Trip to Heaven - Day One

The Bee Gees sang "Nobody gets too much heaven above, its much harder to come by, I am waiting in line.." Now I understand what they meant... 'coz my turn to experience heaven came up last weekend.... after a long wait. Another trip planned the day before, one that exceeded expectations, a 'closer-to-heaven' experience... all these are only apt adjectives to describe my last week trek to Mullayanagiri. This beautiful mountain, the tallest between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris has been haunting my dreams for sometime now. As monsoon was already in town, I was eager to make the trip asap before the rain lashes out. And last weekend looked like the D-Day when Bijeesh, Latheesh and Siril were enticed by some pictures of the place available on the net.

Mullayanagiri is near Chikmagalur, which is about 250 kilometers from Bangalore. 'Mullayan' is another name of 'Lord Shiva' and 'Mullayanagiri' means 'Lord Shiva's mountain', who has got a temple on the top of the hill dedicated to him. You have two options to reach the temple - drive from Chikmagalur to the base of the hill and then climb about 1000 steps or you can climb from a place called 'Sarpadari' which is more like a trek. Our plan was to follow the Sarpadari route, camp on top of the hill for the night and then hike to the adjacent Bababudangiri the next day. The whole setup is much like Kodachadri, where the devotees got an option of climbing the hill through a difficult but interesting route through the forest or drive down most of the way and climb the final one or two kilometers... for each his own.!!

The gang met at KBS platform number 23 to catch our 11PM 'Rajahamsa' to Chikmagalur. It was time for some last minute purchases. Latheesh did make sure that he bought everything in pairs or multiples thereof - 2 packets of bread, 4 bottles of water and so on.. reminded me of Noah's Ark. Though Siril started making fun of it initially, he soon became silent as he realized the significance of this profound analogy..!! We boarded the Ark in pairs.. ready for the smooth ride of five and a half hours... away from earth.. to a safer and much beautiful place closer to the heavens. Till we reached Chikmagalur there were no rains, no storm.. looked like the Rain God deferred his plans to unleash his wrath on earth, and Noah was not informed about the change in plans. So we sailed on and reached the promised land of Ckikmagalur by five in the morning. The KSRTC bus station was already buzzing with activity and we walked into the nearby hotel for a cup of hot coffee. We realized that the first bus towards 'Sarpadari' is at 8 which left us with about three hours to fresh up.

By 7:30, we reached the private bus stand, which is adjacent to the KSRTC stand. After about 30 minutes journey in the packed bus, we reached Sarpadari, the place with the unmistakable iron arch marking the start of the trail. By this time it had started raining.. finally the Gods honoring the prophecies..!! The atmosphere was exciting with slow breeze, lingering mist and the slight drizzle. We did not waste anytime and started our climb. The first few steps itself offered us a great view of the valley with few settlements and a beautiful lake. The initial excitement got us into action.. cameras and mobiles were out in an attempt to capture the beauty in pixels. The mist and mountains were playing hide and seek with the wind playing spoilsport.. exposing the misty cover every now and then. The drizzle subsided by then, the climate was perfect and we marched on. The trek trail was quite clear and for a change there were not many diversions, which made the climb easy in spite of poor visibility. At times we got so tightly hugged by the mist and nothing beyond ten feet was visible.

It was then that Latheesh & Siril were initiated into the 'Global Order of Spooners'. Both of them quickly embraced Spoonerism as a way of life and stared taking lessons on the fine art. This continued to be the favorite pass time throughout the trip and did play a part in bringing that BIG smile ON.. I can proudly say that the trip gave the world two spoonerism enthusiasts who may go lengths to further their knowledge in the domain and spread the word..!!

We passed the lone tree - one of the landmarks to make sure that we are in the right track - which was overlooking his kingdom of grasslands and the valley below. We did not want to disturb his privacy and decided to take our 'breakfast break' a little ahead. As we sat down on the rocks having some tasty vadas we heard a bird calling out in the wild. It was so melodic that we decided to keep quite for 5 minutes and just listen to the newfound musical talent. This bird followed us all the way till the top (or probably a kin of his), we could listen to the call every time we stopped to take a breath. As we resumed climb after breakfast, we came across this rock formation ahead of us which was almost at 110 degrees to the ground, literally blocking the way. We had to go round this mighty guy towards the top and this part was a little scary. Rains had made the ground slippery and the path we had to take had very few rocks or grass to hang on to. We made it without much difficulty and were on easy grounds pretty soon.

We reached the second milestone of the trek in a little while. There was this big tree with a statue of Nandi underneath it. By this time the rain had become heavy and the wind a lot faster. We got the first glimpse of the temple on top from here... we were about 5 minutes from the top. As we climbed on, we came across two caves.. big enough to house some 25 people. One of them had two tombs inside. After exploring the caves we started for our final destination and were quite excited as we reached there. It was misty all around which gave us the feeling that we are walking amongst the clouds. It took us about 5 hours to climb up, at a very very leisurely pace. We dropped our footwear outside and went inside to meet the Pujari of the temple. We had informed him as we started the climb and he had agreed to serve us lunch. The prospect of some hot food made us happy as he ushered us into the small temple. We unloaded our stuff in a small room outside the Sanctum Sanctorum and rushed to his house for lunch.

Rice and daal never tasted so good as it did then. The meal was simple yet refreshing and supra-tasty and awesome...!! We decided to explore the surroundings after lunch, but the expedition was short lived.. thanks to the winds and the rain. We were all shivering our guts out in no time and had to rush back to the comfort of the temple. So by 5:30 in the evening, we had taken out our blankets and were huddled around some peanuts, inside the temple, eagerly awaiting the pujari's call for tea. The tea arrived after which we moved further inside the temple close to the Sanctum Sanctorum, to escape from the cold. Sitting there next to the walls all covered in blankets, we looked like some sages in prayer. We were joking that devotees might even throw us some money thinking that we are beggars waiting for alms..!!

The temple had lot of bells hanging from the ceiling and every time we stood up we had to take care not to hit them... the darkness inside made it all the more impossible. It was puja time there and the pujari started performing his duties while we sat there observing everything from close quarters. It was a great experience to be inside the temple, sleep there the whole night and witness the pujari doing his customary pujas in the night and early morning. I am not sure whether we will get a second chance to experience this anytime in life.

Then came the much anticipated dinner time.. had some hot rice, sambar and mango pickle this time. Though we felt warm while having it, the moment we got out we were shivering like hell. Somehow we got inside the temple, all ready to sleep away to glory. But the wind and cold had other plans who hatched a plot to keep us awake the whole night. They had even taken taken the mist into confidence. As the doors of the temple were not airtight, wind kept on gushing in, bringing in the cold mist along with it. We found that our blankets were no good to defend this kind of an onslaught. But then, like every other difficult situation, there came a hero... in the form of the pujari who handed over to us the 'Brahmastra' - a really heavy, thick and long blanket - good enough to keep the four of us warm.

Not to mention that we slept peacefully the whole night till about 5 in the morning. It was then that Siril got a call from the wild... an uncontrollable urge to get out there and experience how nature looks like, at 5 in the morning. But that's another story which needs a post or two of its own.

I dont remember what I dreamt that night.. probably dreams for once had nothing special to show... the day's trip was full of stuff that the dreams are made of..!!

Trip to Heaven - Day Two.

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