I call up my Mom just after office on Thursday night. Sample the conversation.
Me : “I am going on trek.”
Mum (surprised) : “Today is Friday?”
Me : “No, its Thursday, But I am going on a moonlight trek”
Mum (shocked): What about office tomorrow?
Me : “I’ll come back by morning.”
Mum : “Tu pagal hai” (Your’re mad.)
So I’ve been traveling like crazy on weekends for the last two months much to my parents’ chagrin. But the idea of a night trek to Skandagiri (aka Kalwarbetta) on a weekday was a little too insane even by my standards.
I’ve never been on a night trek before and when an opportunity for a trek on a full moon night with the BWS gang presents itself, I won’t miss it, come what may. So after rushing through a meeting at office I take an auto from Maratahalli to Hebbal (Ignorant that I would’ve to shell out three hundred bucks for it) to meet the rest of the gang.
Post dinner we head for Skandagiri , which is around 75 Kms from Bangalore close to the more famous Nandi Hills . Tired after a long day I promptly doze off as soon as I get into the car, getting up only when we’ve reached the foot of Skandagiri.
The night is beautiful; the moon is beaming in the sky stealing the glory from the stars, which twinkle half-heartedly. I can make out the rugged outlines of the hill we’ve to climb, it doesn’t look even a wee bit intimidating in the night. A pleasant breeze is blowing I find my sleepiness being replaced by excitement and slowly I feel fully awakened to the night.
A fellow trekker waiting for the sun to rise
We start walking without torches, which have been rendered useless owning to the bright moonlight, with our guide and his dog showing the way. The terrain is arid the only vegetation being the thorny bushes and dried grass interspersed along the way. The huddled lights of Chikballapur are visible after a distance making for a lovely sight. The climb is not too steep but still we tire off after walking only for a few minutes, so much for the sedentary lifestyles most of us lead.
We may be tired, but never too tired for photography. The cameras and the tripods come out rolling, with people experimenting some long exposure group shots by flashing the torchlight on each of the group member’s face progressively. The guide looks amused at all this but pushes us to start walking again.
The temple at the peak before the sunrise
But we walk slowly, drinking in the surroundings, snacking on kismish and chips, taking frequent breaks, lazing on the rocks sometimes even dozing off as the breeze pleasantly fans us. As we go higher the wind grows stronger making my hair fly wildly, mist also starts to gather shrouding the adjacent peaks.
Few fellow photo-trekker postioned at the peak with their gear
Thus we reach the peak, Nandi-the bull a fixture in most of the South Indian temples welcomes us. We stand at the cliff for sometime braving the winds; I could very well fly given my weight. Nandi hills is visible in the distance. An ancient temple stands on the peak alone, providing a haven from the gutsy wings. People busy themselves; some try to pitch tents as they thrash noisily, some struggle to start a bonfire whereas I snuggle inside my sleeping bag.
I wish the total lunar eclipse were visible in India too, I’ve seen only two total lunar eclipses till now. The first, through our bedroom window early on a summer morning some ten years back. I had made sure that everyone in the house was awake to witness the breathtaking sight. The second, in March last year, again early in the morning from the terrace of my abode in Bangalore and this time too, though I was away from home, my frequent calls made sure that my parents and sister didn’t miss it.
Thus, thinking and dreaming of lunar eclipses and breathtaking sights I fall asleep inside the temple only to wake up to another dream.
Adjectives fail to describe the heady sight before us, so we fall back on nouns, heaven and dream could be the two befitting terms used to describe the sight. The moon has not set yet and it glows eerily through the mist. Sheets of cloud hiding the valley below appear so cushiony that I am almost tempted to take a plunge.
A faint orange is discernible on one part of the sky marking the direction for the sunrise.
All the sunrises I’ve seen recently I’ve felt that the sun rises a little too fast and it becomes harsh on the eyes a little too soon. But not at Skandagiri, the sun here rises with a sluggish grace, its brilliance sifted through the clouds and mist is a joy for the eyes. And as the sun rises on the firmament taking a cue from it the clouds rise too and cover the Sun, as if this is a game they are accustomed to play.
We stay at the peak for some more time living the dream, but then the realities of the other world make themselves felt. Most of us have to attend office, so reluctantly we start back for the base. My legs shake as I go down the muddy slopes; the very idea of going to office now feels like crazy and the idea of a trek on a weekday even a crazier. “Sur, you’re mad.” I tell myself.
I am glad that I am.
Cross posted on Desicritics.