2009 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Night Trek to Skandagiri’s Misty Mountain Top in Karnataka, India

It was half past eleven this Saturday night when 13 of us in 4 cars met up opposite Columbia Asia hospital on the NH 7 highway. Our plan was to trek in the night to the top of Skandagiri, soak in the sights of the brilliant sunrise that this place provides and make descent back to our starting point.

After a quick pit stop at a dhaba enroute, we reached Chickballapur only to be stopped by cops. Initially, the cops didn’t allow us to proceed further as night trekking in this area is considered dangerous. But, after much haggling and pleading and us testing negative for drunken driving, they allowed us to proceed further.

Shortly, we lost our way in the dark village roads, but reached the parking lot thanks to some guidance from the locals.

At the parking lot, we were greeted to the sights of a beautiful starry night. Armed with torches and head lamps, we started our ascent towards Skandagiri. There was a lot of talking, fun and laughter in the first 30 minutes of the trek.

But, the climb got pretty steep after we took a left turn from a small hut on the trail. Soon, people restricted their talking and concentrated their energies on climbing the steep ascent.

We crossed other large groups on our way up. The night was pitch dark and which meant we could only see a short way ahead using the light from our torches and headlamps.

We had 2 short pit stops and 2 long pit stops on our way up. As we continued our ascent, mist cover started forming and there was a good nip in the air. By the time we had covered three-fourths of our ascent, the mist had completely enveloped us leading to extremely poor visibility. This is when one of us in the group said “No Wonder, the flights struggle to land at the Bangalore International Airport in the early hours of the morning”.

Slowly, but steadily, we made it to the top. The entire climb had taken us close to two hours. We found ourselves a nice spot and settled down.

Since this place gets a lot of trekkers especially during the weekends, the locals have set up make shift tents to serve the tourists with omelettes, noodles, bread and tea.

Soon, we got our camp fire going. As the temperature was dipping, all of us circled around the camp fire to soak in the warmth. All of us were famished after the climb and devoured countless numbers of tea, bread omelettes and noodles that was brought to us.

While we were walking, no one felt the chilly winds, but once we got settled into our sedentary positions, everybody felt the bite of the chilly weather.

Some members covered themselves from top to bottom. Some got closer to the fire. Some, cuddled closer to stay warm. And, some like me, kept talking and walking to keep my warmth intact.

The weather worsened by the minute and the wind kept picking up speed. Soon, it reached a stage, where everybody started looking at their watches and counting down the time to sunrise. To make matters worse, the mist cover intensified and drenching us all that laid in its path.

All of us felt that time was crawling. We were bone-chilled so badly, that we wanted to see the sunrise, run down and get into the comforts of our cars.

Finally, it was half past six and we made a beeline to the view point to watch the sun rise. The entire place was swarming with fellow trekkers, but we somehow managed to plonk our backsides at a precarious corner of the view point. 

We waited for 20 minutes, but could see no sun rise. We decided to give it 10 more minutes. Still, no sunrise. All we could see was thick mist cover. Dejected, all of us made our way back. We stopped nearby to see the ruins of Tipu’s fort. The fort itself was in a very bad state of ruin.

Slowly, we made our way back to our camp site and started our descent. The descent was steep, making us measure our step. When the descent took us through the jungle thickets, we had to exercise extra caution as the trail was slippery too as the dew was falling from the nearby plants and trees.

A couple of guys slipped, but all of us shared a good laugh after the slips. All of us made through the slippery zone in one piece, thanks to some great team work. 

As we continued our descent, the mist cover finally left us and allowed us to open our sights to the picturesque rocky hills and the vistas that lay in front of us.

The views kept getting better as we descended further. And happily, for us, warmth was creeping its way back into our bone-chilled souls.

We took 2 long pit stops on our way down to admire our surroundings and capture the beauty in our lens.

At certain points in our descent, the hills opposite us wore different shades of yellow and made for a very pretty sight. The different shades were a result of the sun rays getting refracted in the floating mist.

We had nearly completed our descent when I looked back. I was awed at the sight of the mighty Skandagiri Hills that we had climbed in the night.

The Skandagiri hills lay mighty and loomed large over its surroundings. No wonder, Tipu decided to build his fort here.

As the sun crept up, the lakes and the greens in the yonder became visible. Our entire vicinity seemed very pleasing to the eye.

After a relaxed descent of close to two hours, we had finally finished our trek.

We celebrated the successful completion with some excellent tender coconut water from the country side.

Soon, we made our way back to Bangalore. We made a final pit stop at Cafe Coffee Day for our morning coffee and then enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Maiyas in Jayanagar.

Overall, a very memorable and interesting trek. A HUGE THANK YOU to the alpha male of the pack, Deepak, for organizing this entire trip and bringing together a very interesting group.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pit Stop on NH 206 @ Sharavati River Valley, Karnataka, India

I proceeded north on NH 17 after spending a relaxed couple of hours at the highway beach of Maravanthe.

Upon reaching the port city of Honavar, I left NH 17 and started ascending on the winding roads of NH 206, the highway that meanders through the lush green Western Ghats.

It was raining and the roads were becoming slippery, but the views kept on getting better. My entire view laid drenched in fresh green.

Mist floating over the shola forests was giving it a heavenly look. At some ascent point, even the roads got covered in mist. Shortly, I reached the Sharavati River Valley View Point, which is not far away from Jog Falls.

I climbed a tower that’s been built to help tourists get a better view of the Sharavati River valley. I had to wait 30 minutes before I got the view of the valley below. When I did, I was rendered speechless. The bluish-green Sharavati River was covered with mist and the entire world around it were the dense green shola forests. A divine view!! The Western Ghats continues to amaze me…no wonder it is a top 10 bio diversity hot spot in the world.

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Maravanthe Beach – The Trucker’s Favourite!!

After spending the previous day at the divine coastal town of Murudeshwar, I was riding south on NH 17 towards Maravanthe Beach. Enroute, I took a pit stop at the picturesque Upunda River Bridge.

Maravanthe Beach stretches for a little less than 2 km, running parallel to NH 17, with the Sowparnika River on the other side of the highway. It is located north of Kundapur town in Udupi district and is about 454 Km NW of Bangalore.

The entire coastal NH 17 highway is picturesque and nearly all of the beaches in Goa and Karnataka are beautiful. But, the speciality of the Maravanthe Beach is its proximity to the highway, which is just 20 to 30 feet away.

To make it even special is the meandering Sowparnika river, which falls on the other side of the highway. The beach in essence is relatively empty and rocks are stacked up at the highway side to protect the highway during storms and high tides.

However, the truck drivers love this beach. It is free, they also get to revel in nature’s beauty and feel the salt breeze in their hair. A couple of small tea shops present here cater to these truck drivers. Local tourists typically come in during the evenings and this is when the other foot peddlers drop in to sell their wares.

This lovely looking beach with radiant white sand is very different though. It offers total solitude in spite of it being so close to the highway and long walks on it is very refreshing.

There is a total different side to the surroundings of this beach. A kilometre away is the well known Turtle Bay Resort, which offers great great tourist stays along with water sports, snorkelling and scuba diving trips. Close by is also the Kanchugodu fishing village, which allows on to get closer to the local folk.

One can also go on a boat cruise on the Sowparnika river – take a dip in the medicinal river, explore the umpteen islands, cherish the view of the Kodachadri hills in the background and visit the temples on its banks.

Maravanthe Beach offers great exploring options and its wares are aplenty, but I will always remember Maravanthe Beach as the “Highway Beach” and I am pretty sure that it is the truck driver’s favourite!!!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Pit Stop on NH 17 @ Upunda River Bridge, Karnataka, India

I was on my way from one coastal town (Murudeshwar) to another (Maravanthe) on NH 17, when I stopped at yet another scenic bridge.

This bridge is over the Upunda River. It is not a long bridge, but provided some of the most exhilarating views that I have seen.

The palm trees and coconut groves on either bank, the hills in the background and the cloud cover added to the charm.

Didn’t see any boats/canoes on the river. Guess they come out for fishing in the early hours of the morning and the late hours of the afternoon.

Personally, would love to go canoeing on this river and explore its beauty!!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Temple Beach Town of Murudeshwar in Karnataka, India

As I entered another coastal town in Karnataka, I was greeted with the sight of a massive idol of Shiva that overlooks the Arabian Sea. This town is Murudeshwar and is famous for its Shiva temple and its long drawn beach.

Murudeshwar is a quiet town situated close to the halfway mark of the Karavali Coast between Honavar and Bhatkal. It is about 438 km NW of Bangalore.

After checking into a budget hotel close to the beach, I went to the seaside restaurant to grab a quick bite. This hotel, situated on concrete stilts at the edge of the Arabian Sea offers great views of the beach side and of the sea.

Since my grub at the sea-side restaurant was a tad too heavy, I decided to put it to good use by taking a walk on the beach. The Murudeshwar beach is a golden beach with vast stretches of empty sand and surrounded by palm trees and arecanut groves.

As the evening set in, crowd started to gather and so did the ice cream and other vendors who added spice and colour to this beach. Lots of boats are anchored on the beach front. They offer short boat rides into the Arabian sea every morning and evening.

A 3 hour boat ride from Murudeshwar takes one to Netrani Island (Netragudda), which is a great deep diving site. One can spot schools of barracuda, angelfish, eels, sea turtles and other colourful fish while diving here.

After my fairly long beach walk, I visited the temple theme park built and maintained by Murudeshwar Ceramics. This temple park visually depicts the history behind the formation of this place and is very well laid out.

One can spot mythological characters Arjuna and Krishna here. The most famous component here is the 123 foot high Shiva statue that can be spotted from almost anywhere in this town. From the top of the theme park, one can also spot the in-progress temple gopuram that again oozes scale and size.

After a wonderful walk through this theme park, I freshened up and paid a visit to the main Murudeshwar temple, where Lord Shiva is worshipped as “Aghora’, that is, in his ascetic form. The temple is located on a hillock that juts out into the sea and offers great views of the town and the Arabian Sea.

Murudeshwar – a very impressive spiritual coastal hamlet!!

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