To beat the summer heat

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Trip to Beat the Summer Heat
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What could we do now? The end of Summer Ride Plan was looking at a downward spiral due to several odds stacked against us...
  • 2 Riders from our biker group fell ill about a week before our planned ride dates and were still recovering.
  • Considering their situation, the hot summer days were not good for such patients to ride long distances. Falling ill again, for them would be too painful.
  • Also, there have been short bursts of heavy rains along the established route for the ride. ... pre-monsoon showers i guess...

"Should we stick to the bikes or do we change the mode of transport to Cars?" was my question... 

After analyzing the situation Mr. Saint and me realised that bikes weren't a good option this time, and decided to finalize Cars..... "Of course, with heavy hearts..."
A rather painful but practical decision to go by cars, our "Summer - Beat the heat ride" was now officially redesignated as "A trip to beat the summer heat".
Base camp - Nammane Homestay, Near Kalasa, Karnataka.
Plan – 6 Kms trekk (to and fro) to conquer the old fort that sits on top of Ballalarayana Durga hill...."where today, lives a man comfortable in his solitude.... disconnected from our world".
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Other than the change in mode of travel, professional life did not hesitate to throw spanners at our plan, as some of my pals were forced to a late start.
"Jinxed?" i thought... but we didn't give up. We had decided to go out of Bengaluru for the week end.... and that was full and final. 
2 of us started on the Friday morning from Bangalore and 2 from Mysore, in 2 separate cars. It was quite nostalgic to meet up at Hotel Ashoka, Hassan City, just that it was burning hot this time (Unlike the previous rendezvous when we had rains to fight ...   /
Nostalgic not just because of the location, also because of the same wait that we had to go through till the Mysore fellas arrived.
Leaving my car safely at Mr. Bolt's relative's place we four, including Mr. Speed Demon, The Farmer and Mr. P Peddler got into the brand new Honda Amaze.
Mr. P Peddler owned it and was pretty generous to move out of the driver's seat and let Mr. Speed Demon drive. We reached the homestay by 1.30 PM, after a 7.5 hrs journey from Bangalore.
Neatly maintained, the hosts we very warm and extended great hospitality and comfort.
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Being the early birds, we chose to stay at the Swiss tent, overlooking uncultivated paddy fields and a small stream. That left the latecomers to stay in a room inside the ancestral home which was now the beautiful homestay.

The beer on the curvy roads that we had, with the steering helmed by Mr. Speed Demon, had kicked awake a 100 mice in my stomach. Outstanding local cuisine of Malnad, cooked using local spices made the lunch a long one for all of us hungry beasts.

All that was left to do, was to sit under the shade of the tent, basking in cool breeze on a warm summer afternoon,... and just relax ....waiting for rest of the chaps to arrive in the evening.

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About the late starters, Mr. Bolt from Mysore left by bus to Channarayapatna, with half his heart, as his new Kawasaki Z800 stood in the garage (probably, sadly looking at him leave for the trip alone ;-) ). He tagged on with the other 3 boys from Bangalore at Channarayapatna bypass by 4PM. Onwards they continued their journey to reach the homestay by 7.30 PM, after snacking on some hot Neer Dose at a small town called Kottigehara.
We, at the homestay, visited the Temple of Lord Kalaseshwara, at Kalasa, early that evening and later explored the small stream and its surroundings . As the sun went down, the evening sky was cloudy. A gentle drizzle far away on the misty green mountains cooled the evening, creating a very pleasant atmosphere to sit under darkening sky. By 7.00 PM we started our rounds of liquid refreshments eagerly waiting for the latecomers.
Finally the group united at around 8.00 PM, to wreck stomach splitting havoc that evening, all the way into the night, before a sumptuous dinner and sound sleep by around midnight.
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"Well... a sound sleep for some of us atleast..... i guess".
The next morning i woke up by around 7 am, had a good bath in lukewarm water and went out for a walk. The morning was cloudy but cool and fresh and the plan was to leave by around 9.00 AM for the Trek. I decided to wake the chaps in the room at the ancestral home. Slowly all crawled out of the bed and began to freshen up.
When i returned, Mr. Farmer was sitting outside our Swiss tent, waiting for me with a humble expression on his face. He explained to me about how my snoring symphony had kept sleep just out of his reach. I, in return, explained how the others snored when i woke up somewhere around 3 am.
There were distinctly 2 different snoring patterns. Mr. Speed Demon was like a truck climbing a winding road and Mr. P Peddler's was more like an intermittent autorickshaw with a broken silencer. However, Mr. Farmer insisted, that mine was the loudest and most annoying. I decided to ignore it for then.
Post breakfast, around 10 AM, we drove up to a junction where we met our Trekking Guide. With him in the car, we further proceeded to climb, towards Ballalarayana Durga. The fort on top of the hill was built around the 12th Century by the Hoysala King Veera Ballala. Chains of stone walls can be seen like rustic iron necklaces hanging on to the hill.
I was surprised that we drove through thick clouds and intermittent rains in the month of May. 
"Must be have been a strong pre-monsoon shower this time".. i thought.
Mr Bolt drove our car scaring the hell out of street dogs, and sometimes the breakfast out of us. Ever enthusiastic Mr. Farmer was half outside the Honda, making videos of the tailing VW, which chased us quickly through the twists and turns. 
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Just a few kilometers before the planned destination, our car had a flat wheel, peeling off valuable time from our scheduled trek. A quick change of tyres and we were back on rallying mode. The last couple of Kilometers were magical, as the road swung into thick forest canopy all around and cool white mist.
As instructed by the Guide, we parked the cars at the edge of the single lane road and started trekking. 
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Few minutes into the trek and already there was a discussion on reconsidering it.    
Nature's little blood suckers had struck fear deep into the hearts of some of us. 
"... Leeches .. "
"Keep walking and do not stop. If a leech latches on to your footwear, don't panic, just pluck it and continue. Lookout where you stop and ensure there are not leeches around," and so on was all that i kept repeating. Sanity was lost in turns, when the first leech latched on to each of them.
Nevertheless, we continued in a line. The trail became steep and twisty. While panicked voices were audible from both front and behind me, i tried to get them to focus on the nature around them and the kind of pristine forests we were walking through.
It did work i guess. Mr. Bolt, The Farmer and Mr. P Peddler got over the fear of leeches and walked briskly ahead of me. I stopped for a while waiting for the rest of the guys behind me. 
The trail was narrow at some places with a steep fall on the left, thick forest vegetation all around and sound of a stream flowing somewhere below.
The four tail gunners arrived, took a break and decided to head back to the homestay. Mr. Ice (one of the recovering patients) was in absolute panic. Heeding to his condition and his partner in the same boat, Mr. Spice, their decision to turn back seemed like a good one. Only later did i realise that they had actually cleared the toughest part of the trek and decided to turn back.
I continued forwards, trying to catchup with the 3 front runners. The beautiful song of a Malabar Whistling Thrush was now undisturbed in the thicket. It filled my mind with an inexplicable feeling of excitement. My mind was now thinking if i would get a chance to meet that man, who has been living on top of the hill, in the fort, for the past few years. I was told he has isolated himself there. He takes care of the cattle which climb up the hills from nearby tiny settlements. He takes what ever people give him in the form of food or money and lives there.
I caught up with the front runners and we continued climbing. We were now on the higher contours of the green valley, with very less or no trees, but more bushes and greens on the ground. The leeches were not to be seen and we were surrounded by breezy mist. The beauty of nature and the freshness of the air was sublime. 
Suddenly, one of our mobile phones triggered off. We were told by the guys who had gone back, that our car's headlamps were ON and we had to rush back to save the battery. After a brief discussion, we decided that these guys were trying to prank us so that we abandon the trek. Mr. Bolt, who drove the car, was very confident that lamps weren't left ON. Hence we decided to continue with unabated spirits.
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We finally entered the fort and walked on the fort wall taking a look at the rich green valleys, partially unveiled by the gliding whitish grey clouds.
The fort had an air of still life. Nothing here had moved for centuries. 
We walked around the place to find a small part of the fort having a ragged tarpaulin sheet as the roof supported by thin wooden sticks.
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This must be the place where the man lived. A quick peek inside revealed that he was not there now. Mr. Bolt took some images of his abode, which had a wooden structure like a cot and lots of plastic bottles. May be the man collected what the visitors left and put them there
A steep walk on the southern side of the fort led to a stream which was his primary source of water. We saw several unprotected edges of the fort having wooden barricades. The guide told us that these hand made barricades were installed by that man, to prevent people and the grazing cattle from slipping over. My mind was profoundly intrigued by this strange character who lived there, but could not make an image of him.
"How could he survive the Monsoons of the western ghats in this place with relentless rains for over 4 months and unforgiving cold weather for 8 to 9 months a year". 
"May be there, deep into the monsoon, when rain is the only visual, the only sound, the only smell, the only taste and the only touch, ... he finds his solace"
A cobra had shed its skin on the wall of the fort, and that made me realize that we were on a peak, deep inside the Western Ghats. The wilderness had reclaimed the fort and enveloped it into its bosom. 
We spent some more time on the fort and then started our descend.
Mr. Farmer got a bunch of leaves from a bush near by, which were supposedly leech repellent.
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The Guide suggested  
"... if a leech latches on, just squeeze the juice from these leaves on to it."
The Farmer squeezed the juice and applied on his legs well in advance.
The climb down was more straining on the legs, but it was quicker. We met other trekking groups on their way up and by the time we reached square one, we were completely dehydrated.
To add to the dehydration, our good old friends were waiting for us, next to the car which had bled its battery and was in a state of coma. ....not responding to the remote unlocking signal. You can only guess what Mr Bolt must be thinking.
Once inside the manually unlocked car, the headlamps were turned OFF and we waited for the battery to recover. It needed just enough power to run the fuel pump. That way we could push start the car. As a brand new car it had a brand new battery.... lucky for us. About ten minutes later, our first attempt to push start the car worked, without breaking the teeth of the guys who were pushing it. With a deep sigh of relief, we moved and unwound the cars on the beautiful roads back towards the home stay.
After paying a few extra bucks to the guide for the wonderful trek, we abandoned him at the junction of two roads and headed towards the nearest bar in a small town called Hirebyle.
The victory over Ballalarayana Durga was celebrated in the car with cold beer. We reached the home stay in less than 20 minutes. All the adrenaline that was in the blood was now replaced with chilled beer.
Another Sumptuous lunch, quick bath and were were in deep slumber till late evening. 

By 6PM, all of us walked down to the stream and hung around there with refreshed youthful exuberance, eager for the night party to kick off. ....And, what a party it was on the second night.

History repeated itself with a great dinner followed by deep slumber, ..............
and a deeply upset Mr. Farmer at 6.30 AM next day.
" Yen Guru, you snore like that... I had called Bolt and was about to move into their room to sleep... I, in fact got so frustrated, that whatever was reachable i picked and threw it at you,.... but no difference at all man..".
We all had a good laugh and began lazily packing up, to start our journey back to Namma Bengaluru.
After a slow and heavy breakfast, we moved out of the home stay by 10.00 AM. The drive started slow, but gained momentum as Mr. P Peddler started racing his car, pushing it to the limits in an attempt to overtake the VW which i was driving. The sturdy VW clung to the winding and banking roads like a spider. The beauty of nature around and the smoothness of the car made me enjoy the glide and was very happy to let Mr. P Peddler take the lead.
We stopped for a coffee break and change of drivers. The Farmer and Mr. Bolt purchased and sucked on to some sour tamarind peppermints to retain their breakfast in their bowels... thanks to some supreme driving by Mr. P Peddler.
As we left, the VW raced ahead. 
Just before Hassan City,  someone on the road side signaled using his hands at us, depicting probably a book and a pen. A signal that there are cops ahead with LASER baits to fish speeding vehicles...
"Something new that these cops have started.... elbowing themselves into the path of unsuspecting innocent trail blazers...;-) "
Mr. Saint drastically slowed the VW down. We were safe and passed the cops when Speed Demon gave a brilliant idea to call the tailing Honda (about a KM behind) 
".. inform them to drive at full speed and catch up with us as the roads are too good to go flat out.." 
We all chuckled and after a couple of minutes i called them ... 
"Where are you guys?" 
"Paying Fine... " said The Farmer ...followed by some brilliantly composed expletives in Kannada for Mr. P Peddler's driving thrills...
"I told this *@&#*# to slow down... but he didnt... driving like a &#*K this fellow....... @#$%$@$!#%c ...
The cop stopped our car and invited us to the shoulder as if he was inviting us for a wedding buffet .....*&@&$ ..
and now we are paying the fine"..
By the time we had completely heard what he had to say, we were in splits.
The journey continued till we reached Hassan city, where i got my car back and all the three cars headed for their respective home towns, after a good lunch at Fishland Dhaba, just outside Hassan.
The failed Bike Ride plan ended up becoming a fantastic Drive through the Western Ghats which will stay as a cherished memory for ever. 
But before the journey really ended... : -).....
After reaching home, we continued to chat or our whatsapp group, when Mr. Farmer revealed a deeply hidden secret to us,... especially me
"What i threw at you in the night was a steel tumbler... sorry boss"...
For which i cursed him a friendly curse with a smiley...
another message cracked on my screen .....
Mr. Speed Demon says " You Drunk P&@#Y... that thing hit me ...".