After our trip to beautiful, clean, green Kerala, we made a pact to get out of the city into nature at least once each month. For November, we chose a hike with the Bangalore Mountaineering Club to Utari Betta. We couldn’t find it on the map so had no idea where we were actually going, but trusted that we’ve have a nice day out. We were not disappointed.
We left home at 6:15 in the morning to get to the downtown pick-up spot in plenty of time to meet our group: an Indian family of four, a 20-something British couple newly relocated to Bengaluru, an Indian woman recently returned after 13 years in the US, an Indian couple new to hiking, and our leader, Bhavani.
The day started with a 2 1/2 hour drive to our trailhead, although it was broken up by a stop at a roadside restaurant where we enjoyed delicious masala dosas and vada, and where Bhavani purchased the vegetable biryani that we would carry in our packs to have for lunch later.
This hike was described on the website as “easy” and we were concerned that we wouldn’t actually get much exercise, but that was not the case. While we did not hike quickly, we did hike steadily upward for quite a while over massive granite stones. In some places steps had been cut into the rock, in others we had to scramble a bit. There were occasional stretches through areas with dense foliage, but we were in the sun for most of the day. The youngest child moved slowly all the way up, so her parents did too, but she was a trooper, and they all made it, thanks to Bhavani stepping in to cheerfully keep things moving when needed.
Our first stopping point was a lovely temple to Shiva, newly whitewashed and festooned with lights for a recent festival. We walked around, relaxed in the much needed shade, and admired the views.
It turns out that Utari Betta is also called Huthridurga and is one of 9 “durgas” or hilltop forts in the region. This one was built by Kempegowda in the 16th century. While most of it is gone, there are still visible walls and archways along the way which were really cool to see. Bhavani pointed out Savandurga, visible in the mist across the valley, which is one of the largest monolith hills in Asia.
Our next stop was described as a cave, but was really a giant rock that one could crawl under and then climb between huge boulders to another spectacular view. Melissa elected not to crawl, but Tom said it was totally worth it.
From there, we returned to an open flat area for our biryani lunch. As we were finishing up, we encountered another large busload of people from BMC that were trailing us. We had always been pleased with our small, friendly group, but were even more so after encountering the boisterousness of the other group later in our hike. A group yelling, “Woo!” from the hilltops kind of ruins the peace of being out in nature.
We then leisurely descended, made our way back to the bus, and dozed on the way home, happy with our outing. We’ll look into other hiking groups as well, but will likely return to do more with BMC.