Thursday, August 23, 2012

3 day outing to Green Village homestay @ Sakleshpur with BMS friends

With the 3 day weekend of 18th (Sat), 19th (Sun) and 20th (Monday - Ramzan) of Aug, 2012, a few of us from the 'BMS-Electrical' friends group conceived the idea of taking advantage of this monsoon break and finally 3 of us (Sanjeev, Sudhir and myself) were able to confirm and get started on this. As always, once the plan of going out was decided, the succeeding questions were on where to go and where to stay came up. We started with Coorg, but most of us had seen it earlier. The second option was that of Chikkamagalur and we started enquiring with the homestays over there, found that it was all booked. One of the homestays we approached provided a lead to another homestay of their relative, not in Chikkamagalur but close to Sakaleshpur which had accommodations available. The team did not have any firm / fixated plans anyways, so we thought we could give a try with Sakaleshpur instead of Chikmagalur and man, sometimes you really make wise decisions by trying something new for the first time and getting it right.

We approached 'Green Village homestay ( and got the reservations done for 3 families. They offered us two double bedded room and one three bedded room with a price tag of Rs. 1500 per person per day (Children below 5 yrs at no extra cost). We had a phone conversation with the landlords and confirmed our stay with them. Our conversations with the landlords were very plain on our wants and they told us that they would not disappoint us from their commitments. Their differentiator being the "true" 'home-away-from-home' and 'varieties of Malnad food'. Well, most others promise the same and so we were prepared to expect the expected!. (Only untill we reached there!).

This trip was also the first opportunity I got to try out my 1 year old new car (Toyota Etios Liva) and take it for a long drive. Soujanya was wanting to make this happen and this trip made a perfect opportunity.

18th August, 2012 - Saturday:
Soujanya, Pooja and myself reached out to Sanjeev's house by 5:50 AM , picked up Srivali, Sarju and Sanjeev by 6:10 and waited after the NH 48, after Nelamangala where Sudhir, Jaya and Lil. Saanvi joined us in their Maruti SX4. We shifted some of the luggage into the huge boot of SX4 and started again enroute NH48 by 6:45 AM.

We went through multiple toll booths, but was worth the price as the roads were simply fabulous and made sure for a very comfortable drive right till Channarayapatna. We crossed CR patna by 8:45 AM and had breakfast at 'Kamat Upachar', a decent restaurant with sufficient car parking space and okay food. After tanking ourselves with Masala dosas, Idlies, Coffee and Tea, we hit the road again towards Hassan. Our Homestay landlord (Mr. Natesh) appraised us of the routes considering that we wanted to visit Belur and Halebid before reaching homestay and offered a better plan and route. We went through Hassan town, Salagame and then touched Halebid by 11 AM.

Somewhere in-between, we came across a acres of flower plantations of Chrysanthemums, Marigold and Asters of various colours. It was a heavenly sight and we stopped the car, jumped across the fence into the garden, without permission and just walked into the fields. White, yellow, orange, pink, maroon flowers fully blossomed and made such a wonderful fairy tale / filmy picture setting come alive!. Absolutely stunning!.

Halebid (meaning Old town) was the first capital of the Hoysalas earlier known as 'Dwarasamudra'. During the reign of Vishnuvardhana, the temples of Halebid were built in the 12th century and took 190 years for completion. (Delayed due to incursions from the north). 'Jakanachari' was the primary architect of Halebid and in his leadership, and creative design, the temples of Halebid (as well as Belur) were built. Dankanachari (son of Jakkanachari), Malloja, Dasoja were prime-architects who created this divine masterpiece. The temples were ransacked by Allauddin Khilji and his army general Mallik Kafur which brought down the downfall of this wonderful temple. As usual, many of the carvings are defaced, figurines dismembered, but many remain still intact.

We hired the local guide who charged Rs. 200 but gave a wonderful 45 minute tour of the temple with great detail, amazing history and narrated the facts very well. Believe me, every carving of the temple is a true masterpiece, could not be replicated by anybody else earlier, cannot be replicated by hand now, nor can be done in the near future with the same parameters considering the time it was built. The artistry, bodily proportions, expressions, eye for detail, creativity and the blending of character with its emotion is simply beyond human and left us completely awestruck with eye popping out and jaws dropping. More can be learnt about Halebid here:

We then hit the road again and reached Belur in about 30 minutes from Halebid. It is told that one has to see the Halebid for its carvings from Outside of the temple and Belur from the inside of the temple. And whoever said that, was completely right.

Yet again, we hired a guide who charged Rs. 250 to give us a 40 minute tour of the temple. The guide was very well versed with the details and elaborated very well on a lot of things, mixing a lot of humour to keep our enthusiasm at peak levels.

While Belur also had a good share of figurines ('shilabaalilke'), outside of the temple, it is in the inner sanctum-sanctorum that the splendour of Belur can be appreciated. Its hard for anybody to get to a state of awesomeness for a second time but Belur did that to us. The life size 'Channakeshava' (primary deity of Belur) has been superbly carved with such a pleasing personality befitting the name 'Channa' as in 'handsome', keshava meaning 'Krishna or Vishnu'. The carvings of Jaya-Vijaya pair at the very entrance of the temple is another masterpiece and blows the mind off anybody for the proportions, expressions and the sheer genius of the craftsman. The many pillars that make this temple is intricately carved, and each pillar has a unique type of artistry and level of detail. More can be read and seen about Belur here:

It was past 3 PM when we completed the tour and took the Mudigere - Jannapura route towards our Homestay, close to Hanbal town in Sakaleshpur, as directed by Mr. Natesh. It took us close to 45 minutes from Belur to reach a village called 'Avarekadu' where Mr. Natesh picked us up and helped us to his homestay. Finally we reached 'GreenVillage homestay' at 4 PM in the evening, pretty tired from driving, hungry and really needed a good lunch and some rest.

GreenVillage Homestay:
First impression is always the best impression and this adage was definitely true for this homestay as the location of this homestay was not too far from the driveway, not too deep into the jungle, but has enough and more green cover to appreciate nature in all its beauty. As we entered the homestay, we saw a beautiful front yard with ample space for car parking, flat and spacious field in front of the 'Mangalore tiled' cottage' with a patio/sit-out looking towards the yard facing the greens of the estates near by. The rooms were spacious, toilets spotlessly clean and fully western, excellent lighting and the best part was it had a common sitting patio where one could just sit over there with legs stretched and endlessly chat and gossip. A perfect setting for our families as that is what we wanted to do over this trip. Spend some good time outside our daily routines.

Soon Mr. Natesh (our landlord) introduced his wife (Ranjini Natesh), who led us to the Lunch/Eating area which was at the other side of the corner of our cottage. A nicely done portico with a running granite table made a nice deck for keeping all the dishes which made a good visual presentation of the buffet spread. The variety of dishes seemed endless and the photos will make more sense than actually typing this description. All in all, we were overwhelmed by the Quality, the Quantity, the Variety and the most importantly, the affection with which the food was served. I haven't come across many such places that offered such good varieties of Malnad Cusine and with such superb taste. Ranjini Natesh is an expert cook and has compiled 375+ recipes of both Vegetarian and Non-Veg Malnad dishes, (mostly vegetarian) and the book 'Paaka Darshini' has been a hot seller with folks who have had a chance to enjoy this food.

Cucumber salads, Tamarind Rice, Rice balls, Rice Shavige, Plain Rice, Vegetable Stew, Halbai, 2 types of Curries, Sambhar, Rasam, Curds, assisted with 2 types of homemade pickles [heralekaayi (large lemon) and halasinakaayi (Jackfruit)] made up the main course. Chocolate Souffle, homegrown Papaya, Bananas ('Karbaale') was on the deserts. Boiled and cooled water was made available in clean and clear bottles.

After such a heavy 'nutritious' lunch, it was very hard for us to even lift ourselves and get our behinds back to our rooms. We unloaded our luggage into our rooms, freshened ourselves and in one hour, got back sitting in front of the mildly drizzling sit-out when the coffee and tea was served!. When 3 families meet up in such an 'ideal' setting, the only thing to expect is to bring the roof down with our wide range of discussions from everything under the sun including the sun. So much was our volume that the whole village staying at least a kilometer away could have heard us laugh and party ourselves to glory. By the time we were done with 'Malnad special' coffee and tea, down came trays of home made star shaped cookies, Bread-Panner Rolls, and some namkeens. Incredibly our tummies expanded to accommodate the splurge of the incoming traffic dished our by our land lady.

We had asked Mr. Natesh to arrange for a vehicle for the next day's tour to Mullayyanagiri, Baba Budangiri/Dattapeetha, Chikkamagalur and other places and it was confirmed that a 'Chevy Tavera' was arranged and confirmed and that we would be set by our 8:30 AM for this trip.

The team got involved participating in my eccentric trials with Night photography tricks and had everybody occupied for the next one hour or so when our Land-lady interrupted and invited us for dinner!!!. Hope you can understand our predicament at this point.

The dinner had a full course meal of Rice balls, a new variety of masala rice preparation, plain rice, a different version of Sambhar and Rasam, curries, salads, papads, fruits and Fruit salads! Our distress call - 'Ayyyaappaaa!!!' could not cover the distance through the nearby jungles. It was amazing to learn that we humans underestimate how much we can 'overeat'. And by end of the dinner, we were very happy to have understood and appreciate this thought. Just about 30 seconds later, we literally 'FELL' asleep, like a log of wood.

19th August, 2012 - Sunday:
With eyes still crying for more sleep, Souji and I woke up at 5:30 AM to the sounds of Jungle music, with the chirping sounds of insects from the nearby trees and the jeering noise made by the frogs from the near-by paddy fields and to the beautiful wake up calls by those little birds in the bush. We spent some time appreciating the sounds, noise and music of the jungle while the Sun started to rise as dreary eyed as ours. The team was all ready for the upcoming trip to Mullayyanagiri, a peak that is the tallest in Karnataka, and about 80 odd KMS from our homestay.

As usual, hot, piping Coffee, Tea and Biscuits were ready even before we brushed our teeth. Breakfast was neatly arranged at our usual dining bay. This time the spread was made of 'Akki Rotti', Honey, Chutney, Ghee, 2 types of Vegetable Curries, (lost count), Salads, Bread Toast, Eggs, A Sweet dish made out of Rava and pure ghee (outstanding!) and many other things that I can't remember as it is 'IMPOSSIBLE' to remember after all these varieties. One dish better than the other. Awesome taste and top class preparation. The 'Akki rotti' with Honey was such a deadly combination that I must have had at least 5 or 6 of them for sure. With so much energy (to be read as 'weight') gained, we boarded the Tavera on our way to Mullayyanagiri hills.

We left by 9 AM and took about an hour and half to reach Chikkamagalur town and it's busy streets. After a drive through of its version of MG Road, the ladies were disappointed that there was no sight of the famous Silk Saree Shop (PSR Silks) on that street, (which brought a great cheer to the gentlemen tucked away in the corner of the car wiping out the cold sweat with full admiration of luck!).

We reached the base of the Mullayyanagiri peak in 20 minutes from Chikkamagalur town and it got cloudy and windy as we climbed up the hill and came across mini streams and waterfalls all along the hill side which made a great sight. The view of the Western Ghats with the green grassy meadows all around made an awesome view as we climbed higher and higher. The roads become very narrow and the ladies had their hearts in their mouths whenever the driver drove close to the edge of the cliff while making hairpin bends. We got down a couple of times to take some photos from view points and even in this off-season, traffic was a bit heavy, and made up for a traffic jam. But we did not get discouraged by the folks who advised us to return back and continued till we reached the top.

Soon the clouds and fog engulfed the entire range of the peaks, with visibility being hardly 10 feet. We got out of our vehicle and realized that the winds were blowing so hard that it would easily lift and launch the kids if left un-tethered! The wind was literally blasting at a mighty pace!. At some times, it was hard to breathe. Ears started hurting because of the cross winds and the thick blanket of fog and mist made it impossible to stay steady and capture a decent photograph as the camera and the cameraman was shaking head to toe!. All of us had to get into heavy Jackets, Mufflers and earplugs to defend the heavy winds probably hitting us like putting our face out while speeding in cars at 90KMS!.

After a few minutes of discussion on the next strategies, the ladies and kids wanted to stay inside our vehicles while the men wanted to venture out into the upper point of the Mullayyanagiri hill. Sudhir, Sanjeev and myself started climbing from the base point and with very heavy winds upwards of 100KMS, blowing ear-to-ear, and sometimes gasping for breath, we slowly but surely climbed in the windy weather and made it to the top of the hill. As we climbed higher, we could see the elevation whenever the fog and mist took a quick break. We visited the Shiva temple located at the summit and were happy of making it to the top of the peak, and achieving our first 'Superlative' of this trip - The tallest mountain peak of Karnataka standing 4000 Meters tall.

Return decent was smooth and the winds relaxed for a while. We reached down in 10 minutes and joined back our girls, happily sitting inside the vehicle and munching all the Namkeens, Sweets and other spicy home made Karam-kurams!

We took another round of photos of our achievement and then headed earthwards. Our next stop was Dattapeeta/Baba Budangiri, but we missed the deviation and drove several KMS forward. Realizing that it was one other mountain peak, we decided to skip the point. It was already 2 PM and parked our vehicle for lunch at some place serene and close to the 'Hemavathi river'. Our Landlady from homestay had packed our lunch as well! It was a good 1 hour before we started again with the intent of covering 'Manjrabad' fort (one of the forts built by Tippu Sultan) about 12 KMS from Sakaleshpur. The plan was to get back to Homestay, freshen ourselves a bit and then get back to visit the fort. We reached our homestay by 4 PM and by 4:30 PM realized that fatigue was taking over and with lack of sleep, the folks wanted to rest.  And with interest levels dipping, we decided to cut-short and end our tour at this point.

With that, we just stayed back and relieved the Driver and spent rest of the evening relaxing at the homestay itself.

Sanjeev, Sudhir and myself played a round of Badminton for an hour or so and took care of the kids, while the ladies went out for a walk in the villages. A perfect win-win for all of us!. By the time the sun went down, we freshened ourselves and sat around in the sit-out till it started to rain again!. Not the rain from the heaven, but the dishes from our Landlady!!!. Starting with Coffee, Tea, Rusks, Biscuits (all home made!!!).

The regular session of gossip continued in the evening and with the clouds opening a bit and the darkness taking over the 'Ramzan' sky, a zillion stars appeared from nowhere. For folks like us who hardly get a view of the starry night sky, this was a beautiful sight, just sitting in the open yard with cool breeze blowing over and staring at the beauty of the space. We spent a couple of hours trying to capture this on my camera, but needed more specialization, despite making all the necessary adjustments with High ISO, putting it on bulb mode, mounting the camera on a tri-pod etc.

The night dinner followed and this time, we all knew what to expect and rather requested the land lady to stop making too many varieties as were not in a position anymore to manage ourselves!. Despite all attempts, we were force fed all over again!.

Sudhir and I spent the next couple of hours just sitting and chatting about various TV shows, Survivor series, sharing his experiences during his travel and by the time we were done, it was past 11 in the night after which we got back to our rooms and hit the sack.

20th August, 2012 - Monday:
After a leisurely sleep, we were ready at the breakfast counter by 8:30 AM. The spread continued with 'Akki Rotti, Pure Ghee, Honey, Carrot and Onion Curry, Mushroom curry, Sweet Kadbu, Bread toast, Jam, Maida Halwa, Bananas, Papayas, Pickles, Papads and oooffff!, followed by Coffee/Tea/Milk. After all our tanks got loaded, Mr. Natesh himself volunteered to take us around local spots around 'Hanbal'. We started off at 10:15 AM. Soujanya, Pooja, Srivali and myself got into his WagonR while Sanjeev, Sudhir, Sarju, Jaya and Saanvi got into their SX4.

About 20 minutes into the drive, Mr. Natesh stopped us alongside one of the beautiful coffee estates and jump the fence. This estate happened to be his cousins and he showeded us the variety of plants grown in that estate ranging from Coffee, Pepper, Cardamoms, Lime, Oranges, Arecanut and many others. He also showed us how the Cardamoms plans are grown and the methods of maintaining them and the way the cardamoms are ripened and sold.

Next our convoys stopped at a small opening alongside a continuous border of thick jungle bushes. We could here some waterfall and all of us were excited to check this out. The entrance to the falls was through a slushy, slippery, slope, with very little to hold and outright dangerous. It took some courage to get down and a few of us did slip and slide but with some teamwork we still were able to make it in one piece. Once we got down the slope, after scraping our heads through the canopy of the jungle bushes, standing on a slippery, slimy rock, we were able to watch the beautiful 'Abbi' waterfalls (Not the 'Abbey' falls of Coorg). The water dropped from about 20 feet and spanned about 20 feet wide. The water was in full flow and was a wonderful sight. Playing under the falls was not possible due to the force of the water during monsoon. During summers, the falls would look like a thread at most, as described by Mr. Natesh. We took some snaps under the cover of these canopy and hurried back. The upward climb was not as that difficult as the descent.

With our hearts back in it's place, we moved on to the next point, which was the Old 'Bettada Byraveshwara' temple on a peak. The drive was smooth and in about 20 odd minutes, we were on top of the hill. Supposed to be a family deity of our Landlords, this temple receives a lot of visitors during the festival months, but did not see anybody else that day apart from us. The temple was also closed, but the temple platform gave us a good view point of the surrounding peaks around the range. The plan was to trek to the meadow peak nearby by, but with the kids around, the ladies opted out of the trek. The rain gods too had different plans for us, and as it started to rain, we had to return back without trekking.

It was almost 12 in the noon when we started driving back towards our homestay. In about 30 minutes, we came upon one of the tributaries of Hemavathi River, which looked fabulous and the water looked pristine. The river was not more than a couple of feet in depth but was flowing pretty fast. Considering that it was still a safe bet, we got the kids into the river and boy! it was fun!. The kids loved dipping themselves, playing in the crystal clear water, coming down from the hills. Saanvi had her first dip in a river and was blown away with the fun that the river had to offer. She was in no mood to get out of the water at all even after half an hour of play. Jaya and Sudhir had to calm Saanvi from the time we got off the river till the time we reached our Homestay!.

We reached our homestay by 2:00 PM and as expected the lunch was all set and neatly arranged. After the hot and spicy, 4 course meal, we went back to our rooms, refreshed ourselves, loaded the luggage back into our cars, settled the bill with the Landlords. Despite insisting that they need to charge us for the 3 kids, they did not accept anything extra and would rather hear back from us if they fell short of anything that was actually promised! We took one last group picture with those wonderful folks and later purchased the recipe book ('Paaka Darshini' ) that Mrs. Ranjini Natesh has authored.

The time we spent at 'Green Village homestay', the amenities provided there, the variety, quality, quantity, hygiene of the food served and most importantly the care and courtesy of the landlords (Mr and Mr. Natesh) was so overwhelming that they have set such high standards that any other homestay we ever go in the future will be measured against their standard.

We took leave of the wonderful landlords and left the Green Village Homestay at 3:10 PM and started our return journey towards Bangalore. On the way, we stopped at Sakaleshpur ('Sadguru spices') where we purchased Honey, Spices, Coffee and other things. I made a quick stop at a nursery and picked up a couple of 'Cardamom' plants for Amma, which she had requested. We then took the regular Bangalore Highway 48 and started the longer section of our return journey. The smooth roads, the setting sun, the soothing music and replaying the unbelievable time we had in the past 2 days made our drive even more easier. Zipping past at an average of 100 to 120 KMPH, (and touching a top speed of 150 KMPH at times) we took advantage of the drowning sun and got towards Bangalore without any breaks in about 4.5 hours. By 7:35 PM, we stood at the bypass before touching Nelamangala, where Sudhir, Jaya and Saanvi split and moved towards their home. We reached Sanjeev's house at 8:00 PM and after dropping them, we made back to our house by 8:30 PM.

One great feeling apart from the many others we had was how my new car behaved over the long drive. The car was very stable at 120 and easily reached up to 150 without much of a struggle. I did not test it any further beyond 150, but was satisfied knowing that it could carry a full load of luggage and 5 people comfortably with AC on at this speed, without any engine noise. Something that I was delighted about and feel happy penning this down as a record.

The trip meter read 555 KMS from the point I left Sanjeev's house till the point we reached back at his house. Overall about 565 KMS in all between our house to homestay and back.

The trip was a complete success and exceeded all our expectation in terms of what we wanted to achieve during the course. All thanks and credits to the wonderful company of Sanjeev, Sarju and Srivali, Sudhir, Jaya and our Little star 'Saanvi 2.x' who mesmerized us with her 2 worded sentences at such an early age, right through the trip. Looking forward to many such trips in the near future.

As always, here are some of the photos and videos taken during our little trip to the Homestay and other places of visit.