Skandagiri, June 7-8, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The Skandagiri play

Director/Producer: Peter, Ramki

Show Date: 7-8 June 2008
Genre: Thriller
Tag-line: The rain march. (well... almost!)
Plot Keywords: “Way to hills”, “Maa Kaasaamm” (Sam), “shows me the light”, “move it! move it!”, “Skandagiri Baba”, “BURP!”

Plot Synopsis:

36 hardy, determined souls, brave long hours of travel, rain, cold winds and slippery rocks to summit the Skandagiri Hills. Skandagiri, also known as Kalavaarahalli betta, is located around 70 Kms from Bangalore, near a tiny place called Muddhenahalli situated along the Nandi Hills range. The 1750m imposing piece of nature’s art is the perfect haven to enjoy a beautiful trek, camp under the open sky and be one with the clouds! Usually undertaken as a midnight trek to catch the sunrise in the morning, CTC decided to do it little differently by starting the climb late in the afternoon…

Route: Chennai Central Sarvana Bhaven – Bangalore Majestic – Chikballapur – Skandagiri base – top of Skandagiri hills – back to base – Muddenahalli – Chikballapur – Bangalore railway station – Chennai Central

Full summary:

Journey to the base

As per the plan, all those of us starting from Chennai assembled at the railway eatery, Sarvana Bhavan, at Chennai Central for a quick breakfast. Our train to Bangalore, Brindavan Express was scheduled for departure at 7.15am. Around 7.00am we started moving to the platform #2 and got into the train just in time. As the train slowly started moving out of the station, we settled down in our seats and soon were busy introducing and talking to each other.

Seven hours later we reached the Bangalore station. Here, Peter purchased water bottles and started distributing them among us; three bottles per person! Question marks appeared on each of our faces! Seeing our puzzled expressions Peter exclaimed “Trust me, am speaking from experience!” :-D Soon we were marching towards the KSRTC bus stand…

At the bus stand Ramki, Yaseen, Anala and other members joined us. After Ramki distributed the sleeping bags and food, we headed towards the bus that would take us a notch closer to our destination. On enquiry we found that there were two buses leaving for Chikballapur –since we were 36, we decided to split into two groups and catch two buses. But luckily some guy called us and told that he could arrange a new bus for us. So we got in – all 36 in a single bus.

We left Bangalore at about 14:30 and reached Chikballapur bus stand @ 16:15. While Ramki and Anala went around trying to find out about the bus to Muddenahalli base camp the rest of us headed to the shops in front of the bus stand in search of tea and snacks. It was going to be the last stop to civilization. Luck was again on our side as we managed to arrange an entire bus for CTC which would depart sooner than the normal one but at the expense of paying double the normal fare. The bus drivers happily agreed to take us right to the base camp which saved us an additional walk of about 3km to the “Skandagiri Trek Expedition” check-post!

The trek begins

The bus halted at the base at around 4.45pm. There was a moment of silence as we all looked up at the hills with mixed feelings of awe and anxiety. As if in an act of celebration or, the rain Gods playing naughty - it started to rain. Guess it was Mother Nature’s way of saying ‘Hello!’ Most of us had ignored Peter’s warning “the monsoon has started, bring a rain jacket along”. So while the ones that had paid heed to Peter got cozy in their warm jackets and rain coats, the other stood around envying them!

Many-a-group-photographs later, we started the trek along the muddy path leading to the mountain, with pumped up energy and rigor that would have put a seasoned athlete to shame. We began the climb at around 5:30. Ramki was leading us from the front and Peter from behind. It had started raining and most of us were hit by that oh-so-familiar thought -‘What on earth am I doing here, all wet and heavy!’ But soon the view, the fresh air and the overall beauty changed this into “Why on earth haven’t I been here before!” The path was already set for us and there were arrows with ‘Way to hills’ painted on rocks guiding us which way to go.

We made intermittent stops at valley view points and few unwarranted pit stops at am-tired-lets-call-it-a-view-point and this-is-a-must-be-captured-point points. Samyak emoted Dharmander with Maa Kaasaamm , while others yelled “move it, move it” whenever we stretched the pauses too long. The wind was cold yet it had a welcome-to-Nandi-hills warmth to it. The terrific scenic beauty all around left us speechless! That which cannot be described in words; that which was hard to capture in the best of the digital SLR cameras; that we can never forget.

At one point near the top there were two huge rocks, one leaning over the other right at the edge. Viola! Perfect place for snaps! That’s how we landed up there hoping to touch the sky. The nightmare began when it was time to get down. How did we do it? Don’t ask!

Over the top

Soon the sun went down, lights dimmed, torches came out, and we moved up. Shouts of “show me the light” reverberated through the night air. Finally we reached the top approximately three and a half hours later. We started hogging in on the fresh air that Skandagiri had to offer while we rested on the hill top, exhausted, exhilarated, elated and ecstatic (ah, the adjectives!) at having successfully climbed the peak. The feelings were more so for the new-comers. Approximately 10 Lays packets, 7 biscuit packets , 10 mixture packets, 5 muruku packets, 10 bottles of water and a few sad jokes later every one started getting up to look at the beautiful night scene that lay all around us. Meanwhile Peter, Ramki and a few others went looking for someplace to set up tents.

That’s when the fun started….!!

The skies opened on us with full fury. Heavy rain descended upon us. Chilling winds blew around with a ferocity that threatened to blow the mountain away! “OPEN THE SLEEPING MATS”, yelled someone. As fast as our frozen fingers would allow, we ducked under the mats holding on to them tightly.

Heavy rain and cold notwithstanding, Peter, Ramki and few more brave souls started pitching the tents indefatigably. Peter's ever energetic voice could be heard over the wind, "Nothing like setting up a tent when it’s raining!" People started bringing down stuff from the top of the hill soaking wet to their bones. The rain showed no sign of stopping but it hardly did anything to dampen our spirits. It got us all the more fervent to set up the tents. Soon one by one the tents were made ready. First the girls were made comfortable and then the rest.

The spirited Revathi Ramanan and her gang started singing (or that’s what they called it!) at the top of their jubilant voices; the voices echoing in the hills. The rain gods seem to have gotten disheartened by all the braying and soon closed their taps. Peter, Ramki, Avijeet, Diwakar and few others went about ‘knocking the doors’ of every tent to distribute Chapattis with ketchup and ensuring that nobody slept hungry. People were trying to sleep in their wet clothes while some others preferred to get into dry ones; and some others got into their sleeping bags with nothing on (read Jaskirat)!.

While we slept (or tried to sleep) some other groups were making their way right up to the top where a temple was located, we would hear them saying "Wow, look at those tents, so perfect and beautiful". Soon it was time to wake up and one by one people started coming out of their tents. The early risers went up to the temple while the others waited for the sunrise in the warmth of the tents. Alas! All that we got to see eventually was some bright spot playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. So much for the sunrise that we hoped to see and capture with our cameras to make others jealous! Not the ones to be disheartened, the camera men still brought out their SLR’s and shot whatever could be captured.

Sometime during the morning, Marcie was passing by one of the boys tents when she saw a weird sight. There seemed to be a baba-like figure with loong flowing hair and beard sitting in a meditative position. Wondering who it was she passed by once again only to realize that it was Jaskirat! She had come across the Skandagiri Baba!

Photos were clicked, tents and sleeping bags were packed; we got ready to leave. Anaala started picking up the empty water bottles and plastic wastes strewn all around into plastic bags. Others joined in to ensure that nothing that would ruin the beauty of the hills was left behind. Eventually the time came to leave the place. We heaved a sigh, bade goodbye and started the journey downhill cautiously.


The descend was easy and fast. On the way down we paused again at the two huge rocks. This time Peter insisted that all of us climb up and take pics. Wow! That was fun. Special thanks to Peter, Ramki, and Pramod who used all their strength to hoist us up and later lent their shoulders to help us get down. Very special thanks to Peter and Ramki for being so encouraging. We had a train to catch and had to reach the railway station by 2:30pm. At the base everybody assembled near the Ashram Papagni Mutt and filled their stomachs with snacks and freshened up for the long boring journey ahead. Diwakar even had a bath at the Ashram!

Yaseen took a lift from the other group that had come during the night to see if they could arrange for a bus. Meanwhile the rest of us started walking towards the bus stand. Divya’s flowery eyes caught some lotus floating in a water tank nearby and she happily went there to get one. Peter made a necklace out of it and put it around Divya’s neck. She sure looked like a beautiful diva! Meanwhile Marcie’s took a lift to the bus stand from one of the bikers as her feet had gotten swollen. The rest of us continued to walk. A short distance later, an auto zipped past us with Diwakar, Hari, kishore and Karthik screaming and waving triumphantly at us. Sigh! But good news was near. Yaseen phoned in to say that he was on his way with the bus. We told him our location and after about 10 minutes, we saw the welcome figure of the bus rolling down towards us. The bus took us all the way to Bangalore! Here we split and headed back to our respective places.

At the end of the day it was and exhilarating experience!

Tarannum Abbasi
Tabassum Abbasi

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Participants: Anala, Avijeet Rakshit, Balaji, Divya, Hari Krishnan, Jaskirat Singh , Veen Krishnamoorthy Simon, Megha, Peter, Ramakrishnan, Vivek Yadav, Akila Duraisamy, Balamurugan P, Chezhian, Dinesh Manilal, Diwakar, Fermie, Hima, Jagadishkumar, kamalanathan, Karthik prasanna, Kishore Kumar, Marcie kirthana, Pramod kumar.P.S, Rajendran Dandapani, Ravishankar R, revathi, Samyak, Sarath G, Saurabh Gupta, Selvaprakash Antony, Suseela, Tabassum, Tarannum, Vinod D Varghese, Yaseen Lanka



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