On a Saturday morning, when I was lazily getting up from bed, a friend of mine called me and asked if we could go for a trek. For someone who has been in Bangalore for close to eight months now and loves adventure, I hate to admit I’ve been on only one trek since getting here. Mostly, this was because we would eagerly plan for a trek including all the friends around and a couple of them would drop out citing some unavoidable excuses and since we don’t generally like leaving people out, we would decide to push it to the next weekend. But as you all know, the next weekend never transpires and so we never ended up going.
So this time since it was initiated by another guy who had three people really interested and ready to go, I jumped in. I quickly invited my roomies and extended roomies (you know, the ones who come over on weekends or pretty much hangout with you most of the time) and we gathered eleven people in no time. We booked a Tempo Traveller against my wishes, since the last time I went on the Tempo Traveller was when we went with a family of 12 on a trip to Tirupati before I knew how to drive. But being realistic, we knew it was a good option since we would all be tired after a good trek, and not depending on a driver who probably had a sore knee or a shoe bite was a start in going back home in one piece.
We chose the Makalidurga trek, and a one that starts at midnight at that since Bangalore and its surrounding areas are unbearably hot at the moment. We got there at 2:30 am and scouted the area. This seemed like a reasonably famous night trek destination from what we read online but what faced us at that time was an eerie railway station which had no sign of any human activity except a very long goods train which we had to crawl under on all fours to get to the adjacent track. Good for us, the goods train started to move 15 minutes after we had crawled under. I wouldn’t want my premature obituary to read “23 year old youth crushed under a goods train in a nondescript railway station while attempting to scale Makalidurga hill”
We walked along the track for close to two kilometers, and had a couple of trains pass us on either side. A genius on our team said that if we kept a coin on the track while a train passed over it, it would get magnetised but all we got in return was a thin sheet of metal, which was the remains of the dispensable one rupee coin that was kept on the track. In hindsight, having a guide or a friend who had scaled this hill prior to this trip accompanying us would have made sense, but what’s to stop a group of adventurous young people who wanted to have a bit of fun during the weekend. What followed was a winding but broad path which we had to take, having an incorrect Google Maps for company (which we realised later).
We started climbing the hill at one point after we felt we were walking along the broad path for way too long and it was resulting in a huge circle but as we went on and on, the small path that was there when we started the ascent vanished and we were left with negotiating huge boulders and bushes that had thorns with flashlights from phones whose batteries were rapidly draining. I could catch the mind voice of my fellow teammates, “Kill the guy who suggested a night trek to a hitherto never before been place without a guide”. As a result, a trek which was supposed to take 1.5 hours to reach the summit was taking four hours of groping around in the dark in wilderness and yet we were nowhere in sight of the peak.
In the end, we trusted our gut and strength left in our bodies and it took us five and a half hours, empty water bottles, sore feet, torn flesh as a result of thorns and sun beating down on our necks to get to the peak, which we managed to scale like mountaineers without any gadgets. We realised we had crossed three different peaks in the process, where each time one person would say “let’s call this as the peak, take pictures of the sunrise and start climbing down”. Yet we kept going, and at one point a lot of us felt we were going to be stuck in the mountains forever without help and not knowing whether to go upwards or downwards. I even told a guy to send our precise location to a friend who was in Bangalore and was aware of our activities, so that he could come with rangers and rescue us at an inevitable point.
The rush of happiness and relief that came to every one of us once getting to the top was unparalleled and it gave us a sense of accomplishment and most of us, at the end of the day thought taking the beaten path would have been a lot less fun and any trek that follows this one wouldn’t interest us at all, for some months at least. This was serious business and any one of us could have easily broken our necks, so I wouldn’t recommend this route (not like I’d be able to trace our path anyway) to anyone.