Hampi - history carved in granite

Day – 1, As planned we left Bangalore quite late in our standard after a big breakfast at home around 11, the traffic on a Saturday as usual was very heavy and it continued that way till we crossed Nelamangala. After that the traffic got better but there were too many diversions as there was work going on to build flyovers and road widening on NH-4. We filled fuel somewhere after Nelamangala, and noticed there were not many decent stops like CCD or others. We did make a quick stop after one of those toll-plaza before Chitradurga to have lunch inside the car with the home cooked paratha (stuffed bread).

At Chitradurga we need to take an diversion and left NH-4 and continued on NH-13 (Solapur Highway). This is a undivided 2 lane road. There are not many small vehicles but lots of big rigs. We found lots of Sunflower field and stopped in one of them for a quick photo-shoot. The road is full of pot holes and unmarked speed breakers. But it was not that bad and I got used to it after a while and reached outskirts of Hospet around 4PM. There we saw the many mining dump-truck but this is just a small part compared to its neighbor Bellary.

Finding our destination Hotel Malligey was easy as it is quite well known, we checked in before dusk. The room were very spacious and we were welcomed by very friendly staff there. After getting freshen up we fixed a guide from hotel’s travel desk for next day. Initially we planned for 3 nights stay with 2 days of Hampi but Hotel people suggested we could shorten one day. Later realized it was a good idea as one gets bore with stone after a while. But if you are coming from a distance it might be a good idea to spend second day as there are many sights to cover.


Day – 2, We started with complementary breakfast from hotel towards Hampi as our guide was waiting near his village. We picked him up and started with “Pattabhi Ram Mandir” . From there we went to “Vittala Temple” via “Talarigatta Gate”. From the car park there are golf cart which takes you to Vittala Temple (around 2 KM) via the historic market area. Tough it was just 10 on the watch but the Sun was too bright and hot. Our guide did a good job in explaining the details. From there we proceed to Royal Center.

We started with Saraswathi Temple, it was only us in this less visited temple. Next to it was Octagonal Bath, a place used by horse traders and other outsider. After that we came to Queen Bath a unique mix of Indian & Persian architecture. Each dome is designed differently. The peripheral verandah provided the required shade and privacy for royal women.

The ‘Mahanavami Dibba’ is a huge area with many sites within the key is off-course Dassara platform. The kings of Hampi used to celebrate Dassara a big way currently royal family Mysore celebrate the same. Aarush became bored with stones and fatigued with so hot sun, he preferred to stay in the car to play ‘angry bird’ ?

After this we moved our car to ‘Hazara Rama Temple’ a royal temple which depicts the Indian epic Ramayana on stone wall. This was a temple only for royal family to pray and enter. There is ‘Archeology Gallery and Office; which we skipped and headed straight to ‘Zenana(ladies) Enclosure’ . The key attraction inside is offcourse ‘elephant stable’ and ‘lotus mahal’ another key thing to notice is the watch towers. Each of them are different- one is circular and other one triangular. Now it was almost 12:30 and we agreed to stop for lunch and have a good break to avoid the sun which was really too hot to handle.

The number uno destination for food in Hampi is Mango Tree – a vegetarian place next to the Tungabhadra River under giant mango tree. You get all kinds of food which is a delicacy given the remoteness of Hampi. The best part was we ordered in parts to linger our stay in shade.

At around 3/3:30 we started again, and there is a road which connects to Virupaksha Temple. But looks like it is kind of private road where our guide opened a huge gate next to Mango Tree to let us in. Virupaksha temple is still a working temple and you will find Laxmi , the temple elephant there. After Virupaksha temple we crossed Hampi bazaar and drove uphill to Kadalekalu Ganesha. This is known as Hemakunta hill where many attraction can be covered on foot. But we skipped it as that would mean we have climb down the hill to Hampi Bazar again.

From there we went to Laxmi Narayan and Badavilinga temple. We drove past the famous two storied gateway. A perfect place to enjoy sunset among glowing granites. We headed to Krishna Temple and on route saw ‘Akka Tangi Gudda’ (sister stone) two giant boulders forming an arch. We visited underground Shiva temple next and noblemen quarter.

The sun was now dropping and we had a dilemma what to do next, our guide suggested we visit one more temple not so visited by tourist due to its offtrack location. The temple is Pattabhirama Temple a huge temple with stone carvings are still intact. We should have went to ‘Hemakunta hill’ to watch sun set but instead headed to Tungabhadra reservoir and got lost in Hospet town. It was a long day and Aarush went to sleep so headed to hotel.

Lots of stone, art and history at the end it at times feel heavy on head reminding touring Louvre museum of Paris for a whole day.

Road trip - October 2012

Visiting the northern part of Karnataka for its historic and artistic monuments were long due. We thought of doing it two years back during 15th August long weekend but postponed the same due to late rain and high water level at Tungabhadra Rivers. This year we started to plan early and consulted two avid travelers and their guidance in setting up the itinerary. It was planned that we would use the 2 weeks school vacation for this trip, but then I personally felt it would be a great miss Durga pooja twice in a row. So we modified our itinerary again and split the same in two with 5/6 days of stay in Bangalore to celebrate Durga Pooja.

On the negative side it resulted in longer drive for me and dropping few destinations from Northern sea-side destinations. Now we have to do that another time as it would require another sojourn of a week to complete. Here is both the list for a easy reference.


Bangalore-Hampi-Aihole-Patadkal-Badami-Bijapur-Bangalore

Days

Start

Activity

Distance

Stay

Day-1BangaloreHospet - a simple a laure drive365 KMHotel Malligey
Day-2HospetHampi - Day Trip in Stone Age15 KMHotel Malligey
Day-3HospetAihole + Patadkal , night stay in Badami158 KMBadami court
Day-4BadamiBanashankari tempi and badami cave followed by Mahakuta Temple and drive to Bijapur and covered as many place we could142 KMHotel Pearl, nothing great checkout others
Day-5BijapurEarly morning Gol Gumaz - we were the first and sole visitor of the wispering gallery. Head out to Bangalore by 9. lunch at Chitradurga and visit the fort and drive back home527 KMSweet Home

Coonoor - Acre Wild

We followed road suggested by Mr. Vijay to reach Coonoor, which was quite deserted except few local people we were the only one on that road. This road goes via tea gardens and gives a treat to your eyes. Once we reached Coonoor we parked next to the bus stand and had a quick thali lunch in nearby busy restaurant. After that we headed towards our Farmstay - Wild Acre. The direction given by Mr. Mansoor is very accurate and we reached without any trouble. The location is just back of Coonoor bus stand and very well marked.


After putting our stuffs and a small introduction of the cheese and farm and its produce from Deepak we went out to explore Coonoor. We went to the botanical garden which has trees from all over the world. We must admire those British for bringing tree or plant from faraway places and making themselves feel at home far away from their motherland. Be it Shillong (summer capital of Assam in British days) or Coonoor, they have similarities with parks, lakes well planned roads in hills and old British Bungalows. Coming back to the botanical garden, it is well maintained but Indian common culture of eating and playing cricket anywhere and everywhere within the park will surely take a toll slowly on the green patches.

Aarush demanded to take a boat ride and as he was upset about leaving RedHill behind ;   we managed to get our turn quickly as there was no proper queue for boating. It took 10 minutes to complete the paddling.And after some photo shoots of here and there we left the botanical garden behind.

Next we drove through Wellington – a Indian Army Area. The whole area is under Indian Army and they have officer training camp and many other training facilities. Also there is a golf course which is really worth its name. After driving cluelessly we headed back to Acre Wild. We went down from our cottage to main dining area for dinner around 8 and literally forced them to cook on time. The food was OK, the quality and service was on the negative side. Though Mr. Monsoon appeared briefly and promised he will join ; but after many minutes of waiting and as food was getting cold we had our dinner and told them again and again to keep the breakfast ready for next day on time.


Next day we woke up around 7.00am and took morning walk through the farm and some picture shots of birds and surrounding scenic area before we went for breakfast. The breakfast included freshly baked bread and farm made cheese. It was much better than dinner we must admit. We met another family from Bangalore who were visiting Coonoor for the second time. We shared our previous night dinner experience and it seems they had the same on their first night and opted for self prepared dinner.

We had a big plan to ride the World Heritage Blue rail from Coonoor to Ooty and visit Ooty city and comeback. The railway station is a small one and parking was a nightmare as there were many many taxi, vans waiting for tourist coming in the peak of summer vacation. We booked the ticket of 1st class train ticket. And Parking attendee told me to wait and park once parking lots get little free after all passengers came to Coonoor moves out. It sound simple but it was not so....it was too congested and as I was driving backwards; scratched my bumper and everyone was honking at me. In mean time, Pamela was calling to tell the train is about to leave.

In that process I missed the train and had to drive from Connor to Ooty while Aarush and Pamela went by train. Pamela & Aarush were really upset, Aarush cried whole way thinking his dad was lost..... it was total disaster.Now after driving from Conoor to Ooty (via the main highway this time) was waiting at the railway station.  Pamela appeared unhappy with the situation but looking at car dent she didn't had anything else to say.

Having own car was bliss on other side, we reached botanical garden of Ooty to start with but with rotten mood. This time parking was OK and as we were taking a stroll within garden it started to rain. We took shelter in the glass house.  After botanical garden we drove to Ooty main market from there we came to Café Coffee Day for a break and it rained again. Lucky us, we dodged the rain twice. We saw tourists drenched in the sudden rain and shivering in cold.

We had a late lunch at XXX and bought the famous Ooty chocolate from king's Star.

After that we went to Rose Graden, by this time we could feel the chillness in Ooty’s air after the rain as day was coming to an end. After taking a full round of the rose garden we headed back to Coonoor. The Rose Garden is really big and has many varieties of rose from Japanese green to black rose.

We bought some packets of Maggi before entering Acre Wild. It was raining like dogs and cat as we had self prepared dinner. It was a day which ended with high note as we had our car and saved from rain.

Next day the breakfast was again a disappointment as no cheese no fresh bread. It was simple plain toast and omelet. Mrs. Mansoor joined us for breakfast as both the guest were leaving for Banglore. May be she was there to ensure we settled our bills properly or not. Any way I would not rate this place for hospitality. They have functional kitchen, clean bathroom and it is your choice to stay there or not. May be coming out of a great hospitality of Red Hills our expectation was high as we read many positive comments in travel forum and blogs.

Before heading back to Ooty we went around Wellington one more time. Crossing Ooty with traffic reminded us of reality. Traffic police tried their best to prevent us from going via the shortest route (36 hairpin bend). But we convinced them we will drive slow and maintain 2nd gear all along. Coming down a steep hill is always riskier than going up but we just followed the rules mentioned on the road. We drove in 2nd gear, no speeding, no overtaking and following lane.

We stopped Popeye's at Masinagudi, it is a fast food center with French Fires and burgers & wraps. The place is clean and has a clean toilet the food is decent and run by a lovely couple. What else to ask in the middle of nowhere.

We came across few tuskers of forest department as we cross Masinagudi jungle range. We did not stopped around Mysore and finally stopped at Café Coffee Day for a refreshment.