Monday, November 11, 2013

Kollur, and back to Bangalore

Continuation of my previous blogs Why this Kolaveri Di and Kolavara Heritage Homestay & Sringeri

Day 3: 27-October-2013

Today was supposed to be a relatively lazy day – with just 2 hours of travel, or max 3. That is what I thought.

We woke up leisurely at around 0700, and had our cup of tea. We had decided against coffee as the coffee served at Kolavera was little strong, and of a little different taste than what we preferred – and their tea was very good. So wife and I chose tea after first experience with coffee. Dad and Mom chose tea from the first time itself.

I had planned to wash my car today as it had got soiled in the past drives. There was a washing bay – to my curiosity – at the homestay. It was a proper one which we see at washing stations, where we could wash the under-body as well. I enquired with Nishchal (son of owner uncle), and he told that this is common in the planters' homes in that area. The reason being, they typically had few vehicles and could not take them to wash to the town every time. Moreover, if the washing guys say they are busy, then it could be a lot of waste of time. So, many of them built this at their homes itself. There was a water tap and a hose next to the bay, so I could wash properly and it was over in about an hour.

Breakfast was ready by 0800 which was a spread which included a different kind of dosa (batter mixed with beaten rice powder). I thought we could leave by 1100 and as per my estimate, Kollur will take 2 hours of drive, and we could reach by 1300 or max 1330 to have lunch there, or somewhere en-route.

By the time I finished washing the car, others had got ready and had breakfast. It was my turn to take bath and get ready. I took bath and got ready by around 0930 and had breakfast. We spent some time packing and loading stuff into the car. The owner uncle and autny had gone to a relative’s place in the morning. So, we had bid them goodbye in the morning itself while I was washing the car. We got ready to leave by around 1100 and bid goodbye to Nischal, wrote our comments in the guest-book and left.

We would be taking the Tirthahalli – Agumbe – Someshwara route to Kollur as advised by Nischal. The roads were good and we covered Tirthahalli in 30 min. I filled petrol from there and increased the tyre pressure also a bit as seen in the ford note while washing. It said that if there are 3-4 passengers the pressure should be 34 psi. I had been riding at 31 psi. After increasing the tyre pressure the ride quality increased. We continued to Agumbe, and the roads were excellent. It was full of plantations on both sides, or forests, or villages. It was a real pleasure to drive on that road. No wonder why Malgudi days were shot in that village. If this is feeling so nice now, how it would have been when Malgudi days were shot?

We stopped in Agumbe for a tea-break. There is a small lake there, near where the ghat begins. Not sure if there is any activity there, like boating or walk-way. I did not venture out into find out more. We had tea and checked out a store with few handicraft items, and left. The ghat section was not in very good condition, but doable. We reached Someshwara in another 30 min and followed the signages to Kollur. Road conditions deteriorated after that. I got worried a bit. But then it improved, but still not good. I continued anyways, there was nothing much to do. By now, it was almost more than an hour and Kollur did not seem another 1 hour away, it definitely seemed more.

After Someshwara the roads are patchy, with certain bad sections, okay sections and good sections which came alternatively in cycles. We passed places like Halady, Sankaranarayana and finally reached Kollur by 1430. It took 3.5 hours against my assumption of 2 hours, due to 2 main reasons. One, the distance was more than I expected. I expected around 80-90 kms, but we drove around 140 kms. Second, the roads were not good throughout. 50% of the roads were in not-so-good or bad condition.

The question now was - where to have lunch? I did not stop anywhere on the way though it was lunch time and I had seen a couple of okay-types hotels. This is the problem with me. In eagerness to reach the destination I somewhat forget these little comforts or breaks that I should be giving my fellow-travellers and myself.

To our pleasant surprise Vasudev Adigas has opened an outlet in Kollur. They are in the premises of Hotel Mookambika Palace. I had read reviews about this hotel. Being a new hotel, it had good reviews. But tariff was on the higher side – 2k for a double bedroom per night. This was the starting as they had only A/c rooms. They seemed good. But I decided against. We had lunch at Vasudev Adigas, and proceeded towards Lalithambika Guest House managed by the temple. We normally stay here, and we get rooms for 300-350 for a double room. So spending 7 times that amount for one night was hurting the mind. So I decided to take this risk. I saw the rooms and seemed okay, though in mind I was not so okay. My review about this place can be read in Tripadvisor here.

We took rest for a while. Well, with the kid, it is not rest actually if the kid is not sleeping J Wife and I normally venture out to take bath in the stream nearby. This time also we stepped out, not sure of whether we can take bath or not. Dad and Mom also came along with us, with Samyu. The place was little away from Lalithambika guest house, and normally deserted. This time we did not venture out into water but gave Samyu a bath. She was so fascinated in playing with water that she cried and howled while she was taken off from water. We also would have jumped into water but could not get a right spot where we could do so. 

We came back to the room, took bath, got ready and left for temple. The temple was not that crowded, may be because it was a working day. Had a good darshan, did our offerings and spent some time there. After darshan it was around 2030, and we proceeded towards Vasudev Adigas for dinner. I can confidently say that this place is one safe bet to have food in Kollur. I cannot guarantee any other place. Meanwhile, I had enquired about the road condition to Shimoga via Nagara. The feedback was negative stating that it is in shambles, and in some areas road never existed. So I had made up my mind to retrace the route which I took while coming. Retired to our rooms by 0900 thinking of tomorrow. It is going to be a long drive.

Day 4: 28-October-2013

We woke up by 0400 and got ready by 0500. We could not sleep properly as there we lot of mosquitoes. In fact the sleep was very bad. Luckily Samyuktha was sleeping well, and we ensured that she was covered properly. That really helped. But the sleep that I lost did affect me during the day while driving.

The temple opens around 0500 in the morning. The plan was to start immediately after the morning darshan. We were on the road by around 0545 after the darshan. The roads were empty except few vehicles once in a while. I drove with less anxiety as I knew the road conditions. Reached Someshwara by 0730, and I stopped for breakfast. Had a pretty good breakfast of Neer dosa, vada and Poori. We bought few snacks as well from here and started by around 0800. We crossed Agumbe and Tirthahalli without any stop. I wanted to stop at Sakrebylu elephant camp if possible. We reached there by around 1000 and it was open. They are open from 0830 to 1130, and it was a good experience.

There are elephants in captivity, they do bathing and feeding from 0830 to 1130 and then they are let into the forest for roaming till next day. The next day morning, the caretakers go into the jungle to bring them all back. Quite strange and unbelievable. But they do it daily, sometimes these elephants will be with other herd and it takes a hell a lot of efforts to bring them back.

So bathing time was over this time when we went, but could be near elephants. We did not do a ride though. Samyu was quite excited. She often imitates elephant and we are supposed to be acting scared when she does that. So she got to see some real elephant buddies, from 3 months old to 95 year old. 

I took Shimoga, Arsikere route to Bangalore. We took a break at CafĂ© Coffee Day for lunch. The drive was getting little heavy as I had not slept properly before. But I managed to keep the head cool and continue. We passed Tumkur, after filling petrol, and after a small break where wife wanted to buy vegetables saying it will be fresh here. Reached Bangalore by 1815 and was very tired. Luckily Samyuktha seemed fine, apart from the fact that she had been restricted into the car’s space for her movements.

Well, a vacation that was very good had come to an end. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Kolavara Heritage Homestay & Sringeri

In continuation to my previous blog Why this Kolaveri

Day 02: 27 October 2013

Next day we woke up around 0700. Sun was getting out slowly and it was getting warmer. We did not feel too much cold as expected. Had tea, which was very good, and just lazed around. Another family who had come from Bangalore were busy making their travel plans for the day. I had not planned anything for the day and thought will do as I feel like.

The atmosphere was so calm and peaceful that I really did not feel like venturing out anywhere for the day. Just want to be with me, myself and I in that pristine surroundings. But keeping the kid and others busy was not an easy thing, and Sringeri being close (about 40 kms), thought will visit Sringeri temple. The owner suggested that we visit Sirimane falls as well, as it is just 13 kms from Sringeri. So the plan was made. I estimated that the round trip would take 3 - 4 hours. Since the plan was made by around 0930, by the time all of us got ready and left, it was 1030.

The ride to Sringeri

The owner uncle told us clear directions on how to get to the main road which goes to Sringeri. We need not trace back the route which we took while coming. There was another route which could take us to main road in the direction towards Sringeri. His directions were - "Always take left, keep taking left turn on the tarred roads till you reach the main road. It is about 5 kms from here.". I had switched on my navigator and mapped Sringeri. It also showed some directions. We started. Took the first left, then second left, and reach the third point. Now, my navigator was showing 'Go straight', but I could see a left which is a tarred road (well, how well tarred was it is another debate. It could be argued that it was not a tarred road as well.) I was in doubt. I found a local person and asked him for directions to Koppa which is en-route Sringeri. He guided us straight. So with my navigator and this person suggesting the same direction, I headed straight.

I was only worried about the road condition here. There is one more risk that the navigation tool might suggest roads which were there when it's software was update. The road could be there now or need not be there as well and the condition of the road was also not certain. 

The road straight was not good. It was narrow and broken. But I went ahead. The navigator kept showing me directions and I followed. Asked one more person on the way for Srigneri and he also pointed in the same direction. So I was happy. By now we had traveled more than 5 kms from Kolavara and I was certain that navigator is showing me a different (and shorter??) route to the main road. I had missed what the owner uncle had told, at that junction. 

The route was very scenic through the woods, bamboo forests and water-bodies. Roads were there, but not good. Finally reached the main road and headed towards Sringeri. Superb roads from there, and driving was fun too with the winding and curving roads. So, in short, we did a longer stretch on the bad roads and lesser on good roads than what we would have done if followed owner uncle's directions. But, we did save lot of distance in that process, at least 7-8 kms.


Reached Sringeri in almost an hour from the homestay. There was rush since it was a Sunday. Had darshan at the Vidyashankara temple and Sharadadevi temple. There was some new construction happening there since our last visit in 2009. There is a Gopuram which is 127 mts which is under construction, and there is a new temple for Shankaracharya which is almost complete. There were 2 elephants and one cow which were blessing people (trained to do so). Tip their masters, they will bless you and you can take photos with them. We wanted to take Samyu closer to an elephant and did so. She was not scared, but was amused to see the elephants and cow.

Next destination was Sirimane falls. Asked for directions and headed towards the falls.

Sirimane falls

The route from Sringeri to Sirimane falls was good. First few kms were on the main road, and then a right which was going in the direction of the falls. The roads were in good shape and was mostly empty. Passed through good vegetation, small villages. I love this kind of place. Vast green spaces, farms, woods, streams, and fresh air. In about 8kms we reached a temple town of Kigga. The road from this point was narrow, and was not of good surface. In about 5 kms we reached the falls. It is pretty far from main road, about 10 kms. 

The falls are tucked inside thick vegetation, and nobody can guess there is a falls nearby. We parked at the parking slot, took the tickets and started descending the steps towards the falls. It was a superb view, and the falls were great. Unlike other falls, this was a safe one where one could take bath safely right under the falls.

We did not plan to take bath, and had to get back for lunch at the homestay. It was already past 1300 hours and it would take minimum 1.5 hours to reach back. So we spent around 15 - 20 min there while Janaki ventured to get her feet wet, and for few snaps. We returned to the car and started back to the homestay. The route was same, and this time I took the route suggested by the owner uncle. It was longer on good roads and shorter on bad roads.

Reached homestay at about 1430 and went straight for lunch. Lunch was simple, tasty and nutritious. We were a bit tired after the quick trip, and so we got back to the rooms, took a good nap. Evening was again time for roaming around and a chat with the son of the owner. He took us around the area showing the crops that are being cultivated, their pond, mini-waterfall, and other plantations. It was a nice, informal, and informative chat with him. It was getting dark by the time we got back.

They had put up the camp fire by then and few of us assembled around it for chatting. By around 2000 hours dinner was served, and was usual stuff - good and healthy. We slept off early as we had to head to Kollur tomorrow morning. Another eventful day came to an end.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Why this Kolaveri Di - Kolavara Homestay, Sringeri, Tirthahalli and Kollur


It has been a long pending plan of me to visit the Malnad area of Karnataka. The plan got postponed for quite a while, and it happened finally in Oct 2013. While searching for places to visit in Malnad, I had come across few stay options. They were mostly homestays, since there were only very few or no hotels in some places. The places to visit included Tirthahalli, Sringeri and the towns around them.

The plot

This October I decided to go there for few days. The plan was to drive to to Tirthahalli, spend couple of days there, visit Kollur Mookambika Devi temple and return to Bangalore. I wanted to spend 2 lazy days in Tirthahalli just to cut-off from the daily hectic routine, and then visit the temple.

Shortlisted Kolavara homestay for stay in Tirthahalli. Did the bookings by calling them and confirming availability, and later on transferring an advance amount. I did not want to do any advance booking at Kollur since I will be reaching there on a Monday and rooms should be available since it is a weekday.

Day 01: 26 October 2013

We were 4 adults (me, my wife and my parents) and my daughter Samyuktha who is just 14 months old. The plan was to start by 0400, and reach Tirthahali by lunch time. Started finally around 0430 from Bangalore, passed Yeshwantpur in 30 min and Tumkur in about another 1 hour. Traffic was there but relatively less. Took the Tumkur bye-pass to take the road to Gubbi, Tiptur, Arsikere and Bhadravathi.

The break

We broke at around 0800 before reaching Arsikere to have our packed breakfast. We were carrying idlis and chutney for breakfast. I was lucky enough to find a place with a seat and toilet to break for food. This seemed like a new shop in the making. The roads  were good throughout except the Tumkur bye-pass which is about 7-8 kms.

There seemed to be a small play area in the making, as we could see a couple of swings. Samyu enjoyed the swing and was reluctant to come out from it. We all had idlis, and fed Samyu as well. The total break was about 30-40 mins and continued our journey towards Bhadra dam.

Bhadra Dam

We wanted to visit Bhadra dam as well to see the place where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar meditated for 10 days in 1982 after which he conceived Sudarshan Kriya. This spot is next to the dam, attached to the Tourist Banglow. We reached the place in about an hour after taking a detour from the highway. We could take the car up to a certain point to one end of the dam. We could not enter the dam since we did not have prior permission. We walked towards the Tourist Banglow, but to our disappointment we found this to be locked. Nobody seemed to be there.

We waited for few min, and then 2 fellows came in a scooter, who looked like the caretakers of this place. When I checked with them on entering the premises, they denied, saying that we need prior permission to enter. This permission has to be got from the Bhadra Project office which is about 3 km away. We taking permission meant another 1 hour delay here (time to go and come back with permission, and visiting this place again will take away 1 hour minimum). So we decided against it and started off to our next destination - Tirthahalli.

Bhadra Dam to Kolavara

Here, while driving from Bhadra dam to Tirthahally, I could have done a clever thing, which I thought about. But decided against it since it was risky, being with a family. There is a road which you could take to Koppa via. Narasimharajapura from Bhadra dam. You need not touch Shimoga to reach Tirthahalli in that case, and can cut down on travel time. This could have saved about 20 kms. But I did not take this route since I was not sure about the road conditions. If the road condition was bad, it would have been pretty difficult to drive with family. So I decided to take the more safer Shimoga route. Below is the route which I could have taken (in Blue) and the route which I took (in red).

The roads were good throughout. Took the Shimoga bye-pass and entered the road to Tirthahalli. The road surface is too good and drive was cool. The only drawback is that there are no good break points in between.  Folks inside were getting impatient since we did not break anywhere else for a tea or coffee. So after taking the right from Tirthahalli I stopped at a small shop where we all had tea, bajji and biscuts. This seemed to pacify them a bit.

Meanwhile I asked for directions to the homestay and they guided me properly. But I overlooked one point and hence lost my way taking a wrong right wandering off about 7 kms. Finally called them again and got the correct update. Finally reached there by around 1430 hours. All of us were tired and were hungry as well. We had lunch and went to the rooms allotted to us.

Kolavara Heritage

This heritage homestay is located off Tirthahalli - Koppa route, about 7 kms from the main highway. Kolavara is the name of their family, which is now the name of the village. So you might see sign boards in Kannada towards this place but nothing in English. There are no boards put by the family for the homestay on the way apart from the few boards which are there once you are really close to the homestay.

Once you reach there it is so silent, serene and calm. There are no houses nearby, and you are amidst a plantation. The house is maintained well, and tastefully done with antique furniture and curios. There is a huge central courtyard which houses a tulsi plant in the middle which adds to the serrenity. There are lounge spaces on 2 sides of this courtyard. One side is the main part of the house which the family uses, and the other side has the rooms where the guests are housed.

We arrived for lunch at Kolavara and was greeted by the owner of the homestay along with his son, who currently manages the plantation and homestay. They ensured that we felt at home right from the moment we stepped out. We were taken to the dining area which is big and is adjacent to the house. It is open, clean and has some entertainment options like tv, carrom and newspapers. The lunch was buffet style with fixed menu. Food was authentic, malnad cuisine, and healthy. We are vegetarians and hence cannot comment on their non-veg fare. But I think that should also be good.

After food we went to our rooms, got freshened up and rested for a while. We did not have any plans for an outing that day. So we wanted to go slow, enjoy the surroundings and roam around for a while. We had coffee by around 1730 and it was already getting dark in that area. We spoke to the owner to understand about this locality. It was so nice to be away from the city, with no phone calls, no tv, no access to internet, not much unwanted thoughts.

My wife and I played a game of table tennis, and carrom. Dinner was ready by around 2000 hours which was again buffet style. Food was of same, high quality, served generously. It was interesting to note that they had provided some innovative and interesting desserts using brown bread and white bread. Later on we came to know that it is the owner's wife who manages the show in kitchen with her helpers. She is also interested in flori-culture and gardening which was very evident with the landscaped surfaces, bonsai and orchids of different varieties displayed across the compound. We were even invited to do wine tasting - the wines prepared by the owner's wife again. They had some interesting wines - banana wine, arecanut wife, and the usual grape wine. It seems she had even prepared jack-fruit wine earlier, but that was not available now. Had dinner and roamed around the property for a while doing chit-chat and finally went to sleep at around 2200 hours.