September 28, 2015

Any Road

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. : George Harrison (Any Road)

And a road with a divider will get you there faster. : Kaushal Kaushik

Although inspired by the line above (the line above) that we first heard from our Geography teacher back at school (in totally different context), yet our roadtrip was somewhat planned (on one long whatapp post) - force fitting 1200 kms in the space of 4 days.

Bangalore - Shravanbelagola - Belur - Halebidu - Chikmanglur - Sringeri - Agumbe - Maravanthe - Murudeswar - Jog Falls - Shimoga - Bangalore.

Nusrat further force-fitted Gokarna into the itinerary - but like the rest of it - it all turned out to be better than anticipated. Well it wasn't like we went to Europe or Mars. Actually, we didnt even leave the state of Karnataka (roaming expenses saved) - yet it was no less fun - for it wasn't just a journey down the highway lane, but the memory lane as well. The trip got over but we weren't done digging the Oak Grove stories.
Only Dubs (who had to abstain due to his forever withstanding permission issues) could have spiced up equations. But present or not, he played more important role in making this materialise then he can ever know. Thank you Dubs!
Also, thanks to Haddaway for literally keeping the tempo up and the energy flowing until thoughts of the working days came haunting back and dampened the amplitude of those headbangs.

(The better part of the) four days summed up in four minutes.

If it were upto me, I would have bunked the first three stops (Shravanbelagola, Belur and Halebidu) and landed directly in Chickmanglur. But then the other two's enthusiasm surpassed my estimation of the same.

You think the name is difficult. Try typing it as many times as I already have in this post.

Through my second visit to this Monolithic giant statue of Gomateswara, I did come across a couple of interesting nooks and corners that had escaped me the last time.
The approach upto the hillock having the statue is a pretty scenic drive. Then comes the climb. Must be over 500 steps. You might claim it to be more by what you feel (your legs feel) once your jack and jill are back down the hill.

(Not to be confused with Vellore)

You know what South Indian temples look like. Intricate carvings in every nook where light in its particle form can fall upon. How the hands reached those nooks is perhaps whole other level of science (and art). We discussed that it must be like each guy just picked up a pillar and spent his life masterfully chiseling away every square inch of it.

(To be confused with Belur - Its almost like a Deja Vu)

As if Belur wasn't enough - its like these two temples (Belur and Halebidu) in the vicinity of each other were in mortal competition - whose rocks are more designer?!
We got there late so had to dash for one circle through the lush green outreaches of the structure. It was difficult for our gaze to not linger on - but then there were those shouts in Kannada 'Banni <something angry> <something even angrier>'. We hurried through ignoring it hoping may be they were hurled towards others. Unfortunately, we were the only ones there.

What do mean spelling error? Its actually 'maglur' and not 'manglur'; but I have gone ahead with the general pronunciation.

Initially we were looking for hills which returned a 404 error. We stayed the night and in course discovered that more distance had to be covered to gain elevation. And boy did it get elevated! The winds on Mulayanagiri made us question ours (and others) choice of shorts.
Misty, rainy, windy - the change is almost so sharp that you can draw a boundary. Sprawling coffee estates all around made us want for a hot cup or two. Nusrat on his inability to locate a Coffee Day in sight - lamented in his rhyming plight - "Coffee coffee everywhere - not a drop to drink!"

And the sharks of river Tunga!

Actually they were just fish. But huge. So huge that they had run out of scales to cover their bodies - perks of being in the riverside of a temple. Harmless as they might have been - but just their sheer numbers and the way they splashed around for every bit of food thrown in - made me wary of putting my feet in water.
The Tunga flows lazily across with the Jyotirmatha established by Adi Shankarachaya on one bank and a 650 years old temple on the other. If Halebidu and Belur were art marvels - this one brought hardcore science into the already z-level competition. The 12 pillars outside the sanctum sanctorum (intricately carved majestic lions with spheres inside there mouth!) represent the 12 zodiac signs. The first rays of light fall upon the zodaic the sun is currently in. In the middle lies a big circular plaque with random straight lines intersecting each other - elaborating some shadow geometry you dont want me to explain. And the secret is being guarded (no photography allowed).

And we saw elephants.

Cherrapunji of south : Wikipedia

Enroute Maravanthe (from Sringeri), the degree of slope as well as the curve increased. It was ever more scenic and ever more green. And then it started to pour (skipping the drizzling and raining part altogther). The sobriquet provided by wikipedia stands justified.
(Note: Cherrapunji is a place in Meghalaya which records the highest rainfall in India. Sometimes its a neighbouring place called Mawsynram, but then Cherrapunji is more famous.)

Sea on one side, river on the other.

Sometime around last year I had come across an article describing this place. Its about a kilometer long stretch of road - with Arabian sea on one side and river Kolluru on the other. Intriguing as it might appear - the truth isnt  too far from the imagery. Other than perhaps the 4 lane-ing of the existing road which might just make the distance between the sea and the river a bit wider.

Another temple. "When did we get so religious?"
Ever since we have had things to fear.

A high gopuram and an imposing Shiva statue and seashore around. I only wanted to be here because of the pictures I had seen. But was glad to hear yet another story where Ravana got duped by Gods who feared his increasing strength. The story stated in the beginning that Ravana was going to Gokarna. And we wondered why? Wasnt Sri Lanka a good enough weekend destination. As this discussion went on - it somehow remoulded our trip plans. Gokarna was inserted as a night stop before we set forth for Jog.

read Gau-karna in off-season

'Cause cows and buffaloes adorned the beautiful Kudle that we had seen strewn with eye candies on our earlier visits. They even tear down the shacks. "I had stayed there last time", I said pointing at a heap of burnt bamboo and infinite jungle behind it.
Luckily a couple stay and food options were still available and barely enough sunlight for us to complete one hearty splash in the water and sand.
Beach and beer go well together. I dont remember the rest of the night.

Jog Falls
India's highest. (Until they found a higher one in Meghalaya recently.)

The final day, the way back home was taken. Different from the one we had taken during the inward journey, this one cornered the Jog Falls a 100 kms in.
You have to view it from afar. The multilple falls - white-lining the mountain afront.


The last 400 kms were covered. Toll gates, signals welcomed us back. And the khooni Monday lay in the offing.
If you dont know where you are going, then any road will take you there. And then you are there. And then you get back to being the busy, and the tired, and the pursuing and the pursued.
(Until next time.)

Do not read between the lines.
Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline
Everything is relative to your perspective

March 12, 2015

Of Masks and Men


picture #1: Om Beach
picture #2,4,5: Kudle Beach
picture #3: Arabian Sea
picture #6: Enroute Yana, Sirsa

Gokarna is a small village-town located in uttar (north) Karnataka - about 600 kms from Bangalore. With the foothills of the western ghats jutting into the Arabian sea in form of multiple cliffs, few pristine beach stretches could be found here.
Beautiful, yet it makes you work to get there, with all beaches being a trek away, rather than being easily reachable or directly motorable. The Om beach (shaped like the numeral 3) and the Kudle beach are the prime locations. But for the trek worthy and the persistent, you also have the following treats:
1. Paradise beach
2. Small Hell beach
3. Half Moon Beach
4. Heaven beach
5. Mystery cave beach
(I have not made up these names.)

Ideal for a weekend stay, you could extend it to visit certain nearby attractions - each taking about one day of time (and 4200 kilojoules of energy).
1. Murudeshwar - Maravanthe - 125 Kms
    Maravanthe brings before you a sight of a river and the sea on either side of the highway (NH 17), barely separated by few metres of a thin strip of land.
2. Jog Falls - 110 Kms
    Remember that waterfall you read about in GK books?
3. Yana - 60 Kms
    Strange, black (too too damn black) rock formations which just do not mingle with the surrounding geology.

Poem is an original composition - you can use it, but not without my name on it!
Do not read between the lines.
Lines have been forcibly rhymed - thats how i like it, like it.
Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline
Everything is relative to your perspective

February 03, 2015

Because Its There...

The Pennar Gorge, Gandikota Fort, Andhra Pradesh
Roughly 300 Kms from Bangalore, I had never heard or read about this place in the 18 months that I have been here. So many people around with the traveler/rider tag, yet nobody never said a thing. Wonder how! I saw a similar picture <as above> while web-scraping for a weekend getaway, and a weekend later I was there. I could successfully imprint this 'calling' into convincing fellow mates to accompany me there. And I bet they are not complaining. 

Smaller than the size of average IT Park you work in, this place is all but a fort. Spread and perched on one side of the gorge cut by the Pennar river. A scant local population living in the fort premises and a tourist resort (APTDC operated and reasonably decent) inhabit the surroundings. With sparse vegetation, mostly shrubs, adding a tinge of green to the uneven terrain, the place is a sun baked heap of stones and boulders.

The Pennar Gorge
It was a sight I failed to capture well enough with the camera, and I might fail with words as well. The towering reddish-brown 90 degree drop on one side and the fort wall atop the stony-boulder'ed slope on the other, make up this bow shaped gorge. The deep green waters below meandering through this crevice. Watch the morning sun light up this gorge, or a setting sun match its color, or the moon reflected in the water below - and save yourself a journey half-way around the world (read Grand Canyon) for this sight. Exaggeration much? Yes.  So?

Shanky Spotting an Albatross
Pennar taking a U Turn
Bungi and Kingu Meditating irrespective of perspective
Me getting photographed while taking a photograph
Le Sangam Photography
Selfie-ing cause nobody was taking my picture
The Fort
'Gandi' means 'gorge' in telugu. The walls mark the territory. The structure in itself is as formidable as fort should be. Weathered with time, yet majestic in its historic significance.

Bungi thinking about unlimited buffet (because he trekked a tad too much)

The two ends of Pennar have a reservoir each. The Gandikota reservoir at one end and the 'Tatireddy Narsimha Reddy Reservoir' on the other. The driveway through the dam across the latter is another fine experience to be absorbed.

Bungi not sharing the lollipop with anyone

The western horizons adorn a number of windmills. And if you keep following any one of the numerous 'windmill service roads' there, you can reach right upto the foot of one of them (and maybe get inside one of the huge unused wings lying around (subject to absence of authority around).

Bungi measuring the wing span of the windmill blade

Belum Caves
Another (apparently better known) ataraction around are the Belum Caves. Around 60 kms off, one of the longest of its kind, it is a string of underground caves. As long as you can handle your claustrophobia, you can keep going inward and come across several 'halls' with remains of stalactites and stalagmites and an underwater aquifer (pataal-ganga).
It gets hot in there, and bending and crawling through the stony-edgy roofs and pathways, it gets strenuous.
Coupled with a white Budhha statue outside, it lives upto the hype it boasts of.

Another mention-worthy spot is this deserted village (perhaps due to the dam-reservoir development across it). All broken and stony and a touch creepy - yet peaceful in its own respite. And if nothing, you could just play skipping stones on the edge of the reservoir for a while...
..and then get back to being the busy, the tired, the pursuer and the pursued.

Bungi trying to swing it like Wasim Akram
But losing control like Praveen Kumar

Kingu looking for a place to make a reservoir
Me taking one more selfie when no one was watching
Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline
Everything is relative to your perspective