It had been a very long time since I took my motorcycle for a ride out of town. It always feels good to go to a new place and I had been wanting to see the fort at Chitradurga for some time. Now the time seemed perfect. Chitradurga is about 230 km from Bangalore. Starting out on a Saturday morning would mean that I would have to cover the whole distance not taking long breaks and wasting any time. Even so, I would only reach by afternoon. Some how I had the picture of entering the fort a bit early so that I could avoid most of the noisy tourists that arrive much later in the day and the harsh sun. I made quick arrangements to stay with a friend at Tumkur, on the way to Chitradurga. I started early the next day planning to reach the fort as early as possible.
The high way offers no good sights except for a chain a smaller hills most of them having wind turbines installed on them. The turbines don’t seem to reveal their real size when on the hills at a good distance, but they are huge. Parts of them were being carried on trucks all along the way to be installed. A wing alone occupied a whole truck’s back! Apart from that there is very little view from the highway.
But I had cut my morning ride to just 160 km by doing the rest the previous night. With just one stop to loosen up a bit, I hit Chitradurga at around 10 am. I took a quick spin on the main road there to check out the city and to find some place for breakfast. It is quite a contrast not to find any restaurants after having stumbled across so many wherever I go in Bangalore. I turned around and head towards the Chitradurga fort anyway. Close to the fort entrance there is a restaurant run by the tourism department. It was little more than 10 now but there were no visitors to be seen around. I had a couple of dosas followed by a cup of coffee and left to enter the fort.
It sits among a few rock hills and the stone used to build the fort was locally quarried. From the size of bean bags to as big a multistory buildings, there are rocks of all sizes and shapes. According to one legend all these rocks were part of the arsenal used in a mythological war between Bhima and a daemon named hidimba. There are rocks that look like an elephant, a ship, a frog ready to leap, it all depends on where you are standing and what you can imagine.
The second door
A rock that looks like an elephant
Read the post about day 1 here.
The first day ended with me checking out the road I wanted to ride the next morning both by going some distance on it and on the maps. It was the road that goes between the Avalanchi and the Emerald lakes. The map showed a couple of routes from that road to where I eventually planned to reach, the Devil’s gap, close to the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. But when I actually went there, there was only one road and it wasn’t the ones on the map. Since I had no choice I decided to ride on it as far as possible. The map showed that I had to go through the forests for 10-15 km to reach the Devil’s Gap road.
First I crossed the tea gardens of the Emerald valley estate, with beautiful views of the valley and the hills around. View the below panorama in full-screen mode for best treatment on your eyes.
People who like to travel always keep looking for excuses to get away, may be, to avoid feeling guilty of too much of it. My excuse for this trip was an Airbnb offer that was about to expire. They had sent me a coupon code worth enough to get me a nice place in a good location. Naturally I didn’t want to waste it. After a quick search I found a nice place some 10-15 km away from the town of Ooty and booked it. I had been checking out amazing places on Airbnb for sometime, but this was the first time I actually used their service and it worked like a charm.
It was a Friday and the day I had to participate in the polling process of the general elections of 2014. I finished my duty early in the morning and soon left Mysore on my motorcycle.
It was the peak of summer and I badly needed a ride to the hills. I quickly reached Gundlupet and stopped for a yes break. I noticed that it had rained there last night and was sure it would be nice to ride throught the Bandipur and Madhumalai forests in the morning after a rain, and it was amazing. With almost no other vehicles, I had a pleasant ride through the forests. I took the shorter route that goes through Masinagudi and Kalhatty. Kalhatty has great views of the valley below, called the bison valley. After a series of (enjoyable) hairpin curves I reached Ooty!
I had no specific plans for the day and just wanted to explore the town. I didn’t want to run into the tourists and skipped the botanical garden, but went to the doddabetta since it was quite close. I had read about the oldest banglow in Ooty, called the ‘Stone house’ and went to see it as it was close to the town. But it was empty and locked up. There wasn’t anything special to it, it didn’t even look very old!
I then randomly went around the town stopping a few times to enjoy the view. There are a lot of old houses and commercial buildings in the town. Some of the old houses are still in use and kept me wishing I knew someone who lived in one of them! This is the abandoned building of the Spencer and Co. the first retail store in India.
As some people do, I too have a mental morning alarm that mostly works, at least it had worked the morning I am going to describe. The room is pitch dark and I check the time on my phone, its a little over 5. I had planned to visit a place for which I had to get up and leave early. But I was afraid to leave the bed and get out of the room. That’s because I was staying at an old house that I had arrived at last evening and remembered little of. I could bump into something on the way. I was waiting for someone else to wake up. After a few minutes I heard the distant roar of a mixer. So, I slowly made my down on a narrow stairway and reached the kitchen and there was my host grinding up delicious chutney for breakfast. It was her home that I was stayed at, know as Dodda mane (literally, the big house). Know as Kasturi-akka among the travelers who are allowed to take some shelter there, she is one adorable lady. She (and their family) make each and everyone of their guests feel like its their own home.
The previous night she had told me of a small hill nearby that I could go to, to watch the sun rise among the clouds. But it was more than a half hour ride from the place. I wished her a good morning and washed up my eyes. I asked her for the directions to the hill and there were a few more turns and deviations than I had expected. I noted them down on a paper and left in a hurry.
Thinking I might miss the run rise I rode as fast I could and reached the top of the hill eagerly looking to the east all the while. It was not dark anymore, but the sun was not out yet. The peak was windy as expected, but in a pleasant way. The view of clouds and the greenery around was amazing. There was a white band that you might mistake for a river in the below picture.
Band of clouds seen from Kundadri
On the right of the picture is the west and somewhere in that direction is the town of Agumbe. The moisture is sucked in by the heated land from the seas some 50 kilometers away. Agumbe lies at the very edge of the Deccan plateau and the Agumbe ghat (the decent to the coastal plains) makes a nice passage for the clouds as well.Obstructed only by the smaller hills the white clouds flow like a river.
In a little while the clouds to the east turned red and there was the sun making his way up for the day!
Sinrise at Kundadri
Jain Temple at Kundadri hill
This was the day that I did something for the first time, my first scuba dive! I hadn’t planned for this, I didn’t even know that I could go diving there. I had noticed a sign about the diving team there the previous day as I rode from Kundapura to Murudeshwara and called them up. It was there alright but it was too expensive, I though, for just one dive and carried on. I reached Murudeshwara, popular for it’s temple and the huge statue of Shiva.
Since there isn’t much to see in Murudeshwara I did not take a place to stay. Instead, I went straight to the temple with the pending decision of whether to dive or not in the back of my head.
Huge statue of Shiva at Murudeshwara
After going around in the temple, I even called up a couple of my friends to check if they could join me for a dive there anytime soon, just to avoid doing it alone. But that didn’t help me much. There is a restaurant right next to the temple build on pillars going into the sea bead. I could vaguely recollect my memories of being there with my family several years ago. It felt kind of nice knowing that I had come there riding on my own now.
Boats at Murudeshwara
Day 1 (Mysore to Sakleshpura)
With the first day now behind me, I was a little more comfortable on the road. I wanted leave the place of my last night’s stay as soon as possible. It was very close to the river Hemavathi, on the western end of the town. Please don’t imagine a nice view from the window. The room was slightly below ground level and the river almost dry.
After a quick breakfast in town, I went to see an old fort, the Manjarabad Fort, built by Tippu sultan on a small hillock nearby. But I had a difficult time finding it. It is very close to the Bangalore-Mangalore highway, but no signs or proper way to get to the fort and no parking space what so ever! No wonder I missed it on my ride from Mangalore to Bangalore the previous year. Anyway, I parked next to the huts selling refreshments and climbed up. The space was empty as it was a little too early for the tourists. I started walking around inside the fort, with my footsteps on the sandy ground clearly audible. The fort has a unique structure of a star with eight corners. It is hard to get the perspective from this picture.
Manjarabad Fort near Sakleshpura
Here is a satellite image of the fort:
It is just as difficult to start writing something as it is to start a journey, especially when it is not a well planned one and you are doing it alone. But once started, there are tons of chances of surprising yourself, mostly in good ways. I took one such trip for a week, during the summer of 2013. I was moving between jobs and had a couple of weeks down time. There was no better time to take a roughly planned trip.
I had a rough idea about the route and the rest to be figured on the road. The plan was simple, I wanted to ride on Western Ghats known locally as Malnad (Male naadu – the land of the hills) and along the coast of Karnataka. With that in mind, I marked out some places, listed them out on a piece of paper the morning I left.
Below is the route map of the trip.
This will be just an introduction post with just outlines for each day and links to more posts about the trip. I’ll stick to a simple boring format of writing about each day.