Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gudibande fort

29th June 2013

Gudibande is a small town about 100 km from Bengaluru. Go on NH-7 towards Hyderabad and take diversion after Chikkaballapur. 10 km from highway is the town of Gudibande.

I and Subbu had some difficulty in finding the correct diversion to Gudibande. The sign boards were not proper which led to confusion. Thanks to sygic maps, we were able to retrace back and locate the exact deviation.

The fort is situated in the town itself. We parked our vehicle at the base and started our walk. Initial stretch of the fort is well paved.

Looking at the fort, we quickly realized that it would be a cakewalk. With plenty of time at our disposal, we concentrated towards butterflies that were numerous in numbers. Satisfied with the shots, we proceeded to climb further.

The climb is simple with clear paths. At some places, the route goes though the spaces created by huge rocks.

After first level, there are several caves which houses bee hives. A small kalyani here would have served as water source during its active days.

One of the several exit paths in the fort.

The view gets better as we climb up.

A ruined Temple on the way to the top.

The path gets narrower as we pass through the “rock tunnels”.

Subbu inspects top of the fort.

The landscape around Gudibande town.

Gudibande town and the lake near it.

A small kalyani just below the top of the fort.

The final steps to the last stage. A Temple exists on top of the fort.  The Temple was locked but it was a “live” Temple with a deity inside.

I don’t remember how long we took to climb the fort considering the stops we took to photograph butterflies and the fort. But a non-stop climb would just take less than 30 minutes!!

We had reached the top much ahead of our plan. The place was calm and serene. We slept for nearly an hour only to be disturbed by barking dogs!! Few shepherds were climbing up with their sheep. The dogs not happy with our presence kept barking at us. It was time to get down.

Here is the landscape of top of the fort with the path leading to it and the Temple.

One of Subbu’s relative stayed near in a village near Gudibande. We had our lunch there before proceeding to Bengaluru.

The return journey would have uneventful but for the fine I had to pay for over speeding near Devanahalli!!

Monday, September 09, 2013

Nilgiri mountain railway

20th July 2013

Nilgiri mountain railway is the railway line connecting towns of Mettupalyam and Ooty. The distance of about 42 km is covered by crossing 16 tunnels and 250 bridges, gaining (or losing) altitude of about 6100 feet. The section between Ooty and Coonoor is run by Diesel engines while stream engines rule Coonoor-Mettupalyam stretch. There is only one train that leaves Mettupalyam at 7:10AM. The same train starts back from Ooty at 2PM. But several trains run between Ooty and Coonoor.

We had travelled on Ooty-Coonoor section few years ago. My daughter always wanted to travel on “Toy train”. Hence we made a plan of driving to Coonoor and taking the train to Mettupalyam.  My friend Sankara and his family also joined us. The date was decided based on the availability of tickets!!

Bengaluru-Mysore road is now infested with speed breakers. I had counted 89 of them few weeks ago!! So, we decided to try out an alternate but faster route of Bengaluru->Salem->Avinashi->Mettupalyam->Coonoor. It was a good decision as Mysore->Ooty road was blocked due to heavy rains.

But our luck ran out just before Coonoor. The driver of an army truck lost his balance. The vehicle turned 90 degrees and got struck in the road resulting in pile up of vehicles on both sides. Even two wheelers could not pass though the broken vehicle.

It was already 1:15PM. Kids were already hungry. Hence it was decided that Sankara would wait in his while others would cross to the other side, take an auto and reach hotel, have lunch and proceed to railway station. We hoped things would be clear by then. It was grateful to see the auto driver not taking advantage of the situation to hike the price. Later, at the hotel, people were surprised to see us, the tourists coming without any luggage.

During the process, auto driver told us an alternate route to enter Coonoor. We relayed the information back to Sankara. It turned out to be useful information as he was able to make it to the railway station just in time!!

The first tunnel encountered after crossing Coonoor.

My daughter who was overjoyed by the experience, posed for a photo.

The train then passes though the jungles.

At some places, it runs next to the highway connecting Coonoor and Mettupalyam.

A small tunnel on the way.

The hills and the plains seen from railway. Though the plain looks very near, train takes a long route to descend slowly.

‘Hillgrove’ is the only station where train stops. It is mainly to fill water!! One can use this time to have some light snacks and tea at railway hotel or freshen up (There are no toilets in the train).

One of the several bridges that we crossed that day.

Bridge seen after crossing it. What you see behind are not clouds but smoke emanating from steam locomotive.

The middle line is used for braking. It uses Abt rack and pinion system (More info on that here).

A section where rocks are cut to make railway line.

It’s rainbow time!!

The last bridge and tunnel combo on the route!!

Let’s take a look back at the route we came!!

The Bhavani River at Mettupalyam.

Last notes:
  • Tickets for this train can be booked using irctc website.
  • There is very little difference between ‘first class’ and ‘second class’.
  • It is possible to purchase tickets at railway station. But it can be crowded.
  • This train connects to “Nilgiri express” coming from/going to Chennai. Few tickets are reserved for people from that train.
  • Most of the tunnels and bridges are between Coonoor and Mettupalyam.
  • “Chaiyya Chaiyya” song from “Dil se” was shot on this train!!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Madhugiri fort… a second attempt

4th August 2013

Four years had passed since the aborted climb of Madhugiri fort. The defeat was so shocking that it had punctured ego a lot!! The failure lingered on our minds but our confidence was low to attempt another climb. The steep hike where we retreated back was too much to handle for us. Hence, we liked to keep hike to the fort in our backlog. That was until I saw a photo of Madhugiri fort. Railings were put on the path. Phew!! Time to hit back!!

So, the failed guys (Me, Krishna, Subbu) sat for supplementary exam!!

The drive to Madhugiri was uneventful with only nuisance being some parts of Dabaspet – Koratagere stretch where road widening was in progress. And nothing much had changed in Madhugiri town in the last four years.

The initial part of the climb was easy. We reached the place where we had retreated in just 20 minutes. We always thought that we could not climb the last stretch. But that was not true!

This is the stretch that is quite steep and risky. But the risk part has vanished with the construction of railings. Even at the place where water was oozing out, we could climb without much difficulty with the support of railings. But this part is exposed where a portion of fort wall on the top has collapsed. The structure looks ready to collapse at any time!!

Madhugiri fort is deceiving as the top of the fort is never visible during the climb. While we were relaxing after the steep climb, few locals joined us. Looking at our tired faces, they suggested us to eat “raagi balls” each day to gain strength. We had a readymade answer for that. They were teenagers and we were “old” people. “It’s because of the age guys”, we told. Their next sentence made our mouth shut. “My father can climb this fort without taking break even today”. We went silent.

The climb never seemed to end. As the pinnacle was not visible, we would climb the peak only to find another one!! The railings were not present at this stretch was not dangerous.

Finally, we reached the top of the fort after 75 minutes from the start. We had gained a height of 1450 feet from Madhugiri town.

We ticked off a long pending item!!