Skandagiri/2, Feb 7-8 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009
Moonlight trek: Skandagiri hills Chikballapur revisited
Revisiting Skandagiri was a good experience. Last time we’d been to Skandagiri was during March 2007, about 2 years earlier. It wasn’t so popular then (going by the fact that we hardly got any blog posts or information about the place when we’d searched for it in Google). That was a day trek- we left from Bangalore early morning and returned by evening- Though it was a very good trek we’d missed a few elements like Sun rise, sunset, camping and most importantly the clouds… [Read about our earlier post on Skandagiri]
When CTC (Chennai Trekkers’ Club) announced a moonlight trek to Skandagiri I signed up, as an overnight trek is bound to give a different experience than a day trek.
In-post Navigation:History of Skandagiri Fort* Comments *
We (17 was the total count, including 2 who joined us at Chikballapur) assembled at KSRTC Terminal in Majestic by about 1430-1500 hours and boarded a KSRTC bus heading to Chickballapur. Ramki & Arun Gowda did fetch tents on rent from (Organizers of adventure activities, headed by Kameshwar Rao, under whose guidance we did a rock climbing in Ramanagaram and Cave exploration in Antaragange, Kolar and I’m yet to write about that trip).
DSC07286 Chikkaballapura is about 60 kms from Majestic on Hyderabad road we reached there by about 1630 hours. Though it appeared a small town, beggar menace was high. Not one or two, but dozens of them... Even the uniform clad school children didn’t have any hesitation demanding “ಅಣ್ಣಾ, ತಿನ್ನೋಕೆ ಏನಾದ್ರು ಕೊಡಿ, ಇಲ್ಲಾ೦ದ್ರೆ ಕಾಸು ಕೊಡಿ...” (Give me something to eat or give me some money). The Papagni Matt, the starting point for Skandagiri trek, is about 6 kms from the Chikkaballapura city bus stop. An elderly man, named Bhairappa approached us enquiring who we are and what are our plans and such. He said he is from the same place (Kalavarahalli) where Skanda hill is located and indicated that there’s a bus expected anytime now. He was curious to know what’s so special or attractive about Skanda hills (According to him, people visit in hundreds during weekends, which we later found to be very much true) that he has not seen all his life.
DSC07342 We waited for the bus till 5.30 PM and eventually reached Papagni matt in a mini-bus. On the way the driver showed a LPG truck surrounded by several autos and said they’re selling LPG in black there. An Ashram has come up here which was not there during my earlier trip. Rest all looked pretty much same. We started before sunset but it was little late to climb up the hill and catch the sunset. We came across another elderly man who was sitting on a rock and singing patriotic songs and dialogues (With his unsolicited talks and songs he visibly appeared like a Psycho but deep inside he must be a patriotic and emotional gentleman heavily disturbed by the corruption and other state of affairs). We climbed up using an existing trail. The vertical height of the hill is not much, but the path being kind of circular, it takes longer. Half way through it turned dark but moon was in full force (full moon day was 2 days ahead) to guide us. Anala’s Akki Rotti was a good energizer. Within few hours we were on top, overseeing a fully illuminated Chickballapur town. Already several teams had reached there and occupied strategic locations. It was not as cold as I’d anticipated, but the mighty wind force was threatening to take off our tents as we started erecting them. Firewood was available in plenty (so was the dry grass all around and a strong wind: a deadly combination to cause and spread forest fire, so extra precautions were taken to avoid such possibilities). Nothing tastes better than a cup of hot noodle soup. Packed dinner and little bit of chat and we retired for the day, while several more groups of people continued to pour in all through the night.
The sheer amount of visitors has turned few localities into entrepreneurs and two makeshift shops, which were nonexistent previously, selling Tea, Omlet etc have come on top of Skandagiri. Those sensitive about hygiene are advised to not to buy from these shops.
DSC07368 Day 2 began with sun rays visible at the horizon. Sun god took his own time to come up while hundreds waited for the scene. Sadly no clouds were below us, except a thin layer of fog which does nothing good but spoils the sharpness of the images. Population on top of the hill was in multiple of hundreds. Post sunset we did little more exploration, photo sessions and decamped and started walking down through a different route. Good thing about late evening & early morning trek is that there’ll be no burning sun overhead. Halfway while on our way down we diverted from the default trail and made our own way down navigating through bushes, thorns and rocks. (The target, Papagni Matt was in visible range, hence direction was clear). Upon reaching down, people took shelter in an under construction marriage hall. We encountered the same old man (who was singing patriotically last evening) -“I thought you people will come down by that way…you’ve come by this way…” was his opening remark, as if we’ve come to listen to his speech. I didn’t attend to much of his talk but Arun retold us later the story of Skandagiri’s PaLeyagara (local ruler), as it was narrated to him by this old man.
DSC07387 History of Skandagiri (As told by a villager and retold by Arun)
During the time of Tippu Sultan, Skandagiri was under the command of a powerful PaLeyagara (name not known) who’d very effectively defended his fort and thwarted Tippu’s invasion attempts. This local ruler, along with his trusted men had built such a fortified and defensive cover around the fort that even seasoned commanders of Tippu’s army couldn’t find a way to break-in. Finally Tippu’s men managed to bribe two milk women who used to supply milk to the ruler, his family and other staff on the fort. These milk women, under the temptation of money and land, agreed to betray their king and helped Tippu’s army in two ways- one, they dropped small quantity of some elements (Jeera or something) along the path for several days, so that Tippu’s men could know the route to take, and later, on the D-day, they served a poisoned milk to kind and his crew, due to which most of them died and rest were killed by Tippu’s army. This is how Tippu Sultan took control of this place, which he eventually lost to the British in 19th October 1791 (date procured from Wikipedia). Further, the two milk women who helped him secure this fort were promptly killed upon their return but remains of the fort live on.
With little rest and a comfortable bus ride with an on board entertainment of a vendor auctioning his cloth products, we reached Bangalore by lunch time. Majority of the team members departed here while few remaining went to KSCA club adjacent to Chinnaswamy Stadium for lunch (Courtesy Azad sir). End of a memorable trip. Thanks to Ramki, Arun and Anala for the organizing.
Additional bits:
    * Grape gardens are very popular here-you can save 10-20 Rs/kilo compared to Bangalore prices
    * Nandi hills and Tipu’s fort in Devanahalli are other two attractions nearby, if you wish to visit multiple places
    * On weekends Skandagiri is getting too crowded and too much of littering is spoiling this place. Please do not throw things away…
    * No water stream on the hill. Nearest water source is Papagni Matt and Chikkballapur town is the closest place for food and accommodation
Written by: Shrinidhi
Organized by: Ramki, Arun, Anala
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