After a successful climb to Vellarimala, we took a long break for the next one. When we started planning for the next one, Sakleshpur was the first one to strike our brains. Peter was always excited about this place and finally he persuaded us to venture this railway trek. Sakleshpur was the much hyped railway trek in south India, which appears in each and every trekker’s blog. This railway track was abandoned for many years, and very recently it was opened for train services . So we had a new concern in our hand whether exploring this track would be possible now, with the trains chasing us from both the directions. However, against all the odds we decided to go ahead with the trek.
On Friday (8th Feb 2008) morning, our office @ thoraipakkam was noisier than usual. The trekking fever had spread across and the reception place was filled with backpacks. Just after we finished our lunch, our team assembled in the reception @ 1:30PM with their backpacks. Our team included Balsu, Srini, Gowri, Anu, Nagendran, Balaji, Peter, Sheetal, Roshana, Veera, Venkat, Rathna, Pradeep, Shetty, Anand, Sreedhar, Sekhar, Vaibhav, Chenchu, Aditya, kutti Ganesh & Ramesh. We all started in 2 shuttles from office to Tidal metro station. Markus, Murali and his wife joined us at the metro. The metro was quick enough and took us to Park station in short time. We got off the train and walked across to Central station where our train was waiting. Bhellsun, Ramya, Satish and his wife joined us at the central station. We had 1 hour for the train and our guys have already started with their snapping.
Soon, all of us entered the train and started to find a place for them & got settled down. At 3:30pm, Lalbagh express started its journey and we get fully involved in our favorite time pass in the trains ”UNO”. The game has become a lifeline for our trek and we were limited by the 2 packs that we had to play. The journey was filled with fun of UNO for the first half till Mr. Hunger kept its mouth shut. Hunger showed its presence on people’s face and growling bellies added the sound effects to the scene.
And we were desperately waiting for the pantry guys to bring dosas and omelettes to our place. After munching the food (including some home made chappati and chicken biriyani), everybody was trying to steal more space to relax a bit. Our energy levels started to pump-up as we got closer to Majestic railway station at Bangalore. We reached Majestic @ 9:30PM and then walked across the road to meet our companions Ramki, Sumod & Ramya joining us at Bangalore. Ramki had collected the tents and sleeping bags which were then distributed to the individuals. We did some searching till we found our KSRTC contract bus.
We dumped our backpacks into the trunk and got into the bus. The bus started and moved on till Navrang and halted to pick up our prime organizer Prema and her (our) chappatis. Its worth mentioning that the chilli powder weighted more than the chappati itself 🙂 The next halt was to pick up liquids needed for the journey. We reached Sakleshpur @ 4:30 and we continued about 4-5kms to Dongial and found a bunch of open tea shops there. As we reached there to our bad luck we found that the bus cannot proceed further as the road was blocked and the sad part was that, we were still 5kms away from the trek starting point.
It was still dark when we decided to walk, and we had no clue where we were walking. The road was pitch dark, but we made it brighter with our torches. Just imagine 35 people with bright LED torches turned on!!!!. We were walking downhill, so it was quite easy to cover the distance. By the time we reached the station it was quite bright outside, and then we noticed that we have walked on roads running between hills! There was some confusion on which way to start the trek, but somehow we managed to find the way with the help of some locals. After taking some clicks on the donigal station we started our journey.
After walking few kms guys started to feel the early morning urge for food, and we started to look for a place to have breakfast. We wanted to take a pitstop near some water stream so that we can fill up our bottles and get freshen up a little. After walking for two hours we found a place with small water stream, so we took a break there and had breakfast. A railway bridge was crossing above the stream where we took the break. When we were about to start, we heard the train sound, we stayed back and watched the train going through the track. After look the train crossing, I am sure that train would have popped up the thought on everybody’s mind that ‘what will happen if train comes when we were walking on the bridge’…
Walking on the track was not an easy task, we need to place every step on those huge concrete slabs or you can walk on the stones which was painful after some time. And the backpack weight which adds more pressure made us to take breaks frequently. The entire stretch is a railway track which was once abandoned. This track connects Bangalore to Mangalore, and runs through most beautiful mountains. While walking we came across some of the most beautiful valley views and mountains. And the most interesting part of the trek was tunnels and bridges. There were long bridges which we need to cross by walking on the track. Luckily we had those metal plates on the track. Crossing the bridge has been a fun part in the trek, as the train might come at any moment! Tunnels will put you in zero visibility, as you will land up in complete darkness. Torches helped us to cross the tunnels. Some of them were half a km long.
We went through a Tunnel ( I think it was tunnel no. 25),which was almost 600 mts, followed by a bridge which was the longest we had encountered till that point. It had the most scenic view and as everyone knows the moment you reach such spot, everyone wants to capture a Kodak moment. At this point a couple of guys were suddenly stung by bee, while they were standing in the middle of the bridge. Everyone thought it was a one of thing, but we were so wrong and suddenly we were surrounded by bees. The great Muhammad Ali had the famous quotes “ Move like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee” , we had a new version of it “ Move like a Butterfly, or get Stung by a Bee”. At such situations , you don’t care about how tired you are or how scared you are of heights…..there’s only one thing to do, run as fast as you can , away from the bridge….
At this moment , I would like to put a special mention of Nagendran. We reached safely and then we saw the next group coming out of the tunnel and already having their cameras out and taking snaps, totally unaware of what was awaiting them. We tried to warn them about the bees, but they were thinking something else ( Rathna was thinking that we were shouting Train is coming, cant blame him the word for bee in Tamil sounds similar to that) . At this point Nagendran ,who was till now, not even stung by a single bee decide that the only way to alert them was to cross the bridge and inform the group. He ran as fast as he could , but it was not fast enough. By the time he reached the other end of the bridge , he was attacked by bees. The other group understood what we were trying to say all along. So Mr. Nagendran sacrificed himself to protect his friends from the bees.
As the day goes by, the sun stared to show its full heat. After struggling in the sun we finally reached the yedakumari station where we planned to have lunch. Station had a kitchen, which prepared food for the people working there. We asked them to prepare some food, but they said it will take some time to prepare food. But eggs were available, so they made us nice omlettes. Chappathis with omlette, tasted like heaven after walking so long. Again we started to walk, but ended soon at a small water falls. Many of us were so tired, which made us to take a dip in the water. The fast running water really did some massage to our paining bodies. Since we were walking slowly in the morning, we were behind the schedule of reaching the tunnel 22 for camping. So without spending much time at the falls we started to walk again.
After a long walk of 28kms we came to the time where we all said “At last’. Yes it was the place where we planned to tent and stay the whole night. It was at the opening of tunnel 21. We reached this place at around 5:30PM. But we were not altogether. There were few couples who didn’t reach and to our surprise even they reached at 5:45PM with all the tussles. So the whole group was there at 5:45PM. The plan was perfect till this time and “we all made it”. So before we could ask what next, the tents where opened one by one and they started to mount the tents at different locations. 7 tents were raised in a matter of 15 mins.
Peter started making fire to prepare food. The vessels were taken out. All bottles which were filled with water were lined up near the fire. By the time we saw the fire and went near Peter, some already finished their first round of eating. And one poor guy was shouting “orders please”. And many were in the queue before us. Since we didn’t have the intention to tip him we went ahead and took all that we needed. Peter was doing the main chef job and we all were helping him.
We thought of making a bonfire for additional effects. But none was an expert to prepare and many were struggling for nearly 30mins with ideas flowing from different directions. At last when we thought of dropping bonfire there came out Tarzan. Who jumped, pushed everybody away and was giving orders, I need that I need this. With the help of others getting things and in a matter of 15mins a good bonfire was glowing in front of us. By this time 100% agreed he is the Real Tarzan. And it was none other than our “Sreedar”. Thanks to Sreedar.
By this time it was getting dark and we made a circle around the fire. Some torches hanging on top of the tents were giving disco lights effect. Vinod had got his Sony small speakers which came with the Sony mobile. As he was out of charge we took Balaji’s mobile which had some mix of collections. Tarzans bonfire, vinods speakers and Balaji’s collection attracted many audiences.
After which we discovered someone was sitting on the other side where the food was prepared. I am not sure Y we went there and how we went there. But in a minute everyone gathered there. And it was Peter with his fellow people chit chatting and was taking care of the fire to give warmth. Dj without any rest carried the song to this place and was busy changing songs. Rathna knew there is going to be some fun so he made sure to capture everything in video. Bhellsun cleaned the dance floor with his trick dancing technique. After which Peter showed us how to dance in Jungle and marquees broke Peter’s record with his break dancing proficiency.
Morning…. I just forgot all the beautiful dawns I have ever seen when I woke up this day… it was a pleasant silence everywhere still engulfed in the partial darkness from the previous night. The sun was just knocking at the horizon, I could see a clear view of golden rays spreading across the sky as no buildings were here to hinder my view today . And to bestow the beauty there was a cozy breeze doing rounds there making the leaves to rustle like a viper and trust me that was the music for the ears. As it was still a bit dark when we woke up we decided to take advantage of this. And everyone was on a lookout for a place to do a*DOWNLOAD* of whatever they have uploaded in last 2 days and people were preferring the places where they could get better connectivity .
Then people started around 7 in the morning and reached the breakfast point which was an abandoned station which was our first Pit Shop after starting in morning. We had few breads and surprise Food packets which appeared from peoples bag and which were consumed immediately here people found out a new use of biscuits other than eating.
After settling down for some time it was time to move on, we had to cover 12 Km more and there were rocks to walk on which the feet were paining every foot and feet was changing into foot but we were experiencing heaven sometime or the other by walking on plane surface which was a treat for everybody. After walking for sometime we heard a train crossing everybody had a chance to sit down and relax and nobody was going to miss it so as soon as it was confirmed that train is coming everybody went for the rocks to sit. After the train crossed we all set to cover the next stretch keeping in mind that we had to reach the point of destination at right time so we setout everybody was thirsty as from the morning nobody has filled their bottle and after the breakfast everybody drank almost all their water. So later we saw finally a stream where we could fill our bottles and everybody ran to fill their bottles
After drinking some water we were told by some local that we have a shortcut if we want which looked like a good thing as everybody was exhausted and wanted to just get to the road so it was decided that we will take the shortcut through the jungle but question remained that those who people remained behind how to tell them of this detour and finally we thought of ingenious plan to put sign board which should be visible.
Then started a walk through jungle which was like the most easiest of all as we were reaching our destination early but half the way we were unsure which path to take and we had to work on our survival instinct and every time put some kind of sign to tell the next batch which road to take. So we walked ahead just passing a wonderful trek with leaves all over the trek it was a lovely sight seeing the bed of leaves. If it would have not been for the rocks in between it would have been a walk to remember nonetheless it still was a perfect walk through the woods. After walking for about half an hour we saw the ROAD a ROAD where the vehicle were passing and we ran towards it wanted to kiss it after walking 2 days on the stones it was the best thing we could kiss.
The pleasure of road as you can see on the faces of each and every person who found the road. From here we started walking towards the place where we could get a jeep or a bus to the place where our buses were parked but we didn’t knew something will come in between which will hinder in reaching the destination. And it was the cool and calm water of a river flowing under a bridge. And this invited us to bring a storm in it and nonetheless it was inviting so everybody went for a dip in the water as the water shallow enough for only a dip and not enough to swim but guys are guys and they are not disappointed by such things they could play around just about anywhere. So we set out in the water to create the storm. After a nice swim we reached the point where we had to get the jeeps and buses we had some lunch a proper food hot and inviting and a cricket match in which we were winning it was a great atmosphere
After filling our stomachs, it was time for a rollercoaster ride from Gundya to Donigal over non-existent roads. We had a 1 open jeep, 2 jeeps & 1 omni carrying us to the place where our bus was waiting. The ride was bumpy and we had our drivers showcasing their racing skills against each other.
To our bad luck, the bus had starting problem and hence we were delayed. We took the time to climb up the 100m (internal distance measurement) pathway to reach Tipu’s fort and had a nice time viewing the magnificent fort and showcasing our balancing & photographic skills.
After a long time, the bus got ready and then we evacuated Donigal and started towards Bangalore. Knowing that we would miss our train to Chennai, we arranged for a bus from Bangalore to Chennai (Hats off to Shetty, job well done). We reached Bangalore @ 1:30PM where we bid Good byes to few of us and the rest jumped on into the bus waiting to take us to Chennai. We reached Chennai by morning 8:15 and we bid farewell to each other and dispersed.
General information for future trekkers: we entered at Donigal at milestone 50km around 6am in the morning. We did not see anyone at Donigal station, no one tried preventing us from entering the track. One needs to start towards the left side when facing the railway tracks at Donigal station. The station master at Yedakumari displayed some hostility trying to prevent us from having lunch at the station platform. We set up our camp in the evening around 1.5 hours after Yedakumari station at milestone 71/500km on a broad platform just before a tunnel (just after a waterfall and small bridge). We exit the track to the right into the jungle at 80/100km just after the exit of a tunnel (not sure about the number). Between 71/500km and 80/100km there is hardly any water so ensure to refill your bottles beforehand. During our 2 day trek around 5-6 trains passed us on the railway track during daytime. During Saturday night we heard around 3 trains passing our camp site. Trains are driving slow and can easily be heard coming from a distance. The drivers are very friendly and will sometimes even stop to allow us to leave a bridge or exit a tunnel. There are side platforms on bridges and there is sufficient space inside the tunnels to let the trains pass by. We did not encounter any leeches.
Story written by – Balsu, Balaji, Vinod, Gaurav, Vaibhav, Bhellsun