Jungle Book – Van mein Fun on 23 Oct 2016
We started the day at 4.15 am – I & Tr Sandy woke up & got ready in a jiffy. Reached the designated meeting point at 5 am. Started calling all who had confirmed participation, to arrive on time or start as early as possible so that we can cover all that we had planned. Slowly the tablers started trickling in, some chipper and bushy tailed, some hung over, some bleary eyed and some just plain grumpy. The visages told the tale as to who was a morning person & who’s a nocturnal creature.
A cook was supposed to accompany us for the journey, as the plan was to have freshly made breakfast and trail rations cooked on the fly boot camp style during the trek. But Murphy had other ideas and you know the old adage about the best laid plans!
To cut a long story short, the cook weaseled out of the job at 10pm on Saturday and we had to scramble to organise breakfast from aditya hotel and lunch from Vaibhav hotel.
Flashback to the previous day and a little background on the pre event plans:
About a week prior to the event, one fine Tuesday morning, I & Tr Sandeep Harapanahalli were tossing around ideas of having a “Hatke” fellowship, something that would be completely out of the box and not ventured before. Tr. Sandy took it up on himself to create something with a whole lot of personal touches. He made a snap decision to create stuff as he had a major spurt of inspiration hitting him right at that very moment and he sketched out stuff that could be hand crafted and used by all attendees. He took 20 man hours of work to eke out totems, goodie bags & custom handmade stuff for the fellowship / trek into the jungles of Ulvi. Tr Ankesh chipped in by sourcing caps & the banner and the print job for both.
An unconventional choice was made with respect to transport – a 909 was booked with the loading bay decked out in mattresses and beds by Gadagkar shamiyana, courtesy pH – our perennial pNpC as we fondly call him.
Tr Sandy collared a tour guide – sangu, who helped chart out the trail, the trek and all the relevant logistics for the day. The plan was to start the Stag Fellowship as early as possible, before the crack of dawn. Most of us had attended the Rocktoberfest on 22nd – hosted by Tr Siddhart Nayak of HRT 37 and we were back home by 2.30am. I got up at 4.15am and the merry go round started off from there.
On 23rd morning at 6am:
We were waiting for the early morning victuals to arrive, courtesy Tr Santosh, the designated meals on wheels convener. He turned up with piping hot grub at 6am & Tr Prasad chipped in with wafers, adding to the breakfast bounty. Once the Hubli guys assembled, we hopped on into the load deck of the cargo 909 & set off on our merry way – destination: Dharwad, to pick up VD & Vikrant. We devoured the breakfast in record time as soon as the 909 went into motion. Parth & Vishal drove down to Vikrant’s house by Vishal’s car. AD & Doc Sachin shifted to the car to give them company.
The real journey began from Vikrant’s house. Right away, from the onset, Karthik was teased mercilessly by AC Mahendra, who, being his classmate, was sharing embarrassing stories about Karthik’s college life & then wonder of wonders; Karthik turned the tables on Mahendra and recanted some of his bloopers. Rib tickling stuff. A lot of guffaws followed the witty repartee.
Breakfast was a hog fest which led to drowsy heads & the fresh air and good roads lulled everyone to sleep. It was time to up the ante and infuse some fun. Sandy recited a poem which wrote, the poem containing surprisingly observant and accurate insights into the strengths, good traits & inherent goodness within each of us, extolling the virtues of each and every Knight. He encouraged everyone to cast aside all negative baggage and truly become a band of brothers. On that emotional note, out came the goodie bags. Tr Sandy doled out personalised caps, hand crafted & hand painted Tribal Totems which could be worn as a medallion or as symbolic tribal head gear. They were artistic and colorful, loved and treasured by all who were fortunate enough to receive them. The intrinsic value of the Totems was worth far more than what money can buy.
Mother Nature called, and full bladders needed to be emptied pronto. Post the much needed relief, Vijay, Rajendra & Vinod elected to sit in the drivers cab for some time to catch some of the sights. Unknown to him at that time, Vijay sat right next to a box of very special guests who were journeymen along with us for a short while, destined for the jungles. The boxes contained 3 full sized snakes caught by Sangu, our guide in the urban jungle of hubli. Half a kilometre into the trek, we released the snakes into their natural habitat. You should’ve seen the blood drain from Vijay’s face, took on ashen pallor when he realised that he was sitting right next to snakes all the way.
Once we reached the designated start point, we lathered up the sunscreen & started the trek with properly equipped backpacks containing water, lunch and knick knacks. I carried & was the guardian of a special backpack carrying ambrosia, lest it falls into the wrong hands and we start celebrations early.
The start point offered breathtaking views of lush and dense forest, a sprawling vista of various shades of vibrant green tree tops and heavy foliage. The view was akin to the descriptions by M/s Ruskin Bond & Rudyard Kipling. They & their storybook characters would be at home, looking at the smorgasbord of rich bio diversity, stretching well over the horizon and as far as the eye could see. Woe is on us, the nouveau urban jungle dwellers who do not get an opportunity to witness the magnificent vistas of Mother Nature in all her crowning glory. The view reminds one as to the reason environmentalists take up cudgels to preserve what is left. Woe is upon us for being just a couple of hours away from such breathtaking beauty and not taking time out to enjoy the stunning landscape lovingly drawn by Mother Nature.
The start of the trek was a steep decline, with us walking downhill for quite some time. Everybody remarked that the return trip would be a herculean task. At that point the snakes were released, some guys adroitly handling them, some guys were fascinated & a few of the guys couldn’t wait for the snakes to be as far away from them as possible. Prasad handled the snakes like he was a pro snake charmer, proving that his capacity to be charming extends to other species as well.
After a short trek we ventured into, rather stumbled into the famous Akka-Nagamma cave. Rumor has it that the cave was a totally dark & uninhabitable place. The patron saint of Ulvi, Shri Channabasaveshwara sat there in a long trance and his intense meditation led to the top of the rock face to split apart, allowing sunlight to enter the cave. It is still called the miracle of Ulvi, in local folklore.
6 of us ventured into the depths of the cave, we had to bend and twist like contortionists to navigate the rock walls and obstacles, to enter the sanctum. It was well worth the effort as the Sanctum was a totally silent space, ideal & supremely conductive for meditation and introspection.
Post the cave exploration, we resumed the trek & the quips were back en masse, with everyone being fair game as targets. None was spared, ensuring much hilarity. Along the way we came across another miracle of nature – a shilling made entirely of Vibhuthi, which keeps growing every year. Wonders never cease in India.
We then arrived at a spot called Aakala Gavi, where it appears as if a huge rock was placed with precision on a vantage point by some giant. A steep metal ladder was imbedded into the rock, to enable one to climb up & enjoy the view from the peak of the rock. The visage of forest from that vantage point spectacular to say the least. Visibility was over 6 km or as far as one could see.
I, Sandy, Santosh, Karthik, Prasad, Vinod & Rajendra ventured into another cave at Aakala Gavi, wherein we had to crouch, creep crawl, wade through pockets of natural rainwater water troughs to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum of the cave. We sat and meditated for a couple of minutes within the environs of absolute stillness. In there you could even feel the draft of air, the silence and stillness disturbed by our own breath. A short trek into one of the caverns of the cave led to a dead end and we had to retrace our way back to the ante chamber of the cave.
It was past high noon by then and some of the guys waiting for us outside were very hungry were about to start lunch by the time we came out of the caves.
At that juncture, Vishal, Amit Desai, Parth & Doc Sachin had to head back to Hubli due to prior commitments. We missed them for all that followed.
Our indefatigable & intrepid tour guide Sangu suggested that we had back with a slight detour from the leading trail, which led to a natural spring. We readily agreed and reached the spring in no time at all. Some elected to eat and then take a dip, some guys jumped in before settling down to have vittles and libations not necessarily in that order. Yep, the container of ambrosia was out, sitting on a rock loud and proud.
A couple of guys worked up the courage to venture our into the spring only after imbibing and in once case quaffing down the good stuff. Post the repast, some unwelcome intruders barged into the party. Aches, pains, creaky joints and stiffness from muscles we didn’t even know existed in the 1st place.
After a refreshing dip we had a rapid open & shut Fellowship meeting replete with the proper jewels. Our popular Area Chairman Mahendra had garnered an admirer, a fan of his oration, who struck to him, intending to come back to hubli along his side all the way. The admirer was a blood sucking leech, hooked onto his leg! We searched for powdered lime – chunna of the paan in common parlance, as our ever resourceful, multi talented & on field medic Sangu praised the leech off our AC, staunched the bleeding and patched him up with a desi – illaj, ensuring our AC was good to go.
Back to the designated spot signaling the completion of the trek, we took a short break & had some mirchi, girt and washed it down with some local tea. Vijay, Abbas, Rajendra & Vikrant had to leave a little earlier than planned and took a prearranged taxi back to Hubli – Dharwad at that point. For the rest of us, it was the beginning of the end of the fellowship.
We climbed back into the Van Mein Fun wagon & out came the playing cards. A rip roaring game of bluff started which lasted several rounds with some classic jokes & comic moments thanks to Santy, Kathik and Ankesh. The Marx brothers don’t hold a candle to what these three can do.
We had another tea break at dharwad & finally reached hubli at 11pm. We got to the point where we had set out to be – a band of brothers.
Yours in Tabling
LMF Tr. Basanagouda Shivalli
Fellowship Convener (2016-17) HKRT 178