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The Railway Track Trek: Day 2

The next day we walked less, only 13-14 km, because we were all lazy and started late, around 9. The walking was easier though, because the hills sheltered us from the sun, unlike the previous day when we just roasted between 10 am and 2 pm. The path is very pretty, not breathtaking, but very pleasant. There are lots and lots of tunnels, dark, damp (if not wet), and bat-infested. We had been forewarned, so we had lots of flashlights. After virtually each tunnel, there was a bridge, with the ground suddenly falling steeply away to a rushing stream and dense forest below. Walking over these was mesmerising, the greenery below blurring in the background of the worn wooden sleepers which we focused on with fierce concentration. Not that one could have fallen through the sleepers to the ground far away, but it still felt like one could, especially when one watched a yellow leaf drift silently onto the tracks at ones feet and slip effortlessly and soundlessly through to float away ever so lazily in the whisper of a breeze.

Someone saw a snake (they are supposed to be in hibernation in winter), and someone else saw deer below, while crossing a bridge, but I saw nothing except the greenery. The last leg of the trek was in some ways the best. We turned away from the railway track and followed a truck track through the forest on a steeply downhill path that lead, after a shady 6 km walk, to a broad majestic stream. There was a bridge made of sharp, pointy stones usually used for building roads, which was all very well for the trucks to drive over, but not as suitable for us footsore trekkers. Since we were all barefoot, that was very much an experience to remember. As always, when the entire bunch of city bumpkins is struggling to stay upright, along came a local who traipsed over the stones as if they were no sharper than the softest sand of the desert or beach.

Someone dropped their shoes (twice) and everyone got their jeans wet below the knees, even those who had rolled them up, but finally everyone docked on the other side mostly dry (even the camera) and only slightly the worse for wear. Then we all took a break to finish off as much of our provisions as possible, before scrambling on to the main road and hailing a passing truck. To our relief he was prepared to give us all a lift to the nearest town, which was quite surprising considering we were a disreputable ragamuffin bunch with wet jeans and unruly-looking backpacks with the sleeping mats sticking out at all angles.

The truck heaved and panted up the hilly road, and twice a backpack cascaded from the luggage rack to land with a thud only inches from the driver's head, but we made it to Sakleshpur and caught a bus home without further ado. (I almost lost the bus when it stopped for dinner and I dallied to get some idlis packed for the sleepyheads who had stayed in the bus, but apart from that minor incident it was an uneventful journey home.) Though it was nice to get back to a warm house and familiar bed, my one regret was that I hadn't brought those million stars back with me, that I had seen twinkling overhead one night on a low hill in the Western Ghats.

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.