Green Route trek - Part 4

Posted by Anantha | Posted in , | Posted on Monday, August 24, 2009


I remember a railway guy saying that there are totally 17 tunnels and 20+ bridges. But it is not easy to keep a count of tunnels and bridges when you are trekking. After the initial drought of tunnels in the trekking route, we kept getting tunnels after tunnels. Entrance of each tunnel seemed like a big mouth of some demon; we helplessly kept surrendering ourselves into it one after the other. Then we reached another abandoned station, but this time we saw some 20+ trekkers from some adventure club from Bangalore, that included some stout girls. Sighting the waxed legs exposed out of the three-fourths, Narayan seemed rejuvenated. He started walking faster and faster to reach that gang ahead. Narayan wanted to join them, but Byre had different plans. I think Byre hated to follow the slow moving gang. He pulled us along and walked faster. That gang was split into 3-4 smaller groups. Byre and Sharath walked faster to overtake some of the smaller groups. Pujar, Narayan, Ethapay n me were walking slow along with few members from other gang. Byre was striding through the tunnels. That guy did not even want a torch! I do not know what had gotten into his mind or if some spirit possessed him when he was inside a tunnel. He was almost 'jogging' inside the tunnels. After few attempts of catching up with Byre, I gave up. I took my own sweet time and kept trekking with Pujar and few others.

That must be some 300+ mts long tunnel, we had crossed nearly 3/4th of it. Byre and Sharath were already out of the tunnel. We could see the exit of the tunnel. That is when the people from the other gang who were following us shouted, "train.. train..", we turned back to see an engine approaching us with a considerable speed. The tunnel was curved and that's the reason the light from the engine did not reach us until it was so close, but I am not sure why dint we hear the honk at least. We could have stood in the ditch leaning against the wall, but I think it is a natural tendency to run towards the light when we are in danger. 4 of us and a guy from the other gang ran towards the exit of the tunnel. And just stood safely outside the tunnel (See the pic). We stood there taking snaps for 2-3 minutes until that long goods train went past us. It was a narrow escape, though from a self imposed danger.

Landslides in this place are as common and as natural as rain! As I had mentioned previously, there is a great amount of man power deployed to monitor any fresh landslide obstructing the movement of trains and also to clear them with highest priority. In some places we also saw some people checking, fastening the giant mesh that was hung on the rocks along side the railway tracks. Near the entrance of a tunnel, we saw a customized truck on railway tracks! [tires were replaced by train wheels for this truck] and a JCB clearing a fresh landslide. A large heap of mud was spit on the railway tracks by the hill that stood aside the track. 6 of us and also few people from one of the smaller gangs had to wait till JCB gave us some way to go ahead. One of the stout girls from the other gang was also waiting along with us. Later when we reached Yedakumeri, Ethapay said he shared his *torch* with that girl and helped her walk through one of the tunnels. We believe Ethapay and what ever he says must be true. I know it was cold and raining and they had a single torch in the dark tunnel but now you guys don't get some dirty ideas ;)

I think except me, others were happy with their shoes to walk on gravel; all hard soled ones. Some website/Wiki had an exclusive tip saying one should wear moderately hard soled shoes for Green Route trek. Harder the soles, the chances of getting the ankle twisted were more according to them. That sounded extremely sensible to me and I had worn some shoes with not thick (but strong) soled shoes, and I ended up being the worst hurt guy in my gang. I think the last stretch of 5+ Kms to Yedakumeri was THE MOST PAINFUL trek for me. My calf muscles and thighs absolutely had no issues. If I had to walk for another 10 Kms also they would have borne the load of me on them but my soles... arrggghh every inch was paining like hell. I felt as if every stone I kept my foot on was piercing my sole. I felt I was bare footed. Adding to the woes, I had got 3-4 boils on my toes. The pain made me behave cranky, I could feel it but I was helpless. It was like, all my energy was channeled to reach Yedakumeri and I wanted not to have an extra step wasted in that effort. So much so that, once when Byre and Narayan called me back to have a look at some creature or some thing I did not walk back even for few steps. As I told before, I did not want to waste a single step of mine.

It must have been around 4PM, we sensed that we had cleared all the tunnels and bridges and were just few minutes away from our final destination, Yedakumeri station. Some more enduring steps, Pujar, Ethapay and me spotted the station. It started pouring as if the rain waited for us to reach Yedakumeri. We strode towards the platform. Stepping onto the concrete floor of the platform, I screamed at the top of my voice, it was more of an outlet for my subdued pain than a cry on reaching the destination. We occupied relatively a warm place [warm place is one where ceiling does not drip] and had lunch for the day. We had to kill 6 more hours in that place before we catch the train to B'Lore. We started playing Dumb Charades, as Byre had forgotten to get a pack of cards.

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The corridor of the old railway station with algae coated walls and leaking roof was providing shelter for six of us with few other trekkers. The railway platform was facing the gigantic rock covered with thick moss and other bushy plants. Two railway tracks were lying cold between the rock and the platform. The moon was playing hide and seek behind the dark clouds. The pattering drops from the edge of the roof of corridor were rhythmically causing ripples on the stillness of the night. We were resting on the floor with our towels and half dry jerkins protecting our backs and asses from the cold concrete floor. The railway officials had switched off the 4 tube lights that were lighting up the entire stretch of railway platform after their dinner; they had dozed off in their cozy rooms remaining indifferent to the guests sleeping outside.

We were waiting for the arrival of a train @ 11:30 PM to that station. The train was coming from Kukke Subramanya and was destined to reach Bangalore but via Hassan n Mysore. The train did arrive on time, spotting a door open we got into it. The train was overcrowded. Badly wanting for a good night’s sleep and some cushion to our asses we got down of the train in Sakleshpur. Caught a bus from there back to Bangalore…

Last few tips to trekkers:

Tip 1: Once when the track was abandoned, bridges must have had missing planks. After it's conversion to broad gauge there are no missing planks.

Tip 2: The trek is very safe (both through tunnels and on bridges), until you really have bad reflexes or you panic or you try some thing really really foolish

Tip 3: Monsoon might not be favorable to trek this stretch , but I would say Green Route is best relished only during monsoon!

Green Route trek - Part 3

Posted by Anantha | Posted in , | Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Sharath and Ethapay were cautious about leeches and smeared (poured?) Neem oil on their legs and shoes. The sight of the tracks enthused all of us. After spending few minutes on the photo session marking the initial point of trekking, we started the famous Green Route trek. The railway milestone there read 47/400. It took us few hundreds of meters to decipher that the milestones were indicating Kms/Mts, so that made us fix the number 47/400 in our minds as the reference point. Sharath exploited his Digital SLR by taking the pic of mist on leave, mist on spider web and all such tiny little but beautiful things. Knowing the imitations of our cameras, Ethapay n me concentrated on the big things like the trees around, the shrubs and fellow human beings, which were big but not so beautiful :)

After trekking for over a kilometer we were eager to spot the first bridge. While crossing the bridge, this time there were more camera clicks and solo pics taken, mostly of Ethapay :) By then we had managed to learn the art of walking on the gravel not hurting our soles nor getting our ankles twisted, Only to realize later @ the end of the day that there IS NO trick to walk on gravel for 20+ kms not hurting our soles. We spotted a woman walking between the tracks, greasing the edges of the tracks with a sticky black fluid which she was carrying in a plastic bucket. That woman was wearing a pair of Hawai slippers putting us to shame. If she had not got the task of checking the oxidized edges on tracks and greasing them to prevent them from further rusting and hence to prevent friction with the train wheels, I bet she would have walked with a better pace than us. After trekking for nearly a kilometer, we heard the honk of a train. Spotting it in the opposite direction, we all got off the track. The goods train was trying hard to pull the load with a slow pace. Sharath wanted to take a pic of train approaching in opposite direction and moved back on the track to take a pic. Seeing Sharath's heroics through a small rectangular 'windshield' (Volvo buses would have bigger rear-view mirrors :)), the driver of the goods train honked loud but in short bits. I think it roughly translates to 'Get off , you heroic ass****' in English ;) The goods train in these region usually have two engines, to pull the load in the slope and also to help the train decelerate quickly.

Many more photographs snapped and many more PJs cracked, we now could spot the stranded railway station of Donigal waiting for the guest trekkers like us. We alighted our backpacks in the corridor of the platform. We freshened up; thanks to the wash basin with a tap there. The platform has few rooms for the railway employees who patrol in shifts to notify any landslide obstructing the movement of trains and also validate other technical details pertaining signals and railway traffic round the clock. Sharath handed over our share of Chapatis neatly rolled into a parcel. Thanks a ton to his mom for the effort. Chewing every morsel of my share of Chapatis, I relished the whole milieu of the stranded railway station more and more. The sight of empty stations and empty platforms always fascinates me. I stared at the empty platform as a spectator would stare at an empty stage, just after his favorite play has gotten over. Yes that’s the precise feeling I have every time I look at an empty platform. There must have run a Simran towards her Raj, from the loosening clutches of her father around her wrist. There must have been a Geet just making it to the train, traveling to meet her Aryamaan. There must have run a Veer wriggling past the people on platform just to get a glimpse of Harleen before she leaves his town for ever. I know these thoughts are highly cynical, but it amuses me the most. I was brought back to the reality when Pujar asked whether we have carried sufficient food for lunch. We relished Chapatis and saved few for the lunch in the given share for each of us.

Having a clear goal of reaching Yedakumeri railway station before the dusk, we did not rest in Donigal station for a long time. Carrying our backpacks, we trekked ahead. The drizzle accompanied us throughout. We kept getting bridges after bridges, but much awaited tunnels were not seen at all. Almost all the bridges we crossed had at least one stand-by just to safely (!) run to it and stand aside when the train comes when trekkers are in the middle of crossing a bridge. Luckily we did not get the train when we were on the bridge.

Tip: Be careful when you are running to the nearest stand-by, some of them have missing planks and more over they would all be very slippery during rainy season.

Trekking ahead, as precisely told by a railway employee, we got our first tunnel. Near the entrance on top of the tunnel, all the tunnels are etched with the year it was constructed in (most of the tunnels are built in 1970s) and the length of that particular tunnel (ranging from 100+mts to the longest being 572 mts).We were all excited to walk through the pitch black darkness. We all made sure we hear no sound of train before entering the tunnel. Every one of us had obeyed to the trip itinerary by carrying a torch each. The first tunnel was some 100+ mts long (I think). We walked few steps ahead and felt as if the darkness has engulfed all the six of us. Pointing the bright spot of the torch on the track, I looked ahead; my eyes failed to spot any source of light or any other bright spot in the tunnel. For a moment I thought I was blind. My eyes were wide open but I was seeing only darkness and nothing but darkness. Walking through the tunnels is more fun when the tunnel is curved and there absolutely is no chance of sighting the other end of the tunnel.

Tip: When you are in tunnel and train comes in, do not panic. Just stand resting your back against the walls of the tunnel. All the tunnels have this sufficient gap.

[In the next and the last part of this travelogue, expect to read about Byre - the Usain Bolt of trekking through tunnels, a narrow escape in one of the tunnels, a landslide, Ethapay's chhoti si love story inside a tunnel and reaching Yedakumeri station]

(to be contd...)

Green Route trek - Part 2

Posted by Anantha | Posted in , | Posted on Thursday, August 13, 2009


The bus driver seems to be was in real hurry and dropped us off in Sakleshpur very very early than we expected. There we were... in the sleeping town of Sakleshpur at 4:45 in the morning. Donigal, the place to start the trek is 6 kms away from Sakleshpur. Our bus was going further to Mangalore and we could have requested the bus conductor to stop @ Donigal, but we did not. We had thoughts of taking a lodge for freshening up. But after seeing no lodge is open, we decided to walk till Donigal. Foreseeing the food we were carrying would not be enough; we got some bakery food parceled. Actually we had plans of buying some apples, as we usually do while going for any trekking, unfortunately no fruit shop was open so early.

Tip: Get down in Donigal than walking all the way to Donigal in the wee hours. Any speeding vehicle could knock you down

Though the official Green Route trek starts from Donigal but we had started trekking to Donigal. The street lights bid us adieu after walking for few hundreds of meters from bus stand. We all switched on our torches to let know the drivers of trucks, buses and other speeding vehicles going past us in both directions that there are some poor souls walking on the edge of the road in the dark. While walking, we heard a peculiar rhythmic sound as if a wooden gong is hit with a wooden mallet. Later we were amazed to realize it was some insect making such a loud but musical sound. Ethapay said it could be mating season for those insects and males could be producing that sound to attract females. I hope these male insects dont lose all their energy in just producing that loud sound and get exhausted, I dont think those tiny creatures will be left with any energy when they have to actually perform ;)

Seeing not a single inch of land dry, we forecast the weather for that day. The rain God nodded in agreement with a drizzle. We sat under the roof of a closed shop and wore our jackets. After walking for nearly an hour, we reached Donigal. Donigal is a silent village next to Sakleshpur. We counted and found 3 hotels in Donigal. The village must be so widely spread, that if a strong armed person throws a stone away and there are very less chances of stone landing within the bounds of Donigal. We chose to have a cuppa Tea each and rest a bit in the biggest of the 3 hotels The other 2 hotels did not have tables and chairs, they were mostly like kiosks but a bit bigger in size. All of us had tea. Byre, Narayan, Ethapay and Pujar lied down on the benches of the hotel and utilized the hotel as a lodge. Sharath and me clicked some pics within the hotel. We ordered 2 plates of parathas which was more of an act of returning favor to the owner of that hotel, for allowing us to sleep on the benches in his hotel.

Six of us shared those parathas and were about to leave the hotel for Donigal station around 6 AM. But, this time the drizzle was an understatement. It was raining well. Ethapay and Narayan wanted to start the trek waiting for the rain to stop or slow down. But rest of us convinced them that it is gonna rain this way throughout the Western Ghats during the season of monsoon. Asking the hotel owner for directions to reach Donigal station, we left the hotel thanking him again. The dampen road and the surrounding greenery inspired us to click many photos on the road to Donigal railway station. We made few calls from the public 'one Rupee coin' booth in Donigal. We were almost sure that, that was going to be the last link to civilization before we start our trek.

Tip: Only BSNL network works here. Better carry a BSNL sim

Tresspassing through some private estate, we reached the railway track to Donigal station. Donigal station was still quite far away.
(to be contd...)

Green Route trek aka Sakleshpur Railway Track trek - Part 1

Posted by Anantha | Posted in , | Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It was 10’O clock in the chilling night of Yedakumari. The corridor of the old railway station with algae coated walls and leaking roof was providing shelter for six of us with few other trekkers. The railway platform was facing the gigantic rock covered with thick moss and other bushy plants. Two railway tracks were lying cold between the rock and the platform. The moon was playing hide and seek behind the dark clouds. The pattering drops from the edge of the roof of corridor were rhythmically causing ripples on the stillness of the night. We were resting on the floor with our towels and half dry jerkins protecting our backs and asses from the cold concrete floor. The railway officials had switched off the 4 tube lights that were lighting up the entire stretch of railway platform after their dinner; they had dozed off in their cozy rooms remaining indifferent to the guests sleeping outside.
The six of us had just finished our ‘royal’ dinner consisting whole wheat bread slices with pickle and sauce with some Haldiram’s bhujia for garnishing. Sharath was lying left most next to Byre. Narayan was snoring next to him. I was involved in nonsensical talks with Pujar and Chetan to my right. I had held my bright torch up on my stomach pointing upwards to the white roof with many yellow and greenish patches, that serving as the only bright source of light after a dimly lit incandescent bulb at the other end of the corridor. To our left there were few other trekkers from Bangalore, most of them were tired and half dead after trekking on the Green Route for 20+ kms whole of that day.
A thought occurred in my mind. It was a Saturday night; all the 6 of us could have been on our cozy couches of our warm rooms in our respective houses in Bangalore, if we had wished to. But instead, we were lying curled up in some remote railway station in the windy and chilly Western Ghats waiting for the arriaval of a train @ 11:30 PM to that station. The railway employees there had said that train which usually does not stop in that station was stopping to our luck that day due to some signalling problems. Our calf muscles were tested to their best and our soles were paining every millimeter after walking on the gravel of the railway track for 20+ kms and other 10 kms on road. I had 4 boils on and in between my toes caused by my not so comfortable shoes. I just thought, was this misery worth in the name of thrill and adventure? Then my heart said, it was worth every penny of the pain! My mind was filled with the picturesque landscapes, fog covered mountains, innumerable streams and waterfalls, pitch dark tunnels, mind numbing metal bridges and fresh green vegetation that we had seen while trekking on the railway track that day.
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A trekker’s CV in Karnataka is incomplete if s/he has not been to Green Route aka Sakleshpur Railway Track trek. This has been a long pending plan for us. When we were searching for places to visit in monsoon, Green Route was last of the options. People and expert trekkers warn it as not a safe thing to trek in the monsoons on Sakleshpur Railway Track. With some hesitation and queer enthusiasm, 6 of us had gathered in the Majestic KSRTC bus station on Friday night.

The 6 trekkers are,
Pujar: He is in search of a Mexican Lingayat girl to marry and is very particular about this specification
Chetan aka gungru [not ghungroo]: People who have seen a recent Kannada movie Eddelu Manjunatha would know the reason behind calling any person gungru and are free to laugh to their heart’s content :)
Sharath aka Techie: The proud owner of D-SLR camera and the most organized guy in the gang
Byre: Toughest guy amongst us. Kannada movie director Suri is thinking of casting him in the sequel to Junglee
Narayan: The silent killer had grown thick stubble on an insistence from some hot aunty
Me: the loaferest loafer of the gang :)
Carrying enough food items and all the other necessary equipments for the trek, we boarded the famous red KSRTC bus to Sakleshpur. Chetan and Narayan preferred Volvo bus, but Byre chose Red bus over Volvo as he wanted this to be a tough trip preparing us for the tough trek of the next day.
The bus was relatively less crowded. We occupied 6 seats in the middle rows of the bus. The bus left Majestic exactly at 11 PM as scheduled. We all were pulling each other’s legs, cracking PJs bigtime and sipping Sprite, were just 5 hours away from what could be called the best trek of our lives.
(to be contd..)