Breaking free from the urban din -1

For years I have travelled across faraway lands,
to caper about snowy slopes and amble on desert sands,
to the falls and the blooms of the cooler climes,
the Northern lights and the Highland pines.

But missed all that lay a drive away,
the breaking day with its golden streaks
and the glistening dew on paddy sheathes.

This feeble attempt of mine, though not a faithful adaptation of the poem that Tagore wrote for Satyajit Ray the child, rues on similar lines that we often miss the spectacles that are a few paces away from us in our efforts to travel across the world.

As the pandemic forced us to limit ourselves to day trips and pick less thronged locales for longer stays, we realized the endless wonders that this part of south India around Bangalore had in store for us. A drive out to anywhere between 50 to 500 kilometres can take one to some spectacular sites, from centuries old forts and temple architecture to the hills of the Western and the Eastern Ghats, and beyond to the shores of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. That is more than what you can hope to be able to check out in a few years.

Most of us that wanted to let out our pent up wanderlust, started to explore the lands that lay just outside the city. Being at the edge of the Deccan Plateau, Bangalore is in quite a unique neighbourhood of many delightful landscapes made up of hills, rivers, lakes, dams, plain lands and forests.

One interesting set of topologies, comprising parts of the Cauvery Basin, lies within the reach of a day drive from Bangalore. From the point that the mighty Cauvery is halted in arrogance by the Kishna Raja Sagar dam off Mysore, to Mekkedatu before it enters Tamil Nadu, the Cauvery Basin offers a series of changing moods of the revered Cauvery, the lifeline of the South.

There are a few drives that one can attempt in this region along the Cauvery. Shivanasamudram offers two spectacular falls of the Cauvery, the Gagan Chukki and the Bhara Chukki falls. One of the routes to the Gagan Chukki falls take you through a KPTCL township with buildings that are about 100 years old, dating back to the setting up of the first hydel power plant in the region. Slightly away from Shivanasamudram, in the small town/village of Talakadu, you come across a number of Shiva temples (Panchalinga temples) and Keerthi Narayana temple near the Cauvery, that were excavated from under the sand that the meandering Cauvery had covered its banks with.

As the Cauvery heads towards Mekkedatu, it is joined by the Arkavathy river at Sangam. A popular place of visit for day tourists from Bangalore, it is also close to the starting point of a trek to Mekkedatu. The Sangam is surrounded by dense vegetation most of which is protected forest area. The region extending to 30-50 km upstream of the Cauvery hosts two nature and adventure camps of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts, the Gallibore and the Bheemeshwari camps.

The drive from Kanakpura to Sangam is an extremely pleasant one through agricultural lands, grass lands and protected forest areas. In a recent trip to the Sangam, we picked the trail of the Chunchi falls from signs on the road, and ended up with the spectacular view of the falls with a rainbow created by its sprays and the falling afternoon sun. Of course, such a phenomenon would depend on a combination of factors like a full river, a clear sunlit day and the inclination of the sun in the afternoon. We were plain lucky to be there at the right time. However, this was not a fleeting moment as the rainbow continued to enthrall the visitors for the good part of an hour that we had been around.

The places described in this post are in the range of 70-100 km from Bangalore, each of them pretty much covered in a day’s drive out of the city. The Cauvery Basin circuit between Talakadu and Sangam can be covered in about 3 trips. If you add Mekkedatu and KRS Dam, that would be two additional trips. Do not rush through with your visits, there is a lot to enjoy during the drives and plenty of sights to stop by and admire. Post monsoon is a good time to visit these places as the rivers and falls would be pretty full and the landscapes lush green. There are many eateries on the way and if you choose to pack your food there are endless options to enjoy your meals amidst nature. Remember, though, to leave nothing behind and bring back all the waste you generate, in consideration of the environment as well as of all the other visitors that would follow you to these locations. More to follow on other interesting locales around the city.

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