The Railway Trek

A 2-day-weekend jaunt, two days of pure unadulterated oxygen

This was another 2-day-weekend jaunt. These shorter outings seriously limit how much one can do, but hey, it's a break from the smog. Two days of pure unadulterated oxygen is heaven sent.

The plan was to trek from Sakleshpur to Edakumeri along the very scenic railway line. This stretch of railway is part of the now abandoned metre-guage track from Hassan to Mangalore. The strong lorry drivers lobby here has halted the conversion of this track to broad-guage, so the disused track winding through some of the most breath-taking spots in the Ghats is a trekkers haven. Plenty of bridges, tunnels, landslides and fallen trees dot the track, making the "track trek" that much more interesting.

The group was much larger than usual this time. The old adage "The more, the merrier" is true, but the logistics tend to become a mess. But man, what a show!. Kudos to those who did the preparation, amazing job folks. I would mention names, but I'm deathly afraid of missing somebody and slighting them. Everybody had sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rucksacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, trail mix, plates, spoons, bus tickets... the works. Totally awesome. The task boggles my simpler, easy-going mind.

My big rucksack is still with Vinay, so I had to make do with my day-hike backpack. Vinay, if you're reading this... you better have the rucksack the next time you get your arse to Bangalore. Surprisingly, I did not forget anything this time. I remembered my camera, 2 new batteries, 2 spare batteries and 3 extra rolls. I am getting good at this. Then again, my entire responsibility for the trip, to quote Ujjal, was this:

Read CAREFULLY...

1. U MUST NOT FORGET TO BRING *URCAMERA*
2. U MUST NOT FORGET TO BRING 2 ROLLS FOR IT
3. U MUST HAVE 2 PAIR OF BACKUP BATTERIES FOR *URCAMERA.*

At the bus-stand

We started off on Friday evening, the 28th of November in the year of our lord 2003. We used only public transportation this time. Whew, thank goodness for that. I didn't have to entertain thoughts of amputating my legs to stop them hurting. We met at the city bus station at 11pm. The place has come a long way from the confused mass of swilling humanity I remember from school days, which is also about the last time I set foot there. I need to get out more.

Praveen (motto: Ahrrr... BC want Neer Dosa) and Sapna (motto: Hey watch where you step, mister, you almost squished me) were part of the welcoming committee, and had set up shop amidst a veritable sea of rucksacks, backpacks and other assorted gear one normally takes on these affairs. Finally, after a lot of hot-liquid-in-a-cup, here-we-all-are photographs, high-fives, pomp and splendour, we reached the bus minutes before it started, and discovered that we would have to keep the gear in the bus. No space atop, no space below.

Working at the Temple

That was some night ride. Loud noise, corny one-liners, songs... I kinda felt half sorry for the others on the bus. The bus did a late night stop-over in Hassan, where we got more hot-liquid-in-a-cup. I guess the stuff was growing on me.

We reached our starting point, Donigal, at about 4:30 AM. Good lord, this is the time I normally go to bed. And I have to start trekking! Grouch, Grouch, Grouch. The folks on the bus heaved an audible sigh of relief when they saw us off at a tiny roadside temple.

A lot of repacking, dividing the load and re-distributing the weight happened in the dim light of the temple. A good three quarters of an hour passed before we got moving to get to the railway track... and about half the folks promptly lost their way. So when we actually did hit the tracks, it was nearly 6:00 AM. Oh, for want of a morning cuppa. There was nowhere we could get a bit of hot-liquid on these abandoned tracks.

Just crossed a bridge

The bridges started shortly after. These bridges are definitely NOT meant to be crossed on foot. A slip would not be very dangerous to someone of my own ample proportions, but someone like Gary (motto: I'm the strong, silent type... NOT!) could slip right through, to the bottom way below. The few photos taken here aren't quite... shall we say, sharp ? What did you expect from me, eh ? Steady Hands ? Look at poor Satsang (motto: The next CATastrophe is on the 15th of Feb).

We made our breakfast halt near a stream at about 7:30 AM. We had a nice wash in rather cold water, and a hot cuppa noodles each followed by a strong black tea. All heated over the fire of a group of local workmen. I love anything cooked over a wood fire. It has a tangy bitter-sweet smell which reminds me of childhood winter holidays in Kerala.

The black tea packed a punch like a brick in a wet sock and really shook us awake. Hah, that was but a minor setback. We each promptly found a six-by-three stretch of flat ground and lay down. Hey, we're the dominant species of the planet. Lazing around is our prerogative.

Oh and there was a rather hilarious interlude with greens. Gary and gang were on a quest to find a best leaves to double up as toilet paper. They employed a scientific approach and analysed texture, softness... ok I'll stop there. Their usage has been captured on camera, in a purely clinical, objective sense, for future study.