We have been exploring Arunachala over the last few years, and one thing I always look for is caves. We have found about 30 so far, and I know where maybe ten more are. As I get older (I am 66 now, 67 next month), it is harder and harder to just go climbing up the mountain to discover new sights. So already, in three years, I am less able to do this kind of exploration than when we first arrived. However, there are others who do their own exploration of Arunachala, some of whom have read my postings and also looked for caves. And some of them come and tell me what they have found. One such man is a Frenchman, G. We sometimes meet him at the weekly Sunday Bhajan singing. Recently he told me of several caves he had found, and wanted to lead me to them. This posting shows one such cave, on the north side of Arunachala. This is an area where there are many big rocks on the side of the mountain, so I was pretty sure some must have caves, but that I had not explored yet. (Other caves are shown in this post.)
I have to qualify the use of the word “caves” here. Most of these so-called caves are really just sheltered areas under rocks. I kind of think it is a “cave” if: you can get out of the sun or rain, and if most of the year you might be able to sleep overnight there. I have really not found any caves that are actual tunnels into the mountain, as I had thought of caves before I came here. As I reflect on what we have found, all of them are spaces in or under rocks. To some extent I am sure what I call or do not call a cave is a bit arbitrary. When does a sheltered space under a rock become a cave? I can not give any solid answer. But some I call caves and some I do not. For example, if Carol gives me a big questioning look I may not call it a cave. This time.
This posting will show G’s cave and the walk to it.
The map below, developed using Google Earth, gives you an idea of where this cave is located.
We approached from the Inner Path (Red Path), since that was how G knew to find the cave. It is up on the hillside here.
Once we could see it, we walked cross country onto the hill. I think there is a rock with white highlights in the center of the photo below that you can just barely make out. It is where the cave is found.
We walked a bit more cross country, towards The Elephant (really towards what I call The Northside Promontory).
After a bit we found the Yellow Path, and turned left onto it.
After we crossed this water retaining wall, G found the path that he used to get to the cave previously.
We headed up it. The rock under which the cave sits is barely visible in the photo, maybe 1/3 of the way up the hill.
We followed the path into the sun, east, for a while. One of our dogs, Pippi, is in the photo below. The dogs go with us whenever they can.
There really is a path under all the greenery. The plants have lush growth after the monsoon rains. The other of our dogs, Freckles, is in the foreground.
Up the path we go. It is a pretty gentle climb here.
We turn right on a branch of the path here. G had set a couple of rocks on the big rock as a marker, so he could find it again.
Still following the path.
I can just barely see G through the grass.
The path has gotten a little steeper. Up we go.
Freckles has found a rock to climb. This way she can get a better view. I don’t think the dogs like going through the high grass. They can’t see what is around them.
Ahead is a rock that from this view almost looks like a house with peaked roof. This is our destination.
You can see it more clearly in this photo.
The hillside behind us, with the Northside Promontory projecting out from the mountain. We are about at the same level as its top.
Up the hill some more. The rock is in the left of the photo.
Looking across the hillside in front of us. There is another hill beyond. G said he came over that hill when he was exploring to find this cave. He found no caves there.
We are getting close now.
There is the rock, maybe 100 feet away.
Looking across the hillside in front of us.
G is at the base of the rock. It is to the left, out of the picture.
The rock is still to the left. You can see a part of it. G stands near its base, happy to be here again.
We went a little bit up the hillside to get a good look at the rock. From here, it looks to me like some kind of giant fish or boat, rising from the mountainside. The dark space at the bottom is where the cave is.
G and Carol look at the cave entrance. In the foreground is the dog we call Tigger, an Arunachala mountain dog who has walked with us for the last three years, maybe more than 200 times.
Here is the cave. It is under the rock, cleared out, I think, by rain water running down the hillside.
In the lower part of the cave is a flat sleeping platform that has been built. By whom, we have no idea. This is a place with water much of the year, so perhaps some Sadhu lived here.
We can scramble up under the rock to another part of the cave.
There is a nice flat spot here, good for sleeping, except when it rains. The ground here is wet from the recent rains.
Carol and one of the dogs are by the entrance on the other side of the rock to the top of the cave.
We sat for a while here. I burned a stick of incense, and read a few verses from “The Song of Ribhu” (English translation of the Tamil Ribhu Gita.) This was the book that was read aloud most frequently in the evening at Ramanasramam during Ramana’s days. Most nights they would sit in a circle with Ramana in the center. He would read a verse, then pass the book to another. They would read for about an hour.
G and I sit for the photo.
Carol with Freckles. Her shoe is wrapped with her shawl. The sole came off during the climb, and she has tied the shoe together so she can get home on it. The plastic bag in the foreground has dog food in it.
We climbed back down out of the cave. Here is another view of the entrance, and the stone platform at the base of the rock.
G climbed up to the top of the rock. This helps get an idea of just how big it is.
Then back down the hill. It is actually harder going down hill. It is a good thing that we have our trusty walking sticks. This is where they are the most useful. The Adi Annamalai Temple can be seen ahead, through the tree branches.
Down the hill. G is ahead of us. He has to go slow, since we ‘old folks’ are not as quick moving up or down the mountain.
Now close to the bottom of the trail. Carol has to stop and tie the other shoe together. Both of them came apart today!
Carol wanted to show how dirty I got scrambling up through the cave. I had to crawl on my belly up to the top level.
I slid on my butt coming down. Carol is sensitive to these issues, since she is the one who will try to get the dirt out washing the clothes.
At the end of the path coming back down the hill, G headed around Arunachala on the Inner Path. Carol and I had had enough for the day, so went back to our house. We were both pretty worn out, but it was another good day. It is so good when someone takes us to someplace we have not been. We appreciate it so much. We now have one more cave that we can show to you.