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Old 10th September 2009, 09:45   #1
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Cool Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat

After a long time I was to go on an OTR trip. Everything was ready, winch was tested, and two Jeeps were raring to leave for Coorg.

And then the phone rings… OTR cancelled due to excess rain. Then I look out the window to see this.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9043483.jpg

Ok, I get it. It is raining hard there just like here, but OTRs are supposed to thrive on rain. But there is an overflowing river in the proposed trail to spoil the party. I call Sachin and tell him the bad news and we both contemplated a dull weekend.

After spending few hours brooding, I decide to show up at office despite being on leave. My Jeep was parked outside the office all decked up to go. As I started checking the email, I get another call… “We still want to go, but to Sakleshpur, wanna come?” What? Hell, yeah!

However, now the main event will be on Sunday, instead of Saturday. Which means Sachin will have to miss it. He has a very important day at his business on Monday. In other words, I have to do a solo trip to Sakleshpur. Normally that is not a big deal for us car lovers. But doing a solo trip in Jeep is not the same. No matter how much we love our Jeeps, they are always moments away from breaking down. That is why we Jeepers always like to travel in convoys. Since I am rather weak at diagnosing or fixing Jeep problems, it would be a mess if I run into any Jeep trouble while travelling alone. But I was not about to give up this rare chance to visit Sakleshpur.

The shortest route to Sakleshpur is through Shiradi ghat. But Shiradi ghat is so badly screwed up, it was closed for repairs just two days prior to my trip. Next obvious choice was Sampaje ghat which will take me though Madikeri. But that is a long detour. I was planning to stay with my cousin in Sanivarsante, which is between Sakleshpur and Somvarpet. He suggested a route I had never considered before, the Bisle ghat. Mind you, this road is not even marked on the Eicher India Map. But my cousin claimed it as the shortest route under present conditions, also it would take me directly to Sanivarsante.

So I charted the following route after confirming that Shiradi ghat was closed only after Gundya: Manipal-Karkala-Moodubidri-Beltangady-Ujere-Dharmasthala-NH48-Gundya-Subramanya-Bisle Ghat-Sanivarsante.

When I finally left home on Saturday, it was already 11:30AM. Although I wanted to track this whole trip using BeelineGPS software on my HTC Touch Diamond 2 phone, I didn’t for the fear of draining the battery. In Grand Vitara I could have constantly charged it via 12V outlet, but the power outlet in my Jeep was not really working.

Somewhere after Moodubidri

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053495.jpg

As I near GV Kere, I see the familiar fork towards Karkala and I practically kick myself. There was no reason to go through Moodubidri, I could have gone from Karkala to Beltangady directly via Naravi and Bajagoli. Having done this stretch numerous times, it should have been the automatic choice. Due to some strange memory lapse, I had gone through Moodubidri and added 15Kms more to the trip. Damn!

As I was closing in on Dharmasthala, I noticed a white Swift VDi tailing me closely. A DDiS Swift could have smoked me in no time, instead they were riding behind me for too long. Just before Dharmasthala, the white Swift overtook me slowly and kept just ahead of me. After a while it sped ahead and parked on the side at a distance. The driver hopped out and held out his hand to me motioning me to stop. I couldn’t think of a hostile reason for them to stop me, besides the fellow was giving a big smile. The place was well populated, so I decided to pull over behind his car. Suddenly 3 more people poured out the car. The driver came to me and asked whether this was a CJ340. Damn, he knew his Jeeps. Then he added that they were admiring the Jeep for many many KMs and they had to talk to me. They had many questions, how much I paid, how much I spent, will I sell (Duh!), etc, etc. After a few minutes, they apologized for delaying me and then turned the car around and left. This is one more first for me, somebody stopping me to check out the vehicle I was driving.

Few minutes later I stopped and had my lunch of bread+jam right in the Jeep. It started raining, and then almost never letup in the entire trip, it rained most of the way with small breaks in between. As a result I had to give up many photo-op opportunities.

Shocking... but this is a stretch on Shiradi Ghat

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053498.jpg

Considering there is a 1000+ post thread on the state of this stretch of road, let me comment on road conditions. From Manipal to the point where Dharmasthala road hits NH48, about 90% of the roads are in good conditions. You’ll encounter really bad roads only in towns like Parkala, Beltangady and Ujere. On NH48 until Gundya, it is 50:50. Some good stretch, some bad stretch, it will always catch you when you try to cruise.

The turn off to Dharmasthala on NH48, they do have a sense of humour. Checkout the pothole right after the welcome board, I have put the closeup in inset. Fortunately, that is not the state of the road that follows.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073686.jpg

But the stretch from Gundya to Kukke Subramanya, boy o boy! It is simply too good. As you travel closer and closer to the Subramanya temple, even an atheist will start believing in god, at least consider the possibility. What else can explain the presence of such a good road so close to Shiradi ghats. What happens to those PWD contractors, do they get an epileptic attack of scruples as they near Subramanya? I mean what is going on here… excellent wide roads, for the love of gods. It can bring a coastal Karnataka adult to tears. Sob, sob..

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073681.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073682.jpg

Just before hitting Subramanya, I reach the turn off towards Bisle ghat. At first I am not so sure. The road looks as narrow as a minor cross road. Looks like an exit ramp from a freeway. After reconfirming the direction from a passerby, I plunged in to the unknown.

At first the road looked like this, no doubt Subramanya effect.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053500.jpg

And then all hell breaks loose. Some of the shots are from the return journey on the same road.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053501.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053505.jpg

At this point I started wondering whether this road was actually used by traffic, what if it is closed later. Then a Tata Indica passed from the opposite side. Later even buses came from the opposite side. Every time a bus came along, I had to reverse until a ledge was found for me to squeeze out of the way.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053509.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073679.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073677.jpg

This route is full of waterfalls, definitely more than 20 waterfalls if one starts to count.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053507.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073672.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073666.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073662.jpg

They had turned the road into a waterfall at one place. Water fording on the road, my CJ340 was game.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053513.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053512.jpg

Bad roads or trails continue…

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073663.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073667.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9073676.jpg

I had to pull over here to allow a bus pass though.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053519.jpg

Shot this from inside since it started raining again for the Nth time. Handheld at 1/3 second.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053521.jpg

There was a narrow bridge over a very wild river.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053516.jpg

Finally I came to an open area. But the visibility has dropped to 10-20m at around 4:30PM. I couldn’t see much even using fog lights.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053522.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053525.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053528.jpg

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053529.jpg

Apparently this open area has very beautiful views. But thanks to all encompassing fog, there was no visibility at all. So I trudged along hoping to reach Sanivarsante before daylight fades completely. The main difference between Bisle ghats and other parallel ghats (Shiradi, Sampaje, Charmadi, etc) is simply this. There is nothing in between but for a forest checkpost. This is absolutely desolate, deserted, unpopulated, totally foggy and devoid of traffic. If you have a breakdown, you have a long wait or a very long walk to get any help. And this is during broad daylight. During night, there are elephants on the road. There will be no traffic at all. In the entire Bisle stretch, I had encountered less than 10 vehicles in 2 hours.

And finally I get out of Bisle Ghat and into open area.

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053530.jpg

It was around 6PM now and I stopped at one turn towards Somvarpet. I was not sure whether to go straight or take the Somvarpet turn. I pulled out the GPS Phone and tried Satguide & Google Maps both put me in the middle of nowhere.

Meanwhile a vehicle approached me from the front and stopped. The driver wanted to know whether this road goes to Subramanya. I said yes and then looked at the vehicle. It was a WagonR, attempting to cross Bisle Ghat in the night. Then I added that the roads are extremely bad and it should not be attempted by a WagonR, that too at night. The driver totally ignored my advice and just took off. Since he didn’t know the way, it is safe to assume it was his first time in that road. I wonder how he made it out of there.

Just 5Kms short of Sanivarsante, I picked up a hitchhiker who held up his hand. He looked less and less sure as I came closer and stopped next to him. After getting in, he appraised Jeep from every angle for few minutes and claimed he has rarely seen a Jeep like this. I told him this is an offroading Jeep, and he didn’t understand. Then I said it is a rally Jeep, and he wildly nodded with full understanding.

The Rally Jeep?

Monsoon Offroading/Trail-driving in Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat-p9053532.jpg

To be Continued.
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Old 10th September 2009, 09:53   #2
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Beautiful country. Thanks for sharing
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Old 10th September 2009, 10:22   #3
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Wow, as usual excellent shots.

You certainly have lots of patience. Esp those pics with inset showing how good the roads are.

Btw, Now we know why it took so much time
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Old 10th September 2009, 11:05   #4
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man, amazing the pics are just amazing, trust you to have a OTr before the actual event, pity about the fog though, as we are deprived of some lovely scenic shots from your camera.
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Old 10th September 2009, 11:18   #5
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Dear Sharath- Excellent write up and pics. were the roads you showed for regular traffic ? if yes god save the regular vehicles. I guess they were right for the CJ 340 though. Your vehicle looks awesome. One of the best KA 20 jeeps ive ever seen.
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Old 10th September 2009, 11:27   #6
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very good oration as usual Samurai! and excellent pics. just love the western ghats in that weather! You have a lovely rally Jeep too
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Old 10th September 2009, 11:45   #7
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Samurai,

Great photos, as usual. And some nice experience on the way!
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Old 10th September 2009, 11:53   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kavesh55 View Post
Dear Sharath- Excellent write up and pics. were the roads you showed for regular traffic? if yes god save the regular vehicles.
Yes, they are for regular traffic, if they dare. There are buses that ply every hour. Apparently this road used to be good. When Shiradi went bad, some truck drivers discovered this road and started abusing it.

When I entered Bisle ghat, I had no idea how long it was, and no idea about the time required. So that was part of the tension when the daylight was failing around 4:30PM.
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Old 10th September 2009, 11:59   #9
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Nice photography of the stunning route. You mentioned that you were using BeelineGPS. I just want to understand how well it works, did you managed to plot your route and trace it back while returning. Is it a trail version or the full version is freely downloadable? How userfriendly it is.
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Old 10th September 2009, 12:10   #10
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Sharath, are those fog lamps a recent addition? I dont remember seeing them on your Jeep earlier.

Those roads would surely have made the Jeep feel at home.
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Old 10th September 2009, 12:38   #11
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Absolutely Stunning Pics. How long wrt to Kms was the bad stretch? 10,20,50 kms???
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Old 10th September 2009, 12:40   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by svsantosh View Post
Absolutely Stunning Pics. How long wrt to Kms was the bad stretch? 10,20,50 kms???
Sir, forget it. bring on your new jeep and lets figure it out next month
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Old 10th September 2009, 12:44   #13
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Hey Sharath post 1 itself made for an excellent read. BTW whats up with this pic ?
Looks like your jeep has taken a step ahead with the front left wheel.Love the stance though, strange games these wide angles play.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Due to some strange memory lapse, I had gone through Moodubidri and added 15Kms more to the trip. Damn!
Signs of getting old .

Last edited by rjstyles69 : 10th September 2009 at 12:45.
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Old 10th September 2009, 12:54   #14
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Hi Samurai.
Now By seeing Pictures i came to know how treacherous is driving alone in Bisile Ghat, and why you taken that much of Time
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Old 10th September 2009, 13:15   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazy4Power View Post
You mentioned that you were using BeelineGPS.
I didn't really use it in this trip, didn't want to drain the battery. It is a trial version.

Quote:
Originally Posted by benbsb29 View Post
Sharath, are those fog lamps a recent addition? I dont remember seeing them on your Jeep earlier.
I added them in March.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svsantosh View Post
Absolutely Stunning Pics. How long wrt to Kms was the bad stretch? 10,20,50 kms???
About 35kms I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69 View Post
Looks like your jeep has taken a step ahead with the front left wheel.Love the stance though, strange games these wide angles play.
Don't think it is the wide angle issue. The Jeep wheels can look like that in real. The steering is turned right and rear left wheel must be in a ditch.

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Originally Posted by swastikviji View Post
Hi Samurai.
Now By seeing Pictures i came to know how treacherous is driving alone in Bisile Ghat, and why you taken that much of Time
Ah! You guys thought I am just a slow driver, huh? I also stopped for many many photographs you see. No point just zipping by such views.
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