Lush green trails, rocky hills with dark clouds over them, pleasant weather, lake views, ruins of a fort and a temple... all ingredients for the perfect weekend getaway from Bengaluru.
After five months of being under lockdown, I was restless and craving for a dose of outdoors. I like to go on treks, and yearned for one, even if it was a day trek. The advantage of living in Bengaluru is that we have a number of hills for trekking around, all within a 100 km radius. These are day treks and can be done on any day of the week.
Just 60 km away from Bengaluru is Makali Durga, one of the most fascinating treks I have done recently.
It was a pleasantly cloudy day with a little nip in the air after the rains of the previous week. The Makali Durga Hill stands about 4,430 feet above sea level with a temple and some ruins on top. For me, a trek is like meditation, or rejuvenation, for the mind, body and soul. But this trek really stands out. Makali Durga’s history goes back to 1600s when the Vijayanagara Empire held the fort, and then the Nayakas after their decline. The fort was later held by Shahaji Bhosale, father of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the ruler of Doddaballapur in Karnataka.
It was used by the Vijaynagara Empire to train their army and was recaptured and ruled by Kempegowda, who founded Bangalore.
Also, the ‘Palegar’ or ruler Makaliraya, used this fort as a granary during the late 1800s and that is how Makali Durga got its name. It is also believed that the famous Rishi Markandeya performed penance here.
Another story about the origin of the name says that it comes from a creeper called ‘Makali Beru’ (in Kannada) which means root, the juice of which is used in blood purifying medicines and for preparing a health drink.
The highlight of this trek is the view of Gundamagere Lake from the top which almost looks like a shape of the South American continent. All through the trek you get magnificient views, encounter rocky trails and boulders, and a variety of wildflowers.
On most of my treks, I have seen an old temple on the top of the hill but never understood why and how someone built it. The temple of Makali Malleshwara, Shiva and Nandi, surrounded by the fort walls, is still worshipped. Spend some time there and you will see the ruins of Garuda Gamb, Basava and Shiva Linga idols.
The trek starts at the barren railway line from where you can only see the Makali Hills and other surrounding ones. The trek is a little challenging as you have to climb up an uneven rocky terrain. We had two girls with us, 7 and 9 years, who enjoyed their trek and finished without much difficulty.
It took about two hours for us to reach the top as we were not in a hurry and wanted to enjoy the greenery and scenic views all around. Every 10-15 steps, we stopped to take photos.
From the top, you can view (in 360 degrees) the city, surrounding hills, the railway track, lake and the highway. It is like a perfect drone shot.
The weather was awesome, as we relaxed on the hilltop and had the breakfast we had carried with us.
The descent is equally challenging as you have to cross those big boulders which are easier to climb up. The trail is marked with lots of direction arrows so chances of getting lost are low.
Best time to visit
Well, for any adventurist, trekker or nature lover like me, all seasons are good. However, you can avoid peak summers and monsoon as it becomes hot in summers and slippery in the rainy season. I am a sucker for greenery, so I went just after the rains. Winters are good too.
The Makali Durga trek is managed by Eco-Tourism, Department of Karnataka Forest. There is a nominal fee of Rs 250 which each visitor has to pay. You can also trek through department organised trek trips and make online bookings.
How to reach
It is just 60 km away from Bengaluru so we drove. One can take a train or the state-run buses to reach Makali Durga railway station or Doddaballapur bus stop. From there, it's just about 15 km. The railway station is called Makali Durga, and located at the foot of the hills. There are two lines of which one is not active. The car park is at the foothills right next to the inactive railway track.
- Makali Durga is a day trek and can be finished in 5-6 hours.
- The treks come under Eco Trips managed by Department of Forest, Karnataka Government, hence one has to take permission for the trek.
- The trek difficulty level is moderate and can be done easily, barring some big boulders which one has to climb.
- Carry food and water as nothing is available on the top, or in between.
- There are no washrooms or public toilets.
- Beware of monkeys.
- Look out for tiny wildflowers on the sides of the trail. They are beautiful.
- Carry a cap if you are going in summers, a rain cheater during monsoon and a sweatshirt in winters.
- Wear comfortable clothing and footwear (shoes with good grips).
- Do not litter.
- Be safe. Wear a mask, and maintain social distancing if there are people around you.
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