Friday, August 18, 2023

Savanadurga (Karnataka) - Steep face


Savanadurga is considered as the largest monolithic hill in Asia. In fact, Savanadurga is two giant hills - one is black in color and hence called as Karigudda (black hill); the other one is white and known as Biligudda (white hill). As per one article, the earliest record of this name is from 1340 AD by Hoysala Ballala II; then it was called Savandi. Like many other places in this area, Savanadurga too was under Vijayanagara Empire during their heydays. After the fall of Vijayanagara; this place came under reign of Mysore kings; then came Hyderali followed by Tipu Sultan. In 1791, after Third Anglo-Mysore war, Lord Cornwallis brought this place under Company rule. 

Situated at a height of 1226m above sea level, this place mostly have very thin shrub and bushy forest. There are no steps cut in to the steep face of rocks to reach the top of the hill, and hence trekking is a bit difficult. 


Savanadurga hills mainly consists of peninsular gneiss, granites - which are common in these areas, basic dykes, laterites etc. Well, these are some hi-fi jargons from geology; but what it actually means? Let's see.. 

Consider gneiss first. An existing igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic rock may get subjected to high temperature and pressure. There are multiple reasons for this - these rocks might get buried deep under earth surface or as a result of tectonic collisions etc. High temperature and pressure will force the rocks to undergo significant chemical and physical changes. During this process, rock may remain in solid state; however, eventually it will re-crystalize to a new structure. Dyke is a sheet of rock that is formed after the fracture of an existing rock body. Laterites are the soil/rocks that are very rich in iron. Due to iron content, these rocks will be red in color.

Savanadurga is probably the most difficult trek in the immediate vicinity of Bangalore. Like we did with Makali Durga trek couple of weeks back; here too I booked the ticket with Karnataka tourism for three people. Me, Divya and Jithu. It was after a long time, me and Jithu were going together for trekking. Our last trip together was a long time ago - Kailasagiri Cave exploration in Chinthamni (Karnataka). 

Hitting the road

On Saturday morning, we went to Old airport road and picked up Jithu. Its very rare to see Jithu in Bangalore during weekends. He mostly leave Bangalore by Friday night and come back on Monday morning. This time due to some reason, which I am not able to recall while writing this article, he stayed in Bangalore for the weekend. When I called him, he was very eager to join. 

After a while we reached Kengeri; went further ahead and took a right turn after Christ University's Kengeri campus and left the highway. Road suddenly became very quiet. We took some wrong turns and ended up in narrow lanes. Couple of people were awake in that early morning and helped us to get back at the right road. By sunrise, we reached at the vicinity of Manchanebele Dam. 

Manchanebele Dam

Manchanebele dam is built across Arkavaty river and located in a village of the same name in Magadi Taluk of Ramanagara District. One can plan a short trip to this dam and easily spend half a day here. 

Arkavaty river is a tributary of river Kaveri and originates from Nandi hills. This river is a casualty of Bangalore's rapid urbanization. Currently in Bangalore, Arkavaty looks more like a drainage channel. In downstream there are multiple dams built across Arkavati - TG Halli, Manchanbelle etc. Initially TG Halli provided drinking water to Bangalore. Later, due to shrinking water level and quality concerns, BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board) replaced TG Halli with Kaveri stage I. Afterwards stage II and III were also commissioned. 

Currently, Manchanbele dam, looks healthy and sound. Dam reservoir was visible from the road itself. By this time,  both Divya and Jithu woke up from their sleep. We slowed down for sometime to enjoy the sunrise and went ahead to Savanadurga. At the entrance, there are temples of Sri Savandi Veerabhadraswamy and Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. The area is crowded with people visiting the temples. After parking the car behind the temple (here we have ample parking space), we walked towards the starting point of the trek. 


View was magnificent; one big black hill and a white one close by. Slope is very steep and there were no steps or ropes. There was a guard, standing at the starting point, who note down the names of people entering the area. We told him that we already paid for the trek in the website. To our shock, he never heard about the fees!!! I just looked around, every one is just coming and climbing the hills!!! Looks like the rules are not implemented everywhere. In some places they collect the fees and in other places they don’t. Well, next time onward will never book it online; will come to the spot very early and see whether it is really required. 

We started climbing. Initially it was not difficult; but as we moved upward, it became very difficult to hold on to nearly smooth rocky surface. At some points, we took considerable time to make progress. The surface was very steep; on top of that there was nothing to hold on to. If we fell accidently, we will definitely reach all the way down and sustain grave injuries.

Like Kudajadri, Jithu was in much better shape and he was slightly ahead of us. After a while Divya gave up and told us that she will wait there till we come back. That option was swiftly rejected; with strong persuasion and coercion she started moving again and reached first mile stone. From here onwards, slope is much better. Still it’s a long way to reach the top. 

Close to us there were a group of three people; out of that one was over weight and struggling to climb. Other two were lean and fast. They encouraged the third guy a lot to move in their pace. Unfortunately, that was not something he could do. Eventually they split up, two people moved ahead and third told  them that he will meet them on the top later. Third guy joined with us. In these trips one might end up having a lot of temporary friends who share the same goal and suffer the same problem. The new guy joined our group started calling the name of his friend very loudly in every 10 minutes. 

By this time, a large group of KAPF (Karnataka Armed Police Force) battalion from Bangalore also joined us. Continuous training enabled them to move faster in these steep inclines compared to arm chair philosophers like me. Up, up, up…. Soon they overtook us and marched towards the top.

Shortly we reached a comparatively flat segment of trek; and started moving faster. After a while destination became visible. It was not very far but the way ahead was no longer flat either. The new joiner kept on calling his friend in every ten minutes. There was no reply from other end; but lot of people start calling that name thinking…. I don’t know what they were thinking. Finally we reached the top and there was a large crowd standing there. Many of them were taking selfies rather than enjoying the magnificent view ahead. I walked towards the edge and sat there. Cool and gentle breeze from opposite side started wiping sweat drops from my face. Police personals and others were engaged in taking single, group and selfies. Some wanted Nandi and other the sky as their background.

We spend some thirty minutes on the top. Mercury started rising and we started our return journey. Divya was overenthusiastic with her achievement of overcoming the fears and physical strain to reach the top. However, in that ecstasy she ran over a small boulder and fell down. Tears started coming from her eyes as monsoon rains. I helped her to sit one a nearby rock and gave some water to drink. Unfortunately medical kit was way down in the car. Another girl appeared from somewhere and give her volini tube. Jithu broke a branch of small tree nearby and made a rough walking stick.

After idling there for sometime; we restarted our return journey. We moved fast and quickly reached the area where the surface is close to vertical. Other than air there was nothing to hold on to!!! By sitting, and walking inch by inch we covered that distance and crossed the steepest area. Then I saw a father and his son coming up. Kid was just 1-2 years old and laying on father's shoulder. He started climbing the the rocks; I just looked at him for sometime; does it really worth it? He is not just responsible for himself but the kid too, who can't even walk. Even a small slip will take them all the way down!!! 

We continued our downward journey; tired but happy that we completed the trek and back on time. After having late breakfast from a hotel opposite to the temple, we started our return journey. 



1, Savanadurga is located around 50km from Bangalore's MG Road Metro station.
2, Big Banyan Tree is also located close by. 
3, As per some articles "Megalithic burial urns have been found in the area".

Divya me and Jithu

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Makali Durga (Karnataka) - For splendid views

Makali Durga from a distance

Laziness is a disease; which pierce her tentacles deep in to victim's life. Once we fell in to her moh-maya, its difficult to come out. Over past couple of months; most of my weekends were gone just like that - sleeping, eating snacks, binge watching movies, series and sleeping!!! again!!! No trips were planned or executed.
As some wise man told, a wanderer's mind never stay at ease at the same place for long. Slowly I started reading blogs and exploring maps to find out the next place to go. One website came across during that search was Karnataka EcoTourism -> This has information about places to go, ideal time to visit and fees!! Many of these places has an entry fee. Not sure why government is collecting the money. Other than some arrow marks painted in the hills, there are hardly any services from their end. This is a recent phenomenon; previously hiking these hills were free. I booked two slots for Makali Durga (for me and Divya). 
On the designated day, we woke up early in the morning; fired up the Thunderbird and left home. There was hardly much traffic during the wee hours. After a while, we crossed Doddaballapura and continued on to Makali Durga. For this trek, many consider 'Makali Durga Railway station' as starting point; we opted the foothill as starting point. After parking the bike, we crossed the railway track and reached the entrance. Couple of people were standing there to collect/verify the ticket.  


There were hardly much people along the route. Looks like this trail is not that popular among people. We kept on walking. After a while the trail split in to two - one goes straight and other one to the right. Straight one takes a longer path and reach very close to Gundamagere Lake; from there path take slight deviation and goes to the top of the hill from other end. We took the one which goes to the right and followed the arrow marks. 
Makali Durga trek is not difficult; in many places its more of walking than trekking. Trekking route is narrow and devoid of steps. After reaching some height; we looked towards the route we covered so far. Views of the hills in the opposite side were amazing. Further upward, from another view point, one can see the Gundamagere lake at the bottom. This lake don't have any shape and water was muddy. After spending sometime here - looking at the lake and near by areas - we continue our journey to the top. 
We need to reach the top quickly before sun moves further to the west. All these small hills are good for trekking either in the early morning or evening only. Day time is definitely not a good idea!!!
We continued our walk after talking couple more breaks here and there. Vegetation was mostly consist of small trees and shrubs; there were hadly any animals or evern birds. Finally we reached the top. There were couple of groups sitting there; most of them were concentrated in and around a structure that is believed to be a granary during the era of kings. Other were sitting at some other corner playing music from portable speakers. 

Gundamagere lake - A view from the hill
We walked from one end to the other end; and finally came back and sat on a fort wall area from where one can get the uninterrupted view of lake and lands beyond that. Time passed quickly; mercury started rising sharply and we started our return journey. At the bottom while crossing the railway track, I looked at the granite hilltop one last time. 


During the heydays of Vijayanagar Empire this hillock was part of their vast empire. Later it came under the rule of Nayaks etc. Father of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Shahaji Bhosle, also controlled the fort when Dodaballapur are was under him in the 1600s.

1, From MG Road Metro station Makali Durga is some 57-60km to reacht he stating point. 
2, There are two stories for the name as per websites. According to one legend, "Makalidurga is named after a woody climber called “Makali Beru” or Makali Root, the juice of which is used to prepare a health drink. Some medicines also include juice because it purifies the blood". According to second legend, "… Makaliraya used the fort as his granary during the late 1800’s and that is how Makalidurga got its name".

Divya looking towards the distant lands