Monday, April 1, 2013

Chikmagalur and around

My dad is always busy with work and so are all four of us.. dad, mom, sis and me! We figured we had not taken a trip in a long time as the dates never seem to match! So I thought, never procrastinate… that too when a good deed needs to be done :P

Luckily all of us adhered to the plan of just setting out the same weekend to make that long pending road trip to chikmagalur and around.

My dad always vacations with his gang of friends, so him being experienced, he arranged the vehicle, stay, where to eat, what to see and the route.

After seeing Hampi, I am a big fan of ancient stone temples, architecture, the sculptures and the like..
My sister was first against seeing Belur and Halebidu, but was delighted no end at the end of our first stop in this capital of Hoysala empire. The whether was not too hot as it had just rained a few days which made our walk in the sun bearable.
There is a saying in Kannada that reads "Halebidu hora nodu, Beluru vala nodu" which means "See the outside of Halebidu and the inside of Belur". Halebidu which literally means 'old town' looks definitely older than Belur. Most of the idols here are broken in a battle between the Hoysalas and a Sultanate. Halebidu had intricately carved depictures of lord Shiva and stories around him  on the outer arena.
Usually when I visit a temple, I never really give importance to the God being worshipped there, not that I am an atheist, but that doesnt just stick in my head. But if a temple is as beautiful as this one, it hard to ignore anything. I now learnt that the god worshipped at this temple, Hoysaleshwara was an incarnarion of Lord Shiva and there is a Nandi in all Shiva temples because he used to ride on Nandi the bull.

Halebidu temple outer arena

Nandi the vehicle of lord Shiva

The interior of Halebidu Hoysaleshwara temple

Intricute sculpures on the outer walls at Halebidu

After this stop at Halebidu, we went to see the inner beauty at Belur. Somebody approached us at the entrance claiming to be tour guide and that we would give us a receipt too, only it was 200 bucks! Never usually hire a guide anywhere, but we thought it would be a good idea to get some knowledge on the stuff that makes our history so impressive! While he walked us through most of the sculptures, we clicked enough pictures and had our mouths open all through out gaping at the intricacy of the soap stone carvings. If the guide had not pointed us to the minutest of things such as, an idol of a man playing music on his drums had even the dent in a man's drums worn out by use shown, the daasis(maids) walking the queen's dogs, the same dog barking at a snake in the garden and such multiple levels of hierarchy all carved out! Imagine having to carve out everything all over again if the sculptor had made one teeny-weeny mistake in an idol!
Anyway the guide made the sights more alluring :)
Also, Halebidu and Belur, the older and newer capitals of Hoysala empire are known as International jewellery box.. wonder why? well there idols of shilabalikas(barely clad curavcious women :P) adorning necklaces, anklets, bangles, earrings, bindis, maang thikas, almost all a woman likes to indulge in :)) carved in stone to serve as inspiration for generations to come.

A shilabalika dressing up and admiring her beauty

sculpted jewellery used by the royals of the empire

After this sojourn, we had lunch and headed to chikmagalur district. The town of chikmagalur itself doesnt have much to be seen.. its what it is surrounded by thats more interesting.. we saw a lot of coffee plantations and pepper creepers around tall trees on the way to our stay. What is the one thing we always did in chikmagalur is…eat every meal at 'town canteen' near mg road there. This is a small restaurant famous for masala dosa, coffee and gulab jamoon! and it certainly did live up to the hype created about it by a friend of dad's..

dad playing a game of gulli danda with the local kids at hiremagalur  during a pit stop

The next day we left early to hit the peak of Mullayanagiri, the highest peak in the state, before it would get too hot.
The view from atop was a breaktaking 3D view of hills and snaking roads and lush greenery! The temple perched on the peak was just as pristine as a temple should be, there were hardly any people, pin drop silence and the floor was sparkling clean. The yard was washed with cow dung and a rangoli layed out. So we sat inside the temple in the shade for quite a while before starting our descent.

the view from Mullayanagiri hills

the temple at the peak

On the way to Kemmanagundi from here, we made a stop at an unknown waterfall. The sign board did not suggest the name of this one. There was just a guy selling pineapple slices and he told us the name of this waterfall was Daddabe…  From the road the falls was not visible. We had immense fun at this one, taking short routes on difficult paths, to avoid the longer route downhill. There were many other people as well, so we joined in :)
Half way down, we heard the gushing water as it made its way between the leaves and rocks to hit the ground.
Most waterfalls are disappointing as some are man made, some have so much access that it gets very crowded to even hear the sound of water! But this one was quite unlike any other I had seen, hidden away, not easily reachable, was quite high and was in the midst of a lush green jungle. The water was pure and cold, the jungle forming a canopy around the valley, the water hitting the rocks and forming a beautiful pond on the ground. Would make for a perfect romantic day. I think on a weekday, the crowd wouldnt be there, so one can make a drive down from chikmagalur and spend about half a day here.. it was beautiful.

the walk down to reach daddabe

the waterfall at daddabe

The rest of the evening, we spent at Kemmanagundi, viewing the perfect sunset ever and exploring somewhere on our own to spot another water fall, by when mom was calling out to us as it was getting dark.

lush green hills and valleys of kemamnagundi

The next morning, we started back to Bangalore, but making many stops on the way, being silly, watching birds, clicking pictures and running in the middle of the woods. I donno if it was the scent of pure nature or the lack of thick, black smoky city air that made the drive so amazing. This trip has definitely been my closest tryst with nature. Loved each moment, every bird, every leaf and every particle of sand that I met with. As at the end of any trip, I did not want to leave. I hope the place remains as untouched.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Where do I pee!

That summer a couple of years ago we were making a trip to goa.
Just like the others, I too was beaming with exuberance at the thought of playing in the waters, lazing by the beach, a cocktail in hand and gorging on sea food.

The beaches were just a night journey away and with the road from Bangalore to Goa being pretty good, I would doze the night away on the bus.
A few hours into the journey, we had a pit stop mainly for people to stretch their legs and answer nature's call.
We got down from the bus and looked around, there seemed to be no toilet even with the torches held out! Some guys went into the dark behind bushes and the girls just came back into the bus and asked the driver to stop somewhere else on the way.

There was this particular guy in the bus who wanted the AC running at a low temperature just because he had paid for a bus with AC. Bugger! That too he was wearing a lungi!! wonder how his legs dint feel the shiver!

Anyway we got moving and people were woken up again by the screeching halt of our bus. By now I really wanted to pee and had not slept for a while waiting for this stop. So was timely.
Now, there was indeed a toilet, and a tea stall nearby.

By now all the girls wanted to pee and got down at this chance. Each girl who went in came back with an ugly face and I knew not to expect a decent toilet. But the moment I went in, I was appalled.. first of all there was no light inside. There could be cockroaches and other rodents looming there. I was scared to step in, but desperate times! Went in with the torch. There was no latch on the door and needless to say it was an Indian style toilet. No thats not the problem.
The toilet was half broken and there was excrement from god knows when! It makes me pukish thinking about it. But again.. desperate times.. After finishing the chore I discovered no running water in the broken tap and no stored water in an old falling apart bucket. I would dare not touch that even. Well…I came out with a wrinkled face too.

The ghastly experience was definitely a mood dampener for the start of the trip. A saying goes something like.. its about the journey, not the destination...but I guess this is not the kind of journey they had in mind with the saying!
I just came back to the bus determined not to ever travel by bus again. Luckily we had a train booking on the journey back.
Its sad that in a country which could do big on tourism, basic amenities are not considered.

Had a lovely trip nonetheless but just had to pen this down.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hampi and the Utsav

Of all the weekends, all year round, we had to select that particular potentially disastrous weekend to visit Hampi..

It was way back in feb 2011.
This is one of my most memorable travels due to the things that happened to us and also because I can never forget the beauty and vastness of the empire.

For the most part, this is a picture heavy post. There is no charm in words compared to the amazing sights I have tried to capture through the lens.
I hope it takes you back to your visit of Hampi and I hope it makes you want to visit Hampi.

 The main area where food was being served on the occasion of the Utsav. People were gathered from all parts of Karnataka to witness the cultural festival.

 Elephant freshly bathed in the Tunga-Bhadra river and being taken to the temple for a puja

 There were very few moments and very few places we didn't find anybody around us. We often had to wait long to take a picture without anybody else other than us in it.

Only some of the temples have puja being performed in them to this day. The others which are abandoned have become a house for bats look spooky even. Also some others are in ruins and have restoration in process.


 This is one of my favorite pics from the lot. Away from the crowd, this guy finds a place of worship of his own.

One of my cousins was an architecture student at that time and had visited the place numerous times already.. so he led the way to a walking tour..

As we kept walking it was becoming more and more difficult to ignore the smell of urine.
Due to Hampi Utsav, people from all the neighouring towns, villages and generally from most of Karnataka were there.. There are special pujas performed and some cultural programmes like dances and classical music oraganized and free lunches in the form of 'prasada'(food offering to people after worship to God) given. Its the biggest cultural festival in this part of Karnataka...
So the crowd was crazy, people eating from plantain leaves and areca plates and throwing them around and dogs feeding from them..
There were not enough toilets, so people peeing near tourist attractions!

We had to make our exit from the area where the main festival was happening in the evening and the scene was almost like a stampede. I was being surrounded by four guys around me to safe gaurd me from sick men who I could have killed. My blood was boiling as I was hurling curses at them.
And once we reached the exit.. it was a whole new struggle again to find an auto to take us to Hospet.. I was frantically trying to call a friend who lives in Hospet for help and the guys were trying their best to get us a ride.
Since we did not get a ride to hospet for a long time, we went to have dinner at the Mango tree restaurant. And after dinner, we realized it is all the more difficult to get an auto from there.  We were stuck there for over an hour and I was almost in tears as my legs had given way by then and I could not walk any more. But after a while again, when we made our way out in the dark of the night, we were spooked out by a lone granny sitting on the rocks and chanting away!! Could not control my tears any more.

 At last after about 2 hours after dinner and walking about 3 more miles(after an entire day of walking in the hot sun) we found an open-back auto with the driver crying!!(really)... and my cousin was hit by the police with a lathi as the auto was too full.... words cant express, we were trying to safe gaurd our money and cameras and I was hurling curses and crying.

But in all, its one of my most memorable travels... thanks to the guys!
If you plan to make a visit to Hampi, please avoid making it during the Utsav.