If you have been to Nandi Hills, you must have seen an equally tall rocky mountain towards the northwest of Nandi Hills. Skandagiri, 4500ft (1364m) tall stands majestic with no motorable roads to its peak. If you are a human being with medium fitness, you can reach the peak without much exertion in 2-3 hours. Skandagiri is best climbed in the evening if you are prepared to stay overnight. A tent, sleeping bag and food supplies are necessary to spend your night on the top and watch the magnificent sunrise with the clouds below your feet. You might be surprised to see vendors selling you firewood, noodles, eggs and bread on top of Skandagiri on a full moon night and don't be surprised if you are welcomed by hundreds of trekkers who reached before you to spend the night on the sprawling peak of Skandagiri.
Megha and I decided to visit Nandi Hills and Skandagiri on a Saturday morning. After tackling choc-a-bloc Bangalore traffic and riding past BIAL airport, we reached the left turn to Nandi Hills at 10am. Welcomed by farmers selling grapes along this road and amused at the residential projects by Prestige estates, we reached a T junction. Take a left turn and you will head to Nandi Hills. Instead turn right and drive until you reach another T-junction near ancient Bhoganandeeshwara temple. A left turn and head to Muddenahalli - birthplace of visionary Sir M. S. Visweshwarayya whose architectural works of art consist of Vidhana Soudha and Brindavan Gardens. You can not miss the obvious sign board to take the left turn to this tiny village. Passing a school, we reached another junction with a few shops and we had a sumptuous breakfast for meager Rs 18 - 4 idlis, 2 dal vada, 1 tea. Turn right at this junction and drive another 2km, you will reach the base of Skandagiri. Make sure you don't park your vehicle in a private plot. Sometimes, you will bump against guides offering their help for Rs 100 or so, which may not be a big help unless you are trekking in the night.
On a pleasant cloudy morning with occassional drizzling, we were in high spirits to ignore Skandagiri and to try to climb another rocky mountain next to Skandagiri. This mountain did not have a clear trekking route and half-way we decided to surrender and come down to the base. There was a vendor who gave us timely energy with salt/chilies spreaded cucumber slices. She asked for biscuits or chocolates, but all we had were oranges and she was more than happy to grab two of them. The climb to the peak is not so easy but you will not run out of breath if you go at a constant pace. There are no vertical climbing phases which test your cardio fitness. Breath-taking light and shade views of the green mountains to the east side and well-laid rectangular paddy fields to the west side will make you stop and look through your lens or binoculars to capture those spectacular view.
Some parts of this trek are through 10 feet high bushes and this will give you a feel of walking through a dense forest with scanty sunlight. The last 30 min is quiet steep and you will think every 10min that you have reached the peak. On the peak, there is a stone structure which provides shelter to the vendors from rains and winds. We could reach the peak in 90min, the temperature at the peak was 17C, lower than 10 compared to the base, thanks to the breeze and thick clouds. After being on the top munching lunch and resting, we started our descent. The knee-trembling descent was not faster and took 90min to reach the parking. On the way, a very old man asked for food and we gave him the last two oranges left with us.
After tea and biscuit, we headed to Nandi Hills to reach there before 6pm, the ticket counter closes. The sunset was not seen as the clouds were dark and thick blanketing the sun but provided some magnificent views of crepuscular rays. It was chilly weather there but the tranquility is spoiled by the crowd and rush of vehicles.At Nandi Hills, you can stay at Nehru Nilaya, the Horticultural Guest House (08156-250901, r Rs 350-1500) with a restaurant. But if you have a group of friends and camping gear, staying on top of Skandagiri can not be compared. On the way back, we did the obligatory purchase of farm fresh grapes from a small boy for Rs 45/kg. For a day's outing Skandagiri and surrounding village offers a lot to see. Around October, you will find silk farming on the road sides and it is amusing to watch those silk worms and cocoons.