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Trekkers on a Night to Twin-hills: the Kaurava hills

Some time back, I saw ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’ and that closed the deal. In the movie, a nerdy looking girl goes on a trek to Himalayas and meets a group of people that changes her life and in the process she rediscovers herself. As the movie ended with yet another cliché teary eyed Bollywood ending, I was certain that rediscovery or not – I had to go trekking. Freedom is after all not reality, it is, like any other story an idea that enters your head like a happy bug and then stays there.

And so I registered myself on Bangalore Trekking Club (BTC) and started looking for a Beginner’s trek which would not take me away from work and yet provide that necessary thrill of a journey worth remembering. And then there it was – A night trek to Kaurava Kunda, near Chikaballapur which is a small town 75 km away from Bangalore. I had never heard of the place or the trekking range, but how does it matter for a first time trekker like me, I thought and gave it a go.

It was the evening of 12th April 2014, when it started raining in Bangalore and checking the weather conditions, I saw a storm at Chikballapur late in the night. I called up the organizers and found they knew their stuff and had contingency plans in case of emergency. That put my mind at ease. With no previous experience, I carried some basic stuff like Sleeping Bag, a torch (a must for night trek), energy bars, juice and lots of water. ‘And let the journey begin,’ a little unsure me told myself as I boarded the bus to Bangalore bus stand near Majestic.

Meeting new people can be unnerving for some, especially for people who spend almost the entire day coding their life out on a computer. But that was the beauty of this plan – to bring in a few people who are wrecked with their monotonous week and spend some time getting to know and hopefully make friends with new people. And though I met everyone at the bus stand and all looked forthcoming, I had my reservations on travelling without some common friends. It was all about to change.

We started our journey at 8 PM. We made small talk with each other on the way to Chikaballapur. Some guys who already knew each other from previous trek @BTC were very obviously much more comfortable in their zones. But Anshul had pointed out that there would be introductions later – ‘So don’t worry,’ he said which I later found was his favourite dialog.

Chikaballapur is a small district about 75km from Bangalore, which can be reached easily through a KSRTC bus. The journey takes about 1.5 hours and takes you through Hebbal-airport road. Due to traffic, we reached the town at about 10 in the night and started walking towards the foothills of Kuarava Kunda which is about 5km from the town. The road took us to the outskirts and into the villages. In a secluded corner, we all were told to stop for introductions.
One by one, under Ramya’s glaring torch into our eyes, everyone introduced themselves and then recounted their previous experiences trekking with BTC. The surprise of the party was Kishore who turned out to be a professional singer and was aiming for World Record in balancing certain things on his nose and chin, skills which he demonstrated as well.

As the night fell and moon shone bright in the west, we reached the foothills of Kaurava Kunda between sleeping villagers and barking dogs. The hill looked a little formidable and mysterious in the night but that added to our already enthused adventurous spirit and we began our ascent to the summit.

One funny feature of this ascent were the over enthusiastic tail wagging dogs who decided to accompany us on the hilly trail right up to the top. It was funny because the guys decided to have a go at Garima who was very vocal about her fear of dogs. I guess the dogs too conspired with everyone to give everyone a good laugh. But frankly even I was not very fond of this idea of dogs chasing us around on a hill top (Alright! I was scared too!)

From the foothills, there are steps leading to the Shiva temple. This part of the trek was fairly simple and everyone decided to take a break here. Someone among the group wondered why this place was called Kaurava Kunda and we got some pretty hilarious and historically incorrect replies. Basically nobody knew. But who cares till you having a good laugh.

The organizers at BTC were very understanding when it came to people like me and few others who were trekking for the first time. ‘We will take 100 breaks, if you ask us to,’ Virander told us.

From Shiva temple we began a much more arduous journey over steep slopes and rocky terrain. Everybody was helping everybody and that made the bond even stronger. It was an example of true team spirit and accolades to BTC for bringing out the best in everybody. We collected twigs and dried branches on the way anticipating a bon-fire at the top.

We reached the top at about 1:30 in the morning. Sometimes in life, you put everything into perspective. But before all of that, you take a massive leak! Alright, no crude details from here on.

I will give the perspective in the last paragraph because right now more important things first – Maggi. We all sat down with our cup noodles in hand as the organizers set up the fire and boiled water. We put on our jackets and in the mean tried to keep the dogs at bay who wanted a piece of everything we were trying to eat.

Someone was definitely making notes on ‘first timers’ with BTC because as soon as we finished our Maggi noodles, people cried out dance and there we were – the ‘first timers’ who had to showcase their dancing talent. Well, as always I danced on item numbers only! ‘Sheela Ki Jawani’ is a must if I am dancing. Then there was Chikni Chameli by Garima, Lungi dance by Virander and Swati. And a cool performance by Kishore (is there anything this guy doesn’t do). And then everybody in the group joined in to shake some legs.

We then settled down in a circle around the camp fire and discussed the most famous topic in the world - our first crush/love. Ramya had a very funny story to tell about Complan boys. Everybody spoke with an air of nostalgia of ‘those days’ when we were young (some only 3rd standard). Nobody got sentimental, thank god. But amazing stories were told – some funny, some heart breaking and some just downright cute.

At about 4 AM, Ankit prepared some awesome coffee. It is called ‘Ankit Special Coffee’. One of the secret ingredients in this coffee was – believe it or not - salt. But it was amazing. Standing on the top of a hill - with chilly winds blowing away - having a coffee at 4 in the morning. There are only few things in the world that can beat that.

We talked some more, while some people (Yes Virander – You!) slept.
In the morning, we were greeted by a beautiful view of the city. People decided to go to the edge and enjoy the scenic view. Almost everyone cried out when we saw the sun rising above the horizon in the east. It was bright, it was orange, it was majestic.
Channa, you have clicked some of the most amazing morning pictures I have ever seen. He went to immense pains to get that right shot while everybody posed with the rising sun.

The descent was quick and uneventful. It is important to keep track of your foot while descending because there is a lot of loose soil at Kaurava Kunda and hence the needed precaution. Channa made sure he got the right clicks by descending way before us and then calling out with a whistle signalling us to stop and pose.
After a few group pictures at the foothill, we started the long walk back to the bus stand. Abhishek and Swati decided to race to the end and it ended in a close tie but fun to watch. We encountered grape vines and a big well before we decided to stop in the middle of a field and have breakfast. Over some bread/jam, khakra and coconut water, we shared a few laughs before finally reaching the bus stand. I was so relieved that I wanted to die. And then it’s a blur till Bangalore! But what amazing trek, what amazing people and what an amazing night.

So the perspective, an afterthought that, at the end of it all, lives with you all your life.

At 1:30 in the night, we were at the top of the hill. And there I was - you are standing on top of everybody your eyes can see. You are above everyday nuances of life and you are away from the chaos of everyday struggle. You are above the sleeping towns and hollow people. You are above the noise that threatens to burst your ears and smoke that fills your lungs. You are not on top of the world and yet you are. You are not deaf but you let the roar of the wind filter any unwanted sound that troubled you for so long. And here you are, at the summit, drenched in sweat, letting the wind ruffle through you hair, letting it slap your face, letting it drum your ears, letting it fill your nose and letting it touch your soul.

Late in the afternoon – Bangalore was painted in an Eastman color {due to rains}. It was gonna be a lazy rainy evening. While the majority of Bangaloreans would have planned to chill indoors with some hot cuppa kaapis; few BTCians were gearing up for something different – chill out ‘up-the-hill’….

Satuday, 12th April:

At around 7.45pm: 20 members [some old, some new] out of the shortlisted folks gathered at terminal 3, platform 12 of the Kempe Gowda bus stand, for the Chikkaballapur bus. We randomnly introduced each other and boarded the bus [at 8.20pm]. Bus journey was fun, with the BTCians scattered around, carrying our typical BTC culture – of eating, talking, and helping others too! :P Reached destination at around 10.20pm.

Our adventurous journey began…

With a 5km walk, before we could reach the hill. Walking under the moonlight was, the least that one could say, a ‘bbbbeautiful’ experience! During the walk, we had 2 halts in the middle of the road – once, where a formal introduction happened. The second halt was amazing with exploring more people-stories, and realizing we had a bunch of real ‘extremely’ talented people among us [literally to the ‘extreme’, cz one guy - Kishore, could even balance a bicycle on his chin – now think about that! Entertainment had begun with all of us joking around, and Kishore singing a song for us. Post this, we continued walking and reached the base.

At the base, we met 3 more trekkers who had decided to join us uninvited – whether we liked it or not, 3 Doggies - who scared the hell outta Garima and me – and made the entire trek for the 2 of us more ‘challenging’!

The up-hill Climb:

The Kaurava hills are a mix of a steppy terrain till the Shiva temple, and then a more steepy-rocky one beyond the temple [would remind you of Savandurga, if you have done it before]. We had to collect dry sticks on the way (for the campfire) since there were bare chances of finding any at the top. Starting with the given task from the base itself, we climbed upwards – helping each other, chitchatting, exploring more stories, Garima and I avoiding the doggies, and pulling each others’ legs.
The Shiva-temple [during the descend]

Had a halt outside the Shiva temple – where we tried to dig out the history behind the name given to this pair of twin hills – why is it named Pandava and Kaurava hills. Of course, the discussion turned out hopeless and shortlived when people started mixing the Pandava exile with Rama’s exile. We gave up and decided to climb further – the more challenging path!

The sticks on one hand and torch on the other added to this challenge. However, the guys adopted a nice way of making a ‘counter-system’ that made our climbing task easier :P . At some tough junctures, Ankit and Vikram were already present with Ankit calling out ‘sticks dedo, torch dedo’ and Vikram calling out 'haath dedo' [kidding guys :D :P]. We had to deposit our stuff there, climb, collect our stuff back and climb further! [I kept wondering how did these guys reach even before us, when the last I had seen them was walking behind us!].

Funny enough, but this really ensured we all climbed safely without letting the sticks, torch and the doggies bothering us much :P So, Kudos!

The Peak, Campfire, the dance-masti, the ‘Crush-night’:

Reached the peak at around 1.30 am. It was time for Maggiiieeee. And this is when our all-silent organizer, Channa, showed his hidden talent – of cooking Maggie on the camp-fire :P Soon after enjoying the noodles, the group gathered around the camp-fire to start the ragging session for the first-timers. The first timers easily broke the ice by dancing freely, giving solo performances too!. This later followed dance performances by the rest of us (including the organizers):P

After done with our dance jig, the group settled down for a brief photo session. There was still enough time left for the sunrise [it was around 3.00am], and we decided to kill the time by starting a ‘different’ kind of talking round. Each one of us had to talk about either our first crush, best-crush or love-story [yeah..U missed it!]. As expected, most of them were tragedies, some were beautiful success-stories; and the best was Ramya’s complan-crush story (again a tragedy, but funny:P) [please catch hold of the girl for her story :P]. Sangamesh gave the session a very meaningful closing by suddenly announcing – ‘ab jisko rona hai ro lo’ :D Ironically, sab log has diye :P
Camp-fire

(Whether it was the after-effect of revealing their tragedies, or was it that they were really tired) some of the folks (even organizers Abhishek, Channa and Virander) decided to take a nap, soon after the story telling session. The rest of us dispersed for exploring the nature’s beauty in our own sweet ways.

Sky gazer as I am  - just loved watching the starry sky spotting shooting stars, satellites and constellations – along with Kriba and Monu; when others were having a gala time near the camp-fire :P.  Soon, we got a call for coffee-time, and our coffee makers: Ankit and Sangamesh served us nice cappuccino – early in the morning at around 4.00am – a nice experience [folks! Please don’t miss watching Ankit preparing coffee and Sangamesh boiling milk with sheer diligence, whenever you get a chance :P]

Sunday, 13th April - The Sun-Rise:

Finally, it was time for ‘the moment’ of the trek to arrive. The stars started to fade away as the early hints of the dawn broke. Krupa, Monu and I shifted to another spot on the rock towards the East. As it started getting little brighter, the group spread themselves at their convenient spots waiting for the sun-rise.

We passed our time simply gazing at the different hues of the light on the sky and having deep conversations. The conversations between Kriba, Monu and I went so deep that we did not notice that Channa was sitting somewhere around us to have some solitude; until he ran away [perhaps we were too loud, and he was unable to tolerate our talks any more :P]
The breaking dawn!

Shortly  – “the moment” arrived and with the Sun beaming up, we all gave a loud howl, and then gathered for another round of photo session - all happy and cheered up . Did a brief exploration around the peak for a little while [explored an echo-point too ;)] and then geared up for the descend

Descend and the walk to Bus stop:

Before the heat could beat us, we packed our bags and started to descend. The doggies too followed us , after having a nice night-out! Organizer Channa was at his ‘whistling-best’, and he kept on blowing his whistle at regular intervals, gathering us trekkers together like some goatherd [this was, of course for group photo-sessions, not that we were wandering like goats!!]. Finally we reached the base – safe, sound, successful; and started walking towards the Chikballapur bus stop (the same 5km that we treaded the previous nite)

As this walk was post the ascend-descend, we ensured that we were at our ‘nautanki-best’ in order to keep the tiring feeling away. Right from having a running race (with Krupa and Abhi); to doing a group ‘Lamb-dance’ that looked like a funny March-past; to photo-sessions at grapevine and some randomn well; and our super-talented Kishore showing a balance-act with a cap – the return walk felt entertaining and lighter! This time we had three pitstops – one for feedback, second for breakfast and the third for ‘naariyal paani’.

Reached bus stop, finally! Boarded the Bangalore bus, landed at Majestic – all too wearied that we were unable to even talk. Our farewells were just handshakes and nods with sleepy eyes – the rest was understood. :)

Once again –
A biiig thanks to Channa and Viru for the wonderful planning and execution.
Abhi, Krupa and Sangamesh – your support was incredible! [except that Abhi slept the whole night :P]
Kudos and Thanks to every fellow trekker for making each other feel safe, entertained and creating ‘yet another wonderful BTC memory’ :)

For all the crazy and 'different' stuff we did throughout our journey, I’d like to iterate a line by organizer Abhishek, from a previous BTC blog (the Mighty Century):

Its not always about meeting like-minded people. Sometimes, its just about people who are like-mindedly crazy :P

Written By        : Siddhartha Goel & Swathi Iyer
Organized By    : Virander Sirohi & Channa
Date of event    : 12th Apr, 2014
Members Count : 19 (13M, 6F)
Place                : Kaurava Kunda
Pictures            : BTC FB Page
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