Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel

28th May 2015

Sunset at Skandagiri

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger
Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel 1/1 by Trablogger
Day 1

Hiking up a small mountain all alone and camping at the top of it, at night all by oneself might not be a big deal for many, but it was a big deal, at least for me.

It was on dull Thursday evening, I'd decided to go to Skandagiri, all alone.

I was looking for a better ending for my first book. I wanted to feel the inner conflicts, my hero would have felt while attempting to jump-start the bigger vision in his life. So I decided to do this trip.

It was a journey to tackle one of my primal fears, head on. On that particular Friday, from the seclusion of my temporary abode in Bangalore, I'd decided to take a train to Chikballapur, to the nearest train station to Skandagiri.

I was so excited and pumped up during the night before. But as the day came, I was full of anxieties, thinking of the big task at hand. Internet was full of warnings against trekking at Skandagiri. The day and night trek were banned and breaking the law could mean three months in prison!

Photo of Central Railway Station, Railway Station Road, Platinum City, Kempegowda, Majestic, Bangalore, Karnataka, India by Trablogger

My mind was pushing me to stay in the comforts of my bed and not to venture out in the dangerous world outside! The usual comfort zone dilemma just before any major travel plans, probably!

Finally I pushed myself out of the bed and decided to take that tough first step. After all what I wanted was to understand the inner conflicts of my hero.

Somehow I made it till the busy Bangalore traffic to get to my train. A part of my mind was happy that Bangalore traffic was always stagnant. There was always a chance that I might miss the train and I could cancel my plan. But the other part of the mind was anxious about missing the train.

The snail that Bangalore traffic was finally helped me to reach the train station and I hadn't missed the train yet. So the plan was still on!

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

A bit more than a couple of hours of slow train journey took me to this modest looking Chik Ballapur railway station which sort of reminded me of Malgudi days.

I was expecting a Malgudy days sort of small village from the descriptions that I'd read from the internet. But it was a busy small town contrary to my imagination. People also looked quite harmless. I was expecting thugs who would stop me and harass me for doing the trek. I was also expecting some police men who would question me for doing this banned trek!

I didn't want to take a chance. So I relied only on my google maps to find my way around to the base of the mountain. Usually I ask around to find my way, but what if someone told me that this trek was banned?! At least all the internet information said so. I was anxious but I kept walking.

It was around 4 to 5km walk from the railway station. I ate some pre-trek meals from a local shop on the way, bought some supplies for the night stay and started to walk towards my point of interest.

Photo of Chik Ballapur, Chikkaballapura, Karnataka, India by Trablogger

Sun was going to be at it's top performance soon. Under that heat, I was timidly walking and hoping that no one would see me going towards the mountain. After walking past a herd of goats, small houses and dry fields, I found the temple which was mentioned in one of the posts as the starting point of Skandagiri trek. The temple was called Papagni Mutt.

Photo of Papagni Mutt, Karnataka, India by Trablogger

I felt, it was my lucky day as no one had stopped me or questioned me till then. Then started the task of finding the starting point of the trekking trail. Google wasn't very helpful at this point. So I had to play a little bit of Sherlock Holmes, to find that first feebly visible arrow mark which was scribed on a boulder with a granite piece along with some other Kannada scripts.

Following someone else's path is the easiest thing to do when it comes to decision making rather than making your own path! So I just followed that arrow. Stepping on the the loosely bound granite rocks of various sizes on the solid red soil, I started my Skandagiri trekking.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

The low dry green bushes didn't help me from the harsh sunlight of the midday sun. But I was happy, no one had stopped me and no one was going to stop me thereafter as I couldn't find anyone anywhere.

Almost half an hour into the hike, I saw the outline of a fortress! I was happy again and felt quite proud about myself! I thought I kind of did it way too fast. I couldn't understand why people said it took them hours to reach the top; until I reached that point.

When I reached the outline of the fortress, I could see another fortress above at a higher level. It reminded me of what I had previously read about the trek. There are a series of fort walls that leads to a very old temple at the top. Actually I hadn't reached the top. In fact I hadn't even reached half of the whole way!

Photo of Skandagiri Hills, Karnataka by Trablogger

I decided to leave the regular trail and take a shortcut keeping the next fort wall in sight. I evaded the thick bushes and big boulders on the way to reach the bottom of one of the next nearest fort walls. If I had walked on the regular trail, it would have taken much lesser energy. More than that, there was no way to reach the top other than climbing the granite wall which turned out to be quite risky.

Since I was all alone and didn't want to get injured, I walked all the way back and got back to the regular trail. It is good to make your own way, but it is not very advisable to think that you're smarter than the hundreds of people who had already made the path! I understood that there are no shortcuts in life to get to the top and the same is true in hiking too.

Without much commendable events, by following the easily visible trail, I reached the top after around three hours. There it was, a dilapidated temple made with erecting and stacking granite slabs and plastered on the top with mud and red soil. There were grass growing on the top of the temple on the hard soil. The look of the temple had the authenticity of more than a hundred years!

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

There I was sitting at the top of the mountain looking at the villages and towns down below on one side and Nandhi hills on another side, conversing with the nature and to myself. Then I heard a real conversation and it was approaching towards me.

I turned around and looked. I saw two guys coming towards the top from the other side of the mountain. Within no time they saw me as well. I was anxious again. Those were the local people. But I decided to sit confidently.

With a bit of surprise on their face, they asked, " What are you doing here? Are you alone?"

"Yes, I am alone. I came here to camp at night" I answered.

"But you don't have any camping equipment"

"I'll sleep inside this temple" I said pointing to the temple.

"Isn't it safe?" I asked after a bit of pause.

"Well, yea its safe. Just be careful about the wild animals at night". They carelessly tossed the idea of wild animals into my mind.

I couldn't hide my fear at that moment, as a reflex I dropped my guard and asked "Wild animals?! What kind of animals?!"

Again, carelessly they said, "Maybe foxes. But don't you worry. Just make some fire and they won't disturb you".

"Are you guys gonna stay here for the night as well", with a bit of hope I asked.

Pointing to the village down below they said,"No, We are going back there now. Good luck with your stay"

And they left, just like that!

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

Maybe they said that just to make me nervous. Or maybe there can be foxes. Maybe they lied, I didn't remember reading anything about any animals. Maybe they are right, they are the local people!

My thoughts started to mess me up. Just like my mind, the sky also started to become cloudy! When I was about to think whether it was some sort of Bollywood movie to see the clouds all of a sudden to match your emotions, I realized that I didn't have much time to gather dry wood and leaves to make fire at night. I ran around to collect whatever was dry before the rain and I was feeling the fear and pressure of staying in a remote place all alone.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

Fortunately it didn't rain. By then I had collected the resources I needed to stay there for the night. I knew it was my thoughts messing me up. The fear wasn't real. The solitude at the mountain gave me time to rewind the whole event of that day.

It was my thoughts that created all these anxiety so far. I was anxious all the way thinking if someone would stop me or harass me. That anxiety was a result of my thoughts generated from baseless information on the internet. Nothing happened as I had feared. So I finally understood that the fear is fake but threat can be real. I had a choice to be fearful over my thoughts or to brush it off till something really happened. I could have prepared for a threat, but I shouldn't have feared because of my own thoughts.

While I was enjoying my newly found realization, the Sun came out from behind one of those clouds and showered a beautiful golden orange light on me. That was a beauty to witness. I felt that I had earned that spectacular view on that day! I sat there soaking in the beautiful light and on my better thoughts.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

Time went by and the Sun had signed off from its day job. Slowly it was getting darker. The darkness had started putting everything I was seeing into the realm of unknown. After some time, each and every movement of the plants and trees around me felt like strange animals moving around. Each time a heavy wind blew shaking the branches hard, I felt there was some wild animals ready to jump on me.

My own thoughts had started creating the fear of the unknown again. I knew that it was nothing, but there were moments I didn't want to believe that. I was about to forget the presence of wild animals those people had mentioned earlier. Maybe monks would have been able to control their thought, but I wasn't able to do that.

To give a bit of relief, the half moon had come out from behind the clouds and lit up the place. At that point I was able to look at the valley and appreciate the beautiful view it had offered. The light-bulbs were switched on all across the valley. It looked like the reflection of the star studded sky on the valley, just the difference being they were bigger and closer than the stars.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

With those views calming me down, I took out the biscuits and bananas I bought for my mountain dinner. I ate them sitting under the stars. But the surroundings were getting cold. The frequent winds made it colder. Interestingly I hadn't brought any warm clothing. All I had was a couple of T shirts, a news paper, a matchbox, water and the dinner items.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

As the cold wind was accompanied by a drizzle, I had to get inside my only shelter, the temple. As I went inside the temple, the drizzle became a rain. I thought of making some fire inside the temple to keep me warm. But when the smoke filled up the entire room making it difficult for me to stay inside, that plan was failed miserably. I put out the fire.

I'd noticed that the hour hand of the watch was very reluctant to move after it became dark. I was beginning to think that it was some sort of strange phenomenon.

I decided to try and sleep. I took a few sheets of news paper that was left after trying to make the fire. I laid it down to make my bed. The solid red soiled ground was cold. The news paper didn't make much difference, but at least my clothes wouldn't get dirty. I put on all the T shirts I had brought. Then I put my legs inside my small backpack. And I tried hard to sleep.

I don't think if anyone had ever succeeded to sleep after deliberately forcing themselves to sleep. In short, I couldn't sleep. My newspaper bed saw me turning from one side to the other all the time.

I fell asleep when exhaustion took over everything. But that didn't last more than a minute. Those strange noises made by the wind by passing through the trees kept me awake. On and off I was falling asleep and waking up suddenly.

Finally at some point I really fell asleep. Sensing some movement at the door step of the temple, I woke up. I was sure I saw something at the entrance which was in fact a couple of meters away from me. I reached out to the long stick I had kept for any emergency. I knew it wouldn't be of much of a help during emergency, but I still kept it. Just like I had the LED torch light which I had bought on the roadside for 20 rupees.

Day 2

When I looked at the time, it was already 5 in the morning. I was surprised and relieved at the same time. I had spend most of the night already! After seeing the sunrise, I could leave the mountain in one piece and alive! But before that I needed to check what I had just saw at the door step. Could it be a fox?

I went out with the torch light that could show hardly two meters and my personal weapon, the long stick. I saw something jumping out from the bush and running away after seeing me. I followed it and it was a dog. The dog was running towards a group of people who were climbing up the hill. Probably some Bangalore Techies coming for a weekend Sunrise trek!

Soon I could hear them well. One of those guys had actually spotted me as well. In a few seconds, they were all waving at me. When you are in a group, you won't really think of a dangerous mountain man that can actually attack them. So when they finally reached the top, we all greeted each other peacefully.

They had a bunch of questions and they started to fire them away.

"Hey bro when did you come? Where are others? Do you know what time is the sunrise?" It came from different sources.

I replied calmly, "I came yesterday evening, I am alone, I dont know the exact time of sunrise, it can be any time soon"

When they heard I was there from the other day itself all alone, they appeared to be surprised, which was the exact emotion I was also expecting from them.

"You must be really brave bro, to camp here all night, all alone", they started commenting and I was feeling quite proud about myself. But at the same time, I was laughing on the inside thinking about my own inner conflicts which I was having during the night. I was glad that they were unaware how afraid I was, the whole night.

I took full advantage of the opportunity and started giving them the speech on living outside of comfort zone, following one's passion, the importance of adventure in life and what not!

"Everyone feels fear. But you have to do things that you are afraid of. Then only you will grow. Then only you will conquer your fear and achieve success..", My speech went on like that.

Their amazement turned into respect and they were all wanted group selfies and pictures with me. I enjoyed my hard earned small time celebrity status.

Photo of Skandagiri Hills, Karnataka by Trablogger

Afterwards we all took the sunrise pictures.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

After that I went and packed my bag, rolled down my 'comfy bed',cleared the place and started to climb down the mountain.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

While climbing down the hill in that golden hour, I was contemplating the whole series of events. I was happy. I had achieved the purpose of my journey. I had felt the fear, I had lived and undergone the inner conflicts and I had the experiential knowledge. It would allow me to tell my story better.

Photo of Skandagiri : A Hike To The Other Side Of The Fear #BestOfTravel by Trablogger

I was happy because I was hiking down after conquering the mountain of my own fears. The golden light of the sun made those moments more memorable.

Now I could finish my story in a better way!

The End.