Thursday, January 05, 2006

2005-12-24: Malgudi Days

“Ta na na tana na na na
Ta na na tana na na na …”

This is what was on my lips when we started for Agumbe on the morning of 24th December. Shiv had come down from Hyderabad just for this trip.
“I’m planning a break for the upcoming Bhagamandala@CoorgChristmas Hols and flying down to Bangalore, but see to it that I don’t spend the entire time in Bangalore!”, were his words minutes after he got his flight tickets confirmed. I was more than happy to oblige my partner in my first ever Bike Trip (to Coorg).

Shiv had arrived on 23rd afternoon, as per his schedule. The only thing that was to be finalized was WHERE. After spending something like 5 minutes discussing the destination, Agumbe was finalized. For those who don’t know, this was the place where Shankar Nag’s famous “Malgudi Days” was shot.

The start
We started in morning, instead of the general night time, owing to the already set winter. The drive till Chickmangalur was pretty smooth and uneventful. There were some stops for taking food and of course the photographs in Sun Flower fields. It was only after Chickmangalur that we found the roads depleted. Once we entered those fantastic coffee estates, everything was good but for the road. The Bhadra River presented a spectacular view, easily enviable by the Kerela lagoons. We were starting to get worried whether we would be able to reach Agumbe to see it world famous Sun Set.

The Breath Taking Moment
As we reached Agumbe, it was already six o’clock. We thought that we had lost it; missing it by whisker. But destiny had something else in store for us. The road was fully enveloped by tall trees on either side of road with sun lost some where behind them. Then suddenly or rather miraculously, the trees got separated opening up the sky right in front of us, with the road virtually coming to an abrupt end and a giant Red Ball coming down on us. What a moment! All the 455kms done from Bangalore till now were more than justified… The two us just carried on, speechless. The Sun Set Point/Platform was around the corner, but we had already seen what we had come for. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life till now…

Night Halt
Once the sun had set, we started the climb down, negotiating those steep 13 hair-pin curves and some 10 odd kilometers before we found ourselves in Hebri. Some tedious negotiations with the Hotel guy and dumping our bag in the room, we were off for a much deserved dinner to a near by garden restaurant. What followed was one of the best dinners I have had.

Bad Beginning
We were on the road by 7am the next day. Destination – the Sitanadi River Camp (4kms from Hebri), for White Water Rafting. But we didn’t get a welcome there. We were informed that the water level in the river had fallen down enough to make rafting impossible; the Varahi Dam upstream being responsible. Now, what to do next? Thankfully, while we were trying to chalk out the itinerary for the rest of the day, we saw this house nearby. There was this very hospitable couple, Mrs. & Mr. Reddy, who gave us a warm welcome and helped us out with a plan for the rest of the day, not to forget the big bottle of water offered!

Something Fishy
We were on our way to Shringeri, up the Agumbe Ghats, around 40kms away. Once we reached there, it was a whole new experience. The place was cleaner than expected. Without wasting much time, we went in search of the famous ‘Fish Bank’. There’s this place on the banks of River Tunga, where devotees offer prasadam to the fish in water. One will be amazed to see the density and size of fishes that are there. Just unbelievable! There were just too many of them! The scene just went way beyond the hype that accompanies it. We spent more than 2 hrs here before proceeding towards our next and final stop over before returning back to Bangalore.

Good ways are back again
Once out of Shringeri, we were greeted by good road once again. We were on NH-13 and on our way to Dharmasthala, another pilgrimage of very high importance in South India. On our way, we went through the picturesque Kudremukh National Park. The evergreen forests (as we were told) were just mind blowing. We say the last of NH-13 once we came down a Ghat section on the national highway.

In Dharmasthala
We were not lucky enough to get the Darshan at temple here. The temple doors were closed till 5 o’clock and that would have been just too late for us to start back for Bangalore. Thanks to Ananth, we knew that there were other things here which would be of our interest. The Car Museum and the statue of Lord Bahubali atop a small hill were simply worth seeing.

Coming back
The journey was pretty smooth once again, thanks some major repair work taken up on Shiradi Ghats (which were literally unmotorable during my last stint, Puncture Trip). We had left a deficit of 7kms to complete 900kms when we got back home in Bangalore. This was a ‘pilot’ trip to the oncoming ‘biggie’, but never the less very exciting, and by far the biggest round trip I had done on my bike!

The photos can be found here!

No comments: