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Trek to Kaiwara Hills

It was the 5th of July, 2015, and just another Sunday morning..….but wait…was it just another Sunday morning? Certainly not! After all, it was just 6.45 AM and I found myself at Terminal-3 of Majestic bus station. I walked towards a bunch of complete strangers, briskly introduced myself and joined the gang while waiting to begin my first trek with Bangalore Trekking Club (BTC).  I had joined BTC several months ago but I did not have an opportunity to register for any of the treks that had been posted by the group before.
As I waited, my mind wandered and I thought of the almost sedentary life that I have been leading for more than a year. Even though I was active and agile, I felt skeptical about my ability to be able to climb a hill in the wilderness. Thankfully my hypercritical mind was put to an abrupt halt with more people joining in and soon enough we were on our way in a tempo traveler. There were 17 of us so far, including Hiren and Sreemoyee, who were organizing the trip. The total number was 19, with Parthodeep and Narmadha joining us at Tin Factory. The rest of the people were, Kiran, Abhishek, Pooja, Shubha, Sudarshan, Parth, Rakshit, Maunica, Shruthi, Vikram, Daniel, Suresh, Raghu, Anshuk.
Parthodeep or Partho is my friend and we had registered for this trek together. Being with complete strangers and on my maiden trek, oh what relief it was to have Partho! However, a game of Dumb Charades, strategically planned by the organizers, is all it took to break the ice and very soon everyone started feeling comfortable with one another. Also, it felt good to know that there were others who were trekking for the first time or the first time with BTC. It was a good mix of people from all parts of the country and we also had Daniel, who was here all the way from America. 
We stopped on the way to have breakfast. This provided another opportunity to know more about each other.  Connecting with new people and discovering commonalities never ceases to fascinate me. It becomes even more amazing when you are connected by a common cause – BTC Kaiwara Trek in this case. We resumed our journey and soon reached our destination. It took us about 2 hrs from Bangalore to Kaiwara.
Kaiwara (also spelt as Kaivara) is a small town in Chickballapur district of Karnataka, about 65 Km away from Bangalore. The place is famous for Saint Narayanappa, popularly known as Kaiwara Thatayya, who was a bilingual poet and lived here during the last half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. Mythology also has it that the Pandavas lived here during their exile in the forest and Bhima, had killed the demon Bakasura in this place.
The plan was to climb the Elephant Hill, apparently named because of its elephant-like shape and located within the Kaiwara National Park. To climb the hill, we needed permission from the Department of Forestry. Hiren and Sreemoyee made sure to have a back up plan as well, in case we do not get permission. Luckily enough we got permission quite easily. As we walked towards the hill, we stopped to admire the peacocks and rabbits on the way. Sadly enough these were in cages but there were monkeys roaming freely all around. 
After a small briefing on the do’s and don’ts, we started the climb. Hiren and Rakshit led the way, Sreemoyee was trailing at the end while Vikram was somewhere around the middle. All of them are experienced trekkers and hence leading and guiding the rest of us. Besides leading the way, Rakshit had another job. Armed with a GoPro, he was our go-to-guy for all group photos. Slowly and steadily we climbed. Taking breaks as we went along. Few of us were quickly out of breath and Suresh’s glucose water came as much needed relief. As we inched our way through the bushes and boulders, we became more and more comfortable with one another and this led to a lot of fun and laughter with posing innovatively for photographs, making fun of one another, sharing lozenges and other food items, etc. Maneuvering the boulders, bushes and thorns also brought about an instant sense of camaraderie and solidarity and everyone was found helping one another. Who would say that a few hours earlier we were complete strangers to one another!  Being short, I was especially challenged at some of the more steep areas but each time I needed help I found one sometimes even without asking for it.
Very often it’s the unknown that makes hikes and treks so very exciting.  I have to call out two such exciting moments of this trek. Firstly, there were times when we could not find a trail at all and our lead trekkers literally had to create one. Secondly, the even more exciting one, was the sudden discovery of the walls of a ruined fort all around the hilltop. This was a big surprise for all of us. Google did not tell us about this! After about two hours of uphill climb we reached the top and here was more in store for us than the ruins of a fort. There was a Hanuman temple, which appeared to be very much in use, wild flowers, huge boulders, and a water filled area that looked something like a reservoir.  Besides, the exhilarating and liberating feeling once you reach up there, along with a sense of accomplishment is something that cannot be expressed in words.
We spent a good hour and a half exploring the remains of the fort and then relaxing. We had all the food that many of us had brought with us, drank a lot of water and juices, clicked several group photos and also entertained one another. Pooja and Narmadha did a Bollywood jig for us and Raghu read out a Telegu love poem he had composed. Sreemoyee demonstrated her yoga prowess while Mounica showed some antics with her rope prop. Hiren and Parth danced a few steps of Garba while Suresh and Sudarshan competed on the maximum number of push-ups. The best of all was Daniel, who sang a song and made us all participate in the same. 
It was time to climb down and this was relatively easy for all except me. My shoes kept slipping on the dry mud and dry leaves making me very slow in my descent. It also slowed down everyone in and around me as I needed constant assistance. Everyone was really very helpful, particularly my friend Partho. Adding to my difficulty was my knees, which kept wobbling constantly. It surprised me to think that I climbed up without much of an effort but here I was struggling while climbing down. A knowledge nugget from Sreemoyee here that while climbing up it’s your thighs at work and you need stamina while climbing down it’s your knees at work. So, if you have trouble climbing down it’s your knees that need attention.
By now all of us were famished and all we wanted was food. We proceeded towards Kailasagiri or the Cave Temple where we were told lunch was free and it so it was – Rice and sambar, all fresh and warm. The free food coupled with hunger made it even more palatable.  After lunch we visited the temple. These are remarkable man-made temples of Shiva and Parvati carved out of a cave located at the foot of a huge rock-hill. I am sure more than the temples this place will be remembered by all of for the crazy group photo sessions that we had here.
It was time to make our way back to Bangalore. Hiren and Sreemoyee held a quick feedback session about the trek. We boarded the bus and were on our way back. Parth handed over a pen drive loaded with songs to the driver. With music playing in the background, most of us slept on the way back.
As good things come to an end, so did this fantastic and well spent day. Besides the immensely successful first trek with BTC, I had the experience of meeting and interacting with some wonderful people all of whom I will always remember. Thank you BTC. Eagerly waiting for a date with you again!

Written By         : Neelaanjana Paul
Organized By     : Hiren & Sreemoyee
Date of event    : 5th July, 2015
Members Count  : 17
Theme               : Day Trek
Place                 : Kaiwara Hills                         
Pictures             : BTC FB Page
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