Mar 6, 2021

Savandurga - overnight stay five

I'd almost forgotten about the fifth overnight stay on Savandurga until I stumbled on the pictures which brought the memories of the outing.

December 8, 2007

I'd been on a visit to Bangalore. As usual Deepak, Gulveer and I met up which somehow resulted in planning a trip to our beloved hill- Savandurga. For a change we decided on night camping on the hill. We left Bangalore after lunch. We took Bangalore-Magadi-Savandurga road instead of Bangalore-Dodda Alada Mara-Savandurga. The latter is much more scenic but the former is quicker. We stopped for a short break when the monolith appeared on the horizon, as if it was welcoming us. This stretch of the road was flanked by paddy fields, crop almost ready for harvest.

We went into the "battada gadde" to take a closer look at the plants. Rajesh poses for a picture of himself with Batta and Savandurga. The green-yellow shade is a treat to the eyes. A month ago the field would have been thoroughly wet and the plants greener.

We reached Savandurga by 4-30. Parked our car at Veerabhadreshwara Devastana, had a word with the priest about our plan to stay at the top. It's always good that locals knew of our stay. This is one of the few surviving ancient temples still in the original condition. The architecture is Vijayanagara. These temples were built by Palyegar rulers who were vassals of Vijayanagara empire. 

Each one of us had a backpack loaded with mats, blankets, jerkins, food, soft-drinks and water. Climbing with load is usually slower than bare climbing. I think we reached the top around 5-30 pm, started collecting dry wood for fire. As usual we set camp at the guard house, the only closed shelter on this hill. Dusk sky was a lovely combination of blues, greys, gold and a touch of pink.

Sunset can be seen from Nandi Mantapa i.e. the summit but not from the guard house which are about half kilometer apart. This view is more towards westerly direction where as the previous picture is towards south.

The eight pillared shelter is a stone's throw from our camp i.e. the guard house. The shelter is slightly elevated and gives a good view of the eastern and southern surroundings. The columns are also Vijayanagara style. This is the most basic version pillar, the more advanced are seen in taller shelters and temples.

As expected the December night was cold, and windy which upped the chill factor. We could not build a fire that would last, we gave up. We talked, cracked jokes and laughed as we sipped soft-drinks and nibbled on potato wafers. Our dinner was chapathi, avare kalu palya and shrikhand. Sleep was on and off but we were comfortable. Morning the air is laden with moisture which kind of dampens the blankets. We woke up just before dawn, the day started with this lovely sight of sunlight trying to crck through low level clouds. Whatever light made it through the clouds was promptly reflected off the calm surface of Manchenbele lake.

The two columns are the pillars of Nandi Mantapa. As soon as I reach the summit, the first thing I do is climb on to the Mantapa, circle Nandi three times, and offer a Namaskara. Of all the sunrises seen here, this is probably the most spectacular one.

The unhindered view: The golden orange glowing ball peeking through the space between the horizon and cloud laden sky. The entire horizon is aglow with orange. What a mesmerizing sight!

Nandi Mantapa sits on the edge of the hill. Nandi's sight is aligned to south-easterly direction. I feel this Nandi keeps a watch over Veerabhadreshwara Devastana, a temple dedicated to a form of Shiva. This picture has a peaceful feel. However, if you stand there you would be pushed around by freezing wind.

Gulli and Deepak gazing in silence.

Suryadeva breaks through the clouds. Deepak and Gulli are still fixed with their gazes towards east. The electric pole standing here has its own little history. A electric line was drawn on Savandurga in 1960s. One of the engineers involved in the project happened to be our neighbor in Bangalore. The gentleman had retired from service when we first met early 1990s. The poles and cables are intact but never saw any of the lamps working in my five overnight stays.

Of all the plants on Savandurga, the most beautiful are the Frangipani trees. As one climbs, the first trees can be seen at the first gateway and then at the top, close to the summit. When in full bloom these trees are a lovely sight and the pleasant aroma of the flower hangs in the air around the tree. To reach the summit, one has to clamber over the branches of a big tree. Frangipani wood is relatively soft, breaks easily. Here are few pictures of broken branches and base of the tree where the trunk transitions into root.

Here are few other plants commonly seen. This tiny plant actually grows into a small tree, it doesn't seem to flower. The compound leaves plant must be a type of fern. The green carpet must be moss. The last one is some kind of fruit, can't recall the plant that shed this beauty.

Savandurga is home to several types of grasses, to my knowledge about five or six types which includes tall and short. Some are seasonal and some evergreen. This clump of grass is the evergreen type. I don't remember seeing it flower. Its blades are thick, narrow and dark green. I'll move on to rocks.. this hole is a sign of ancient quarrying. Granite must've been quarried here to build some of the structures. Plants have taken over the walls of ancient house. A natural crack in the rock due to hot and cold cycles. 

On the way back.. Rajesh swings from a branch while Deepak makes a video. Though its sunny, its was still cold and felt colder because of the wind.

We stopped at the guard house, our night camp site, for breakfast. I think we had come bread, peanut butter and jam.

Down the slopes of Savandurga. The effect of downward forces is mostly felt in the knees and in the toe nails. One good way to tackle slopes, ascending or descending, is to zigzag.

Another collage of a cactus, a ficus, streams of water trickling down a rocky slope and insect trap pits.

This is one of favorite pictures of this trip. A cut end of a Frangipani. Despite the radial cracks, the age rings are clearly visible. When a live branch is broken, white sticky sap starts dripping from the broken ends. Unlike other trees, Frangipanis have a soft skin instead of bark.

On the way back, somewhere between Tavarekere and Bangalore, we happened to notice two hero-stones in a field. Both herostones had Kannada lines inscribed on them. Probably the text mentioned the names of the warriors who gave up lives in some daring act.

Its been ten years since my last visit to Savandurga. I hope the monolith, the fort walls, Nandi Mantapa, Hanuman idol, guard house, ponds are well preserved; and the trees and plants are thriving. Also hoping to see the Nandi Mantapa again. 


Feb 27, 2021

test of stamina and will at Savandurga

The first climb - Anish, Gulli and I - we climbed less than half-way up in about 45 minutes under bright hot Sun. Mostly we took the wrong path even though two local boys were trying to guide us through the ideal route. We were tired, thirsty and getting hungry ...we decided to head back and go home.

Second climb, Gulli and I, must have taken at least 90 minutes with local boy guiding us the way up. At places we would deviate from the path assuming it would be shorter and ended up doing circus.

Third climb onwards we started understanding the path better. Our timing got better with every climb. By the fourth or fifth we would reach Basava Mantapa in 60 minutes. I would start the stop watch in my Timex Zulu Time and note the time every climb. The best we managed was 40 minutes - from the base to the Basava Mantapa - we could not do better than that.

Base to Point 1, gateway in the ruins of the fort wall - 10 minutes.

Point 1 to Point 2, the turret - 20 minutes.

Point 2 to Point 3, the guest house - 30 minutes.

Point 3 to The summit - Basava Mantapa - 40 minutes.

With experience we had learnt few things NOT to do -
  • talk (I would talk as less as possible though Gulli would chatter on non-stop)
  • sit down (if we need rest, we would stop and remain standing but never sit down)
  • drink water (chances of catching sore throat is high)
  • hold things in our hands (always carried a back-pack)
My heart beat rate would shoot up pretty quickly and breathless in minutes but I learnt to push on ...sweat pouring out from my face and scalp. The path between point 1 and point 3 is very steep. By the end of 20 minutes I would be drenched in sweat, my tee-shirt would be completely soaked! My heart pounding and my shoulders ache like crazy ...I would question myself; why did I have to come all the way for this? Why go through this pain?

At times I would pluck a straw of wild grass and chew the tender end - it would give out a mild sweet flavor - I used to feel that boosted my energy.

Once we reached Point 3 it's as good as reaching the top ...from here it's more of walk then climb ...stretch of level walk, a quick descent and a quick ascent, walk over rocks, walk though rocks and then a short steep climb up and there you see the Basava sitting in the Mantapa looking towards the East. I would touch Basava's feet, circle him three times and offer him my Namaskara.

Going back to my thoughts 'why do i take all this trouble and pain'. Well, now I know that every bit of trouble I went though is worth the feeling I experienced here on the top ...the cold wind of fresh air, the sounds of the wind though the rocks and the scenes my eyes saw. My heart beat would be normal and would not even realize it.

Descending was relatively less strenuous but knees would start paining half-way down. Once during a solo climb, I came down in 15 minutes. At some parts I would leap from rock to rock ankle-high Reeboks protected my feet from the shocks and supported my ankles. At the base, from Savandhi Veerabhadreshwara Devastana, we would look up at Nandi Mantapa and say bye and see you again.