Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Caving & Trekking at Antaragange

Caving & Trekking at Antaragange, Kolar

Karnataka, by virtue of its historical evidences and diverse geography, hosts several places of interest for tourists; Antaragange being one of them. Antara Gange near Kolar is famous for the volcanic rocks and caves that offer trekking and wide cave exploration opportunities for the adventure enthusiasts. Situated at around 65 kms away from Bangalore, Antaragange is also famous for the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple situated at the mountain. There is a pond in the temple, which gets a continuous flow of underground water from the mouth of a stone bull (Basava or Nandi). Though the source of the water is unknown but, devotees, who pay visit to the temple, carry this holy water in bottles because it is also believed that one can get rid of diseases by drinking this holy water of Antaragange.

Visit to Antaragange is a great one day activity from Bangalore, especially for the adrenaline junkies. My visit to Antaragange was planned suddenly during mid of September, 2015. It was quiet long that we didn’t went out and so, on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi (September 17th), I and Shouvik thought of utilizing the holiday and hit the road. We informed many others but, no one showed much interest. On the eve of September 16th , while at office, I and Shouvik did some research work on places to visit nearby Bangalore and finally decided to visit Antaragange.

We planned for starting our journey early in the morning by 6 AM but, we got delayed a bit and finally started at around 7 AM from Mahadevapura. Antaragange can be reached in an hour from Bangalore, through the Bangalore-Tirupati Highway, which is a 3 by 3 lane highway with very less traffic after Krishnarajapuram. On reaching Kolar, you need to take a diversion to the left and travel for another 2-3 kms in order to reach the foothill of Antaragange.
Early morning ride through the highway itself is a wonderful experience!

A giant Sarcophagus built in a spa resort on the way will surely catch your eye

Take a break & enjoy the beautiful Landscapes while you approach towards Kolar

After around a half an hour ride, we halted at a roadside restaurant near Thavarekere, which is almost halfway to our destination. There we had a heavy breakfast, bought 4 litres of water and again started our ride towards Antaragange. At the foothill of Antaragange, there is a gate, which resembles the entry to the temple and further to the top of the hill. We parked our vehicle at the parking situated just outside the gate and started trekking uphill.
Entry to the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple & further up to Antaragange caves & hilltop

Well maintained staircase to the temple

The initial phase of the trek comprises of around 500+ steps that you need to climb up in order to reach the Temple. During this phase we encountered several species of butterflies, colourful bugs & insects (especially bees and dragonflies) and the company of some notorious monkeys. We were carrying our water bottles and some light snacks in a carry bag and unfortunately, we got robbed by a pair of monkeys.
Multiple species of butterfly will make your day colorful

I don't mind bees and think we are all the better for having them around. I like the taste of honey. - Henry Rollins

Kashi Vishweshwara Temple

Rope climbing Monkeys!

The natural trekking trail of around 2 kms through volcanic rocks, boulders and thick undergrowth starts just after the temple. The trek from the temple to the hilltop is moderately difficult and can be covered within an hour but, it entirely depends on how long you spend to enjoy and capture the natural beauty on your way. During this trek we hardly encountered any other tourists or locals and were surprised as we were looking for someone who could at least guide us towards the famous Antaragange caves.
The natural trekking trail starts just after the Temple

Trekking at Antaragange is pretty moderate unless its raining!

View of one of the hilltop from mid way

We reached the hill top at around 10 AM and were really surprised to see the paddy fields up there. There are some 7 villages situated at the hill top and a mosque where drinking water is available. There was also a shop situated near the mosque that was closed. On enquiring a local, we came to know that the shop opens late (not sure how much late because it was already 10 in the morning) and one can avail bottled water, tea, cold drinks and snacks. Since we were short on water, so, we drank very little from what it was left and started looking for the caves that was an important highlight of the place.
Paddy field & scanty vegetation at the Hilltop!

Kolar town as seen from the Anthargange hilltop

After roaming around for some time, we encountered another local, who offered us to guide through the caves in return for some money (Rs. 100/-). Though the person didn't knew proper Hindi or English and we also didn't understand proper Kannada but still, we communicated with sign languages and broken Kannada and understood each other pretty well! It was this person from whom we came to know that the place was deserted because it was a weekday. Usually it is crowded with tourists and locals during the weekends.

Note: It is always advisable to take a local guide for exploring the caves as you would never know where it will lead to and as a result you might get trapped inside and no one will ever come to know also!

Looking at the entrance of the main cave, no one will expect it to be such deep inside! There are several dead ends and it’s really difficult for the first time goers to keep a track of the route inside. Basic fitness is required for this activity and it is not at all recommended for heavy weighted people and people who suffer from claustrophobia or weak heart! After around 45 min of cave exploration, we headed out with a new source of energy and a fully refreshed mind!
And the exploration begins!

Without a local, its very difficult to identify the routes and make your way

Catching the breadth till our guide himself explores a route further down

Its Selfie time!

Narrow, steep passages that increases the adrenaline rush!

The exploration continues until it was pitch black down there & you can't even figure out anything without a torch light

At this point of time, we were thirsty enough and we were out of drinking water. Either we need to go to the hilltop again or trek down to the temple in order to get some drinking water. Both the options were time consuming and will drain out our energy. So, our guide told us to wait there for around 10 min as he will bring something that we didn't understood at all and then he will take us to drink the natural flowing water that is hidden somewhere nearby amidst the boulders.
The trekking trail is filled with thorns, shrubs & bushes at many places!

Downhill in search of fresh drinking water

Luckily it was sunny but not that much hot so, we took rest on a boulder and it was a soothing experience as you enjoy the cool breeze and scenic beauty from the top. After around 10-15 min, our guide returned with a hand basket filled with ripe guava to sell them near the temple area, which he mentioned earlier but, we were not able to understand. After a few hundred metres of downhill trek, he kept his hand basket and asked us to follow him. We went off the trekking trail and went inside the bushes heading towards the hidden source of flowing water. At a certain place, the guide asked me to put my hand inside a small hole that was surrounded by boulders from outside and surprisingly, I felt chilled water running inside that hole. We filled in the water in an empty bottle and drank until we were satisfied. The water was sweet in taste and rich with minerals. We somehow figured that this was the same water that is continuously flowing from the mouth of the stone bull at the Temple. But, the original source was still unknown!
The hidden flow of fresh running water

If you are going for off-road trekking, watch out for snakes, insects & thorns!

After an exciting trekking & cave exploration, its time to chill!

After quenching our thirst we looked at the clock and it was only 11:15 AM. Since it was very early for us to return back, so, we decided to relax there for some time and then head back to our den! We spend around an hour there and then, as we felt hungry, we started our downhill trek that took around half an hour for us to get back to the foothill. There are a few options to have food at Kolar but, we thought of heading back directly to Bangalore and have our lunch there because of the more number of options available. Without a second thought, Shouvik started his Desert Storm and by 1:30 PM, we reached Bangalore.

Important Note:

  • The place is highly populated with monkeys. So be careful with your stuffs. Don’t carry food items openly or simply in carry bags. I myself am a victim of being snatched off by monkeys!
  • Try to avoid visiting the place in a rainy day as it will not be safe to trek while it’s raining or just after the rain.
  • The best time to visit this place is in the morning (as early as possible) because as the day passes by and the sunray gets stronger, you will feel uncomfortable to trek.
  • Wear proper hiking or trekking shoes and carry sufficient water.
  • For the caving or cave exploration activity, take help from the locals, especially if you are visiting the place for the first time.

***Please don’t litter around the place. Kindly carry all your garbage in a bag and dump it in proper garbage container placed near the temple and at the foothill.

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