Skandagiri Trek: My first trek post lockdown
Last year has been a letdown for people inclined to the outdoors like me. Covid ruined all our travel plans & restricted us to our homes. Now after a long wait of what felt like forever, things are getting better gradually & we are able to travel at least to places close to home.
I pitch my plan for a one-day trek close to Bangalore to my friends & they all jump in immediately. Everyone wants to get away from their home & spend some time amidst nature even if only for a day. We decide that we'll trek Skandagiri as most of us in the group have not trekked it yet.
We do our basic research about the trek and find out that we should do online booking for the Skandagiri trek & take prior permission. We also get to know other details like the trek distance, trek timings, other places of interest near Skandagiri, etc. We book tickets for the trek on the Karnataka ecotourism website & get set for the trek. We reach the base of the trek after taking a wrong turn & wasting around half an hour (thanks to Google maps!)
We park our vehicles near the temple & start walking towards the forest check-post after confirming the directions with an elderly man near the temple. We reach the forest check-post where our tickets are checked & our details noted down. We are assigned a guide from the forest department here, who would accompany us for the rest of the trek. We follow him with our torch lights on and ask him if we'd be able to see the sunrise as we thought we were late. "Yes, if you keep a steady pace", he says.
On paper, the trek should take about 4 hours to complete as the Skandagiri trek distance is just 8 km, up & back. But we are not making a good pace right from the start of the trek. And it's not because the trek is difficult, instead, every few hundred meters we are compelled to stop & capture pictures as it is our first time trekking in the dark for most of us & we want these moments to be captured to cherish the memories of our night trek.
But, our guide warns us that we might not make it in time for the sunrise if we stop so often for pictures, and we start moving quickly. We cross narrow paths between boulders amidst the shrub forest. It feels as if it is just us out there on the trail as we have chosen to go on a weekday to avoid the crowd. The darkness is slowly giving its way to the first light of the day and we hurry up.
We cover the initial part of the trek with relative ease. But, the trail gets steeper as we climb. It is a litmus test to gauge our fitness levels after our hibernation for months because of covid. We stop every now & then to catch our breath. A lot of huffing and puffing later, we are at the peak of the hill finally! And, on time for the sunrise!
It's time for a much-needed break after the slog. We find a place to sit down and stretch our legs, waiting for the sunrise. The sky is changing its hue swiftly. What a sight it is to watch! Skandagiri's sunrise definitely is right up there with the best of the best.
We are rewarded with a stunning view of the sunrise above the horizon after ascending the steep hill. Catching a glimpse of the sun rising up is one of life's simplest pleasures. The sense of wonder they instill for the great outdoors & the peace they bring along is a beautiful experience. Watching the sun's golden reflection in the waters of the lake in front of the hill while listening to the sounds of nature is an unmatched experience.
After watching the sunrise we go on to explore the summit for a while. The summit not only gives you breathtaking insta-worthy pictures but also a view of mother nature's stunning beauty at work. Adding to this beauty is the 18th century Shiva temple at the peak and the ruins of the fort dotting the hill. We can also see the mighty Nandi hill standing tall in a distance.
Now our stomachs start growling with hunger & we decide to start our descend. On our way down, a friend shows us leopard & bear scat (poop) on the trail & then reassures us that they won't be active during day time & will avoid humans😅
We finally reach the base of the hill & hop on our vehicles & head out for our breakfast.
What more could you want from a trek? Answer: Absolutely nothing. The trail is at its best during monsoon & post-monsoon between the months of July to January when green takes over. You have a pretty high chance of seeing the cloud bed during the months between October & April.
If you are looking for some solitude, avoid going on a weekend & instead go on a weekday.
Distance: 8 km (up & down)
Duration: 4 hours
Elevation: 1350 meters
Trailhead: Papagni Mutt, Kalavara village