As I sit down to write this blog, I am wondering what should be the title of the blog. Is this a travelogue or an adventurous experience or a day in my life? Well, could be a combination of all of them.. Let me decide the title later..
It was a Saturday night when I was fighting boredom. I was sitting with my laptop, scrolling up and down the Facebook page and my roomie was sitting with hers. Both of us were blank and tired of sitting idle with nothing to do. It is really tough to sit without doing anything, is it not? . My roomie suddenly reminded of how her friend had gone to Belur, haleid through KSTDC and I drifted away from Facebook page to Google and then it landed me up into KSTDC site. There were lot of tour packages and my eyes were hovering over the one day trips. There was the Belur, Halebid and Shravanbelagola tour for one day. I always had the fancy to visit Hampi for its architectural beauty and Belur, Halebid was one such too. And so I was curiously looking over the itinerary while a chat window popped up! Wow, the Karnataka Tourism site had an online chat window. I had doubts if it really works? I reluctantly typed a 'Hi' and there came the reply, 'please give the number of days and location'. I was so surprised and followed by that there were numerous queries from my side and bingo, there was a trip the very next day with free seats available. It was night 9pm when we decided that we should hop into that bus. But! We need to report at KSTDC office at morning 6am and the place is like easily an hour from my home which means I have to wake up at like 4am! Really?! On a Sunday that too? But the thought of scrolling the Facebook page up and down was even worse! And so we decided to get up early and go ahead with the trip. We packed whatever essential we could think of, some fruits, biscuits, water, camera, umbrella and much more. It was night 12 by the time I hit bed and the thought that I have to wake up early, was waking me up every hour in the night. Restless with no sleep I switched off the alarm before it could buzz and I went on to wake up my roomie. We got ready as quickly as possible and reached the bus stop at five in the morning to catch a bus to the corporation circle. With just dogs and darkness for company we were eagerly looking at the headlights to turn out into buses but they were all the night cabs. Impatient with time ticking we hopped into an auto after starting with a dose of fight for a fair fare. Anyways.. That didn't happen, lucky he, got handful of money early in the morning! Sleepy me I was with the illusion that I was rushing to catch the bus at night to go home and I was so confused why it was turning bright and what was I doing?! With the day getting brighter, there we were, at the Badami house sharp at 6am.
There were people waiting for different tours and there was a good mix of crowd. From cozying couples, family with children, bachelors, friends and aged people. Somebody appeared at the counter and I popped up with full enthusiasm, "Two tickets to Badami". My roomie pulled my bag and said, "It's Belur!" Really? "We are at Badami house, you wanted to go to Hampi, Badami but now it is Belur, Halebid. Wake up!" Ok!! My head and eyes were heavy so she must be right. The man across the counter heard us and issued two tickets to Belur, Halebid. Yay!! The bus arrived sharp at 6.30am and it was half full. We chose a comfortable window seats to sit and dozed off! The first stop was for breakfast at a KSTDC run hotel. They did not have idly and we had to settle for plain dosa. In came masala dosa and when I insisted on plain dosa, there came the same dosa sans masala! But that didn't serve my appetite and we went for a poori, an oil dripping poori. The drive was through villages with people living simple life. Stretches of coconut or palm grove followed by small tiled house with a cow and bull in the front. The volvo bus was still a fascination to the people as they stopped to stare or wave at the bus. Hmmm..
The first place we stopped was Shravanabelagola. History about the place can be found in wiki pages. It is famous for the tall Bahubali statue and the place is said to be one of the seven wonders of India. It was a hot summer day and the heat was slowly setting in. Slippers are not allowed while you climb the mountain. They were selling socks on the foot of the mountain and I was like, "Arey come on yaar, it is a shrine, and to get blessings of the God we better climb bare foot!" Brilliant me. It is a whopping 640 steps climb one way. The steps were carved out of the mountain and it was pretty steep. We climbed and stopped and hushed and pushed and climbed and stopped and pushed and hushed and climbed and stopped. There wasn't much of shelter and the sun was amazingly hot. I diverted my attention from short of breath to the view around the mountain, the compact city surrounded by green pastures and the temple on an opposite hillock. To me it is a mountain and not a hill! The top of the steps was in vicinity and we decided to sit down for a while to rest our feet but the sun had other plans. Just like the GluconD ad, the sun had a straw inserted right into my head and was sucking up all the energy. I had no coolers, cap but luckily we had juice and some water, which was a savior
While we were looking at the top, hoping it would walk down to us, a passerby as though he could read our face said, "This is the 410 step you are sitting on. There are 200 more!" Whaaaaat!! We got up and turned to walk and the whole world went reeling around me. Is this is what is called as heat stroke? I felt so dizzy and I sat down right there holding my head and my roomie panicked. I felt like somebody had placed a heavy stone on my head and my head has gone squishy. I pushed my roomie to go further and she moved on reluctantly. But I have done this before, I have trekked kilometers, climbed to rock temple in hard rain and climbed 700 steps in an ice cave. Well ice is more sympathetic! With that determination and once the reeling seemed under control and setting the next step as my goal, I proceeded further. It was never ending but I did reach the top. My roomie was clicking pics of each and every pillar around so that I do not miss seeing anything. She was very much happy to see me. The magnificent statue of Bahubali showed us how small we are. The climb down is easier except for the steep and slanting steps throwing you out of balance. There were also people to carry you on a chair!! Survival! I couldn't carry myself and walk and these guys were climbing with other people in a chair!
The next stop was Halebid followed by Belur. The architectural beauty of this place makes you go aww. The intricate craftsmanship made me wonder what visionary they have to be to carve out each detail out of single stone without making a mistake. Imagine you work on something so intricately for days and something goes wrong! It is not sketch on a paper to erase! And Belur has a replica built by the side of it based on which the temple is built! The whole thing was soo sooo soo unbelievably good. If you have time you can walk around the temple and get to know so much from mythology. That is about the temple.
C oming to other things. Now the sun was at its peak, it was noon, we were bare foot and footwear not allowed as both is temples. Seriously, just buy socks! And if you are beauty conscious, then chuck the idea of going there on a summer. Next the guides! They were knowledgeable with information about various statues there. But the funny part is, a Hindu goes to a Hindu temple and he explains, this is Shiva, this is His wife Parvati, this if His son Ganesh the remover of obstacles! They are good for foreigners! It was pathetic when he went, "This saint looks like Greek God, he is dressed like him! This lady has a dress like frock! This lady has a pony tail! Fashion repeats!!" Man what was he trying to emphasize? Our history is way way way back and he was talking like the sculptures there have western influence! The next thing I was expecting out of him was, "this lady here is wearing a legging and tube top!" Thankfully he didn't say that. Few things that were annoying were, it was a temple and people were hardly giving any such respect! It was just a tourist attraction place! The next annoying thing was even the guides were touching the statues so many times!! When will we learn to preserve such places? In western countries they will not even let you use flash of the camera! Phew!
It was around 5.30 in the evening when we started back to Bangalore. It was a four hour journey back to Bangalore but on the way rain caught us so very badly. We were roasted in sun all the while and suddenly in the evening there comes heavy rain! Well it was an enjoyment for a while as the rain was slashing the huge window pane and the bus vrooming through huge puddles of water. But then as the vehicle slowed down and the traffic started piling up, we were sure of getting delayed. Throughout the way there were multiple accidents, one hit on another, one hit on a divider, one hit on a tree. We were praying that the rain should stop by the time we reach Bangalore as our energies were already drained out. It was 10.30 in the night when we reached Bangalore! Thankfully there was no rain. We decided to hire a taxi as it was too late. Amidst the confusion of cab availability, cab cancellation we hopped into the bus thinking that it will go to our place but it turned out to be going to majestic! Brilliant we. The cab guy was standing on other side of majestic and he was giving us amazing directions as how to reach there. We had serious doubts if we will ever reach home safely. The moment we got into the cab it started pouring! The same heavy down pour seems to be following us everywhere. Now all those cars that I saw on the way which had met with accidents came into my mind and I was so very scared. I was trying hard to see through the front glass pane with rain slashing on it. But the driver was comfortably driving through puddles of water at high speed. It was one adventurous ride. By the time we reached home, it was close to midnight. The tiring aching feet and body and soul went straight to bed with lousy thoughts of next day being Monday!
Overall the KSTDC package was worth the pick. The cost per person was Rs.1070 which does not include food or guide fees. They stopped at well maintained KSTDC hotels for breakfast and lunch. It is better to visit these places during winter or rainy season. Pack some juice, water, energy bars, coolers, cap, socks and wear comfortable clothing..
Let me just name the blog as Belur, Halebid and Shravanabelagola.. I am not able to think of anything better.
This blog was officially on 'Masala-Box'