1000 km long weekend

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It was long weekend in the offing, and as no surprise – everything and anything within 500 Km radius of Bangalore will not remain available. And we just hate booking off place well in advance – a week or 2 before the date arrives..works fine for us. We started by browsing the map for leads to places that could be seen in a window of a day or 2 if not for the complete 4 days of long weekend. There was no chance of settling for a homestay somewhere in typical picturesque options like Chikmagalur/ Shimoga/ Sakleshpur, first because Bangaloreans won’t leave out anything unbooked! second because we usually aren’t the relaxing kind and would ultimately not use most amenities at the stupid homestays.. we just won’t stay in the homestay.
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Hassan seemed like a very good option, as it seemed to be a centre from all places of visit like the heritage sites of Halebidu-Belur-Belavadi circuit, or the coffee plantation trails of Sakleshpur and the historical Manjrabad Fort, and bang next to the spooky(and so photogenic) ruins of Shettihalli Church.

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To add, accommodations are always available at Hassan, simply because most of tourist-type Bangalore doesn’t consider Hassan (just yet)
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We headed early morning from Bangalore on the NH48 to Hassan. We decided to check out Shravanbelagola on our way, which was a slight off from the highway we were taking. At Shravanbelagola, you need to trek the rocky hill with bare foot, no shoes, since it is a religious landmark. No wonder not many people do it. The scorching heat made the rock floor unbearable, wouldn’t dare to try. The hill isn’t small one either. We gazed at it from far and left the zone. Having breakfast and butt-breaks along some A2B’s & Adigas & CCDs we reached Hassan at about 2:30 pm. We checked in, and relaxed planning for our next jaunts. Free Wi-Fi does work sometimes.

Next morning after our complimentary breakfast we headed straight towards Sakleshpur, in about an hour we were there. A mere 45-50 kms. We reached Manjrabad Fort. Its a nice place, but full of plastic filth dumped there by the tourists. There is not even a single dustbin installed in that entire area of the fort, I’m sure there can be a job created for a care-taker & some management, IF locals are willing to do it sincerely.
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We spent a good hour meandering its octagonal outline and clicking pics, and by 12 we were out driving by coffee estates on outskirts of Sakleshpur. On the way we spotted almost all the homestays we had checked out online while considering staying plan a week ago. They didn’t seem half as good a idea compared with what we were doing currently (and paying currently). While having lunch at a recommended joint in Sakleshpur, we decided to head for Belur-Halebidu-Belavadi in the next half. Watching sunset at Shettihalli was high on list but there was too much time on hand till then. So we moved on post lunch to Belur, and we were done by all 3 by 4 pm. We decided to head back to Hassan and sip some chai before we can move to Shettihalli, which was about 20 kms down from Hassan. It was almost 5 pm by the time we reached Hassan and sun was already on its way down once we finished tea. Considering Shettihalli Church being at a secluded zone and almost unknown to crowds, we decided it will be better to do it early in the morning.

At Hassan you can dine away your hearts full at Ramaa Hotel’s Swaad restaurant. The food was amazing and has some very good Icecream Sundae options. The place is quite a hit will locals it seems and also people from near by villages. It was packed on all days.

Next morning we started to see the ruins of Shettihalli Church. The sight is no doubt breathtaking, and thankfully still not thronged with people. May be because there isn’t much to do there, and the vendors have decided to spare this place as a potential customer base. It remains quiet and secluded for a equally quiet picnic spot, with birds enjoying the waters of the Gorur-Hemavathi Reservoir, also a few boatman.
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Our stay at Hassan was getting over and we headed next towards the district of Coorg – to Madikeri. I don’t have much to talk about Madikeri, as it was quite ugly as expected. A hill-station but ofcourse ruined by now with the advent of tourist culture and ‘Traffic’ created by tourist vehicles. We generally just walked around, missing out every tourist-spot mentioned in the book. Weather was too warm for October with slight mist forming on our bike seats and helmets – thats about it.
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The route while driving to Madikeri & back was more scenic than the place itself. Homestays ofcourse make more sense if you want to experience a hill-station. Unfortunately, all the famous restaurants that serve Coorg curries and appams were for some reason not working. ‘Taste of Coorg’ had a very bad stink inside its serving area …for which I will probably never enter it again in this life. ‘Raintree’ was only serving Chinese that day. These are the top Tripadvisor recommendations! I was able to find the coorg chicken curry at Hill View hotel, which was lipsmacking! Once I’ve had my fill of coorgi food, I was ready to go back to the hustle-bustle of Bangalore. The bike meter displayed about a 936 Kms covered on this trip.

Hassan – Hotel Mayura International – Rs.1600/- per night (includes Breakfast, Free Wi-Fi, TV, neat and clean rooms, Parking)
Swaad Restaurant at Hotel Ramaa – Meal for 2 (Rs.250-400/-)
Hotel Mythri, Sakleshpur – Meal for 2 (Rs.250/-)
Madikeri – Hotel Hill View – Rs.1500/- per night (Wi-Fi, TV, parking)
Raintree Restaurant – Meal for 2 (Rs.300/-)

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Independence day long weekend

We had long planned this outing for the 15th August long weekend. The initial idea was to be in Chikamagalur in the beautiful rainy season. The trip idea further culminated into including a detour through Halebid & Belur.
Meanwhile, another member from the group wanted to go somewhere else for the weekend. She reached out to the group to make a last minute plan happen that may not be as planned – her only requirement, a company to a sudden plan. She was interested in Hampi, but for obvious reasons of unavailability of modes of commute to one of the most popular destinations from Bangalore, it did not happen. But somehow through the group she found one more person desperate for a long weekend outing, and they found a trek package via Thrillophilia to Tadiandamol Trek in Coorg.

Few details of the both the trips below:
1. Halebid-Bellur-Chikamagalur –

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For the Bangalore to Hassan & then back from Chikamagalur to Bangalore bus ride, we booked a regular KSRTC Rajahamsa (total approx Rs. 700 per head). From Hassan bus station to Halebid, it costed us about Rs.28 per head.
Halebid was terribly crowded, mostly because of the weekend. We somehow managed to get some good shots avoiding the crowd. Before entering this campus, I thought out loud to everyone, all these old temples have the same kind of stuff, have hardly seen anything different..although I’m a fan of history and ruins across India.

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I was proved wrong right the next moment. I have to admit I haven’t seen anything loaded with more intricate work than this place.
After Halebid, we decided to hire a auto rickshaw to check out Belavadi (13 kms away) and continue with it till Belur (another 16 kms away). That trip costed us total Rs.500 for the entire ride.

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The temple at Belavadi is relatively less popular, and it was completely empty. However, has a very passionate Pujari taking care of it. He literally was upset with us for being more interested in using our cameras than visiting the deity at the temple. Although he was very interested in telling about the idols placed there, Krishna, Narasimha & Vishnu. Vishnu at the centre, Krishna on the left, Narasimha at the right. The Vishnu idol has been so placed at the centre inside the temple that on a particular day of the year (23rd March), at sun rise, the beam of light directly falls at the face of Lord Vishnu – AMAZING isn’t it!. Apparently, the Krishna idol has been nominated as the most beautifully made idol for Lord Krishna by the Archaeological Survey of India. The temple was spic and span, shining literally, thanks to less crowd coming there.
On second thoughts, all other temples were quite clean too, despite so much crowd visiting daily.
From here, we headed to Belur Temple on the same auto rickshaw. The auto did not take the main route, instead somewhere interior, may be a shortcut. Even though it was bumpy, we witnessed a lot of Flower Farms, Marigolds covered the valley, and you witness orange patches of fields in the valley as far as your eyes can see. There were also sun-flowers, and we missed their yellow blooms just by few weeks, August is their seed extraction season when they dry off. We saw some Rose fields too. We spent some time-out time at the vast campus of Belur. Turns out in our group of 4, all 3 except me had already been there so many times, and they had some interesting stories to narrate about the history of this place. 

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At Halebid, the temple carvings were tad destroyed, some were obviously current century with names scribbled in, while broken heads and  carvings can be attributed to the destruction caused during certain invasions of historical times. As per mythology, after vandalising Halebid temple, these invaders were headed to Belur campus next to destroy the temple, but even a mere 16 kms would have taken longer for the entire fleet to cover in those times. Hence the locals, who had an idea about the invasion, apparently covered the temple campus with mounds of soil, to make it look like a hillock. I do wonder, with lack of machinery, how could they have achieved it. Because clearly, the temple campus of Belur has close to no signs of destruction..

From Belur bus station, we took a bus to Chikamagalur (Rs. 30 per head). We had to further take another bus to reach our Homestay, Coffeeland Homestay, in a near by village called Haandi.
After a scrumptious dinner at the homestay, we all retired soon after the hectic day.

Next day we had plans to check out Mullayangiri, Baba Budangiri Hills & Kemmanagundi.

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Early morning we had our Malnad style breakfast, and spent some time meandering the estate. We were told that the coffee plants flower somewhere in April and the place is covered in all white, interesting time to visit!. We then took our taxi and headed for Mullayangiri. The hill-top was a very short 5 minute climb, where the fog was too thick to see anything. We left soon, carrying some hot bhuttas for snack. However our plans went for a toss after leaving Mullayangiri. We were about to ascend for BB Hills, when we had just stopped at the Durgah to take some pictures at the picturesque site. While you try to click a picture of someone standing at a distance with the green backgrounds, suddenly there is an invasion of clouds, and you both can’t see each other! literally thats what happened to us. With mist all over us, we had to make a move, and it soon began to pour heavily. We moved on back to town of Chikamagalur, where it was still pleasant. We also checked out a small local park where a toy train ride was surprisingly fun. The park is really well maintained for a mere fees of Rs.6. We then headed to Town Canteen, for a quick grub as we had skipped our lunch. Had a couple of coffees for the evening, and headed to catch our bus to Bangalore.

2. Tadiandamol trek, Chelavara falls & Tibetan Monastery – 

So turns out for these girls too, the whole sudden plan was a big hit and a lot of fun. Here is the summarised write up by Ankita who went for this –

We started from Bangalore on Thursday night & reached our homestay early morning. Our ride was Etios and the drive was a bit cramped for obvious reasons:p
Our Homestay (Coorg Summer Palace near Chelvara falls) was a beautiful old house which is located pretty far off from the commercial Coorg. It was a beautiful estate spread over 100 acres & they had Coffee, Cardamom, turmeric plantations. Along with that, they also had Oranges & other vegetables. All the food that we had there was organic and the vegetables were from their own garden. They let us pluck oranges too 🙂
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Our rooms were small but very clean & had all the basic amenities. They had provided blankets, towels & some toiletries. Our host Sajeev & his wife were very receptive towards our small requests. Sajeev took us around the two nearby short hills & Chelvara falls in Jeep that day. Those were clearly the highlight of our journey. It was beautiful & i won’t try to pur more words to explain it further as it just wont suffice. You need to be there and experience it. One small thing that you need to be aware off are Leeches. They will bite you but you have got nothing to worry. The 1st time you will be startled but next time it would be just another thing 🙂
Saturday morning around 7:30am, Sajeev dropped us at the base of Tadianamol peak. We did have our own guide for the trek. However, there are so many groups around you that one can easily scale it by just tagging along with some group 🙂 The trek was not difficult & could be a good debut for beginners. It was a 12-14 odd Kms! Again, don’t mind the leeches 🙂
When we reached the peak, we were a little sad cause it was very cloudy and we could barely see any breath taking views! However, the journey of reaching there was really good. We were 5800 Sq feet above the sea level. We were back to the base around4:30-5pm. We did have awesome time & met many more people on our way. Many of which had interesting stories to tell.
Both the evening, we had Bonfire with some snacks & music at the homestay. Authentic Coorgy style food was served on all the days and yes, the food was delicious. Sunday morning we checked out after breakfast and started towards Bylakuppe to see the TIbetan monastery. We reached there around noon & that did make all the difference. All the prayer halls were filled with hundred’s of monks chanting prayers with drums. For me it was ecstatic & kind off put me in a trance. The architecture was magnificent & suddenly you feel like you are in East India. We ensured we ate food at an authentic Tibetan place (I forgot the name of that place). It was reasonably priced and the quantity was very good. We felt we over ordered :p
Drive to Bangalore was smooth & I reached home around 10pm with some memorable moments & great friends 🙂
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