Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Madikeri :: encounter with nature's beauty

Another weekend was fast approaching. Vinay had just come back from UK after a long time. I hadn't been along with him for almost 6 months & moreover he was sad that he missed Ahobilam by only a week.. I had no plans for this weekend but the next 3 were jammed. So, on Friday, we started scouting our options. Surprisingly, my parents sat out of the trip. Abhi backed out of the trip due to his spouses exams. Pammi backed out as usual :) but he had some office work over the weekend too. Since he is getting hooked later this year, this might not go on for a long time, so we let him enjoy with official work :)

With only 2 day's to spare, our options were limited. Chikkamangalur was our favourite option, but couldn't afford to miss the guys during this awesome plan. so we postponed it. We were left out with Ooty or Madikeri. I had some friends in Madikeri who could help with last minute accommodation plan, hence the balance tilted towards Madikeri.

Plans set, Ford wheels were in motion again. We started off at 5 AM in the morning to avoid the Mysore road traffic. Amazing weather to drive, I zipped around to Mysore within no time. Since we got up so early, we were hungry pretty fast. we stopped at Prashanth hotel just on the border of Hunsur. Look at the size of Masala Dosa.Vini ate one and a half of these :)

Buddhist Monastery: Golden Temple
 Around 5km before Kushalnagar, we got to take a left deviation. you can't miss the arch. Drive around 4km inside & you would find the Golden Temple. on the way, you feel that you are somewhere up north-east with amount of people from Tibet & their settlements. They are self-sufficient & they have everything for their daily needs within this settlement.

Golden Temple does not boast of any great Stupas but the richness lies in the simplicity & grandeur lies in silence. its obvious that the idols do signify something, but till yesterday, i had never seen the clear difference in the expressions of the 3 idols. read the attached snap to understand who the 3 people are. Temple also has some nice architectural value to it with lots of colours. For me & my wife, it was almost like a total recall from a year ago. Same old monks with their sutra's & music in Sikkim.

Dubare Elephant Camp:
 Undoubtedly, highlight of our trip. It also helps that I do have a love for Elephants. Its just the royal elegance of the regal creature which fascinates me every time when we see them either in person or on TV.  I had missed to include this spot in my plan last time around. So, there was no way in hell that we would give a miss this time around.

 Its a 12km deviation on the left on SH88. Ride is good for 10.4km but the last 1.6km is not ideal for a car with low ground clearance. Where there is a will, there is a way; no matter how bad it is :) Somehow, we managed to the camp. There is a small channel of Kaveri river which needs to be crossed before we reach the other shore for the camp.

The camp has 19 elephants in total at various ages. It stands tall at 10ft & we were bang on time when they were feeding them. So we at least had the pleasure of spending time with young calves as well. the big ones eat almost 10 huge Ragi balls for the lunch & few pieces of Jaggery. The little ones, even though they are fed, keep hogging their small trunks in front of every attempt to feed the bigger lot. Kind of cute to see a minor trying to snatch the food from the caretaker.

 We also had a chance to ride upon top of one of them. Ride is just Rs.100/person which is not a big deal when you see the effort which goes behind in maintaining the camp. Unfortunately, the camp doesn't benefit from any multi-nationals or advertisers. I have done my bit of advertising now. While you are reading this, i hope you have already made up your mind to visit once.

" People can make money out of anything & everything "
  I had heard this sometime ago, but I saw the practical scenario in the camp. Water level in the river was not even till knee high & the flow was very moderate. But, i couldn't believe my ears when a guy came up to me & asked " Sir, do you want to do rafting? " My immediate reaction was "you hardly have any water flowing, where are we going to get the rapids for rafting? " that's when he pointed out people drenched in water walking out to shore.

          A slight pan of my head, I witnessed the best comic moment of our trip. The water flow was so slow that 15 people were stuffed on a rubber boat & they were bone dry after the so called rafting ride (more of a Kayaking exp, if i may say so). But at the end, the guide gets off the boat, starts to splash the water on all tourists. Silly people, i pity on them as they were being fooled on the rafting experience. Go to Dandeli or the camp of Sita river for a real experience of Class 3 rapids.

  After all the deviations, we finally arrived at the destination at 12:30 pm. We were greeted with the monsoon rain drizzling down at us. Our Home-stay caretaker came to the nearest landmark & guided along the Brahmins valley to the house.
A home away from home - That's the best way we can put that place in words. Surrounded by thick tress, a quiet home built few decades ago. We found everything which a middle class family would require to suffice their holiday requirements. 2 double-bedrooms & 1 single bedroom both with attached bathrooms, Kitchen, Dining hall, Refrigerator, washing machine, nice covered parking spot, cable TV... u name it, u got it.
Devaraj, our caretaker, takes care of any grocery needs which you might have during the stay. Details of the home stay at the in annexure.

 We were pretty hungry, so we ordered the food from a nearby Vegetarian hotel. If you are an non-vegetarian, your options were plenty, but for Vegans, you will have to chose carefully. I even had a an small incident while ordering food. I honestly order 2 Veg fried rice, 1 Veg Noodles & 1 Mixed Fried rice. Now, i didn't know Mixed meant a wide variety of dead animals with the rice. Anu literally ran out of the room. Funny thing was that she & Vini opened the parcel boxes.

 After lunch, it was still raining pretty heavy. Since there was no other options, we decided to take a rest till evening. But the evening weather didn't turn out any great. But we still went out wearing our jackets in the mild drizzle. We went to the nearby market, scouting for the local spices in the thick fog.

A lesson for all newly married people (experienced fellows are already aware of this ). Never take your spouses to a spices shop & let them free to shop. Anu called my mom & they went on & on & on like a tele-shopping. we went in to buy a small pack of coffee powder but we ended up buying almost a piece of everything in the shop. even after all the talking which we did, we only ended up reducing Rs.100 as it was a wholesale dealer.

Then a few blocks away, we had the best natural fruit juice till date. There wasn't any sugar or preservatives in the juice but still the taste was so brilliant than all these advertised drinks. he charged us 35 for each of them but that was enough for the night. We walked back to the car & drove back in the fog. we spent some time playing cards in the night but we did sleep early.

Day 2

Raja seat:

Early risers went to Raja Seat. A local hotspot to view the grandeur of the nature. normally famous for capturing sunrise/sunset, but due to monsoon, we could only see clouds moving from hill to hill. Still a good sight. much better were the beautiful colours of the flowers in the garden maintained by the team over there.


Just drive up the SH88 through ghats for 38km to reach Triveni Sangama.. nice to see the Kaveri merging with other water sources... quiet place but with heavy rain... have to appreciate the fact that even in that rain, a guy was performing last rites for his loved one. Temple is great, too bad that i couldn't take my camera out.. The style of temple architecture is different from other corner of our states. Due to incessant rains, the design to ensure that they drain out as much water as possible. But the best part of design is even with that heavy rain, you don't hear the water thumping on roofs.


 8km later, we find Talacauvery. we had to literally sit in the car for more than 30min as it was still pouring down. I slept for sometime, Anu was drawing on the windows, Ramya was listening to songs and Vini was eating something :).... when we stepped out finally, we took plastic sheets from nearby shops so that we can see the places. that was worth the money we paid as we had lots of fun walking around with it & also gave me an oppurtunity to take my camera along with me..

I have been to this place multiple times, but this time it was different. It was foggy, temple was empty, no one to hurry us, we had ample time to see the water source, priest was patient enough to explain us about the phenomenon. He even asked us to come by on October 17th wherein we can actually see the water level rise with bubbles 3 times...

Out of the temple, we hit straight to a Coffee shop.. Bisi Bisi coffee/tea with Bajji's. Typical but enjoyed to the core with the cold wind gushing through our sheets... even though we spent very little, we were content with the smiles & food which was quite apt to the situation. We miss this with our extravagant parties lately wherein we pay thousands to eat so less... hmm.. something to think about.
 We had our lunch in Talacauvery in the a nice restaurant just off the entry gates. then we started our trip back to Madikeri.


Packed our bags, paid for the homestay, goodbyes done; we were off to Mysore. It was a pretty good drive back to Mysore within 1hr and 40min. We were way too early for the evening Palace lights. So we decided to climb up the mountain again to get a glimpse of had been more than 6yrs that i had last visited the temple. so i was more eager than anyone around.Blessed that we were, we finished our darshan within 30min. Rains had followed us from coorg all the way to Mysore. We had to rush back to our car & drive down the mountain to Nandi. couple of snaps, & off we go to Anu's friends place.

Here we met her kid which as cute as any. he was just 3 months old but he used to cry only when you stop playing with him. You walk, move from corridor to corridor, juggle his cradle, he keeps smiling back at you.

We started off to Palace. bang on time to see the lighted Mysore palace. I got to know that they spend a whopping Rs1,50,000 per 30 min to keep the lights glowing. But the sight is worth the money once a week.

Things to Mind:

  • Mysore road is always busy. so leave early morning to avoid traffic.
  • Food : not a problem. you have options, but chose it carefully. 
  • Fuel : Fuel stations are in plenty
  • Accommodation: Book yours before traveling
  • Best time: September to February. don't travel during monsoon.
Best Route:
 To avoid Tolls : - Bengaluru South - Kengeri - SH17 Mysore - Bylakoppa - Kushalnagar - Dubare SH88 - Madikeri

Valley Fair Home Stay

Brahmin's Valley Madikeri Karnataka, Madikeri 571201, India
Contact Person : Devaraj : 94815 29398

We started off to Bengaluru at 7:45. Reached home safely at 10:20 pm. took a little longer as it was Sunday traffic returning back to home in our town.

But, we got back to our nests with a dream of flying again soon...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Ahobilam -  930km weekend trip worth every moment..

   It all started as a simple idea of going out as a family. Back in May, we pushed an idea of Ahobilam as one of the spots. Coupled with other factors that Akshay's supposedly last visit before taking off to USA & my only schedule prior to hectic build-out plans, we finally took the plunge of getting all frogs on the same scale.

   Trip had to face many tests... Petrol fares shot up.. but our cars were Diesel :) ... Bharat Bandh was observed on previous day & Karnataka Bandh was on the day which we chose to travel. But with our tanks full, we just headed off without a worry in mind. Frankly, i was more excited to test the performance of my new Nikon D5100 SLR camera.

 Day started off on a sweet note. Ravi uncle & Suma aunty celebrated their 29th year anniversary.  I felt as though it was season of anniversaries. Just 2 weeks back, my parents celebrated their 30th year & on 19th, i debuted with my first of many to come :) Sweets shared, pictures taken, we headed off towards Ahobilam.

 Map mentioned 417km for a route taken over NH-7. Once we hit the highway past the International airport, its an absolute gem to ride on. No puddles, humps or pits to fall into. Just a smooth ride which makes you feel to drive with your eyes closed.

Penukonda :-
    First stop at Penukonda, AP (148km from BLR) as the ladies were hungry. Rather an interesting choice to take a break & seriously surprising choice of hotel to have a breakfast. We were left out with no choice other than Mookambika Hotel, an Udupi franchise :) Given a choice, i know for sure that this won't feature in couple of our groups top eat-outs lists. but it certainly made me remember the good old times of eating anything & everything.

Penukonda is also famous for one more thing. It was fortress of King Krishnadevaraya, from Vijayanagar Dynasty. Wonderful statue at the entrance of the town depicts the grandeur of the province under his helm. Pretty good remains of the fortress walls too if some historian is interested.

Gooty :-

   Next stop was at Gooty (269km from BLR). Although, i had more than half a tank of gas by that point, we thought it was a better idea to fill her up as we weren't sure what we could expect after the deviation. Rest stop gave us a moment to enjoy with the family and also take some unusual but effective snaps, thanks to Akshi.

Deviation at 4km past Pyapili, AP & off we were into town roads. Roads are a little patchy but not bad. 50km later, we arrive at Banaganapalli. A town which lies in cross roads towards Koilakuntla & Nandyal. Both paths leads to Ahobilam but Nandyal route is much better even though it add almost 45km extra to your trip meter.

Ahobilam :-
6 hrs and 45 min  later we finally arrive at Ahobilam. Quiet little place, away from the city's blitz almost reminding you off the ages wherein we don's have much facilities to depend upon. But still the village in the southern part of Nallamalla Forest seemed a very good place to be for a peaceful outing.

Even in this small village, we couldn't find the hotel. That's when, we get first glimpse of our multilingual chotu guide, Subramani. Uninhibited attitude was striking as the kid just rode of his bicycle showing us the way. We had our reservations in Pavana Narasimha hotel, thanks to Ravi uncle's good contacts.

Hotel's lobby had a wonderful painted map & description about Ahobilam. Map clearly indicated the famous Lord Narasimha's 9 idols. Covering them in the next 2 days was really challenging considering that we had just driven 465km.

With a quick break of an hour, we started off towards the lower temples. Mr.Nayak, the owner of the hotel was at his best wrt hospitality. He quickly arranged for an guide & a priest who could explain us about the 2 idols which are at ground level.

9 Idols :-

Chakravaka :- Honestly, the best idol which i had seen till date with the simplicity but yet with such grandeur. Story goes that, an angel was reciting his songs. Narasimha was so happy that he started singing & enjoyed the pleasure of music. It is pretty distinctive to notice the absence of goddess Laxmi on the left lap. Priest mentioned that the Lakshmi was said to be residing in the right hand side of the chest of the lord.

Temple had one more curious factor involved. In the Gopuram, there is a tree leaf which grows out as though it is protecting the lord by its shade.

Yogananda :- Then  we headed onto Yogananda Narasimha temple. quite a simple temple with no fancy stuff. Believed to be the spot wherein the lord came to penance as he had killed Hiranyakashabu, who was a Brahmin.

 For the night, we were treated with spicy Andhra meals.. Bit of Pappu, saaru & that was the end of long day for us. We had a tight schedule the next day morning starting as early as 6 AM.

Jwala :- First up in the morning, we headed to trek towards Jwala. we had to climb up the mountain for about 3 km in our cars. Lucky us, we had planned to visit on the most auspicious day of the lot. A Saturday with Swathi Nakshatram. it was lucky for us that we got up as far as we did through the traffic. This was the last snap before the day long trek.

Its almost a 3 km hike up to the top. We go through rocks,steps, steep climbs, bridges, dried up water paths. generally, we heard that there are hardly any people out there. but being an auspicious day, we had more than 30,000 people climbing up the mountain. At the top end of it, its a very narrow passage to the idol. on the way, we do get a pass to reach the top of the mountain, called Ugra-Stambham. locals warned us not to venture that steep climb as 3 people had lost their lives last week. Ravi uncle caught a nice spot to rest himself as the steep hill was too much to bear on his knees. He had recently got some treatment on his knees.
You can also see a small puddle of water which is almost red in colour. of course, now its polluted with human intervention & lack of maintenance. But it believed to be the spot wherein the lord washed off his hands after the killing of the demon.

Malola :- Comedown the mountain, we head to Malola temple. We thought Jwala trek was the tough part of the hike, we were in for a surprise. Abhi,Suma Aunty chose to stay back with uncle. They headed down the mountain to Varaha Temple along with uncle.
It was my family along with Tripti & Akshay to make the trip with help of our guide Ravi. When we reached the temple, we were out of drinking water. more than the sight of the temple, we were more pleased to see the drinking water channel. Idol was very cute indicating the fact that the lord was being pampered by Lakshmi.

Varaha :- Downhill of the mountain, we hit the Varaha temple. The idol is an indication of one of the Lord Narayan's avatars. He has taken a shape of Boar to carry earth on nose. nice to see priest denying us the permission to take a snap. 

Ahobilam :- Right at the bottom of the mountain, almost nearing the end of trek, i was more surprised to see my parents & my wife still up & feeling chirpy. we successfully made it to the bottom. Treated to a wonderful lunch at a Brahmin's mess. after that, we all entered the temple to see the idol which indicates that lord came to penance in a cave. That's exactly what it means. " Lord in a cave". no pictures again.

End of long day's trip. every one was so tired that we just trekked down the hill towards the car & straight back to our rooms. Ravi uncle had already made the plans for visiting another idol in the late evening, but using the Commander jeep.

Bhargava :- This was a ride to remember. None of our fancy cars could suffice this ride. the age old monsters who do not have permits to ride on tarmac, prefer to run on muddy bumps. God save the people who do this on a daily basis. but if you need to see all 9 idols, then you need to opt for the jeeps for couple of the trips. Abhi wasnt feeling well, so Tripti too dropped off.

Anu & Akshay were the first to jump in the jeep. I walked off slowly along with the older contingent. 3km covered with zig-zag muddy roads, bumps, humps as high as 3ft later we finally reached Bhargava temple. Story goes that Parashurama requested to see the death of the demon. Hence the Narasimha re-enacted the scenario. Only place wherein you would see Hiranyakashabu's head towards the right hand side.

By the time, we came back, there was no power in the hotel. Pitch dark environment with a full moon to give us company outside. so everyone decided to enjoy the peaceful nature outside the hotel. an hour later, we had the power back on.

After dinner, it was time to play some cards. Not to keen, but the energy levels of rest of the group forced us to play the Rummy. 2 hrs later, i felt it was better idea if i had just dozed off. I hardly played any games as the none of the sequences came right. numerous drops later, we ended up handing the bounty to Akshay. Pretty lucky chap to win the last hand with 6 jokers :)

Day 3

Pavana:- 5:30 AM in the morning, program was fixed but Jeep never came by. Me & mum went by the market area to catch the driver assigned. None showed up. several calls later, at 7:30 AM new guy came by with a far better jeep compared to yesterday.

18km of jungle roads. Literally no supplies, no sign of any human beings. It was a wise decision by us to drop off plans on the previous evening. we would have been in serious trouble if the vehicle had broken down in middle of the jungle. The road was horrific. Lucky that my parents didn't get a backache after that ride.

But when you reach the temple, you almost tend to forget absolutely everything. its peaceful, uninhabited area deep in middle of forest. Surrounded by hills, it almost can be passed out as a valley. the idol is also pretty beautiful considering that its the calmest form among the 9 of them.
On the way back, we spotted 2 big Deers & a Fox. no ways that i would have opened my new camera in that dusty terrain. by 8:45 we were back to the hotel. Vaidya family had just checked out of the rooms & left towards Karanji. We spent around 30 min to vacate the rooms & then headed out to Karanji.

Karanji :- last of the 9 idols, not too far up on the hills. well maintained roads, in fact on the way to Jwala. but the rush on Saturday didn't allow us to stop by. On Sunday, there was hardly anyone around. The story goes that Lord Hanuman wanted to see the god in his full power. Lord gave the darshan in the Narasimha avatar & conveyed the message that all avatars were taken by him to commemorate a particular work. Hence the idol has a bow & other weapons indicating the multiple avatars of Narayan. you can also see the Hanuman statue outside the main temple.

All tasks completed, we headed back to Bangalore. The path was pre-defined as Nayak had provided us a much shorter path to trace back. I had exchanged the same with Abhi who was driving the other car. So now, it was just a matter of driving another 400km & we were back home :)

We took the road to Allguda, Kadapa, Rayachotti, Madanapalli, Chintamani, Hosakote, BLR.
Watch out for the amazing ghat section between Rayachotti & Madanapalli. Even Lorry drivers overtake you in the ghats as the roads are pretty wide. The roads are just amazing to zip around. Very well maintained state highways which hardly gets you bored. But once you cross the Chintamani RTO, the roads are bad. Lot of construction work going around.  Better to take the Kolar road but it will definitely add 40 km to your trip.

Things to plan:

Food :                   Not much of options available if you don't like south Indian spicy food.

ATM:                    No ATM's in Ahobilam. Nearest one is 25 km away.
Medical:               Didn't see any major nursing homes either. But you have basic physicians.
Fuel:                     Don't mess around. Get your tanks filled before you exit Allaguda.

Preferred Route: 
Ahobilam - Allaguda - Kadapa - Rayachotti - Madanapalli - Chintamani - Hosakote - BLR.

Alternate Route:
BLR - NH7 upto Pyapili junction - Banaganapalli - Koilakuntla - Nandyal - Allaguda - Ahobilam

The route shown on google maps is same until Banaganapalli but then routes to some patchy roads not good for your suspension.

All in all, reached home safe & sound. I would really admit that 3 days without mobiles, laptops & TV was worth the drive. Pretty tired with the driving but still would do it again another time just for the shear joy of being with family & friends in open nature.

signing off till the next trip