Omkar Hills - A lesser known weekend getaway

Omkar hills is one of the lesser known place for weekend getaway and it moved right up in my travel list ever since I read about it. Primary reason being the distance, which is much closer compared to my daily commute distance. And it is easily the most leisure ride.  With Anirudh moving to Bangalore and Shiva was also in town for a weekend, not to disappoint them, we decided to visit Omkar hills and if time permits drive back through Turahalli forest. 

Needless to say that we started late and with other folks taking their own time, we started from Udupi garden signal at 8 AM. No confusing routes accompanied by usual blissful weather, we drove through Banshankari, Uttrahalli and reached the hills around 9 AM. The temple looked completely different from South Indian counterparts which I have seen till date. It looked more of a tombstone structure with outsides painted completely in white. Unlike traditional south Indian temples there wasn't any detailing or vibrantly colorful looking outer walls. It was plain and simple. The Omkar hills hosts all 12 jyotirlingas under one roof. There are 12 gopuras each representing a Jyotirlinga.

Bangalore at its usual best
​A sense of calmness and peace sets in once you step inside the temple. Inside the temple are 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva, each taken from different place around India. A 30 minute stride inside the temple talking history about shiva and a short photoshoot, we were done with the visit. Yea we had prasadam too.

Love for Windows
​Outside the temple is the famous giant time clock where we ended up spending more time than planned discussing various theories about the purpose of its existence. The ride back home was through Turahalli forest roads, which felt like any other traffic free highway road drive. As we entered the city by 11, traffic has already set in and It took another hour to reach home.

The time machine
​Ideal for a weekend visit. Takes not more than 2 hours. Must visit place if you are in Bangalore. Plan to start early so that you can return before the traffic kicks in.

Photo trek to ChitraDurga

Chitradurga a.k.a 'Kallina Kote', was my second trip of the year, which also happened to be my second one with BASC [ Bangalore Ascendars ]. The registration mail read “Photography Trek to Chitradurga” and I signed up instantly. It was a 2 day trip and we left Bangalore by 11.30 PM in Hospet passenger and reached Chitradurga around 6. 

The core of man's spirit comes from new experiences
After a brief intro and group photo at the station, we headed towards KSTDC, Mayura hotel. Our stay was in the dormitory accommodating 8 people. Though maintained by government, the quality of rooms and service are way above govt standards. Budget hotel and located at walkable distance from railway station and fort makes it an ideal place for stay.

The Nandhi statue, Chitradurga
We got freshened up and started the exploration by 9 AM. The entire fort was built of stones and we took the first pit stop at a open space which seemed like a prison top. It offered a view of entire city scape and the majestic windmills surrounding the city. Sticking to the theme of photo trek, we moved around clicking pictures that looked interesting and exciting, not bothered about its historic significance.

The Sculptures of Chitradurga
As the temperature was getting hot and humid, we decided to climb the peak before noon. The rocks were slippery, climb was harder at slopes but we made our way to the top. One more session of photos taken and we headed back to the temples where we had an awesome curd rice + pickle + buttermilk combo for lunch. The plan for second half of the day was to visit the OBAVVANA KINDI, followed by climbing to the fortress top which offered the best view for sunset photography.

The Dwarapalikas a.k.a gate keepers, Chitradurga
Glorious sunset, golden lights and Windmills of Chitradurga against the backdrop filled up the frames as we had our third session of photoshoot. The descend down was adventurous and memorable as we got delayed and ended up doing 2-3 hours of night trek with torches in a route less travelled by. We dined and hit the bed early as we had to start at 4.30 AM next morning to catch the sunrise at JOGIMATTI peak. Turned out the journey was longer than expected and we missed the sunrise. Nevertheless it was a good and exhausting trek to the peak which reminded me to work on my fitness levels.

The Song shoot - Namo Namo madesha for the movie Kothi Raja
The timing of the trip was perfect that we happened to see the shooting of the song sequence for the Kannada movie 'KothiRaja'. Meaning 'Monkey King', this is based on the real life story of Jyothi Raj, who hails from this place and is famous for climbing Chitradurga fort without any safety harnesses.

Windmills of Chitradurga
Post lunch, we checked out the hotel, had an awesome full meals. The exit plan was to make our way to Adumalleshwara caves via fort. Climbing the fort with luggages on was the toughest part of the trek. The terrains were harder and the sun was no kinder. As we passed through the caves, the descent started and finally led us to the plain lands down the hills.

The glorious sunlight
The last part of the trek was Chandravalli caves. We hired a guide this time so that we don’t miss out on the details. This turned out to be a worthy idea as the place has so much interesting history associated with it. The cave is 80 feet underground and the guide beautifully explained how sages here used to meditate, secret escape passages for prince and how messages are carried in and out at times of war. We had ice candies and took some photos as the sun descended. The trip ended with last minute tension filled sprint to catch the train.

The Team
Just 2 days, but we bonded well and had great fun. We shared jokes, made friends, played pranks, envied full frame gears, discussed movies, shared food, photographed moments, tested our fitness levels.

All this came at a price of 750/-. 

New Year Ride - Shivagange

Over the years of stay in Bangalore, traveling somewhere during new year sort of became a habit.  To keep up with the tradition, this year we decided to drove to SHIVAGANGE. The choice of place came from "Nomads", an android app that has a good collection of weekend getaway places around Bangalore.

Witnessing the proceedings
As usual, started late and reached the place by noon. Generally places with minimal human presence has always been our choice of preference. Turns out that it was "Shiva Rathiri" and the place was flooded with devotees. With sun scorching straight above our heads, we started to climb. The initial climb with carved out foot steps was easy, but got steeper and narrower as we proceeded ahead. We took few pit stops under the shades of the rocks, witnessing the aerial view of the beautiful landscape. Thanks to the buttermilk shops en route, helping us quench our thirst.

The view from the top
As the path got too narrow, over crowding led to congestion as people descending and ascending wanted to move forward without giving way for each other eventually leading to jam. After some delay we finally managed to reach the temple top. There were huge idols of Shiva and Parvathi standing tall facing the city.

The Entrance
It was a sad scene to witness the place fully littered with plastics and garbage. Further up the hill was the famous Nandhi statue, the main attraction of Shivagange. Seeing the congestion on the top and people taking the alternate routes alongside monkeys, I decided to skip and head down for lunch.

Too Crowded
Had an awesome Tomato rice at one of the shops near the temple. The owner suggested a temple ( the name which I don't remember now ) on the other side of the hill. Riding through the village roads in search of the temple amidst the lush green agricultural lands on the either sides during sunset is quiet serene. Undoubtedly the best part of the trip.

Witnessing the sunset
Shivagange would be an ideal weekend getaway place, if only visited during non peak hours.

Kudremukha - A Trek to Remember

I had been an admirer of Neelima ever since I landed on her blog. Reading through her travelogue will not only make you jealous but inspires to take up travel more seriously. One such post talked about how she managed to do so many treks, traveling with various travel groups and thats how I got introduced BASC - Bangalore ASCendars. With no second thoughts I liked their FB page and registered in their group ( free registration ofcourse ) , just to realize later that unlike other groups, they are one of the most active and passionate group which travels every weekend. If you are looking for luxury and comfort BASC is not the place to be. I kept on ignoring the travel updates from BASC. Kudremukh was one such mail which I would have ignored on any normal day. It came on a day where I was too pumped up reading many travel blogs and I had no second thought whatsoever and registered. The difficulty level was Medium to Hard and as a prerequisite you are expected to have done similar treks to be considered eligible. Luckily we had Kumaraparvatha and Kodachadri on our conquered list.

Picturesque grasslands of Kudremukh
There was the confirmation mail with our names and a list of todo items. We gathered at majestic by 10 PM and exchanged smiles and hand shakes. It took sometime for us to get comfortable with new faces as we two were the odd ones in the group not knowing kannada. The next day started with sight seeing of Kudremukh iron ores followed by Hanumangunde falls and a quick stop at Ganga moola which I decided to skip and rest in bus as I drained out completely during the ascend from falls. It was almost by lunch we had breakfast ( yummy puliogere and neer dosa ) and headed back to the home stay. The roller coaster experience of 11 km ride on complete mud road in a fully packed jeep brought us to home stay. Rice, Sambhar, Papad and Pickle lunch at homestay filled our stomachs. With half of day to spend, the plan was to trek to Durga dibba / Devara dibba hills which the organizer claimed to be a trial version of the larger trek to come tomorrow. This was my first experience of trekking with rains on and off. Sometimes there were occasional drizzles, sometimes heavy downpour. Truly an experience.

There is beauty all around us. You just need to look.
 Passing through the slippery terrains and slopes, finally we reached the peak and found ourselves in the natures lap with the passing clouds and greenery all around. BLISS is the word. Later in the evening we had a dip in the cold stream removing away all the weariness in the limbs. The evening was well spent with introductions, card games and seniors ragging the first timers. Dinner was served and we hit the bed by 12.

It feels good to be lost in the right direction
With packed lunch boxes, GPS gadgets to track the route, wireless devices to communicate, ropes to cross the streams, we set out at 6.30 Am to the most awaited 22Kms trek of Kudremukha. I was excited  to beat my previous best record of 15 Kms. The first milestone was to trek to Gomukha peak (1625 m) followed by Kudremukha. It was tough, sloppy and slippery at places. The monsoon wasn't that kind at times. But the inspiration to proceed further was right there, whenever we took a moment and looked around. And being one of the slowest and photography enthusiast didn't go well together. Every time I stop to shoot Girish will be right behind poking me to move forward.  Unlike experienced trekkers we didn't pack much of eatables and the group which moved fast had plenty of reserves which would get over by the time we reach them.

Say NO to littering
This is when my tastebuds realized left over particles of Krack jack can be so delicious. People were gracious to offer some eatables while others became close enough to pluck it and eat.  The atmosphere was very friendly and never like we had just met. People were sharing their previous trek experiences and striking poses and the mood was lively. You can never stop being amazed at such a serene landscape and breath taking sceneries. Finally we made it to the peak ( 1850 m ) and after the usual group photo shoot, we had the much awaited lunch by the stream and we returned back.

Leeches. Ahh, how did I not mention about them. During this entire episode, they had a great time finding, and sneaking into our shoes. There was heavy blood shed all along the trials. I too had few bad bites which still remains as a souvenir.

Tired and Worn out
We made it back to the homestay with sore legs and tired body, but a happy heart. Met new people who shared similar interest, made friends, pushed the body limits both mentally and physically , Kudremukh is definitely a trek to remember.

"In the end
my shoes tore,
feet became sore,
but heart said
lets do it
once more."

Contact - Arun ( 08263214235 ) is the local guide who arranges weekend treks in Kudremukh.

Channapatna - The Land of Toys

Couple of months passed in 2014 and thanks to my laziness & procrastination I still have a backlog of travel posts to update. Channapatna was the first among them which happened way back in August 2013. It has been in the todo list for quiet some time. After going thru the usual workflow of reading blogs, browsing photos, gathering friends the date got finalized. As usual it was a delayed start around 8 AM but the weather was very kind on us. Bangalore weather when at its best can even make the office ride enjoyable. It was one such day and that combined with the awesomeness of the NICE road, the experience was pure bliss. No one was in a mood to rush and even the fastest bike was clocking at 20 Km/h.

NICE road has always been nice

We stopped at for breakfast around 10 somewhere past NICE road and had idly vada sambar. One of the spiciest sambars I ve ever had, ending the course with a cup of coffee. Finally sun woke up around 11 and we had no choice but to speed up the ride and reached the temple around 11.30.

Navaneetha Krishna Temple
The Navneetha Krishna temple features the childhood version of krishna in his crawling posture. The belief associated with Navaneetha Krishna Temple is that worshipping here will eliminate "Putra dosham". We also happened to witness the ritual of people donating coconuts/rice and other stuffs in weights equal to their kids. There is a huge weight balance, and they donations are weighted equalled to the weight of the kid.

Navaneetha Krishna a.k.a Kulanthai Krishna

Soon before the thought of where to have lunch arose, the iyer announced that there will be a anna thaanam today. Lucky indeed. We happily ate the served Besi bellabath and curd rice accompanied by potato chips.

We were done by 2 and since Channapatna is famous for handmade toys, we set out to buy some souvenirs. Since I wanted to shoot some landscape, myself and few others rode to kanva reservoir while others were busy exploring the toy shops. The cloud play at the Kanva reservoir was quiet dramatic and I managed to click few HDR shots and as usual failed portrait attempts of Jai & Puhal.

Surreal dreams at Kanva Reservoir
While we were busy shooting, the other group managed to find a wholesale manufacturer who built toys in his house. It was a kind gesture from him to greet them with coffee and also explained his business. The bulk purchase was complete and meanwhile we too were done with kanva reservoir, as planned we met at the Kengal Anjeneya temple which is on the junction of Kanva reservoir entry. It was a festival day and the temple was obviously over crowded. We had a quick glimpse of Anjaneya and set out on the final lap of our ride.

Kengal Anjenaya Temple
The return journey was equally pleasant till we reached bangalore by 5.30 at Banngerghetta road. Crossing Banngerghetta road during peak hours is a challenge in itself. Adding to the challenge is an bus breakdown which made traffic move like a tortoise. After putting all the driving skills to test, performing matrix stunts in the non moving traffic we managed to reach home by 7.30. A day well spent.