To the lost Fortress

Day 6 – Wednesday, June 8

Coming back from the camp site at Hogenakkal, I settled down in the room, had dinner and started blogging. There are quite a few things that happened after that. It was close to midnight when I completed the blog and processed the pictures. There was no 3G signal, therefore I could not publish the blog, which wasn’t something very surprising. I was very tempted to head to sleep, but I had actually hit the trump card for the day without even knowing it. Hogenakkal wasn’t ever in the plan, and now I was here doing things I thought were not possible to work out so quickly.

I’d avoided the falls area during the day, since there would be too many people in the area. I was thinking it would be a wild idea to venture out in the darkness. I grabbed a bag and just took my camera body with the wide angle lens. I took a little cash and let the wallet behind. In short, I was preparing just in case I got mugged.

The night sky

I saw a few locals wandering when I stepped out into the otherwise deserted street. Shops were shut and a few of them we in the process of cleaning up. I was easing into comfort seeing a few people here and there. I didn’t take the bike since it was only going to create more parking problems. The hike to the falls was pretty quick, about 15 minutes or so. Just outside the entry to the falls, a few women were sitting engrossed in their own round table conference least concerned about me fumbing around in the dark to reach the falls. I was glad to be ignored.

I could hear the flow of heavy water somewhere around. While I entered, I noticed that the passage was built in a way where the stream of water from the falls flowed under the passage. I spent a little time taking a couple of night shots in the fairly safe area. I used the Gorillapod on the wet railiings, and almost dropped the camera in the water once. I looked around just to find out if there was an extra pair of eyes watching me. When I was sure I was alone, I moved in to the main falls area. I’d not been to this place before and I had to take my chances on the navigation. I made it to a viewpoint from where I could see a portion of the falls. To my surprise, there were a few guys taking a dip at that time of the night.

The moment when my camera almost fell in the water. My heart skipped a beat.

Hogenakkal stream at night.

The stream on the other side.

I wasn’t very keen on sticking to this place any longer for two reasons. One, people had infested the spot. Two, there were so many manmade structures around the falls that made it look ugly. Of course, later I came to know that the place I’d been to was not the main falls, but a portion of it. I wasn’t feeling very comfortable going deeper since I knew that there are people sitting around the place and drinking in the dark. I safely came out the place and walked back to the room. On the way back, I was fascinated by the sky. Hogenakkal, being a dim lit place, posed a brilliant night sky.

I decided to take my bike and venture into the forest near the camp site. I had second thoughts about it, but then, I felt it was worth a shot. I could always return if I wasn’t feeling right about it.

Back on the road with the bike, I took it really slow without making too much fuss about riding through the town. The last thing I wanted was to wake up someone and grab their attention. Beyond the town, it was just darkness. Of course, the moon was pretty bright although it was just the crescent that I could see.

I found it hard to spot the place where I took the ride across the river. It was pretty prominent during the day, but finding it at night was a real challenge. Once I found it, the big challenge then was making up my mind to step in. I could see only the very small piece of land lit by the headlight. Everything else was completely dark. Generally, animals come by the water in the night. And, I chose this spot because it’s heavily commercial in the morning and the chances of animals is extremely low at night. I had to muster a lot of courage to head out like that in the dark. My intent was to get to the water body so that I could grab a few shots by the river.

On the river banks at midnight.

Enjoying the moon lit river banks.

Star gazing

I parked the bike as close to the river as I could. This spot especially was rocky unlike my camp site. Once I switched off the head lamps, my eyes slowly adapted to the moon light and suddenly everything seemed so bright. The moon and the clouds played hide and seek while a setup the camera. I loved the loneliness with the breeze on my face while I sat on the banks. I took my sweet own time to take the pictures and finally got back to the room.

I never intended to wake up early in the morning. With the wrist pain bothering me, I wanted to take ample rest and see how things were the next day. My decision to ride somewhere or back home was going to be based on that.

Someone rang the door bell. It was the room boy. He was asking me if I wanted coffee. In the first place, I hadn’t decided if I wanted to wake up. I checked the watch and the time was close to 10 AM. I asked him to bring it while I freshened up. My wrists were manageable and so I decided to head somewhere; towards Pondicherry. I packed the saddle by 10:45 AM and headed out of Hogenakkal.

I halted at Dharmapuri to check if I had any 3G reception. To my surprise, I did have a good reception. I parked my bike close to a lodge and published the previous day’s blog from the entrance.

Body coolant

Once done, I tanked up and moved out of the town. I knew it was going to be a hot sultry ride through not so great roads. On the way, I decided to stop by place, which was once a very powerful fortress and the centre of Arcot. The fortress stood witness to over eight hundred years of history. All that remains of its glorious past are the ruins. The place is called Senji. (a.k.a. Gingee)

I stopped every 50 kms to drink as much water as I could to fight the dehydration. I reached the fortress by 3:30 PM. I liked this place for the fact that, all that is there is just the remains, has historic values but no sentiments. For example, the remains of the temple don’t have any idols. All that is there is the temple tower and some of the inner structures. So, it’s perfectly fine to wear shoes inside.

I headed straight to the temple remains where there was hardly anyone. I requested the caretaker of the place to look after my saddlebag and the tent. The only expensive item in it was the GoPro, but that wasn’t working anymore too. I just took the camera bag and went around scouting the entire fortress.

The arena at the Fortress

The corridors

The passage

I wanted to climb up to the top, but the time for that ended by 3 PM. I was restricted to the lower parts of the fortress, which was still pretty good. I went back to the temple tower, which was my favourite due to the loneliness. I settled down in a nice spot and started processing my pictures right there.

I have no clue what this is, but it looks awesome!

Ariel roots

Some chamber in the Fortress

Light at the end of the tunnel.

The Courtyard

At 5 PM, the caretaker wanted to close the temple. I requested him for a few more minutes explaining to him that I had come from quite a far just for this peaceful feeling. He explained to me that there are complications doing that and requested me to sit out in the temple veranda as long as I wanted to. It sounded like a fair deal and I shifted my stuff outside.

The best place in the Fortress. A peaceful deserted temple remains.

Temple pond

Temple dome

The remains of the thousand pillar auditorium

Inside the temple somwhere

Rapid fire processing

Temple outdoors

At about sunset, I started packing my saddle again to head to Pondicherry. My wrist pain had started increasing by then. I unpacked the bags to get out the first aid and used a crepe bandage to hold my wrists a little tighter. This prevented more stress on my wrists.

I managed to reach Pondy roughly around 7 PM. I’d called a hotel and booked the room on my way. So, it was all ready when I arrived at the premises and all that I’d to do was check in.

Back on the highway towards Pondy

Entering Pondicherry

Crepe bandage – Damage control

Settling down in the room, I blogged for a while and headed out to have dinner. Pondy was once ruled by the French and the flavours still remain. I went in search of some French food and ended up in a posh hotel that served pretty good French food.

Some posh French restaurant

Smoked chicken – YUMMY!

Poulet [something] [something] – Edible

After the dinner, I went close to the beach for a short stroll before heading back .

Night life on the beach

The coastline

The coastline

A hotel nearby


Ride Stats

Route: Hogenakkal – Dharmapuri – Uthangarai – Thiruvannamalai – Gingee – Pondicherry
Distance: 275 kms
Ride Time: 9 hrs

Trek Time: 2 hours


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