The day started cold due to the slight altitude.
It wasn’t long before we started to see small houses and shops that signified we had entered the town of Doranala and I knew this would be the last town before we entered the forest.
The high street was already quite busy with the tea stalls and dhaba’s doing a brisk trade with the early risers who were waiting for transport to take them to work.
We reached a junction with another road leading off to our right. An ornate gateway stood proudly over the entrance to this road and I knew this was the way toward the forest.
Just a short distance further and the narrow road ahead was blocked by a line of trucks and buses on both sides.
We found out from a local vendor that the forest checkpoint was ahead and their gate did not open until 6am. I already knew there was a checkpoint on both sides of the forest and I also all vehicles were prohibited to enter from 9pm to 6am but I didn’t realise the checkpoint would be so soon on the route.
We waited in the bus a short while until we noticed the hustle and bustle of moving vehicles further up the road signifying the forest checkpoint was open.
The checkpoint guards were extremely surprised to see two people leading a large bus. We were asked to pull over to the side and we began to explain what we were doing.
At various times during the conversation, the guards were shaking their heads and eventually called for a supervisor.
We were told that we would not be allowed to walk through the forest for a number of reasons including the fact that the forest road was very narrow, the route was extremely steep in places and that wild animals were roaming free and would we would be and easy lunch for them.
Bobby and I sat in the bus but knew that a detour around the forest would be nearly 200km and was not an option.
After a lot of deliberating we knew we had no option but to stay on the bus and drive to a point where we would be allowed to walk even though this would probably be on the other side of the vast forest. I made a careful note of the location and would do the same on the other end so that we could eliminate the non-walked section from the route map.
Rahim started the bus up and drove up to the checkpoint. A few seconds later we were waved on but the crunching of gears emanating from the front told us something was not quite right. We were stuck in gear again!
An official stood behind the Walkmobile and started diverting traffic to the other side of the road so they could enter through the exit route much to the shocked surprise of those who were leaving the forest.
Another official summoned some additional manpower in an attempt to roll the huge Walkmobile back off the road. I knew this was going to be a tall order as the road sloped toward the front and the tyres rested against a speed bump.
None the less, five of us pushed with all our might and the bus moved slightly back then rolled forward to rest against the speed-bump again. This resulted in a rocking motion and all of a sudden Rahim shouted that the rocking had released the stuck gear! Surprisingly, due to the circumstances at the checkpoint, we may have found a way to release a gear if it got stuck in future.
I know Bobby was not happy to be taking a ride instead of walking but rules were rules and safety was paramount.
As the Walkmobile weaved its way through the forest along the twisty road, our minds were distracted by patchwork fields amidst misty mountains in the rising light of the morning sun.
When researching the forest route I had planned for us to stop at historic Srisailam and decided to stick to the original plan arriving there by lunchtime.
The town of Srisailam is reputed for the shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna on the flat top of Nallamala Hills. It has played a dominant role in Hindu religious, cultural and social history since ancient times. The epigraphical evidence reveals that the history of Srisailam began with the Satavahanas who were the first empire builders in South India. The earliest known historical mention of the hill, Srisailam, can be traced to the King Vasishthiputra Pulumavi’s Nasik inscription of 1st Century A.D.
Rahim slotted the Walkmobile amongst other coaches full of swamis and other pilgrims and prepared lunch while Satinder, Bobby and I walked to the temple and on to meet Vamsi Krishna at the Shivaji Spoorthy Kendra. Another beautiful temple on the hill lovely temple with amazing views.
It was only when we were near the main temple that I realised Bobby had crossed the 1,000km mark of actually walked miles and I gave him the good news. I knew he was happy but he would have been happier if he had been told the news while walking along the length of some highway.
After returning to the parking area and having lunch, we waved goodbye to Srisailam and headed to the town of Sundipenta which was the last village before the border to Telangana and was to be our resting place for the night.
When we arrived, the town was smaller than I had imagined. Goggle had listed a petrol station but it was abandoned and blocked by a row of small boulders so Rahim parked a little further up the road in a location that was less than ideal.
The sun was still up and was shining through the Walkmobile’s glass. Bobby had decided to sit outside in the shade and noticed some people congregating in the forecourt of the petrol station. He wandered over to them to ask for permission to park and it was granted!
We moved the small boulders away from the entrance and Rahim drove inside.
It was a surprisingly cool night that made me wish I had a thick blanket but I welcomed the rest.
I slept dreaming of mountain passes and ancient temples of the Gods.