A weekend trip to the land of clouds – Skandagiri

Staying in Bangalore can be frustrating. The insane traffic, the unbearable work stress and the general monotony of life can all become too much to handle. Weekends are the most awaited time of the week. Thankfully, Bangalore has plenty of weekend destinations to escape to, especially for nature-lovers and trekkers. Skandagiri, which is around 70 km from Bangalore, is one such destination which is perfect for that weekend reboot that everyone needs.

Also known as kalavara Durga, Skandagiri used to be Tipu Sultan’s fortress that can be reached only after an arduous trek of around 8 km. The trek route is quite rocky and steep and has a high chance of fatalities during the monsoons. Although, very little remains of the fortress except for a few steps and dilapidated walls, there are a couple of ancient temples that are in a decent condition. Skandagiri is a protected area and forest department has appointed guards to regulate the number of trekkers. You can book your trek here.

For a long time, I had been wanting to visit Skandagiri but somehow it never happened. I had heard a lot about the amazing views from the top, especially during winters when a sea of clouds envelops the peak. So you can imagine my joy when the trekking group Bangalore Ascenders sent a mail to all its members that they were organizing a trek to Skandagiri. I jumped at the chance and immediately registered my husband and me for the trek. Bangalore Ascenders is a not-for-profit group which organizes treks to both popular and lesser-known locations. The trip costs are shared among everyone, including the organizers, equally. To join them as a member, click here. This entire trip cost us around 700 Rs per head including transport charges.

We started at around 11:15 pm from Bangalore and reached Kalwara village at the base of the Skandagiri peak around 1:30 am. We were supposed to start trekking at 4:00 am and reach the peak in time to witness the sunrise. However, the forest guards allowed us to start at 3:30 am itself. The sky was full of stars and it was a cold winter night.

It was still dark out when we started our trek. We huffed and puffed up the rocky trail. At one point we were literally clambering over huge boulders. Finally, we reached a point where we could see a million twinkling lights of a town, probably part of sub-urban Bangalore. The lights were so bright that they blotted out the stars. It reminded us of the expanding urban sprawl that will soon consume the remoteness of such places.

The urban jungle at night

We moved on and after an arduous climb of one and a half hours, we finally reached the peak. It was still quite dark and a fierce wind was blowing, chilling us to the bones. We took shelter in an abandoned Shiva temple at the top and waited for the first rays of the morning sun. Many other fellow trekkers joined us and soon we were all discussing other interesting trekking places around Bangalore.

One of the carvings on the pillars inside the Shiva temple.

By 6:00 am, the darkness was slowly fading away to be replaced with a bluish grey light. By 6:30, the first rays of sunlight started appearing in the horizon revealing an ocean of clouds. It was a mesmerizing sight. As the sun made its appearance, the sky turned a reddish golden color and the color reflected off the clouds. At times, the clouds would fade away with the wind revealing the view of nearby hills and surrounding plains. But within minutes a curtain of clouds would flow right in covering everything.

The nearby peaks looking like islands in an ocean of clouds
Wish I could sleep on that bed of clouds

We sat there enthralled by it all. But soon the weekend crowds were pulling in, selfies were being clicked vigorously and Bluetooth speakers were being brought out. Soon, the dhikchik dhikchik of a remixed Bollywood song masked out the sound of birds and rudely pulled us out of our reverie.

We decided it was time to go back down and face the harsh realities of life. We were tired to our bones and the thought of a warm, snug bed waiting for us at home, gave us the last spurt of energy to climb down. We were back at the base in about 45 minutes.

At the base, there were some local women selling refreshments. We bought lemon juice from them and gulped it down like bloodthirsty zombies. It was cold and sweet and had a hint of cardamom. The perfect end to an awesome workout.

You know how some people get dreams of flying over the clouds, towards the sun. Well, Skandagiri is the closest you can get to such dreams in real life. Maybe, I should take a paraglider next time :-P.

I feel so jealous of those ancient fort-dwellers who used to wake up to this everyday

 

Once upon a time, there was a magical land of clouds
The Ascenders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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