Have you ever done something seemingly small that you did not want to do in the first place which ended up creating a deep imprint on your life?
This second lockdown has put me on a crutch. I live near parks and lakes which I cannot stroll past because I’m bound at home. What feels like being looped in the same day, every day, has got me reminiscing about the better part of lockdown where I got out of this rut and did something significantly meaningful than now.
I went on a trek last year, a small one, not one of those expeditions embracing camping and guitar by the fire. A short but scenic drive, just about as far as 60 kilometers from Bangalore took me to a small hill called Savanadurga.
Fun fact: it is one of the largest monoliths in all of Asia
I consider myself to be a fairly adventurous person and a nature buff, but that day, I just wanted to stay curled at home and do something more comforting than climbing a rock with my bare hands and feet. No surprises here, my parents did not take no for an answer so I grudgingly got dressed and climbed into the car, determined to act grumpy throughout the ride, just for the spite of my weekend plans getting ruined.
Another surprise here, I could not. It is nearly impossible to stay mad at someone once they take you out to movie-like forest roads and greyish-blue skies and where the wind hits your face like a splash of water. I looked out of the window to see trees behind the woods racing past me in a blur. I hated admitting how perfect the weather was that day. The clouds showed indications of a delicate drizzle that would have brought the essence of the wet soil smell to the already inimitable weather.
We reached there just when the sky began showing pale stains of orange, giving us a little over two hours to ascend, revel in the beauty of the hilltop, descend before they closed down for the day. It was not a lot of time, but considering this was a plan made 10 minutes before we left home, we had to take what we got and climbed as actively as we could.
The start of any adventure is when everyone musters up all their motivation and courage to complete the activity with no fallbacks, just as I did. This adventure combined rocky and muddy trails leading to boulders and caves with forests covering the perimeter. The trail, called ‘Billigudda’ started at a small temple base through a mud path with foliage, this twenty-minute walk deceived me into thinking the rest of it would be walking leisurely. I suggest not falling for that gambit because at this end of this light ascent there is nothing but boulders that are steeply inclined at an awkward angle and where walking anywhere is a fall risk location. Although the trek wasn’t particularly extensive or extreme, it was precipitous and slippery, making it relatively uneasy. The risk of slipping off the boulders was an obvious possibility. The monolith, being at an angle, required me to hunch forward or sometimes climb on all fours, like an animal in order to maintain balance. Having a firm and forceful grip was absolutely crucial.
After about a 500 meters ascent, there is a fort wall and flat space to catch a breath and take in the scenic allure, and some pictures (maybe)
Another fun fact: It is also called ‘Savinadurga’ or the Fort of Death, because of the steep incline and defense structure. My parents stopped climbing at this point.
The climb from the fort wall to the summit got trickier and more angular, making the climb more vertical - it was harder to scale, but it had its own perks. The higher we went, we saw ponds. To be more accurate, rock depressions that had accumulated rainwater which poses as reservoirs. This path directly led to the forest area, which was a respite from the sweat and scratches from the rocks and twigs.
The transition from climbing to walking once again gave us the view of a lifetime. Imagine golden light bouncing on the surface of rocks, illuminating and making everything else glow. That is exactly what it was like. We walked toward a cave that hasn’t been ventured into for a few centuries and hence no one knows the length or the depth of the cave. We were prohibited from entering. The trail and walking past the caves gave the trek a certain buzz of a great expedition, while it is actually moderately hard. Here’s where it got fleetingly knotty. There are faint markings on the rocks that navigate people to the summit which is simply easy to overlook. That is exactly what my sister and I did. Ten minutes through the wrong route, we realized we were lost and took the shorter route back by climbing and hopping over uneven boulders and resulted in more wounds and scrapes on our limbs. But, hey, we saved some time at the least.
This was the end of the trail - at another small temple. There was nothing to do but breathe in the rewarding view. From here I could see surrounding reservoirs and villages, and also a dam all covered with a blanket of green trees showing off under the golden sunlight. At this altitude, birds seemed bigger and their chirps were heard louder. We reached just in time for the sunset, which was breathtaking, but it also meant we had to climb down soon before it got dark without getting a complete chance to take in the view, the climb, and the beauty.
Going down proved to be tougher (ironically). The boulder being nearly vertical, meant we had to slide down by clutching on the indentations to avoid falling off the hill. We had to take shorter strides by using the back of our heels as a grip.
As I mentioned before, this trek was not the longest one or the most thrilling, but it had a sense of calm and serenity to it. Savanadurga is not a popular tourist destination so the chance of running into another group is unlikely. This place is more alluring to a solo trekker or for someone who needs a recreational activity and perfect for a weekend getaway.
My suggestion: if you’re going there, choose the early hours. Don’t go as late as I did.