[This is a guest post written by Vaibhav K. Vaibhav is a guitarist active in the independent music scene for a long while now. He loves all things music and motor sport and is currently exploring the music scene in Mumbai.]
Those closest to me know about how I gave up on a lot of things in life to pursue my love for music. And it is through this love for music, that I discovered how much I enjoyed being on the road. I had never truly experienced wanderlust while traveling by air, or by train or any other public means of transport. But driving cross-country in your own vehicle with some of your best mates to go play shows at places you’ve never been? That was a whole new experience.
There have been plenty of great incidents on the road in the company of my bandmates – some funny, others scary, some just downright boring and mundane and others that tested the limits of our relationships. From seeing strange accidents on the road, to escaping crashes by a hair’s breadth, my memories of cross country drives are many and varied. I’ve driven through some of the remotest, wildest and most expansive landscapes. I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of the famed beauty our country has to offer outside of our lives in cities. However, what I wanted to share today has nothing to do with these experiences, though it definitely counts as one of the strangest nights I’ve ever had driving about.
I was never one to really have what people refer to as ‘gut feelings’. I always have been the one to think things through and arrive at conclusions based on (at least) some sort of reasoning in my head. I must tell you that before I plunge into my story.
One night two of the bandmates and I decided to go on a night trek up our favourite monolith in Bangalore called Savandurga. Savandurga was a terrifying sight in the pitch black of night for amateurs like us. In fact, one of my favourite views of Savandurga was when we would pull up to the village near its base, and this gigantic mass of black would just block out our sight and challenge us with quiet menace. We had scaled it once successfully before and that too at night and had quite enjoyed the experience. So we saw no harm in spending another night doing the same. We treasured the view from the top at sunrise.
So there we were, the three of us leaving the highway, driving along the narrow village roads that would eventually lead us to this behemoth. The roads didn’t have any lights either, so the person who was driving had a lot of fun turning off the headlights to scare us as it would truly turn pitch black and visibility would become absolutely nil. And then the strangest things started to happen. The closer we got to the place, the more uncomfortable we started to feel. And as I said before, I wasn’t one to really get ‘gut feelings’, but I was starting to get chills down my back. I asked the others in the car and everyone agreed that they felt like something was just off about that night. But we chose to ignore that and carry on.
We got to the village at the base of the monolith. The ‘village’ actually only consisted of a few houses, a shop which was attached to the last house before the trail started, a temple and a bus stop nearby. We slowed down near the temple, planning to park the car there as we had the last time and face the street dogs that would obviously come barking at strangers arriving at around one in the night. Here was where things truly started taking a strange turn. We heard a lot of barking. We saw the dogs approach us. And, instead of barking at us, they circled around us and were barking at the wilderness towards the climb. That was a little confusing, but not knowing any better, we chose to ignore that.
Right after that, the atmosphere got truly creepy – something right out of a horror movie. We realized that there was an old lady walking around outside the temple. We were thoroughly confused. Why would any lady, young or old, be walking around outside a temple in the middle of nowhere at 1:00 a.m.? We tried our best to ignore her as well and walked forward to where the trail to the climb started. That was when we saw the signboard from the shop planted firmly in the middle of the trail. I felt that was odd. Why would the shopkeeper do that? Surely, at night, when the shop was closed, they would keep that sign indoors?
My bandmates decided I was just getting spooked for no reason (it’s true, I do scare easily) and so we walked past the sign and onto the trail. And then an even stranger sight greeted us. All the tall grass, almost shoulder-height, was flattened. Now, being from Kerala, my mind immediately went to elephants. “Oh, hell no!” I said. “I am not running into a wild elephant in the dark. No, thank you.”
At which point we returned to our car. I was ready to call it quits right there, but the mates wanted to keep going anyway, so I asked the only one amongst us who knew how to speak the local language to ask the old lady at the temple if there were wild elephants about. He obliged. The old lady’s answer scared us even more. “Don’t climb today,” she kept repeating mysteriously in answer to all our questions. Sufficiently scared, we got in the car and drove back to the bus stop.
Right about this time, the first bus of the morning was getting ready to leave and I told the same lad to go ask the bus conductor about the wild animal situation. The conductor was a young chap and could give us better answers than a possibly crazy lady. “There has been a herd of wild elephants about, the last couple of days,” he said. “It would be stupid to attempt climbing this at night.” Apparently, the area was also full of bears and leopards!
At this point, we decided we were lucky enough to have gotten away with climbing this at night once. Hell! The last time we were there, we had even slept out in the open, no cover, nothing. And that’s when we decided to end that night’s adventures.
To this day, I remember Savandurga and the strange energy around the place. Maybe it’s because we only ever scaled it at night (we did climb it again eventually without any such horror-movie scenarios). Even on subsequent drives to the place, (which was just for the sake of the drive and not about climbing the monolith) we encountered strange phenomena, like a rabbit hopping in front of the car for the entire length of the village roads, or owls following the car. Once, a dog kept us company throughout the climb. We didn’t even have anything to feed the dog, and it just kept pace with us, never making a sound, for a good six hours!
But that view from the top at sunrise? Unmatched and totally worth the scares.
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