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Where the mountains touch the sky..

On the last night of September, Friday, 12 BTC candidates gathered at Shantala Silks to travel to Chickmagalur for summiting Mullayanagiri and Baba Budangiri. Mullayanagiri (1930m) and Baba Budangiri (1865m) are two formidable peaks located in the Baba Budan Giri Range of Western Ghats. The former is the tallest peak between The Great Himalayas in the North and Nilgiris Hills in South. I enlisted for this trek primarily because I had missed an earlier opportunity back in late Jan and the fact that this would be my last major bastion to conquer in Karnataka.  
We started from the city at 22:30 and took the Bangalore-Mangalore Highway (NH-75). After a memorable round of introducing ourselves, we played Antakshari. The boys group stood a chance against the girls mainly due to Naveen, who chipped in with timely one liner’s. Vikram took us further ahead with his broad collection of songs. 

Sonali, was a more people person and knew how to thaw the social tensions among the newcomers. If our weekend was to be compared to a guitar, and we like the strings on it, then she knew not only how to tune it but also the right notes to play in accordance to the situation. No wonder her outgoing and charismatic nature made her one the most popular organizer’s in BTC.

As the night deepened, most of us fell into deep slumber. Between Sonali and Rajeev’s late night discussion and deep snoring around, I stayed close to the shores of the sleep. We reached Chickmagalur at about 05:30 next day and freshened up at the Bus Station Depot itself. Just opposite laid a good restaurant, where we had our sumptuous breakfast and packed our lunches. Our guide, Sudarmha joined us soon afterwards and we headed to Mullayanagiri Base, which was a little over an hour’s ride away from here. The city in the morning was gearing up for Saturday’s business with the streets wearing a lot more care free and nonchalant in their looks.

On the way to the top, the morning fog greeted us in a non-threatening fashion. After parking our TT at a designated place among others, we soon got underway with our trek. However by this time, visibility was a lot lower and had to rethink on our protective gear. The early morning chill seemed to give no indication of let up as we climbed up the hill. Our guide shared some interesting anecdotes about the time he came across tiger footprints during such times. With Sudarma and Hiren leading, the rest of us followed closely.

Hiren, our other Organizer, bore chiseled features of an adventure junkie. A man whose face outlined an overwhelming amount of experience in far reaches of mountains, ensured that trek was on course and was prepared should things take a turn for the worse. This stretch of trail till the beginning of staircase steps of Mullayanagiri was characterized by gentle slopes of rocky terrain and loose mud. From the higher ground, one could see the vast swathes of forests interspersed with lakes out below. Quite soon our trail merged with a motorable path. We traversed along this route for a while, stopping only to take pics.

Before long we found ourselves facing the steep steps to the top. The chill breeze gently picking up with sun safely hidden behind the thick wall of clouds only made our climb a lot easier. A quaint temple dedicated to Lord Shiva along with Nandi Statues resided here. It was an exhilarating feeling to read the inscription saying that we were now at over 6300ft. I charmed in the delight that at this elevation we were now higher than any point in United Kingdom and Ireland. 

We left the temple at 10:00 and trudged along the trail towards Baba Budangiri running behind the temple. The path was damp and some parts required extra caution over the rocks. The view of the distant trails that would be taken as we walked was blissful. Witnessing deep prints of Sambhar deer and rare NeelaKurinji flowers, which bloom once every 12 years gave us a good mesmerizing feeling. The weather was our side and made our journey a lot more splendid. Among my other treks out here in the Western Ghats, little did I ever feel as welcomed as this one. I hung back a longer time to enjoy few moments of solitude in this solitary terrain.

Surrounded by thick canopy of dense forests, gentle rolling hills and with wind in our sails we navigated the ridge for about two hours before hitting the main road. The forest department had denied permit for trekking all the way to Baba Budangiri. We checked into our TT and decided to have our lunch at a nearby waterfalls. The sound and the pleasure of viewing a stream cascading down the staircase slopes was enough to quell any weariness. Prasanna, who was intent to ensure that we enjoyed the local food, brought hot Bhajji’s to everyone’s delight. This tall chap from Kadapa seemed how to make a day special in his own way. 

The sun was upon us and shone brilliantly for a long time. We took the TT along the winding roads and got down at a hairpin bend to trek towards Baba Budangiri and further to BSNL tower point. We had some ardent photographers onboard with us. Sneha, who practices medicine displayed exceptional enthusiasm in capturing best moments of everyone and shared some of her knowledge related to cardiovascular conditions. While Aruna seemed lost in her own world for a good part of time, appeared more focused on subtleties of the nature.

We reached Baba Budangiri after about an hour and on our way spotted some rare fauna like white eagle and giant butterflies. From Baba Budangiri to twin towers, it was short way with large meandering trails visible from a great distance. It was quite obvious that no one was manning the station outpost’s for a long time and nature at work of reclaiming the place in full measure. The dilapidated locked station gave an illusion that whatever resided in its interior must also be in great ruins. The entire place appeared like a communication structure of an advanced civilization. The towers lay close and wore distinct traces of weathering conditions. The paint had peeled off and rust attacked at most places. I stood under the tallest one which must have been over 100ft and pondered at the enormity of their sufferings. Gazing at the labyrinth of tonnes of steel above me, I think they only lasted this far because they had each other to take care of, each one shielding the other from the destructive forces of winds and rains operating at this altitude.

We started our descent after spending a good hour towards Manikyadhara falls nearby. The place was quite crowded and monkeys too did not hesitate to make their presence felt. Prasanna and Rajeev helped themselves under the stunning waterfalls. A well-deserved tea break later on helped to reduce any strains of the day. Meghal, a seasoned veteran, appeared most relaxed and chilled out at all times of the trek. One of the reasons I can fathom is probably due to philosophical quandary which she engages in during her free time.

Evening was already upon us and as we walked across the trails we came across some gorgeous lochs. Suresh, Vikram, Rajeev, Harshith, Prasanna and Naveen went for a swim while the rest stayed at the edge of the banks and enjoyed the tranquility offered by the waters. These guys were kind of like brave hearts, from lunging into the pools to swimming care free in deep, frigid waters; one couldn’t help but feel as if a chance was being lost. 

We got reach back to TT after an hour. By 19:00, dense fog enveloped us and the visibility was reduced to bare minimum. The interplay of the lights from street lamps and cars with the fog in the young cold night was ethereal. The driver must have been on the edge of his seat while we navigated down. We elected to have our dinner at Hassan stopping only to drop off our guide and couple of blokes whose car broke down.

The restaurant was moderately occupied and we had wide variety of cuisines. From mushroom masala, Hyderabadi Veg, Paneer Butter Masala to Roti and Shajahan Biryani, Kashmiri pulav everyone seemed contented with the hot nourishment after such an arduous day’s job. These rare moments reminisced my earlier times with BTC right about this time last year. Before we rolled back into the van, we had the customary feedback session. By this time, the roads had grown silent, with only infrequent buses and hurried cars.

Most of the folks enjoyed this day to the fullest extent and only wished for another day like this. Like everybody, I too felt that we accomplished a lot in one day and did not feel pressed for time at any instant. On occasions such as these, I was left wanting for more, feeling restless among the rested and troubled among the untroubled. Perhaps covering an extra mile or extra peak would have been sufficient to tire my soul. Or maybe not.

We breezed through the rest of the way, stopping somewhere for what appeared to be an hour’s rest before heading straight on to Bangalore. At 03:00, we reached Majestic when folks turned to take their own roads. Naveen, Vikram , Aruna went their own ways. Hiren, Sneha, Meghal took cab to Yeshwantpur while Sonali, Rajeev, Prasanna and myself to Electronic City.

An unforgettable ride on a friend’s bike to one of the busiest junctions of the city was a welcoming thrill for me. Though it was quite short, the cool crisp morning air helped to rejig the events over last couple of days.

As I look back, I stare at the statistical improbability of us meeting ever again. We had come together from different walks of our life solely by virtue of our passion and grown closer together. Between now and till the end of time, the strength and depth of our bonds forged in cold, harsh and unforgiving terrains of the mighty Western Ghats will be tested and pushed to the limits. I can only take comfort in thoughts that we may still be truly alive in dreams and memories of each other.

Written By             : Srinivas
Organized By        : Sonali and Hiren
Date of event        : 1st Oct 2016
Members Count  : 12
Place                        : Chikkamagaluru
Pictures                 : BTC FB Page

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