Swagatha, Suswagatha

Wow…just WOW! No more words to describe this experience. Being the travel/roading geeks that we are, Guru and I have always wanted to do a road trip, just drive where our car (in this case) takes us. We had chalked out an elaborate plan in December of 2002, when we were just the two of us – we were gonna rent a trailer and go from one coast to another. But of course due to some change in events, we had to forego that plan………………………..and lo and behold, it is October 2012 already. We did do a lot a small trips in between, 3 days here, 4 days there, mostly cos (1) the sheer amount of stuff to carry with 2 young kids threw us off track (and believe me, it is a lot 🙂 and (2) we never had our holidays align together. Even in the US, when Guru had a company-wide shutdown during Christmas,i have always had to work the days in between Christmas and New Year. Ever since I started working @ NetApp, planning for trips/ breaks have been a little easier as we are on the same calendar and this year, we both had a company-wide shutdown for Navarathri/Dusshera in NetApp, India.

Due to a lot of sudden turn in events in our personal lives, our plans were a bit fluid. Once Guru got back from US, we decided on whim that we would go on a road trip along North Karanataka, covering the Historical circuit, the Malenadu region and parts of coastal Karnataka. Karnataka is truly One State – Many Worlds – from places of historical/monumental/spiritual interests to vast green plains to amazing ghats to cool (not to mention clean) beaches!

Day 1, Oct 19, 2012 : Destination Hampi – Bangalore to Hospet via Chitradurga

Windmills @ Sunset, Chitradurga

We hit the road around 2.00 pm towards Hospet, the closest city to Hampi. We took NH-4 (Bangalore-Pune National Highway) and along the way saw windmills in sunset @ Chitradurga. As this was a truck route to mining towns, it took longer than usual. The boys of course were super excited to see mostly trucks on the road and made a game of counting the # of cars on the road.

Note of caution: The exit to Hospet is not visible in the dark and any signs towards Hospet are non-existent due to highway widening construction so we ended up missing the exit and travelled around 12kms in the wrong direction before we realized it. We lost around 45 mins because of this (not to mention our tempers 🙂 )

We reached Hotel Malligi @ Hospet around 10.00 pm and man, were we glad! The food and the accommodations were as promised and the staff were courteous as well.

Day 2, Oct 20, 2012 : Destination Hampi

Hampi is around 11kms (7.1 miles) from Hospet. So after a sumptuous breakfast, compliments of the Hotel, we left for Hampi around 9.00 am. Short of going into a history lesson, Hampi was the ancient capital of the Vijayanagara Empire and in addition to being on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, serves as a religious centre as well due to the Virupaksha temple. The Dravidan style of architecture was apparent in the temples and the sculptures but one could view influences of the Islamic style of architecture @ some sites, particularly in the Zenana enclosure and the elephant stables. Looking at the bazaar near the Krishna Temple, I could instantly visualize traders peddling their wares to the pretty women and handsome men and by rare chance to the Royal Family members as well. Contrary to popular belief, the HazaraRama (Hazar -1000, 1000 Ramas) temple, does not have 1000 sculptures of Lord Rama, instead has 1000 carvings that walk you through Ramayana, specifically the Uttara Kanda, the story of Luv-Kush. The monolithic sculptures of Sasivekalu (mustard seed) Ganesha and Ugra Narasimha simply take your breath away and you cannot help but marvel at the talent and the skill of our ancient sculptors.

Note: Vishruth got tired and timed out easily so we had scheduled only a day @ Hampi but if you have the time, not to mention kids who do not tire easily, you should spend at least 2 days, if not more @ Hampi.
Lunch @ Hampi was at this place called Mango Tree, a totally laid back joint behind Virupaksha temple. Just the walk around the banana plantation to get to this restaurant makes it worth the effort.

View Hampi Photolog

Day 3, Oct 21, 2012 : Hospet to Badami via Lakkundi

We set out to Badami around 9.00am after breakfast via Gadag, Ron. A hidden jewel @ Gadag, is Lakkundi, home to many Chalukyan style temples and wells, most notable being the Kashivishwanatha temple, the Brahma Jainalaya, the Nanneshwara temple and the artistic Pushkarinis or Kalyanis (or the stepped wells). Lakkundi seems like one of the initial experimental grounds where Chalukyans played with their buildings.

Note: Do not miss this place, you will be amazed at the ornate sculptures and the attention to detail. It does not take more than a couple of hours at the most, to cover everything.

After lunch @ Gadag, we reached Badami around 3 in the afternoon @ Hotel Mayura Chalukya by KSTDC, where we stretched and relaxed. Around 6, we left for the Banashankari temple at Cholachaguddwhere we had the fortune of watching the Pallakku oorvalam, where the Goddess Vanashankari/Banashankari (Forest Goddess) is placed on a palanquin and taken around the temple in a procession of sorts.

Day 4, Oct 22, 2012 : Aihole, Pattadakkal,Badami Caves, Ravana Gudi and Bhootnath Temple

Aihole was the formal experimental ground for Chalukyan architecture and bloomed in Pattadakkal and Badami. Lord Shiva can be seen in many forms (Note: Forms not avatars – reincarnations like Lord Vishnu). The sculptures around the temples trace the influence of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and gradually Jainism. The Bhootnath temple was just breathtaking, the entire temple becoming golden @ sunset.

The highlight of this day was when Vidyuth was walking with me while i was explaining the sculptures to him and declared suddenly, I have decided that I want to be an architect and learn more about temple architecture. I kinda wish you had pursued architecture after school instead of becoming an urban planner and now a writer 🙂

View Aihole, Pattadakkal, Badami Photolog

This brought us to the end of our Historical circuit or Part 1 of the Road Trip.

When i went to bed that night, I was feeling queasy of sorts and woke up with an upset stomach not to mention headache, bad body ache and fever. Promptly threw up a couple of times and the very mention of food was enough to make me rush to the nearest washroom. Anyhoo, after a couple of paracetomals, we set out to Thirthahalli on Oct 25, which was to be our strategic halting point for the next leg of our journey to the Malenadu region.

Day 5, Oct 23, 2012 (or like i call it the bleh day 😦 ): From Badami to Thirthahalli via Hubli

Being sick in familiar surroundings is a pain in itself, imagine being sick on the road ….not to mention being a real damper. On the way we took a detour to see Unchalli falls, that drops into the Aganashini river. After getting lost due to confusing routes (not to mention lack of knowledge in kannada), we decided to stop at a residence nearby (mind you, they are few and far between) to ask for directions. We got the first-hand experience of the Indian hospitality and culture of “Athithi Devo Bhava.” One of the guys, a final year college student called Shashidhar, who was home for holidays actually took the time to come with us to Unchalli falls. The kids really took to him and they had a good time @ the falls. As i was feeling miserable by then, I opted to stay back and just sleep in the car. After they got back, Shashidhar insisted that we come back to his place and imagine our surprise when we came to know that his family still follows the Hindu joint family system, and they had around 25 members in his house. They were all extremely friendly and concerned cos of my health and even packed us some snacks to eat on the way. We left their place with a heavy heart and continued our journey.

On the way, we made yet another stopover @ Jog Falls and were sorely disappointed by the lack of water, only to be informed that the dam authorities don’t release a lot of water on weekdays ??!!!

After another set of confusing directions, we finally reached Bananki Homestay @ Devangi, Thirthahalli around 8.30pm. I was mostly in a jelly-like state and was desperate to hit the sack as i wanted to get the nasty bug out of my system and start fresh the next day.

Note: While we made it safe to the homestay, my recommendation would be to reach Bananki before nightfall, mostly because the roads to Bananki via the forest are deserted and not all the roads are in great shape.

Day 6, Oct 24, 2012: Sringeri, Sirimane Falls, Kundadhri Bhetta

Homestays are akin to B&Bs, the only difference being, homestay establishments in India serve all meals probably because of their location. Homestays offer distinctive experiences in terms of accommodations, food unique and local to that area, not to mention personalized experiences. Bananki Homestay @ Devangi, Thirthahalli is a relatively new place and after an amazing breakfast that consisted of local Malnad specialities, we set out to Sringeri. Sringeri is considered to be the hindu headquarters practicing Advaita Vendanta philosophy, where Adi Shankara established the first matha, a religious establishment of sorts. As it was Vijayadasami, the last day of Navarathri, lots of parents were waiting patiently with their kids to conduct the Vidyarambham ceremony. We had a good darshan and after lunch, made our way to Sirimane falls where the kids had a blast. We finished the day out by viewing the glorious sunset from Kundadri betta (betta – hills).

Day 7, Oct 25, 2012: Aghumbe Ghat, Udupi, Anegudde, Saneeshwara Temple @ Banneje, Maravanthe Beach

A particularly hot day, we hit the road around 9.00 am towards Udupi via Aghumbe Ghats. En route,we stopped at the Malgudi Days house, Agumbe. After multiple reassurances to Vidyuth that I will give him my copy of Malgudi Days, we set out to Udupi.

Malgudi Days Home @ Agumbe
Malgudi Days Home @ Agumbe
@ Malgudi Days Home,Agumbe
@ Malgudi Days Home,Agumbe

After a quick darshan at Krishna Temple, Udupi, we found directions to a 23 feet Saneeshwara(Shanishwara) temple in Bannanje. For those in the know and beliefs, i am currently undergoing ashtama sani, considered to cause havoc on one’s health (and my health has not been great). So i felt happy that we chanced upon this temple and were able to offer our prayers.

Bannanje Sri Shaneeswara

After a very delicious lunch, thanks to our homestay, we headed towards NH17 and stopped at Anegudde and visited Anegudde temple, Shree Harihara temple, Shree Surynarayana temple and Shree Aiyappa swamy temple.

By this time, around 2.30pm, temperatures were soaring with sweltering heat and we were looking for a place to cool off and relax before hitting the beach. When we saw boats hauling river sand(used for construction) on Arabian Sea backwaters, we took a diversion and Guru, using his smooth talking skills convinced one of the boatmen to give us an impromptu boat ride on Arabian Sea backwaters.

We finally reached Maravanthe beach, on NH-17 with the Arabian Sea to the left and the Soupernika River to the right…..a truly spectacular sight to behold, where the road stretches forever.

After spending some time at the beach, we headed back to Thirthahalli via Agumbe Ghat and Someshwara wildlife sanctuary.

Day 8, Oct 26, 2012 – Guru’s B’day: Thirthahalli to Bangalore via Shimoga

We woke up wishing Guru a very Happy b’day and the day was just how he liked it – low key, no fuss, no frills 🙂 We were going to visit the Tiger-Lion Safari at Shimoga but kept it as a surprise from the boys :p On our way back, we had a couple of impromptu surprises

The boys had so much fun feeding the fishes, watching the baby elephants on their way to training and the tigers and lion from up close. They were so excited and happy and declared that this was the best gift that they ever got on their dad’s b’day :p :p

Guru and I have this habit of launching into old songs, songs that we both love and enjoy and this time it was a double treat as the kids joined us too 🙂 We were so glad to see them join with us for தென் பாண்டி சீமையிலே, Favorite Things, One Way Ticket, Yaadon ki Bharaat and many other classics. We even squeezed in some Christmas Carols just to prolong the experience 🙂

After a b’day treat of pizza and dessert for the boys, we got home around 11.00 pm. The kids and I had our own surprise planned for Guru. We got him a personalized cover for his Galaxy S2 from Vidyuth, a clock from Vishruth and a card from me. For once, Guru was caught by surprise and loved his gifts from Exciting Lives.Com, co-founded by my friends Vandana and Nisheeth Srivatsava.

Guru's gifts
Guru’s gifts
My loyal beast
My loyal beast

2121 kms ~1318 miles, around 25 places covered in 8 days in our loyal beast……..“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

Here’s offering thanks to a trip well done and hoping for many more to come!


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