October 15, 2013

Misty Mountains Cold

1/4 KMS

It made no sense.
Neither did the absence of a reason for us to be reading that (or trying to read that), quarter of the way up, on a somewhat 'misty mountain cold' from an easily imaginable Tolkien universe.

The clocks read 02:10 in that half-mooned Saturday night. My usual warm bed and cold beer was 70 kilometers behind. And I was trying to find solace in a spelling error.

Fantom. Of course it doesn't mean a phantom.
But with a thick canvas of darkness all around, you can imagine anything. And with swaying trees, hissing bushes and large rocks around, you could imagine everything. There was a monster behind every tree.
I wished we were home. And we would have turned homewards, had that old man with a dire wolf not found us some 42 minutes earlier.

About 42 minutes earlier…
We were lost. All that we knew was that we had to find a sign saying 'way to hills' and we would be on the right track.

We did. Yet we had been finding dead ends no matter which way we turned.
Someone flashed a light in our direction. Certainly a signal.

Could it be the Police? As we wondered, the guy who planned the trip quoted wikipedia : "As of December 2011, Skandagiri trekking has been completely banned by Chickballapur police, during night as well as day. " (Click here to read more dreadful stuff, refer to section: 'Important Information')
So that’s why we had to take a detour around the police chauki and crawl underneath a no-entry barrier to get to the starting point. We had gone about it so very casualy because then, unlike now, our minds were without fear and we held our heads high.
We could have scorned at him for keeping this from us but the light was drawing closer. This time accompanied with a distinct whistle.
Should we respond, we wondered. Could he be a lootera? All wondering aside, we flashed back.

The closer he came, the older he looked. His dog, black and dire-wolfish, closely trailing him.
He said something. We said something. Neither understood the other. The dire-wolf wasn't even interested.

He tried again.
We shook our head in negation.
Having watched all of Samantha Ruth Prabhu's movies, I thought maybe I could catch his drift. I had barely shaken my head in affirmation and he began rapping in Telugu.
We stopped him. "Hindi??" "English??"
"Hindi illey, English illey", he said.
"Kannada illey, Telugu illey", we said.

Then he said, "Paisa kodi, paisa kodi". Money was brought in picture. And we understood each other quite well from there on. He led us out of that labyrinth until we were back on the right trail.

"Follow the white arrows", he manged to make us understand this before leaving.

We could see half the hill ahead of us. The other half lay engulfed by the mist. Moving ahead , we kept feeling lost, but always found that reassuring white arrow.
That was until we came up to the 'Fantom' writings alongside the white arrow.

We were four people. We had one Flash-light. I know ki ye bahut na-insafi hai. But mujhe seriously laga tha ki it would be just about the climb. Jai-mata-di bolunga and would race to the summit. So I never bothered to carry a torch. The way up to the raw 1350 m peak was whatever places you could root your feet into.

The city lights afar faded as we entered the mist. At about 3:30 am, nearly half the climb was done. Cold and fatigue were setting in. Overnight trek. The idea seemed a bit less appealing than it had done some 12 hours earlier.

12 hours earlier…
A very good friend of mine was in town. Ideally, I should have spent all of the weekend with him, but for this trek. For a better part of Saturday morning (and afternoon), I was cleaning up the mess I made at work on Friday. Well, with responsibilities and jobs, your schedule changes before the numbers on your keyfob.

Anyway, we met up. He is not a guy, but a whole package (literally :P ) 'strappoed' into one, bringing all us scattered people, cluttering, chattering, cooking, rebuking and peeling off lahsun as the good times roll'ied' on.
G1 rocked. :D

I could have stayed on. But I chose differently. Joined by fellow trekkers, I was enroute to Hebbal. Then to Yelahanka. And then to Chikaballapura. And then halfway up Skandagiri, mist soaked and with winds getting fiercer with the rising gradient.

The mist never let us know that we had reached the top until we actually did. The wind was so fierce up there that it could have seriously blown me off (and its not because I weigh less but because that wind velocity could blow away a storm). And it was cold. Us t-shirt clad noobs hid in that small rocky temple. Last time I felt that cold was during the Roopkund trek. We talked about how we had beaten the cold back then. My advice - never trek without rum. A little wouldn't kill you, but make you stronger. :D

It was beyond 7 and still too windy and too misty for any sign of the sun. Trudging back was the only option and not a bad one. With every step down, the brightness increased, the optimism returned. And I realised, in totality, it was all worth the effort. The morning light showed us what we had walked through and if nothing, the cramps and sprains gave us self approved badge of achievement while reigniting the respect and love of our dear bread and bed.

Shortly before we hit the plains, we came upon the 'Fantom' sign again.

1/4 KMS

Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended.
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline.
Everything is relative to your perspective.