Monday 27 December 2021

Hinterlands of Mysore


 

The true beauty of our country is hidden in the interior routes that are not frequented by tourists. You won’t find a fancy restaurant here. But a small joint run by a couple, where they dish up homely food. This way, one is not spoilt for choice with numerous dishes on the menu, which takes ages to decide what to eat. In the southern interior regions of Karnataka, it would be Idli or Dosa. Ditching the four-lane highway leading to Hunsur and eventually Kushalnagar, we turned towards the hinterland of Mysore. Riding along the KRS backwaters watching the stunning Sagarakatte Railway bridge crossing the lifeline river Kaveri passing through hamlets named Hoskote, we breakfasted at Kalenahalli. There are curves at every corner, and a narrow road with no traffic was pure bliss to ride in the early morning fog with scanty sunlight. Reaching Krishnarajanagar, a grand board greets you with the words “Welcome to the land of paddy”. Vast areas covered with paddy fields on either side of the road, ready to be harvested, were glowing golden in the morning sun. Remaining faithful to exploring the interior parts, we rode on minor roads. Deviating again from Konanur, we entered the less frequented routes to reach Shanivarasanthe through coffee plantations and reserve forest. From Shanivarasanthe, the path was straightforward, Kudrasthe – Patla and Bisle Ghat viewpoint.  At Kudrasthe, there is a deviation towards Sakleshpura. The road is patchy, but the views are astounding. Stop at the viewpoint maintained and run by the forest department and enjoy the spectacular vista of the Western Ghats and the gurgling rush of a distant waterfall.

 


Be amused by the enthralling landscape of the Western Ghats from another vantage point nearby – the unpretentious Patla Betta. The Mallalli waterfalls seem to be gaining popularity, with signposts at several locations, worth exploring if you have time on your side. With a long day ahead and our share of quest for the period fulfilled, we headed back to Mysore with a heavy heart. Choosing a different route, we steered towards Somwarpet. Narrow winding roads through nondescript villages with a steep uphill at some parts, we made it to the outskirts of Somwarpet. Gliding on the smooth curvy roads, we stopped for a late lunch at Kushalnagar. The golden temple is not open to visitors, owing to the safety of the settlement. The last leg of the journey from Hunsur was tiresome, with the roadway filled with crater-like potholes. At length, after cursing the transport department and the bothersome local dunderheads on the road, we made it to our Airbnb in Mysore exhausted.

The day’s ride: 307 kilometres

Mysore - Hunsur Road - Gomatagiri Road – Hosakote – Sagarakatte – Vadralli – KR Nagara – Chunchunakatte – Hadya cross – J Hosahalli – Ramanthapura – Bettadahalli – Shanivarasante – Kudrasthe – Bisle Ghat view point – Kudrasthe – Koothi – Somwarpet – Kushalnagara – Hunsur - Mysore

Monday 13 December 2021

The twists and turns of Malnad

 

A change in weather was much welcome after the balmy, humid time spent at the coast. The yearning to traverse the twists and turns of Charmady was quite strong. Instead of the straight route via Kudremukha – Kalasa and to Mudigere, the chosen path to reach our amiable home-stay was Karkala - Bajagoly - Ujjire - Charmady Ghat - Kottigehara - Mudigere - Belur road - KR Pete - Smarika Farms, covering 160 kilometres.

 


This mountain road comes alive in Monsoon with water cascading at the roadside flowing as scintillating waterfalls. By December, only a few of them survived to charm us. The incredible landscape, from vantage points, compelled us to stop, despite the boards announcing not to take photographs or selfies. The ascent to the Western Ghats begins after crossing the bustling traffic of Ujjire.  Omelette from a non-descript restaurant right after the town perked up our energy levels for the road ahead.  MalnadCafé is a customary stop when in the area. Based in Banakal, 5km after Kottigehara towards Belur, they serve scrumptious akki rotti with fresh filter coffee. The cordial owner Chandan is warm and welcoming. They are expanding the venture, and construction for a homestay is underway. Feeling at home in this part of Western Ghats – maybe because we lived in Kudremukha for 6 months, we were thrilled to be back in the familiar territory. 

 


Smarika Farms, located amidst the coffee and pepper plantation, is a short 5-minute drive from the settlement of KR Pete. The place offers various accommodation facilities targeted at both larger and smaller groups. The skilled chef who hails from a nearby locale prepares delicious meals. The kind owner Sanjay is passionate about hospitality. One of the treasured routes is Chikmagalur – Aldur – Koppa, where a family-run Harsha Café dishes out unrivalled Neer Dose. Another obligatory pit stop we never miss when in Chikmagalur.

 


Moving on, we settled on the route suggested by the locals to Mutthodi. Covering 150 kilometres, the day’s ride was: Smarika Farms - Aldur - Magodu – Kanathi Lake - Mallandur - Muthodi Nature Camp - Mallandur - Chikamagalur - KR Pete - Smarika Farms. The unceasing steep path lead us to a serene spot, abundant with greenery, and the reflection of which was seen in the tranquil water of the lake. Time stood still while we basked in the placidness of nature. When we joined the main Mallandur road, the dizzying twists and turns gave way to wider roads.  Certain spots in the last few kilometres of the route inside the forest are narrow and miserable. You will emerge at a junction that takes you to Dattapeetha once you cross the nature reserve.

 

After a restful night and interesting conversations with Sanjay, we bid adieu to Smarika Farms. Covering a distance of 2000 kilometres, the momentous road trip ended with our return to Namma Bengaluru. 




Saturday 11 December 2021

The foodie's paradise - Udupi

 

We headed back to the Mangalore highway (NH 66) and continued our journey to Udupi. Watching mirages on the black tarmac in the scorching sun. Sagar Restaurant with air conditioning was a relief from the heat. Occasional stops at Highway Nest near NHAI toll plaza to refuel with coffee made it easier to reach Udupi around 5pm. The stretch at Maravanthe, with the sea on one side and the river on the other, doesn’t miss taking one’s breath away no matter how many times you ride on that path. Checked in at Leo’s AirBnB apartment near District Hospital and called it a day. FZ needed some minor repairs and found a small workshop nearby to get those done.

 

 


 

If you have only an hour to spare in Udupi, head to Priyadarshini at Brahmagiri and enjoy a cup of coffee with some snacks. But you may have to wait for a while to get a spot here. So popular with the locals, you will find many working men enjoying their ‘tiffin’ here from 7am to 7pm. The laid-back town is home to the famed Sri Krishna Mutt Temple and the Anantha Padmanabha Temple. This region is a haven for food connoisseurs.




After a lip-smacking breakfast, we made our way to Varanga Kere (lake) Basadi. Known also as Chaturmukha Basadi with four Thirthankaras facing four directions. As expected, google maps took us for a ‘ride’ through tiny village roads and startlingly, the route was worth every mile we rode. The humble Jain temple is located in the middle of a lake and accessible only by a small boat ride (Rs 20). When you start the ride, a school of fish will ride along with the boat until your destination, reminding you of ‘Finding Nemo’. This 13th Century temple is very unique in its location. Another temple built in the 12th century, opposite the lake temple across the paddy field, is the Hire Basadi, the abode of Neminatha Tirthankara.

 


 

The Malpe beach is equipped with water sports activities, a boat ride to the famous St.Mary’s Island and numerous shacks on the sands offering delectable food. Over a leisurely lunch, we met a fellow traveller friend from Auroville. Meandering through Kodi Bengare-Hoode road, with Sita River on the right and Arabian sea on the left, we reached Delta point where the sea meets the river. This place is best visited at sunset. Malpe beach is 5 kilometres from NH 66, and Delta Point is 11 kilometres from here.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Sokku iddare Yana, Rokka iddare Gokarna

A famous Kannada saying translated as: If you have a lot of money to spend go to Rona (Gokarna) , and if you are feeling over enthusiastic visit Yana.


The coastal highway NH 66 connecting Kanyakumari to Mumbai is still a work in progress at a couple of places. The sizzling hot sun on the open road drained the energy soon after crossing Karwar. A long lunch break at Ankola to escape the sun was a wise decision. Leisurely lunch at Kamat Restaurant on the highway recharged us. Due to road work, there is no board announcing the deviation towards Gokarana. It was surprising because Gokarana is very popular amongst tourists, and it is the peak season. We rode on ahead at warp speed on the open highway. It was after 10 kilometres we realised we had crossed the deviation. The geography of Gokarna is similar to that of South Goa, Agonda in particular - forests close to the beach, stones scattered around the shores, a small hike to reach some seashore. These forests keep the weather cool and reduce the heat and humidity typical to a coastal province. Evenings and early mornings are pleasant.

We stayed near the main beach at a charming Airbnb, surrounded by paddy fields and a lot of greenery within the property. Wake up to the chirping of birds and watch the sunset from the beach, which is a mere 5-minute walk away. Plenty of food joints along the seashore serves the conventional menu - seafood, continental and Indian cuisine. Surya Café offers rooms to stay besides finger-licking good food freshly made. Not in the mood for a romantic meal? Head to Hotel Vaibhav, a family-owned restaurant where they prepare made-to-order food. The main beach is pristine, but the other commercial tourist beaches like Kudle and Om beach are tarnished with litter.

 

 


 

On the butter-smooth NH roads from Gokarna to Mangalore along the Aghanashini river deviate at Mirjan onto Sirsi-Kumta road for Yana Caves. You can stop at the elegant Mirjan fort on the way as well. Take a left turn into the dense forest road at Yana Cross and ride slowly – enjoy the gurgling stream along the road, make a pit stop at the bridges, listen to the birds. There is another route to Yana caves, which will take you to Vibhoothi falls and then to the north parking lot at Yana. You can’t cross from the Yana north parking lot to the south (Kumta side) by vehicle. Park your ride at the parking lot and buy tickets for entry. Tucked in the deep forest, the caves here is something one wouldn’t expect to see in the lush green forest of Western Ghats. A short but steep hike along the stream will take you to the famed Yana rock formations, where a temple is dedicated to Shiva. Leave your footwear and circumvent the temple to explore the caves in detail. Mind the numerous beehives on the rock formations and maintain silence to avoid disturbing them. You will get a glimpse of this wonder of nature - two giant rock hillocks - way before you reach the temple.

 


 

The legend associated with these caves tells us the story of a demon named Bhasmasura, who performed penance to Lord Shiva to obtain a boon. Whomever Bhasmasura placed his hands on would be reduced to ashes. An evil Bhasmasura wanted to test the boon on Lord Shiva. It is said that to escape from the wicked intention of Bhasmasura, Lord Shiva hid in these rock formations. Lord Vishnu taking the form of a beautiful dancer Mohini comes to the rescue and challenges Bhasmasura to a dance duel. While gaily dancing, the demon places his hand on his head and is immediately reduced to ashes. Well paved roads take you to the foot of the hillocks now, whereas, in the olden days, it used to be an arduous trek of around 16km through the dense forest.