For those that do not know it, I completed a year of married life on the 27th of June. Frankly speaking I really do feel that the year passed away a bit too quickly. But it was a good load of fun. All relatives that had called up to "congratulate" always ended with a query "Any Other news?" To all these I replied with an equally loaded reply "Wait and watch".
I would rate my marriage at the time being as "Stable". Any attempts on my part to slightly destabilise have been and will be most severely and mercilessly thwarted, so I have given up on any attempts on that angle.
Exactly a year back we had spent our honeymoon in Munnar and for our first anniversary we had decided to visit Madikeri and also Kukke Subrahmanya. So on the 25th of June we set off on our Santro in the direction of Mangalore on the NH-4. The car this time was loaded with chips, juice, sweaters,torch,medicines etc etc. A marked change from the bachelor days when on certain occassions I even forgot to carry the clothes that touch me the most. After taking the deviation for NH-48 at Nelamangala we stopped for breakfast at a push-cart. The lady there was selling freshly prepared idlis and we had our fill. Somehow both of us do not mind eating at lesser sophisticated joints and hence places like FishLand, Fanoos figure prominently on our weekend visits.
The highway leading towards Hassan is excellent and the sporadic traffic makes driving even more pleasant. We reached Hassan in about 3 hours, having had covered a distance of 160 kms. Compare that to the Bangalore-Mysore highway that requires around 5 hrs to cover a distance of 140 kms. Post marriage I have begun to drive a bit slower and have begun to show more respect for the dogs on the road(beautiful creatures). With the canine spokesperson on board I do not have much of a choice actually.
After Hassan we came to the Shiradi ghat and I showed Chethana the spot where we had started our railroad trek. The spot was the abandoned Donigal railway station and most probably on our second anniversary trains would start running on that track. Driving in the Shiradi ghat has always been a favourite with me and this time the weather was also fantastic. Because of monsoons most of the water falls along the highway were gushing along. Driving in the ghat of Shiradi takes more time and seems less riskier when compared to the Augumbe ghat. Augumbe ghats require great skill, since a "hairpin curve" there really means that. But the entire distance gets completed pretty quickly so there is no time(or parking space) to stop and enjoy the beauty.
After the ghats, at a spot called Gundya we need to take a left to reach the temple at Kukke Subrahmanya. Amongst the younger generation this spot will have more of a recall because of it being the "base-camp" for treks. But we came here for strictly religious purposes and any trek was ruled out because of the rainy weather. K.S (Kukke Subrahmanya .. dont confuse please) is a one-street temple-town and its commerce is driven by the tourists. But the place was surprisingly clean and we had a simple meal at one of the restaurants. That done we decided to check into a hotel called Seshnag-Ashraya that had been recommended to us. The tariff was 540/- and the room was pretty good. After a nap we decided to visit the temple.
The temple is a pretty old one and in recent times has begun to attract a lot many devotees. One reason is better connectivity courtesy KSRTC. There was not too much of a crowd since during the months of "Ashaadha", the lord is given a rest and not too many religious ceremonies take place. After visiting the temple we just did not know what to do. KS was one of those places where time seems to stop. We actually visited the KSRTC bus stop there just cos there was nothing else to do! Imagine walking into a KSRTC bus stop and checking out the buses, the cloak room, the notices.. all because there is nothing else to do!!! yup... we did it.
Somehow being alone in an otherwise-crowded-but-currently-empty place always gives me a kick. I guess it is the thought of the absolute anonymity that you possess in such places. Some friends I have known just cannot spend an evening alone all by themselves, but I seem to have no problems. One thing that I really want to do is visit LalBagh at 3:00 on a Monday afternoon. Just the thought gives me goosebumps. All alone in a place and nobody bothered about you..... Btw my wife gets completely unnerved when I go in such a mood. I am a gregarious person usually and I guess she finds such an intense private life out of place and unexpected.
Anyways after the KSRTC bus stand visit we visited a local museum. Yes .. KS has a museum. A very cute and small museum. It has some old coins, some currency notes from various countries and at least 3 ancient radios and typewriters. What would impress you is not the content of the museum but the fact that the officials actually maintain one there!! Coming out we went for a long walk and checked out the trinkets for sale at the shops. Then we just walked here and there, visited the local college(empty of course), took a couple of snaps, watched the local populace . I seriously recommend a visit to this town, not just for the religious significance but to feel the pace of life that exists in smaller towns of India. Then it began to rain and we took refuge in a small hotel off the main road and sat eating bajjis and drinking tea. We watched the rain fall on the street in front . The weather, mood and company was an incredible combination. It is a memory that will stay with me for a long time.
The Blore-Mlore highway and Mysore-Mlore highway run parallel and join at a place near Bantwal. The Mysore-Mlore route is very picturesque and u cross Madikeri en-route. From KS we needed to reach the Mys-Mlore highway to get to Madikeri. We needed to first go to Sulya and then move towards Mysore on that until we reached Madikeri. The road connecting Sulya with KS was a single road, meaning only one vehicle could move. But it was in decent shape and the scenery we encountered was excellent. The monsoons had ensured that we were treated to all shades of green. On the way we stopped at a small shop and the guy was able to whip up omelettes for us . In that weather anything would have tasted good :)
Before we reached Madikeri we encountered a turn that read "Bhagamandala-Talacauvery". Since it was just 2:00 in the afternoon we decided to visit these places before we went to Madikeri. Talacauvery is the place where the river Cauvery originates and is located at a high altitude. The distance was around 42 kms. We reached Talacauvery in an hour and a half and the place was absolutely covered in fog(clouds). I had to drive with extreme caution and with my headlights at high beam. There were not too many people around and we were very lucky that it was not raining. All in all a great time to visit the place!!
We reached Madikeri at around 4:30 and checked into a hotel called Hilltown. It was a decent hotel, but the rooms were a bit small. Later we visited the standard must-visits in Madikeri, Rajas's seat, Omkareshwara temple and the fort. Cant say much about these except that the view from Raja's seat is really good and we spent a quiet evening sitting at one of the benches. Then we tried to hunt out a place that would serve local Coorgi food but most of the restaurants only advertised Chinees and Mugalai food. Disappointed we decided to have our dinner at a place called Hotel Rajadarshan. The room I entered had some hard core boozing in progress, so I asked the manager there to show me the "family-room". He took me to another part and here we had an entire family boozing. Mom,dad, grandmom,granddad .. all of them . Anyways we were hungry and ordered our dinner. It was quite good actually.
Next day we got up early and took off for the other attraction of Madikeri, the Abbey falls. This place is at a distance of around 14 kms from Madikeri town and the road is pretty decent. Once again caution was necessary since this was also a single road. From the place where u park your vehicle you need to walk for arounnd half a kilometre on a track that goes through a private estate. We were automatically guided to the right spot by the sound of the waterfall. It was a pretty good sight actually and we were the only ones there. I have never had a waterfall all to myself !! We returned from the place after spending half an hour there.
After checking out we proceeded in the direction of Mysore. At a distance of around 25 kms you reach a place called Guddehosur. From here if you take left you reach the Harangi dam, right takes you towards the Dubare elephant camp and straight you go towards Cauvery Nisargadhama. We took the left and encountered an extremely bad stretch. After around 5 kms we came to the Harangi dam. It does not have any generation capabilities and is built to dam the cauvery. It was having some really well maintained gardens and lawns. The view from the dam, of the catchment area was also pretty good. Had we reached when water was being released I am sure the view on the other side also would have been excellent. It being Monday and the off season as well, the entire area was desolate and empty. It was an eerie feeling, being alone next to such a huge structure. I could just imagine the level of activity that would have been there when the dam was being constructed.
From the Harangi dam we drove back to GuddeHosur and drove towards Siddapur. This state highway leads to the Dubare elephant camp. After a distance of around 15 kms you need to take a left at a sign board. The route from here on is pretty bad and you actually need to drive through a paddy field at the last stretch. To reach the camp you need to cross the river using a boat. The more adventurous have the option of using a coracle as well. The camp conducts a package tour in the mornings. The entire package includes getting close to the elephants while they are being bathed, (You can go and scrub them as well) feeding them and then a ride through the camp on their backs. By the time we reached it was "TimeUp"and we had to do with just a tour of the camp. The whole package costs 150/- per head. But make sure you reach the place in time. There is lodging facility available here but at a steep price of 2200/- per cottage. The place has a decent restaurant and we had a quick snack of omelettes(again!!).
Next stop was Cauvery Nisargadhama. This was pretty boring and there was really not much to see apart from the deer park. Had we come with a larger gang I am sure it would have been much better. This places offers accomodation in cottages. I had a look at them and they seemed pretty decent. A boy was sweeping out the mess that had been created by the previous visitors, empty cartons of RC, bottles of Smirnoff and lots of empty cigarette packs. For those that are interested, these are available at very reasonable rates. The guys there quoted 650/- as the charge. But you need to book them thru the office of the Forest Department Madikeri. The boy I was speaking to pointed to the empty bottles he was clearing and said, "These are the kind of people that usually visit". So please be warned...