Madhu Makrandgad, 26th December 2020

I had been long planning to do treks in Maharashtra but the distance from Bangalore makes it difficult to do this over a single weekend. On Christmas day I drove from Karwar towards Hatlot — base village for Madhu Makrandgad and a few other treks. This was the closest trek to Karwar I could find in Maharashtra on indiahikes.com. Around 8pm that night I exited the highway following Google Maps into an unlit stretch of road with no idea of where I will be sleeping that night. About an hour of driving later I was relieved to see city lights; far away and well above the level of the road. And the road though winding was soon clearly heading upwards and towards those lights. I had no clue that Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar lay that way (both places I’ve only heard of through Bollywood films). I was lucky to find lodging in crowded Mahabaleshwar that too on Christmas day (they have a rule that rooms are not let out to single occupants).

The next day I tried to find this Hatlot village. When Google Maps tried to send me up a steep, very narrow patch of scree (which I can’t even begin to call a road) I decided to drop the plan and return on the trusty Victoria to fight another day. I even started driving back. But… persistence is another word for stubbornness (and stubbornness is my middle name), so somewhere before Panchgani I realized that its a bit late to drop a plan after coming all this way from Bangalore. So asking around for directions I made it to Hatlot and took off with little ceremony. People in Hatlot are the sweetest lot I’ve met anywhere (no exaggeration, you have to meet them to see for yourselves). They showed me the route with a lot of pointing, gesturing and a lot of detailed Marathi instructions the last of which I could not understand though requests for Hindi did produce useful results.

A team of some 40 others had already started the trek at 8am and I was starting at 12pm. Alone. So, one thing I really don’t understand (in hindsight), is why they didn’t stop me. This was leopard and gaur country. At one point on the trail there was a clear, prolonged slithering in the tall grass right beside me, there was one langur who seemed to be stalking me, I found one porcupine quill and there was no shortage of sounds in the jungle indicating company. So… why didn’t those nice people either stop me from going in alone or suggest I hire a guide. I really would like to know. 🙂

Trek was fantastic as far as there was tree cover and till I got lost. After that I had to do a lot of retracing, trial and error till I found some villagers collecting firewood and followed them to the first temple (looks less like a temple and more like a house with a tiled roof). From that point on there is no tree cover, and the trail is hard to find. It helps to follow the electricity cables/poles to locate where it passes by the trail at several points. The path goes in a zigzag, so you need to be careful because at some points you need to take the branch going backwards to your left to get to the top (yet another titbit of wisdom from the world of trekking). That brings you to the second temple (also looks like a house with a tiled roof). Behind the temple is a path going over an uneven, rocky and very narrow ridge. I walked up that path about halfway, but the legs weren’t steady and the sun burning so I actually stopped short by some 20 feet from the actual end of the trek. Actually on looking back at the temple I saw that there was this big burly guy — the pujari — who had appeared out of nowhere and was looking at me. So to avoid any Q&A I stopped where I was, took a few pictures and turned back after a brief rest.

Let me be clearer. I was a lone fellow walking along a narrow ridge at the top of a peak. That’s not something stealthy pujaris are used to seeing in these lonely parts. I actually turned back as I was afraid the pujari might think I was going to jump.

Devbagh, Christmas Eve 2020

Renting a bicycle in Karwar.

I rented out a fine pair of wheels from Mangesh Cycle Shop (near Dilip complex), Konekar Wada, Karwar at ₹10 per hour. ID proof is mandatory. Open till 10pm.

Only these “old” style models were available. Technically correct term for this model is Roadster. These bicycles have probably the most comfortable seats in the business as they’re spring mounted. I doubt if any of the modern bicycles have seats as comfortable as this.

Blue food

There was this bar near Bowring Hospital, Bangalore. Food was decent, prices reasonable, the crowd a quiet one. Given all this, it should have been very popular. But it wasn’t and it was never full. They claimed seafood as their speciality and the nice Mallu owners chose to have ocean themed interiors. That meant a lot of blue. A popular theory goes (actually its just my theory, might get popular who knows) that the reason for the mediocre patronage was mainly due to the fact that while the colour Blue was clearly the colour of the sea it was nowhere close to being the colour of food. Samudra Bar and Restaurant no longer exists. Today I drink at Manoj Dhaba.

Less obvious things to take care of before a trek.

  • Stretch before you start the trek. This will make your joints flexible in advance so that there are no surprises (sprains, muscle tears) during the trek.
  • If your trousers are hung low, they can interfere with your gluteal muscles (i.e. bum) as you walk. Similarly bulky things in your trouser pockets can mess with your thighs. Just make sure all muscles from hip downwards can contract and relax freely…
  • Except around your ankles. They could do with some support. Ankle height boots. Firmly laced.
  • Trim your toe nails. Especially the big toes. You really don’t want a toe nail coming off halfway through a trek.
  • Carry a plastic bag to hold your electronics for when it rains
  • Extra briefs (i.e. chaddi, undies), trousers, t-shirt
  • Carry medication for diarrhoea, nausea, tummy trouble.
  • A hacksaw blade is useful if you ever need to cut branches, rope, metal. It takes very little space. (This is only for emergencies, in usual circumstances: leave no trace.)
  • Make sure you are not carrying any precious/important non-essentials like ID cards, vehicle documents (except for ones related to the vehicle you are using for the trip), keys, jewellery.
  • Carry ORS or alternatives (Gatorade, enerzal) to avoid muscle cramps.
  • On foot care (from The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide)
  • To be continued…

Chembanoda, December 2019

These pics are from a road trip to Chembanoda, Wayanad on a Yamaha FZ25 motorcycle.

Day 1

Bangalore – Bellur cross – Nagarhole – H D Kote – Gonikoppal – Tholpetty – Lakkidi

Between Bellur Cross and Nagarhole

After forest checkpost 1 refused entry; on the way to checkpost 2

After checkpost 2 refused entry. Decision time. Go home or find another route.

Drove to Lakkidi via Thithimathi, Tholpetty. Decided against bedding down at a bus stop when I lost GSM/GPS at one point. Lots of chetas glad to help with directions.

Reached Lakkidi Grace Inn around 11p. Lucky to find Hotel Thattukada open after 1230a for some Shark Curry and Parotta.

(P.S: After the trip I learned there are leopards in Vythiri area. No more nocturnal gallivanting in these parts.)

Day 2

Lakkidi – Peruvannamoozhi Dam – Chembanoda – Mananthvady – Gonikoppal – Bangalore

Leaving good old, trusty Lakkidi Grace Inn early next morning.

Lakkidi View Point

Lakkidi View Point

Lakkidi View Point

Lakkidi View Point

Lakkidi View Point

Very crowded. Entire stretch was like this. – Lakkidi View Point

Phone towers in the distance – Lakkidi View Point

Outside Hotel Prosi

Road to Chembanoda

Road to Chembanoda

On the road to Chembanoda

On the road to Chembanoda

On the road to Chembanoda

Road to Chembanoda

Peruvannamoozhi Dam

Peruvannamoozhi Dam

Tea break

End of the road for the bike at least. (Good thing I stopped at Lakkidi last night; no hotel or homestay in sight.)

Turned around. Now to find that church.

Immaculate Conception Church

Immaculate Conception Church

Many km later. Vegetarea.

That’s 991km.

So little time…

So much to read.

Leave alone the entire body of classics or the fiction that gets churned out seasonally. Just think of every single Wikipedia article about notable people. Can we even read every one of those in our life time? Today is Schumi’s birthday and I found myself on his wiki page and now I’m wondering if I will even finish reading that one page. I bet someone will edit it before I have finished. And I will have to read it again.

Then every time I hear of some conflict or dispute on the news ISIS, Syria, Ukraine… or even Telengana, Cauvery, Maoists out here in India. Will I ever be able to catch up on those?

And the media is busy distracting us with Kim Kardawhatever’s bottom. I deem it insulting to even find out how that name is spelt. Dhoni’s retirement from Test cricket, reviews of phones, cars, cameras which will be forgotten in two months. Noise. Who does it serve? I am reminded of that saying “Economics is very useful as a means of employment for economists”. Maybe that’s what media is all about these days. Employment.

Then there are those lists of books to read before you die. What about those we read after we die? I personally feel that that will be a far more interesting list. At least we will have no time constraint then.

Will anyone even read this?