I first went to Siddara Betta in 2002, with Ravishankar of The Wild , with whom I had gone to Maribetta and Rangaswamy Betta. But then, I did not even write a trip log as I did not even know how to reach the place :)
But, I did have some good memories about Siddarabetta and always wanted to do a re-visit and ended up searching in google a few times and figured out how to reach. During a trip to Maidanahalli, I even saw sign boards to this place, but did not have enough time to cover Siddarabetta that day. The trip did not happen until Amal visited us @ Bangalore / Bengaluru. We initially thought of going to Devarayana Durga, but finally decided on Siddara Betta since it would offer us a little exercise as well :)
We started early morning on a sunday - and after picking up Shilpa - got out of the city limits before day break. The construction of metro and the elevated expressway in Tumkur road was going on in full swing, but the service roads are neatly re-laid to avoid the pain to travellers. Hopefully in a few months time, this road would be as good as the Hosur road.
There was some truck traffic even at this time of the day as they may be trying to get out of the city before their movements are restricted. After squeezing through a procession of huge trucks and some 4-wheelers we quickly managed to go past Nelamangala and entered the toll road. In another 10-15 minutes we were approaching the Dobbaspet flyover. To get to Siddarabetta, we took a left from here, got out of the toll road, crossed the flyover and entered the Koratgere / Madhugiri road.
Siddarabetta is located off the Koratgere - Madhugiri road and may be accessed from Dobbaspet (abt 55kms from Bangalore on Tumkur road) or from Tumkur itself, the former being shorter. The roads are reasonably good between Dobbaspet and Koratgere and we got a lot of photo opportunities, including a beautiful sunrise, the village sceneries and a bevy of bird population. We spotted so many birds - flocks of Parrots, Spotted Doves, Kingfishers, Egrets, Pond Herons, Kites and many others which were unknown to me!
Frequent stops for photographs slowed us down, but we were in Koratgere by about 8. Since this was the only place where we could find some food, we located a small roadside hotel here and had our breakfast - a plate of Thattu Idli and chutney. After breakfast, we also bought some water and then conetinued on the Madhugiri road.
To reach Siddarabetta, we had to take a left turn from the Madhugiri road, which comes after 2-3 kms from Koratgere. Infact, there is an arch on the left side just after Koratgere, which confused us. Finally, we checked with a taxi driver who said that the arch to Siddarabetta is further ahead. In another 5 mins we were at the correct arch, which also had a signboard saying 9kms to Siddarabetta.
|King of good times :)
This road is not the best of roads, especially some portion in between which was under construction. We moved slowly on this jeep track and finally reached a tank bund, where I spotted a Kingfisher. Ofcourse, we got down for another photo session and ended up spotting a lot more birds - a pair of Lapwings and a Pippit.
Let us start the trek!
By the time we reached the Siddarabetta village, after all these photo sesions, it was almost 10. We first went near the temple, but was directed towards the foothills by a villager. After a fair bit of confusion and passing through an path with small shops on both sides, we finally spotted the steps to take us up. We parked the car here, picked up the bare minimum luggage and started our climb.
Can u count the number of steps?
The initial portion was a little steep and we got tired quickly. In no time, we gained height and got nice views of the valley around us. There was a small scare, when Shilpa got a little too tired and refused to go any further. But, Amal convinced her that the only way out was the way forward and she had to agree :)
Catch ur breath with a view!
Soon we reached a small resting place, where there was a lady selling snacks and butter milk. We took a good break here, looking all around us. There is a good monkey population here, but they didnt look threatening, unlike some other places like Shivaganga. We sat there watching them rollicking along the hill slopes and even saw one of the baby monkey tumbling down! It finally hung on to a small shrub and saved its life!
Tie a string and make a wish!
The remaining part of the climb was slow and steady. We first reached a tree where people tied strings, guess as a prayer to make their wishes come true. When we were near the tree, we met a local, named Nandish, who offered to guide us into the caves. I didnt commit at that point - instead I told him that we are going up at a slow pace and will think about the guide after reaching near the cave.
Just after this tree, one last climb took us to the cave face and a few more shops and a crowd welcomed us. In spite of a very slow climb, we made it to the top in less than 1.5 hours. Nandish were waiting there for us at a small shop run by his father. After resting for some time we took his company and ventured inside the cave.
|Chamber of secrets?
Let there be light
It was a good experience to explore the cave. We found a few water sources and arrays inside the cave where the saints used to meditate. At one point we heard the sounds of a water source, but could not fgure out from where it is coming from.
How do I get out now?
We also reached a few open areas with vegetation. One of these areas housed large roots which was of a wild grape wine according to Nandish. At another point there was a shrub with leaves which smelled like mango leaves. At the end of all this, we reached another point with some more long roots good enough to be a nice swing.
Time for a group snap
We were soon back at the cave entrance, from where Nandish suggested us to go to the hill top which also houses a temple. I wanted to get back as early as we can, but didnot want to miss the hill top after coming this far. We took the path going up and to the hill top.
The hilltop was a little more than we thought. In spite of moving quickly, we took a while to reach. The path which first went around huge boulders offering good views of the valley around, soon went in through some vegetation. I kept up with Nandish, while Amal and Shilpa followed us. All three of us started getting impatient as there was no sign of the hill top - which we thought was 'just ahead'.
Finally, after about half an hours brisk climb we reached the hill top, which was a huge flat monolithic rock. The temple was just a heap of stones and we all were a bit disappointed seeing it. But, the top offered us good views of the surroundings and Siddarabetta looked much taller than anything around it.
Posing near the ruins
Finally, at the top!
There was also a fort up there - a little dilapidated though. We spent a while walking around the hill top catching glimpses of the valley around us and taking a few snaps. The sun was beating down strongly by now and we decided to turn back. One final good bye to the surroundings and we were on our way back to the base.
Back at the cave face, we said good bye to Nandish and headed down. In less than half an hour, by about 2, we were back at the base camp, in the car and starting our journey back to Bangalore. The return journey was quite un-eventful as all of us were sleepy - thanks to the early start. We took a sole break at the Devarayana Durga base, where locals were selling yummy looking fresh carrots!
Amal took over the wheels after Dobbaspet, where we reached by about 3.30. Through the toll road (NH4) we were soon in Nelamangala where the city traffic started. Snarling through the heavy traffic, we finally reached Indira Nagar, by about 5. I dropped Amal and Shilpa there and headed for home.
Siddarabetta is a good spot for a day trip - an early drive through the villages, so many birds en route, a short trek and a memorable cave exploration. Last but, not the least, the lovely view from the top of the hill.