Saturday, May 26, 2018

Siddara Betta Trek - When divine meets the Adventure

Place: Siddara Betta, Tumkur

Distance: 100 km from Bangalore
Type: Trekking
Ideal for: Friends and Family
Trek Difficulty: Easy
Trek Length: 3 kilometers one way
Trek Duration: 1.5 hour one way

Trekking group at my office was stagnant since the last trek to Madhugiri. Siddara Betta was in my todo list and it was time to move it to the done list. I created a trekking event and 25 people turned up for the trek. We booked a minibus to accommodate such big group and also got some snacks and refreshments for the trek.

Best of the beast: Do more than just exist!
Saturday morning: Naresh stays near the office so he took care of onboarding everyone in the morning. Smitha and I were waiting near the Nelamangala toll gate only to be picked up at 7 am. We were welcomed by a big shoutout. The music was playing loud and everyone was dancing. Even I joined them with my zero experience in dancing (Nagin dance came for the rescue :D). We pulled over at Vrindavan Bhavan just before Dabasbete for breakfast.

The dancing session continued with even more intensity after the breakfast. Meanwhile, the bus took right turn at Dabasbete to take Koratgere route. Siddarabetta is another 53 kilometer from Dabasbete. After 42 kilometers an arch to the left welcomed us to the Siddara betta. The road condition was bad for the last 11 km.

We distributed the refreshments while everyone was getting down.  After a first group photo, we started trekking together. There were a lot of vendors on either side of the road and throughout the trail selling Puja items, food, and water. So don't forget to carry your wallet you might feel hungry at any time :P

The trek started after a big selfie
Trekking: An arch reading "Shri Siddeshwara Swamy Kshetra" welcomed us. There's also written signboard in Kannada which says "Devotees are requested to climb barefoot". It's up to you if you want to go barefoot or with shoes on. My suggestion would be to go with shoes if you are planning to go beyond the temple.

An arch welcoming us to the sacred hill 
Steps are laid till the cave temple.

The inclination at the beginning is high which made us take rest often but resulted in such group photos en route
The starting tail is boring yet tiring as we just have to climb plain stairs. But the initial stretch is steep making you tired at the beginning itself. After half an hour of the climb, I looked around only to be amazed by the view of the hills on the other side. After some distance, we came to an open area where there was a hut-like structure. If it's sunny you can take rest at this place but we were lucky to be trekking on a cloudy day so we kept moving.

At few parts the steps have been carved out of the hill with good supporting railings

Hut for resting while trekking.

Look at the lovely view. Wish I could climb all of them.

After this stretch, there are no supporting railings or stairs for some distance. This stretch is short yet can become very tricky during the rainy season. You will find monkeys attacking from this point onwards. Make sure you don't carry any food items in hand.

Panoramic view of the surroundings getting better and better with every step

Last stretch just before the cave temple

Monkeys everywhere. Beware of them if you are carrying anything eatables or bag in hand

Sorry for the bad drawing skills :P Hope you got what I wanted to say in the above picture.
Cave Temple: Finally, we reached the sacred dark cave which is surrounded by a huge group of rocks. As we entered, we could feel the coolness embracing us. The place looked like a miracle, because of the refreshing atmosphere hid inside the caves against the harsh sun rays outside.

Cave temple and the deity worshipped here

huge Vibuthi on our forehead, as the practice of Shiva followers
This area is dominated by monkeys, be careful with it.  The best part of the temple is about to be experienced here.  The priests splashed the cool water of on our heads. The tiredness of climbing the hill just disappeared and soothed our body. They applied huge Vibuthi on our forehead, as the practice of Shiva followers.  We bowed to the Lord Siddeshwara with devotion. The idol is small and crowned by a 5 hooded snake. There were small idols of Basava, Ganapati and many more of Shaiva cult.

Don't miss the fun: Most of the devotees return from this point but the best part of the trek lies beyond the temple. We took the right turn which leads to the summit of the hill. I asked shopkeeper about the summit but he didn't seem to respond positively.

Trek to the peak: Few members of the group had already started walking towards the peak. The trail is rough and not much inclined. There were few tricky parts but easily manageable (be careful in rainy season).  We encountered few caves which act as a resting point during summer time. Within, 30 to 40mins first sight of the peak was revealed. A sense of satisfaction and a joy of accomplishment made us smile. We just turned all around to capture the beautiful views. The blue skies and many lofty mountains in a series. The changing shadows cast by the clouds on the mountains was sublime to watch. I couldn't resist myself from taking Timelapse which turned out to be fantastic. Many group photos to follow and portraits and posing. It was all fun and spend a great time with the group.

Reached the summit after 30 minutes of the trek from the cave temple

Clouds and green landscape created a great composition throughout the trek

The summit is relatively big and flat

I could just look at this view all day long

The panoramic view of the surrounding hills

We could see few lakes as well

Well a group photo at the peak is well deserved

And this jumping photos has become a ritual in my every trip
Descend: At 2 pm, we realized we were all hungry and need to have lunch. We started descending down. Descending down the steep rocks and steps appeared far more difficult than ascending with the trembling legs. In an hour or so we reached the base and boarded the bus.

Returning to Bangalore: All were tired and hungry, the soothing songs helped to take a power nap. Unfortunately, we could not find any good restaurants till Dabasbete. I was hoping to find some restaurants near Dabaspete but since it was 5 pm most of the restaurants were closed. And few of the small restaurants which were open couldn't accommodate 25 of us. 

We traveled a long way in search of a restaurant and finally to stop by a Pravasi restaurant for the North Indian meals. The food was good, after all, it always feels great when we are damn hungry :D. We resumed the journey, the group was refilled with energy and started singing songs. We reached Bangalore at 7 pm.

Summary: Siddara betta is an easy level of the trek you can do this trek without any preparation. Make sure you go till the peak to get most out of the trek.

Important points:
1. There are many shops en route so you can rely on them for the snacks and water.
2. It's optional to wear footwears while trekking. Most of the devotees climb this hill barefoot but if you are planning to go beyond the temple then shoes are a must.
3. There are not many Dhaba's on Tumkur road especially on the left side while coming back to Bangalore. So plan your lunch accordingly. 
4. There will be a free afternoon meal at the base of the hill from 12 pm to 3.30 pm but you need to inform them prior so that they will prepare sufficient food.
5. There are multiple results in google maps when you search for Siddara Betta. Here is the right location on google maps. 

You can also watch my vlog on youtube. Don't miss the time lapse.

Don't forget to Like and +1 this post. If you have any queries ask me in the comment section below.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bettamugilalam and Panchapalli Dam - A ride through the forest 13/05/2018

Place: Bettamugilalam, Aiyur forest and Panchapalli Dam

Distance: 200 km round trip
Type: Forest, Sightseeing
Ideal for: Friends
It's not about the destination but the road we take. 
This trip has proved the above quote right. After my Rayakottai trip, I fell in love with the countryside roads in TN. My eyes were eagerly searching for another such destination that's when I stumbled upon this place on TravelTwosome. After quiet research, I came to know there's a small village at the destination but the route is very good. I wanted to ride through the forest in this summer so Bettamugilalam was a perfect choice for me.

Best of the beast: The beautiful route through the Bamboo forest
Sunday Morning: Bangalore climate was fluctuating from scorching sun in the afternoon to thunderstorm rain at evening. So we decided to start early and be back to home before 3 pm. The plan went well and we hit the road at 5.30 in the morning. Umesh joined from silk board junction. After a hot cup of tea, we started riding towards Denkanakottai. We took the electronic city flyover. After Hosur, I put on navigation for Denkanakottai which was 26 km away. The single lane road was covered by trees on both the sides. It was a treat to ride on this route.  After crossing dozens of villages, we reached Denkanakottai. It was 7.30 am a perfect time to have breakfast. I read about Saravana Bhavan being the best place for having breakfast on this route.

Saravana Bhavan: My expectation from restaurants in TN went low after my last visit to Rayakottai, so keeping my expectations low I entered this restaurant which looked average in appearance. The menu had only Idli-vada and Pongal for the breakfast. We ordered Idli-Vada and it was very tasty. I realized why this restaurant was recommended by almost everyone on blogs. Tasty lunch was followed by a hot tea and a low bill. Bill was only 200 for 4 despite we ordered extra idli and vada.

Tasty idli-vada at Saravana Bhavan
From here we have two routes:
1. Denkanakottai -> Aiyur forest -> Bettamugilalam -> Panchapalli -> Denkanakottai
2. Denkanakottai ->  Panchapalli -> Bettamugilalam -> Aiyur forest-> Denkanakottai

The first route isn't recommended as there is a  forest check post just before Aiyur forest who doesn't allow entry to the forest. So we took the second route.

I started navigation to the Panchapalli Dam. After 30 mins of the ride, the scenery drastically changed. We could see hills at far distances and greenery around us. We stopped our bikes to appreciate the view. The road is very narrow and descending. Dams are usually constructed at a lower altitude so the descent wasn't surprising for us but the roads were very narrow and allowed only one to pass at a time. Luckily we were on the bike so we didn't face any problem but if you are in a car then drive carefully.

The route getting prettier as we were nearing Panchapalli Dam

We pulled over bikes to capture the view and few selfies

Panchapalli Dam: As we were nearing the dam the scenery got better. We stopped near the dam bridge to catch a view of the surroundings. Sadly there was very little water in the dam. I bet when the water is full the place would look astonishing as per the image I saw on TravelTwosome blog. After taking a couple of pics we walked closer to the water. There was an abandoned boat which became our studio for the photography. And a submerged idol of god reminded me of the movie Vishwaroopam.

Panoramic view of the Panchapalli Dam.
The dam would look even more gorgeous if the water level is high

Abandoned stone statue of a Hindu God reminded me of the movie Vishwaroopam

crazy group pics are the most memorable ones :D

Abandoned Boat was a perfect frame for a photo of the day
Rode pulsar 200 NS for the first time. I loved the riding experience

A trip is never incomplete without a crazy stunt like this
We couldn't spend more time here as there was no shade to sit. It was just 9 in the morning but it got extremely hot. I started navigation to Bettamugilalam. The route from here was even more thrilling than the previous one. After dozens of turns and twists, we started ascending through the hairpin bends. The road wasn't good (there were no potholes though) which gave the challenge to ride. It was really fun to ride through this stretch especially because of the hairpin bends. Again if you are coming on the car be careful as the roads are very narrow and need very good driving experience. 

Uphill ride with sharp turns gave a thrilling riding experience
After half an hour of the fun ride, we reached the flat ground. Before I could catch a breath I saw the tar road ended and off-road started. I checked maps to reconfirm the route. The terrain was loose and skiddy but the biggest challenge was the inclination. Till now we were ascending but now it was a descent on this off-road path. Negotiating this road was challenging and thrilling at the same time. After nearly 2 km of off-road, we reached Bettamugilalam. It's just a small village. There's no viewpoint or anything at this place. Villagers were curiously staring at us. Sure they must be wondering why fools like us have come to see the village from that far.

Off-road riding starts. It was difficult to ride than what is visible in this photo

Bettamugilalam - Final destination of the day
We started riding back to Bangalore taking another route. The road condition from this side to Denkanakottai is amazing. I opened my mobile to start navigation to Denkanakotai but unfortunately, there was no network (on my Jio phone). So villagers helped us with the route. After 2 km we stopped at a small hotel to grab a cup of tea. To my surprise, the tea was amazing and billed only Rs. 5 per tea.

Stopped at this small restaurant for tea

Beautiful clouds and greenery made a perfect composition for the photo
The sky was looking amazing so I took a couple of photos of the bikes which turned out to be the best pic of the entire trip. We resumed the ride. After nearly half an hour later we entered Aiyur forest which is famously known as the bamboo forest. The route was excellent. The bamboos on either side of the road added to the beauty.  The road was looking stunning, I wonder how would it look in monsoon.

Entering Bamboo forest

Stopped at this lovely spot to capture the photo

Taking a swag pic was the hidden reason behind the trip :D :D
Semi Eari lake: We encountered the last attraction of the day - Semi Eari lake (not mapped on google maps). We sat there chatting for some time and appreciating the beautiful lake. It is very common to spot the elephants here. But we would have to wait for a very long time patiently till the elephants come here to drink water. We couldn't afford time at this moment so we made our move to Denkanakottai in half an hour. We crossed by the Aiyur forest check post. The security guard at the checkpoint saw us but didn't say anything. We drove nonstop till we reached Saravana Bhavan in Denkanakottai.

Small temple near Semi Eri lake
Panoramic view of the Lake
How is my darling looking ;)

Spectacular view of the Nice Road
We had a full meal which not only filled our tummy but also made us dozy. I know eating a full meal while riding isn't a good idea but there were only meals on the menu. It was just 80 km to home which isn't that far. After the lunch, we started riding back to Bangalore. By the time we were very near to the home, it started raining heavily. Luckily we had rain gears which saved us from drenching. Everyone reached home at 4 pm.

Conclusion: As I told at the start of this blog, this trip is more about the journey than the destination. If you are looking for an offbeat place to drive your machine then this is the place for you. Go ahead and plan a trip to this place. I can assure you that you will have a smile on your face by the time you complete the ride.

Important points:
1. As told many times in the post this trip is about the journey, not the destination. Keep no expectations from the destination. Enjoy the roads and you will not be disappointed.
2. This route needs good riding skills especially the off-road part between Panchapalli and Bettamugilalam. Don't attempt this stretch if you are a noob rider.
3. Going in the car may be a bad idea for this trip because you will not be able to enjoy the drive as much you will be able to do on the bike and the routes are really narrow and difficult for the cars.
4. The phone network is available throughout the route except near Bettamugilalam.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Rayakottai Fort - A peak summer trek 29/04/2018

Place: Rayakottai Fort, Tamilnadu

Distance: 74 km from Bangalore
Type: Trekking
Ideal for: Friends
Trek Difficulty: Easy
Trek Length: 3 kilometers one way

Trek Duration: 1 hour one way

Do you have kind of friends with whom you don't talk for months or even years but when you reconnect it feels like nothing has changed? Well, I've such friends Rathod and Satish. Ye dono kamine hai, nikamme hai, nakara hai lekin bhai yaar hai ye dono dost.

Best of the beast: Dabbing on the Rayakottai Fort Hill Top
Summer was at its peak so I refrained myself from any trips. Rathod called me on a long weekend to check if we could go on a trip even if it's a day's ride. I hardly get any chance to hang out with these guys so I couldn't say no.  Our last trip was Makalidurga trip which turned out to be epic, if you haven't read that post then do check it out after reading this post. I had Rayakottai Fort trek as an unexplored place in my list which suited the kind of the place we were looking for.

Few other mutual friends pitched in and we were 7 on the confirmed list. Silk Board junction was decided as the meetup point. We planned to leave early to avoid the scorching sun while trekking.

Sunday morning: Alarm started irritating me from 4 am. After snoozing 10 times I woke up at 4.30. I gave a call to Rathod to check if they got up. Otherwise, I would just go back to sleep ( I was so much tempted to sleep). But (un)fortunately he said everyone got up and getting ready. So in no time I and Arun got ready and we hit the road at 5.15.

6 am: We started riding towards Rayakottai after having tea and a selfie
In most of my rides, I wear a jacket as it will be too cold in the morning but today it was not cold at all. I could easily estimate how hot it will be in the afternoon. After 30 minutes I reached Silk Board where rest of the gang were waiting for us. After having a hot cup tea we started our ride towards Rayakottai Fort which is exactly 69 km from Silk Board signal.

The Ride: Riding on Electronic city flyover is a bliss. Silky smooth road with colorful sky gave a beautiful start to the ride. We pulled over at Hosur to fuel up and check the directions. Google aunty told we need to take a right turn after Hosur. We entered single lane road with no traffic. It was breakfast time so we started looking for the restaurants en route. Most of the hotels were dirty and not pure veg. It seemed like a never-ending search for the good restaurant. Meanwhile, the ride was going fantastic. The road from Hosur till the Rayakottai is mesmerizing. Single lane road was surrounded by trees on either side. The road condition was excellent with no traffic, regular twists and turns kept the ride interesting. I love roads in Tamilnadu especially the countryside roads will be a treat to ride.

Breakfast time: Hunt for restaurant ended only after we entered Rayakottai. We found a decent pure veg restaurant near the Raikottai Railway station. Great breakfast was followed by a refreshing tea. The fort was hardly 1 km away, we reached the fort entrance in 5 minutes.

8am: Had breakfast near Rayakottai Railway station in a pure veg hotel
Brief about the place: Located in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu, Rayakottai fort is at a distance of 75 KMs from Bangalore city. Rayakottai fort is one of Tipu Sultan’s lesser-known forts. In the 18th century, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan ruled this fort. 

For a moment we were confused as the entrance gate was locked and some board in Tamil was put up. I could see Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) board declaring this place as a protected monument. I was not really sure if trekking is allowed here or not. Seeing our helpless condition a villager pointed out the entry point to the side. We got the confidence and parked our bike next to a small shop near the entrance.  As there's no dedicated parking we requested shopkeeper to keep an eye on our bike.

For a moment we were confused as the Entrance gate was closed. We entered from the sides though.
9.00 am: We started trekking and this well-structured staircase helped us scale the hill till the Shiva temple
The trek: At first the hillock looked easily conquerable but I knew it would be challenging in this summer. The trek was assisted with the help of stairs at the beginning. Within 10 minutes of the hike, our t-shirts were drenched in sweat. It was hot and sunny even at 9 in the morning. With a couple of breaks and lots of fun, we reached a T-junction. The path splits into two - Left turn takes to the Shiva temple and the right turn takes to the peak. Satish decided to take the left turn first as he never takes the right decision ūüėā. After walking for another 10 minutes we reached a cave temple.

Even though it was just 9 in the morning the climate wasn't pleasant. 
The trail is covered with the green bushes on either side. 
That is the summit. Seemed like a difficult one at first glance.

Did you observe this electric pole in the above images? Well following that would take you to the cave temple.

Cave Temple, the first view of the fort wall and the peak all in a single pic 

Cave temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is beautifully painted with white paint and red borders
Shiva Temple / Cave Temple: The temple is painted in white and decorated with red borders. It was sad to see many nonsense people had written their name with girl's name (That girl probably doesn't even know his name). There were no information boards about the temple or the origin. I entered the temple to learn more about it. The cave narrows down like a cone, at the end of the cave there was a Shiva Linga.  Seems like the puja doesn't happen here regularly unless there's a local festival. The temple was clean and beautiful. 

And then there are nonsense people who just ruin the beauty of the place by writing their names with a girls name in a potato shaped heart 

The cave inside the temple and Shiva Linga
We took a long break before proceeding further. We could see the giant hill behind the temple. At first, it seemed challenging but we were ready for anything that comes in our way.

We took rest for sometime enjoying this view of the city
The temple is the dead end so we realized another right turn which we saw earlier should lead to the peak. We came back to that junction and proceeded straight. Things started changing drastically, the well-built stairs disappeared and we were welcomed by thick forest and hills around. The inclination from here is less. It was almost like walking on a flat road for most of the time. The view was getting better with every step. Finally, we reached an open ground where there were 3-4 abandoned buildings which were probably used for storing armor and food in Tippu Sultan's time. Even though it was just 11 the sun was very harsh and we were dehydrated. We took rest under the shade for more than half an hour listening to the music and enjoying the cold breeze kissing our cheeks.

Did you know goats are one of the best rock climbers in the world? Well, I witnessed it here.

Well-built stairs disappeared and we were welcomed by thick forest and hills around. 
There's a pond to the extreme right. It was dried up but I am sure in monsoon it would look very good with water in it.

The view of the summit and abandoned structures amidst the greenery looked beautiful
A big rock on the edge of the hill caught my attention. The monkey in me woke up and climbed it to give some creative poses. While Rathod, Satish and me were busy in taking pic others were resting under the shade. 

The monkey in me woke up and climbed this rock to give some creative poses.

This candid pic was one of my favorites

Three Idiots!! (from left) Satish, Sagar (me) and Rathod
By this time our energy was completely down and I had to cheer everyone up to trek till the peak. It was hardly another 10 minutes hike till the summit which we covered without any stops. Like on any other hill I expected to find temple atop but what I saw was something out of the world or my imagination. There was a big diya (lamp). I think during the festival or special occasion villager light it up. From here we could see a 360-degree view of the surrounding. Especially I loved the view of the colorful houses of the village at the base. We couldn't stay long on the peak as it was extremely hot and there was no shade. So we started descending soon after a group pic.

As soon as we reached summit my eyes were searching for a temple as most of the hills will have a small temple atop

But there stood this giant lamp which is lit on special occasions like a festival.

I realized how colorful the houses were only after seeing the city from this point

No matter how tired and dehydrated you are, ek selfie at the peak tho banta hai boss
We took another good half an hour of break. All the water bottles were empty. We got dehydrated and feeling hungry. We decided to descend non stop and have refreshments at the base and have lunch at Hosur.

It was 12.45 pm by the time we started to descend. The sun was at its peak sucking all our energy as we move. Descend was pretty easy, without any stops we reached the base in 25 minutes.

I forced everyone to pose for another group pic. (disinterest is clearly visible in their face :D)

I was happy to see our bikes were safe and sound. We started riding back to Bangalore. Stopped for water and tender coconut en route. We cruised non stop till A2B hotel at Hosur. A2B at Hosur is relatively cheaper than A2B's in Bangalore. We reached Bangalore at 4 pm.

Conclusion: It was a lovely ride especially with one of the best gang ever. Overall it was a nice trek, fairly easy and worth a visit. There is very less information on the internet about this fort though. The roads are amazing and definitely calls for a bike ride.

Important Points:
1.  The location of the fort on Google map is precise. Link to Rayakottai Fort Location
2. Most of the people can understand Kannada and few can speak as well. Even if you don't know any south language you can manage well as you hardly need to speak with anyone. 
3. Many other blogs mentioned there are many species of butterflies around this fort. So if you are butterfly lover then do visit it in the early morning.
4. Better to have breakfast before or Hosur itself because there are no good restaurants after Hosur. The one I had during my trip was just opposite to the Rayakottai Railway station. You can navigate to this location.
5. You can also reach Rayakottai by train and hire an auto till the base of the fort or simply walk.

Don't forget to give this post a Like or +1. Leave your thoughts in the comment section. I always love to hear from you.

Other Recommended Trekking Places near Bangalore:
1. Savandurga Hill,  - 50 km 
2.  Shivaganga Hill - 50 km
3. Nijagal Betta, Tumkur - 52 km
4. Makalidurga, Doddaballapura - 55 km
5. Mandaragiri / Basadi Betta - 60 km
6. SRS Hills, Ramnagar - 60 km
7. Skandagiri Hills - 60 km
8. Hulukadi Betta - 65 km
9. Antharagange, Kolar - 75 km
10. Bilikal Rangaswami Betta 75 km
11. Avani Betta - 95 km
12. Siddara Betta - 100 km
13. Madhugiri Fort, Tumkur - 103 km