Archive for April, 2010

The choices for today were to go to Kemmanagundi and Hebbe falls or drive back to Bangalore and see Belur and Halebeedu on the way. If we did the former, we would have to stay an extra day since the long drive back would not have been possible at the end of a long day of water play. So, we decided on the latter. We checked out after breakfast and hit the road. Took us almost 45 minutes to reach Belur. We directly drove to the temple which is the main attraction here. Brought back memories of my childhood visit. We took a guided tour. I appreciated all the art a lot more now than my previous visits (may be my age?). PK was pretty amazed by it all. That 1000 years ago, when there were no mechanical tools or anything, they have done such precise and symmetrical carvings, is pretty mind-blowing. And all the intricate details in the jewelry, it is almost like paper cuttings, hard to believe it is stone. I was disappointed that the guided tour was pretty brief and hurried. After the temple tour, we stopped at the KSTDC hotel/restaurant for lunch. My main motivation to go here was the space and lack of any other people. And boy, it paid off! The loo was really clean and was a joy to use and take SK to. This is my biggest phobia of travel anywhere, but more so in India. About the food, the lesser said the better.

Then we headed to Halebeedu which is approximately 15 miles from Belur. More jaw dropping sculptures here.  And lot of open space and good landscaping around the temple. We spent about an hour enjoying the place. But it was quite hot and the stone was burning the feet (no socks sellers here! And we were not smart enough to carry ours). The Hoysala lake next to the temple was also very clean unlike other places which are usually littered with trash. Boating was going on, but it was way too hot for that. The kids were pretty tired too, so we started driving home at about 3 pm. Drive was mostly uneventful, except that the last 70 km stretch just killed the joy of the whole trip. The road from Kunigal to Nelamangala was horrible, which we had experienced while going in the opposite direction, but the notoriety rises exponentially at night time. Headlights from opposite side traffic were blinding – lots of gravel and medium size rocks on the road. Anyway, from Nelamangala onwards traffic just stands still or crawls at 5 kmph, so it was quite miserable. Finally reached parents house @ 8.30. Had dinner with family and came home by 11 pm. Another misadventure waited us here …

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Today’s agenda was Mullayanagiri, Bababudangiri and Manikyadhara falls.

Steps to the summit from the parking area

Mullayanagiri is the tallest peak in Karnataka @ 6300 feet. There is an auto road to the summit, which is about 8 km. At the top, you have to park the car and climb up about 400 steps to reach the summit. There is a very quiet and peaceful temple there. The mountain scenery is quitebreath-taking and the weather was awesome. A cool breeze was blowing the entire time we were there. A word about the drive – I don’t think it is me, it is the road. The drive is actually pretty dangerous in my opinion. The road is quite narrow (but I think it is true for all Indian roads, so it is not unusually narrow but after having driven on the wide mountainous roads in the U.S, this is very scary!) There are no guard rails, thus exposing you and the car to sheer drop-offs from the cliffs, which obviously gets worse as you go higher and higher. Every time another car came in the opposite direction, my heart would be in my mouth with a “will we or won’t we” feeling. This was one reason I didn’t completely enjoy the drive. The drive down was relatively relaxing. Next time, it is just better to hire a jeep for the day and leave the driving to the pros.

View from the top

Manikyadhara falls

Manikyadhara falls

Next stop was Manikyadhara falls. This was a total disappointment. If I cry, my flow of tears will probably be a thicker stream than the “thin as a hair strand” thread of water falling. It was quite crowded – apparently a sacred bathing place for muslims. SK was peacefully sleeping in the car, so we didn’t even get out here. We just drove to Baba_Budangiri. After the morning’s experience we were in a dilemma as to whether to do this or not, but we drove on. A couple of kms from the summit we saw very steep inclines which the smaller cars were struggling to climb up but the alternative of a U turn wasn’t simple either. We saw this from a distance and turned right around when the going was still good. We arrived back for a very late lunch. Most guests at the estate seemed to have arrived just then from their various day trips. Because all the 4 or 5 groups staying there were lined up for lunch at 4.15 pm. The evening was spent playing tennis, soccer and what not with the other groups. AK and SK were the only kids. Rest were all couples, bachelors and a mixed group of colleagues. AK was still scared of sleeping in the tree house, but we all slept much better the second night (fewer mosquitoes and kids had better blankets than previous night).

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Apr 2nd was a holiday for Good Friday. It also happened to be our 13th wedding anniversary. So, it was time for a trip somewhere. The problem about near-by trips at this time of year is that the weather is terribly hot everywhere around. Trying to take a short trip (with in a 300 km radius) from Bangalore means that you can’t beat the heat. But flying out to far away places for every long weekend is also not practical. So the choices were Coorg and Chikmagalur. We settled on the latter.

It is about 250 km ride to Chikmagalur. We couldn’t start as early as we wanted, but ended up leaving by 8.30 am. We didn’t eat any breakfast because of time constraints and there was nothing appealing at home either. We decided to eat somewhere on the way. It was a big mistake. It took us 2 hrs to get out of Bangalore on to NH 48. Inside Bangalore, it probably makes no difference, holiday or not. The roads are always clogged. Anyway, at 10.30 we were on the highway, but it is such a pathetic one – lots of construction and detours. Absolutely no decent eateries along the way. We finally gave up and just ate some snacks in the car and kept driving. It was lunch time and still no sight of any eating places. We were approaching Shravanabelagola at 12.30 pm. Shravanabelagola is a very important Jain pilgrimage center. We thought surely there must be something here. Boy, were we wrong! But as soon as we got off the car, there were some guys soliciting customers for their home made food. They all call themselves Jain mess and serve home made food in their homes to the visitors. We were not really comfortable with the arrangement, but didn’t have a choice either. We had 700 steps to climb in the afternoon sun and were running on an empty stomach.

View from the top of Vindhyagiri

After lunch, we started climbing up Vindhyagiri, the main hill on top of which is the famous statue of Bahubali. It was about 1.30 pm and the sun was blazing down. The stone steps were scorching! There were a whole bunch of people selling socks since footwear is not allowed. The socks were “one size fits all”, so SK was searing the same size socks as PK 🙂 SK did pretty well given the conditions and complained only when we were almost at the top. There was a cool breeze blowing there which was a huge relief. The kids have no previous exposure to Jainism, so they had questions. I answered as much as I knew and referred them to our very good friends who are Jains. The climb down was uneventful and the round trip took us less than an hour.

At around 3 pm, we started driving towards Chikmagalur. Roads and driving conditions are not easy in India. The 4000+ mile cross country trip in the U.S was such a breeze compared to this 250 km (~150 miles) drive. Many of the NHs (National Highways) are not divided, so opposite side traffic is constantly in your lane for overtaking. Highways are narrow, traffic is chaotic (cars, trucks, buses, two wheelers, auto rickshaws which are three wheelers, bullock carts, you name it!). Anyway, we finally reached our destination around 5.30 pm.

Coffee plants in the estate where we stayed

Our home for the next couple of days was a tree house in the Devigiri Coffee Estate. It was pretty neat and we really enjoyed our stay here. It is in the middle of tall trees, some distance away from the main house and other accommodation. But the kids, especially AK, was scared at night. Not scared like crying, but as night approached he would be lost in his own thoughts, with a worried looking face but too proud to voice his fears. This one didn’t have electricity, so we just had a powerful lantern in case we needed it. After dinner, even the 3 min walk from the dining hall in the pitch darkness was adventurous.

Tree house

Tree house where we stayed

Evenings were spent playing badminton or soccer, but it was a challenge to keep the kids entertained from 6.45 to 8.30 (after sunset and before dinner). They couldn’t play in the dark and there was no TV or other entertainment. Luckily there were some other larger groups with energetic 20 somethings who did play with them, so it was a small break for us. PK’s comment was that the next time we do something like this we should come in a larger group. But it was not for my lack of trying when I planned this. We asked few friends/family and it just didn’t work out.

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