The office Traveler’s Club sent a mail a month back with a proposed trek to Kondaveedu Fort near Guntur. I jumped at the opportunity for a trek after a long long time and pulled the better half on the wagon too after getting to know that it would not require proper rock-climbing skills for those who do not desire it :)
So the 4th night saw 30+ people assembled at the Secunderabad Railway Station catching the overnight fast passenger to Guntur. We reached there at 4:30 in the morning and roamed the streets, “Can you imagine! Andheri raat me Guntur ki sadkon par….” (remember Jab We Met?). After freshening up we took the State Transport bus to Phirangipuram (nice name :) ), where we changed to another bus to take the final 4 kms to the base of the mountains where the Kondaveedu Fort is located. This place is so offbeat that had it not been for Sridhar (the karta-dharta of the whole trip) who has done this trek before we would have never been able to do anything, leave alone finding the place.
The trek started and soon we split into two teams, one group trying to find their own way to the top of the mountain to the Fort, and the other group which had people who knew the way. Initially the path we were following was quite straightforward. Simple climbing on rocks – ok, granted some were not that easy, needed manipulations to find the way. The trek was as easy, or as difficult, depending on the route you chose. After following the sane path of taking the easy route, I chose insanity and did some serious rock-climbing, although I have to admit that I am a novice compared to many people who were following the insanity path since start :) The best part was following Ravi over a tree to breach the walls of the fort. Once inside the walls of the fort, to get to the top of the fort required some more serious trekking. I tried to find a path on my own, but was unable to find a way through a 15 feet dense foliage. I retraced my path back to where I had left others, followed them and eventually got to the top of the fort after crossing one of the steeper rocks that required good grip and a nice sense of balance.
Once on top we took a breather, actually the break was quite long to be termed a breather. A rest was paramount at that time, even though we had trekked for just 2 hours by that time, but an uphill climb is surely tiring. The view from top was amazing. Fields stretched to the horizon with very few villages scattered around. Few kilometers away we could see some many more hillocks. But we left those for another day and started towards our next destination. Till then few apples, juices, and 2 liters of water had already been consumed :) By the way, did I mention that everybody was carrying 4 liters of water, packed lunch, fruits and juices apart from other miscellaneous stuff that was collectively weighting around 6 kg. Carrying 6 kg in your backpack while walking on a rocky terrain was a first for me and I surely enjoyed it.
Once we got down from the fort, we did not go all the way down but proceeded further in the mountains. The plan was to cross the range and get out on the other side of the mountains. We crossed another small hillock, and a plain land – that gets filled completely with rain water during monsoon, but was dry right now – and many other ruins of the Kondaveedu Fort. Had time not been a precious commodity at that time, I’d have loved to explore all the ruins. But we already running late. The humidity had left almost the whole group tired and it was time for lunch. That one hour break refreshed us immensely. After lunch again we split the group into two. One that was planning to climb a 300 feet tall rock face to get on top of another mountain, and the other that was going ahead to search for the path to the village on other side. Mercifully Kondaveedu Fort is not a tourist place, and hence there are no specific paths that take you from point A to point B. You are on your own to find the way. Luckily for us Sridhar knew almost all the ways.
We went ahead searching for a way to get out of the mountains, and luckily found a group of woodcutters who knew the way. We waited there for quite a long time waiting for the other group to join us. Once they were back, we commenced the trek back to civilization. Many breaks interrupted the almost 3 hour descent. We crossed over 3 more mountains, and passed many wallpaper material places. Without a doubt the best place to be dead tired is within the nature’s lap. Those small breaks of 5-7 minutes were more refreshing than anything else. The return hike was a test of water management – we had grossly underestimated the humidity – the juices had been drunk long back, apples had been munched to the last morsel, and just a single bottle of water was remaining. Using that water optimally, sometimes running on auto-pilot, and always on the back-up fuel, using sticks to support your weight , and reminding yourself to walk “lift one leg, lean forward, plant it down, lift other foot, repeat process” we made our way back. That time I was so tired that I was relying too much on the stick, and not concentrating enough on the path forward. 1-2 minor slips, and a shirt riddled with thorns was what it took for me forgo the stick and just surge ahead, concentrating on the path, relying only on myself. After what seemed to like years, we finally reached the mountain base, and started the 3 km walk to the village where we would get a auto/bus.
Walking on a straight path, with no rocks strewn around was so easy as compared to the walk on rocks. I had never been more relieved to be walking on a path made by man. A ride in a luggage auto – 10 of us standing in it, many pouches of buttermilk, and another bus ride later we were back in Guntur at around 6pm. Our train was not till 10:30, and we had to pass the time somehow. There had always been a plan to watch a movie, but what I had not bargained for was watching a Telugu movie, even though my Telugu vocabulary does not extend 3-4 words, me and the wife enjoyed the movie thoroughly :D The air-conditioner did wonders, we felt good; few samosas later, we were ready to enjoy the movie – much hooting and clapping followed whenever the hero was fighting the villains, or whenever he was dancing around with any of the two scantily clad heroines – which was all there was to the movie :) The hero did only two things – fight and dance, rinse and repeat.
At around 10 pm we reached the station and to our dismay found the train to be 90 minutes late. The waiting hall of Guntur was converted to an impromptu dormitory by all. Around 15-20 people were sleeping on the floor at one time. The train made an appearance at midnight and luckily was right on time when it dropped us off at Secunderabad to end the best and most tiring trek I have undertaken till date :)