Tuesday 1 December 2015

Shettihalli church

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Out Of Office - Shettihalli Church

Some places do not have anything special yet so are power full to an extent that the very moment you leave the place, you decide to go back to the same place again. For me, Shettihalli is one such place.
Is there an architectural master piece for display? Is there greenery to fill in your eyes? No, there is nothing of that sort. But there is something special here which struck the chord for me. It may or may not to you as an individual.
We had a marriage to attend in Hassan. Me and my 4 friends from office rented a self driven car from Myles and headed to the function. After a heavy meal, we felt we had enough time before we leave to Bangalore. A quick check on bucket list got me Shettihalli and there was no second thought on the place. We headed towards Shettihalli.
Do not ever rely on 'Here Maps'. It almost asked us to jump into Gorur dam and swim to reach Shettihalli church. (Google maps cheats at times as well but not this much. :P )
We had a celebrity photographer in our group and none of us had camera except him. But that was more than enough.
To speak about the place, it is a calm and cool place. Did not see many people around. May be because it was a Friday. Ample place to walk around. The water level in dam was pretty low during November and I would say perfect time to visit. If the dam is totally dry, then I do not see any reason to visit the place. Ruins of the church is present and that is the only reason you should visit there. The ruins look amazing and makes a fantastic background for photos. The church was submersed in water due to construction of the dam. The ruins still remain. However, it is just a matter of time that the ruins disappear completely. Do give a visit to the place before that happens.
Did not feel it as a good place to swim/take bath in the backwater since the water did not look clean and also mud in the banks were sticky, overall did not give a feel of it.
The vastness of the backwater area and an old church is all that can be seen there. Overall, a must visit place if you are anywhere near Hassan.

How to reach?
From Bangalore, Shettihalli church is around 200 kms in distance. A 4 hours drive from Bangalore. The road condition is excellent. The destination is 25 kms away from Hassan city.
Take Bangalore Mangalore highway, take deviation to Hassan city and move to Hassan-Periyapattana road. A few kms (~10kms) before the Gorur dam, take a right. Proceed for around 5-6kms and there you are!

None of the photos below are clicked by me. Credits to Kartikeya Bhat. 
Panoramic image of Shettihalli Church

How can I miss this photo :P

Add caption

Man behind all the photos - Karthikeya.

Myles car and Shettihalli. A vehicle in front of the church makes a perfect photo here.

Monday 9 November 2015

Burde falls/Burude falls, Unchalli falls and Gudavi Bird santuary

Adding to the list of must visit falls' in Karnataka!

I always feel proud that I have covered most of the places in Karnataka. But, to hurt my ego, I get more places in Karnataka feeling that I have not really seen all important places of Karnataka!

I always remain wonder stuck whenever I go to water falls'. The amount of water that gushes from a cliff makes me feel - "we are so weak and small in front of nature". The way the rocks beneath the water fall manage to stay strong, the force of water, the beauty, the reverse waterfall that the winds create, the mist, the tiny drops of water that spread entire area, the rainbow formed due to water droplets, everything makes me stay back in the place for long and admire nature. 

After missing all the falls views in Mumbai trip, I got to know that there are a couple of wonderful falls in Uttara kannada district. Could not wait to visit them. But, we had to postpone this for a couple of weeks when we planned it for 1st week of October due to rain. Finally, in the last week of October, we - (Me, Preethish and Mayank) decided to go. 

Burde Falls. 

The day I visited Didupe and Ermai falls, I was left in deep thoughts like "How did I miss visiting this for 24 years of  my life in spite of staying so close to the falls?" But, after visiting Burde falls, I am sure that there are more falls to visit and it will take a lifetime to witness all remote falls in this country. Burde falls is one such falls. It is remote. It takes some effort to reach there. But once you are there, you will definitely not feel that you have wasted your energy.
We reached Siddapur from Bangalore and with a quick check with local people, found that the lodges were not good but the Govt. IB was! Also got to know that they provide stay if rooms are free. So we went there and luckily we got the stay (Just for INR 300 with 24 hours hot water and decent room.) Again we were lucky enough to get a omni van owner who accepted to take us to Burde falls and Unchalli falls for just INR 1200. If not, we would not have been able to complete both in single day. 

The falls lies in Kumta road. After around 15kms, take a deviation towards right while travelling from Siddapura and again travel for 5Kms in mud road (Construction of road was going on when we visited. So it may not be mud road the next time you visit :) ) Initially there are steps to go down hill and after steps, the path is very clear till the falls. At times you may need to take help of tree branches or walk on 4 legs to reach. :) 

Important: It is very hard to find frequent public transport to Burde falls and even on manage to get one, you will have to walk over 5kms just to reach the forest area from where you start trekking down hill to reach falls. So hire a vehicle/go in own vehicle. 
Avoid rainy season as the route looks slippery. However, its up to individuals to decide how challenging a life should be :) 

Unchalli Falls
Our next visit was to Unchalli falls. Due to a broken bridge on the way to Unchalli from Siddapur, had to take a long route via Sirsi road. But again, worth travelling a distance. Could not go till the base as it was 4.00 pm and we were told at least 3-4 hours is needed to go to the base and come back. Was not a right option. But, it is still worth visiting the falls even if you cannot go till the base. The water spreads in the rock and then falls creating a wide stretch of waterfall. The greenery around is a treat to eyes. 

Gudavi Bird Sanctuary
The luck we had on day 1 betrayed us on day 2 and it was kind of boring day. Mainly because we opted to travel in public transport. Our initial plan was to go to Yana but it did not happen since we could not get buses to Yana. Changed the plan to go to Gudavi, Banavasi and then to Jog falls. 
Gudavi bird santuary would be worth visiting provided you have a super zoom lens, patience and also luck. You have to be there during right time. We went during the right time but birds had already flew back to their places due to less rainfall in this season. 

Reaching Gudavi is again a challenge if you opt public transport. We got some goods auto towards Gudavi from Gudavi cross in Sirsi-Shimoga Highway. Return was again a challenge but luckily we got a drop. Thanks to the couple who gave us a drop in their car. :) 

Right time to visit Gudavi : August, September, early  October.

We had been to Banavasi as well but I would not suggest the place to anyone unless you are so interested to see the land of Pampa. The architecture is not really a great one. Did not feel it exciting even if I love visiting heritage places. 

That amazing feel!

One part of the Burde falls 

Burde falls. Taken from a distance. But this is where it looked best.

Way back from Burde falls. A little strenuous path, but worth it.

Unchalli falls. Look at the place where water touches the ground!

Lush of greenery near Unchalli falls.

Banavasi - Pampa Kavi "Nadedaadida naadu"

Green bee eater in Gudavi Bird Santuary

Gudavi - Ibis birds.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Must visit places near Mumbai - Lonavala, Matheran, Malshej Ghat

A land of hope for millions of people flowing in every month to the city - Mumbai. But is it only that much? No, it is one of best tourist destination in the area. The Sahyadris provides so much to the nature lovers that we fall short of time to finish the places even for the places we have planned. After visiting multiple places of Malenadu, I was very eager to visit the Sahyadris. It is hard to visit these places alone since these places are hard to reach by public transport and being from a different place, it is hard to take my bike too. (Off course it would be different level of fun to ride in these places.)

Note - This post is going to be little lengthier than my regular posts since it is of 4 days and loads of photos. Filtered a lot but felt i cannot skip any of the below. But I promise, you will like the photos if you love greenery and the first glimpse of it is here. :)
View in Lohaghad fort - Lonavala

Was planning to visit Sahyadris from long time but this time it happened suddenly. Had a long weekend on week ending October 2nd, and asked my friends to extend it for 1 day, checked for flight rates and found it cheaper than bus rates during peak season. Booked immediately. 7 of us were there as per initial plan but unfortunately one of my friend had to miss it (we missed him equally) as he was down with dengue.!

Had flight at 5.30 am from Bangalore and we were ready in airport by 2.00. The plan for morning was not ready yet except that we would be getting our Zoom car in Mumbai. 

A quick cell phone selfie in airport. Security came to us before we could take out our camera.. :D
At about 7.15 we were in Mumbai and the feel of Mumbai heat could already be felt. Zoom car pick up location was 25 Kms away from Airport and we headed to get it. The best thing in the trip was having a self driven car with us so that we did not have to depend on anyone. Thanks to zoom car :) 
By then also we did not have the plan ready! We decided to go towards Nasik, spend a day there and then go to other places. But the good thing we did at that point was we dropped that plan half a way and decided to go to Matheran. 
The champs(Not we, the horses. Fell in love with them!)

Its a wonderful feel when you control the horse and owner does not come with you. 

Unfortunately, the weather was not that pleasing in Matheran but horse ride experience saved us from disappointment. That is the best experience in Matheran and do not miss it. Horse owners ask for over thousand bucks and we finally managed to make him agree for INR 400. (Agreement was to drop near Matheran market after all view point visits. Around 9-10 Kms) After getting the feel of riding horse, we had no reason to leave a chance of riding for 3 more kms from Market towards the base. So paid 100 bucks extra and came till base. The view points are excellent. Wish the climate was little mild and wet. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. Did not try train ride. Probably would not have been worth wasting a few hours. 
Matheran (In one of the view points)

Zoom car was waiting for us to come back and again we did not have an answer to the question "Where next?" Decided to go to Nasik via Malshej ghat. But with loads of humps in the road, after travelling for around 60Kms, we were sure that we will not make it to Malshej by sunset and also felt Nasik was not a good plan. So, a "U turn" and we headed towards Lonavala - our main destination.
We got a warm welcome to Lonavala with mild thunderstorm and rain. That is what we were waiting for and felt relieved. Lonavala is to feel the mist and rain and if its hot there then fun in the entire trip would have gone for a toss.
There are a lot of tourist destinations in Lonavala and a lot of them are different names for same place. (Tiger valley and Lions point are 200 mts away from each other and similarly there are many others listed that way.)
We first decided to finish places in Pune direction and hence went to Karla caves. Karla caves is stone carved meditation place and the architecture is pretty good. The place is too crowded and very commercialized. However, we found that a similar cave is present a few kilometers away, so decided to go there - Bhaje Caves
If you are visiting Lonavala then do not miss Bhaje caves. You need to walk uphill for some distance but its worth walking. The place is calm and less crowded. It rained heavily when we were in top. Believe me, its heaven on earth when it rains. And photos below will speak how they look when it rains.
Bhaje Caves

Architecture in Bhaje caves. The large dome in the center is believed to be used by Budha for meditation. 

It rained and all these falls started flowing. They were not present before rain. 360 degree greenery!

After Bhaje caves we were kinda satisfied by filling our eyes with panoramic greenery but we wanted more.

The next destination was Bhushi dam, but if it is not peak rainy season, then better avoid the place. Too much of crowd and no peace in the place. Clicked one photos for the pain of paying INR 100 for parking and left immediately!
Bhushi Dam

Did not want to waste time so we headed towards the celebrity destination of Lonavala - Tiger valley. It was a dreamy weather and we could not ask for more. It was raining and mist had covered the place completely. My dream image of Lonavala was in actual in front of me! Loved it.

View from Lion's Point Lonavala

Lion's Point Lonavala

While coming back it was hell lot of traffic but we reached Lonavala city by 8.00. Did not want to waste time next morning so we went to wax museum. Amazing work of art could be seen. Not to miss. If not all, most of the wax statues look exactly same as the personality and leaves you wonder stuck.

After trying so many times, this was the best pic we could get. This is our Gangnam style :P
Morning visit to Khandala is a must and Rajmachi view point provides you a breath taking view. You can see a waterfall in a distant place and I am not sure if that is reachable. All i heard about that water fall is that it contains all the drainage of the city and hence does not depend on rainfall.!!!
Rajmachi view point Khandala

On the way to Khandala, we clicked our photos with our main and best companion of the trip - Mahindra Scorpio of Zoooooooooom Car :) (With the MH number plate.)

Inspite of KK not accepting for a trek, we went for Lohaghad trek. It was once again a wonderful experience. The trek is an easy one and takes less than an hour to reach the peak. The view in the peak is good. Weather was little harsh. We cannot expect a good weather every day and hence accepted it the way it was. Did not have another option too..! Spent some good time there but delayed a bit there to screw up the next plan.

This was seen on the way to Malshej ghat. A majestic view of one of the peaks

Lohaghad fort as seen from peak

Colorful flowers in the peak have made the fort more beautiful

One of the view points in Lohaghad fort
View from Lohaghad fort

The next plan was simply a drive to Malshej which is ~150 Kms away from Lonavala. The drive was excellent and the weather added to it! But we reached Malshej at 7 and it was already dark and covered with mist. But the feel was amazing with absolutely no view but only sound of a small falls. Spent sometime there and started our drive back to Mumabi! (It was totally dry in Malshej. If it was raining, I even had plan of staying back in Malshej in spite of a room already being booked in Mumbai and returning early morning after seeing it)

The next morning, visited Gateway of India and Marine drive. Loved the roads of Mumbai. They are much well maintained compared to Bangalore. Had a good drive back to Thane and dropped Zoom car. Our flight was scheduled at 5.30 pm and we were back to Bangalore at 7.15!
The Taj!

Marine Drive Mumbai

Here I end my lengthiest blog post so far! I still have a lot of places left to visit in the Sahyadris and the next visit there is going to be full of trekking - the next season. (Hopefully :) )

Do not miss - Bhaje caves in Lonavala and Horse ride in Matheran. (the famous tourist destinations do not need a mention.)

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Bangalore to Gandikota and Belum caves - A Road trip

After a cancelled Waynad bike ride in the last week of August, my heart was throbbing for a getaway. Everyone around me wanted me to stay back but the traveler within me was not ready to listen to me and hence there was no point in asking him to listen to others! This time the plan was done the previous evening of the drive and 4 of us were ready for the drive. We were lucky to get a Ford Figo in zoom cars at last moment but, from Airport site! Did not have much time to decide if we want to take the car from there or drop the plan itself. In the confusion itself booked the car and the trip was confirmed!
Parked our bikes in zoom car parking area, picked up the car and left to the destination - Gandhikota. (If you are travelling by zoom car / any commercial vehicle, you will have take entry pass from RTO check post on the way and hence you will have to travel till Penukonda just to get pay the entry fee. If not, you can take a deviation around 20Kms prior to Penukonda.)
The most horrible part of the journey is finding any hotel on the way to Gandikota. We did not find any! We directly went to Gandikota and we knew there is a resort there and had our lunch there itself. We checked if we can get any accommodation there but the in charge said weekends are booked for next 2 months! Seriously? We hardly found anyone around and he says its booked for 2 months. We did not care since we were not desperate to stay there.

Gandikota (Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh)

In Gandikota, you can spend 1-2 hours. Avoid afternoons since it will be very hot and unbearable heat. Evenings can be pleasant and you can get a good sunset view. There is an old mosque, a temple, a granary all within the fort. Inside the fort itself, there is a small village. The main attraction is the view of the gorge. The rocky walls and the river flowing in the middle provide a splendid view. You do not feel the depth and vastness until you compare it with something. We saw a boat coming from one end and only then we realized how vast the area is. The place looks safe even for family trips unless you have very naughty kids who run away and you cannot control them! Good place for friends to go for a ride or drive and have a good evening.
Our next destination was Belum caves and hence we took route towards Belum and took a stay in Jammalamadugu as that is the city that falls in between Gandikota and Belum. There were enough lodges but not many hotels. Luckily we found a lodge near a hotel and booked room in that. Till morning we have repented for not booking an AC room. The weather was horrible and we were sweating all the night! Morning after breakfast, we headed to awaited destination - Belum caves.

Belum Caves (Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh)

In simple words, gives you a feel of Grand canyon (may be for people like me who have seen grand canyon only in photos. :P ) Belum caves is definitely worth travelling a distance and visiting since it is hard to find many destinations like this in India. You are allowed to walk for around 1.5Kms inside the cave and the cave is lit by artificial lights. These lights give a different mood to the walls of the cave. Need to appreciate Andhra tourism for the effort they have put in maintaining the cave and making it a good tourist destination. The walk inside cave is not a difficult one and is almost flat. There are different locations like Dhyaana Mandiram, KotiLingam, Pathala Ganga etc. withing the cave and we felt there is no need of any guide unless you are passionate about learning about the cave.Overall Belum caves should falls in your must visit places since it is very unique and beautiful one.

How to reach?
To Gandikota - From Bangalore, take Hyderabad road and take a right around 20Kms before Penakonda. Head towards Jammalamadagu. 4 Kms before Jammalamadagu, take a left turn to Gandikota. (Food and stay available at Gandikota. But book in advance for stay.)
To Belum - From Gandikota, reach Jammalamadagu, then head towards Tadapathri. On the way, you get Belum caves. To return to Bangalore, head to Tadapathri -> Anantapur. Once you reach anantapur, you take Bangalore Hyderabad highway. The road from Jammalamadagu to Bangalore is excellent and you take atleast 2 hours lesser compared to Bangalore to Gandikota road mentioned above. We took around 4.5 hours to cover ~300Kms.

The Arizona feel in Belum Caves
That wonderful feel!

Sunset time and windmills creating a canvas in Gandikota

Inside the old mosque in Gandikota
The gorge in Gandikota
On the way to Belum caves

Belum Caves
Budha statue near Belum caves
Like Hollywood :P 

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Series : There is an experience apart from an opinion - 1

An experience and an opinion about the place and the people are the 2 things which I always gain in each trip. When I turn back and see my blog posts, all I see is I have shared my opinion about the place, the route, the best time to visit etc. But what I have missed is recording my experiences. If not for anyone else, for me these experiences mean a lot and I wish I do not forget any of those. But, life keeps on adding more to the stack that we tend to forget, a few simple yet important ones. But, those special ones can be recorded somewhere and when you read them again, all those scenes flash in front of your eyes as though you are reliving the moments. 
During college days, me and a couple of my friends sitting in last bench used to discuss about going for a trip and I still remember when one of our lecturer just told the word Egypt, we started saying ourselves "Namo Egypt poyiyaa" in tulu meaning "Let's go to Egypt man". But, it was more of a fun for the moment and not really a serious one. But today if I think of any place and decide to go, I start longing for that day every minute. A lot of places are in my bucket and these haunt me everyday. The only major trips we covered during college days were overnight decided Mandalpatti bike ride and Kumaraparvatha Trek. Rest were class trips etc.
A job changed my life and that too when I got posted in Bangalore and most of my friends got in Mangalore, things changed. I used to travel every Saturday and Sunday as if it will be my last weekend of life. Hundreds of reasons joined together to make me get addicted to travelling. I would make a couple of calls to a few friends in Bangalore, and if none were free on that weekend or if they felt lazy to join for the trek on a row, it was me and my backpack travelling to the next place in the bucket list. 
A lot of treks, a lot of places of Bangalore were covered and by then it had become my habit to pick the bag and move somewhere every week. 
In this course, I have met a lot of people in different places whom I may never meet again in life. But those people have given quite a few good memories to me. Some annoying ones, some making me feel uncomfortable, some funny, some making me feel great about them and some people just not making me feel anything but were present for a couple of minutes in life. A couple of next posts dedicated to my experience as a traveler in different places with different people.
When I simply turn back and try listing such people, the first one who comes to my mind is the drunken guide we went with in elephant prone Raagalli Betta and the next is the dad who climbed Madhugiri with his 2 kids aged 9 and 4 with kids wearing no shoes or chappal! A lot of interaction with such people and cant simply stop the list with just 2 people in it. More about these people and more of them in coming posts.
The guide (The One in blue shirt :P ) who 'guided us' in elephant prone Raagalli Betta
And this is how he looks when he is drunk. :P But he was in his senses :)