travel-record-repeat

Karnataka

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 !!


Somanathapura

The Chennakesava Temple, also referred to as Chennakeshava Temple is a Vaishnava Hindu temple on the banks of River Kaveri at Somanathapura, Karnataka, India. The temple was consecrated in 1258 CE by Somanatha Dandanayaka, a general of the Hoysala King Narasimha III. It is located 38 kilometres (24 mi) east of Mysuru city.The ornate temple is a model illustration of the Hoysala architecture.

Visiting Somnathpura was first part of Somnathpura-Talakad-Shivanasamudra journey which had started at 5 a.m in the morning. It was me,Sanjeeva and Karthik only. On the way to Somnathpura, we stopped at an awesome place called the “Vasu hotel” and relished on some hot puri and idli. We intended to have the dosas there since it is famous for the dosas but unfortunately dosas weren’t ready that early in the morning.

The route took us through many villages and the pleasant weather made the drive very pleasant with the good music system in Karthik’s Car.We reached Somnathpura by 9.30 a.m or so and it took hardly 2.5 hours or so. There is a small entry fee and it is worth it since the place is very well maintained. A big garden leads to the complex. The temple complex itself is huge and the rock carvings are reminiscent of what I saw the Belur temple. In addition, there were hardly any people ; so we got some good shots as well.

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>>> Onto Talakkad….


Talakadu

Talakadu is a desert-like town on the left bank of the Kaveri river 45 km (28 miles) from Mysore and 133 km (82 miles) from Bangalore in Karnataka, India. It once had over 30 temples, most of which now lay buried in sand.

We reached Talakadu from Somnathpura in about 1.5 hours or so, it was nearly 12 in fact. There is decent space for car parking and its at least 1 km+ of walk around the temple complex. No entry fee though. There are multiple temples within the entire complex; the first of which is the “Vaidyeshvara temple”. The temple is pretty big ; post taking ‘darshan’, we purchased huge ladoos to keep us going for the rest of the journey. Going in around the temple in a round robin, there are at least 5 temples (which were previously buried in the sand). Not all are that impressive though; we visited some of them and one we skipped; the grandest of the temples is the “Kirtinarayana temple”;  is at the last and was buried in sand for a long time. It is impressively built and located in a sort of canyon like depression.

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Overall, talakkad temples can be covered in 1 hour or so.

The river bank near talakkad is well known for being very clam and clean; fortunately or unfortunately , it has lead to excessive commercialization around the place with loads of restaurants and shops. There is a small entry fee to the place as well. In addition since it was a holiday on the day of our visit, hundreds had gathered there to cool off in the water.

The river bank @ talakkad

We too joined them for about half hour or so and left for Shivanasamudra falls. On the way, there aren’t many restaurants as revealed by a google search. A hearty lunch at one of the local shops was very satisfying for its authentic rustic taste. It got us more than ready for a visit to the falls.


Trek through sharavathi valley

“Most just get wet, only some feel the rain”

…And it had been a long time since I had truly felt the rain. It was the monsoon season and I longed to truly spend some time in the wilderness soaking it all in. BTC and vikram couldn’t have timed it better inviting all enthusiasts for a trek to the gerusoppa valley and dabbe falls , part of the sharavathi valley. It was 2 day long difficult grade trek  covering almost 35kms of hilly terrain comprising of a visit to the Dabbe falls, kannur fort and Jain temple. I signed right up.

All the trekkers caught up near shantala silks and there were at least 4 groups of trekkers exploring different locations. I managed up to catch up with some trekkers who I had met in the past, Anirudh, Ashutosh, Shruti and of course Vikram. It was almost 10 p.m by the time we all huddled into the tempo traveller and began our long 350 km journey to shimoga. As per ‘BTC traditions’, we began the introductions of the trekkers with a game of dumb charades ; it was almost 1.30 a.m by the time we were done. It a was good mix, we had an engineer from ISRO, Jai;  a doctor in making, Darshan; Bio technologists, Meghna & pallavi and the usual group of software techies, Vivek, aparna, rakesh, sampath, yousouf.

After a rather bumpy ride, the sleepy bunch reached sagara by 7 a.m or so, freshened up by 9 a.m or so, we began the hour long to the trek start point amidst the hills. BTCians have a habit of not wasting even a second while on a trek, here we had more than an hour. What better way than dance in tempo which is zig zagging on the ghat roads. You might not have sure footing, but hey, that can be construed as just another step.

Dancing to the beat

Post disembarking, we were introduced to our guides Ganapathi and Mahesh and our cook, Umapathi. Ganapathi set the tone for the rest of the trek; “don’t ask how far to the destination, just walk for the next 2 days”. We split the groceries amongst the group and the intelligent ones covered their backpacks with plastic covers.

And we were off…

Forward the way

Through the ravines and over the narrow bridges, over the hillocks hand in hand in with the leeches, oh, the leeches. Satan’s minions sucking the blood out of a group of enthusiastic trekkers. Only half hour into the trek, it started raining only spurring the leeches further. In all fairness this was what we all signed up for and we had no right to complain.

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I was truly enjoying myself but had lot of difficulty capturing anything at all using my camera; got it wet within a few hours into the trek. The trek took us through some dense forest pathways next to the river, narrow streams, waterfalls and rice paddy fields. The variety of terrain never allowed a minute of boredom and the rain took kept us cool, literally. Ganapathi helped us out with a homemade leech formulas to keep the leeches off ; it didn’t really help a lot though with the rain washing it all away within minutes.

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After few hours of trek, we finally reached our first check point which also happened to be our lunch point; a small isolated house which seemed pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We unloaded some of the groceries with umapathi all set to prepare a hot lunch for all of us. In the mean time, the trekkers were requested to unload all luggage in preparation for the most exciting part of the day, trek to Dabbe falls, which was located hardly a km away..on the map i.e. The trek required passing through some extremely difficult terrain, made only worse by the incessant rain. We climbed down steep gradients for 250 feet or so , using support of only tree roots and rocks on the way down. Thankfully we all reached safe & sound and a truly breathtaking sight awaited us. Dabbe falls roared in front of us in its complete monsoon glory;  teasing us with brief glimpses, only revealing itself for a few moments before shrouding itself in mist again.

Dabbe Falls at last

The group spent 30 minutes or so here, soaking it all in. We would have liked to spend more time here but we still had a long day ahead of us with many miles to cover; and we were hungry. The difficult trek back up took another 25 minutes or so and we raced towards to our check point to have hot rasam , rice and pickle. The cool weather and the rain, beautiful scenery in front of us and piping hot food, what else could one ask for in the middle of nowhere?

We set off again towards our next check point late afternoon; it was more of the same except it started raining profusely. The group was pretty much used to it by now though. We hardly saw only people along the way, only few houses here and there;  Not that anyone was complaining, there are enough to us back home.

Middle of nowhere

The rice paddy fields were overflowing with water and there was good descending ridge system which allowed excess water flow out once each level was saturated, Farming 101. We obviously got quite thirsty midway, but hey, how can there be a dearth of water when its is raining 24×7. Placed the bottles right under the so called “mother daughter” falls, a narrow stream of water really flowing down a slope.

We had trekked almost 8 kms now from when we started late afternoon but there was no end in sight and to be honest some of us were reaching our per day trekking limits. Fading evening light finally helped us reach the final check point which also happened to be the place of stay for that night. Scampering around in the darkness with a few torches, the group quickly changed into dry clothes to enter the warm abode of our gracious hosts of the evening. Umapathi’s hot tea warming the body on its way down and we were onto discussing the day’s journey while others applied healing lotions on to the aching knees. (Including me who ended up developing a rather severe knee pain). To take the pain away, vikram pulled out his trump card, “Mafia”. Yes, the legendary addictive game famous amongst all trekkers. Post a brief explanation to the beginners, we got to the first game. It was exciting as hell for an hour and with cunning mafia gang pulling off a victory , BTCians couldn’t stop raving about the game. As we were, it was also time to have  the freshly prepared dinner along with payasam for dessert. Discussion at dinner time was all around Mafia and how could we possible crash for the night without another game, which we did. The cunning Mafia group was at it again they again ended pulling off a sneaky victory. It was quite late into the night and about time that we hit the bed…or the floor in this case.

DAY 2
Yawn ! Waking up early in the morning after a long 17 km trek and a night of Mafia…way more than difficult than it sounds. The fragrance of the fresh sevai from the kitchen spurred everyone to freshen as up as soon as possible and we were up and ready by 9.30 a.m. Umapathi’s Tasty puliogare was packed for lunch and the rain gods beckoned the start of the morning trek with a fresh dose of showers. One snap and we were off again.

Lets gooooo

The day 2 trek was to cover a journey of almost 17 kms again including a visit to kanoor fort which was 8 kms away from the base camp. The journey began through thick forests and I ended tearing my poncho here; I suppose it wasn’t really meant for trekking through thorny bushes, it barely protected me from the rain. The landscape was more or less the same, only Day 2 we faced off again many more leeches. Some of them even managed to ‘trek up’ to my neck region. Rakesh’s detol concoction and shruti’s relispray saved the day here for many of us. After about 3 hours of trek, we finally reached kanoor fort. Ganapathi briefed us history on the history of the fort. The golden days of the fort were obviously long over and for the last few centuries, forest has taken over the fort.At its peak though, the fort was ruled by Queen Chennabhairadevi, more popularly known as “Pepper Queen” as she exported a lot of pepper to Europe.We spent about 30 minutes or so exploring the ruins.

Kanoor fort is located on a hilltop and a 3 km+ of downhill trek coupled with 3 kms of walk on hilly terrain was what left to reach the lunch checkpoint. My knee gave me some problem due to the downhill terrain and I ended up lagging behind. Thankfully I had some company in shruthi , vikram , ganapathi and sampath. Somewhere on our way back to the checkpoint though , we did up losing our way though and ended walking another half a kilometer unnecessarily. Some repetitions of “oho”  and ganapathi managed to locate us and we were back on track. The final stretch to the checkpoint passes through some civilization (finally!) and we wondered as to how folks stay so isolated & comfortably. The last few hundred meters takes one over some old rickety bridges which was fun. The stragglers finally reached the lunch check point at almost 5 p.m and we finally joined the rest of the group for the much required evening lunch after a very tiresome trek.

The path less traversed

Unfortunately it was not over yet. We barely finished our lunch that it started raining again and there was another 6 kms left to cover. My knee was not in state to cover 6 kms for sure. Thankfully anirudh and shubham shared my back pack load and we started our journey to the final checkpoint. Shruthi and vikram gave us company. This final phase of the trek was the best part of the trek and was a excellent finishing touch to what I wanted to experience; and not because I had minimal load :). Dim & Fading evening light, continuous rain & sharavathi river on the side gave us continuous company in what seemed a very isolated middle of nowhere with no humans in sight. It was surreal.

After almost another 90 minutes of walk, we finally reached civilization , the gerusoppa village. It was certainly a partially welcome sight. We reached the river bank just in time as we spotted the rest of the group crossing the river. The last of us crossed the river in the next round and got to healing our leech wounds and taking some well deserved rest, albeit in a moving van. In order to thank the lord for his blessings and his unseen support through out the journey we decided to visit the Anajaneya temple in gerusoppa village. On a side note and secondary reason, we had dinner at the temple as well since the nearest restaurant was 60 km away. We thanked our guides one last time before the boarding the bus and well,,rest is history. I recall the rest of the night only in glimpses, BTCians flat on the van floor as if its made of softest cushion, twisting & turning on the seat as the tempo traveller sped and slowed at every speed bump.

Early morning, 8.am or so, we finally reached bangalore. Waiving our final goodbyes, we bid adieu , hoping to meet again for our next adventure.

 


Trek to Rayakottai Fort

Call of the hill beckoned the restless BTCians again. Dinesh and Aravindh sent the weekend temptations across on a busy Tuesday, it was a trek to rayakottai fort. The fort is situated within the town of Rayakottai which is one of the ancient fortress in the Krishnagiri district. It is now one of the protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India.In the 18th century Hyder Ali and Tipu sultan ruled this fort. The fort was captured by Major Gowdie during the third Anglo-Mysore War in 1791. According to the Treaty of Srirangapatna, this fort came into the hands of the British.
It was projected to be cloudy, perfect for trekking, no wonder the registrations closed within a few hours.Me, Sravya and amreen boarded the SBC 56514 at bypanhalli and joined the rest of the group who had managed to occupy seats in a very crowded train. Following BTC traditions, we broke the ice with a game of dumb charades, only we were guessing the names of the trekkers; and we managed to get them all right !! Trekking is known to stimulate brain cells after all. An hour and a half flew by in no time and we off boarded at rayakottai railway station. The hill , clearly visible from station was a sight to behold.

Ready to trek

We decided to conserve our energy and instead of walking 2 kms to the hill, decided to cram into two very small Autos,(in the process, we might have set the record for most adults crammed into a rickshaw).

Stuffing into the record books

Dinesh infact was part tollywood hero, barely hanging on to the auto with the entirety of his body outside the moving vehicle. Its possible that this act of dare devilry was meant to motivate us. Whatever the reason, we managed to reach the base of the hill in 10 mins or so post passing through rayakottai town. It was unfortunately, quite hot. The MET department lived up to its reputation of predicting the weather wrong. Post the customary photo at the base , we began the trek with anirudh trailing and Dinesh leading. The group split up almost immediately, that afforded the ones at the back to get some interesting shots.

Pointing to the destination

The path is mostly Rocky with a decent bit of vegetation and cover along the way. All along the route, one can find remnants of the once glorious rayakottai fort.

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After a trek of about 30 mins or so, we reached a temple located within the rock cave. It was pretty cool in the shade and the amreen and sonia decided to use the time rebuke Dinesh for not providing their phone number early during the registration phase. Photo sessions obviously followed.

Somewhere midway

After 15 mins or so, we set on the path again. The fort remains provided decent resting spots from the merciless sun and some time to get some landscape shots in as well.

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After about 1.5 hours of trek, we reached the hill top. It was beautiful sight with complete 360 degree view. Some dozed off, others explored the hill top.
A series of photo sessions ensued and it was time for BTC lunch potluck already. We managed to locate a crevice atop the hill and make ourselves comfortable within. Veg pulao, coconut rice, egg sandwiches, curd rice and host of other delicacies made their way around and we’re gorged upon after the reasonably tiresome trek.

The hungry bunch

Post the lunch, it was time for the most fun part of the day, the ping pong game; a rather complex game comprising of exchanging and assuming identities of other BTCians present at the stop , calling out random identities and singing a song/ dancing in case of a miss. This led to rather hilarious name restructuring.. anirudh became un-read, tauqeer became tihar …latha even managed to introduce hypothetical BTCian into the group by the name of Pavan. Dance session by amreen , rendition of a nursery rhyme by shravya and dialogue delivery from latha ..all were hilarious and fun to watch.

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It was already approaching 2 p.m and we had only 20 mins to spare for the last round of photography sessions. In the never ending quest to find the perfect spot to take photographs, BTCians managed to locate interesting view frame points for the perfect shot. Some even risked their life sitting on rock face hundreds of feet above the ground. Others went further up the hillock to get better background view.

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Overall a fantastic trek was nearing the end; barring the sunny weather none had any other complaints. The trek down took barely 45 mins and all us were back to bangalore by 6.30 p.m. Another wonderful end to the weekend.

Trek to Kabbaladurga

My eventful 2nd trek with BTC happened right the week after my first trek. Trek to Kabbaladurga it was, a rocky, monolithic hillock located about 70 KMS from Bangalore.I Caught the KR market bus and was there by 6.30 a.m waiting for the D&D (The organizers, Dinesh Yadav and Dinesh Gupta). BTCians started joining in near the Ayyapa temple and within no time we were at full strength. All of us huddled into a private bus to sathnur which was approximately 70 KMS away.

BTCians assemble

In order to break the ice, we started a game of dumb charades trying to guess each other’s names.The group was a good mix of young and experienced trekkers with lataji  at 57 and sanjana at about 18.We reached BTCian no. 23  in the guessing game of really dumb charades and we were already at the destination. Sanathur is a quaint little village located a little more than a couple of kilometers from kabaladurga. BTCians replenished their energy with a quick break fast at a hotel at the bus station. Thatte idli, poori, dosa and tea were on the menu.

Eat before you trek

Dinesh G also announced that shravani was promoted to the  position of ‘trek organizer’ now, which was  met with  applause by audience and some uncertainty from shravani herself.Post gorging on the champions breakfast, we huddled into two autorickshaws and we were on our way to the kabbala village.

On our way

The auto driver mentioned that a lot of people (read hundreds) trek their way up during the march month as part of devotional ‘jatra’. Thank God it wasn’t march. We dropped us off at kabbala village which is hardly a few hundred meters from kabaladurga; the imposing kabaladurga made its presence known from the town itself. A road inwards should lead everyone to the base.

The intimidating sight

We started off the trek following the customs of BTC, the group photography session at the base of the hillock.

Group Pic

D&D explained the rules of BTC which no one paid any heed to I think. Dinesh Y was to lead the trail with Dinesh G trailing with the stragglers. Some of photographers decided to stay at the back (obviously) and helping out with the stragglers was a bonus. Me and Tauqeer ended up discussing a lot about photography on our way up. The weather was beautiful ; cloudy with a bit of chilly wind blowing was as rejuvenating as the frequent water breaks. The landscape view grew better with every hundred steps and every clearing on the trek pleasantly surprised us with a wider and a better view. Misty hills we’re visible at the horizon.

The view somewhere midway

Many devotees accompanied us on the trek up ; while some of us were quite tired from the trek, watching women in constrained sarees making their way up only spurred us on further. At many points, the gradient is quite steep and would necessitate one to walk on all four limbs , which leads to the classification of the trek as category ‘moderate’ relative to the average trekker.

Watch your step

After about an hour and half of trek, we finally made our way to the top joining the rest of the group who had already explored & mapped the best spots for selfies. I just dozed off for 10 mins in the Cool breeze and made my way around got a few shots of the stunning landscape. It was cloudy ; so there wasn’t much color to.play with but the sky has lot of drama and that compensated for sure

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As I was busy photographing, Dinesh was heard shouting at a distance and asking us to form a straight circle. While a mathematical and logical impossibility, it was possible in the BTC world.(Photos are top secret and therefore not posted online). Post assembling in the formation, it was one of the best part of the day(worse for some). A song and dance sequence based on a obscure game of names exchanged via ping pong. Without going.into the details , it resulted in a hilarious sequence of.dance moves.which caused partial blindness to some of us. Having said that , it was fun.

Impromptu

Hungry from the dance, it was time for what BTC is famous for apart from the trek, the BTC potluck atop the hill. Dokhlas , curd rice, Gobi parathas went around, however the highlight of the potluck was Pradeep’s pulao which contained exotic secret spices from Andhra Pradesh; very tasty indeed. Sanmitra was surprised as to how someone in existence made a biryani better than her. Me and tauqueer infact never let go of the boxes at all. The potluck ended with dry fruits delicacy named antinunde from shravani and some dairy milk.

Potluck atop the hillock

The group again split up, some off to relax in the Cool breeze, some with the selfies and other just exploring the hill top further. Another half hour and it was already 2 p.m and time for the trek down. But not before the last group pic of the day

All smiles 🙂

The trek down was obviously easier with Newton’s gravity assisting us all the way. It was quite cloudy and fearing rain, some of us (selfishly) raced down. We were down in about an hour or so and as soon as 4 of us made it to the bottom, rain gods tore the clouds open. It started raining profusely and we ran hither-thither for shelter. It got me some time to get started on the blog while we waited for the folks stranted on the slippery slopes. The weather was amazing to just soak it all in, so we didn’t mind. After about an hour or so of waiting, we made our way to the town to get some refreshing tea / coffee while waiting for the rest of the group. The drizzle with the hot beverage was a fitting finish to the trek.
The journey back again involved taking a quick auto ride back to sathnur. D&D took the customary feedback;mostly all positive as expected. We had the option of going back to BLR in a crowded bus or taking a auto ride to kanakpura and acquiring an empty bus all to ourselves for an some extra cost but also lots of extra fun. We obviously chose the latter.It only got better with us getting a ‘private bus’ all to ourselves. BTCians had lot of fun playing dumb charades , only this time it was with obscure movie names. An hour and a half flew by quickly and we were already jostling with people at metro stations and bus stops trying to reach home. But we had loads of memories kept us company and everyone made it home safe and it was the end of another excellent weekend.

Trek to Ramadevara Betta Hill

Needed a break from the work routine and what  better  way  than  visiting a trek  spot which includes a bonus of  burning  calories  as  well. I joined Bangalore Trekking Club (BTC) in June as soon as I received my first invite to register for the trek to ramadevara Betta, I registered in no time and immediately messaged my friend Raghu to do so as well…and guess what, the trek registration closed in just half a day. Within a day or so, received an official mail from one of the trek organizers, Ashish (the other being Vikram). 23 members were shortlisted and the trek was on..8th July was the day!I had been on multiple treks before including some Himalayan treks but hadn’t thought of joining an official ‘trekking club’ until only recently; so looked forward to my first trek with BTC.
Our presence was require at the station by 6.45 a.m which unfortunately meant waking up really early in the morning.I caught the bus from indiranagar  at 5.45 a.m and reached majestic railway station, our assembly point by 6.10 a.m. Early but it gave us time to finish our  breakfast at the railway canteen. We caught up with Ashish and his wife megha by 6.30 a.m and waited for others to join. Folks joined in one by one and soon enough we were 12 members already as Ashish went to purchase tickets. Our train was scheduled to leave at 7.30 a.m. and we weren’t really sure all would show up but hoped so. We huddled into the train, the Hubli passenger and managed to locate an empty compartment; lucky us ! . Additional BTC members joined in at Yeshwantpur ;there were 23 of us and journey had begun.It was a decent mix of experienced trekkers and beginners, the youngest of group being Amy who was only 7 years old. To break the ice, every one introduced themselves and Ashish started a fun game of dumb charades with movies.

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He proved himself to be encyclopedia of  Hindi movies(I hadn’t even heard of guessed movie names , let alone guess them”tutak tutak tutiya, sarrasnsh, Dr fadnis something…”,when did these movies even release !). Time just flew by with the very fun and energetic group and we reached kytrasandra in about an hour’s time.
Post disembarking, we were given a reminder of the strict “BTC rules” and we started off from the very clean kytrasandra railway station.

Kytasandra railway station

Kytrasandra also happens to be the location of the siddaganga mutt and is very well maintained town.We started off to the base camp and guess what, another BTC member, madhumita also had done the same Himalayan trek as me.(the chandrashila trek). We ended up discussing  the wonderful deorital-chandrashila trek while walking to the base of ramadevara Betta. The weather was perfect for trekking, cloudy with a bit of chill; the sun had played spoil sport on too many of my previous treks.

The base of ramadevara Betta can be reached by passing through the siddaganga school grounds and hostel, there is a well paved road which leads to lake and the intimidating ramdevra Betta comes into sight.

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A decent bit of vegetation and trees were visible which could catch a break in some shade, just in case the rain gods decided to move to another location. We started off from the base and made our way through lots of thorny Bushes and slippery terrain; The decathlon shoes proved their worth.

Walking through the bushes

While I was thinking about my good value purchase, there was a loud shout about part of the group wandering off on a potentially wrong path. Retraced about 50 steps and we were back on track. The landscape view became better with every 15 mins of climb and covering a few hundred feet.

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Ramdevrabetta is surrounded by lakes but unfortunately many of them were dry;fortunately not all.Frequent aqua break replenished our energy and manju kept us entertainment with his philosophy on nature and by extension “natural”. Many BTC members now swear to keep off all natural products from now due to transformational  impacts on  the discussions.Ramdev Baba’s products including the “baba beer” , best in it’s hypothetical class of products were given decent amount of promotion as well. After an exhausting but awesome trek of almost 2 hours , we reached the peak and we were greeted with a wonderful sight.Multiple small ponds with lotus flowers in the middle of the ponds.

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Vinod Tried to get some lotus flowers for himself but was largely unsuccessful in his efforts I think.The hill top is has very large region for ‘exploration’ but almost everyone, quite exhausted from the trek decided to just relax it out for 45 minutes or so and take in the wonderful cool breeze and beautiful view of kytrasandra town.

Kytasandra town

And of course, after rejuvenating rest can only lead to a session of selfies and photography which obviously the entire group was a part of. Manju, Sachin, Vidya and a few other daredevils went to edge of the cliff for a click. In the mean time, we also spotted many school kids from the siddaganga school coming into hill top pond to cool off. What was a ‘one time event’ for most of us was a actually a weekly event for all of them.

School kids cooling off

After a hectic session of photography and selfies, it was finally time for the BTC team lunch, a simple pot luck really wherein the non selfish members pass on the food for others to critique on with everyone sitting in a circular formation. It was definitely one the highlights of the day. Manju’s specially prepared ‘natural fried rice’ and megha’s poha were delicious. Akash especially went gaga over the poha. We ended our meal with the delicious broken wheat savory prepared by megha. I managed to get a spoonful in the first round, it never came back for a second. It was definitely a good meal at 4000 feet.

Lunch at 4k feet

A 4km long up hill trek and a hearty meal, how can one resist a nap? While not on the cards of the organizers, trekkers went against the norms and many had a hearty nap for half hour. Others engaged themselves in technical discussions & growth of technology. The loud scream of Ashish woke everyone up from their slumber and it was time to explore rest of the hill top. On one side of the hill top, there a rock formation which which is perched steeply on side of the cliff. Many BTCians infact tried to push the rock off the cliff but were unsuccessful; the gods wouldn’t allow it. You see this was right in front a small cave dedicated to lord rama.We took our last group photos of the day here.

Pic of the day

The trek down was not as eventful as the one going top but fun nonetheless. The group split of significantly here wherein some pretty much raced to the bottom in 40 mins or so while others took a little more time. And of course, we lost track of the route some where mid way again and many ended up taking the steep route down which was quite hilarious to watch.
But all in all , everyone made it to the bottom of the hill; safe , sound and satisfied with the trek.
Our train to bangalore , the hubli passenger was scheduled to leave for bangalore at 4.30 p.m but we had lots of time in our hand since we were at the bottom of the hill by 3.15 p.m or so. The slow walk back to the railway station was bitter sweet in a way. Bitter since we had reached the end of a wonderful trek and sweet since we got our hands on freshly cut jackfruits which were yummy, all part of the BTC package. The organizers asked the feedback and everyone was unanimously satisfied with the trek. The hubli passenger was right on time at 4.30 pm but wait, the journey back was not boring. Snacks and biscuits kept popping out of bags and Manju gave an interesting rendition of “gabbar from sholay”. We reached BLR by 6.30 p.m and it was time to say our good byes while we filled our water bottles for a meager 5 rs at the IRCTC counter.

Makalidurga

Makalidurga is a hill fort situated near the village of the same name. It is 60 km north of Bangalore. Makalidurga Fort stands at the top of a huge granite hillock, huddled up amidst the chains of hills.Me,Shashank,Shwetha,Sandeep,Swaroopa,Sangamesh and Umesh decided to go for this one as a preparatory trek before the great Himalayan trek.

The Mighty Makalidurga

I took off from my place by 6 a.m, picked up Umesh near Manyata Tech park and met up with the group near esteem mall by 6.45 a.m. Sandeep and Swaroopa decided to meet us somewhere midway since they were at Davangere at a relative’s home. The idea was to start the trek 8 a.m since trekking under the Hot sun is extremely strenuous. But…things did not turn out the way we expected. We stopped for breakfast at a small town midway , had some hot pulao, Idli Sambar and started chatting. It was almost another 45 mins by the time Sandeep and Swaroopa showed up and we pushed off from restaurant by 8.45 a.m towards makalidurga. In 30 mins or so, we reached the railway station near makalidurga where we parked our vehicles. Any Maps/Navigaton app should easily point the right path to reach the station with ease.

We had read that it is a walk of almost of 2 kms on the railway track (starting from the railway station i.e). The walk itself wasn’t a problem, the sweltering heat of the almost overhead sun at 10 a.m was. But we did not have a choice of course. So we got on to the railway track and started walking.

Walk along the track

The makalidurga hill was visible from quite a distance and the sky was clear. The road next to the railway track was under construction during our visit and was infact quite dusty.

The dusty road

We kept track of the railway posts and took a diversion at a point where there is a small temple. We had read that this was the base camp for the trek up. It took us some time to cross the freshly constructed barricades on sides of the road but we did and we were off.

In term of gradient of incline and overall difficult , the makalidurga trek is a “medium”. However there is almost no place to rest on the way up, as in under the shade. Trekking up the under the sun is quite draining and each one of us finished nearly 1.5 litres of water each on the way up. We took about 6-7 breaks and we reached the top in about 2.5 hours or so. On the way up, a lake shaped like the south american continent is visible many kilometers away.

The lake shaped like South American continent

The summit of makalidurga is an old fort. We reached the top by 12.30 p.m or so and had our lunch. Bread,butter,Jam,some fruits and fruit juice it was. There is a temple at the summit and a lot of people in fact made the climb to the top. We stayed the top over about an hour or so.

The Temple at the top

The climb down was relatively easier of course and it took about an hour only. Another half hour of walk from the base to railway station and we were finally done with the exhausting trek. Phew !


Savandurga Trek

The savandurga trek is a hill 60 km west of Bangalore.The hill is considered to be among the largest monolith hills in Asia and rises to 1226 m above mean sea level.The Savandurga hills are frequented by pilgrims who come to visit the Savandi Veerabhadreshwara Swamy and Narasimha Swamy temple sited at the foothills. Picnickers come to spend time among the serene environs of the hill. There are a number of trek routes to the top as well, each one varying in difficulty. Savandurga can be reached easily using any of the Map-Navigation Applications.

I decided to go on the savandurga trek along with my  NGO group (Raghu, Ashwini, Anup, Raghu and a few others). None of us had a vehicle at our disposal; so we decided to rent one. A tavera which can comfortably seat 8 people cost us around 4k INR which was decent enough once split amongst 8 of us. We left Bangalore by 6 a.m or so, idea was to reach the base by 8 a.m and start the trek; but one of the members was late by at least 40 mins and we ended up leaving Bangalore by 6.45 a.m or so. It was a bit late and so things got even more delayed due to the traffic build up early morning along the mysore road.We stopped for breakfast near Magadi; had one of the most greasy Masala Dosas of my life, tasty nonetheless.

We reached the Savandurga base by 9.30 a.m or so; the place was quite crowded already with many devotees visiting the temple with it being a Sunday. We asked the driver to park the vehicle near the temple and we were off. The huge monolith hill looked very daunting at first , to all of us.

Temple with Savandurga Hill in the background

The route up hill is marked at multiple locations and finding way to the top should be easy. However even the easiest path is quite steep in terms of the gradient of incline. In fact, one of the group members (who had 0 trek experience) gave up 5 minutes into the climb barely climbing 50 meters. Thank fully rest of the group had a better cardio and we trekked on.

The trek up

Almost the entirety of savandurga is bare of vegetation and there is almost no shade at all; remember spotting only 1 tree on the entire stretch. The overhead sun only added to woes. We probably stopped at least 4-5 times on the way up, taking in sips of water and munching on snacks. After about 1.5 hours or so, we reached the “80% mark”, a very old temple near the summit. We spent at least 20 mins here, feeling happy what we made it up quite fast (given that we were expected to take atleast 3 hours based on what we read online).From this point, the summit is visible and so is the path laid out.There is a white Nandi temple at the summit and we spotted many people at the summit from the the “80% mark”.

The Summit visible

Another 20 mins of trek and we were there, finally !

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It was nice and cool at the summit with a nice breeze. The temple, parking lot etc are all visible from this point; so is the manchinbele dam many kilometers away. A couple of photographs and the group sat down for a well deserved rest. The topic of discussion varied from “game of thrones” , past travel destinations to the next volunteering activity which the group members intended to be a part of. There were at least 20 other people at the summit at that point of team and it started getting pretty noisy. So post spending about 45 mins , we decided to trek down.

The trek down was obviously much easier and we were quite surprised to see a lot of people trekking up in the middle of the day. It took us only 40 mins or so to reach all the way down. Near the base, a lot of people were found just spending some time near the hillock, a sort of weekend picnic, everyone wants to get out of the city I suppose.We were reasonably tired and just decided to get in the Van and head to the nearest spot for a good lunch.

A day well spent with friends and Calories burnt as well, what else can one ask for on a weekend.


Cauvery Nisargadhama

Nisargadhama is a breathtakingingly beautiful island off the state highway, two km from Kushalanagar town and 28 km from Madikeri.The 64-acre island, surrounded by the Cauvery river, can be accessed by walking across a hanging bridge. Established in 1989, the picturesque picnic spot with lush foliage of thick bamboo groves, sandalwood and teak trees has lovely river-side cottages. A deluxe cottage on stilts with the Cauvery flowing around it, can accommodate five persons. Elephant rides and boating are some of the other attractions. There is a deer park, children’s park and orchidarium in the resort. Medicinal plants are also grown. Tourists are allowed to get into water at a few shallow and safe points along the river.

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Abbey Falls

Nestled 9 kms away from the town of Madikeri, the Abbey Falls in Coorg, Karnataka is a spectacular sight popular amongst tourists. A narrow road twisting through the green and dense foliage of beautiful coffee plantations, stocky coffee bushes and spice estates with trees tangled with pepper vines, leads to the Abbey Falls. One can reach the Falls either on foot or by a joyful two wheeler ride.

While walking towards the Falls you will be able to hear the sound of the gushing waters cascading down a rocky gorge. During the monsoon season the Abbey Falls swell up with continuous supply of rain showers and the water rushes down the mountain at enormous speed. The scenic locales around the Abbey Falls make it an ideal picnic spot.

Enjoy this roaring beauty by taking a dip in the cool waters. But bear in mind that the water flow is heavy during monsoon months and the rocks are slippery, so do not try and get into the waters without assistance. It is advisable to enjoy the water within the fenced area. You can also stand on the hanging bridge built across the gorge that offers a spectacular view of the Falls and click pictures.

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Talacauvery

Talacauvery is the place that is generally considered to be the source of the river Kaveri. It is located by Brahmagiri hill.There are multiple temples here dedicated to various deities.

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I visited Talacauvery as part of the Karnataka Tourism Package tour which primarily covers Madikeri and nearby regions. We reached the location by 8.30 a.m; the weather was wonderful & cool. If hungry there a couple of stalls nearby which serve hot cups of tea/coffee and eatables.The view from the location is beautiful.

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Early morning pooja is performed at a small constructed pool and tourists throw in coins here as it is believed that it bring good luck and fortune.

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The location of talacauvery offers a beautiful view of the region; a series of steps infact lead up the bragmagiri hill and offer an even better 360 degree view but on the day of our visit, they were closed.


Bylakuppe

Bylakuppe is an area in Karnataka which is home to a large Tibetan settlement and is famous for Namdroling Monastery,  more commonly known as the Golden temple.Tibetan settlers who fled Tibet due to chinese persecution were granted this area by the Govt of India in mid nineties to continue with their culture and lifestyle.

We visited this place as a part of the Karnataka Tourism package. We started off from Bangalore at about 7 a.m ; bylakuppe is located about 220km from bangalore and so we were prepared for a long tiring bus journey via the ever congested Mysore road. After a nice breakfast at Kamat Upahara on Mysore road at 9.00 a.m, we reached Bylakuppe at about 12 p.m.

It was bustling with tourists due to the holiday season. There is a specific entry gate for tourists (There are other entry gates reserved for Monks/Tibetan Refugees). Near the gate, there are lot of shops selling home made chocolates (Coorg is famous for Chocolates). Immediately on entry, the living quarters of Monks/Tibetan Refugees is visible.

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This leads to the entry gate for the beautiful Golden temple.

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Unfortunately on the day of my visit, the Namdroling Monastery was closed for renovation. To the left is the temple which houses the huge golden statues of buddhist gurus, Lord Buddha,Guru padmasambhava and Buddha Amitayus.

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Each of the statues are almost 60 feet tall and plated in Gold. The atmosphere in the temple is very calm and due to the high ceiling, its quite cool inside. We spent at least 15 mins taking in the atmosphere sitting on the floor.
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Huge beautiful tapestries adorn the walls of the temple , both inside and outside. The tapestries depict other Buddhist gurus & demons and stories of victories of Good over evil and spread of Buddhism.

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Due to time limitation, we were unable to spend too much time exploring around the monastery.

A word of caution
There is booth to deposit your footwear for a meager fee while you enter the temple. Ensure to deposit it there and not just keep it outside somewhere randomly. The workers shift the footwear to some other location and it is extremely difficult to find them after that; the workers are not helpful at all! We lost our footwear and only after a lot of hue and cry did we manage to locate them.


A trip to Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary

Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary  is a popular wildlife destination of South India, located in the state of Karnataka. On the banks of one of its prime attraction, Kabini River, one can easily spot wild animals like elephants and tigers. The national park is located on the southern-eastern part of Nagarhole National Park and covers an area of 55 acres of forestland, water-bodies and steep valleys.The surrounding areas of Kabini include Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai National Park, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, and Nagarhole National Park. These together are a part of the largest protected area in Southern India-about 2,183 sq km of wilderness.

We decided to book via the famous Jungle Lodge resort(JLR) which is owned by the Karnataka State Government. It is actually one of the few Jungle lodges which is actually profitable and in some ways better than the other lodges in the area (like Red Earth, Orange County etc). Bookings generally happen many weeks in advance in the peak season but we were lucky to book a room 10 days in advance. It cost us about 10K INR per person which is kind of high but given the favorable reviews of the place, we decided to go ahead.

Kabini JLR is located about 200 Kms away from bangalore (my location) and on average takes about 4 hours or so to reach. But this time it was ” “special” (special in the negative sense). The shortest route (Bangalore – Mysore highway) was blocked by protesting farmers due to a high court decision to provide water to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. So we took the long route to Kabini via channarayapatna which about 80 Km additional (so 1.5 hours added to the travel time).

We (Shashank and Greg) pushed off from bangalore at 6.30 am in the morning and cruised through the Bangalore-Tumkur highway. The weather was pleasant (Monsoon season) and the streets empty due to the protest.About 2.5 hours into the trip, we reached the famous “swathi Delicacy” near tumkur. It was quite crowded (as usual). A big biker’s group (all with the RE Himalaya) was present;probably returning from or on the way to another trip. We moved to the first floor and gourged on Masala Dosa, Puri and Upma. Really tasty. The joint is not too expensive either. So highly recommended for a weekend morning drive as well. Post the satisfying meal, the long roads beckoned again and we were on our way. After another three hours or so of drive, we finally reached Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary and our location, the Jungle Lodge resort. There are a big bunch of resorts all spread within an area of few square kilometers.

The facility is wonderfully maintained and the staff are nice and courteous.

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We spoke to the official at entrance office, checked in, got our brochures and proceeded to our rooms.

Before giving us our keys, the official briefly provided us an overview of JLR, the directions to our rooms and more importantly that lunch would be served soon at 1.30 p.m. The villas at JLR are wonderful and were built pre-independence, renovated but still retaining their heritage.Each of the villas are surrounded by very well maintained gardens. In addition, each of the villas has an independent set of staff catering to the needs of the tourists which makes it very convenient.

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We unpacked and after a quick 20 mins nap, proceeded to have our lunch at “Gol Ghar”, the location for lunch for all tourists. It has enough seating for at least 70 people and is located right next to the backwaters on the river front.

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Next to Gol Ghar is also an area which has a Ping Pong table, carrom for some recreating activities.

The lunch buffet is part of the per night package and the spread is quite decent , comprising of at least 15-20 dishes prepared fresh. The taste wasn’t bad either; can’t complain really given that you are in the middle of a forest.We finished our lunch quickly since we wanted to some time to take another nap and the evening safari was scheduled for 3.30 p.m. I was inclined to get some shots of the backwaters with ND filter but drowsiness got the better of me.

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So after another quick nap, we reached Gol Ghar again for some early tea and snacks and pushed off to the safari. We were lucky to be seated in a Safari Jeep which had some very experienced photographers (with some very expensive equipment). Also it was obvious that they frequented the kabini safari since they knew the forest ranger. Thanks to them, we were able to guide the jeep to select known locations where tigers had been spotted in the past.

The safari lasted for almost 2.5 hours, half hour to enter the deep forest. The forest is quite dense with thick undergrowth due to recent rains. We covered many trails and traveled many kilometers on path laid through the thicket ; however we were unlucky that evening. The yellow terror was not to been in the greens anywhere; in fact we waited for almost an hour near a watering hole but to no avail.

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A peacock, dew ducks and turtles were all that we spotted. Since it was the rainy season and most predators find water deep within the forest without any problem ; they have little need to venture into the open. It was especially unfortunate since we hardly located even any rare birds except this one (a changeable hawk eagle).

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Obviously the group was pretty disappointed but it was expected since finding any select target animal in a jungle safari is always a matter of chance; especially the elusive tiger.As we exited the forest, an elephant was spotted in the bushes.

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Not exactly saving grace though since it was barely visible. With darkness creeping in, we went back to the camp. We discussed the safari over evening tea and snacks. Some people on the neighboring tables had actually already starting processing the images taken on the safari.

After the evening safari, we were called to watch a wildlife video documentary on tigers. It was the story of luxmi and her cubs in the Kanha National Park. It is a very good 40 mins documentary and worth watching if available online somewhere. There is well stocked bar adjoining the video room ; we were inclined to have a mug but given that the wake up call was 5 a.m the next day, our better judgment prevailed. By the time we were done here, it was time for dinner. As expected, good buffet with enough variety to please most. But we were not hungry yet; the ping table caught in the adjacent play room caught out eye. While none of my group members were good at ping pong, we played for almost an hour. (It was actually my first time playing ping pong). The play room has a lot of hung posters illustrating the rising animal-man conflict. Post burning out some calories, we added some back with a sumptuous dinner buffet at Gol Ghar. With a full stomach, we bid each other good night and headed to our respective rooms.

Day 2
The day began very early since safari starts by 6 a.m. Since we went on the jungle jeep safari the previous day, we had the option of either going on the boat safari or the jungle safari in the morning. We decided to go on the boat safari since we received the news that a tiger had been spotted by folks on the boat safari the previous day. Of course that doesn’t imply that we would get lucky like them but it was worth taking a chance nonetheless. We had our morning tea & biscuits and proceeded to the boat safari.

The motor boat can accommodate about 12 people comfortably and ride takes one across the beautiful Kabini backwaters which passes through the Nagarhole reserve. On both sides of the river, the banks have been selectively cleared up to a certain distance. Animals come out into the open to eat, drink water etc and that’s when they are visible to the tourists.
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We spotted a lot of animals and birds on the safari; from a cormorant drying its wings in the morning sun
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to an egret hunting for fish in the waters
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from a peacock resting on a bark
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to a common kingfisher sitting with its belly full. We found this little fellow fishing but it was too fast for a proper capture.
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There are a plethora of birds and animals that be can viewed on the banks of river ; actually not limited to the banks. Dead tree stumps breaking through the water house many colonies of cormorants and snake birds.

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However, we were unable to sight a tiger !! Well, that’s bad luck for you.
We returned from our trek to have a hearty breakfast at Gol Ghar.

Overall the visit was quite good except for the part that the tiger was not sighted. However the stay at JLR is quite expensive in my opinion; the amenities provided, rooms etc are fantastic but might not be required by all. There are cheaper alternatives available and worth a try.


Night Trek at AntaraGange

AntaraGange is situated in the Kolar district of Karnataka in the Shathashrunga range, about 70 km from Bangalore. The mountains at an altitude of 1712 meters from sea level with rocky boulders, small caves and dense plantations are one of the best getaways for trekking, rock climbing and cave exploration enthusiasts.The Anthargange Night Trek is a pretty famous (and a common) trek for people in Bangalore; it is exciting because the trek majorly involves “cave exploration”. Well in all honestly you won’t be truly “exploring” since a guide will show you the path. Having said that , it is a good thing since you don’t want to get lost in the caves with no way out.

Me and friend , Umesh planned this impromptu since we had nothing to do on a Monday which was a holiday due to the festival of Ganesh Chathurthi. I booked the tickets on a Saturday for the trek starting on Sunday Night and was lucky enough to get the tickets. Packing the basic necessities , we were all ready on Sunday evening. The operator picked us up from the designated point at 10.30 p.m and it took about 1.5 hours to reach the base camp with a stop in between for a late dinner. The last 20 minutes to the base camp is hilly terrain and it is located near a small village (although the village itself was not visible in the night).
We were given a sleeping bag and a walking stick as we exited the bus at the start of the trek. The initial part involved a small uphill climb for 15 mins; it had rained that night and so we ended up getting our shoes wet. The trek took us through some difficult rocky terrain involving steep drops a few feet away.

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The guides were helpful to get some of us across the difficult parts of the trek.The group was huge and so a lot of time was spent on getting all the members safely across the difficult regions.

We reached the point from where the cave exploration was to start; the walking sticks and backpacks were unloaded here since the cave explorations involve passing through many narrow passageways and lesser the load, better it is. The cave exploration took us through some narrow crevices and cracks between the giant rocks and it was lot of fun.

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After the cave exploration and trek, we hiked up the hillock and the twenty of us around a camp fire ; the camp fire made from the hiking sticks. It was pretty cold especially with the strong winds atop the hillock and so it was time to curl into the sleeping bags. It was pretty cloudy on that night; so no stars were visible. The half moon did not help either. So night photography was out of the question. So most of the individuals simply curled into the sleeping bags post warming up near the campfire and a few stayed up chit chatting around the camp fire.

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We woke by 5.30 a.m to get a shot of the sunrise but as luck would have it , it was cloudy and cold in the morning as well. There was only a faint red glow of the sunrise.

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We started our journey back to Bangalore at 6.30 a.m. It took us about an hour to reach the Kamat Hotel on hoskote road. The breakfast buffet was part of tour package. We were dropped back at Bangalore at 9.30 a.m.


Trip to Pearl Valley (Muthyala Maduvu)

Pearl Valley , also known as Muthyala Maduvu (Muthyalu means Pearls and Maduvu means Pond or Pool in Kannada) is located about 50 Kms from Bangalore. It is famous for the couple of small water falls that are secluded in a forest in the valley.

I decided to visit the place on a holiday due to the Independence Day (15th August) with 2 of my friends. The plan was to leave home at 5 a.m in the morning and we did. The ride was very pleasant , especially with lower traffic in the early morning combined with the cool monsoon winds on the highway. It took about 1.5 hours to reach the point. Arrangements are present to park the vehicles and there is a restaurant as well (run by Karnataka tourism department, KSTDC).

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A stairway right next to the parking lot leads down from this point. The climb down over around 100 laid steps passes through a forest and takes only about 10 minutes.

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There is temple located the bottom of the valley, dedicated to lord shiva and the waterfall is located opposite to the temple.

To be honest we were quite disappointed with what we saw ; the waterfall was essentially a very narrow stream tricking down the rock from a height of about 100 feet.

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It was the monsoon and it had rained quite a bit in that month ; so we expected a decent amount of water in “fall”. It is possible that the flow of water was restricted intentionally from the lake above. We spent about half an hour here trying to get some good shots of the spot.

After half hour, we climbed back up and visited the lake which is only 100 metres away from the parking lot.

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Another 15 mins here and it was the journey back to bangalore. Overall a bit disappointed with the location but the pleasant ride in the beautiful weather was the saving grace.


Trip to Ranganthittu Bird sanctuary

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is a bird sanctuary in the Mandya District of the state of Karnataka in India. Although the largest bird sanctuary in the state, it covers only 0.67 km2. in area, which is about 40 acres and comprises six islets on the banks of the Kaveri river. Despite the small size, there is a heavy density of variety if species , especially birds; about 170 bird species have been recorded here. During winter months starting from mid-December, at certain seasons, as many as 40,000 birds congregate in this bird sanctuary and some birds come from Siberia, Latin America and parts of north India. Ranganathittu is a popular nesting site for the birds and about 8,000 nestlings were sighted during June 2011.
We reached Ranganthittu by 1 p.m or so.

There is an entry and parking fee , (Don’t remember the amount, I think it was 70 INR per head). There is a cafeteria inside if you want to have food. Additionally there is a huge beautifully maintained park as well.

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You can reach the lake, the main sight for bird watching by crossing the park. There is a fee here again if one intends to go boating. You can join the other people in a single boat in which case fee is lower or take a boat all for yourself for a relatively higher fee. We were three friends and wanted to take the boat to select spots ;so paid the higher fee and rented the boat for 45 mins for just the three of us. The lake as such is not that big and there are islands in the lake where you can find the birds nesting and get some awesome shots of the birds as well.

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The boatman will help you out with the names of the birds , so make sure to note those down else you will have a major problem identifying photographed birds later on. We spotted …

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The 45 mins boat ride will feel like very little time , especially due to the variety of bird species which one can sight in the major seasons. After the boat ride, we went around the lake trying to get a few more shots.

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There are a few locations around the lake from where you get a better view of sorts from “Watchtowers”.

Photography enthusiasts can easily spend at least half a day here. Overall,  good fun.


Trip to Bandipur National Park

Bandipur was on our “go to” list for a long time and I finally grabbed the opportunity when a local photography group (Photomama) decided to organize two day photography tour to bandipur over a weekend. Me and my classmate (Animesh), both of us photography enthusiasts used the opportunity to wipe the dust off our lenses. The fee was 3500/- INR including food, accommodation and jungle safari charge. We did not have a car of our own, so renting a car plus fuel cost us extra.

Reaching Bandipur from Bangalore
Bandipur is located about 220km from Bangalore (about 80 kms from Mysore) and can be reached in about 5 Hrs via the Mysore road (add time spent in Bangalore traffic to that).
We rented a car from “Justride” and pushed off from sarjapura road at 10:45 p.m and immediately found the infamous bangalore traffic at silk board signal; to add to the troubles the fuel tank had only 2 liters of petrol and we traveled nearly 20 kms to fill the tank since most of the in-city fuel bunkers shut down in the night. Found nearly 10 fuel bunkers using google maps and all of them were closed. Finally post locating the 24×7 fuel bunker (which we were quite lucky to find) ,we pushed off to bandipur at 12.45 a.m via NICE road leading to Mysore road.

We reached the entrance to bandipur forest at about 5 a.m and we waited until 6 a.m when the gates open for vehicles to come through. As soon as we reached the location of the office of the bandipur forest (also the location of car parking and the government lodges), we found deers and monkeys right next to the road and location of the car parking.

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Deers near the camp

The safari buses were too were located there.We located our photography group, all of them were already present before time.

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We boarded the bus at 6.30 a.m and we entered the forest. As such the ‘aim’ was to locate the most famous tiger of bandipur , “Prince”. However BNF is also home to a variety of other birds and animals. The morning safari lasted for about 2 hours and while we could not locate the tiger, we did locate many other animal species, especially birds which I had never see before.

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The morning safari ended by 9 a.m or so and we proceeded to have breakfast at the canteen located within the premises.

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It is a decent enough and despite the fact it is located within the forest, there is lot of variety of items on the menu. We had the regular south Indian breakfast (Masala Dosa + Tea) and proceeded to wait for our rooms to be allocated to us which we were told would be given to us by 12 p.m. The wait was boring to be honest since the since the sun was up and there was nothing much to do. In addition, all of us were quite tired after the night long drive. There wasn’t much to shoot either apart from the monkeys within the camp.

At about 12 p.m , we were allocated our cottages ; The cottage “papiha” was given to us. (FYI, The room rent was 1000 INR / night at the time of the blog).

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The cottages are quite decent for the price. Very spacious and maintained quite well in terms of cleanliness.

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Extremely tired, we just crashed on to the bed and slept for about 90 mins or so and it was lunch time already. Typical south Indian lunch. During our stay it was mentioned that beyond the designated lunch timings, food would not be served. You will find a lot of monkeys around the canteen and we even spotted an elephant within the camp while having our lunch. Now that’s something you don’t see everyday for sure.

The evening safari was scheduled to start at 3.30 p.m or so ; this time we reached early and got seats of our choice near the window (Unlike the morning safari :)). Again the aim was to locate “Prince” the tiger. We toured for two hours or so; located many species of birds and animals but unfortunately no tiger (or any other big cat). The highlight of the safari was though when at a point an elephant suddenly charged at the safari bus from the bushes. Unfortunately it disappeared into the bushes again before I could get a shot. Regardless, the safari was a lot of fun since the group managed to spot and capture many animals and birds which one doesn’t due to life in the city.

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We returned to the camp by 6:15 p.m or so. There is a small shop selling some nice hot bajjis, tea and condiments ;  and monkeys trying to snatch your purchase,,like this one.

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Well, I managed to eat some snacks safe from the monkeys and we returned to our cottage to go through the captured images. Before sunset, we sat on the rocks within the camp and slowly noticed the herds of deers coming in. The deers prefer resting within the camp for the night as a method of taking refuge from the predators..and there were so many of them; at least 300.

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Along with the deers, there were boars, langurs etc as well. We were advised to enter the rooms post sunset since elephants and even leopards are known to enter the camps during late evenings/nights. We did.

In our rooms, we started going through the captured photos and started discussing the next day plan. As such we had registered and paid for a 2 day jungle safari tour but based on our discussion, we realized that it would be difficult to get a shot of any predator(Tiger, Leopard) at all because it was the rainy season (It had rained that night) and predators don’t need to come into the open to drink water in the ponds (which is most probable way to get a shot). Water would be available within the dense forest itself. So make the day productive, we decided to visit Ranganthittu bird sanctuary on the next day post the morning safari and skip the the evening safari altogether.

It was dinner time and menu was the same as that of lunch. Post a hearty dinner, we dozed off.

Day 2
It was a rather early start to the day again since we were asked to reach the boarding point of the safari buses by 6.30 am. Same routine; 2 hours of morning safari to try and spot the tiger. We were again lucky to spot many varieties of birds and animals but as fate would have it, no tiger. We enjoyed the safari nonetheless.

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We quickly finished the breakfast at 10 a.m (Dosa, Idli, Tea) , packed our luggage and pushed off to ranganthittu bird sanctuary which was about 2 hours away.

Off to Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary


Halebeedu

Halebidu
Halebidu, another tourist destination famous for Hoysala architecture temples was the capital of the Hoysala Empire. The most visited locations are Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara temples. With its close proximity destination to Belur, both the sites can be covered in ~3 hours.

Trip Itinerary
ShravanabelagolaBelur – Halebidu are three famous tourist destinations in Karnataka which are ideally to be covered in single day if possible since the three spots are located quite close to each other. We booked the tour via Karnataka Tourism and State department which offers the single day trip from Bangalore and Mysore and covers all the three spots. It starts from the Badami house in Bangalore at 6.30 am and reaches Bangalore at 10.oo pm and costed 950 INR at the time of the blog.

Reaching Halebidu & Getting Around Halebidu
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tarting off from Belur at about 4.15 p.m, we reached Halebidu by 4.45 p.m. The guide from Belur tagged along. It was pretty crowded , just like Belur was. Since it is located only 30 km from Hassan, an half hour bus ride will get you from Hassan to Halebidu. Travelling from Shravanbelagola will take about an hour.

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Hoysaleswara Temple
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he magnificent temple is dedicated to lord Shiva. Its construction started in 1121 and could be completed only in 1207. The figurines are even more profusely carved than the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur. Even after working diligently for about a century, there are still some unfinished portions in this amazing edifice. But even then, this is a sculptural extravaganza contains 35000 exquisite carvings and is considered one of the most remarkable monuments by the hand of man.  The sculptures depict mythological epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, puranic legends and beasts.

Nandi Mandapas
There are two large nandi mantapas at Hoysaleswara temple. One of them is known to be the most beautifully decorated nandi statue in India and is also amongst the largest nandi statues in the world.

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The Hoysaleswara Temple is renowned for the beauty of sculptures on the outer side of the temple. (Unlike the Belur temple which is known for its inner beauty)

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There is an archeological exhibit near the temple which can be entered by paying a fee of Rs 5/- (at the time of the blog).

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We left Halebidu by 5.30 p.m and reached the bangalore by 10 p.m. The road is very smooth and therefore is journey is quite comfortable. Overall a day well spent.


Belur

Belur
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elur is famous for its Hoysala Architecture temples , Chennakesava Temple being the most famous & visited.

Trip Itinerary
Shravanabelagola – Belur – Halebidu are three famous tourist destinations in Karnataka which are ideally to be covered in single day if possible since the three spots are located quite close to each other. We booked the tour via Karnataka Tourism and State department which offers the single day trip from Bangalore and Mysore and covers all the three spots. It starts from the Badami house in Bangalore at 6.30 am and reaches Bangalore at 10.oo pm and costed 950 INR at the time of the blog.

Reaching Belur  
Starting from Shravanabelagola town at about 11.45 a.m, we the tour bus took us to a restaurant owned by the Karnataka Tourism department. We actually expected the price of food items to be low given that the restaurant is owned by the government but that wasn’t the case. It costed as much. (About 150 per head without alcohol). Again only half hour for lunch only.

As such Belur is located about 40 Kms from Hassan , a 45 mins Bus ride from Hassan will get one to Belur. Belur and Halebidu are only 25 Km apart and both the spots can be covered in 3 hours. (Major Sight seeing spots)

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he Chennakesava Temple is located within belur, so reaching the destination was hardly a problem and we were there by 2 p.m. Remove your slippers outside and a small fee to the guard.

Highly Important
At Belur, a free lance tour guide enters the bus and offers his services without a mention of his rates. Folks assume that he is provided by KSTDC which he is not. He mentioned his charge only at the end of both Belur and Halebidu tour which is quite high. (100 INR per person, so for a family of four it is 400 INR). Ensure that you get the rates clarified at the very beginning since he is not going to mention them.

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Gopuram

Chennakesava Temple
An almost gold coloured sculpted gopuram greets us as we enter the temple

The entrance of the temple takes us to a huge courtyard, at the centre of which stands the Chennakesava Temple. According to records, it took 103 years to complete this masterpiece of hoysala architecture. The complex overall has many smaller shrines, mandapams and other structures. Unfortunately, it was so crowded on that day , that I couldn’t get a decent picture without at least a hundred people in it.

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The main temple is located right at the center of the huge courtyard.

As I mentioned before, a guide strung along with us and was able to provide a decent amount of information. The 500 year old temple is made of soapstone and is built of interlocking components which join together and provide the structural integrity.  Apparently the entire temple can disassembled and reassembled at another location, something that I find very hard to believe.
At the very entrance, there are sculptures of the ten avatars of lord Vishnu above the doorway.

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Inside the temple, it is pretty dark. There are multiple intricately sculpted pillars supporting the roof and each of the pillars tell a different story. The finest are the Mohini pillar on the south west and the the Narsimha Pillar on the south east.

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Narsimha Pillar

At the very center is the main shrine dedicated to lord Vijayanarayan, one the 24 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The main priest continuously requested the tourists not to take pictures of the main diety but no one was paying attention which was quite irritating.
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Outside the main temple, take a stroll in the main courtyard to visit a number of other smaller temples.

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We were done here by 4.00 p.m and left for Halebidu.

 


Shravanabelagola

Shravanabelagola
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hravanabelagola located about 50 Km from hassan city centre is most famous for  58-feet tall monolithic statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali which is considered to be the world’s largest monolithic stone statue. It is central to Jainism and is more than 2000 years old. It is in absolutely pristine condition which is amazing considering the time that has passed.

Trip Itinerary
Shravanabelagola – BelurHalebidu are three famous tourist destinations in Karnataka which are ideally to be covered in single day if possible since the three spots are located quite close to each other. We booked the tour via Karnataka Tourism and State department which offers the single day trip from Bangalore and Mysore and covers all the three spots. It starts from the Badami house in Bangalore at 6.30 am and reaches Bangalore at 10.oo pm and costed 950 INR at the time of the blog.  

Starting from Bangalore
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he bus left badami house at around 6.40 am and it was full on early saturday morning. Parking is available within badami house for vehicles. The bus halted for half hour at Mayuri Restaurant located off the highway at around 8.30 am. The restaurant was very pleasant and the breakfast prepared fresh. KSTDC has sort of tie up with this restaurant since we were the only customers. The food was decently priced and it is the midst of a huge garden. It is almost a resort to be honest as evident from the pictures.

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Post a nice breakfast, the bus pushed off at around 9 am for Shravanabelagola. The route itself , being a highway , is very smooth.

Reaching Shravanabelagola & Getting Around Shravanabelagola
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assan is quite close and there are frequent to & from buses available. The overall distance from Bangalore (International Airport) is about 150 Kms. Autorickshaws can be used to go around Shravanabelagola. The road leading to Shravanbelagola passes is scenic with green fields on both the sides of the road and passes through many small isolated villages.

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At Shravanabelagola
The tour bus reached Shravanabelagola at around 10.30 am and we were provided only 1 hour to visit the  Gommateshvara Bahubali Statue and return which is actually not a lot if you are slow in the climb. There about 700 steps on a steep hill which lead you to the top. There aren’t any resting spots in the first phase. So it will be continuous climb. If the climb is done in the afternoon, it is very important to wear socks since the steps become hot. Shoes are not allowed. In case you forget to bring socks, there are vendors selling socks at 20 INR.

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There is catch though. The first phase of the climb dies not lead you to the statue. It leads to an intermediary temple on a plateau. Take the darshan and continue on to the right. There is another set of steps 100 steps or so which will take you the Gommateshvara statue. On route, you can have a scenic view of the town below and the surrounding hills. The rock bed on the plateau has all sorts of Sanskrit inscriptions which are protected by a transparent glass.

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The Walls around the steps leading to Bahubali statue are also sculpted with images of gods and goddesses of hindu mythology. The archaeology department has maintained the location in very good condition. Hopefully things don’t deteriorate with the increasing population of visitors, especially during the holy / festive seasons.

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Gommateshvara Bahubali Statue
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he entrance to the Bahubali statue passes through a entrance under a temple archway. There is a corridor surrounding the main corridor where the statue is present. So take walk in the corridors around the statue before entering the main corridor with the statue.

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The monolithic statue is magnificent, almost 60 feet high and more importantly in pristine condition even after 1000 years. Take the monks blessing and take a ten minute break here.
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There is another set of beautiful sculptures exactly opposite to the Bahubali statue.
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Get ready for the long climb down post now and keep encouraging the people on the way up. Of course with gravity assisting you, it will be relatively easier. At the town, there a number of vendors selling refreshments ; we just had some cucumber since it was a really hot day. The tour bus departed Shravanabelagola for Belur town at about 11.45 a.m.


Trek up Gudibanda Fort

Gudibanda Fort, a multi level fort Byre Gowda in early 17th century, so almost 400 years old.  One of the many forts in karnataka ; is a site for many visitors from Bangalore and makes for a good weekend drive / ride. A shiva temple is located at the top, so lot of folks from the nearby village make regular visits, so it is quite safe as well. However on weekdays, you get find yourself in a isolated location. So Choose your day wisely. 🙂

We (it was just me and a friend) started off from bangalore city at about 8 a.m in the morning on my trustee bike. Since the fort is only about 100 Kms from the city centre and the road to Gudibande is a National Highway (NH7) , it makes for a very pleasant driving / biking experience.

My Trustee Bike
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Trip Itinerary
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he idea was to cover two sites, Gudibande fort and Lepakshi in a single day and back to bangalore by sundown. Accomplished!!

Leave BLR – 8am  –>  Reach Gudibande 10 am
Trek (Up + down) – 12 pm (2 hours)
Leave for Lepakshi post lunch – 12.30 pm –> Reach Lepakshi – 1.30 pm
Cover Lepakshi (2 hours)
Leave Lepakshi – 3.30 pm –> Reach Bangalore – 5.30 pm

Reaching Gudibanda Fort
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lug in gundibande fort into a Navigation platform (Google Maps). On NH7 is is straight ride / drive for almost 50 Kms and the route is quite scenic with fields, orchards and hills lining the sides of the road.
Take a diversion from Nh7 and travel for another 10kms or so to reach gudibande village. The right turn to reach the start of the stairs to take you to the fort is rather obscure and is very narrow. Ask the townsfolk and they should be able to help out. By the way, the term for hill in local kannada dialect is “betta”. Finally we reached Gudibande by 10.30 am.

At Gudibande Fort
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view of long winding stair of steps going up a hill and reaching the fort greet you at the base.

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As you climb up, the remnants of 400 year old fort become more visible. One can move off the steps and explore the hill at some select locations, mostly wild plants and flowers exist. Not exotic enough to be called a photographers paradise but still better than being in a city I guess.A particular variety that was common all along the way during our visit was a yellow variant.  These also line both sides of the steps at select locations.

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At many locations, the staircase goes from under the rocks. I wonder how this was done, the rock is perching right on top of the steps. The steps here are jagged and uneven at many locations , so take care not to slip & fall.

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As you make your way up, you see potential locations from where the fort would have been defended. The enemy is essentially left open to whatever form of long range attack the soldier up the fort intend to employ. The steps are carved out of the rock itself.

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On the way to the top, there are locations where one can rest , especially if it is sunny. The actual reason why these were constructed here (from a military fortification perspective) are unknown to me.

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After about half hour of continuous trek, you reach the top. Phew
Gudibande_Leepakshi-54

There is shiva temple at the top of the hill which is believed to be one of the 108 Jyotirlingas. A sculpted pillar is present at the entrance. On the day of our visit , unfortunately, it was closed but from the looks of it, people visit the temple quite often.

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Go around the temple, to get a panoramic view of gudibande which is quite breathtaking.

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Overall, the trek should take about half hour only and is therefore suitable even for the inexperienced trekkers / beginners. Do take water, sunblock and some eatables along.

 


Mysore

Mysore
M
ysore is a historical city in Karnataka, 130 Kms from Bangalore and great place to visit for a couple of days. Folks from Bangalore often travel to Mysore for the weekend.

Reaching Mysore
B
eing a major city , there is no problem reaching via road. At the time of the blog, the mysore airport is almost non-functional. Bangalore has the closest international airport.

Getting Around Mysore
All modes of transportation are available. Cabs, Buses are the most frequently used. On rent four wheeler is best so that the city can be traversed easily and all the tourist spots can be visited quickly.

Popular Tourist Destinations /  Things to Do
T
here are reasonable number of things to do in mysore. Visiting the Mysore palace easily tops the list, especially during the dusshera festival season. While I have visited Mysore a number of times, the one on which this blogpost is based was a short one. So was able to cover only two major locations.

1. Mysore Zoo
O
ne of the largest in the country, the zoo is one of the most popular attractions in Mysore and host to a large number of species of animals and birds. Located within Mysore city and easily accessible. There is an entry fee (+ extra for Cameras).

On the day of our visit, there were a little too many people inside and made photography quite a hassle. Note that crowd is excessive on weekends and holidays , so try to visit on weekdays if possible. Parking is also available near the zoo and there is another parking lot located about 0.5 Km away. Restaurants are available near the zoo for a quick bite.
At a slow pace, will take 5 hours to visit the entire zoo.

Tip : It gets quite hot in the summer time. So take care and carry sunscreens, water bottles and some eatables in.

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2. Brindavan Gardens
B
rindavan Garden located adjacent to KSR dam is another major tourist spot in Mysore. As with the Mysore zoo, the crowds are excessive, especially in the evenings on holidays / weekends as we witnessed.  The reason being the Light and Sound show (Photographs below). There is a small entry fee and parking is available. The gardens are beautiful in the daytime as well but due to time constraints, we reached the gardens in the evening only. Spend about 2-3 hours here. (Early Evening with Daylight to Late  Evening with Light & sound show).

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Shivanasamudram Falls

Shivanasamudram falls is a segmented type of waterfall located about 130Km from bangalore city. There are two named falls , The  Bharachukki falls and The Gaganachukki falls. Both of them originate from the river Cauvery. The best time to view the water falls is during the Indian Rainy season (Monsoon – July to October). Unfortunately at the time of the visit, there wasn’t enough water to make it breathtaking but enough to make it worth the visit.

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At the time of the visit, thankfully there was less crowd which made up for enough water not being there. A long flight of steps leads the visitors down the falls to the base where the falls forms a pool of sorts which can be entered only the flow of water is not strong. People are not allowed to the base during the monsoon.

Reaching Shivanasamudram falls
R
ent a four wheeler from Bangalore or Mysore (the nearest big cities). There is a small entry fee. (Rs 20 at the time of the blog)

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Tip
1, Carry Sunglasses and Sunscreen
2. Extra Pair of slippers and clothes so that you enter the water if you feel like it
3. The flight of stairs is fairly steep and therefore not recommended for the elderly to go all the way down.