Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms)

Tripoto
30th Jun 2015
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 1/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Farmer in Western Ghats
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 2/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Kumaradhara River, Subramanya
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 3/15 by Devyani Kalvit
The journey...
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 4/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Gundimane home stay
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 5/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Road to Agumbe
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 6/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Tunga Dam
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 7/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Subramanya town
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 8/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Tasi Beach
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 9/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Paddy fields
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 10/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Routemap
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 11/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Sowthadka Shri Mahaganapathy Kshetra
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 12/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Karnataka cuisine
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 13/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Jog Falls
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 14/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Hyderabad Nagpur Highway
Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) 15/15 by Devyani Kalvit
Turtle Bay Beach Resort

Sometime they say ‘serendipity’ works wonders and they aren’t wrong in saying that at all!



So, let me tell you a short story of how it all began. After I graduated in 2013, I took up a job in Bangalore and was neck-deep into it till October 2014 when I realized that I needed to go for higher studies and the decision was followed by hasty resignation and a conscious decision to drive back home, that is Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh), a whopping distance of 1500 km! But, life as you know it! 1500 was kind of small, so we decided to take a de-tour and go by a long cut, yes you heard it right and do a massive 2800 km in a matter of 6 days! Hold on a bit more and see for yourself what the ‘UNPLANNED’ journey has to tell!

Bangalore -> Mysore -> Coorg -> Subramanya -> Kadaba -> Kodimbala -> Panja -> Kudremukh -> Karekatte -> Sringeri -> Agumbe -> Konanduru -> Ullur -> Marattur -> Jog Falls -> Gundimane -> Konjavahalli -> Trasi -> Thirthalli -> Shivamoga -> Chennagiri -> Hyderabad -> Nagpur -> Bilaspur

Here is a little sneak peek into the journey.

Day 1: Bangalore (Song of the day – Photograph: Nickelback)

We were already very late to leave the city and when we finally got time to breathe, it was 5 pm. Bangalore traffic and that too on a weekday can give you a hell ride. We finally got on the highway and started our so-called adventurous journey. The day had been hectic due to packing and move out formalities so we had kept the word ‘hunger’ out of the agenda but suddenly when skyscrapers gave way to quaint village surroundings, the word sprung back from its slumber and made its presence felt.

So, we stopped at a place called ‘Kamat Lokaruchi’ (it’ll be on the right side of the road when you are going to Mysore). Known for its authentic Karnataka cuisine and delicious food varieties, this place isn’t like a normal dhaba. Small huts located amidst dense coconut groove prove to be an ideal place to have a quick meal. You can also buy some handicrafts from two small shops located at the entrance. Talking of the cuisine, you must not miss ‘Pineapple Shira, Mude Idly, Karabath and of course the all time favourite filter coffee’!

Having satiated our hunger, we hit the road again. For the first time in days, XUV was cruising at 165 kmph on the straight roads. We were all happy and that was the best sunset witnessed in the past few days. Finally we reached Mysore, but it was only a pit stop. We took a quick look at the Mysore Palace which looked brilliant with all the mercury lamps bathing it in their divine glow. It was already 7:30 in the evening and we had a long way to go. We took the route that would take us straight to Coorg. Ok, but here is a catch, having been to Coorg before, we wanted to circumvent it and try something new and hence we chose Subramanya. Make sure that you take the shortcut to reach there, otherwise you’ll have to go to Coorg and then proceed which will be a good extra distance.

So, coming back to the drive, we were unfortunate that we had to do it practically in night when nothing was visible, first, because the place is covered with forest and second, there is absolutely no village for a stretch of some kilometers. 

The road is a single-lane tarred road that winds through dense foliage and now and then you could see some small rivulets and bridges on them. So, we decided to switch off the engine at one location and listen to what nature had to tell. The song of the silence was mindblowing. Because it was monsoons, so frogs were croaking their way to glory, crickets and cicadas tried to provide a background score. Deep in the jungles, the soft crushing of twigs and leaves could be heard piercing through silence. And not to forget the boisterous brook rushing past the stillness of the night. In short, it was divine.

But if you ever need to go to Subramanya, go to this place in morning as you wouldn’t want to miss this scenic drive. Finally, we reached Subramanya at 12:30 am, midnight, that is. We chose hotel Vijay comforts and took a west-facing room and dozed off to sleep. Rest for the next day, indeed!

Day 2: Subramanya (Song of the day – Muskurane ki wajah tum ho: Citylights)

For those of you who haven’t heard about this quiet sleepy town, Subramanya is famous for the Kukke Subramanya temple. Embraced by the Kumardhara river, this town worships the snake god. Apart from the temples, for the people who are interested in wilderness and drives, this proves to be a perfect place. There are many dirt tracks leading to small villages situated deep inside, but it is advisable to take those routes in winters. There is one more temple called ‘Sowthadka Shri Mahaganapathy Kshethra’.

I am not a deeply religious person, for me religion means beauty and inner peace, be it mountains or sea or the crowded streets of Chandni Chowk. But I would prescribe going to this particular temple as it has a history associated to that place. It is the only Ganesh temple in open. If you ask priests, they’ll tell you that many pilgrims and devotees tried building a temple to shelter the idol from the harsh weather, but because they were not able to complete the construction in one day, the temple fell apart. Well, as many people, those many perspectives. But the serenity and calm you get when you visit that temple is unparalleled.

That morning when we woke up, we were amazed to see the surroundings. Monsoons were knocking the doors and the temperature would have been somewhere around 35 degree Celcius or so and we were sweating. But morning 7 o’ clock, the entire town was covered in thick mist which was quite mysterious for me. The place has such a thick tropical forest that if by any chance you lose way, there is no chance that you’ll be able to come out of the jungle on your own.

After we finished our breakfast, we went to the above mentioned temple and then to the village named Panja. Situated by the river, this village is more like a dense forest. Most of the people living here have one person either in Dubai or Saudi Arabia who earns the bread and butter for the family. The rest of the family members look after the huge estates owned by the family right from the time before independence. People living here are very rich, but all wear similar clothes, lungi and cotton sarees and by their attire you won’t be able to make out what they possess.

So, we went to house of a person who was known to us. His name was Mr. Sudarshan. His home consisted of a big hall and some makeshift RCC rooms adorned by a big verandah. But this was not what caught my attention, his house was situated amidst acres of lush green estate. They grew betel nuts, coconuts, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and nutmeg and their livelihood was dependent on the price which these high quality items would fetch in the export market. That was so unbelievable. To add more to it, their house was flanked by a river that provided nutrition and water to the entire estate.

He was kind enough to serve us food in coconut leaves which consisted of simple red rice, carom rasam, jackfruit appalam, jackfruit curry and thokku (pickle). And I swear, I’ve never had this tasty food in my lifetime. He also served us butter milk prepared from fresh curd (of course, they had their own cows as well!). Too satisfied to move, we took a short nap at his place in the breezy verandah. We dozed off listening to the sounds of the jungle.

Our next destination was Jog falls, but because we couldn’t have reached there in a day, we decided to proceed to Sringeri through Kudremukh national park after we left Subramanya in the afternoon. It suddenly started pouring cats and dogs and it gave us a feeling as if we were driving through an ocean! Kudremukh is a national forest and the park is closed for monsoon. But those of you who are interested in photography should go and spend a day there, it’s a scenic journey and destination. Because we had crunch of time, we proceed through the serpentine one lane tarred road and enjoyed the drive. In between when the rain slowed down a bit, a cup of hot ginger tea was a welcoming notion.

It is a belief amongst the locals that you must not stop in the ghats of Kudremukh national park and beyond as this is a Naxalite infested area, even if your car breaks down, people won’t help you because they would mistake you for the Naxalites. It is generally preferred that you take this route during the day time, before 5 in the evening so that by the time the sun sets, you’ll be in the safe vicinity of some small town.

Anyway, our adventure took a toll as it was a very long drive that day and we finally reached Sringeri. For those of you who want to know more, Sringeri is a town located inChikkamagaluru district (the district famous for coffee plantations). It bears a religious significance as it is the first matha established by Adi Shankaracharya, in short, it is a temple town. A good place to stay there is Advaith Lancer if you don’t want to stay in temple operated places.

Day 3: Agumbe, Jog Falls (Song of the day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Greenday)

Wake up really early in Sringeri and you’ll see men clad in white veshti, women clad in white Kerala sarees with golden borders and children, adding a factor of bling to the procession, moving on the streets; all proceeding to offer prayers to the almighty. The scent of mogra garlands that dangle from the oiled black braids mixes with the incense hanging in the air. No other place can appeal to all your sense organs in the way this place does!

Anyway, we grabbed a quick breakfast, and started our journey to the next destination, that is, Agumbe. Let me tell you one thing, if you want to go to Jog Falls straightaway, there is a direct route from Sringeri, through Thirthalli. You don’t need to go to Agumbe. But because Agumbe kindles an old memory, we decided to go there.

Agumbe, situated about 360 kilometers from Bangalore, is a small village in Shimoga district. It is the King Cobra paradise. Famous herpetologist, Romulus Whitaker, founded Agumbe Rainforest Research Centre (ARRS) in this village for the study and research on the beautiful reptiles.

 Famous as Cherrapunji of south India, plenty of rainfall makes the tropical forest evergreen. Not only this, but the rainfall gives birth to innumerable waterfalls which flow through with nonchalant innocence, some famous ones are Koodlu and Barkana falls. 

These don’t have direct access from the main road but you’ll have to walk down on a narrow lane overgrown with shrubs and highly infested with leeches, but at the end of the day it’s fun and let me tell you one more secret – you can get to swim with King Cobras! Exciting, right??!!

You must be familiar with Malgudi days and Swamy? Well, then you would definitely remember Swami’s house in some of the episodes. Don’t be surprised when I tell you that the house still exists! Yes, it’s currently run as a home stay called Dodda Mane, managed by Kasturi akka. The house boasts of the rustic architecture from the old times and is a perfect place to stay. Not posh unlike many hotels, but akka’s hospitality makes you anchored to this place and that was the reason why we decided to go to Agumbe.

Kasturi Akka makes a very special tea called ‘Kashaya’ made out of Milk, Cumin seeds, Black pepper, Cinnamon and Cardamon, yes and no tea leaves! It’s supposed to be very good for cough and cold and if you happen to get it somewhere, taste it! It’ll give you a great feeling.

After having met akka, we proceeded towards Jog falls. And that was when we met with astonishing beauty. I had heard from people that Western Ghats is one hell of a drive, the beauty casts a spell on you and you are stuck there forever. I always used to think of this statement as a fairytale notion, but that day, I was proven wrong. As the raindrops caressed the serpentine roads and lush green valleys, the ghats looked even more serene and en-capturing. Clad in fog, the misty mountains welcomed the clouds and I was literally on cloud 9!

If you want to enjoy the beauty of this drive, then start early morning because there are many view points where you can witness a beautiful sunrise and sunset. You can stop by at one such point, have tea by the roadside stall and enjoy a peaceful time. There are many sanctuaries and reserves in Western Ghats, you might as well spend a day there. Western ghats is very rich in flora and fauna and there are many research centres hidden amidst the wilderness. If you happen to visit those centres, you’ll be astonished to see innumerable samples of tiny animals and reptiles, some endangered and rare, that flourish in the Western Ghats. In short, you can call this place as the Amazon of India.

Anyway, we continued to drive and after a while the ghats gave way to lush green fertile plane laden with paddy crop. In that green carpet, we could find splashes of colours here and there, these were the farmers with colourful polyethylene covers wrapped around them to protect them from rains. You can stop by and click pictures if interested.

We finally reached Jog falls. By the time we reached there, it had become hot and humid and I was definitely missing the cool mountains. As many of you would know, Jog falls is India’s highest waterfall. And being an attraction, you can find a throng of tourists here and there either clicking pictures or getting clicked. The maintenance is done by Karnataka tourism and given that this is a fact, the place is pretty clean. But again, if you are a person who likes to be away from crowd, Jog falls is a place where you should spend not more that half an hour.

We reached there in afternoon when the sun was almost overhead. The volume of water in the waterfall was less compared to what it should have been. But then, there are specific days when they release water from the dam to make this waterfall look picturesque and you should target those days to visit the place. At night, you’ll have sound and laser show and locals say that this is the time when the entire landscape looks even more beautiful.

If you want to stay at Jog falls, there is good Karnataka Tourism hotel right at the top of a hill and as the sun sets, that place will be all empty and you can have all the peace in the world in the company of India’s highest fall. But if you still want to get away to quaint mountain surroundings, then you must do what we did.

I had heard about a very famous home stay – Gundimane, near Jog falls and I was determined to spend a night there. So we asked for directions and somehow managed to reach the place. If I have to give you an advise, I’ll say that you better ask locals for direction and not trust Google maps as there are so many offshoots from the main road that there are chances you might pick up the wrong route.

Again, the drive is scenic and it’s a single lane tarred road winding through dense jungles. All through the route you’ll suddenly come across a small hamlet with a queer name and you’ll get to see neatly dressed school children proceeding to school. It’ll make you wonder as to how would these people manage such things at a village which is located practically in the middle of nowhere! And then you’ll finally reach Gundimane when you’ll get to see a board that declares ‘Gundimane, 0.2 km to the right’.

The vast estate lies beyond an old creaky iron gate held together by an iron hook. When you enter the place, you’ll come across acres of rubber plantation which’ll take you back to the pre-independence era when Burma used to smuggle Indian labourers to make them work as plantation labourers. Of course, you’ll know this straight away if you would have read ‘The Glass Palace’ by Amitav Ghosh. The sprawling estate is so huge that it seems that it ends at the horizon. And if you are lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of spotted deer or Indian Bison on the opposite slope clad with green grass.

Gundimane is a home stay located in the middle of this estate, managed by an old couple and their helpers. The ground floor is the abode of the couple and the first floor has rooms for the guests, the special attraction being the balcony that provides a panoramic view of the green surroundings. 

It is generally full on weekends and if you want to go there, it is advisable to make prior booking which we had done as well. It was close to sunset when we reached there. So, we kept our luggage in the rooms and rushed to a nearby hill to witness the sunset. It’s a small distance from the estate, say 15 minutes walk. And from there a 5 minute trek would take you to the top of a small hillock from where you could see the entire landscape. 

On one side, there is Tunga dam and on the other side are vast stretches of forests. The place is very breezy and a perfect place to have early morning tea witnessing the sunrise (of course, if you have got tea in a Thermos flask!)

After we were done, we went back to the home-stay and Chandrakala aunty had cooked awesome dinner for us, all authentic Karnataka dinner served on banana leaves. As the day neared an end, I stayed on at the balcony for long listening to the sounds of night and finally dozed off.

Day 4: Trasi Beach (Song of the day – Born to be wild: Steppenwolf)

We woke up early the next day and pushed off to our next destination – about which none of us knew! As we left Gundimane, the lush green forests gave way to small villages and towns. The city life was back and we were on the highway to Mangalore. Concrete houses, cars and motorcycles replaced bullock carts. The innocent smiles gave way to frowns and hence we entered the reality. The temperatures soared and the humidity increased substantially and that was when the wonder happened.

It was close to afternoon when we witnessed something we had been longing for long, yes the sea! As the highway paced slowly by the sea on one side, the fresh scent of salt water jolted our happiness back. The best part about this highway is that at one point you’ll find yourself surrounded by water, on to your right would be the vast sea and on to your left would be a river!

So, this place is Trasi, a popular beach destination for the beach lovers. The beaches here are virgin unlike the beaches of Goa or Pondicherry and you’ll find them very clean. The white sands are the major attraction of this place. And if you are at Trasi then the best place to stay is Turtle Bay Beach resort. Located at some distance away from the main highway, this is an old resort with limited number of rooms.

You’ll get the real feel of a sea-shore when you enter this place. Sand all around, the red brick quaint cottages stand firm against the thunderstorms. There is even a yoga room for fitness conscious people. And for the rest, there is a vast beautiful beach! This place is not luxurious like Taj or Hyatt but for true blue surfers, this is a must visit. As the name suggests, when there is turtle breeding season, you’ll find many turtles on the beach, laying eggs. And that is one very special moment as turtles from as far as Japan as well come here to lay eggs and then leave and then you’ll find baby turtles trudging all across the sandy beach struggling to get to the water. You should target this season to come here.

When we went there, it was the off-season, the furious monsoons. After having spent the entire day at beach, we came back to the sea facing cottage and that was when it started pouring heavily. The rain wouldn’t stop and the waves seemed nearer than before! And then there was a thunderstorm and I for the first time in my life witnessed the strong winds capable of blowing away everything with them. It was a different experience. The monstrous sea at night roared wild and seemed to engulf the resort.

And in this commotion, we dozed off…

Day 5: Hyderabad, Bilaspur (Song of the day – Home Sweet Home: Motley Crue)

Next day, I woke up really early and went to the sea. The same sea which was roaring the previous night seemed all calm and serene. I didn’t lose this opportunity to swim in the sea. The cold, salt water reached within and gave a sense of relief. This was my last day of this adventurous road trip, for after this we were home bound and the fun died away.

After we had a quick breakfast, we pushed off and I bid a silent goodbye to the sea which had given me so much joy the previous day.

Well, next we reached Hyderabad and then Bilaspur and nothing happening happened on the way except that we were just moving on an on.

THE END…

PS – Road trips are always a pleasure and that too those ones which are absolutely unplanned. So, once in a while it is advisable to plunge deep into the adventure and drive on, for it is ‘my way and the highway…’

Important Places to stay:

  • Hotel Vijay Comforts (Subramanya)
  • Hotel Advaith Lancer (Sringeri)
  • Dodda Mane home stay (Agumbe)
  • Gundimane home-stay (Jog Falls)
  • Turtle Bay Beach Resort (Trasi)

This is a great place to stay in Subramanya. It is posh and away from the clamour of the town.

Photo of Trasi Beach Bus Stop, Trasi, Karnataka, India by Devyani Kalvit

Not so good, but a decent place to stay for one night in Sringeri if you don't want to stay in temple operated places.

You must be familiar with Malgudi days and Swamy? Well, then you would definitely remember Swami’s house in some of the episodes. Don’t be surprised when I tell you that the house still exists! Yes, it’s currently run as a home stay called Dodda Mane, managed by Kasturi akka. The house boasts of the rustic architecture from the old times and is a perfect place to stay. Not posh unlike many hotels, but akka’s hospitality makes you anchored to this place and that was the reason why we decided to go to Agumbe

The vast estate lies beyond an old creaky iron gate held together by an iron hook. When you enter the place, you’ll come across acres of rubber plantation which’ll take you back to the pre-independence era when Burma used to smuggle Indian labourers to make them work as plantation labourers. Of course, you’ll know this straight away if you would have read ‘The Glass Palace’ by Amitav Ghosh. The sprawling estate is so huge that it seems that it ends at the horizon. And if you are lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of spotted deer or Indian Bison on the opposite slope clad with green grass.

Photo of Travel Diaries – Let's Go South (6 Days: 2800 Kms) by Devyani Kalvit

You’ll get the real feel of a sea-shore when you enter this place. Sand all around, the red brick quaint cottages stand firm against the thunderstorms. There is even a yoga room for fitness conscious people. And for the rest, there is a vast beautiful beach! This place is not luxurious like Taj or Hyatt but for true blue surfers, this is a must visit. As the name suggests, when there is turtle breeding season, you’ll find many turtles on the beach, laying eggs. And that is one very special moment as turtles from as far as Japan as well come here to lay eggs and then leave and then you’ll find baby turtles trudging all across the sandy beach struggling to get to the water. You should target this season to come here.

Photo of Trasi, Karnataka, India by Devyani Kalvit
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