Dandeli. Yes I know, if you are from Mumbai and other northern areas of the country you don’t know what I am talking about. If you are from Bangalore its been a family trip weekend destination forever! It is namma Dandeli for you. I went Mumbai – Dandeli – Bangalore – Mumbai and I have been shuttling between these two expressions from everyone I am talking to! It’s amazing considering Dandeli is bang in the middle on the Mumbai – Bangalore route! It’s a stones throw from Goa.
Being from Mumbai, I was not sure what to expect in Dandeli. I typically don’t research about the place before landing up there. Dandeli was a surprise. Its a lot wilder than I expected & wild isn’t exactly what I expected it to be either.
I was staying at a quaint, cozy jungle camp called Pradhani. Just outside was the home of a bear. He has been staying there for years and never caused much trouble but of course we humans need to step lightly and cautiously.
Inside the camp was interesting. Here are some pics from my mobile camera (S3) which I am quite proud of,
This Malabar squirrel found itself in the Monkey colony tree shown below. There were many territorial issues, but this squirrel is big enough for any of these monkeys! Yet it felt pestered as there were too many of the primate kind. As it was making its way to another tree I caught the clear shot above. Then another squirrel came from somewhere…
So what can you do in Dandeli? What is it all about?
One of the first activities I went on was the Jungle Safari. The Dandeli jungle is a wild expanse with fairly new Tiger Reserve status in 2007. There are chances of spotting tigers, leopards and black panthers. This jungle is un-fenced hence the chances of spottings are less. It is also a relatively new jungle safari zone, so the animals are not used to the road and vehicles so they may stay away from it. The ride inside was still quite impressive as the forest comes across as wild!
I totally enjoyed the safari. We saw spotted deers and heard the barking deers. The wild boar hadstepped onto the road for a bit, if he got pissed and charged on us it would be risky but that didn’t happen. 😉 The wild boar wasn’t really that big…. somewhat more sturdy looking than the average city boar but with tusks and temper. The great Indian Hornbills are really Great with their typical 60 inch wing span. They are so much bigger than I had imagined. We also saw some wild hens, peacocks, pea hen, pea kids and very camouflaged turtles.
Way into the jungle we came to a sunset point. A lot of such points are created only for tourist purposes, the view is not better than other views. This point however was brilliant! For the first time I have seen the Western Ghats in all their glory. It was so perfect for the panorama shot,
On our way back to the jungle camp, the road which was hitherto lackluster was all colorful – the gypsies had come! Read more about them in the next upcoming post as I am running low on time and some hype is mandatory at this juncture 🙂 [Next post: The gypsies are coming!]
Disclaimer: Thanks to the folks at dandeli.com for a lovely visit. They planned and organized the trip really well!
(All the thoughts and melo drama in this post are very much mine) 😉
What do you think of Lighthouses? Do they transport you to some mystical, adventurous & raucous age-old ship voyage with sailors swearing at each other but with a die-hard exploration spirit blooming in their hearts? Ships, wrecks, explorers, discovery of new lands, exotic stuff, tribals, talking parrots or have I just read too many books which fantasize sea voyages? Currently reading the Moby Dick so quite possibly that is the influence!
My favorite beach in Goa is the Miramar. Yea, hardly anyone ever mentions it as their favorite. Bang in the middle of the city, I love the hustle bustle on it. Making the beach even more magical – the far off lighthouse one can see, its beam of light moving to and fro across the dark blue expanse of the ocean!
I went to the Kapu lighthouse earlier this year. An offbeat little place near Udupi in Karnataka. It was amazing! I couldn’t go up the lighthouse as it was closed then but I was wondering why I hadn’t been to more lighthouses in my life! 🙂
So here is me, wishing a Lighthouse Tour across India – going to remote places of the country just to see the lighthouse! And what all will I see while on my journey there! 🙂
The lighthouse at Indira Point, the southern most tip of India. It’s actually about a days sea travel from Port Blair – this would be an interesting journey with amazing flora and fauna on the way!
Just came to know about this island lighthouse from another traveler. The surrounding area is a Marine National Park! Imagine that. Sounds exciting!
Fort Aguada, Goa
So I guess the lighthouse I see from the Miramar beach would be the Aguada Fort Lighthouse. Looks like an interesting spot, located within a fort – would be great to go there know about the history. What battles were fought at these forts, which side versus whom? Would definitely like to visit sometime!
Closer to home there is a lighthouse that can be seen from one of the extremities of Girgaum, Chowpatty beach in Mumbai. Considering I live right nearby I actually spotted it only a month or so back, when I was at the right place, at the right time to see the bright beam start up! Its located close to Navy Nagar area, though I doubt we would be allowed to visit. I read about plans to open up many more across Mumbai for visitors – would be great to see them all! 🙂
Still lots more to see, I just found a whole list on Wikipedia – did someone say the world is small? Cause there is just too much for me to cover!! Maybe one of the next long trips I head off to will try and see some more of these enchanting lighthouses!
Have you been to or plan to go on a lighthouse visit? In fact do you even find lighthouses enchanting? Tell me!
Leaving you with a pic of the Kapu Lighthouse, Karnataka,
I love taking sky photos – twilight time when the clouds get pink, orange colored hues from the sun makes a picture perfect shot! I landed at the Venugopalswamy Temple in Mysore around 6ish. Glad it wasn’t later cause I wouldn’t have gotten the full effect of this magnificent structure!
This temple has a very interesting story,
When the KRS dam got built outside Mysore this ancient temple was submerged in the dam waters. Just a few years back through some ingenious engineering the entire temple was lifted block by block and assembled out on the nearby land. It has then been cleaned and you can see the lovely architecture and carvings. The temple can’t be deified as its position and other things have changed, so there is no idol in the temple but still one can really get the feel of older times.
This is one of my fav temple structures – so spacious with lovely mandapas, the surrounding area is serene, green and quite un-populated with one small village, a lake outside surrounding the temple – its beautiful!
See more sky photos on SkyWatch!
If you have seen any Hoysala empire architecture then this Lion will seem very familiar. Folklore suggests that a courageous lad called ‘Sala’ killed a Lion bare handed to save his Jain Guru. ‘Hoy’ means strike and thus the empire was named HoySala.
I really like how ornate the lion is. A beautifully, detailed mane and expressive eyes. Does it resemble the Tibetan lion a little bit? The Halebeedu temple is anyway famous for the amazingly detailed stone work. Maybe this was a Golden age for stone sculpture work in India. If you haven’t been to any of these temples, I suggest put Belur and Halebeedu temples on your bucket list. The stone work is of another level here.
This Lion is very prominent in not only Hoysala architecture but also the Vijayanagar architecture. The Vijayanagar kingdom came a lot later, at a time when Hoysala kingdom was still flourishing. The Virupaksha temple at Hampi which was made during the founding of Vijayanagar empire has so many of these lions – I wonder what it suggests. Vijayanagar got founded with the ‘friendship’ of Hoysala so maybe its a sign of respect? Or maybe they just wanted to adopt something similar for friendships sake?
“After 6 months of travelling, this is the most beautiful place I have visited in India”
“It’s one of my most favorite places on Earth”
“You have to go to Hampi, its awesome”
These are the kind of raves I have been hearing for a while now from travellers for Hampi. I got a chance to go there last month after visiting Mysore for its famous Dasara (more on that later). The route to Hampi was decent, a bit too long for my tastes. Mysore -> Bellary -> Hospet -> Hampi totaling about 15 hours in different buses. So when I finally reached Hampi I was wondering what I would find there. Firstly I realised that in all the raves the travellers hadn’t been clear about what I would find there and secondly there was the chance that it was just over-rated.
Getting down finally in Hampi from the local bus, I looked around. I had already seen some beautiful fields, hills and ruins as I was approaching the place. Just across the bus stand you see the Virupaksha Temple – the founding temple of the Vijayanagara dynasty. Its actually not a ruin but a well maintained temple complex.
And you see a bustling and colorful bazaar street And you see nothing else – a empty dusty road with couple of carts selling small trinkets. A lot of people rush me – do you want a home stay? do you need a rickshaw to take you around the ruins? buy my guidebook! Apparently there used to be a bazaar street here but that has been demolished since the whole area has been declared heritage, so the tourism department is trying hard to keep it the way it was(is) and yet create a tourist attraction.
So all in all my initial impression was kind of mixed – I could see beautiful scenery and ruins to explore but where is the town? Where is a bustling bazaar which gives a distinct flavor to the place? I could see a little way off a bunch of hotel blocks. All 2 story, quaint little buildings so I headed off there. The ‘free wi-fi’ signs everywhere were a pleasant surprise but only to realise later that Vodafone/Airtel are just not available within the hotel. (The tourism department hasn’t allowed rampant mobile tower construction which I think is good). With these mixed reactions I entered the town but at the end of my 3 days I thought the place was fantastic! Here is what you will find in Hampi, and why it will probably delight you completely!
From the moment you enter Hampi you can see picturesque ruins dotting the surroundings. On tops of the far off hills, on the street side, the river bank and the Virupaksha Temple tower is visible from almost every where. Some of the rocks lying around have carvings on them making you realise that they are part of so much history.
The place takes on a surreal feel as history blends with the present.
I usually gravitate to the water spot in any place, I guess this is because I have grown up very close to the sea in Mumbai. Sitting at the riverbank at Hampi with the ruins scattered in and around the river was a lovely experience. Families giving a ritual bath to their infant in the auspicious waters of Tungabhadra, a man trying to swim in the swift river current, groups having a great time taking a dip in the cool water, hawkers selling their wares – the riverbank is full of activity. Boats pass from one bank to the other, to and fro, as there is no bridge, probably another effort by the tourism board to keep the place as is.
Traditional coracal boat can be taken from one side to the other for 50/- one journey, at least thats what they charged me. Group boats are available for 10/- per seat. Some kind of weird stuff happening in the boat management because there are three different boat services. One coracal and two group boat ones. Each of these has specific routes – you can only take them from a particular spot to a particular spot. Funny.
I was guided to see some of the ruins when I get free time (I was working most of the time, as I am a digital nomadic traveller) but I decided first I want to go on a long walk to get the lay of the land. I was in for a pleasant surprise, especially cause I had visited Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore a few days earlier and hadn’t seen too many birds. I crossed the river to the opposite bank, Virupapur Gadde and the view of the farms, hills was magnificient. There is a small region of reserve forest with a lake and fields around it. Its so picturesque! The birds were a complete surprise! Egrets, sparrows, kingfishers, cuckoos, bee-catchers, fly-catchers were all as common as crows are in the city. I also saw a hoopoe – which was such a delight and a myriad of other birds I am yet to identify. It was brilliant. I walked with a big smile on my face.
“Nice to meet you”
The locals were interesting. A lot of them had learned some English. So the typical conversation goes like “Hi, I am <name>” holds out the hand to shake.
Me: Hello <shakes hand>
“Nice to meet you”
Me: Hahah nice to meet you too!
After this they may ask other questions in broken English but the above two sentences everyone knows pat. One lady with her two daughters – all carrying a bundle of sticks on their heads. Even her daughter started a similar dialogue with me. I of course replied happily and the girl was so stunned she dropped her bundle of sticks. heheh I also met the funny, con artists the Magic Babas who started talking in a similar manner – maybe the government has English classes for them? Lots to find out here about their place management.
Apparently not all outsiders are nice, I saw two extremely obnoxious western girls completely ignoring the locals and seriously misbehaving.
In Hampi firstly narcotics is a problem. I saw some foreigners making cigarettes and smoking them in front of everyone on the riverbank. The above two western girls were extremely obnoxious. Secondly, apparently in certain season some type of foreigners come in which are totally crap type. They wear the most minuscule stuff which is just not appropriate for India. Many of the guys roam around shirtless – wtf!! These often do not have the most basic sense of respect and propriety when they enter temples and other such places.
In fact I know of the better foreigners who leave Hampi when these kind of crowd increases. So I was concerned about this. Despite all the demolitions – there seems to be no check on the foreigner behaviour and narcotics usage.
This was so much fun! Renting a moped for 150 or so a day (petrol additional) and just riding onto the beautiful roads. There are many places to go around Hampi – secluded ruin spots to see, nearby villages, Daro – bear sanctuary and so on. What really got my eye was Kishkindha ruins.
Kishkindha Ruins @ Anegundi
I don’t know much about Vijayanagara kingdom because it was taught in history text books (zzz) but Kishkindha was in the Ramayana Story books (yay). So I totally want to see structures of the times of Ram, Sita and Hanumanji!! So Anegundi was where I headed to! Anegundi is a small village about 6kms from Hampi. You can take a rickshaw to the village but the best way is by moped!
Anjaneya Hills where Hanumanji was born was the highlight of the trip. Sadly I was on the verge of a full on sunstroke so couldn’t spend proper time there but still glad I visited. Two monks were reading the Ramayana non-stop, 24 hours for years! The positivity of the place was mind-boggling!
Another reason to go to Anjaneya Hills is for the view, it gives a 360 panoramic scene.
Will write a more detailed blog post about Anegundi later!
Met a Nirmala Niketan nun there who works at a school for orphan kids. Plan to visit her on my next trip. 🙂
Every morning at 8am the elephant, Lakshmi of the Virupaksha temple is bathed. It was lovely to watch this huge animal sitting there so docile-ly being scrubbed and scrubbed 🙂
I just wish the tourists weren’t so touristy. They need to do more to blend into the place so they can really experience it.
Nearest city to Hampi is Hospet, about 30 mins away. Good buses from Hospet to and back from Hampi are available every 15 mins at the bus stand. You can also take a rickshaw or private vehicle.
Overnight buses to Hospet directly are available from Bangalore/Mumbai and possibly other places as well. There are few so you need to book in advance. I couldn’t get tickets when I tried to book one day earlier.
Bellary & Hubli are the other two cities you can head to from Hampi via Hospet. You can only take local buses or private vehicle. From Bellary/Hubli you should easily be able to get a good bus to most nearby metros. Train are also available from Hospet, but since tickets in them are tougher to book last minute I hardly ever go by train. You can try to get a good train if you are booking early on.
A lot of guest houses in Hampi. Finding a place shouldn’t be a problem – but you should be able to get free wi-fi (as most mobile networks won’t work well). Most of these guest houses have restaurants and sit outs you can order from. A lot of rooftop restaurants are also there.
If you are on a budget trip then I have been told by many reliable sources that very good places – individual huts are available for 200/- or 100/- on the other side of the river at Virupapur Gadde.
If you a first time solo traveler and want to stick to something reliable then Rocky Guest House or Thilak Guest House are there near the Temple.
Most of the restaurants serve Italian, continental and Indian foods. Some serve Tibetan and other exotic cuisine. Since I am a veggie and I don’t have onion & garlic I stuck to the restaurant at my hotel. I did try out the Mango Tree which is supposed to be really good.. and it was fairly good. The overall food is good but homely. I mean its not like a professional chef preparation. It tasted like my own cooking which is good enough.
So I hope this blog post gives you some idea of what Hampi’s all about. There is so much to do, that depending on your interests you can find the right balance of activities to have an awesome time!
Let me know if you have any questions, will try and answer to the best of my ability. As for people looking to find offbeat places to visit in Hampi… I spent only 3 days there, most of the time went in working, but I did make some friends there. Let me know if you want to connect with one of these friends who might be able to suggest offbeat places.
Lovely boat ride in the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary near Srirangapatna, Mysore. Saw lads of crocodiles basking in the sun. They camouflage so well one can easily miss them! As still as the rock. I went and sat on the water bank for a while, later it struck me that the crocodile could actually come from the water right up to me if they wished. I wonder, do they not see me as prey? Are most wild crocodiles also like other wild animals in the sense that they have never eaten a human and so don’t consider them as prey? I have only watched a few movies that depict crocodiles are extremely predatory. This was the first time I was in such close proximity of so many crocodiles.
This boat passed so close to this crocodile, it was amazing! They are of course dangerous predators but passing so close, without them jumping on us is cool. 😉
The skin seems really tough and thick. Their eyes hardly even blink and they look like made of stone. They love basking in the sun and lie about on a rock with their jaws wide open. Very unusual creatures these. Would be interesting to trace their evolution chain.
We also got to see Ibis’s from very nearby. It was not really the best season to visit Ranganathittu in October. But overall it is a pleasant experience. It is a green, quaint place to sit around and spend a while amidst nature. If you want to do serious bird watching then probably visit earlier in the year.
What a happy sight, a petrol pump ‘man’ned entirely by women! Saw this All Women Petrol Pump in Kerala on my way to Kochi from Kanyakumari. Another two supposedly ‘male’ professions taken up by women in Kerala (& Karnataka) are,
bus conductors & drivers – was amazed to see a woman bus conductor in Mysore once. And the bus was quite packed for a while and I really worried whether she would manage well. Would people grope her? I hoped not. 🙁
This is a profession that is commonly taken up by women in Karnataka and Kerala.
coconut sellers – yea just watch these women so gracefully open the coconut up with their sickles! Quite a contrast to the lungi wearing, unkempt looking coconut sellers who go hacking away at this tough fruit. While the women wearing saree slice away at the coconut quite gently. I first saw one in Madikeri, Coorg. Wished I had taken a picture of her. But I told her I was too amazed. There was another man having coconut water and he too agreed and complimented her. She just smiled. Maybe she gets such responses a lot. 😀
Mind blowing – what a gender bias breaker! Travel has too many random perks. This is one of them. It just breaks some very random notions we have, and until that moment we don’t even realise that we had them. I didn’t realise until these moments that I had assumed a coconut seller would be male. Kudos to this All women petrol pump initiative! Hope to see many more such amazing things on my future travels. 🙂
Spent three days in Hampi a few days back. Saw these Magic babas roaming around, was curious, I thought these might be real black magic folks so was wondering whether to try and get some dope (not literal, pls I am not hashish mata!) get some dope on black magic rituals maybe even be able to attend some ceremony of theirs. But I also had in back of my mind possibility that these guys maybe frauds or worse.
Anyway just when I was leaving the orange clad fellow goes like
Orange: You from?
Me: Mumbai *amused*
Orange: We are the magic babas
Me: Aaah *not laughing* I see
Orange: Nice to meet you *shake hands* (this is some Hampi norm, will write more on this later)
Blue: Nice to meet you *shake hands*
Orange: You take a photo of us
Me: Aah ok! (I anyway wanted to) *thinking of ways to ask them abt secret rituals n stuff*
Me: So which path monks are you?
Me: Aah Shiva *how fake!!*
Orange: This photo is a gift *removes a book n pen*
book has a list of names with high donations made
Me: *so bugged and yet these two are so hilarious!!*
Me: *gives 10 bucks*
Orange: *makes a not happy face*
Me: Okay bye! *tries really hard not to Roll on the Floor and Laugh!*
The small town of Kapu or Kaup is located very close to Udupi on the NH 17 highway of Konkan Karnataka. Inter-city buses and local buses to & from Udupi/Mangalore – inexpensive ones as well as AC volvos pass by Kapu.
One of the popular Mariamma temples in this town is right opposite the bus stop. I tried asking which deity this ‘Mariamma’ is but didn’t get a proper response. A quick google search tells me that she is the rain goddess in south India. A form of Durga/Kali which makes sense as I think all goddesses in Hinduism come from Shakti – energy.
Now the star attraction – Kapu Lighthouse was pretty amazing.
The sea there is so terrific – raging away in all its fury!
There is a nice little parapet leading to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is on a rock and there are places to sit on this rock, so lot of people climb this rock and sit around there.
The lighthouse has some timings when it is open for visitors. I saw this board there, but don’t know about whether it is still valid.
Around the lighthouse I saw couple of very natural, non-touristy beaches. I would have loved to explore but I had to be on my way. From the look of it however these might be truly untouched beaches cause I can’t see any tourist related facility there like cafe or vendors or boating etc..
Behind the lighthouse there is small inlet of water, would have loved to play around in it!
Apart from the lighthouse and beaches, the town has 3 Mariamma temples and a Tipu Sultan Fort. Another interesting place to visit if time permits is Shankarpura – this is a small town which has distinguished itself by exporting Jasmine flowers is very close to Kaup. Would be good to see some Jasmine farms!
Malpe is a small beach town near Udupi. Its like a suburb of Udupi, just some 6 km away. Amongst stuff to see in Malpe there is the superb beach, fishing wharf, ship cutters factory and an ancient Balaram temple. Balaram is the brother of Krishna and also a big sage/god or something.
The Balaram Temple Story:
This is one of the first Balaram Temples I have been to, in fact did not know there were any Balaram temples in the country! The story goes that a sage with a name starting from ‘M’ came to Malpe and unearthed this Balaram idol. He then created a temple here.
This same sage also built the renowned Krishna temple in Udupi. Most idols in India are placed facing East (I think) as is this Balaram idol too, but the idol in the Krishna mutt in Udupi is facing West, the opposite direction due to a legend. According to this legend a lower caste devotee came to pray at the Krishna temple. Being a lower caste fellow he could only pray from a small window at the back of the temple. In order to give darshan to this devotee the Krishna idol actually turned 180 degrees and is now facing the opposite direction. Since then everyone low as well as high caste can view the idol from the small window which was meant for the lower castes only.
As a result of this legend though the Balaram and Krishna idols face each other. It is one of the temples uniqueness.
Overall the temple is a very pleasant place and as old architecture usually is – there are huge verandas. I love these kind of structures with the verandas. It gives so much sitting space.
In the city sometimes I just want to sit but can’t find any place only.
I met a very friendly fellow who was taking care of the temple. He was not the priest but part of temple care taking. He kept talking and talking giving me gyaan about the place…. in Kannada or Tulu or some such language. I couldn’t understand anything… he also realised that but he kept trying. Did he want money I don’t know but I was too mortified to give him 10 bucks cause that would hardly get him anything. Phew. Wonder whether my not giving him money was a big deal. :S