It was a cold and chilly morning as we rode out from Nagarabhavi along Magadi road towards Savandurga. The road, after a few jitters around Sunkadakatte was just perfect. The weather was clear with a slight chill – pleasant for a summer morning. Google maps said that we needed to take a left at Tavarekere and head towards Manchanbele and then turn right on reaching the Magadi-Ramanagara road. However, I could never find that road and the locals I asked along the way guided us towards Magadi and told us to take a left there to Savandurga. I found no reason to complain as the road was amazing throughout, and pretty soon we were outside city limits to be surrounded by the granite hills common to the region.
After a while we passed TG Halli reservoir which looked pretty sad and continued along, cruising at a decent 60 Kph. I tried not to go too fast as I was a tad worried about pushing my bike. Plus the weather was just too good to be wasted on getting there quickly. But there were patches where I could manage to push my bike to higher speeds and it climbed up the increasing elevation without a grunt. After more than half an hour we came to the turning towards Ramanagara and took that road for 8 kms. This road justified all the biking done to reach Savandurga. At 8 AM, it was still chilly with the Sun’s heat barely breaking through. There was dew. We could not see it, but we could feel it around us and, most importantly, smell it. If you’ve been on treks or in the countryside starting early in the morning in winters you’ll know what am talking about.
After 8 Kms the turning to Savandurga came up. This road winded through for 4 Kms and was pretty badly maintained. But then we did not see a single vehicle passing us, from either direction, which is pretty incredible in India. After 4 kms of a rattling ride we reached the gate of the trekking spot. I remembered this spot from an earlier trek with the Huawei folks way back in 2002, but was guided further by the person manning it. After another enquiry near a Veerabhadreshwara temple near by, I was directed to the Lakshmi Narasimha temple further down. As we approached the temple and tried to find a spot to park we were surrounded by a bunch of street dogs.
Initially scared I quickly realised that they meant no harm. There was no wagging of the tails, but there were no menacing growls either. They just seemed enthused by someone new in the area. We asked a coconut hawker for directions and were waved along with a few dogs in tow. I tried chasing them away, but another man watching us told us to follow them. They’ll guide you to the top he said.
In any trek it is the initial part that is most difficult and with Savandurga it was worse. We were climbing up bare rock with hardly any trees for shade, and the Sun, initially pleasant, was beating down now. After much climbing we reached the first fort wall with 3 of the dogs still in tow. We took our first break and I opened my backpack before I realised why the dogs had followed us.
It made sense. It was a simple symbiotic relationship between men and canines. They went up with men initially for the food. Soon they start ‘guiding’ people by taking the path proactively with other trekkers. Only thing, you ‘pay’ them in kind. Mutually beneficial, and good fun.
After much climbing up, with dogs, guiding arrows and litter to help us, at times climbing on all fours through grips carved into the rock, we made our way up to the Savandurga fort. That place had a nice little resting place with a lot of garbage thrown under it. I figured we were close to the summit and it shouldn’t take much time to reach. It didn’t. Instead it took all my energy to get there! The Sun was now bearing down really hard and the last part is the most barren of the lot with no trees or shrubs for cover. Even the dogs decided to call it off at that point. After much climbing I saw a dense wooded area on one side and decided not to head that side. I continued towards where the fort wall went with some electric cables going up in the same direction.
At the top, there were a few mantaps with some mats thrown in. Most surprisingly however, there was a pond, probably formed from rain water and from dew. Even more surprisingly there were frogs in it. Might’ve been too much to expect fish there, and didn’t see any either. The view from there, overlooking the Arkavathy river was just stunning. After spending a while looking around the place I decided to head back. The dogs were waiting down there under a rock. This part was steep and I had to make use of the carved in steps that I used before, and had to sit and make my way down on all fours carefully.
The path down was much easier on energy, but difficult on the legs as it was steep and it was just rocks, calling for a lot of balancing and resistance from the legs. This time the guides weren’t too interested in leading us much, preferring to rest in the shades of rocks and climbing down only after we had gone some way down. Their expertise in negotiating the place allowed them to give us head-starts.
Close to the base of the rock we looked up and noticed that they were still some way up, looking down, trying to decide between following us down and prospecting for other trekkers. They took the optimistic approach and decided to wait for others. We waved them good-bye and reached down at 10:45 AM, 2.5 hours after the start. The return journey was pleasant even in the late morning heat and only on reaching city limits were we reminded that it was summer in Bangalore.