The Monsoon Drive

Bangalore-Jog Falls-Murudeshwar-Matthuga-Horanadu-Bangalore (~1000 kms)

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and faster than you is a maniac.

– George Carlin.”

It depends pretty much on your timing when you plan to visit a waterfall; whether it would be a thin ‘su-su’ stream or a majestic plunge. After a short monsoon-trip to a modest Gaganchukki-Barachukki falls, I planned to move to one of the highest plunge-fall in India, the Jog falls. For all such drives, my quitessential Ashwamedha these days is rented ‘Mahindra XUV’ (courtesy zoomcar).

DAY 1: Bangalore-Jog Falls (~390 km)

As my kids were overexcited since a month I planned, everybody was up by 5:30 am; but myself retired from a prior busy day, could zoom fairly at around 7:30 am.

On the road again!!

The pleasure to check the wheels, adjusting the mirrors, the brakes and accelerators; when you love machine, you love every bit of it, and a driver’s seat always brought a sense of pride and responsibility – an amalgam of a charioteer and king on royal throneEven, Mahindra wouldn’t have given its make the respect, I bestowed on XUV.

When you are on Bangalore-Pune expressway on a weekday (Thursday) morning, you commit errors like Virender Sehwag giving slip catches in early overs. Within first hour, I oversped to 140 km/hr, and zoomcar flashed its first warning deducting my hard-earned 500 bucks!! Well, after that, Sehwag switched to classy and careful Dravid, driving at steady 90 km/hr while any Tom, Dick and Harry were zooming past my war-horse XUV. Smoothest of drive in country, with only brakes at a bit frequent toll-plazas.

As I got down from sophisticated expressway in Davangere, it was straight into Uttar Kannada hinterlands, manoevring myself through cattles and some not-so-common potholes. Google-map takes the weirdest short-cuts sometimes, with its ultra-socialist approach, measuring traffic in ’18th street, NY’ on same scale as ‘Sirsi-Haveri road somewhere in north Karnataka’. Yet, I enjoyed this 100 km stretch through villages as cattles paid good respect to my hefty gigantic four-wheeler.

When I was well-conditioned on making my way swerving and bending through countryside buffaloes, the winding roads to summits of Sahyadri mountains began. Engulfed in a pleasant thick-forested darkness, with monsoon shifting from drizzles to thunderous rains, drive to top was simply ecstatic. Anywhere you pause or stop, it would be either a steep mountain, or a row of arecanut and coffee plantations, or a stream-from-nowhere or golden-tailed macaque looking in surprise or a dancing peacock or a swiftly swerving Cobra. Believe me- they all were right there……everywhere!!

We reached around 3 pm at our homestay some 8 km before Jog Falls at Matthuga- Stay@matthuga. The place pretty much on Honnavar highway, was placed in the middle of an arecanut plantation. A compromised understaffed place, where you are left in a beautiful cottage all alone, amidst incessant rain. Isolation is forced but much needed when you are looking for respite from busy life in a bustling city. No TV….internet….phone connectivity….intercom…room service….nothing. When you walk down with an umbrella to their central canteen area for a cup of tea, jumping from one rock to another in the muddy in-roads, it reminded me of my hostel days.

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The cottage at homestay
We soon left for our first view of Jog Falls. And, talking of view, the picturesque yet ethereal beauty of Sharavati river plunging through steep mountain to an unfathomable depth, was hypnotising. The moment you focus your camera, mist would cover the falls to disappoint you. Somehow, I could get the view pretty okay but perfectionists would surely have a sarcastic grin. Jog falls is more majestic than it seems, with a melodious serenity which lacks in boisterous and thunderous falls of rest of world.

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Jog falls
Returned to the cottage, having an ascetic meal of Sambhar and Rasams with pitter-pattering rains in the monsoon-forest, Jog falls perhaps had given the much needed peaceful bliss to our family.

Day 2: Jog falls- Murudeshwar-Idagunji- Jog falls/Matthuga (~200 km).

The Sharavathi river which created the majestic Jog falls became axis of my journey, with me driving along it towards Arabian sea- the river’s destiny. Sharavathi ends at Honnavar in Arabian sea, while I kept driving beyond to a place which reminded me of Somnath, with thunderous seawaves making their futile attempt to shake the fortress of Lord Shiva (Murudeshwar).

Murudeshwar gopuram
Murudeshwar gopuram
The towering high Gopuram, a gazebo at 18th floor of temple overlooking vast Arabian sea, sheer divineness of temple, undemanding devoted priests conducting sankalpam, and a megalithic Shiva statue undaunted smiling at bouncing-rebounding seawaves, Murudeshwar was Lord at his glamourous best!

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Murudeshwar: View from top
Trailing back to Sharawati’s destiny, we landed to the famous Ganesha (Vinayaka) temple at Idagunji on Banks of Sharavathi, just before it drains into Arabian sea. While Shiva was basking in glory at sea, Vinayaka kept a bit low-profile hidden in forest yet attracting a lot many devotees from across the country- particularly Maharashtrians.

We came back to Jog falls, where Karnataka government had organized a fantastic musical fountain-show amidst rain on the backdrop of falls. It was artificial, yet merged pretty well with surrounding nature and gave a cheerful evening to the crowd dancing on bollywood, Kannada, and patriotic numbers.

Dancing crowd at Jog falls, and a revelling junta campfiring back in cottage…..the weekends of IT guys and students from bangalore and around had surely begun.

Day 3: Matthuga-Horanadu—–and Horanadu, what a find!! (~120 km)

Usually, I am not too excited about a temple visit, and that too Horanadu was simply unheard of. Two things drove me towards the place- one, it was told that temple serves excellent food; and second, Sharavati river begins its journey somewhere on the way.

We began at around 8:30 am, driving along the river through picturesque Sahyadri mountains cutting across mountains and forest reserves. Saravathi begins its journey from Teerthahalli, and Horanadu was beyond that. Roads were losing their sheen, turning and winding abruptly with sharp slopes replacing smooth drives. Google maps have tricked us into a route through a heavenly paradise. It was a short-cut route along coffee and arecanut plantations- a completely deserted stretch with no signs of human or any vehicle amidst a dark forest. XUV had found its dream-place as if asking me, “Why were you pampering and cuddling me all along, when this is the place the beast in me belongs to?” No screeching sound on slippery patches, no jerks on potholed roads…… the sturdy at its best!

Horanadu
Horanadu
Horanadu on top of Kundremukh mountain ranges is a scenic ‘Srikshetra’ housing ‘Adishakti Annapoorneshwari temple’. I dropped my plan to reach back to Bangalore the same day. The place was just too attractive yet unheard of. We checked into a star-facility hotel paying barely some 500 bucks a day. Temple had free lunch and dinner, with Annapoorna goddess lavishly decorated with gold, walls beautiful garnished with flowers, and grapes hanging from ceiling. Whatever the critics of lavishness of Indian gods would say, but if you do something so artistically and colorfully, it just overwhelms everything. Place was no Tirupati Balaji or Ashtavinayaka temple, yet a hidden unsurpassable glamour on top of this part of world.

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Horanadu: the temple town
We did nothing but strolled around hill-tops, rolled in our beds at hotel, queued up for free food in a nicely organized beeline, and basked in serene temple campus.

Day 4: Horanadu-Bangalore (~310 kms)

Took an usual route through sparsely populated Kundremukh ranges, moving to more populated Malnad region, and catching the Mangalore-Bangalore expressway entering back to Bangalore where a huge traffic at Yashwantpur welcomed me. The railway crossing, cars at each side losing their patience, driving the wrongway, creating a deadlock when the crossing opens, and the wizards appearing from nowhere realigning and clearing traffic…..as you move with snailpace, another train comes…..and yet another deadlock.

The monsoon dream ends!

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