Tag Archives: Offbeat Bangalore

I Belong to Everywhere: Uttarahalli

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Napoklu

‘Uttarahalli’ translates to ‘Northern Village’ in Kannada. The irony is, it is located in the southern-most part of Bangalore. This is the current place of residence of my family and is also the last post in this series. This home seems like a perfect retirement plan for a family that seeks a little bit of nature in the midst of a bustling metropolitan city.

With very little vacant space available, my parents try to grow their own vegetables and fruits, welcome birds and squirrels to have meals with them and sip their ‘kaapi’ while watching the sun go down. These are some among many other things they do to keep themselves running through the day.

The sparrows in my portico
The sparrows in my portico

The area is soaked in rich history as well.. While the ‘Vasantha Vallabharaya swamy temple’ dates back to the Chola era, an adjacent cave is believed to be the place where Rishi Mandavya had meditated.

The Turahalli forest is a small patch of lung space nearby, that joggers, cyclists, conservationists and the realtors all seem to have an eye on!

The latest addition to the landmarks is ISKCON’s ‘Krishna Leela theme park’ located on the Vaikunta hill. The sunrises and rainbows on cloudy days are mesmerizing, adding a backdrop to the view of this temple from my doorstep.

Annual fair of Vasanthavallabha temple, Vasanthapura, Bangalore

This is the last post of this series: “I Belong to Everywhere“. I hope you all have enjoyed time travelling with me hopping on- and off from Bangalore to Kodagu. Which place did you like the most? What place would you want to go after reading my posts? What more do you want to know about, from these places?

I Belong to Everywhere: Yelahanka

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Jalahalli

In this post, I’m going to tell you about my connection with ‘Yelahanka’, an area located on the northern side of Bengaluru. It is rather popular for the air force station located here. And that’s also why Yelahanka has my heart with it.

This is where my engineering college was located, at very close proximity to the Airforce base. My love for airplanes has a separate post dedicated to it. This is also where the Aero- India show happens, a biennial display of India’s air might.

The campus of Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology
The campus of Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology

One of the camps of the Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF) is located at a little distance from my college. So, most of the morning drives to college were alongside the CRPF troops running on their daily fitness routine. The sight of camouflaged men (at least a hundred of them), marching or running in a single line, with rifles in their hands, weight bags on their backs and the tapping of their heavy boots were just enough motivation for a girl whose little heart goes numb in front of any man wearing uniform of the forces.

And then there are days when we bunked classes and we set out on adventure activities: Adventures of sneaking into random grape vineyards around the college campus, grab a few bunches before being pelted with stones by the farmers if caught 😀 It was sort of days of co-existence between the farmers / local villagers and the students. The students just lived up their share of fun from their college days and the villagers were just entertaining themselves with our tactics.

Some structures at Gantiganahalli, Yelahanka
Some structures at Gantiganahalli, Yelahanka

The Yelahanka we know today wasn’t the same back then. There were hardly any good restaurants, cafes or any place where we could hangout apart from the college canteen. Some of the addas that the students would swear by are the railway tracks, the lake, the stables and Balaji. Well, mention these places to any student from this college and watch their expression: These were not just places, these were emotions.

And the most fun rides were those when we wanted to bunk classes and to find transportation to reach to wherever we wanted to go (out of Yelahanka). Back in those days, the college bus was the only available mode of transportation from college until the airport road / highway. If any commutation was required during the day (if we bunked, that is!), the only options were to either hitch a ride or walk to cover the distance of almost 4-5 kilometers. On some days we sat pillion, some days a bumpy lorry, on some days were cars with AC and some days, we sat on haystack and tractors that carried firewood.

Gantiganahalli lake, Yelahanka
A view of the Su-30 on the otherside of the Lake.

Yelahanka is where I have spent four memorable years of college, a place that has made me worthy of a human being and that has guided me towards earning my own food. Yelahanka will always be closest to me, because my heart will always be wandering around my college (in the form of fighter planes :P)

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Napoklu

I Belong to Everywhere: Jalahalli

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Theralu

Jalahalli is a locality in the Northern part of Bengaluru where my family stayed for a brief period until I finished my graduation in Yelahanka. Being involved in sports, languages, music, travelling and so many other things along with regular college, some of the busiest days of my late teens were spent here.

On a lighter note, our family lived with a confused identity for all the years spent at Jalahalli. We were surrounded by employees of BEL and HMT in majority, and none in our family worked at either of these organizations. More often, we struggled to decide which side to take when we had friends from both these companies sitting on either side of a discussion table 😀

The seven signature clocks of HMT
Above: The seven signature clocks of HMT placed in different cities of India Below: Floral clock at Lal Bagh, Bangalore

The BEL sports ground was one of our favorite places, where I accompanied my father for his evening walks and my brother for his hockey matches, while catching up on conversations with some of the who’s who of Indian hockey. The Ganesha temple in the BEL colony was one of the go-to places when my family wanted a shot of calmness, not in praying but by simply soaking in the tranquility of the silent atmosphere.

The HMT sports complex, HMT hospital, HMT theater, HMT employees’ quarters and the HMT shopping complex were less just concrete structures and more like emotions.

A racing heart while entering the ‘Jalahalli Airforce station’ would calm down only after a plate of parathas from the air force canteen and some tasty samosas and Sondesh at the Bengali sweet meat stall at Gangamma circle. Catching up with friends mostly happened on the new-BEL road or at Malleswaram.

The entrance to Jalahalli Airforce Station at Gangamma circle
The entrance to Jalahalli Airforce Station at Gangamma circle

Well, Jalahalli is a place which reflected the importance of having a friendly neighborhood. Even when any of us had to stay alone at home, there was always someone from the neighborhood checking on our safety and sharing food with us. The months of yuletide were especially memorable because the carol singers came to all houses and we all made merry together.

We left Jalahalli and thus, North Bengaluru to finally come one full circle by making South Bengaluru our forever home (where we currently reside at).

To be continued as “I Belong to Everywhere: Yelahanka

I Belong to Everywhere: Malleswaram

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from-“I Belong to Everywhere: Abbi falls“.

In the rapidly expanding Bengaluru city, Malleswaram and Chamarajpet are like two lungs that breathe out air of cultural relevance and nostalgia of Old Bengaluru. Malleswaram in the North and Chamarajpet in the South have always stood equal in their heritage of what the real Bangalore once represented. Although one might disagree with my personal viewpoint, Malleswaram represents the face of Bengaluru that boasts of intellects in the science and academics fields whereas Chamarajpet represents a city that is filled with scholars from the creatives like literature, art and commerce. In the proximity to premium research institutes like IISC, ISRO, C.V. Raman institute, the Wood institute and organizations like BEL, HMT, Mysore lamps, Sandal Soap factory etc. Malleswaram was the closest residential area. Meanwhile, Chamarajpet was an extension of the Pete area and is also the home to the Karnataka Sahitya Parishad. So, those in trade, literary luminaries and Pandits naturally moved in here. Anyway, my intention is not to explain those details and get into a debate, but to come to the point on how and why I believe that I belong to Malleswaram. (More on Chamarajpet in the next post)

Kaadu Malleshwara temple at Malleswaram
Kaadu Malleshwara temple at Malleswaram

Talking about Malleswaram, where do I start from? 18th cross, maybe? I often entered into the premises of Sankey tank from Sadashivanagar and I exited from the other end to Malleswaram. For the first two years of living in Sadashivanagar, I played Basketball. I was trained at the ‘Beagles Basketball Club’ and envisioned to make it big in this sport over the coming years (Destiny had different plans and that’s for another story). Mind you, I had been an ardent follower of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers since school!

Finishing the day’s training usually meant savoring a honey cake for Rs.7 and a biscuit sandwich ice-cream for Rs.5 at the lyengar’s bakery at 16th cross. The aroma of filter coffee in the darshini hotels and a walk in the old Malleswaram market are sensory experiences that cannot be taken away from me. The CTR dosey is an inseparable part for my taste buds (I take the metro train from my current residence in South Bengaluru to Malleswaram even to date, just to eat CTR dosa).

Villa Pottipatti- a heritage hotel in Malleswaram, Bangalore
Villa Pottipatti- a heritage hotel in Malleswaram, Bangalore

The atmosphere of festivities brought in by scores of vendors on the 8th cross road were the days that were much awaited by me to see what each festival was about and what the key items associated with a specific festival were (decorations, food and other knick-knacks). I had even made up an entire itinerary on my own and applied for a part time job of a tour guide who wanted to walk the interested people through the lanes of this heritage area.

Malleswaram market
Malleswaram market

Since I had only then moved into Bangalore after finishing my schooling in Madikeri, for me Malleswaram served as an open school to open my mind to cultures that I was totally unaware until then. The cuisine, the festivals, the spoken Kannada, the traditions and the mindset of people in general, everything seemed new to me in Bangalore from what I had been exposed to until then. I was quick to adopt and adapt and this is where I became a true blue Bangalorean.

With the premium research institutes of India being around, Malleswaram sort of sparked my urge to keep learning/exploring something constantly and inclined me towards pursuing research in general.

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Chamarajpet

I Belong to Everywhere: Sadashivanagar

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Kumbaldal“.

Sadashivanagar is a locality in North Bengaluru, widely comprising of the upper and the lower orchards. For those unfamiliar with Bangalore’s demography, Sadashivanagar is rather known as a VIP and VVIP haven and a high security residential area. For the non-VIPs living around here for too long, the periphery extends beyond. It covers Vyalikaval, Malleswaram, RMV extension and Yeswantapur. Having spent a significant number of years and the most youthful days of my life here in the early 2000s, a large part of my heart belongs to Sadashivanagar. Here are some of the best memories from the years spent here.

Sankey tank, in Sadashivanagar
Sankey tank, in Sadashivanagar

Having lived at a proximity to Sankey tank, it was my ‘go-to’ place for all the years that I lived in North Bengaluru. You can say, ‘Sankey tank was to me as Chamundi Betta is to a Mysorean’. I would go there when I was sad, when I was happy and when I felt nothing. I went there every day! Simply walking there and watching the ducks and the several fish-consuming birds that nested in the middle of this waterbody rejuvenated my senses. However, I hated the months that followed the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi when large number of Bangalore’s population came here for the immersion of the idol and the water would smell bad for several more months until the concerned authorities cleaned it.

The garden around Sri Ramana Maharshi’s meditation center and Kempegowda tower at Mekhri circle, the single screen cinema at Cauvery theater, late night ice-creams at Baskin Robbins were some of my favorite peace places around this locality.

A decked-up autorickshaw near Sadashivanagar
A decked-up autorickshaw at Sadashivanagar

Again, proximity to Mekhri circle and Palace grounds added another dimension to my interests- Music! Back in those days, Palace grounds was synonymous with hosting the BIG concerts of Bengaluru. Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Megadeth, Metallica, Bryan Adams, Deep Purple ’em all… If you hear me having a flair for the western music, along while I’m humming the songs of Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan and several other traditional musicians, Sadashivanagar is probably the place that has influenced me! Even on days that I couldn’t make it to the concert arena, the blaring sound would rock the glasses and doors of our house wanting me to be a part of the cheering crowd!

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Abbi Falls

I Belong to Everywhere: The Introduction

With the Pandemic, it needs no explanation to admit that my weekend travels have significantly come down. Meanwhile, ‘Armchair Travelling’ is a concept that seems to have caught up with most millennials to have themselves virtually travelling. This ideology doesn’t work for me because all my posts have been based only on my personal and real experiences. It seems hard for me to sit on a chair and imagine being at a destination just so that I can generate content.

In my contemplation of creating authentic content, I have passed several months without any posts of any value on my website. Meanwhile, this time also gave me space to explore my own backyard, drive over to familiar places and revisit old memories. But old memories for me are scattered. These memories are primarily divided between Bengaluru (my current place of residence) and Kodagu (my hometown, where I have spent most of my childhood and teenage). But they are also scattered across places because I have a large family, both on my paternal and maternal sides who live across these places and outside.

For me, the person I have evolved into and perceptions I derive have largely been based on the influences I have picked up while growing up across all these places. So, a little bit of me comes from all these places and a little bit of me stays everywhere. So, neither do I belong to rural or urban Bengaluru nor do I belong to North or South Kodagu, I belong to everywhere!

A young member from the Yerava tribe in Coorg
A young member from the Yerava tribe in Coorg

So, I thought I can take you all on a virtual tour of some of these places that are close to my heart and share some stories from the good days that have gone by… Through this series, I will give you small peeks into my hangout places, hideouts, local history, trivia, restaurants and everything else as I take you through these places and tell you how these places have influenced my personality….

But before that, I hope you all have read my earlier throwback post as well. If you haven’t, here’s the link to: ‘My growing up days at Madikeri

Each week, I will try to share a new post about a place / locality that I share a bond with and has influenced my personality, in no specific order of chronology with an attempt to bring back nostalgia. I hope you all will enjoy and share your thoughts with me 🙂

Continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Karavalebadaga

My First City Beat

Everyone has their own experiences of travelling to a new place for the first time, especially if he/she is an unseasoned traveler and is alone. This is a guest post by Mr.S.M.Nanjappa. Through this post, he reminiscises his first experience from back in the time. He narrates his story of travelling to SOMEWHERE outside his little village for the first time. Over 5 decades ago, his first time outside his little village was to a metropolitan city of Bangalore.

A brief background:
Kodagu (or Coorg as the British called it) is one of the smallest districts in Karnataka state in India. ‘Kodavas’ form the majority of the native communities that is endemic to this region with a total community population of around 1.5 lakhs. In spite of their small community size, the Kodavas take pride in maximum number of its people having served in the British & the Indian army. They say that the forces and hockey runs in their blood. Mr.S.M.Nanjappa is from a generation that has seen at least one son from every Kodava household serving in the forces and the times when recruitment officers periodically visited every Kodava household looking out to induct the boys into service.

The Story:
I had just graduated from Secondary School, in a small town in Kodagu district. Since I couldn’t join college in the same year due to some reasons, I decided to join the Indian army like most other people from my district did. Accordingly, I planned to attend one of the army recruitments that were scheduled in Bangalore. That was my first journey to a city from the remote village and also the first time that I was seeing trains, auto rickshaws, and double-decker buses among many other things. I found myself having stepped into a New World and everything around me appeared to be strange. On the following day of my arrival at Bangalore, I visited the army recruitment office near Mayo hall. However, I was rejected after my medical examination due to poor eyesight, which I didn’t know until then. I came out of the recruitment office with much disappointment.

Just while I was crossing the gate of the center, a stranger asked me, “What happened young man, are you selected?”. He was tall, well built and smartly dressed and spoke English.
No, I am rejected due to my eye sight”, I replied to him in my broken English.
What are you planning to do now?” he asked.
I will return to my native place”, I told him.
Which is your hometown?” he asked.
Coorg”, I replied.
To my utter surprise, this stranger started to speak Kodava language.
I am from Kokeri village. I am currently working in the Indian Air force as a sergeant. I have come here, to the recruitment office to enroll one of my friend’s sons”, he introduced himself in the only language that I was most comfortable to speak in.

He then thought for a moment and after a pause, offered to help me if I didn’t mind.
I know a Kodava who works as a Major in the army. He will definitely be able to help you with my army job!” he suggested.

I was so glad that I had met a person from my own community and thereon, believed him with my stay in the city. After I nodded an agreement to his suggestion, the two of us started our walk down the boulevard of M.G.Road. I was taken into a small hotel and offered a cup of coffee. From there, we proceeded towards sub-area office, where the Kodava Major worked.

I live in a big bungalow provided by the air force. I have two servants, a jeep and a driver at my service. You can stay in my house for as many days as you like.” he informed me as we continued our walk.

People of Kodagu, especially me, have always been awed by the fancy lifestyle of the army men. The soldiers who came on home leave were always well dressed and smoked expensive cigarettes. It was hard to say the soldiers with their behavior as compared to from the officers of higher ranks in the army. I always wondered if even a soldier in the army lived a classy life. So, when this person told me about the benefits he was provided by the forces, it wasn’t hard for me to believe his story.

Politely rejecting the offer to stay at his house, I informed him of my plan to return to my native by that night’s bus. He asked me to stay back and told me that he would certainly be able to get me enrolled in the army. Even as we continued to walk, I was taken to a big shop that sold fabrics. There, he enquired about certain materials that he needed to refurbish his bungalow. “The air force wants every house to look modern.” he said. Sadly, he couldn’t find anything that matched his taste.

Since this is your first visit to the city, I will show you around. It will be convenient to travel if the jeep is available.” He said, before walking across to a telephone booth to call his driver. He returned to where I was standing and expressed his irritation. “These bloody phones don’t work when necessary!

We arrived at the sub-area office in a bit. He told me to wait outside the gate and that he alone would meet the Major and talk about me. As this man walked inside the office, he was greeted with a smart salute from a sentry standing guard there.

The sergeant returned in ten minutes. If my memory is right, it must have been around 11:00.a.m. that day.
The major is enjoying drinks right now and I too was offered a glass of rum. But, I refused the drink and informed him about your job matter. The major has asked us to get a medical certificate from a competent doctor in Bangalore.” I was informed about his meeting with the army officer.
Do you know any doctor in Bangalore?” I was asked.

After getting a negative reply from me, he thought for a few minutes and told me about his acquaintance of a doctor who worked in Bowring hospital. As per the suggestion of this god-sent man, I agreed and continued to walk with him towards the hospital. On our way, I was taken to a market from where this man wanted to purchase a few things for the interiors of his house. After enquiring the rates of a few things in the market, he came out from there informing the vendors that he would return on his way back. However, as we walked out, he told me about the things being expensive in that market as it was frequented mostly by the officers.

As we were passing the market, this man’s eyes fell on a vendor who was selling puppies. “Seven rupees per puppy”, the vendor informed upon the sergeant’s enquiry of the price. Although he intended to buy two for the company of his Alsatian dog in his bungalow, he expressed his unhappiness over the quality of the canines and left the place.

He again went into a telephone booth and tried to call his driver to get the jeep, but returned blaming the phones that were out of order.

We finally arrived at Bowring hospital. I was again made to stand outside, where the sergeant went in alone to the cabin of one of the doctors and returned in about 10 minutes. “There is good news. The doctor has agreed to give you the required medical certificate. But, he has demanded an amount of Rs.100/- for the same.” he informed me.
Give me Rs.100/- so that I can get your medical certificate.” he asked me politely after a pause of a few seconds, with his palms stretched in front of me.

It was that moment, in which I was struck by my sixth sense. “I have only Rs.5/- with me.” I informed him.
“It is a matter of getting a job. Don’t lose the opportunity. Check again if you have at least Rs.50/- I will adjust the remaining amount.” he told me.
I have kept all the money I had in the hotel room itself. I now have only Rs.5/- “, I expressed my helplessness by showing him my wallet.

After hearing this, the sergeant grew furious. He forcibly searched the pockets in my trousers and my shirt. After finding no other amount, he took that Rs.5/- and walked away. I was trembling with fear while I was helplessly watching this man walk away with my money.

In my head, I was thanking all the gods that I knew of, in my prayers. God had saved me that day from a conman. In villages, we had grown up listening to stories conmen and thieves in big cities. Because of that, I had hidden all the money that I had inside my socks. I had lost only Rs.5 out of the 300 rupees that I had carried with me from my native.

The skyline of Bengaluru, that I now spend my retired life at.

Later in time, I learnt that this gentleman was a professional cheater. He often robbed people on the Mysore and Bangalore train route. Army soldiers who were coming to Kodagu on home leave and Kodava ladies were his prime targets at bus stands and railway stations.

This article was featured in ‘Coffeeland News’ Sunday, January 26th 2003 edition.

What is your memory of travelling alone? or out of your home for the first time? have you ever been conned or mugged? Share your thoughts in the comment below.

An offbeat drive from Bengaluru to Gulakamale lake

If you are someone who has been following my blogs for some time now, you would know that most of our family trips are on weekends and to random destinations located around the Bangalore outskirts. We leave home with random reasons to drive out and then pick up equally random roads and follow-it till the road reaches a dead-end. We have thus far explored several villages like this. This weekend too was a similar one. And the reason to drive out, you may be curious to know, right?

My dad had long heard of a pig farm located somewhere around Kanakapura road. We had first stopped for lunch at a hotel on Kanakapura road. There, my dad enquired with the hotelier if they knew of any pig-farm around. They informed us that the kitchen waste from their hotel too was collected by someone who runs a pig farm but was unsure of its location. He gave us the possible location of the place with rough directions. After lunch, we headed out in that direction, a deviation before Kaggalipura.

Our drive to Gulakamale lake

With just the deviation, there was a sudden and a contrasting change in the scenery to drive through as compared to the super congested Kanakapura highway. For a moment I felt as if I were driving through some remote lanes of Coastal Karnataka or the Malnad region. There were stretches of areca and banana plantations on either side creating abundant greenery and change in the ambience. Since there were barely any people on the road, we continued to drive till we found some village ahead. By this time, we had covered a good distance and passed through several types of fruit and vegetable farms.

After reaching the village, we stopped by to enquire a villager on the roadside about the farm, he guided us to a pig-farm located next to his farm. But after reaching there, we realized that it was a different one that my dad had heard of and we had no entry into the place where we had now reached. So, we continued our drive further and reached a junction where we had to pick a direction to turn, the left or the right. Instead, we chose to stop the car in a side and walk up a large wall in front of us that looked like a high-rise wall of a reservoir or something. Indeed, it was a lake up there and surrounded by farms and distant hills of Bannerghatta on the other side. A flock of migratory birds too seemed to be resting in a small islet in the middle of the lake. I checked the location on google maps and I learnt that the place was called as ‘Gulakamale lake’.

Gulakamale lake

The water looked so good and we sat there for some time, enjoying the cool breeze even on a hot and humid afternoon. It was just my family in the entire place until we noticed some local kids who arrived there. They removed their clothes and jumped into the lake one after the other, enjoying their fair share of fun time. They took all of us back to our childhood days and it was a pleasure to watch them enjoy it that way.

After a while, we decided to move further on the road. This time, we chose to take the road to our left and continued at it. We passed through millet farms, taking a round about of the same lake, papaya farms and other vegetable farms before arriving at a village called ‘Nallakkanadoddi’. It was a small settlement with nothing noteworthy to see or do. Hence, we went ahead as we saw that the road was newly laid and in good condition.

The road reached a dead-end and that was the parking lot of ‘Tottikallu falls’ commonly known as TK falls among the urban crowd of Bangalore. This was the second time for me that I had reached the entrance of TK falls, both times an unplanned drive had taken me there. Again, I decided not to go there on both occassions given the large crowd that had come down over the weekend. More so, given the Covid-19 situation and the crazy crowd this time, we didn’t even dare to step out of our car. So, TK falls has to wait until next time. From here, we decided to head back home and not stop anywhere on the way. Thanks to the weekend rush on Kanakapura road, we would need good number of hours to make our way back through the traffic.

Making the journey count- to Kodachadri

For the weekend hikers, the ‘K’ in Karnataka represents the must-do three ‘K’ peaks in the state: Kumara Parvata, Kudremukha and Kodachadri. I was heading to the last of the three, for the second time. The first time I went to Kodachadri was over a decade ago, as a part of an industrial tour from college 😀 This time, I was leading a group of weekenders who had signed up for the trek with PTU- ‘Plan the Unplanned’.

The standard itinerary with PTU:
Day 1: Depart from Bangalore (Leave HSR layout) by 08.00.p.m.
Day 2: Reach homestay by 06.00.a.m., freshen up and start the hike by 09.00.a.m.; Return to the homestay by evening
Day 3: Visit Nagara fort enroute home, reach Bengaluru by evening.

The story of my weekend:
A total of 16 people including two trek leaders were supposed to board the bus at various pickup points across Bangalore. While HSR layout was the first pickup point, the last and the biggest bunch of people were supposed to board at Mekhri circle. When the driver cranked the engine to leave HSR, the last member boarding the bus noticed that a rear tyre had a flat. So, it needed to be changed and the punctured tyre required to be fixed before proceeding for the long journey. After about an hour, the stepney was replaced and the bus arrived at the second stop.

People boarded and the Bus… did not start. This time, the battery had drained, completely! A mechanic arrived in a while and told that it could not be topped up and needed a replacement. Well, it was another good couple of hours until the bus finally left…. With an assurance from the ‘travels company’ assuring that there won’t be any more breakdowns.

Meanwhile, I had taken an autorickshaw to reach Mekhri circle to hold up all the people who had arrived there. The co-leader managed the people who had already boarded the PTU bus. Most of them being first timers on their solo travel, their growing anxiety with the extending delay in the tour was quite a challenge to clarify all their doubts and questions. It was 00.30.a.m. by the time the bus finally arrived at Mekhri circle instead of the scheduled 09.30.p.m. We quickly wrapped up the initial welcome and introduction that usually takes a while on normal trips. Everyone needed some sleep before climbing up the Kodachadri trail.

It was approximately 01.30~02.00. a.m. and the bus had reached somewhere around Sira town. Then suddenly, everyone in the bus woke up for a LOUUUD thud noise. The driver stopped the bus. I walked to his cabin and got down with the driver with a torch light to check what the issue was. The driver found a broken bolt under the bus, near the engine room. The radiator had started to leak profusely, and the engine belt had ripped off. The driver informed me that there was no way that the bus could move. Trying to find a mechanic in the middle of the night would only be futile. The options we had was to find one back in Nelamangala (this would take a good few hours) or wait in the bus until morning, find a mechanic in Sira, find spares, get the bus fixed and then proceed. Proceed further to Kodachadri or return to Bangalore. In either case, Saturday would be gone. We pushed the bus to the side of the highway and decided to take time to figure out the next POA (Plan of Action).

Hidlumane falls

I called up the PTU organizers and informed them of the situation. We were fortunate to find a chaiwala (petty Angadi), the ONLY place with light and people movement in the drop-dead night. The people in the bus got down and occupied themselves with their dose of mid-night chai and smokes until we figured out an alternative. None of them would settle for a full refund and wanted PTU to ensure that they got what they had signed up for.

It was a weekend. It wasn’t going to be easy to find an alternate bus or a TT (Tempo Traveler). While my co-lead was waving at every other bus that came on the highway (both KSRTC and private buses) to check if there were empty seats, I was calling up every random travel company listed on google and checking for availability of buses. Either they were all booked for the weekend or people would just abuse me for waking them up in the middle of the night and hang up. To add to it, I was the ONLY person in the entire bus who could speak Kannada. So yeah, I literally had to manage the show and all the translations, communications and co-ordinations.
Finally, one KSRTC bus stopped! They had sufficient seats to accommodate all of us as well. But we had a new challenge. The travellers with us had ganged up and would not agree to board a red bus (Karnataka Sarige bus). All requests to convince seemed futile and we let go off the KSRTC bus. After a total of about an hour, the chaiwala managed to find us a localite who had agreed to come with us for a per kilometer charge that was double the normal price. PTU organizers agreed. The TT arrived. Next challenge? It was a 12-seater TT, we were 16 in total. We, the leaders convinced ourselves to sit on the floor of the ramp between the two rows of seats and another 2 travelers volunteered to fill the already crammed space. Ensuring that everyone else got a comfortable space, the journey continued. Fortunately, we had no more surprises and we reached the homestay by 09.30.a.m.

That’s how we rolled, in our TT (Faces intentionally blurred)

We took time to freshen up, have breakfast, get the forest permits for the trek and finally started our ascend by 11.00.a.m. All went fine, by god’s grace. This was my first PROPER trek in Kodachadri, the previous one was another adventure worth a read. We climbed up the Hidlumane waterfall, arrived at a local house enroute to have a surprise Majjige (buttermilk) stop, crossed paddy fields, areca and banana plantations, Mookambika temple and finally arrived at the peak marked by the Shankaracharya Mantapa. The landscape and the entire path were unrecognizable for me from what I had seen on my previous visit. It was now exploited and overdone by tourists. There were a few hikers who felt exhausted and wanted to give-up halfway. But as a trek leader, it was my personal obligation to ensure that EVERYONE completed what they had signed up for and no one stayed back without some safe company. Finally, everyone made it to the peak, and it was now mission accomplished. Well, only partially!

The real deal was in the descend. We had a 4×4 ride awaiting us for our return. It is one that is BEYOND explanation and you only hold on to the roof bars hoping that you don’t have a few broken bones or dislocated joints by the time it ends. There is NO road, only a slide down a ditchy/bumpy gradient path. This 4×4 jeep ride alone supports the livelihood of several people around the area. Hence, the localites aren’t letting a road happen even if the government wants to develop this important site of tourism (we were told so by one of them). So, if this ride is considered as an adventure and a source of employment, then you can imagine how memorable this experience must be, right?

The view after reaching the keep trail

Well, in spite of all the delays and breakdowns, it gave me a sense of achievement by the end of the day for having met the itinerary. Though we paid late exit fine at the gates, this was a PTU experience in its true sense. More adventures to come, until then- Keep tripping…. Plan the Unplanned!

Hiking to a massive natural arch- Bheemanakindi

With a closed group of family and friends, about 10 of us planned this weekend trek to this lesser known hill, a little away from Bangalore. We started from Bangalore at 05.00.a.m. with an intention to finish the hike back down before the sun goes up. It was dawn by the time we drove towards Kanakapura and reached a village called Kanchanahalli, in Malavalli Taluk of Ramanagara district. The Kaccha road thereafter till the base of the hike, passes through fine landscape and traditional village of ‘Mysore Karnataka’ region. The hill is a part of the ‘Kabbala Forest reserve’ area. The early morning rays added extra charm to the cloud kissed peak of the ‘BheemanaKindi hill’ at the distant end and the fog covered coconut groves and vibrant green farms on either side of the road. What else? Picture this: A dozen peacocks dancing in the middle of the road! Well, a pleasant welcome; I must say 😊

The Drive and trek to Bheemanakindi

We finally arrived at the base of the hill, parked our cars and started the ascend. It starts at a small godown sort of a structure from where, is a well laid out stone path through the forest, right till the destination. Well, let me clarify that unlike most of the common treks around the city that promise you a breathtaking view after a good climb, this one has a MASSIVE stone arch at the end. With this large arch, goes the legend from Ramayana. ‘Bheema’ hit the large rocky monolith with his ‘Gadhe’ and thus resulted this Natural arch, locally called as ‘Kindi’. The smaller pieces scattered are believed to be the ones which appear to have been arranged one on-top-of the other in the adjoining smaller hillocks by the consecutive civilizations, over a period of time.

The difficulty level of the climb is moderate, but the gradient is steep. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since the previous afternoon, acidity was taking a toll on me. I was feeling nauseous and tired and trailing everyone on this trek. (That’s also the reason I didn’t take many photos of our ascent and the video attached below includes more visuals from the descent). I somehow made it to the top, all worthwhile the effort. A small temple dedicated to Nandi sits in a corner underneath the massive rock arch overlooking the dense forest cover below. Apart from a few squawking peacocks and chirping birds, we thought we were the earliest mammals to arrive there. But not until we saw some freshly laid elephant poop at the peak…!

A portion of the Stone arch and temple at Bheemanakindi

I had some biscuits and relaxed there for a bit until I felt fine. From a few known localites, we had heard that there exists a perennial pond somewhere close by. We walked behind the boulders that overlooks the millet farms beneath. We climbed up the hill further and we ventured out in pursuit of the pond. Mind you, the trek path ends at the temple and we were venturing out beyond, into the forest (Do not try this adventure). The sloppy path didn’t have a proper trail and we followed each other and stayed together so that we wouldn’t get lost. We walked further, a few broken trees (Bamboo, Indian Gooseberry, hog-plums etc.) perhaps warned us from going further, the pachyderms had just crossed the path. From there, we arrived at a small opening in the green cover- a large boulder. As the mist had engulfed the entire view, we sat there for a while hoping for it to clear out and get some good view of the valley below. But no luck and we decided to walk back.

Our stomachs were grumbling for food by the time we reached back to the base by 10.00.a.m. One of the members in our group had a relative in Kanchanahalli and hence, we were invited for brunch at their house. We drove to their house, passing through my FAVOURITE views of Karnataka: The rural hamlets of ‘Mysore Karnataka’ region. Traditional houses with wide porticos on raised platforms, red-oxide floors, clay tiled roofs supported by wooden pillars are a delight, I tell you!! Sometimes, cattle sheds on one side and a bicycle on the porch too is a common sight, so very typical to this region and so warm and old world. I have always gaped at those tiny streets in awe. So, today was my first opportunity to see the interiors of one such house, all that I had only seen in Kannada movies till date. Picture this: they are locally called ‘Thotti mane’ and the central living room has a central area which opens to the sky. Talk about natural ventilation and lighting, it has been part of our ancestral architecture from time immemorial. It also serves as an area to wash our feet and hands when we enter home, before we touch anything else. (Connect it with self-sanitizing during Covid times, after you come home from outside??)

A street at Kanchanahalli, overlooking the Bheemanakindi hill

Well, a pleasant happy day for me and a nice, happy, simple, warm meal for the tummy 😊 We head back to the city…. Hoping for another warm weekend to arrive soon….