While waiting for Durga and Deepak, I spent time in the watch tower looking down into the valley.
I guessed Akalgavi must be in those rocks. Does not look very far off.
Durga refused to move from this place, she did not want any more walking for the day. I started off alone. About half a kilometer down the path there was a junction, tired looking people sitting where ever they could park themselves. To the left was a staircase going down the hill ...that's the way to Chilume Honda. Honda means pond. It's a natural fresh water spring. People believe that it has special properties and cure certain health problems.
Every couple of minutes air bubbles rise out from the pond bed. The bed looks like ash. I heard some boys speaking that anybody who gets into the pond gets sucked in.
When I first heard about Chilume Honda from the locals, I was expecting a huge pond. ...I decided to move on towards Akalagavi, meaning Cow's Cave. Again the path was downhill. Just the sounds of the forest ...could birds singing but never could spot them. Suddenly I heard a bunch of noisy boys. They were shouting and screaming shattering the peace. One of them was shouting 'howla howlaaa'. I was wishing these guys would keep quiet. No, these guys were young and had all the energy in them.
The dirt track ended and cemented steps with rails started. I steps were steep flanked by really tall trees. The lower I went taller the trees got. I could see the rocks now, rising high into the air and the trees seem to be competing with the rough n tough looking rocks ...and the trees seem to be winning over the rocks.
The group of boys pass me, they are almost running down the stairs while I was taking them one at a time. Soon they go out of sight. The stairs don't seem to end at all and I was wondering how much more to go I'll have to climb back :( Finally the stairs stopped, a massive rock formation ended the path. The cave's mouth was about 20 feet above from where I was standing. The boys had already climbed up there. I climbed up the metal stairs slowly, it was held in place by a 3-stranded cable, cannot say when it might give up. The rocks looked pretty slippery, I took every step with extreme care. The boys also guided me and lent hands. There they are... posing on the right side of the mouth. Shivanand (extreme left, back side) knew his way into the cave's tummy.
The throat was really narrow, one at a time, we had to lie down and crawl in for about 15 feet and then we could sit up. It was dark, we switched on our mobile phones. The next 15 feet we had to move on our bottoms, a small puddle of water, our hands and feet picked up slush. It was getting warmer with every step ahead. We were breathing faster. The passage curved and we were in the belly. Now we could stand up straight. It was pitch dark. I can say it was the darkest moment of my life. In the mobile phone's light Shivanand pointed at the ceiling, they looked like cow's teats. that's why the name Akalagavi. Akala means cow and Gavi means cave in North Karnataka Kannada.
Inside there was a side chamber attached to the main chamber. Unlike the main chamber, the side chamber's floor was uneven. Some where in this room, in the ceiling water was dripping down.
Back in the main chamber, we deeper but the width narrowed gradually and see saw light, we were at the other end of the cave. It was nice to see light again and breath in fresh air.
Way back was easier since we already knew the way but the last part was little dicey for me. As I crawled out and my head was out of the throat, what lay in front was a downward slope, one slip and the fall would end only after some 25 feet! I crawled out very slowly and then positioned my palms into small pits and swung out my legs. Still there was no chance of sitting up. I moved side ways towards my right where mouth widened. I was breathless and sweating like crazy. My hands, feet, tee-shirt and khakis were saturated in sweat and coted with a layer of black dust from the rocks. Even the odor was kind of strong but did not really bother me much. I looked like an locomotive driver.
We climbed down slowly and I was bracing up for the challenge that lay ahead. A steep climb which will go on for an eternity. Normally I do not drink water in the middle of a climb and this time also I did not even though I knew I had lost lot of fluids. I asked the boys to go ahead and went up, one step at a time, sweat pouring out, even my hair was drenched in my sweat, I would stop every 15/20 steps, climb again, stop again... every muscle in my body ached. It was as though my body was squeezed. Finally I made it to the end of the steps, sat down and drank a liter of water. I felt better after about 5 minutes, I resumed my way up the dirt path, this was much better than those steps, stopping to rest and drink water, sweat pouring out... Finally I saw the Santro and Durga saw me shouted "Siddesh is back, Siddesh was back". Deepak and Durga saw my avataar and I told them about the little adventure. Except for the backpack everything on me was soaked in sweat and coated with a fine black soil.
Since morning, I must have walked 10 kilometers and sweat out 3 or 4 liters. I was tired, I needed a bath desperately. Deepak had to spread a newspaper on the seat so that dirt on me does not get transfered to his car. Back at Chaitanya we all bathed, changed into fresh clothes, had lunch, visited the temple and started our journey back to Dharwad.