Thursday, September 1, 2011

Savanadurga - The fort of Death..! and Machinbele dam

This is one of the closest peaks (about 1226 m, Skandagiri being around 1350 m) which is around 40 Km Bangalore, and is definitely is in a must list those who do day trekking around Bangalore. This is also one of the tougher ones to climb, certainly not recommended for those who are not fit. This is said to be the largest monolith of Asia and is definitely looks humungous when you see it directly. The Savandurga’s name amongst other reasons seems to have originated from the sentence “The fortress of Death !”, the place being very treacherous for the climbers. The hill seems to have been the fort of Kempegowda and later occupied by Tipu Sultan. However most the structures atop the hill seems to have been ruined with only a few structures remaining intact.

Machinbele Dam -enroute
View of Savandurga at about 15 Km from the base
Clicked enroute - near the dam

The place also has the river Arkavathi traversing through, culminating at Machinbele dam. The dam has a few adventure camp oragnizations like Nature admire, Care, Angel etc., arranging, kayaking, sailing (yes, you heard it right, 33 km from Bangalore you got a location for sailing with yachts.!) cave exploration, rock climbing etc.,

Details: Savandurga has two hillocks – Karigudda  or Karibetta (black hill), Biligudda (whitehill) with each of them being a separate trekking routes and have a small temple/fort at their top. Each of these two are worth a separate day of trekking on their own. The bases of these hills are separated by around 10-15 Km.

Karigudda: Very little people trek Karigudda as it is more difficult and people get lost easily en-route. The base of this hill can be reached from a place called Nayakanpalya. Unless you have a local guide, trekking this place is not recommended, as one may easily get lost and the route is quite dangerous. But the place is certainly worth the effort.
Billigudda: This is the more accessible route and is frequented by many. The foothills for this trek can be reached by reaching Veerabhadreshwara Swamy / Narasimha Swamy temple which are closeby this place. The route for this trek is also a bit tricky, however it has arrow marks at most places to guide people to the top. The peak has a cute Nandi temple and a flag pole at the top. The route also has many fort walls at different levels along the way.
Both the places are also very dangerous when it starts raining as the rocks become very slippery, if you slip by the wet rocks it would just be a one way ticket to the top. It is always better to wear a good sports shoe and woodlands shoes certainly do not help. On the other hand if it is sunny, it gets really hot and completely drains you. It is better to carry a lot of water in any case.

We planned to trek the Billigudda as the climate looked very looming and we were not prepared to take any risks. We took along with us poor old man who happened to stick to us as a guide also acted as a historian. It was a good decision as there were not many people trekking along being a weekaday. I would advise newbie trekkers to take a guide or follow a group who are trekking along. The entire trek is not a lengthy one – would take a maximum of 2/2.5 hours but is quite intensely steep and precarious.

The start of the trek

Level 1:
The trek started with bare smooth rocks and some shrubs along the route. There were 4 distinct levels I would say, with each level marked by a ruined fort wall. We started climbing at about 11 am. Climbing over rocks takes a toll on your foot. We reached the first level after about 20 minutes where we could see some battered wall. This stretch was enough to give us a taste of what is left. We took a break atleast after every 10/15 minutes. Two of our friends dropped out of this point. We started ahead expecting how long the rest of us can withstand. Any deviation and own efforts to find the path on our own lead to dead ends or slippery rocks and we found it quite difficult to trace the best path towards the top. However there were arrow marks at most places indicating the route to the top. It is also possible to trace the shortest route by following the Electric poles/electric cable.
Level 1 fort walls
Break after Level 1
Level 2:
After a grueling 30 more minutes we reached Level 2 where we found another set of walls, this one as the guide said, seems to be the vantage point for using cannons it seems. The route became less steep for a while before we even had a flush of thick trees. 
Level 2 -the master explaining the canon position ..!
shot at Level 2
Somewhere close to Level 3

Enroute to Level 3
Another pic of the beautiful Dam
Level 3 came about next 30 minutes, and we could find a proper old edifices and even a large pool at this height. From here the final peak and the Nandi temple perched atop, at Level 4 was quite visible. There was also a temple at this place, with a painted Hanuman inscribed in the rocks. Enthused by the sightings of the peak, we pushed ahead for the final climb.

View of Peak and Nandi from Level 3
Edifice at Level 3

Pool at Level 3
Temple at Level 3
Level 4:
Further continuing uphill, the next part was the steepest of all and after a 20 minutes climb and intermittent rests we reached the pinnacle or Level 4 at around 1 pm. There was a small Nandi temple at the hilltop. Certainly reaching this Nandi was way more heavenly that the other Nandi hills. The view was stunning indeed. The climb was certainly worth the effort. From here, we could also see people climbing in the Karigudda peak, the paths looked quite treacherous indeed. 
Mission Achieved !

Ringing the bell.. and a small prayer for a safe descent back..!
More rest

After spending an hour at the top we started the descent. Though less tiresome the descent was more taxing on the heels and foot but we could reach down much faster. However at around level 2 it started raining and the rocks became very slippery. Once our shoes got wet, with the rocks already being wet, the route turns into a slippery theme park like slides! Some of us took off our shoes while coming down. We reached the bottom at around 2 30 pm. There were a few huts at the back of the temple, which served rice and sambar or chitrana (lemon rice). There were no seats in the hut, but we managed to finish the plates standing in the street as we were quite hungry anyway.

Transport: Though there are buses from Bangalore (Bangalore ==> Magadi ==> Savanadurga), its always better to come with personal transport, a bike or a car. The distance is only about 45 Km. Since we started from Bannerghatta road, we went with the below route. I guess this is the best route for anyone who can start from the Mysore road. Bikes can be parked infront of the Temple. There were many local shops, however as mentioned above there is no proper hotel, only local eateries.

Bangalore ==> Nice road ==> Mysore road (for some 2 km) ==> Turn right to Big Banyan Tree ==> After some 3 Km from Big Banyan Tree, turn a left (Chandrapa circle) ==> Reach Machibele dam  ==> Reach Billigudda base

Route that we took/recommended:

View Larger Map

A dip at Machinbele dam

The road was pretty good and serene. The entire place and the hill is not commercialized like skandagiri or Nandi hills and certainly a must go place for all aspiring trekkers. But it is strict no during rain or very sunny days. Machinbele dam was nearby, and we could go to the backwaters on the way back for a cool dip into the waters after the tiring trek. There were even some kayaking and sailing boats arranged by some adventure clubs. The entire roads and the dam was very serene and we were quite surprised by the beauty and remoteness of the place just 35 odd Km from Bangalore.

The Big Banyan Tree -enroute- A single tree spread over 2 acres -enroute