to buy the entire collection. Well restricted to about 8 bed linens. We did parasailing (as I fear heights and I thoroughly enjoyed it) and ATV rides in the Rann Utsav camp which was an amazing experience. Parasailing is a must try sport where you can see the complete Arial view of Dhordo tent city and White Dessert.
There are so many stalls and activities in the Utsav which is very interesting and that will take a day to go around the premises. We went to Kala Dungar another view point to experience Sunset. After Sunset, we had dinner, and then Campfire was set up just in front of our tents later we retired to bed as we were very tired.
Last day in the Mela we had breakfast and checked out of the tents. We came back to Bhuj and visited Swami Narayan Temple.
We had plans of staying a day in Kutch to see tourist places not covered in the Rann Utsav package. We went to Hira Lakshmi Park which is a Government owned theme park wherein weavers ,artisans from different part of Gujarat come and stay in the infrastructure provided by the Government of Gujarat and they sell their goods for a month. You can buy bandhini sarees, salwar suits, kutchi work salwar suits, hand-made dolls.
We ended our day by shopping for around 5 hours where the men in our group had lost all the patience in the world! We ate some berries which were sold in the mandis in order to gain some energy till we reach our hotel. We had booked Hotel Mangalam and the rooms were very comfortable, economical and they would serve freshly prepared food as an when you order. The pakodas and the tea served are my personal favourite.
There ends a complete package of fun, excitement, never seen views of sunset and sunrise, parasailing, staying near the international border experience, Authentic Kutchi culture, food and loads and loads of memories to cherish.
After completing a one-day trip to Mekedaatu and Chunchi falls, we were damn hungry. As we had crossed Kanakpura, we struggled to find any hotels which could provide us an evening snack. Having lost of all the hopes and almost decided to fill our tummy in Bangalore, we luckily found the Davanagere Benne Dose on the Kanakpura road.
Located next to Venkatadri Kalyan mantap, we almost missed noticing it as the hotel is covered by the trees on the road. Thanks to my co-passenger who noticed and all were extremely happy to find something to eat.
We parked our car and headed to the hotel and only to hear Dose are out of stock. Extremely disappointed, we ask for the available options and could get the Bonda. Without much option but to fill our stomach, we took 2 plates of Bonda. We informed the cashier that if at all there is a chance of getting Dose, keep us in priority.
We started eating the Bonda cursing our luck for not getting the Dose but soon the taste of Bonda made us forget that we did miss Dose. Before we finished the Bonda, we heard the Dose Maker screaming ‘5 more Dose possible’. The cashier immediately searched for us and we made no delay in rushing to the cashier and get 5 Davangere Benne Dose.
We felt overwhelmed as we were finally getting what we desired. Within minutes, the freshly prepared Dose was ready on our table. As we took the first bite, our taste buds got activated. The Dose was delicious. The Butter could have been tad higher but the tasty Masala and the Aloo Palya in the Dose made an impact sidelining the negative point of less Butter or Benne. As we savored the taste of Masala Dose, we looked at the writings which did attract us.
We Enjoyed the Dose along with reading the above sayings. There was one more saying In English but unfortunately we couldn’t capture it. As we filled our tummy, we came back to Bangalore rejoicing the Dose and also the sayings. We have decided to visit the hotel again exclusively for this purpose. We hope to reach there again.
The hotel opens at 7 in the morning. If you are travelling on Kanakapura road, drop a visit here to have your breakfast.
After nearly 3 months, we started (7 of us) our most anticipated adventurous trip from Bangalore to Pangarchulla Peak Summit on April 27th. We took a connecting flight from Bangalore to Dehradun Via Delhi. We stayed at Hotel Queens Pearl Inn in Dehradun. The hotel was good enough for an overnight stay.
Our next day, I call it as Day 0 as this was part of trekking days but we actually travelled in a 4 wheeler. We had a prior booking through Bikat Adventures to reach from Dehradun to Joshimath. Bikat had arranged a vehicle for us which started from Dehradun Bus station for which they charged us around 1200 per head. On the way to Joshimath, we saw DevaPrayag and Rudra Prayag. DevaPrayag is where Bhagirathi meets Alakananda and becomes Ganges. RudraPrayag is where Alakananda meet Mandakini river.
DevaPrayag : The confluence of Bhagirathi and Alakananda
It was 8PM by the time we reached Joshimath. Hotel Snow Crest was booked for us in Joshimath by Bikat. Minutes after we checked in, we met our Trek Leaders Kamal and Lalit who became our friends and Family for the next 4 days.
After a brief introduction, Trek leader Kamal gave us briefing about the entire trekking plan. A surprising thing was Kamal also provided a demo on How to Pack your backpack. It helped many of my friends who had packed their bag just like any other pack. He also gave a demo on how to pick your backpack so that we put less strain on our one part of the body. This was especially helpful for me as I was lifting in a wrong way subjecting myself more probable to the injury. After the briefing we went to our respective rooms and re-arranged our luggage. Hotel provided us some space to keep the extra luggage which was not needed for trekking.
Trekking in Himalayas was altogether a different experience. While most of the treks we did before this were one day and very few were two days’ trek, trekking in Himalayas was a 4-day trek. As a first timer, we did lot of mistakes which cost us more than we thought. Here are the top 5 mistakes I did and I suggest the reader to take extra care
Packing The Bag For the Worst case:
Pangarchulla peak trekking was a 4-day trek. And for this, we took 4 pairs of dresses including inner wears. At the end of the day 4, most of us were in the same attire (yes, including the inner wears) and very few had changed once. We realized that nearly 50% of the luggage we carried were useless to say the least. We repented innumerable times as we had to carry extra load every step. My suggestion is to take one extra pair of dress. This is needed only in case of emergency such as rain. Do not pack your bag for the worst case scenario. Just in the anticipation of the worst case scenario, you would have to carry extra luggage all the way.
Carrying DSLR Camera:
In my Pangarchulla trek, one of the biggest mistake I did was carrying the DSLR camera. Adding to it, I carried an extra lens. I was fully enthusiastic to enjoy my first Himalayan trekking and capture every moment. But destiny had different plan altogether. The trekking was so tiresome that reaching the base camp was an achievement. Everything took the last priority including the photography. Camera weight was around one Kg and an additional lens which I took alleviated the problem. My suggestion would be to strictly avoid the DSLR camera unless you aren’t first time trekker. Instead, if you have a phone with good camera quality, you will thank your mobile innumerable number of times. At the end of our trekking, my friends with a good camera phone had more pictures than I had in my DSLR.
Trekking in Himalayas needs eparation. It is not as easy as a one-day trek you can do near your place. While in any ordinary trek, you don’t carry your luggage, here you will carry at least 6 to 7 Kgs of load. If you commit the mistake I did in the points 1 and 2, be prepared to carry around 10Kgs. Take a 2-day trek, if you have any such places near you. It helps you gain experience carrying your luggage and in turn helps you to reduce your bag pack weight. In case, you do not have the opportunity to trek for a 2-day, make sure you do multiple one-day treks and add some luggage on your shoulder. This might sound stupid but it helps you prepare well. In addition to this, regular exercise in your gym and yoga are must. Only time will tell how much these can help.
Forgetting the Sunscreen and Sunglasses:
I had sunscreen cream of SPF 50 in my bag. On the day of peak, our trek leader advised us to apply sunscreen before the sunrise. However, the level of tiredness made us lazy enough to apply the sunscreen. As a result, my entire face was sunburn after my trekking. This happened not just with me but with 8 out of 10 of us. Another common mistake that others did was not getting the sunglasses. On the summit day, the sunlight is sharp and contains high UV rays due to the high altitude. Forgetting the sunscreen or sunglasses or not using them is the last mistake you would want to do on the trek.
Not Carrying Warm clothes:
While in my first point I mentioned to carry less clothes, here I might sound contradicting myself. In my first point, I mentioned to carry less regular clothes. This doesn’t mean that you should carry less clothes. Since the temperature in the mountains can vary drastically on both the sides, make sure you have warm clothes. The temperature in the night goes in negative so enough warm clothes is a must for your next day trek. Make sure you carry thermals, jacket, gloves, fleece jacket and Poncho or rain coat. These clothes cover all the climate and make sure you are safe and fit.