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Old 20th July 2013, 23:38   #1
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Default Monsoon in Malnad

It was sometime in May 2012 when I worked almost 24/7 for straight 6 weeks. We had a milestone delivery due to which the work schedule was very hectic. I needed a break and hence planned to take leave from office for a week. I wanted to stay away from the fast paced life of Bangalore hence decided to visit my home town near Mangalore.

The scene was different around 15-20 years back. If one needed a break, they could have very well stayed in Bangalore which was very calm and peaceful. The weekend getaway were MG road, Lalbagh, Cubbon park, Vidhana Soudha, Bull temple, Dodda Aladamara which were never crowded. We stayed in Vijayanagar and it used to take maximum 30 minutes to reach any part of Bangalore. We had never heard the term "Traffic Jam". The roads had few BMTC (then BTS) buses, Blue colored HAL, ITI, BHEL buses, few Ambassadors, Premier Padminis and Maruthi 800s. The temperature used to touch 27-29 degrees during peak summers. The names "Pensioners Paradise", "Garden City" very well suited Bangalore.

The present condition of Bangalore - Less spoken the better it is. Its really sad to see the condition of such a beautiful city deteriorating at an alarming pace.

Since I wanted to take complete rest, I decided to get out of Bangalore and head towards my home town. At this point of time, one of our close family friend saw my condition and advised me to go to Banavasi. I had heard about this place in my school history lessons but had never been there. I asked her about the uniqueness of the place and she said it'll be the ideal place for me to completely forget the hectic IT life. Since I had already decided to visit my home town, I planned to stay in Banavasi for a day or two and then head towards Mangalore.

My dad wanted to take a break from his work and he decided to join me for the trip. Later my mom and one of my cousin agreed to join. My friend suggested us to stay at Vanavasika guest house in Banavasi. She said its situated bit away from the Banavasi town and will be ideal for us. We called up the person-in-charge and booked two rooms. The manager of the guest house "Bramhakumar" called us the next day and suggested us the best route to Banavasi.

3 days later, we started from our home at 5 am and took NH-4. We stopped at Kamath Upachar on Tumkur road where we were served idly with cold sambhar and chutney. We decided that it was the last time we'll be eating at Kamath. After having breakfast, we continued in NH-4 towards Davanagere. Bramhakumar had asked us not to take the usual route to Banavasi through Haveri, instead asked us to take a left at Ranebennur and head towards Humsabhavi. He asked us to visit a temple called Kaitabeshwara temple at Kotipura on the way to Banavasi. We followed his instructions and reached Kotipura.

Route from Ranebennur (NH-4) to Banavasi through Kotipura. The marked black circle is Kotipura and point B is Banavasi. The roads were in decent condition last year but I'm not aware of the present condition.
Monsoon in Malnad-ranebennurbanavasi.jpg

I had visualized a typical crowded South Indian temple in mind but it was totally different at Kotipura. Its was a few thousand years old temple and has very few visitors. The place is very peaceful. We were the only visitors that day. Bramhakumar had already arranged a local guide at the temple called Chandrappa who explained the temple and its history in great detail. We spent about an hour there and left for Banavasi. Unfortunately I have lost all the photos of last year trip in my laptop. The temple is really beautiful. It looks similar to Belur - Halebidu temples.

Its an hour drive from Kotipura to Banavasi with few bad stretches in between. The roads are very confusing from Kotipura to Banavasi but Bramhakumar was in constant touch with us and guided us the proper way. We reached Banavasi at around 1 pm where we were greeted by Bramhakumar at Vanavasika guest house. The guest house is situated at Soraba road which is around 1 km away from the town. Its surrounded by trees from three sides and paddy fields at the other side. The guest house was very clean. We visited Gudavi bird sanctuary in the evening (more about this sanctuary later). We had to leave to Mangalore the very next day due to some prior commitments. We took Banavasi - Jog falls - Honnavar - Murudeshwara - Bhatkal - Kundapura - Udupi - Mangalore. The ghat section between Jog falls and Honnavar (NH-206) was in excellent condition. The section between Bhatkal - Mangalore was a nightmare to drive with heavy traffic. This is a short recap of our last year trip.

Banavasi is a very peaceful place. The place has some mystic feeling which cannot be described but has to be experienced. Its situated deep inside thick forests of Western ghats with Varada river flowing on its three sides. Even though I stayed there just for a day, I completely forgot the fast paced life of Bangalore as explained by my friend. I wanted to stay there for more days last year but could not. I decided to re-visit Banavasi within a month but completely got lost in the IT life of Bangalore. But the enticing appearance of Banavasi was etched in my mind forever.

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Old 21st July 2013, 01:07   #2
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Most of the projects in the software industry are adopting Agile methodology. For the non-techie guys here, agile methodology is an alternative to traditional project management. Here we will have milestones and deliveries very often. Fortunately (with respect to company) or unfortunately (with respect to employee) our project adopted this methodology last year and we started having hectic schedules at office. Gradually we got used to this methodology but there is no place for rest here. Here everything must be planned. We even have to plan our leaves well in advance (sick leaves too ). Scrum, standup meeting, sprint planning, sprint review, sprint retrospective, sprint delivery, etc were the only keywords which I used to hear from last one year. Before anyone bashes me up for mentioning the above off-topic boring stuff here, let me directly jump into the actual topic. I again badly needed a well deserved break. The agile methodology had taken a toll on my work-life balance.

Around mid of last month, my dad returned from office one evening and told that one of his team member is getting married on Friday, July 12th. Since we know the bride's family well, he asked my mom and myself to accompany him to the marriage. I usually don't attend any functions hence I refused. He then told that the marriage is not in Bangalore but at a place called Sirsi. I eventually had to agree to attend the marriage. The plan was to start from Bangalore on July 11th i.e, Thursday night, attend the marriage on Friday and return to Bangalore on Saturday morning. My dad's colleague had booked the train to Talaguppa and back to Bangalore.

Meanwhile everyone at my office were badly cursing the person who invented the Agile methodology. Last one month was very hectic and my urge to take a break increased. Suddenly an idea flashed to me. Since I'll be attending the marriage in Sirsi on a Friday, why not make it an extended weekend and roam around some places near Sirsi. I immediately called up my dad and told him about the plan - extended weekend from Thursday itself. He immediately agreed. I asked his colleague to cancel 3 train tickets since my plan was to drive from Bangalore. I was now skeptical about my leave approval at office. Since we need to plan everything well in advance in Agile, I was wondering how to convince my boss about my sudden unplanned leaves. But I was mentally prepared. I thought of using the well known concept of planned sick leaves in case my boss doesn't approve my sudden unplanned leaves. I approached my boss next morning with my leave plan but to everyone's astonishment, he immediately approved it. I successfully crossed the first hurdle.

The second hurdle was the rain. It was reported in TV and newspapers that its raining cats and dogs in western ghats and coastal region. A local TV channel showed a video of people using boats on roads somewhere near Karwar. Now everyone in my family were dead against my plans. They said its impossible to travel in such a weather. But my view was different. I told them that Malnad has to be visited in monsoons to enjoy the real beauty of the places. It took 2 days for me to convince everyone and finally they agreed. I successfully crossed the second hurdle.

I was now eagerly waiting for the day of the travel i.e, July 11th. The day before the travel, I washed my car, topped up all the fluids and was ready to go.

I was now bit worried about one more thing. Just 3 weeks back, I had got the paint sealant done on my car from 3M. This is how it looked after the treatment:
Monsoon in Malnad-3mcarcarehsrlayoutbangaloredsc_0158.jpg

I was taking utmost care to maintain the mirror finish but now since I'll be visiting the Malnad amidst heavy rains, I was damn sure that my maintenance will go for a toss. But I consoled myself thinking that I can visit 3M once more for a proper wash after the trip. So we were set for the road trip.

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Old 21st July 2013, 16:43   #3
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Day 1:

We never planned anything for the trip. We started from our home at Bannerghatta road at 6 am on July 11th and took NICE road to reach Tumkur road. Once we entered the NICE road, I asked my dad about our stay plans. He said Sagara would be a better option as there are lots of places to see nearby. My mom said Sirsi would be a better option since the marriage was in Sirsi and it would be easy to roam around. We had already crossed the Tumkur road toll booth at Nelamangala but the place was not yet decided. The truck traffic was heavy on NH-4. We decided not to stop at Kamath Upachar for breakfast since we were fed up of their Upachar given to us last year. My dad asked me to drive to Kyathsandra where there is a famous tatte idly hotel which will be crowded most of the time. We stopped at the tatte idly hotel expecting a huge crowd but fortunately there were very few customers. It was still 7 30 am. We ordered tatte idly and vada.

Our destination was still not yet decided. If Sirsi, we should take the NH-4 until Haveri and then take a left towards Sirsi. If Sagara, we should take the NH-206 from Tumkur which goes to Honnavar. We finished the awesome tatte idly and ordered coffee but the Sirsi-Sagara argument was still ON. I interrupted the conversation and said lets stay at Banavasi. My parents immediately agreed. They too had liked that place during our last year trip. We then called Bramhakumar who immediately confirmed the booking at Vanavasika guest house.

We decided to take NH-206 instead of NH-4 this time. We had driven on NH-206 until Kadur couple of times before. Even though its a single lane road, its free from truck traffic. After finishing the breakfast, we took the Tumkur bypass to reach NH-206. Once we reached NH-206, we headed towards Arasikere. Traffic is always very thin on NH-206.

Somewhere near Arasikere:
Monsoon in Malnad-imag0185.jpg

The highway is lined on both sides with huge banyan trees from Tumkur to Kadur. It was a common sight along any highway in the good old days but in this age of dual carriage ways and express ways, its a rare sight.

A railway crossing near Kadur. I guess the train was headed to Dadar:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3629.jpg

Don't forget to buy the ground nuts which are sold at the railway crossing. It was too good. Buy the fried ground nuts not the boiled ones. There is a small shop just after the first crossing where one can get very good tender coconuts.

In front of the tender coconut shop:
Monsoon in Malnad-imag0174.jpg

Once we crossed Birur, we could see thick black clouds in the distant skies. That should be an indication that we are about to enter Malnad. Once we bypassed Bhadravathi, it started raining very heavily. At some point of time, I couldn't see anything on the road. I switched on the blinkers and parked the car on the side. We waited for around 15 minutes and the intensity of rain reduced a bit. We again started and the rains completely stopped once we entered Shimoga. There is an intersection while entering Shimoga where we got confused which way to go. The road leading to Shimoga town was broader than NH-206. We asked a passerby for the directions to Sagara and he said "take left, head straight, take right and then a left and again a right..." which was followed by another 5-6 iterations of lefts and rights. He had told the right directions but we couldn't understand anything from that. We thanked him and took left from the intersection. Fortunately we were on the right direction.

I could see a speed interceptor on the opposite direction just after crossing Shimoga town. It was stationed near PESIT college. The speed limit boards indicated a limit of 40 kmph for 4 wheelers and 30 kmph for 2 wheelers. I thought Bangalore's limit of 60 kmph was much better.

The view completely changes once we cross Shimoga. It was more greener compared to Tumkur - Bhadravathi stretch. I could see only lush green fields and thick forests after Shimoga. But all the scenic views were completely spoiled by the transmission wires. I think the electricity generated at Jog falls are transmitted through these wires:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3632.jpg

Somewhere between Shimoga and Sagara. Notice the empty highway. It was like this all the way from Tumkur to Sagara:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3639.jpg

We reached Sagara at around 12 30. It was continuously drizzling from Shimoga to Sagara. We decided to have lunch at Sagara and then plan the next set of activities. Dad called up one of his colleague who is from Sagara and asked for a good place for lunch. He recommended hotel Varadashree. Varadashree is located just before the Sagara town but we had already crossed the town and we saw a hotel called Pavitra at the other end of the town. We had lunch there which was decent. While having lunch, dad's colleague from Sagara called up and asked us to visit a place called Varadahalli. I searched for Varadahalli in google and the search result showed Varadamoola. We thought both Varadahalli and Varadamoola are same and asked the directions for Varadamoola with the hotel cashier. He said its around 8 km from Sagara and informed us the directions. We thanked him and started for Varadamoola.

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Old 21st July 2013, 17:20   #4
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My dad's colleague from Sagara had told that thousands of visitors visit this place daily. He mentioned that there is a hill called Shridhara betta at this place which is very beautiful. As directed by the hotel cashier, we went back into the Sagara town and took a right at a junction. This road goes to Sigandhur. The road is very narrow inside the town with vehicles parked haphazardly all over the place. Once the town limits is crossed, the road is relatively wider. After driving for around 3-4 km, we came across a board with Varadamoola marked to the left. We took left and continued towards Varadamoola. Once we took left, mine was the only car on the road with dense forests on both sides. The description given by dad's friend was completely different. I couldn't spot a single person or vehicle on the road. We reached Varadamoola after driving for around 5 km. We couldn't see any hill or thousands of visitors as described by dad's friend. There were just 2-3 houses and a small post office. We asked a person who was sitting in front of the post office whether this is Varadamoola for which the reply was affirmative. We then asked about Shridhara betta for which the reply was "Its in Varadahalli". Only then we came to know that Varadamoola and Varadahalli are two different places.

The deserted road inside forest leading to Varadamoola:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3640.jpg

A small beautiful lake just before Varadamoola:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3643.jpg

We parked the car and decided to take a stroll at Varadamoola. Varadamoola is the birth place of Varada river. Its a very calm and peaceful place. We were the only visitors there. We went inside a compound where a small lake is situated. There are some 4-5 very old temples around the lake.

Varadamoola lake. There is one more small lake above this where the river takes its birth. The water then flows into this lake:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3648.jpg

Its an ideal place for those who want to enjoy the nature peacefully without any disturbance. We just fell in love with this peaceful place. Since our main aim of the trip was to stay away from the hustle bustle of the city, we never regretted coming to Varadamoola instead of Varadahalli. After spending around half an hour, we drove back to Sagara. We reached Sagara at around 3 pm. The distance from Sagara to Banavasi is around 60 km. Since we had ample amount of time left, we decided to visit Jog falls. Even though we have visited Jog numerous times before, we never feel bored visiting this place repeatedly.

Jog Falls:

Jog falls is just around 30 km from Sagara. We continued driving in NH-206. At Talaguppa, a long train was waiting at the station. I guess its the Bangalore - Talaguppa express. After crossing Talaguppa, the intensity of rain increased. The NH-206 passes through some dense forests after Talaguppa. It took around 30 minutes to reach Jog falls from Sagara. The Jog falls used to be always crowded whenever we had visited before but it was different this time. I saw just about 7-8 cars in the parking lot. There was no sign of any tourist bus or taxi which is a common sight at Jog. We parked the car and walked to the view point. There were just around 20-25 visitors. We expected the falls to be in full glory by looking at the rains in the surrounding areas but it was not that full. Considerable amount of water was present. The biggest joy for me was the number of tourists. Usually one can see only noisy tourists but this time it was peaceful. I had never seen Jog in this condition before. It was raining lightly. We had taken umbrellas from Bangalore hence didn't face any difficulty. We just stood at one place and enjoyed watching the falls for an hour. It was a delight to see the falls playing hide and seek with the mist. I still couldn't digest the number of tourists in Jog and hence asked the reason for the less number of tourists with a local guy. He said that tourists will start pouring in only after July after rain slightly decreases. This is the advantage of visiting malnad in monsoon.

This was the view when we reached Jog. The falls was completely covered with mist:
Monsoon in Malnad-jog_falls_1.jpg

Now the mist has cleared a bit:
Monsoon in Malnad-jog_falls_4.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-jog_falls_5.jpg

The complete view of the falls:
Monsoon in Malnad-jog_falls_6.jpg

It again started raining heavily:
Monsoon in Malnad-jog_falls_10.jpg

After spending an hour or so, we decided to go to Banavasi. This time we didn't visit the British bungalow i.e, the tip of the falls. One has to visit this place to actually experience the Jog falls. I highly recommend to take a local guide to visit the tip of the falls for the first time visitors. They'll safely guide you to the tip of the falls. One wrong step there and you'll experience a free fall of 850 ft. That place can't be visited during monsoons as it'll be covered with water.

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Old 21st July 2013, 19:36   #5
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Some pics taken from the British Bungalow side during one of my previous visit to Jog:

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0712.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0710.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0708.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0714.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0717.jpg

Notice the depth. One can see a small path way in the pic. Those are the steps which leads to the bottom of the falls.
Monsoon in Malnad-imag0720.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0723.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-imag0729.jpg

The above pics were taken from the point marked in the black circle:
Monsoon in Malnad-jog_falls_6.jpg

As I explained in the previous post, do not venture there without the help of local guides. One wrong step could prove fatal.

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Old 21st July 2013, 21:37   #6
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After spending quality time at Jog we decided to go to Banavasi. It was 4 30 pm when we left Jog. There are two ways to reach Banavasi from Jog falls. The shortest route is Jog falls - Siddapura - Chandragutti - Banavasi. The stretch between Jog falls and Siddapura was in a great shape last year whereas the one between Banavasi - Chandragutti - Siddapura was in a very bad shape. The other route is a longer one i.e, Jog Falls - Sagara - Soraba - Banavasi. We got to know from locals that Sagara - Soraba road is in great shape and Bramhakumar confirmed over the phone that Soraba - Banavasi is in good shape too.

We did not want to take chance by trying the Siddapura route hence decided on the Soraba route. We came back to Sagara and took a left at a junction which leads to Soraba. I could see fresh tar on this route. It took around 30 minutes to reach Soraba. It took another 40 minutes from Soraba to Banavasi. We reached Banavasi at 6 45 pm. It was raining and was already dark. We first went to one of our family friend's house at Banavasi and reached Vanavasika guest house at 8 pm. Bramhakumar received us at the guest house. We unloaded the luggage, got freshened up and headed to one of the Khanavalis for dinner. I'll explain more about Khanavali later. We retired for the day in our room after the dinner at 9 pm.

Route Information of Day 1:

1. Bangalore - Tumkur (NH-4): Four lane highway with heavy truck traffic. The thatte idly hotel is very famous on this route. Its located on NH-4 just after the Kyathsandra flyover to the right-side.

2. Tumkur bypass: Watchout for potholes.

3. Tumkur - Tiptur - Arasikere - Kadur - Birur - Tarikere - Bhadravathi(NH-206), 190 km: The road is in excellent condition with almost zero truck traffic. Watch out for speed breakers at most of the small towns. One can stop at Kamath hotel at Tiptur for a quick coffee break. There is a CCD located just after Arasikere.The fried ground nuts which are sold at the railway crossing near Kadur should not be missed.

4. Bhadravathi - Shimoga (NH-206), 22 km : Its a double road with occasional small potholes. I spotted a speed interceptor at Bhadravathi bypass while coming back to Bangalore. I spotted another one after crossing Shimoga town near PESIT college. Watch out for those Traveras.

5. Shimoga - Sagara (NH-206), 70 km: This stretch is very scenic and is in good shape. Watch out for some speed breakers, pot holes and narrow bridges that appear out of nowhere. There are two decent hotels in Sagara - Varadashree and Pavithra. The food at Pavithra is decent whereas Varadashree is good according to my dad's colleague opinion. Varadashree is located before Sagara town whereas Pavithra is located at the other end (Talaguppa side) of Sagara.

6. Sagara - Varadamoola, 8 km: One has to take Sagara - Sigandur road to reach Varadamoola. This road is very narrow inside Sagara town. Travel for around 5 km on this road and there is a sign board which indicates to take a left to go to Varadamoola. Its around 3 km from this left turn and this stretch is pot hole infested.

7. Sagara - Talaguppa - Jog Falls (NH-206), 30 km: This stretch is in good condition and is very scenic after Talaguppa. It takes around 30 minutes from Sagara to Jog falls. Some repair work is being carried out on some small bridges after Talaguppa. There are huge craters formed on the bridges due to this repair work. Its very difficult to notice at night.

8. Sagara - Soraba, 30 km: Freshly laid tarmac but watch out for some potholes which will take you by surprise. We came across many peacocks crossing the road. It takes approximately 30 minutes to cover this stretch. The roads inside Soraba is in horrible condition.

Somewhere between Sagara - Soraba:
Monsoon in Malnad-100_3735.jpg

9. Soraba - Banavasi (SH-77), 25 km: It takes around 40 minutes to cover this stretch. The first 15 km which is inside Shimoga district is in good condition but the next 10 km inside Uttara kannada district is not so good. Watch out for huge potholes near Banavasi.

Soraba - Banavasi road:
Monsoon in Malnad-imag0197.jpg

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Day 2:

After a sound sleep, we woke up to the sound of heavy rains at around 8 in the morning. We had to attend the marriage today at Sirsi which was the main purpose of the visit. The muhurtam of the marriage was at 11 am. Banavasi to Sirsi is around 25 km which can be covered in 30 minutes. It was 9 am by the time we got freshened up. It was still 9 am. Still we had lot of time left before going to marriage. In Bangalore, the time flies off so fast that it would have been easily 11 am by this time. We don't have time to do anything in Bangalore but here we have plenty of time for everything. We had a small chat with Bramhakumar for around 15 minutes about the afternoon plan. Our plan was to head back to Banavasi after having lunch at Sirsi. We then started to Sirsi at around 9 30. It took around 40 minutes to reach Sirsi.

The marriage hall was located at a very peaceful place just outside the Sirsi town in the Yellapura road. We had breakfast at the marriage hall which was very tasty especially the Kesari bath. In fact one should never miss the Kesari bath in Sirsi. Its a known fact that Sirsi is the biggest market for Kesari (Saffron) in India. My dad had a good time after breakfast since half of his office members were present there while I was just sitting at a corner since everyone were strangers to me. I remembered one of the quote of my history teacher in my high school who described marriage as "Marriage is a function where everyone are busy without any work". The couple tied the knot at 11 30. We had a good lunch and headed back to Banavasi at 1 pm.

We met Bramhakumar who had already sketched the plans for us. We decided to take rest for 2 hours and then head to Gudavi bird sanctuary.

Gudavi bird sanctuary:

We had visited this place during our last visit. This is one of the most peaceful place I have ever seen in my life. There were no birds during our last visit since it was not the migration period. But this is the place to be visited with or without birds. Its located at a remote area in between dense forests and lush green fields. Its around 20 km from Banavasi. Bramhakumar informed that Gudavi won't be as peaceful as last year since this was the migration period and hence there will be lot of birds. We reached Gudavi at around 4 pm.

The road from Banavasi to Gudavi. It was just 4 in the evening but notice the darkness:
Monsoon in Malnad-1.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-2.jpg

A lake near Gudavi:
Monsoon in Malnad-3.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-4.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-5.jpg

At Gudavi Entrance:
Monsoon in Malnad-8.jpg

It reads best season to visit is from June to November. According to a local August - September witness largest migration of birds which is the best time to visit.
Monsoon in Malnad-7.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-6.jpg

Path way inside the sanctuary:
Monsoon in Malnad-9.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-10.jpg

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Old 4th August 2013, 12:44   #8
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The birds migrate from different parts of world to Gudavi. Most of the birds migrate from Siberia according to Bramhakumar. Please excuse my ignorance on knowledge of birds. I can correctly identify only one bird in this world i.e, a crow. So before the bird lovers ask me the kind of birds that migrate here, let me post the pic which should answer all the questions regarding birds.

Monsoon in Malnad-a_1.jpg

There were lot of birds this time. As Bramhakumar mentioned, this place was not peaceful like last year. I could only hear the chirps. But who cares, I consider anything other than human related/generated noise as peaceful. We enjoyed watching the birds for almost an hour. Since it was a weekday, we were the only visitors in the whole sanctuary. We refrained from speaking with each other as we didn't want to spoil the atmosphere of the place.

The birds which appear as white dots at Gudavi. Excuse me for the quality of the pics. All the pictures are taken from my mobile camera:
Monsoon in Malnad-a_2.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-a_3.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-a_4.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-a_5.jpg

The small pathway bridge inside the sanctuary which leads to the other part of the sanctuary:
Monsoon in Malnad-a_6.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-a_7.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-a_8.jpg

Since the sanctuary is located at a remote place deep inside the forests, I assumed that there wouldn't be any human - nature conflict. But my assumptions were proven wrong. One can see large fields at one side of the sanctuary. The birds sometimes flock to these fields for grains which infuriates the farmers. The farmers use some tactics to avoid birds from coming to the fields which in turn has reduced the number of migrating birds every year.

Monsoon in Malnad-a_9.jpg

A farmer ploughing the fields in distance. How peaceful his life is! He may be having his own problems but it appears peaceful for city folks.

Monsoon in Malnad-a_10.jpg

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Old 4th August 2013, 13:44   #9
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Bird watchers can visit Gudavi early in the morning. Bramhakumar mentioned that most of his visitors who are professional bird watchers visit Gudavi early in the morning. After spending quality time at Gudavi, we decided to go to a place called Chandragutti. It was lightly drizzling during our entire stay at Gudavi. Even though we knew that its rainy season at Malnad, we didn't carry any gears like Jerkin, raincoat, sweater from Bangalore to protect ourselves from rain. We just carried 3 umbrellas. If one wants to enjoy the nature to fullest, one has to live with it.On the way to Chandragutti, we stopped at a home stay which is run by a friendly family who was known to Bramhakumar. This place is around 4 km from Gudavi. We had a small chat with Vinutha who runs the home stay, had hot coffee and headed towards Chandragutti.

The road from Gudavi to Chandragutti passes through some really dense forests. Countless lakes, small streams can be seen on this route.

Small streams flowing calmly in the forest:
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Monsoon in Malnad-b_10.jpg

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Chandragutti is a small village which is located on Siddapura - Banavasi road and is 23 km from Banavasi. Its 16 km from Gudavi. This place is famous for an ancient temple situated on top of a hill. Its usually crowded on Fridays but since it was raining we were the only visitors there. We reached Chandragutti at 5 30 pm. The temple will be open until 6 - 6 15 pm. The car can be parked at the base of the hill. One has to climb around 200 steps to reach the top of the hill. The scene from the hill is simply fantastic. Since it was 5 45 when we reached top, we decided to visit the temple first. This is a kind of cave temple. The idol of the Goddess is inside a cave and one has to bend to see the idol. According to the priest, the Goddess took shelter in this cave when chased by an evil. It started raining very heavily when we were inside the temple. The specialty of the caves is that it'll be very warm when its very cold outside and will be very cool when its hot outside. We waited for around 10 minutes for the intensity of the rain to come down. We spent around 20 minutes enjoying the beautiful scenes from the top after which we decided to climb down. Since there were no other visitors, it was very peaceful on the top of the hill. It was 6 40 when we climbed down and hence decided to head back to Banavasi.

There are even more bigger hills behind Chandragutti where there is a trekking trial.

Road to Chandragutti:
Monsoon in Malnad-c_1.jpg

Parking at Chandragutti:
Monsoon in Malnad-c_2.jpg

Steps to the temple:
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The cave temple. It resembles a tortoise:
Monsoon in Malnad-c_4.jpg

Monsoon in Malnad-c_5.jpg

The Siddapura - Chandragutti - Banavasi road joins the Sirsi - Banavasi road at a place called Gudnapura. Bramhakumar asked us to stop here at Hotel Raghavendra. Its a very small hotel but the specialty of this hotel is "Kashaya". I don't know the English term for Kashaya but its made up of milk and some spices. I don't like Kashaya much but Bramhakumar forced me to have it since it was liked by almost all of his previous visitors. The friendly old man at the hotel prepared it and I just tasted the first sip. It was absolutely fantastic. It had some kind of taste which I had never tasted before. We enjoyed sipping it in the cold weather. The hotel guy prepares the Kashaya only if pure cow's milk is available. He does not prepare it using milk processed in dairy. According to him, it tastes good only with pure milk. One shouldn't miss this Kashaya if visiting Banavasi. Its around 10 minutes from Gudnapura to Banavasi. We reached Banavasi at 7 15 pm. We took rest for an hour and it was time for the dinner.


Khanavali is a style of meal prepared in Northern parts of Karnataka. It usually consists of roti made from Jowar (Jolada Rotti) and numerous side dishes. We liked the taste of Khanavali in Banavasi during our last visit. Hence we decided to stick with Khanavali for this time too. There are two options for dinner - Get the Khanavali packed to the guest house or have the Khanavali in one of the house in the village. We decided to have Khanavali in one of the house itself. It'll a really nice way to see and learn their simple culture.

We went to one of the house for Khanavali at 8. This was the same house which we had visited last year. We were really happy with the way they treat their guests. This time too, we were greeted warmly by the family and we were ready for the dinner.

The Khanavali:
Monsoon in Malnad-c_6.jpg

There is an unique taste to each and every side dish and will be very tasty. I had some 3-4 rotis and some rice after which there was no space left in my stomach. It costs only Rs 50/- per meal. Since I'm a vegetarian, I'm not aware of non-veg food options in Banavasi. We went back to the guest house after dinner and retired for the day.

Route Information of Day 2:

Banavasi - Sirsi (SH-77), 25 km: Some parts of this stretch are very good whereas some parts are in bad shape. One has to be very careful while driving through the good parts since a bad stretch can appear out of nowhere and will take you be surprise. Do not miss the Khashaya at Hotel Raghavendra at Gudnapura which is around 6 km from Banavasi.

Monsoon in Malnad-c_7.jpg

Banavasi - Gudavi Bird Sanctuary, 16 km: Take the Banavasi - Soraba road. After driving for around 8-10 km, a board directs to take right for Gudavi sanctuary. Take this road and Gudavi is around 6-8 km from this place. The roads are narrow but are in good condition. The road in the vicinity of the Varada river bridge near Banavasi is not so good. We entered the Gudavi sanctuary through the back entrance. Bramhakumar told that the road near the front entrance is not good.

Gudavi Bird Sanctuary - Chandragutti, 16 km: Ask for anyone over there to Chandragutti and they will direct you. This stretch is narrow but is in good condition. The road inside the Chandragutti village is dug up for some repair work.

I'm unable to see the above two stretches in Google maps and hence drawing an imaginary route on the map:
Monsoon in Malnad-c_8.jpg

Chandragutti - Banavasi (SH-137), 16 km: This stretch is very scenic and the roads are in good condition. Somewhere mid-way between Chandragutti and Banavasi, there is a very good place for car photoshoot. Unfortunately we couldn't stop over there as it was raining heavily. I think this is just after a small village called Harishi. This road joins Sirsi - Banavasi SH-77 at Gudnapura where one needs to take right to Banavasi. There is a bridge under construction where one has to be careful of slush. This bridge was under construction last year too.

Monsoon in Malnad-c_9.jpg

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Day 3:

Once again we woke up to the sound of heavy rains in the morning. This was the scene which greeted me on the 3rd day morning. Since I knew that it'll rain throughout the day, I though there is no point in cleaning the car in the monsoon and hence refrained from cleaning.
Monsoon in Malnad-d_1.jpg

Our initial plan was to drive to Dandeli after the marriage, stay there for 2 days and go back to Bangalore. But Bramhakumar who had been near Dandeli 3 days back informed that its raining very heavily there and we have to just sit inside our cottage/room/tree house for the entire day. We dropped the plan and decided to stay at Banavasi.

We were completely free on the 3rd day and didn't have any commitments. The entire task of planning for the 3rd day was assigned to Bramhakumar who indeed had come up with a very neat plan.

We left Banavasi at 7 30 in the morning and drove towards Sirsi. The initial plan was to visit Marikamba temple in Sirsi, have breakfast and then drive to Unchalli falls. We reached Sirsi at 8 15. Since Marikamba temple is located on Banavasi - Sirsi road, we decided to visit the temple first. There is a dedicated paid parking for the temple. There were not much visitors since it was early in the morning. The temple is very beautiful inside. We had the darshan of Goddess Marikamba and then left for a hotel for breakfast.

Marikamba temple:
Monsoon in Malnad-d_2.jpg

After having breakfast, we headed towards Unchalli falls.

Drive to Unchalli falls:

Unchalli falls is around 50 km from Sirsi. It can be reached in two ways from Sirsi. The normal route is to take Sirsi - Kumta SH-69 and take a left at Amminalli. The other route is to take Sirsi - Siddapura SH-93 and take a right at an unknown place. We decided to take the second approach based on Bramhakumar's comments.

We took the Sirsi - Kumta road and then took a left towards Siddapura. This road goes to Jog falls. This road is wide and is in excellent condition with lots of twists and passes through some dense forests. After driving for around 18-20 km on this stretch, there is a small junction where a sign board directs you to take right to Unchalli falls. We took right and were greeted by a narrow road which had fresh tarmac. The drive on this narrow road was a memorable one. This road passes through some very remote areas surrounded by thick forests and hills. There was absolutely no sign of traffic or any humans on this road. One should make sure that the vehicle is in good condition before entering this road. Only God can help if something goes wrong with your vehicle on this stretch. We came across a very small village with around 2-3 houses and a temple after driving for around 10 km.

We spotted a small foot bridge towards the left:
Monsoon in Malnad-d_3.jpg

We parked the car and decided to check the place. We climbed the ramp of the foot bridge and saw this:
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One step on the bridge and it swayed violently. We didn't know whether the bridge was usable or abandoned hence were reluctant to cross it. At this time, a lady who was walking on the road told us that we can use the bridge. She also informed that this bridge connects a village which is on the other side of the river and the entire village uses this bridge. Myself and Bramhakumar decided to give it a try. It was frightening to cross the bridge with the river "Aghanashini" flowing with full potential below. This bridge is definitely not for the faint hearts. We crossed half of the bridge and came back. This place is called as Balur.

Monsoon in Malnad-d_6.jpg

After some small adventures on the bridge, we started driving towards Unchalli falls.

Somewhere before unchalli falls:
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After driving for around 10 km through dense forests, we came across a village called Heggarane. It is at this place that British officer Lucington heard the sound of the falls and finally went on discovering it. One has to take left here to reach Unchalli falls which is around 4 km. There is a forest department checkpost 2 km before the falls where one needs to buy a ticket for entering the falls. Its Rs 25/- per car. The boy at the checkpost informed that we were the first visitors for the day .

We parked the car at a designated place and started walking towards the falls with umbrellas.

Parking place at Unchalli falls:
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This place is infested with leeches. After walking through forest for around half a kilometer, we could only hear the loud roar of the falls but could not see any anything.

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Old 4th August 2013, 16:51   #12
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Unchalli/Lucington falls/Keppa Joga:

The name Lucington falls is named after a British officer who discovered this falls. The name Keppa Joga is due to the extreme sound produced by the falls. The term "Keppa" in Kannada means deaf. It is due to this extreme sound that the British officer could discover the falls.

The way to falls:
Monsoon in Malnad-e_1.jpg

We were greeted by this scene once we reached the first view point:
Monsoon in Malnad-e_2.jpg

The falls was completely covered with mist. It cleared up a bit after some time:
Monsoon in Malnad-e_3.jpg

The falls is faintly visible now:
Monsoon in Malnad-e_4.jpg

The view became more clearer after sometime but could not take photos due to rain.

This falls can be seen from 3 view points. We decided to climb down to the last view point.

The extremely slippery path leading to the last view point:
Monsoon in Malnad-e_5.jpg

By the time we reached the last view point, it was raining very heavily and the falls was covered with thick mist. But one should not miss going to this last view point with mist covered all over. Its quite an experience going there. You can hear the loud roar of the falls right next to you and some deep gorges at another side. Its little frightening too.

The last view point. It appears like there is nothing beyond that point and is the end of the world:
Monsoon in Malnad-e_6.jpg

Some pics taken from the last view point:
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A word of caution: The terrain is extremely slippery at this place. One has to keep their footsteps with extreme care on the steps. Its highly slippery. Watch out for leeches.

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We spent around 1.5 hours at Unchalli falls. We were the only visitors present there. We came back to the car parking area and had hot tea at a small shop.

Our next next destination was a place called Manjuguni.


Manuguni is 28 km from Unchalli falls or 30 km Sirsi. Its situated off the Sirsi - Kumta road. There is a Lord Venkateshwara temple at Manjuguni. From Unchalli falls, we came back to Heggarane and took a left towards the Sirsi - Kumta road. The road from Heggarane to Sirsi - kumta highway is in very good condition (This is the continuation of the road which we took from Sirsi - Siddapura road to Unchalli falls). There are some very good scenic places on this road.

Between Heggarane and Sirsi - kumta road:
Monsoon in Malnad-f_1.jpg

Take a left at Sirsi - Kumta SH - 69 towards Kumta, drive for 8 km after which take a right at a small junction called Khurse which goes towards Manjuguni. Its around 5 km from this junction.

We had the darshan of Lord Venkateshwara at Manjuguni temple.

Manjuguni temple:
Monsoon in Malnad-f_2.jpg

Bramhakumar mentioned that there is a small peaceful lake just across the temple and we went there.

Some views of the lake:
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As Bramhakumar mentioned, it was very peaceful near the lake. Its a perfect place for meditation with no one around to disturb.

Parking at Manjuguni:
Monsoon in Malnad-f_8.jpg

After spending some quality time at the lake, we decided to go back to Sirsi for lunch. We came back to Khurse and took SH-69 to Sirsi which is in a great shape.

Sirsi is famous for a product called "Joni Bella". I'm not aware of the English word for that but its a liquified form of Jaggery. Bramhakumar told that a store called "Kadamba" sells very good quality of Joni Bella at Sirsi APMC yard. The word "APMC Yard" didn't go well with me since I have seen the condition of APMC yard at Yeshwanthur and I was very reluctant to drive there. But the scene was different at Sirsi. Its not like Bangalore APMC yard where vegetable and other stuff are strewn across the road. It was very neat and clean. We finally reached Kadamba at 1 30 pm.

Kadamba store at APMC yard, Sirsi:
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We went there only to buy the Bella but my mom ended up buying some 20 range of products. The products are bit expensive compared to outside market but the quality is really good. I especially liked the banana chips sprinkled with some kind of pepper. I highly recommend this place to anyone who wants to buy some good Uttara Kannada food products.

We then had lunch at Hotel Panchavati on Sirsi - Yellapur road. The food was good. Our next destination post lunch was Sahasralinga.

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Sahasralinga is situated off the Sirsi - Yellepura road. Its around 15 km from Sirsi. As the name suggests the place has thousands of Shivalingas in a river. The history tells that a king who performed some kind of ritual got all the Shivalingas installed here.

Its around 20 minutes drive from Sirsi. It was drizzling continously.

The river at Sahasralinga:
Monsoon in Malnad-g_1.jpg

Bramhakumar told that the river water will be very clear during summer and all the lingas can be seen at that time. Since it was rainy season, most of the lingas was submerged under the water. Only few were visible.

The objects which appear as a black stone are actually Shivalingas:
Monsoon in Malnad-g_2.jpg

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A small hanging bridge:
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Views from the bridge:
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Parking place at Sahasralinga. Once again we were the only visitors there:
Monsoon in Malnad-g_9.jpg

We spent around 45 minutes there and decided to go to Sonda Vadiraja Matha which is around 8 km from Sahasralinga.

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Sonda is situated off Sirsi - Yellapura road and is around 20 km from Sirsi. There are three Mathas at this place - Vadiraja Matha, Swarnavalli Matha and Digambar Jain Matha.

We first visited Vadiraja Matha. There is a very old temple and a temple for Bhootaraja. Here devotees roll the coconuts in front of Bhootaraja and ask for wishes.

Some pics from the Vadiraja Matha:
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After spending some time there, we decided to head back to Banavasi as it was already 5 pm. We heard that there is an old palace/fort of some queen at Sonda but its accessible only during summers since one has to cross a river to go there. While returning, we visited the Swarnavalli Matha.

We then came back to Sirsi, drove around the town and headed towards Banavasi. We stopped for the Kashaya at Gudnapura and reached Banavasi at around 7 30 pm. It was continuously drizzling all this while.

We had decided to go to the same house which we had visited the previous night for Khanavali. Since we have to tell them in advance for Khanavali, Bramhakumar had call them and confirmed it on noon itself. We left for dinner at 8 pm.

Today Jolada rotti was missing from the menu but it was replaced by some other kind of roti which was equally good:
Monsoon in Malnad-h_6.jpg

The house where we had Khanavali. Its a typical village house which can be found in Northern parts of Karnataka:
Monsoon in Malnad-h_7.jpg

Kannada matinee idol Dr.Rajkumar aka Annavru's poster at the Khanavali house.
Monsoon in Malnad-h_8.jpg

We came back to the guest house after a heavy dinner. The guest house was being run by some group before but now its run by a person called Kiran and one of his partner. Bramhakumar then informed that Kiran has come to Banavasi for staying over the weekend and he would like to have a small chat with us. We agreed and met Kiran at around 9 pm.

Kiran is a nature lover, bird watcher, trekker and has interests in long list of nature related activities. His aim is to promote Eco-tourism in Banavasi and bring awareness about the nature among people. He also has a place near Mudigere where he wants to promote Eco-tourism. He stays in Bangalore and conducts many nature related activities in corporate companies. What started as a small chat turned out to be a very long interesting conversation which continued till 11 pm. We talked about lot of interesting things. This person has lot of ideas and a good vision and I'm sure that he'll improve the Eco-tourism in Banavasi and other places. We finally retired for the day at 11 15 pm while it was still drizzling outside.

Route Information of Day 3:

Sirsi - Unchalli falls, 50 km: The Sirsi - Siddapura road is wide and is in excellent condition. One has to keep looking for the board which directs towards the Unchalli falls. Its very easy to miss this board. Once a right turn is taken towards Unchalli falls, continue in the same road until Heggarane. Take a left at Heggarane for the falls. Make sure that your vehicle is in good condition before going there.

The Unchalli falls can also be reached using Sirsi - Kumta highway. Drive towards Kumta from Sirsi, take a left at a place called Amminalli and head towards Heggarane. I recommend the former route as its more scenic than the latter one.

Point B is Heggarane:
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Unchalli falls - Manjuguni, 30 km: The roads are in excellent condition. There are some scenic places between Heggarane and Khurse.

Point A is Heggarane:
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Manjuguni - Khurse - Sirsi (SH-69), 25 km: Its a very wide concrete road with tarmac laid on it. Watch out for some unexpected sharp curves on this road.

Sirsi - Sahasralinga - Sonda (SH-93), 15 km: The roads are in decent condition with some occasional potholes in between. The roads inside Sonda i.e, after taking a left from SH-93 is not good.

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