It had been really long since I went on a REAL trek --- ThengamaruDa near Ooty in June was probably the last 'Real' trek I had been on. Since then, most of the weekends were spent in Biking or places in the vicinity of Bangalore, which cannot hold a candle to the magnificence of natural splendor in other parts of Karnataka.
No wonder then, that I was really desperate for a good trek - the rain, the leeches and the sweat!! But then, it was really not to be! Moch and Bhatta were both in favor of a biking trip and it was too late for me to plan a trek and announce it - so biking it was!! Again!!
When we set off from Bangalore, the plan was to go through Sakleshpur and reach Bisle Ghat. We intended to camp in Bisle, drive around the region and head back to Bangalore. So we set off - Bhatta, Moch, myself and a late entrant in Hakim (who incidentally decided to join us on the toss of a coin!!!)
And as we drove past Nelamangala to enter NH-48, I had vivid memories of my first long bike trip when I ferried my bike to Suratkal - with Rajesh Nelli with me - the unrelenting rains from Hassan till Mangalore -- and the infamous skid and fall just before reaching our destination!!
After breakfast in Kunigal, somewhere along the way, the plan took shape - and changed drastically!! From Bisle, the plan shifted to Bhadra!! After Moch suggested we visit Belur and Halebid, we decided to drive to Chikmagalur thro Belur and proceed further towards Kemmangundi the next day after camping at GaLikere near Bababudangiri for the night!
Bhatta got excited about driving on the Hassan - Belur road again! Even I could only remember the vast stretches of Sunflower greeting us as we drove past last Diwali to CharmaDi on this route. But this time, there was no sunflower. But the road was just as good!! We diverted off the Belur road and proceeded first towards HaLebid.
The first stop was at HaLebidu - the erstwhile capital of the HoysaLas, known to them as Dwarasamudra. From my visits long ago, the one thing I recalled was the star-shape of the temple layout - and the adherence to this star shape of the base, the walls and the roof. We hired a guide there who went on and on in Kannada ..... while I had to translate some of the stuff for the 'Bangaloreans' Moch and Hakim!
Going through the carvings on the outer wall of the temple was like a refresher course in Indian Mythology for me!! And I was glad that I hadn't forgotten much!! I was especially fascinated by this imaginary creature of sorts which was the symbol of the HoysaLas - a mix and match of some seven animals!! This supposedly has the paws of a lion, the body of a pig, an elephant trunk, a crocodile jaw, sharp monkey eyes, ears of a cow and a spreaded out peacock tail!! Am sure it would have been laughed out of existance!!!
Moving on, we drove the ten odd kms from HaLebid to Belur in full josh!! The road was just awesome!! The curves were too good to be true! I wouldn't have complained if I had to drive around back to HaLebid and back for no reason!! :)
Belur, it is said, has beautiful carvings in its interior as compared to HaLebid whose exterior is more renowned. This is in the Chennakeshava temple, also by the HoysaLas. This structure, at the entrance of the temple, shows King Sala killing a lion and saving his Guru, which is said to be the beginning of his quest to establish an empire.
And an account of the Belur temple is not complete without a mention of the most famous 'shilaa baalika' (figurine of stone) called 'DarpaNa Sundari' - the beauty with the mirror.
Immediately after Belur, we could see the backwaters of either the Yagachi river or of the Hemavathi from some dam .... and it was worth taking a break there.
After some arbit talk and timepass, we were finally at ChikmagaLur. When Bhatta took off to go visit his aunt, we had nothing much to do but eat!! And just check out what Hakim and Moch decided to eat!!
When we set off from ChikmagaLur, the fun had just started. We drove from ChikmagaLur towards Kemmangundi - a diversion from the road to LingadahaLLi. At the crossing, we debated if Bhatta should buy some petrol considering how famous his bike has been in running out of fuel at the most inappropriate moments - but Bhatta was sure (as always) that he had enough fuel to last the journey!! I decided that we needed some entertainment and we proceeded without refuelling Bhatta's great Enfield.
As we drove past Sarpadari - the beginning of the trek atop MuLLainagiri - the highest peak in Karnataka, I could remember the winds atop the peak one year earlier and expressed my happiness that we werent on top there again!! The visibility atop the peak would be close to zero now, I remarked. That was probably true - coz as we proceeded further towards BababuDangiri, we were gaining altitude and we were soon in the clouds!! A feeling that is great when you are trekking is not something that you would pray for when you are biking through the area!!
Visibility was low.... and it was dusk. When the sun finally went down, the visibility reduced to less than a few feet!! Out of the three bikes, two had miserable headlights!! The low beam fell on the top of the trees and the high beam was meant to beam down scotty!! :))
We didn't have any fog lights ... and normal headlights are close to useless in the thick mist. We soon realised that we could actually see a lot better with no headlights and so switched 'em off!!! There we were, three bikes in tandem, driving with no headlights - till we saw headlights on the oncoming side!! I wondered what might concor if there were three idiots like us coming in the opposite direction too!!!
Bhatta, with the decent headlight, was out in front and all me and Moch did was follow his taillight!! That was till my bike switched off abruptly and the tail lights disappeared by the time I could kick it back into being!! I could see nothing. I switched my headlights on. I could see less than nothing now!!! Like a blind man crossing the street with no stick, I surmised my way around till I could see tail lights in yonder horizon!! I kept to the side of the hill so that I would not fall down the slope atleast!!!
Finally, braving the visibility crisis, we reached BababuDangiri. We warmed ourselves with cups of chai and ate some grub to pass off as dinner. With advice from hajaar junta, we set off towards GaLikere (literally gaLi = wind and kere = lake) to camp for the night. And when we reached there, just 3 kms from BababuDangiri, we could not even see the lake!! The headlights zeroed in onto a temple of sorts and the duo of Moch and Bhatta recalled camping right there a few months ago.
But now, the scene was totally different!! The ground seemed all bumpy with uneven grass all around - bits of ground was dug up all around - and to add to the fun - it started raining!!! No potential campsites were obvious ones, and we soon had voices of dissent! Bhatta started fantasizing about warm beds and blankets in the rooms and Hakim too started swaying his way!! And before those voices got louder, me and Moch were pitching the tents on ground - in the rain!!
This was the first time we guys had gotten the tents out - and we weren't even sure if they were waterproof!! With a "we'll find out soon!" attitude, we slipped into the tents for what would be a really really really looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong night!!! I refrain from going into too much of a rambling about how long the night really was. But, after I got into the tent at 9:30 pm, changed and had a nap long enuf for me to think that daybreak was just around the corner, I glanced at my watch to find the time to be 10:15 pm!!! I rest my case.
We resumed on the road from BababuDangiri towards Kemmangundi and that was the stretch through the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary!! Each view was picture perfect! Small hills all around .... a green carpet spread all over them ... the white clouds hovering over them with bits of blue sky peeking at us ......... it was blissful!! :)
Fuel transfusion took place in full flow and one unit (read litre) of petrol was transfused from my bike to his ....... I have lost count how many times this has happened over the last two years!! The most memorable one was back in Kerala where Bhatta announced that his bike had "half a tank of petrol" and he didn't need to refuel ........ and his tank was dry in less than half a kilometer!!! :)) ROTFL!!!
The drive thro Bhadra was just beginning ...... Green was the color of the day and it was all around! Eveywhere I looked, it looked worthy of being captured in a snap!! I soon gave up!!
The last stop was a small diversion enroute LingadahaLLi to Kalhatti falls ...... We trekked for around an hour so that we could get this view of the falls ......
And from there, it was a drive through LingadahaLLi to reach Birur on NH 206 and continue on the NH through Kadur, Arsikere and Tumkur before we finally reached Bangalore after a 5 hour drive!