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Dandeli

Easily one of the most unplanned trips of my life, Karthik called up in the middle of the night and suggested a trip to dandeli 450 kms away. I was reluctant but the holiday on Tuesday seemed too good to miss. 4 days of vacation was needed since the last 5 months had been hectic. So I agreed.

The Impromptu Itinerary
1. Yellapur – Waterfalls and viewpoints
2. Dandeli – Nature treks and rafting

Day 1
Got a call from Karthik again at 5 a.m which I intentionally declined to get another hour of sleep. Received another call at 7 a.m; he was already ready and raring to go. He drove the entire night, his cousin’s ford fiesta from the airport to his home. So I was definitely concerned whether he was in the ‘right state of mind’, literally; but he seemed confident and so I decided to go ahead. Took me an hour to pack everything and reached silk board junction by 11 a.m. We called up sanju after starting our journey from Bangalore just to remind him what he was missing out on. The rest of the journey was going to be very hectic and I was prepared for it.

Took us an hour to get out of BLR and reach the NICE road junction to tumkur road and on to the Hubli highway. On the way was the usual discussion on marriage, college days, worsening economy, weather and the rest. In no time and 200 kms later, we were at Sira. It was part of the plan to fuel up at the BP bunk; according to karthik the quality of diesel is quite good at that junction since its a company owned bunk.
Searched quickly on the best available restaurant and hotel purohit showed up; it had a very high rating on google and looked like worth a try.
The food was excellent and the ambiance rustic. We ordered paneer burji, bhindi masala , jeera rice and some hot phulkas. Some lassi to top it at the end. All the dishes are worth a try; especially for a bill of only 350.

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We were off again at about 1.30 p.m for the next leg of the journey; the destination being yellapur located 200kms away. The drive took us through many small villages and it was fun to witness the rustic life as we passed through. On the way we passed a beautiful dam/reservoir , kodasahalli reservoir to be precise. We spent about 10 minutes trying to get a couple of good shot but the approach was quite difficult due to wetness in the ground.

kodasahalli reservoir

We reached yellapur at about 6.30 p.m and located a nice lodge called “achha comforts”.¬†As such ,we had located the hotel before hand on Google Maps and it seemed like a decent enough place. As a matter of fact, for 500 per head per night, it was a steal for the quality of the room provided. While the ‘plan’ for the evening was to plan the next day (since this was an unplanned trip after all), we ended up using all the evening time to watch episodes of “Friends” trying to use up the 2GB daily quota of Data.

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Hotel Indraprastha located next Achha comforts Inn is a good food joint; not to mention very convenient as well given its proximity to our stay. We ordered the Veg Khemma masala along with some Naan and rotis. The curry was wonderfully spiced and I savored it slowly since I knew that we weren’t planning to returning to yellapur the next day.

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Next to Indraprastha hotel is a nice souvenir shop for imported items “Hans Naturals”. As such the quality of items is not very high; for eg. I purchased “imported chocolates” which were so bad, I had to throw them into the garbage. Nonetheless there are at least some interesting items to purchase.

Going back to the room , as such the ‘plan’ was to plan the rest of the journey out but we were too tired for any kind of planning. Not to mention, I ended up receiving continuous calls from office to get my work done; (this was a unplanned trip after all). Switched on my lappy but the wireless speed was bad. Thankfully my manager allowed me to offload some of my pending work to my colleagues. After all that , we just fell asleep leaving everything to fate.
Day 2
The first thing in the morning was to book a stay in dandeli ; otherwise it would be us and the night sky with no roof. After about 45 minutes of searching , shortlisting and calling, we finally zoned in on “Dandeli Nest homestay” who offered us a packaged accommodation with meals 3 times, activities including trek, rafting, boating ; all for about 2K per night per head. It wasn’t a fantastic deal as such but we weren’t in a position to really negotiate a good deal in the situation that we were in. In parallel, I sent out multiple work related emails to sort stuff out (Sighs …)
Hotel Indraprastha treated us to a fantastic breakfast , very tasty uppit, puri and masala dosa. I ordered the food while Karthik fit his dash cam. It was almost 10.30 a.m by the time we left and Google maps showed us almost 200kms to be covered. As such the itinerary of the day included

1. Magod Falls
2. Jenakallu View point
3. Sathodi falls
4. Syntheri rocks
5. Sykes view point

We weren’t sure of covering all the spots given the bad roads but decided to put it in Gmaps navigation nonetheless.
First stop was Magod falls located 12 kms away from Indraprastha hotel. The road to Magod is well,,pretty much non existent. It had not been repaired in a decade and the drive was quite difficult. It took was almost an hour to just reach the location. We spotted a couple of cars at the falls. Surprisingly there is a government authorized ticket collection center at the falls ; the ticket cost us only 10 rs and there were probably about 30 odd people at the falls on that day. The falls itself was ‘reasonable’ , not too impressive but at least worth the drive. It is two stepped falls and if we were a bit below near the falls, it would have made for a beautiful shot. But visitors are not allowed to go the bottom; although I think I saw a unpaved road through the forest leading down the hillock.

@Magod Falls

Next up was jenakallu view point located about 2 kms from Magod falls. The road is no good again and it will take another half hour to reach the viewpoint from Magod falls. The viewpoint offers a fantastic view of the entire valley and I am sure it would have been beautiful at sunset. (as was the plan day before).

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Another 45 minutes of drive back to the main road and it was lunch time; unfortunately there was no time ! We had to continue on to Sathodi falls; on the way people warned us that road to sathodi falls was very bad. Sathodi falls is located almost 20Kms from the main road and the road at the time of our visit really was terrible and a significant part of it has a significant gradient on an unpaved ‘road’. However the last part of it is quite good and cemented but narrow; but only 1 car can pass through at a time.
Finally after 50 minutes of difficult drive, we reached our destinations and there were a number of vehicles parked. The entry fee is only 20 INR and its about 700 meters of walk to the main falls, all of which is paved and barricaded on both sides.

On the way to Sathodi Falls

Sathodi falls is quite beautiful and there was enough water for a nice long exposure shot.

Sathodi Falls

It was difficult to get a good shot though since there were a number of people including lot of school/college students having a good time. We had some difficulty balancing the tripod amongst the rocks, requesting people standing 50 meters away by waving our hands and ensuring that the tripod doesn’t topple over. Overall though, it was worth the time we spent to reach the location.
Next up was “syntheri rocks” or “sykes view point” but we estimated there was not enough time to do them; it would be late evening by the time we would reach either and well, nothing would be visible. So we continued on to our stay in Dandeli Nature Camp. On the way we crossed the Supa Dam after almost an hour of amazing drive through the forest.
The cottage we booked was decent enough although newly constructed.

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After checking in and quickly going through the snaps of the day, it was time for a quick dinner. Nice oily chappatis, dal, vegetable and sugary dessert was a good way to end a very tiring day.
Day 3
The cooks at Dandeli Nature Camp prepared some tasty Uppit, bread, butter,jam and tea.

Misty Mornings

While having our breakfast, we inquired about the activities as a part of the package. Most of all, we wanted to go white water rafting. Now it so happens that the water required for white water rafting is not under the “control” of the rafting operators; the water is released from supa dam as and when needed for electricity generation. So we were advised to finish at least boating and swimming that evening.

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Seeing that we had time in the afternoon, we decided to visit syntheri rocks by late morning which is about 20Kms from Dandeli Nature Camp.
About Syntheri Rocks
Syntheri rocks is a monolithic single granite boulder with a height of 300 ft with the river kaneri flowing at its core. There is a small water fall of sorts which people come to visit along with the giant boulder as its backdrop. The area is of interest to geologists as well and there are mounts naming & explaining different kinds of rocks to tourists.
The drive to syntheri rocks is stunning. It takes one through the pristine forests of dandeli reserve atop the hills. Its a 2 lane road and there was very little traffic.

Entrance to Syntheri Rocks

Syntheri rocks itself is located in the middle of a forest.

At syntheri Rocks

The entrance fee was 20 INR at the time of the visit. There were at least 50-75 people at the location; most of them were school students on an excursion. A few hundred steps takes one down the prime location and viewpoint. In the mid of the day, the lighting was a little too bright but the view was still stunning. It took 25 minutes just to get a few minutes of time at the prime location for a picture and selfie. Overall this process took up most of our time and it was already time to go back to our camp for lunch.

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After reaching the camp, we were treated to some fantastic parathas along with sabzi,rice and dal for lunch. We inquired about the chances of white water rafting but the manager still had no confirmation. Dejected but without choice, we decided to at least finish boating & ‘jacuzzi’ , both of which were part of package. To add to the bad news, we were requested to move out of our cottage; apparently some folks had already booked the night and only tents were available to us. Now tents themselves weren’t problem but the common bathroom was; It was a mess.

Ranger Tents at Dandeli Nature Camp

We decided to take our chances prayed that the folks who booked the cottage don’t show up and by extension, we would get to stay another night in the cottage.

It rained early evening , weather was pleasant again and we decided to leave for the boating trip. The location for the rafting/boating/swimming etc is all the same; located next to the famous bison river resort. The operator for all the activities is the fly catcher adventure resorts. Now the first piece of good news that we got is that white water rafting was possible on that day. Costing 500 per head and lasting about 45 minutes , we would get to cross only 1 Grade 3 rapid only (or maybe it was grade 2). As such the overall session of crossing the rapid from upstream would take only few minutes ; rest of the time would be spent on rowing into the same rapid from downstream and experiencing the white water in repeat.

Here is the catch : The actual white water rafting session which the government of karnataka organizes and controls is over 9 kms long and takes 3 hours to complete with 6 rapids. Unfortunately , the approvals for that were not obtained and we could not do that one. Well, something is better than nothing I guess.

So while the level of water was increasing, we decided to finish our boating session quickly; it generally lasts about 30 minutes. As we boated, it started raining and atmosphere was just serene. We started a conversation with our guide; he shared his tales of rafting experience at rishikesh (the training session for guides) and karthik joined in since he too had rafted in rishikesh. We practiced taking over as a “guide” as well; the boating is quite strenuous if one puts their “back into it”.
While boating, we saw that the white water rafting session had already started and people crossing the rapids looked like a lot of fun. We immediately booked ourselves the next round for 500 INR per head. We got clubbed with another group of enthusiastic 10 ‘first time rafters’ , a group from hyderabad & working in TCS. Our guide wore the Go Pro on his helmet to record everything and we were off. After the customary introductions, we were given the rafting instructions from our guide ; while white water rafting is serious adventure sport; the grade of rapid that we were going to cross was easy and ok for beginners as well.
The guides carried the boat up stream and we were off. He screamed ‘forward’ ; everyone put their backs into it…It took only 5 seconds to cross the rapid but those 5 seconds are exhilarating to say the least. The turbulence of water ; the violent movement of the boat ; the uncertainty of falling off and the force of white water hitting your body. We screamed our lungs out as we crossed the rapid and were actually quite close to hitting the rocks. After reaching downstream , one thought that came to my mind that I definitely would want to try this at the holy grail of rafting, rishikesh. Well, that was another time; for now it was time to enjoy the moment.

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In the process, what did we realize; the guy next to me had fallen off the boat and was pushed 50 meters away towards a different side;we couldn’t stop laughing. Thankfully there were safety guides in kayaks in the water and they helped him out of the water and back into our boat again. Rest of our time, about 30 minutes or so was spent in rowing into the rapids from downstream and experiencing the rapid again and again. We probably did this at least 6 times ; we rowed into the rapid parallel to the flow of current so as to “enter it” and then the forward force would carry us further downstream for 20 meters or so; this wasn’t as much fun as riding the rapid from upstream but still decent fun.
All this activity was quite draining physically but we were not done yet ; the swimming activity was still pending. We reached about 30 meters from the shore and jumped into the water. (with the life jackets on). The current from the rapids reached all the way near the shore and there was a back current which was pulling us back into the direction of the rapid. So that made swimming a bit difficult. I just swam around 20 minutes and reached the shore with some difficulty and waited for other rafting members to come back ; our guide had the GoPro video after all. We were charged about 120 INR per head for the transfer.
Drenched from top to bottom but decided to head to camp instead of drying up. At camp, we received the second good news of the day; the folks who had booked the cottage postponed their cancellation ; we requested the manager for a free upgrade and guess what? we got it ! . More than anything we were happy that now we had access to a clean restroom; The common restroom was not.
So post freshening up and going through the rafting videos, it was time for dinner already. Dandeli Nest treated us to some amazing dinner again and we called it a day.

Day 4
Woke up a bit late in the morning; we had a long day ahead of us.; 500Km+ of travel. A quick breakfast and we were off. On the way , we stopped for a quick snap from Supa Dam viewpoint. The viewpoint is just a clearing on the main road from where a large part of the dam is visible.

Post a couple of selfies, it was time to hit the road on our long journey back home. Karthik was hell bent on finishing the journey as fast as possible to Bangalore to avoid rush hour traffic.

4 hours of rock music on awesome roads and it was time for lunch already. We had planned to have it at davengere at the famous sri kottureshwara benne dosa, easily the most famous joint in davengere for benne dosa. We called them up before hand to confirm that they won there in fact open given that it was a holiday and gandhi jayanti. Thankfully it was.

Davengere Benne Dosa

The place was crowded and we waited for about 10 minutes before getting a place to dine. It is located right in front of bapuji medical college and there were a lot of medical students dining in with us. The sight of benne masala dosas being freshly prepared on the cast iron stove on wooden fire. Dollops of butter on freshly made dosas looked very enticing indeed, even for some one very calorie conscious. We ordered one plate each which is 2 dosas per head. Served with fresh pure coconut chutney and very mildly spiced boiled potatoes, the dosas were absolute heaven. The one plate was enough to fill me up. Some hot tea for dessert and we were done with lunch.

We had another 3-4 hours of drive ahead of us and this was enough to keep us full.

3 hours later and battling silk board junction traffic , we finally reached the silk board junction. Karthik dropped me off and went his way to agara and I made my way to Auto Stand. Before parting ways, of course we made plans to meet up again the next month.

WE ARE COMING GOA !!

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