Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yedakumari Railway Trek. Sakleshpura railway trek.

Gundiya to Sakleshpura railway trek

How it all began

This has been one of the best treks that I have ever done, which had an element of surprise, spooky villagers, risky bridges, really eerie tunnels full of Bats :O, forest fire and not to forget the best of jungles, waterfall and streams. Seen em all in a matter of 1 ½ days, wow what an experience.

It all started when me, Biju, Vishu and Sanju went on a four days ride cutting across Karanataka. On the way back, we did the Ghat sections from Mangalore to Sakleshpur and I knew I am gonna to come back to this place, to trek and see the nature at its best.

So when I saw the idea of a trekking group to be formed at my company, I jumped at this opportunity. One of the first posts was the dream trek that I wanted to do, one of the MUST Do’s that I had in mind. So the core team got together to work on this really difficult trek.

The planning was immaculate, regular meetings, status updates, and delegation of responsibilities WOW, never done such professional work even for projects. We actually had used collabsuite and conferencing facilities so people from all the different places could join for the trek planning. It was really crazy and credit should go to Pradeep for taking the initiative in putting all the people together.

On the last ride to Coorg with the 60KPH gang, I happened to mention about going for this trek. Freya and Vikas said were immediately interested with Vikas dropping out on hearing the group size of 35.

Night before the trek
March 11th, 2005. 10:00PM

Friday night, everybody assembled at OTP to begin with. Camping gear, backpacks, sleeping mats, food everything organized by the core team, got everything together and loaded the bus at 10:30PM. By 11:30PM we had finished our loading and getting people to settle in the bus and started for Gundiya. Thirty Trek enthu people all raring to go, a few of them experienced and a lot of first timers.

I couldn’t sleep all night cos was very un-comfortable in the bus. Buses ain’t fun any longer once you are addicted to riding.

Morning 6:30 we reached Gundiya, the spot where were going to start our trek. Gundiya is some 30 Kms from Sakleshpura towards Mangalore. The entire team loaded their respective tents and sleeping bags onto their backpacks.

The Spooky Surprise (Start of the railway trek)
March 12th, 2005 7:30 AM

There was a surprise waiting for us at the very first corner that set the trend for the entire trek. There was some village function, most probably animal sacrifice happening in one of the farms, with all villagers lined up and one of the guys all dressed up in traditional tribal costume with a HUGE sword. We kept a safe distance because the entire scene appeared very gory and did not want to really upset or disturb the locals.

I did my best to get a good photo of the guy with the sword, but really did not fancy being chased around by a guy carrying a huge sword with me carrying heavy trekking gear. So had to be content viewing the spectacle from the distance.

After a trek of around 500 mtrs we hit the dirt track, and dirty it was, as bad as a beach. The dirt was making the trek very difficult and we hardly managed any speed. My new pair of Reeboks gone for a toss in a matter of few meters, man !! Riding definitely is better.

Just when I thought it wouldn’t get any bad, the incline started getting worse and we were panting. Still another 5 KMs to go on this track and we had hardly covered 1 KM. I was cursing myself; I am better off with bikes I told myself.

The dirt tracks , getting worse.
Supposed to be one of the trek leaders and I was myself lacking in motivation, but then I put up a brave face. Seeing rest of the gang speeding the way up, I got some motivation and pushed myself up. We climbed steadily with a couple of breaks for breakfast and all to hit the railway track. By then the group had split into two groups, one that was heading ahead and our group that was at the back. We kept communication between the two groups using my walkie-talkie and they were really a great help.

At around 11:30AM we hit the track, so we had taken roughly 4 hours to cross this dirt track with 30 min for breakfast.

Again another curious site was awaiting us on the track, we saw trucks running on the railway track!! Yes trucks with modified wheels that ran on railway tracks. They were being used for moving the construction items along the railway track.

A walk of some 100 mtrs leads us to the first tunnel, and I had heard sordid stories about tunnels being infested with bats. I thought discretion is the better part of valor so started acting like a sweep insisting that the group cross the tunnel and that I will be the last one J. So I was the last one after Freya to enter the tunnel. The strategy seemed to work and by the time I entered the tunnel the bats were pretty much used to the new guest and were actually very receptive LOL.

This was the first tunnel that we came across, tunnel number 27 and length was less than 150 Mtrs. Around ten more to go, the longest being more than 500 mtrs and pitch dark

Once we crossed the tunnel we hit the first bridge and it was really an awe-inspiring sight. With the gorges at the bottom, a gap of a foot and half between the pliers, it definitely was risky to cross.

Each one of us walked gingerly across the first bridge, while people at both sides of the bridge clicked snaps of each one of us crossing the bridge. But this was only the first one and there were about 20 more bridges to cross :).

The trek along the railway tracks
12th March, 2005 11:30 AM

So finally the railway trek had well and truly begun. But the tracks were nowhere as desolate as we had been told to believe, it was full of workers from all over India working on relaying tracks. The people around were all waiving at us and insisting that we take a picture or two of them and we happily obliged. There were kids running around us posing for snaps and demanding biscuits.

The best part for me was to see workers standing on cliffs, with their machines breaking rocks and at the same time waving to us.

Reminded me of a scene from Kaala Phattar.

Workers posing for photos.

The terrain was like this for a few kilometers till we entered some of the more lush green part, with trees and waterfalls all around us. After a couple of hours of trek our legs were really tiring and needed to break for lunch. This is when my two-way radio came in for the rescue, I was able to touch base with the gang at the front and ask them choose a good place for lunch. And they could not have chosen a better place for lunch than the a soothing waterfalls. By the time we reached the waterfalls, we could see half of the gang enjoying a bath in the cool waters.

Had lunch around 2:00 PM. What a place to have Lunch!!! After getting fully recharged we head along the tracks for the final journey to Yedakumeri station. On the way I could see Freya looking back at one of the hills consistently and later we could see smoke coming out of the hills. The hills were on fire and the forest fire was spreading!! We were really far away from the hills to be in harms way, but we were definitely in a spot of bother.

Forest Fire.

The Fall

All along we had encountered some 20 bridges and some 10 tunnels. I was feeling really good that the trek had gone without any incidents. There was this final bridge that we had to cross over before reaching Yedakumari, with the station in sight and half the group already there the people at the back hit the pace. I was at the end, a sweep you might say, just then I saw one of the buddies (Kaushik) ahead of me put a wrong step and fall in between the pliers!! It was his backpack that saved him from falling down, the backpack stopped the fall and he was left hanging between the pliers. Quickly I ran over the bridge to his rescue. Funnily enough nobody was really upset or scared rather everybody ended up cracking jokes after making sure Kaushik was okay.

Camping Site
12th March 2005, 5:00 PM

Finally all of us reached the camping site, which is yedakumari or Edakumeri station at 5:00, well ahead of darkness. Had been warned that it is IMPOSSIBLE to trek in the night and that we have to make it to the station before the dark. This issue had been playing on my mind all throughout the planning and in course of the trek. We were really glad that we hit the station in good time with enough light.

The station was getting a face-lift with workers families staying close by. We met up with couple of another trekking groups from Bangalore, who were also doing the same route, albeit in opposite direction. The workers at the station helped us a lot with boiling water and also some sambar rice for dinner. The day long trek and hunger made this, one of the best dinners I had in a long time, with ready to eat MTR mixed veg curries and home made rotis courtesy Freya’s mom. After we finished our dinner and we were admiring the sky and we could see the hills were on fire at a distance. We could see the flames jumping out from behind one of the hills and what a sight to behold in the dead of the night.

The trek back to 250 KM Milestone
March 13th, 11:00 AM

We had a relatively relaxed morning next day with roughly 2 hours of climb down the hills to hit the highway. We had asked our bus driver to wait at a spot, which was 250KM milestone from Bangalore. We started the trek back from the station at around 11:00 AM. It was again a treacherous climb down the hill towards the highway. On the way we hit a couple of very beautiful streams.

So it was a beautiful ending to an excellent trek(Green route trek). Had lunch in Sakleshpura and reached Bangalore by 9:30 PM.

Total distance covered around 18 Kms.

Bus route : Bangalore --> Hasan --> Saklespura --> Gundiya (Our trek started here)

Trek Route: Gundiya --> Yedakumeri station --> 250 KM Bangalore Milestone Route Back: Sakleshpura --> Hasan --> Bangalore
More photos at http://www.lonelywanderer.com/
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Elephants at Wayanad, santuary