Feb 13, 2006

Donigal - Yedukumari - A Joy-hike


I have never seen the sky so star spangled, so brightly lit that the identifying constellation is no longer enticing. Its just the way it looks - a gazillion stars strewn about in the dark vast expanse of sky made brighter by the lack of light around me. This was in Donigal (about 230 kms from Bangalore, India), an obscure place with little to boast of except for being nestled in the Western Ghats. This is where we begun our hike along an abandoned railway track to Yedukumari, 20 kms away. As dawn gave way to a bright and sunny day, being on the rain shadow area of the hill helped create a pleasant clime to hike in. The rail track meanders along the hill side, giving a splendid view of the valley.

A view of the Valley

Slowly the kilometers melted away amidst groans triggered by heavy backpacks and wisecracks by the group around. One had to stop to take in the scenery around, since you had to be walking on the sleepers on the rail track and a certain degree of concentration was required. This was amplified when we were in a tunnel or crossing bridges.

The tunnels were aplenty as were the bridges – some short, some
as long as 572mts long dating back to 1972. Dark, Musty, dripping with water combined with bat calls this was stuff horror movies are made of. In some sense I am glad it was pitch dark, am sure there must have been things I wouldn’t want to see, but maybe not, either ways it sure was intriguing. Just once we navigated through a tunnel, without a flashlight, just to feel the dark.


The bridges along the hike deserve special mention. The parts where the track was relatively new, the bridges comprised of steel sleepers supporting the rails at a distance of two feet each. Some of these even had metal sheets laid down in order to facilitate comfortable walking. The other parts consisting of the larger bridges were constructed out of blocks of wood serving as sleepers, creaky and dilapidated with age. For most part they seemed sturdy but here and there the planks had given way or was dented from wear and tear.

There were bridges about a 100ft high, with gurgling streams flowing beneath with gusto. We went down to one such rivulet to have a quick dip and break for lunch.

What struck as an odd thought was being caught in the middle of a bridge and having to face an oncoming train, with no room to step aside. It did in fact happen when a mail train caught us unawares in a tunnel. Talking of trains, another incredulous thing I witnessed here was that the engine used to carry rail workers was actually a SUV mounted on rail wheels.

The bridge across forever


Eventually we reached Yedukumari just as evening was melting into dusk. The sense of
achievement pouring in upon reaching Yedukumari soon melted away as we realized that another trek was due to reach the highway (some 4 kms away) in order to start the journey back home. The trek was largely downhill, interspersed with two rivulets. The trek was hastened with some rumors about a dam being opened onto one of the rivulets on the way. It was a narrow trail amidst the forests, having done already twenty-five kilometers that day; this trek was more a quest to get it done with. The trail was quaint with leaves strewn about in abundance in the autumn hues, heralding the oncoming green season.

The adventures started upon reaching the road. Following several futile attempts at hitchhiking on a bus, we finally managed to board a truck. Few kilometers ahead the speeding truck hit another one and pretty much proceeded on as if this was a daily occurrence. The driver seemed unperturbed; it was only some of us who started discussions on praying J. We were dropped off courteously at a place called Maranhally for the next round of hitch hiking. This time round, we managed to do even better, hitchhike at the back of a truck along with cattle. This was fantastic! The full moon had just begun shining bright over the tall palms and coconut trees. The wind was in the face and the highway a clean drive. Following another short trip, we reached Sakleshpur and caught a bus for Bangalore.

Hitch-hiking with Cattle

The post will not be complete till I mention all the wonderful people I was with (Anand, Bipin, Chander, Goli, Pattu, Shalu & Yashpal) and also met on the way, people who helped us make the hike without any detours. Most of the local folks are a friendly lot, smiling and ever advising. Though we did not quite understand the local language however the messages came across clear. What struck me was, as we were waiting in Maranahally, an old lady came up and made acquaintance with Shalu and me. She conversed in her broken English (much to my surprise) and even bought us candy. I was truly touched!

The lot of us!


Chander Dogra said...

Nice way to unblock.
The trip was amazing. I was able to overcome the fear of heights on the trip. When I crossed the first bridge, I was thinking "why I have come here" when the second bridge came I was like "Oh god am going to get out of this alive" ...i started remembering rang de basanti dialogue .."kuwara hi mar gaya" ...few bridges later I was too tired even to think what fear was ..the tingling pain in my legs had made me overcome the fear of height, dark and bats ... and I was thinking "I would never get my wife on such a trip ..." but yesterday as I laid on my bed nursing my pain ...i was thinking " oh god if only get a wife to becomes a part of such trips ...life would be such a joy hike " .......

Prateek Dayal said...

I am sure this post and the experiences more than make up for the nothingness that was here for so many days :)

looks like u guys had a lot of fun ... well even i need to do this sometime to get over some of my fears as chander puts it ... :)

Anonymous said...

Nice :-). Chander, best of luck... and wish me luck on the same :-D... These treks are quite addictive, the rush you get just breathing the clean air... For me coming back to Bangalore to stop breathing is the worst part...

BTW, we're planning a much tougher trek to Ombattu Gudde in a couple of weeks, Aditi/Chander, either of you guys up for it? There will be little to no sign of (other) humans for two days.

For more details on how to do the railway track trek and what to carry - trekbymaddy.blogspot.com.

Aditi Das Patnaik said...

Hey Anonymous,

Thanks for the invitation! will sure like to join in case am not otherwise travelling :)

Anonymous said...

The previous anon comment, was by me. Well since this is *also* anonymous, me here is sometimes Prasanna. :-)

Oneirodynic said...

I wonder why all Sakhleshpur trekkers stop their journey at Yedukameri.JFYI,the real "green route" trekk starts from Yedukameri.This is a ~30km stretch all the way to Kukke-Subramanya along a much older railway track which goes along thick forests.The longest bridge/tunnel et al comes in this section.I did this twice,but always wondered why noone else did the same.

Anonymous said...

Hey Aditi,

Real swell girl.. You have an Ace photographer in you.... great pictures.

Neha Datta

shilpa narayan said...

Hi Aditi, came by your blog while I was searching for info on this railway track trek. Am planning to do this trek over the weekend. Someone tells me that this track is not abandoned anymore. Do you know if this is true? If you have any information or can point me to where I can find this out from, I'll be grateful. Please mail me at shilpa.narayan@gmail.com.
Thanks in advance!

AC/DC said...

Me & a couple of friends were planning to take the same trip.
Could you suggest the shortcomings in your planning?
As well as your basic tour itinerary.

You can reach my inbox at whiznu@gmail.com

Thank You.