Plan: Night Trek and Camping
A heat wave hit Bangalore this month. Unfortunately a large portion of work this month has been outdoors on site monitoring construction. What's left of the week, I've been choosing to spend in listless slumber in an air conditioned room. Some feeble attempts at a mircroadventure were made, but the idea of venturing out anywhere except to the Himalayas didn't seem worth the effort.
I have some great friends who decided to help me out! With only April 30 left as an option to do anything this month, there had to be some frantic planning. It took a couple of days to find a doable option and another day of extensive packing discussions. Finally, on Saturday afternoon Sanjana, Kaushik, Joel, Vivek, Rohit and I were all packed up and headed to City Station.
There was nothing seamless about our experience buying tickets and getting onto the train. From the ticket lady who didn't know whether the train even existed, having to run over to the opposite end of the station to platform 9, obstacle course running when we saw the train already moving, to the annoying train guard laughing while we struggled to clamber on (he told us later, that he knew that we were going on some trek and wanted us to practice running :P) we barely made it onto the train.
Two hours later after the sun had set and city lights were replaced by darkness and the occasional clustered village lights, we got off at Makalidurga station. Our trail began with 3km along the railway tracks. Armed with torches, and a dog from the station who appointed himself as our trail guide, we set off into the night. We started off with a fairly decent pace, having to stop just once to let a train whiz by. The real adventure began once we got off the tracks and had to find a trail that passed between the hills. Every clearing between the trees could pass off as a path. But thanks to someone who had generously mapped out a rough outline of the trail on Google maps, we were somewhat confident.
Trekking at night is quite the experience. Darkness, the shadows, sounds in the bushes, the brilliance of the nights sky, the vague outlines of the Makalidurga hill looming over on our right, and some sort of glistening patchy-ness in front of us that was probably the lake.
A couple of kilometers later we began the ascent. With our heavily stuffed backpacks of tents, bedding and lots of food, pulling ourselves over the rocks was not easy. Our dog (by now named Lieutenant Worf) stuck with us and seemed to be quite the faithful companion. Keeping to the trail wasn't as easy as we hoped. Often finding ourselves in the thicket of brambles at dead-ends, we had to back track quite a few times until we found one of those slightly inconspicuous white arrows painted on a rock.
By this time, our water supply had already crossed the half way point. We had hoped to buy water on the way, but unfortunately didn't find any places once we were on the train. Having packed everything else, but missing out on essential water was quite a silly move. Once we were down to just two remaining bottles, we had to make a new plan. We could complete the remaining kilometer, finish the water and have nothing more for the descent, or camp out where we were and miss out on the summit with some water for the next morning. We chose wisely, and were lucky to find a fairly level patch of ground just off the trail.
Once the tents were up, we each had a nightcap of two sips of water. The stars were beautiful and the breeze refreshing. We managed a couple hours of sleep despite some disturbances in the night. Lieutenant proved to be the ultimate watch dog, but at some point early in the morning decided that he had served his time and left us for another group of trekkers.
We were up before sunrise while the moon was still bright. We set out quite quickly downhill with one goal in mind- water. With replenished stomachs from a house on the way, a ten minute wade in the lake (would have definitely jumped in, if we didn't have a train to catch), we completed the last few kilometers of the trail and the railway line and were at the station in time for the train back to Bangalore.
Sleepy, achy, hungry, relieved. But mostly quite thrilled with all the adventure that came with the 15 hour trip. :)
Photo credits: Everyone, except me. I lugged my camera all the way without the memory card. :/