Makalidurga trek – Hiking the hill fort

A long weekend with no plans! It was a winter evening and I curled up warmly in the room. Scrolling the Facebook newsfeed, an event from Decathlon Anubhava popped up in my news feed – Makalidurga trek on 28th Jan 2018, Sunday. Makalidurga was on my travel list since long. Also, trekking with a group organised by Decathlon was another experience I always wanted to put myself to. The brighter side of such organised treks will be an opportunity to meet new people. So without any second thoughts, I registered for the event and asked my friend Sagar also to register.

Brief on Makalidurga trek

Makalidurga hills trek is one of the ideal getaways from Bangalore. It comprises of beautiful blue skies, vast lake views, railway line running through the hills, a rich history and a fort atop.  As a reason, its an abode for trekkers, nature lovers, and also a history buff. The day trek will definitely refresh the mind and body and the night trek will fetch you the memorable sunrises.

Makalidurga hill is located at a distance of 60 kilometres away from Bangalore and 10 kilometres away from the town of Doddaballapur. It stands at a height of 4430 feet and has a fort at the peak. The fort hill is surrounded by two lakes – Gunjur lake and Gundamagere lake – that resembles the continent of South America, while a train runs through the base of the hills.

The fort at the summit has an old Shiva temple. The history of Makalidurga is dated back to centuries, It is believed that Markandeya Rishi won over death at this Shiva temple. The fort has been accounted as training and military expeditions of various empires and later was captured by Kempegowda. Now, this place is one of the preferred trekking locations around Bangalore.

Early morning at Decathlon Anubhava

Saturday, the organisers mailed us the itinerary of the trek. We were asked to report to Decathlon Anubhava at 5 am on a Sunday morning.  Sunday mornings and waking up early never go hand in hand. Reluctantly I woke up 4 am and was ready in 30 minutes. Sagar picked me up at 4:30 am and It was a journey of 40 mins from my home. The day began with a ride to Decathlon Anubhava. Bangalore winters are chilling I must say. The early morning breeze literally made me shiver even with a highly packed jacket. The highways and streetlights looked beautifully lit on the Airport road. Many bikes were riding to Nandi hills to experience the chilling climate of the day.

Ride on Airport road – Enroute to Decathlon Anubhava

A continuous ride of 45 minutes led us to Decathlon Anubhava. People had already assembled there. We parked the bike in the parking lot and moved towards the registration counter. The organisers were helping the crowd to check registrations. I was really amazed to see the crowd there for the trek. I could approximately guess there were around 50 odd people. From 10-year-old kid to 45-year aged elders were here for an adventurous trek. OMG! The trend of trekking has evolved I must say and I really appreciate their enthusiasm. Meanwhile, we met Sagar’s friends – Vijay, Shekar and Kavitha. We exchanged warm greetings and had good conversations about the recent travel stories.

Buses arranged by Decathlon to Makalidurga

After the registration process, we walked to the bus. The bus facility was provided by Decathlon Anubhava. There were 3 buses, we just hopped into one and found seats to lay back. The bus started at 5:50 am, the crowd around us were mostly college students ready to trek with all energy. In ten minutes, the bus stopped and we were not told why. Maybe they were packing up the breakfast for all. But a lot of time was spent here and the early sun rays lit the atmosphere. Few people were getting irritated as their time was wasted without any notice. Around an hour later at 6:30 am, we resumed the journey and drove towards Doddaballapur.

Journey towards Makalidurga

As we travelled, Glimpse of Sunrise near Doddaballapur – Shot from bus

On the way, the sun was rising up and the day started with a glimpse of sunrise.  It was another 30 minutes journey and We thought to take a power nap as we woke up early. I fell into a deep sleep for 20minutes until sunrays splashed my eyes. I open my eyes to see a big rocky hill. I turned to Sagar Sakre and asked him if this was the hill we are gonna trek today. He said yes, this is the one!. He had already been to Makalidurga twice. Check his travelogue here. He is a great companion for travelling and photography. He inspires me about travelling and blogging. His post on Avalabetta peak is popular and was the top in Google during the trend. This had really motivated to write more.

Base of Makalidurga hills

The bus was parked near to railway station (only parking spot). We kept all our luggage inside the bus and just carried a small daypack with water bottle and eatables and stepped out. A mighty hill stood in front of us. The event had sponsored breakfast also. They served Idli Vada and energy drink. The taste was great and boosted our spirit to trek. In few minutes, Organisers gave general instructions and took the headcount. They were 90 people. OMG!! That was a huge number. I never trekked with such a big group. The big gang I trekked previously was Mullayyanagiri and DudhSagar which had approximately 20 people. This would be my first trek with 90 people. This sounded incredible.

Makalidurga hills that we trekked – View from base
Complete vlog by Sakre Cubes – click here | Tasty Idli Vada – Breakfast arranged by Decathlon

The trek began

Few organisers took the lead and the group followed.  The total stretch is of 3km one way, would take 1.5 hours to trek at a normal pace. There is a railway crossing ahead and the trek starts from here. Once we passed the railway crossing the mud trail paves the way. As we continued we noticed two paths – the left one leads to the lake – Gundamagere lake, and the right one leads to the peak which we took. We passed a Krishna temple at the base, which marks the start of the climb. The trail is filled with small rocks, thorny bushes and defined with arrow signs. So no need to worry much and follow the arrows which lead to the peak.

Railway crossing marks the start of the trek
90 people trekking together :O
Krishna temple at the base
Sun was already up and shining
Thanks to the arrow markings here and there to reassure the trail
Just follow the arrow marks – Good to go

There were many elders and kids scaling this hill with ease. Only 2 to 3 places were steeper other than that the hiking is easy. The terrain is mostly rocky and dry during this time. In the rainy season, the rocks will be slippery making it difficult. As we kept ascending the environment got cooler and winds blew with a breeze with a fragrance of grass. A pause and look back gave us a beautiful view of surrounding hills and the first sight of the lake. Few people rested along the way to sip on the energy drinks provided by Decathlon.

Rocky terrain all throughout
Thorny bushes and dry vegetation during January
Rock climbing is fun. Aint it ? 😀
Gundamagere lake view – Resembles the map of South America
The toughest steep of the trek
Organisers helping the trekkers during steeps

 The  summit

After trekking for almost an hour, we observed the first sight the peak, a remnant of the fort wall. The blue skies and the sun gave perfect pictures of the day. We started walking on the fort walls, a watch mould was here and the trees with white flowers attracted us.  We walked further, here the left view gives a beautiful lake view of the Gundamagere lake. We had some shade here giving us a place to relax and enjoy the lake view. The lake is the best attraction here. We clicked awesome pictures here and moreover amazing silhouettes I must say.

Rocks and boulders everywhere
The first sight of the fort
The Makalidurga fort wall
The peak and ruins of the fort
Watchtower and resting places
Yo man ! – Conquering the Makalidurga peak 🙂
The serene moments at the fort walls

The organisers started winding up the people asking us to descend that is when we realised we haven’t been to the right side of the hill. We started walking swiftly further through the dry grass. The ruins of the fort accompanied us and we reached to a small temple here – Sri Malki Malleshwara. Since the name was Makalidurga – I thought, that there might be a Goddess Durga here. Then I realised Durga in Kannada means fort. Makli is the village and this fort here is Makalidurga, referring to “the fort of Makli”. The temple is ancient and houses Shiva linga with Nandi. It is believed that in the legend, Markandeya held this Shiva linga and won over the death. We moved further to find a flag of Hanuman. This is the highest point of Makalidurga and marks the end of the ascend. The view from here is enchanting and contended. This side gives a beautiful view of Gunjur lake.

The ruins of the fort
Gives the perfect silhouttes
The trail in the peak – Towards the fort temple
The first view of fort temple
Makli Malleshwara temple at the peak
The Shiva temple where Markandeya won over death
These trees are everywhere on the peak – Gives awesome silhottes and amazing pictures
The fort temple view
I walk a lonely road 😛
The Hanuman flag at the peak
The Gunjur lake view

Heading back

The organiser came to us and told that its the time to descend and we followed him. We almost took 1.5 hours to get down, this time we chose another path to descend, which was difficult to descend because of the steeps but definitely thrilling. Along the way, the withered trees had started blooming again and looked elegant. We thought to visit the lake but we could not as we were with Decathlon. However, if you have time, it’s great to visit the lake. We reached the base and sipped a tender coconut here. It was much needed and refreshing.

Trains that run through Makalidurga
The trees blooming again post winter

In sometime, the organiser took the headcount and we boarded the bus. A last glimpse of Makalidurga and a satisfaction of conquering another peak made me smile. We departed from Makalidurga and came back to Decathlon at 2 pm. We were damn hungry and had lunch at Itihasa restaurant. After lunch, we walked into Decathlon and shopped stuff.

A group selfie – Check 😉

A day well spent with Decathlon group and an opportunity to meet new people. Makalidurga trek is definitely memorable and a great weekend getaway from Bangalore.

Stay tuned for my next travel experience 🙂

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Check out the Makalidurga trek Vlog by Sakre Cubes: Makalidurga trek vlog

Read other travelogues near Bangalore:
1. Siddara Betta – Trekking the hill of Saints
2. Melukote, Thonnur lake and Ranganathittu – A memorable day outing
3. Vishwa Shanti Ashram visit – Glimpse of Mahabharatha
4. Biligiri | BR Hills and Himavad hills
5. Devarayanadurga – Exploring rocks and hills 
6. Namada Chilume – Spring of Tilaka
7. SRS hills – Sri Revanna Siddeshwara hills – Ride to the Holy hills

Read my recent travelogues near Udupi and Mangalore:
1. Kapu beach – The Pristine Seashore
2Sultan Battery Mangalore – Tipu’s Watchtower

3. Tannirbhavi beach – Pine trees, beach huts and a glimpse of fishing
4. Kateel temple – A True feel of divinity
5. Maravanthe beach – Bond of sea and river
6. Agumbe – Drive through the Deadly Western Ghats 
7. Kere Basadi – Bliss of Varanga Jain temples [ Udupi trip Part-2 ]
8. Udupi Sri Krishna Matha [Udupi trip Part-1]

Visiting tips

  1. How to reach Makalidurga – The place is 60kms from Majestic, Bangalore.
    • By trainBangalore Cantt – Vijayawada passenger train 56503 at 7:20 from Bangalore to Makalidurga can be taken to reach by train. The ticket one way is Rs.15 only very affordable. Return journey Vijayawada – Bengaluru Cantt. Passenger – Train No 56504 Scheduled departure from Makalidurga is 2:20 PM and always arrives 2 hrs late, an advantage for trekkers. If you miss the train, walk a kilometre and catch KSRTC buses.
    • By bus – There are KSRTC buses from Bangalore to Makalidurga main road. From the main road, we need to walk around 1 to 2kms.
    • By private vehicles – If you want to experience the sunrise, better to go by bike or car. Though the place is deserted, parking near railway station seems safe.
  2. When to visit – Winters – September to February are the best time to trek in Makalidurga. It can get very hot in summers and should be avoided. The rainy months make the granite rocks very slippery and dangerous, and you do well to avoid them too.
  3. Trek details –
    • The trek distance is 3kms uphill and 3kms downhill.
    • The trekking time will be 1.5 hrs one way.
    • Well defined trail with arrows occasionally. Just follow them to the peak.
    • Rocky terrain and dry vegetation with thorny bushes.
    •  The difficulty level is easy to moderate except few steeps.
    • Anybody can scale Makalidurga without much physical stamina.
    • Both Night trek and day trek is allowed.
    • I heard there is some entry fee of Rs.450. However, the Decathlon organisers said there is none.
    • There is nothing much to do in the peak other than to relax enjoying views, check fort walls and click amazing silhouettes.
  4. What to carry :
    • A pair of shoes with good grip is mandatory for rocky terrain.
    • Carry enough water and food as there is no source of water and food.
    • Hats and sunglasses to protect from beating sun.
    • Professional guide, torch, mosquito repellant and tents for night treks.
    • Trekking poles or a stick for beginners would be handy,
    • Google maps have the full trail. You can save offline maps in case of night treks.
  5. Plan and start the trek early to witness a beautiful sunrise.
  6. The mobile network is available here all time.
  7. Weekends attract more crowd here from school kids to elders.
  8. Please don’t dump trash here. I could notice some plastics thrown carelessly. Better collect the trash and dispose it rightly.
  9. Rock climbing and rappelling enthusiasts can be seen here performing adventurous acts.
  10. Visit Gundamagere lake or Gunjur lake if you time.

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