Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trapped in rain

2nd October 2009

This is a story where I and my friends happened to get caught in the recent rains. Looking back now, I feel that the hardships we encountered are minuscule when compared to the sufferings of stranded devotees of Mantralaya or the hapless people of flood affected areas of North Karnataka. But it was an experience to remember.

We had planned an eight day trip in the Western Ghats and the coastal areas of Karnataka. Things were great in Western Ghats though it was raining constantly all along. We arrived in Karwar on 1st October to cover the coastal belt of the trip. After visiting couple of beaches, it was felt that there was no fun to be at beach side during rains. So, we changed our plans and decided to go back to the forests. Since we had already checked into a lodge we decided to move on the next day.

This decision made us struggle for next two days.

It rained for the whole night. When we went to have breakfast in the morning, we found that the restaurant was water logged. The heavy rains convinced us to abandon all our plans and return back to Bengaluru. So, we checked out of the hotel and set off towards Ankola. Just three km from Karwar, we hit the road block. The road was water logged. I parked my car at the side and thinking what next to do. A yellow board Indica manages to cross the water while an auto gets stuck in water. Locals tell about 5-7 feet deep waters for several km that we should cross later. Within few minutes the Indica returns back unable to cross the next water body. There are no vehicles coming from other side either.

We then decide to take an alternative road passing through Kadra. It would be longer but we had no options. All along that road we see water flowing on the road. At one place, car shakes and partially losses control while navigating on a water body. Our heart beat stops for a while!! Then there is was stream overflowing on a bridge!!!! And it was raining like never before and driving becomes extremely difficult. It was too risky to continue with such conditions and so we decided to return back to Karwar and stay in the Hotel.

By the time we reach the hotel we had stayed the previous day, it was full. There were tourists coming from Goa and struck in Karwar. The next task was to hunt for a hotel to stay in Karwar town. Finally, we find a hotel (“Navaratna”) which had few free rooms. The rain does not even allow fetching the luggage from car. It was already 10:30AM and we still had not done our breakfast. The lodge does not have a restaurant and so we ask the room boy to bring some stuff.

In few minutes, the hotel was filled with stranded tourists. Many of them were returning from Goa. We came to know that the road to Goa was also cut off due to the rains. There was no exit path from Karwar.

The rain never stopped. I had never seen such a rain in my life (It rained 43cm that day in Karwar). We confine ourselves to the hotel rooms. With no power, watching TV was also out of question.

At 2PM, Krishna and I set out for lunch. Most of the roads in Karwar were filled in water. The restaurant that we went had very less items and since the water level was rising, the restaurant people were planning to shut down the hotel. So, we ate whatever was available and also packed the same for Subbu and Saravana who were in the room.

By 4:30PM, the rain gave some respite. Fed up with sitting idle in the room, we set out to see the town. Barring two or three roads, the entire town was under water. Due to full moon time, sea was rough and Kali River could not join into the sea. The result was that the water from the town could not join Kali River resulting in the town under water.

At one place the NH-17 was cut and a canal was made to route the water from the town into the sea. That was a desperate measure by Town Corporation who had left with no options. The highway to Ankola was still blocked and in addition to water logging, series of landslides had occurred all along the route. The situation was bad and town had turned into a prison for us.

We knew that the next issue would be food. So, as a backup we picked up some fruits and biscuits. Dinner itself was an adventure. The only hotel opened near the bus stand was crowded. The hotel guys were struggling to cope up with the mad rush. So much that we had to barge into the kitchen and ask some guy to prepare some stuff and quickly pack it ourselves (so that other people would not snatch). Survival of the fittest!!

I later called up my Mother who was traveling in the part of flood hit Andhra Pradesh. I was relieved to hear that she has moved out of the danger zone.

We slept hoping to get out of town on the next day.

We got up early in the morning and by 7AM; we were ready to check-out with all bags dumped into the car. It had not rained much during the night and our hopes had increased. Reality was dawned on us as we came to know that Karwar-Ankola highway was severely hit by a series of landslides. We cannot move until it was cleared. Few people who decided to gamble went only to return back within few minutes.

There were policemen at every corner of the town. Apparently, a bandh was called by some organization for some cause. What timing!! We were convinced that we have to forget about breakfast.

By that time, a kind of relationship was built among the inmates of the lodge. Everybody was on the same situation. We just wanted some “breaking news”.

I was an unhappy man by that time and decided to roam around the town instead of staying in the dark room (no power!!). The situation at the bus stand was even worse. People who had come on the previous day were still stuck and were arguing with policemen. Buses would move only after receiving go ahead from Police. Not everybody could afford a room and many of them had spent the night in the bus stand. And adding to the woes was non availability of food. Policemen were telling that there was a bigger tragedy where a landslide near Karwar had killed 21 people.

Will there be fighting for food? I hoped thing may not go that far.

Things happened to move at 11AM. The landslides were not cleared, but private vehicles were being allowed to go in an alternate route passing though the Seabird Naval base. We quickly checked-out of the hotel and started towards Ankola.

A couple of km from Karwar, we could see the devastations caused by rain. There were landslides all along the road. Many boulders had fallen on the road. At the second section of the ghat road, we were diverted to Seabird naval base. I must say that the only positive side of this endurance was that we got an opportunity to see the naval base. (Non army people cannot enter). It was an amazing site to see the townships in front of the sea and huge naval vessels docked.

Once out of Naval base, we could see lot of houses completely fallen due to rains and people picking up the belongings. It was a sad scene to watch. On the opposite side, traffic was piled up with trucks and buses as only private vehicles were allowed through the naval base. Policemen were doing the good job of maintaining the traffic.

The normal route that one would take to Bengaluru was through Yellapur and Hubli. Since the places near Hubli and Davanagere was flodded, we decided to take NH206 passing through Honnawar and Shimoga. This is the road I travel often and was convinced that there would not be any water logging.

It was 11PM when I reached my Home in Bengaluru. It was a non stop driving for 12 hours (barring short stops for food).

From web:
In addition to rains, man made issues were also the cause for floods and landslides.

State of Karwar after rains:

There are also these kind of people (now found everywhere)

Finally, I found some videos in Youtube on Karwar floods

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pavagada fort

19th September 2009

Pavagada is known for infamous reasons. Few decades ago, it had a reputation of being the home of wolves that used to carry children. But it was long ago and remained as mystery. Naxals, who are far more dangerous, have also given a bad name to this place.

Information about an old fort in the town of Pavagada made us (I, Aishwarya and Krishna) to visit the place.

The route we took was Bengaluru->Dabaspet->Madhugiri->Pavagada. On the way, few snaps were taken of the sun flowers near Madhugiri.

Pavagada is joined to Karnataka through a narrow chicken’s neck. People traveling from Bengaluru have to cross over to Andra Pradesh to reach Pavagada. Road is ok in Karnataka side and the counter part in Andra is very good with no road humps. I am now convinced that the roads in Karnataka are either filled with pot holes or road humps.

As we entered Pavagada, we could see a big crowd at the Shani Temple. I then came to know that this Temple is quite famous and attracts devotees from far places.

To reach the base of the hill, we had to pass through some narrow lanes. As the car could not go through these lanes, we decided to park the vehicle and started walking. The place was very filthy and Krishna being very conscious about cleanliness was complaining about the foul smell. I had no issue as I had a running nose!!

We left the dirty place to enter into the base of the fort. The climb was quite easy with steps constructed everywhere. It was surprising to see the fort in a better condition though it was not maintained at all.

Entry to each stage of the fort has a giant door.

In the midway, there is a small Hanuman Temple.

A Kalyani is at the upper reaches of the fort which might have the main water source for the fort.

It took us about 50 minutes to reach the top of the fort. As expected, the views from the top were simply great.

There was also a small tunnel which enters into a room. Again it was surprising that it was in a good condition. It might have been used as a hiding place or ammunition storage.

A building at the top resembles a mosque. It might have been built during the times of Hyder Ali.

The fort has lot of space on the top and one can leisurely explore different parts of the fort.

The descent was faster and it took less than 30 minutes to get down.

Pavagada is a very backward town with minimal facilities. We could not find any good hotels and had to content with some bad lunch at a local hotel.

Historically, this fort was built during Vijaynagar times. It was also a place where a major war broke out between Tippu Sultan and British.


· The first time I heard about Pavagada was during my childhood while traveling from Kumta to Siddapur on Badala ghat. Most of the sign boards pointed to Pavagada. I could not think of a connection between Pavagada and a distant ghat road of Badala!!

· On return journey, as we re-entered Karnataka, a stone wall indicated that we are entering “Mysore state”!!

More photos of the trip can be seen here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kabbe hills

29th-30th August 2009

The southern part of Kodagu district always amazed me. One reason was that it was less frequented by people when compared to the towns like Madikeri and the other was the forests that were still remaining amidst the coffee estates. So, when my wife asked to take her to some place in western ghat, I place I through was Kabbe.

Our trip started with a visit to Padi Igutappa Temple at Kakkabe. Kakkabe is 20 km from Virajpet town. This is the most sacred Temple for Kodava people. One can see people in Kodava traditional attire at this Temple. I was told that it would be nice to visit during Huttari festival. Later, I also came to know that the lunch served at the Temple was superb!! I rued myself for missing this important information!!

The place we stayed was Kabbe holidays, near the village of Chelavara. It is a place of several waterfalls. The home stay is at the back drop of Balliyatra falls.

We were greeted by the couple Dilip and Vidya Chengappa who owns estate. My daughter immediately liked this place and was running everywhere with joy!!

Lunch was with Dilip and Vidya. I and my wife very much liked the Kodava traditional food that was served. It was supposed to be a relaxed trip, there was nothing to hurry. My plan was to visit Kabbe hills in evening. Since the weather was completely misty, Dilip suggested visiting Kabbe hills on the morning of next day. We then visited Chelava falls. Since it was difficult to get down the falls with the kid, Dilip took us to a place where my daughter can safely play in the water.

My daughter was excited to play in the water. After some time, it started to rain and we had to return back. But my daughter refused to come out of water and we had to lift her forcefully!!

On the next day, I got up early at 6AM and started towards the Kabbe hills. My wife and daughter did not want to get up from their sleep. So, I went alone.

The first 15 minutes was through the houses and estates. Later part of the journey was through the forests and grasslands. As I climbed higher, the views of the surrounding areas became clearer. Shorter, I was at the Kabbe hills. The end of the Jeep track marks the Kabbe hill. The view from the hill was spectacular. The endless stretch of forests at the Kerala side was a scene to watch. The beauty was compounded several times by the hanging clouds. There was a complete silence and I being alone enjoyed the solitude.

I decided to climb an adjacent hill that looked taller as I had ample time at my disposal. But then there was a sudden change in the atmosphere. The entire area was engulfed in mist and the visibility was very less. I did not like the prospect of getting lost in the mist. So, I hastened backwards to reach the Jeep track and then back to the estate. Even if I was late by few minutes to reach the Kabbe hills, I would have missed the panoramic views.

More photos of the trip can be seen here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nalknad Palace

30th August 2009

The first time I saw this place was during January 2005. It was while trekking to Tadiyandamol peak. The Palace was being renovated during that time.

Having seen Mysore Palace, I must say that I was not impressed by the simple look of Nalknad Palace. So much so when I stayed at a home stay in front of the palace last year, I never bothered to give a visit to that place.

That was last year. I then happened to read a novel “Chikka Veera Rajendra” written by Masti Venkatesh Ayengar. It was a very good novel and I need not vouch for it as it has won a Jnanapith award. The novel depicts the happenings during the last year of “Chikka Veera Rajendra”, the last king of Kodagu. Nalknad Palace is mentioned several times in the novel and the last king of Kodagu was caught by British in this Palace. This novel stirred up my interest on this Palace.

So, when I happened to visit Kakkabe, I made sure that I see Nalknad Palace.

This Palace was built by the Kodagu ruler Dodda veera Rajendra in 1792 AD specifically as a hiding place in case of any attacks to his kingdom at Madikeri. The last ruler of Kodagu Chikka Veera Rajendra took refuge in this Palace before surrendering to British in 1834 AD.

The guard of the Palace volunteered himself to guide us. He was a nice guy and had some knowledge about the place. Originally, the Palace had thatched roof now replaced by Mangalore tiles.

I was surprised to see the paintings in a very good shape on the roof of the Durbaar hall. I was wrong!! The guard told that the paintings were done by film crew for shooting few years ago. Those were the days when the Palace was guarded.

The guard also showed us the place where the king had taken refuge. A very narrow dark passage well suited for hiding.

A nice place to see if one is interested in Kodagu history.

How to reach Nalknad Palace:
Route from Virajpet:
Take the road to Kakkabe from Virajpet. Pass through the villages of Karada, Kadanga, Cheyyendane and reach Palace stop. Take a turn here and travel for three km to reach Nalknad Palace.

Route from Madikeri:
Madikeri--> Napoklu --> Kakkabe --> Palace bus stop --> Nalknad Palace

Monday, October 05, 2009

My article in Prajavani

My article on Vibhooti and Shivagange falls has been published in "Prajavani" (Kannada news paper) last week. The link is given below:

I had been to these falls two years ago(link here) and immediately afterwards i had sent this article. Finally, it got published after two years!!