Shravana Belagola -http://www.coolspotsnearbangalore.blogspot.in/

Shravana Belagola

Shravana Bellagola is one of the most famous historical and religious places in the state of Karnataka, India. The statue that you will see in the pictures below is that of Gomateshwara also known as Bahubali.
Distance From Bengaluru: Approximately 158 kms.
What’s Special: Very famous historical and religious place in the state of Karnataka, India. Every 12 years thousands of devotees assemble here to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka ceremony. A ceremony in which the statue of Gomateshwara is washed with milk, curds, ghee, saffron and covered with gold coins. This surely is one of the great tourist places near Bengaluru (Bangalore).
Mode of Transport: Buses, Trains and any private mode of transport by road.
Near By Places: Mysuru, Belur, Halebidu, Kemmangundi and Chikmagaluru.
         
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Western Ghats Drive -http://anandmiitm.blogspot.in

Western Ghats Drive

We had been thinking for a while about going for a long drive, since more than 2 years actually! I’d mentioned it in one of my previous blog. This year as well, we had the possibility of a long vacation for almost 10 days by taking just 4 days off – thanks to Ramzan and Independence day falling close by. The initial plan was as before, i.e., places in and around Kurnool. However, due to the Telangana agitations, we had to think of a plan B. This time though, we start from Hyderabad itself. And in a better vehicle – Ford Figo, the car I’d bought almost an year ago.

After closely observing Telangana developments around the time, we decided just the day before we depart that we cancel original plan & pick plan B, i.e., go to western ghats. I had roughly prepared the itinerary for Plan B in less than couple of hours, which we were to follow for the trip of a week! I had prior experience of several tours, drives & trips so I was confident it’d work out. I just had to make sure the night stays weren’t risky or at impossible places.

Day 1 – August 9

We (my mom & I) started from home with odometer at 11217 at about 9 am. Had breakfast at Susheel’s place (cousin). We left there at about 10 am after having breakfast.

The first place was Pillalamarri at Mahbubnagar. We reached at around 12.30, stayed for about half-an-hour. The place wasn’t great, we were a bit disappointed. I thought the tree would span a huge area, but it didn’t.

We moved on, stopped at some place roadside at around 2.30 for about half-an-hour for lunch that we brought packed from home.

Next stop was Raichur Fort. This was a disappointment as well. We just saw the lake beside the fort. Took some pictures of the dilapidated fort as well. Didn’t take much long. We drove on to our next destination.

On the way we stopped at the Tungabhadra bridge, built by Karnataka govt after the recent (few years ago) floods washed away the old bridge.

Mantralayam. Took a room at Punnami guest house, wore bathing suits for a bath in Tungabhadra river. Stayed in the waters for about half-an-hour. Got out, had dinner, took some pictures & back to room to get some sleep.

Overall the roads were awful. There’s a speed breaker before a village, one in between, and another after we cross the village. Somehow, a house on the side of the road also seems to be a village, now imagine the number of speed breakers! Also, the ground clearance of Figo ain’t great, so we were scraping the bottom several times! In addition to these concrete speed breakers, there were a several natural speed breakers on the roads as well, i.e., cattle (cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep and horses!).

Day 2 – August 10

Odometer was 11502. Susheel driving today. Filled diesel. We were very frustrated all morning with the road condition. The first place to visit was Kudala Sangama. After a quick breakfast at around 9 am in a small town, Sirvur, we reached Kudala Sangama at noon. Spent about an hour, along with lunch at a dhaba.

Next, at around 3.30, reached Aihole (to be spelt as I-hoe-lay). The place was a bunch of temples scattered throughout the town, some of the temples a kilometer away sometimes. We visited a few big ones that were open and accessible.

The weather was very nice.

Next was Pattadakal, which we reached at around 4.30. After what we had seen at Aihole, we didn’t really expect much. However, we were quite blown away. We had no idea it was a world heritage site. One of the 15 in India! After a long photo session, we had to leave. We spent more than an hour and a half, much longer than I expected. I wondered whether we’ll make it to a good place for the night stay.

On the way we stopped at Banashankari temple for about half-an-hour. It was 7 pm already. There weren’t any rooms at this place. So our only option was the next place.

Badami. Fortunately it wasn’t too far away, we reached within 15 minutes. First found a place to stay, then went for dinner at some dhaba.

Day 3 – August 11

Odometer was 11802.
My day didn’t begin too well. The dinner wasn’t great & had upset my stomach. I was alright after having some buttermilk & curd.

We explored the Badami caves, took pictures, checked out of the room & moved on to next place. Left Badami at around 9 am.

Filled Diesel at Hubli, odometer at 11911. I took over driving. We were stopped by a traffic policeman, asked for documents. I had everything in order. However, I wondered whether they’d object to our AP registered car in Karnataka without paying road tax. But there wasn’t any issue, we moved on.

Next destination was Magod Falls, which we reached around 2 pm. After spending about half-an-hour, had lunch at a dhaba on the way to next place.

Karwar. Reached by around 5 pm. First went to the Warship museum, then the Sunset beach, saw the sunset, took several pictures. Took a room at Navratna Deluxe hotel as suggested by a traffic cop. Then, as suggested by the hotelier, had dinner at Swetha Home. The fish delicacies were quite good. We don’t get these in Hyderabad or Bangalore.

Day 4 – August 12

Odometer was 12121.
First went to Mahamaya temple at Ankola. It was quite deserted, although Google Maps indicated it as a popular tourist destination in that region. We moved on within 10 minutes.

Next was Gokarna, reached around 9 am. First the Bhadrakali temple and then paet-puja at a nearby Udipi hotel. The dosas were quite good, so we had a heavy breakfast. Then drove to Mahabaleshwara temple. Susheel lost his goggles in the Vinayaka temple. This temple too seemed a bit hyped up. Then we went to Om beach around 10.30. Unfortunately, the beach also seemed hyped up. The water was black, full of ashes – probably because of night fires by fishermen on the beach. So far the day was drab.

Next was Mirjan Fort, reached around 11.30. It wasn’t hyped, and lived up to the reputation. It was completely covered in moss. The fort, from a distance, looked like it was painted green! There weren’t any other visitors, so the watchman suspected us to have come to shoot some film, because we were carrying super-duper cameras 🙂

After spending about half-an-hour, we started for the next place on our itinerary, Jog Falls! One of the highlights of our trip. The drive was awesome. We reached around 3 pm, stayed for about an hour and a half. Had lunch too.

Susheel took over driving from now, odometer was 12323. On the way back, we stopped at a roadside tiny waterfall. The water was cold, but clean & clear. So spent some time in the water. Also stopped at another place which had a good view of the valley & the dam on river Sharavathi.

Next stop was Apsara konda at 6.30. The waterfall there was great. Unfortunately I slipped my phone into the waters & it was out-of-order for rest of the trip! We stayed on the hill until after sunset, i.e., about 7 pm.

We thought we’d go to Murudeshwara next but saw that Idigunji was a very slight deviation on the way there. So thought we’d try finding a place to stay there. However, they didn’t provide hot water in the mornings, so we had to move on, skipping the temple’s free dinner (anna-daana).

We went ahead to Murudeshwara, got a room to stay in RNS Residency, overlooking the sea. Had dinner at Nayak Fishland. It wasn’t as good as the one we had at Karwar. We didn’t realize how good it was at Karwar until we experienced inferior quality here 🙂 After an hour long photo shoot trying to capture the tall gopuram, we went back to room for rest.

Day 5 – August 13

Odometer was 12415.
We went to the nearby beach by walk hoping we could have some fun. However it was quite dirty, the fishermen did a lot of stuff on the beach! So we turned back, got ready, visited the temple, checked out, had breakfast at Kamat & left. The weather changed drastically, there was rain all day, since the time we visited the temple.

On the way to next place, at around 11 am, we stopped at a beach adjoining the highway between Mavanthe and Trasi. This was the only place where the beach was right beside the highway.

Hattiangadi was the next place, which we reached at noon. It wasn’t a big temple, so spent just about 10 minutes.

Then went to the Aneguddi Vinayaka Temple around 12.30. This wasn’t big either.

Next was Udipi. First saw Manipal University. Then the famous Krishna Temple. It was quite difficult to get to it because of the rain, and more importantly Google Maps didn’t show the route correctly! We had to resort to stone-age methods of asking the locals for directions! Finally reached the temple in a convoluted route at around 2 pm. Had lunch at the temple itself. Started for the next place, after spending more than an hour in Udipi. Due to the rain we thought it may not be a good idea to visit the Maple beach, so skipped it.

I drove from here, odometer was 12545.

Next destination was Mangalore. We didn’t have much to see here, except a couple of temples. One of those I knew wasn’t great, so we skipped it. Just went to Kadri temple. Reached around 5 pm, stayed for about half-an-hour.

Then set course to Dharmasthala. On the way, saw Sri Rama Kshetra. This was lot bigger than most of the other hyped temples we’d visited earlier.

Finally reached Dharmasthala at around 7 pm. Visited the temple first, had dinner in temple (anna-daana) & took lodging at the temple accommodation (Netravathi) itself. The water here was the softest I’ve encountered ever. I had to wash for a very long time to rid the soap on hands, it was fun! Dharmasthala seemed like a much larger pilgrimage & worth the hype, compared to all the other temples we’d visited in our trip. Maybe we could count Udipi as the second largest, but no other temple comes anywhere close deserving such hype. It’s a stupendous job by the Karnataka Tourism department to showcase so many small destinations as such popular tourist places. I suppose any temple that serves free food (anna-daana) is deemed to be a popular tourist destination.

Day 6 – August 14

Odometer was 12677.

Started at around 7 am for next place, Kukke Subramanya. It was raining on and off. The drive (minus the road quality) was great. That is, we drove through the clouds’ fog, in the ghats (curved roads, overlooking valleys, streams of water, etc.), with visibility at times within just few meters ahead, also it rained a minute and in the next minute it’s all dry. We reached Kukke in a couple of hours. After visiting the temple & having breakfast, left for the next place.

Belur. Reached around 2 pm. We had stopped in between for a few minutes at Sakleshpur to buy spices. We visited the Belur temple, and took a lot of pictures. They had a huge flashlight inside the temple, for its operation they took Rs.20 each so that they flash on the several of the finely carved pillars which we could take photos of. The artwork on the pillars was very good, and was obvious it must’ve taken the sculptors a very long time to complete. After having lunch at a hotel close to the temple itself, we went ahead for our next destination.

Halebeedu. We reached around 4 pm. This was as beautifully sculpted as the temple at Belur. The difference, in my perspective though, was that the temple at Belur was beautiful inside & this one was beautiful from outside. After spending about half-an-hour exploring and taking pictures, we left the place.

Susheel took over driving from now, odometer was 12846.

Original plan was to visit Shravanabelagola, but due to some rumors that the route has a bad road & personal experience of going through Karnataka’s state highways (read as horrible roads), we skipped it and set course directly to Bangalore. We stayed at our sister’s place for the night.

Day 7 – August 15

Odometer was 13063.
I took over driving. The plan was simple for the day. Drive to Hyderabad, no stops in between, except for food, of course. Just stick to the National Highway. Filled diesel, full tank & kicked off around 10 am. We were stopped on the National Highway for a short while, 30 minutes I think, due to a Raasta-Roko just before reaching Anantapur. Had lunch at New Royal Dhaba just after crossing Anantapur. The food was pathetic, it caused serious illness for all of us the next day and beyond. However, we were okay till we reached the city that evening. Susheel took over driving at Tungabhadra river bridge at Kurnool, odometer was 13424. We took a short tea-break near Jadcherla. Otherwise, we were just driving all day (there were a few short breaks at the toll booths too).

We reached Hyderabad at around 7 pm. Odometer in the end, at home was 13659.

Summary

We had driven a total of 2442 km.
Of which, if you do the math, I drove about 1350 km and Susheel 1100 km.

The roads in Uttar Kannada district are very good.
However, the roads in Dakshin Kannada were deplorable. At most stretches, National Highways were worse than village mud roads.
Raichur roads were full of speed breakers and equally bad.

Overall, the trip was a mix of good and bad, but definitely a memorable one.