Sandeep 's World >> Trekkalogs >> Antharagange


Vibhuthipura - Dakshina Kashi Temple - Antharagange Caves Trek in October 2017 & Teerhalli - Antharagange Peak Trek in November 2017

  • Location: Kolar district, Karnataka
  • Highest altitude: Approximately 1140m at Antharagange peak
  • Start & End point: Trek via Dakshina Kashi Temple starts from the parking lot at the edge of Antharagange main road from Kolar. Alternately, take the Teerhalli main road from Kolar to start the trek from Teerhalli village, which is almost at the same altitude as the caves.
  • How to get there: Teerhalli main road is off the NH75, just before Kolar, while Antharagange main road starts about 2kms further up on SH99 (M B road). Google map may suggest shorter routes to Antharagange main road, but it may be safer to stick to MB road.
  • Distance to base: Kolar is about 80kms from Bangalore via the NH75 (Old Madras Road or Bangalore - Tirupati highway).
  • Trek distance: 7.8 kms
  • Trek difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Permission & Guides: No permission needed for the caves and guides are usually available near the cave entrance. For the peak, it looks difficult to find guides and not aware of any permission requirements.

Its been more than 2 years since the Kurinjal trek and this had been the longest gap since I started trekking. A portion of the blame goes to the work pressure, but it mostly boils down to my laziness! A job change was a good trigger to break the rut and I was soon looking for a short trek near Bangalore, where I could take Manu and Preethu as well. Antharagange was one place I had missed in all these years and when Sumita and Jayant posted some pics from Antharagange caves, the decision was made!
We started off on an early saturday morning in our Mobilio and cleared the city limits before 5am. By dawn, we were approaching Kolar, as signalled by a bevy of rocky mountains all around us. We missed the exit as suggested by Google maps and ended up taking a wrong turn at the MB road junction, going in the opposite direction for some time. It cost us some time before we realized the mistake and headed back towards Kolar. At the MB road junction, Google maps suggested a straighter road to get to Antharagange. But, I stayed with what was originally suggested and headed all the way back to the missed turn. This turned out to be a disaster in the end as we were soon on non existent roads and wading through piles of garbage trying to find ways to cross a railway line. Eventually, after some struggle, we managed to join the Antharagange main road, which in reality starts from MB road and all the circus we did was unnecessary.
It was a smooth ride once we entered the Antharagange main road. About 2kms on this road, we reached the end - a mosque, a set of shops and an arch leading to a flight of steps. A few cars were already parked around here and there were people walking up the stairs - towards the Dakshin Kashi temple and Antharagange caves. There was a parking lot right next to this arch and we parked our car there, before packing the essential things - a water bottle, camera and a few bananas. There were a few monkeys around the area and we had to make sure that the bananas were quickly hidden in the camera bag. The GPS unit that I was carrying - which I had used in many a treks, but now untouched for almost two years - was found dead, due to battery leakage. But, the cellphone coverage was good here and I quickly managed to download a GPS application to track our trail.
Steps to Dakshin Kashi temple
Comfortable climb ...
The steps to Dakshin Kashi temple is well maintained and comfortable. Soon, Manu was bored and wanted to do 'proper trekking', instead of taking the steps. Just then, Preethu spotted a trail going in to the forest and suggested that we follow it. I was a bit reluctant and wanted to avoid a bad experience for Manu (say, getting lost in the forest like I did during a Savandurga trek in March 2004). But then, with a mobile in hand, indicating a good GPS link and google maps showing the trail clearly, it would be extremely tough to get lost this time! So, we decided to follow the trail and see if it will join back the original path.
Trail to Dakshin Kashi temple
... lets do 'proper trekking'!
View point en route Dakshin Kashi temple
we came from there?
A few minutes in to the trail, we were in to some thick forest cover. The trail disappeared among the woods a few times, but we managed to find some way as I used the GPS application to make sure that we were headed in the right direction. The original trail was marked as 'Antharagange to village trail' and we were never too far from it. A few boulders, some thick bushes and a couple of spider webs - as per Manu, the 'most venomous spiders of the world' - later, we reached an open area, with a view of the hills around us. After a short break for pictures and to soak in the views, I felt that we should try and get back to the original trail. We crawled through some more bushes and walked around a few more boulders and soon we could hear people talking.
Steps carved on rock towards Antharagange cave
Steps carved on rock
By 8, we were back on the trail connecting Dakshin Kashi temple to the caves. The place we got in had a few steps carved in to the rocks, making the climb quite easy. Manu seemed to be enjoying the 'picnic' as he enthusiastically took the stairs towards the cave. As we moved up, there were a few trail side shops, selling packed juices, cucumber and tender coconut. Our location was close to the 'water cave' and I could see a few boulders going towards our right, but the main trail was still ahead. By 8.15, we were near the main cave, with a few locals asking us if we needed a guide. But, we wanted to explore the peak first and then come for the caves. Little did we realize then that reaching the peak was not as easy as it sounded!
We checked with one of the guides about the peak and he pointed towards a trail going slightly to our right. In about 10 mins, this trail lead us towards a Ragi field and a village - Teerhalli - to our left. We could see a hill further ahead - which looked like the peak, towards the right side of the Ragi fields. It felt like we were on a wrong trail as I did not expect the Ragi fields to come in between. Thus, instead of getting down towards the Ragi fields, we decided to go around it by turning towards right. Unlike the trail leading up till here, the trail towards the peak was not so clear and had big boulders all around making it more difficult. We tried to find a way around the boulders, while keeping an eye on the Ragi fields and the peak. Soon, we were wriggling through thorny bushes and struggling to find a way ahead.
It was past 9 by now and it looked clear that the trail we took was not optimal. Manu was looking tired, a bit cranky as he was hungry and also worried that we are lost. We were carrying a few bananas with us and it was time to take them out. As we reached a clearing, with seemingly no trail ahead of us, I made Manu and Preethu wait there and went ahead to find a way out. It may have made sense to turn back here, but I had a feeling that heading back to Ragi fields may make more sense as walking along the field should be easier than wading through the bushes. Fortunately, I managed to find a way, which was going towards the Ragi fields and we all headed down after a short break.
Ragi fields near Antharagange
Among the Ragi fields
In a few minutes, we descended towards a Eucalyptus plantation - it was a big relief to get back to level ground, away from boulders and thorny bushes. The peak was still visible towards our right, but it had to wait for some other day. We continued towards the village, along the edge of the Eucalyptus plantation to reach the Ragi fields. I was happy that we managed to find this trail, instead of heading back. Contrary to what I had thought - we had to cross the Ragi fields to go towards the peak, rather than heading towards the boulders. About 10 mins later, we were back to the place were we had turned towards the boulders. There were a few villagers carrying a sack of tender coconut to set up their shop near the cave entrance. It looked like Teerhalli village was a short walk towards our left and we could hear the sound of vehicles from that side, making it a much easier route towards the peak.
Manu inside Antharagange cave
I am loving this!
With the guide inside Antharagange cave
Our cosy corner inside ...
For now, we were back at the cave entrance and found another villager offering to be our guide. This time, we took the offer and crawled after him in to a gap within the boulders. Manu was especially excited here as he really enjoyed crawling through the boulders and looked quite at ease doing it. Most of the time, it was not totally dark as there was some sunlight trickling through the gaps. Some of the chambers were big enough so that we could stand upright and the cave system seemed quite complex, making it an interesting expedition.
I asked the guide about the water cave and he readily accepted to take us there as well. In about half an hour, we were back at the cave entrance, where the villagers we saw earlier were selling tender coconut. As we stood there digging in to the tasty tender coconut, I noticed many groups of people coming up to the caves - compared to a much quiter morning. One guy had a speaker wrapped around him playing loud music for the whole valley - I have seen people coming for treks with a head phone, but this had to be a new low. I could not help complimenting him for the powerful speakers, while enquiring, if he did not get a headphone with those speakers! Alternately, he could have stayed home and listened to music, while the rest of the crowd could be allowed to listen to the chirrup of birds.
We were soon off to the water cave, which was further down and more crowded with guides and visitors. It was off the main trail, through the boulders - Manu comfortably walked across, even with some trecherous gaps separating the boulders. Some of the visitors were suprised at how confident he was, while they themselves stood next to the boulders staring at how deep the gap is! We soon reached the entrance of the water cave, which turned out to be a small dark chamber, with water trickling down from the rocks. There was a small pit where the water was accumulated and the guide suggested that we fill the bottles with it. The water was clean as you would expect from a mountain stream, but the pit was not so clean as the water was stagnant there. We still filled one of the bottles and tasted the water - Manu especially was insistent on doing this. The guide told us that the same water goes all the way down and fills up the pond near the Dakshin Kashi temple. The water coming from the cave was a mystery as there were no other water sources around and was also the reason behind the name Antharagange - which means 'Ganges from deep' in Kannada.
We paid a a good tip to the guide and he came with us all the way back to the trail. By 11, we were on our way down, descending the steps carved on the rocks. There was no extra adventure this time - as we continued on the trail towards Dakshin Kashi temple. There was a small stream en route - apparently, the stream flowing out of the water cave - where the rocks were a bit slippery and people took their time to cross. The Dakshin Kashi temple came up soon after the stream - the first thing we noticed was the pond where a lot of people were seen frolicing. There were a few monkeys around as well, so we decided to skip the pond and moved along the temple.
Dakshin Kashi temple
Dakshin Kashi temple
At the temple, we just prayed from outside, mainly due to the hesitation to remove the shoes and get inside. Once past the temple, there were steps built all the way to the parking lot. The descend was easy as we were back at the parking lot in another 20 mins. We munched on to some bread - butter - jam before heading out, as we were surviving on bananas all this while.
On our way back, we stayed on Antharagange road, which took us all the way till a signal on MB road. A right turn here took us towards the NH. While driving back to Bangalore, we took a final look at the Antharagange hills - which now looked like a huge pile of boulders - and noticed that the peak is actually a layered hill. It may not have been an easy ascend as we had thought initially, but I was pretty sure of coming back for another shot at the peak!
The revisit did not take long as I was back to the hills next weekend only - alone this time. The Google map was showing a trail to the peak, starting from Teerhalli and to save time I decided to head directly there. I started early morning on my Avenger - the bike heading out of the city for the first time since January 2013. Not having seen speeds above 80kmph for a while now, it was a cautious ride - I practically kept to the left most lane with a lot of cars zooming by. By about 6, I was near Kolar and took the Teerhalli main road exit. The road turned due left in about a km and then started going uphill. Compared to the last time, it was quite a misty day - possibly due to drizzles in the last few days - and the visibility was very low. Soon, I was going through hairpin bends and gained some altitude. I went past a temple and a dargah, after which the road to Teerhalli turned right - with another road continuing straight ahead to some other village. By 7, I was in the village, asking people for Antharagange and parked the bike at the end of the road, before heading out on foot, with the back pack behind.
As the Google map was showing a trail towards the peak, I decided to follow the same. The foot trail took me eastwards, but, soon it looked like I deviated from the Google map trail, which seemed to be going further north. So, I came back searching for some trail heading north and found one - which had a cross mark next to it, suggesting that it is a wrong trail. But then, who knows if the marking is supposed to be towards the peak? I decided to follow the northwards trail and ended up at a dead end pretty soon. After walking up and down a bit, I found a way around a boulder and closest to what the Google maps suggested. The only problem was that it went through some slippery slopes and lead me straight in to the hills. But, isnt it where I wanted to go?
Between two granite walls en route Antharagange peak
Trapped in between two giant walls!
In another 10 mins, the natural trail turned towards east and I ended up next to a gate. Once again, the Google maps trail seemed to be going northwards and I had to come back. As expected, there was another barely-there trail going up a hill and I decided to take it. Up the hill, there was a natural path towards east, but I decided to move towards north as the Google maps suggested. I kept finding my way through the bushes, but it looked increasingly suspicious that this is the way to anything! Soon, the Google map trail started pointing me towards huge boulders which were impossible to ascend - unless I am a certain Ethan Hunt [1]! I looked at every possible ways around these boulders, but was finally stuck in the middle of two tall vertical granite walls forming a cave and nowhere to go to! I sat there for a while, took a couple of pictures and decided to end the adventure - I had no desire to turn this in to another Savandurga!
After getting out of the cave, I sat on top of a boulder munching on to a couple of bananas - feeling a little disappointed that my first adventure after more than two years turned out to be a failure! On my way back, I made a final attempt to follow the trail going towards east. This was not so easy as well, with so many huge boulders all around. But then, I did manage to find a way through those before climbing on to the top. Before I realized, I was hopping from one boulder to the other and the Google map trail did not seem very far from where I was standing! It was exciting and felt like I did have a bit of Ethan Hunt [1] in me ;-)
Cactus plan en route Antharagange peak
Standing guard against intruders!
By 8, I had made my way in to the top tier and had a trail leading further up. The set of boulders that I was on eventually lead me to a fort-like hill with a dilapidated compound wall around it! I had to move around a line of cactus plants before finding a way in to the hill. The Google map trail was showing a white patch around here and I was beginning to feel that I almost made it to the top. As I entered this hill, it had a very flat surface at the top - a well at the place I entered, a rather large pond at the middle and a small lake on its northern slopes! But, what I did not notice earlier due to the heavy mist all around me was a higher hill further north-east of the lake. It took me a while to realize that the white patch in Google maps indicated a lake, while the trail seems to continue past it!
Well and the pool near Antharagange peak
At the pool hills
The pool reminded of a memorable adventure to the top of Karigudda and a pool hill we had seen en route. Just like then, I had no plans to give up after coming this far. So, I followed the Google map trail and headed eastwards to reach the higher side of the hill. First, I had to cross a slippery stretch caused by water trickling in to the lake. Past this, I was able to see the valley on east and southern sides - which hosted the Kolar town. It was still very misty with very low visibility and I decided to explore the views on my way back. So, I waded through the tall grass ahead of me, as per the Google map trail.
Eventually, I was stuck with obstacles on all sides - an unsurmountable boulder towards the peak and bushes or boulders on all other sides. With a bit of walking around, I did manage to find a way through the bush, but it did not help much as it still took me to a dead end. I tried tracing my way back and found a way around the boulders and bushes, which lead me to a broken wall. After climbing up the wall, it was a tricky walk leading up towards the peak and it looked like the Google map trail was pointing to this wall. Walking on the wall was not so easy as it was full of thorny bushes and I thought about giving up a few times. But, I summoned all the Ethan Hunt spirit [1] and managed to go past all the obstacles and reached till the end of the wall.
Near Antharagange peak
The last stretch
From here, the only option was to do boulder hopping and I was determined to give it a try. But, as I lunged forward to cling on to the first boulder, I got a glimpse of the gap between the place I was standing and the boulder - it would be atleast a couple of floors deep! A slip would be near fatal and a guranteed slow death as it will take a while for anybody to trace me here! I slowly turned around with the camera in hand - careful not to slip.
Selfie near Antharagange peak
One selfie before return!
It was probably not worth the risk and I had already made about 10m near the peak - time to call it a good adventure and return back. I sat there reflecting on what I had done - it was crazy enough to do all the boulder hopping and practically risk life to get to this point. The bigger thrill was to do this solo without any guidance or help. It is possible that there is an easier trail leading up to the peak, but I would not do this any other way!
Kolar valley from Antharagange peak
Perched at the edge ...
It was past 9, by the time I headed back towards the pool hill, taking a detour towards the Kolar view point. Just in time for this, the mist cleared revealing nice views of the valley. I spent a while there clicking pictures - two boulders perched at the edge of the hill providing a bit more drama to the view, as well as serving as a tripod. In between, there was a short period when the dark clouds hovered around the sky leaving only the valley lit with the sun. I could also see the Teerhalli village and a small valley right under this view point. The valley below hosted some Ragi fields and a house - most likely, the trail going eastward (before I took the Google map trail) could be leading there.
Lake near Antharagange peak
The water source of Anthargange
Valley towards west of Antharagange peak
View towards west
I spent almost an hour there soaking in the views. With clear views of Kolar came a flaky cell phone coverage and I managed to send out some messages to Preethu. By 10.15, I headed back towards the pool hill - a wonder of nature as the whole area looked quite dry and it was a surprise seeing a lake there. Also, this lake had to be the water cache for the whole hills and the original source of water trickling in to the water cave and from there towards the Dakshin Kashi temple. I took a few pictures of the lake as well as the valley towards Bangalore highway. The valley hosted a few rocky hills with some of them taking interesting shapes. Mist had cleared by now, but there were still some dark clouds hovering above.
In a few minutes, I was searching for the way from the pool hill towards Teerhalli. This time, I avoided the cactus plants and took an early exit from the pool hill, going around it through the boulders surrounding it. After walking for some time, I realized that I had missed the path I had taken while coming up. So, I headed back, looking for some gaps through which I can go downwards. All the boulders looked similar and it was tough to make out which one I had taken while coming up. I finally found a gap and descended down from there. It was not the same path I had taken up, but this way eventually lead me to one of the eastward paths I had taken earlier.
Antharagange peak from the corn fields of Teerhalli
From the corn fields of Teerhalli
By 11.15, I was back at the foot trail, where I spotted some workers. One of the ladies were wondering if I had lost my way and went up - I just smiled as it would be tough to explain what I was up to in my broken Kannada. After reaching the first fork (where the trail I took was marked with a cross), I took a left to see if I can find the way towards the cave. A little ahead, I spotted a way through the Ragi fields, which eventually took me near the Eucalyptus plantations that we had encountered last week. Another advantage of taking this trail was a good view of the peak from the Ragi fields. Now that the whole circle was completed, I could peacefully head back!
By 11.30, I was back at the place I had parked the bike and in another half an hour I was at the NH heading towards Bangalore. The ride back was easier with the daylight and I managed to reach the city limit faster. A couple of hours later, I was back home sharing the adventure with Preethu over some yummy Biriyani!
Antharagange trek turned out to be a lot more interesting than I originally anticipated. The trek to the peak was infact one of the most memorable adventures and I was thinking of going back and looking for an easier trail - may be some other time. The lake near the peak felt like a natural wonder, caching water for the entire hills and probably explains the mystery behind the water trickling through the water cave. The caves are definitely a good destination for a weekend day drive and a short adventure. I was also extremely happy to take Manu for a trek and also with getting back to trek as well as the short bike trip.
Notes:
  1. Tom Cruise' character in Mission Impossible series.


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