Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The hillfort in a forest

Trekking and Weekend Getaways

Well, Summer is just around the corner and with summer comes vacations for schools and colleges. I am sure many families would have already been planning a vacation and they would even have zeroed in on a destination.
Some of my friends and relatives asked me for a spot where they could spend some time, at least a day or two, in the tranquility of  a secluded spot.
I suggested the small village of  Bandalli  located 25 kilometres from Kollegal in Chamarajanagar district. Bandalli is approachable either from Mysore and Bangalore and makes for a perfect family outing.
Bandalli has a lot to offer. IT is located 4700 feet above sea level. A perfect green spot, lost of birds, herds of elephants, a ruined fort, hill and a few scattered temples and of course Veerappan’s domain, Bandalli was all of this and much more.  
The fort here is ancient and none seem to know its origin or history.  The village is like a film set with rolling green fields of paddy, thorny buses and a steep path which leads to the hill and the fort above.
The hill is a bird watchers’s haven. There are so many species of birds, many of them native to the forests of Chamarajnagar, that you will quickly lose count of them. I could make out Hoope, Woodpeckers, Jungle fowl, Bushchats, Wagtails, Barbets. As far as elephants are concerned, you can hear them trumpeting. If you are lucky, you can even see them pass close by.
However, the trek to the hill fort can be quite exhaustive. It takes more than three hours to reach the hill top and once you reach the summit, the vast greenery stretching for mile around will immediately soothe your frayed nerves and act as a balm for your aching limbs.
The fort is approachable from two sides and it is protected by three walls. There are several structures such as mantapas on the hilltop. The fort will give you a commanding view as it is built at a height of more than 1300 feet.
Bandalli Hill is one of the highest in the area and you can see several villages from the top. The north and eastern side of the hill are very tough to limb and you need to be an adventurer or trekker to get to the top from these sides.
The hill top can be accessed only through a huge boulder which is slanted downwards. When enemies attacked the fort,  this boulder was smeared with oil and grease and when the enemies attempted to scale it, they slipped and fell to their death below to a well dug for that purpose. The well still exists and the macabre story about it put me off it.   
However, the well even today has water that is cool during summers. It is so hidden amid the surrounding vegetation that you have to search for it.
Once you clamber over this rock to the top, you will be welcomes with stunning views of  Male Mahadeshwara Betta, Biligiri Rangana Betta,  and several other peaks. All these peaks are surrounded by virgin forests and they once formed part of the area in which Veerappan operated.
Wait atop the fort for sunset. You wait will be worth its while. The stunning sunset will leave you captivated and hunting for words. Then comes the descent which is no less thrilling but beware of steep slopes at some places. The descent is not for children and people with no experience in climbing. At several places you find yourself almost vertical to the hill.  
A forest path from the hill fort is a temple dedicated to the local deity Bettanayya, The temple is nothing but a structure constructed between two overhanging boulders. There is a big Nandi stationed in front of the deity.  
The path is full of thorns and bushes and it is a little more than a kilometer to the temple. Neaby is a water hole where several animals come to drink water. Elephants have been frequently sighted at the water hole and beware of then.
The elephants come here from the Chikkayalur forest which is just around the corner. Do not venture deep into the forest without the help of a villager. Also try to come back to the village by sunset or if  you are planning to stay back, take the permission of the Forest Department and engage a villager as a guide.
Bandalli is easily approachable from Hanur. Ask for direction at the forest check post in Hanur and you will be on your way. If you are planning a trip from Bangalore, take the Kanakapura road and travel to Kanakapura.
Take the road to Malavalli from Kanakapura and travel further to Kollegal which is 35 kms away. Kollegal to Hanur  is 25 kms and from thgere tale the road to MM Hills. The village of Bandalli is nine kms away and fort is a further eight kms from here.