The night was dark and cold. We were speeding along the dark highway. Suddenly the bus left the road and took a detour along a bumpy mud road. The babble in the bus stopped and all of us grew silent. Where was the driver taking us? All we could see was a short length of the path ahead of us lit by the headlights of the bus. The bus slowly came to a halt in the middle of nowhere. It was pitch dark all around. It seemed like we were living a horror story. Our guides told us it was time to start the trek! Huh? Where?
We got off the bus and looked around nervously. It was past midnight. The calm of the night was broken by a train speeding by, just a few yards in front of us. And then it was dark and quiet again. We assigned numbers to ourselves so that we could check if any new members like bears or aliens might have joined the group during the trek. Neither did we want any unexpected layoffs from our group despite the recession. The guides cautioned us against getting too far ahead or lagging too far behind and told us to walk in a single file.
We could see the silhouette of a huge hill looming in front of us against the night sky. That monster was Makalidurga. One guide led the way and the other brought up the rear. I have no idea how the guides could keep on the path in the pitch darkness. We trudged along with our torches lighting our way forward. I thought this must be the way smugglers operate travelling on unmarked routes in the dark at night. But I guess we wouldn’t have made good smugglers cause of the constant chatter in the group. Our guide then told us to keep our voices low as loud sounds would disturb the wild animals in the area. Now we were already a sizeable group and didn’t want any uninvited company.
After a while our guide told us to stop and wait while he went ahead and checked the path. He came back saying we were on the wrong path. Oh dear! I hoped we were not lost so early in the trek and that we wouldn’t have to spend the whole night sitting uncomfortably on some rocks. He told us to wait while he scouted around for the right path. We waited and waited. After a few anxious minutes of shouting and calling out, he came back and said he had found the right path. We were back on track.
Slippery rocks and gravel, steep climbs, thorny bushes and creepers added spice to the adventure. Finally we decided to take some rest on a rocky clearance. We all lay on our backs exhausted. Spread out in front of us like black velvet with shiny diamonds was the night sky in all its glory. It was truly a breathtaking sight. You could see countless stars. A few lucky guys spotted shooting stars. I wonder when was the last time we took time to appreciate what a marvel God created in a night sky. After trekking a few more minutes we reached the summit. We settled on the grassy ground. Our guide started a small campfire to keep the cold and darkness away. We played dumb charades to while away the time left to dawn. Some of us tended to the fire. It was hard work feeding the fire continuously for hours! Luckily for the amateur lumberjacks, there was lot of dry shrub available around.
A few hours later the eastern sky began taking a slight bluish colour. Finally it was day break. We put out the fire and explored the area. It was an old fort. The plains far below looked quite scenic with the houses and trees looking like small toys. A train went by. By then the sun had appeared. We had a quick breakfast of parathas and bananas. It was time to trek down. The path was quite different by day, obviously now that we could see the path and the surroundings. We soaked in the scenic surroundings of rocks, grass and shrubs. The air was cool and damp. It was very relaxing. We reached the base and boarded the bus. It had taken us three hours to climb the hill and an hour to climb back down. All of us were tired but pleased with the awesome experience.
I thank Bangalore Mountaineering Club for giving us the contacts of the guides and transport service and all my fellow trekkers for making the trip so awesome!