Skandagiri trek in March
6 AM Saturday morning – I head out to Ritvik’s place at the other end of Bangalore. That’s where the four of us – Sunita, Isha, Ritvik and I are meeting before we drive down to the location for our first OD day trek – Skandagiri. A hill fort in the Nandi hills range, Skandagiri is one of the prettier hills around Bangalore, particularly so on some winter mornings when the clouds come down to greet you at the summit. Before night treks were banned there, people used to camp overnight hoping to see that spectacular cloud show in the morning. I have been there once before during the monsoons, but it will be the first time for the other three. Surprisingly, we all reach Ritvik’s place right on time though I have some trouble with the directions to get there. We have sandwiches that Ritvik’s packed for us while Sunita takes the wheels of her Swift. We are in Skandagiri in an hour’s time, and park the car about half a km before the trail begins.
It’s around 8 AM when we start walking. The sun is already out, the landscape is quite dry and shrubby all around. There are arrows painted on rocks that help guide us along the right path despite our best efforts to go the wrong way. We set a good pace during the first couple of kilometres when the terrain isn’t that steep. Ritvik and I lag behind a bit while Sunita leads the way through the initial section. About half-way up, we reach a huge rock with a cave-like opening that offers just enough shade for us to sit under and catch our breath.
We sit down for ten minutes, eat and drink water and Red Bull. Or more accurately, Ritvik drinks a lot of Red Bull. Rejuvenated, we start walking again, when to our chagrin Ritvik announces he is done. The three of us try motivating him, but with all that Red Bull in his belly, he seems to have decided that he needs a bigger challenge – sleep. In any case, we decide to go ahead and now the trail gets steeper and thornier while the sun begins to beat down on us as well. About 80% of the way up, I sense Sunita and Isha flagging a bit, but just then we see the walls of the dilapidated fort on top of the hill. That motivates them to climb on, but as we get closer, the walls seem to get further and further away. It’s almost an axiom of trekking – the closer to the summit you are, the farther it seems to get. Close to the summit there’s a man cropping some plant. We pass him and soon we find that we have actually reached the top. Sunita and Isha settle down while I walk a bit ahead to take a look. I find that I can see Nandi hills and there’s a wonderful all-round view from the top.
Isha and Sunita join me and we find another group of trekkers relaxing there. They seem to have come up on a different route. We lie down for a while warily watching a couple of monkeys loitering around and take in the view. We would have probably stayed a bit longer, but then remember Ritvik waiting down below and decide to head back. The descent is faster, but harder on the knees. We shortly catch up with the other group and pass them. Isha and I lag back while Sunita speeds down skipping from one rock to another. She bumps into Ritvik suddenly – having run out of Red Bulls, he had apparently decided to climb. Soon we are back at the cave rock. We settle down to stretch our legs, take some photos and talk shop. Ritvik gives me a nice tip on using the flash for a particular photo I am trying to take. We relax for quite a while, but finally decide it’s time to head back, and in another half hour we are at Sunita’s car. The local village lady hangs around waiting for a tip. I oblige while Sunita revs up the engine.
We lose our way on the return journey and end up taking a longer route through Chikkaballapur town. We halt for lunch at Royal Orchid Yelahanka. The buffet is quite average but we are too famished to care. We drop Ritvik back home and go our respective ways promising each other that we will do another trek soon! It’s been a fantastic day, and as much as we are all looking forward to Sunday to rest, our batteries are fully recharged for the week ahead!