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Published: August 22nd 2017
, a small village in North-west Karnataka is famous due to many reasons. Highest rainfall in South India and second highest in India are recorded here. It is located in Malnad region amidst thick forests stretching hundreds of kilometers on the way. This is the abode of King Cobra, the most venomous snake in the world. But Agumbe came to limelight from the house of “Kasturi Akka” where the legendary TV Serial “Malgudi Days” was born.
Monsoon has a special place in Karnataka and this is the ideal place to enjoy monsoon, of course with its inherent risks and inconvenience.
I was inclined to visit this place for many years, but somehow it did not click. Last week, an advertisement of Karnataka Tourism in Times Of India ignited my passion. Somehow the hesitation still persisted. 29th July, 2017 - Saturday
Saturday early morning my sleep was suddenly interrupted. I woke up at with a roaring call “Agumbe” within myself. Threw some bare necessities in my back-pack (forgetting many essentials, which I painfully realized later) and took my Royal Enfield from the stable.
Distance between Bangalore to Agumbe was around 370 Kms. Nearby town was the temple
town of Shringeri (25 kms), Mangalore (around 100 kms) and Udupi, the coastal town (around 55 Kms). Hurriedly I prepared myself, filled the liquid in my two-wheeler and withdrew some cash. When I finally started it was around 7.30 AM.
Another one hour was spent to reach near Neelamangala, almost bordering Bangalore. I had to take left turn thereafter to catch NH 75. This excellent six lane highway was a rider’s paradise. Weather was cloudy, but no shower. Gradually I crossed Kunigal (70), Chanarayapatna (146). It was around 11 AM and my stomach started burning. Incidentally, I commenced my journey with a cup of tea with few biscuits.
I finished my Break Fast (with Masala Dosa and tea) in A2B Restaurant near Chanaraya Patna. At 12 PM I reached Hassan (185). NH 75 further proceeded after Hassan towards Mangalore via Sakleshpur. We visited two well-known religious places i.e. Kuke Subramania and Dharmasthala thru that road.
But this time departing from NH 75 I took a right turn at Hassan to catch Bellur Road. That was two lane but after Hassan traffic was thin and I could reach Bellur (221) at 1.30 PM. Bellur was well-known for the
world-famous Chenna kasava Temple, a finest example of temple architecture. But my destination was far reaching this time. My next destination was Chikmagaluru (248), the coffee capital of India. I reached there at around 1.15 PM. Chikmagaluru was a quiet a peaceful city compared to the noise and painful traffic of Bangalore. But my ultimate destination Agumbe was still 120 Kms away.
I drove thousands of Kilometer in a four-wheeler, but long drive in a bike, it was my first venture. Compared to four wheeler, the two wheeler ride had an altogether different feeling. Contrary to the confinement in a car, the environment was fully open and far closer to heart. I did not feel to be tired or exhausted. But before commencement of next journey, I took a brief rest at Chikmagaluru.
When started I did not know that the best part of my onward journey would be now. I was driving thru Chikmagaluru Shringeri Road. Immediately after leaving Chikmagaluru the green forest began. Gradually, hilly track started with innumerable sharp twists and turns. I was riding thru the forest. Thousands of trees, plants, mountains of different sizes in both sides of the road. Small villages in
between. Before Balehonnur (294), I crossed the Bhadra river. The river was with full glory due to monsoon on the catchment areas. It took a beautiful turn at that place and disappeared. It was a magnificent place to enjoy the nature. I rested for a while and drank two green coconuts in a small shop to satisfy my thrust. It was already 2.30 PM and my time was numbered. There were more surprise in my onward journey. Tunga river appeared on the left side and continued for quite some time. Suddenly it disappeared to my dismay. Both the twin sisters subsumed at a place far away from this place and the mighty Tungabhara river was born.
Rain started. Initially a small shower, gradually the intensity increased. It was my first encounter with rain during this journey. To my relief, it stopped after some time. I wore a windcheater with no rain protection to cover my trouser. I felt chilly and cold. My back pack looked to be heavier. But no choice. Fortunately the temperature improved to some extent and a respite from rain. I regained my temperament at no time and continued to enjoy the thrilling journey.
I crossed Jayapura (310), Hariharapura (330), all small places on the way. Suddenly I watched a yellow blip in my Enfield. So far I totally forgot about re-filling petrol to my bike. I started looking frantically for a Petrol Bunk. To my relief I could locate one near Begar (340). It was almost 4 PM and I must reach to my destination as quick as possible.
Rain started, this time more intense. I continued my drive, when I arrived to my destination finally; I was greeted with heavy downpour. I stopped my vehicle at a nearby small shop. Outside light was as low as late evening although it was around 5 PM. I was totally wet and my belongings fully soaked. Shopkeeper was so kind and gentle. He prepared tea for me and provided few snacks. I regained my vigour and proceeded further.
Agumbe was a small village. Very few people on the road, occasional habitat, few shops, intermittent rain, as if the charm of good old time halted here. The whole atmosphere was remarkably quiet and pure. This was the real “Malgudi”, as if the old imaginary town of R.K.Narayan’s epic, was still preserved there.
were number of places to visit from Agumbe. This is a heaven of adventure-seekers who love nature. They were as follows : I.Water Falls :
Raingod blessed this country with gorgeous waterfalls in and around Agumbe which are as follows :
1.Sirimane Falls (38 Km),
2.Barakana Falls (2 Km),
3.Kundu Thirtha Falls,
4.Onake Abbe Falls (4Km),
5.Jogi Gundi Falls (4 Km) II.View Point :
1.Kundari Hills (17 Kms),
2.Sunset View Point (3 Kms), III.Temple and Historical place :
1.Sri Venugopalakrishna Temple,
2.Kavaledurga Fort (33 km),
3.Narasimha Parvatha Trekking IV. Agumbe Rain forest Research Station (ARRS) (0.60Km)
- Founded by famous environmentalist Romulas Whitaker, this research station was accredited with their path-breaking scientific research and conservation effort on King Cobra and other species of snakes. It attracts wide number of research scholars, ecologists as well as travelers across the world.
Both Mr Whitkar and Mr. Gourishankar had been relentlessly working in this field. Their commendable efforts were televised thru the popular documentary in National geographic many times.
I had to go back and reach Bangalore next day. Hence I had only today
evening and tomorrow morning to spare.
Immediate requirement was to arrange for a place of stay and change my belongings. Agumbe was a small place with not many options to stay. I read a lot of “Kasturi Akka”, her abode, memorable hospitality, delicious food and of course “Malgudi Days” in the net. I missed it this time, may try next time, god willing.
Hotel Mallya Residency located on the bus stand was already crowded with tourists arrived before me. My option for selecting a better room was limited. I booked a room and threw my baggage. Room tariff was reasonably cheap (Rs 600), although room was full of dampness and lack of cleanliness was visible.
There was less than one hour left for daylight to retreat. I resumed my venture towards “Sun-set Point” with my Enfield. It roared with its in-genuine sound. It looked as fresh as it was when I began my voyage in the morning. Sun-set point was just few kilometres away.
The village point ended very soon and the highway entered into the thick forest area with a sharp turn. Innumerable high rising trees were standing tall in both sides of the road
and preventing daylight to enter. Green forest has flourished because continuous rain shower, a speciality of this region. This was the place to experience the wet and explore the beauty of rain forest. Wild Agumbe and its surroundings in the Western Ghat was one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world.
Heavy rain resumed and suddenly visibility became remarkably low due to poor daylight. Piercing dark forest I was driving by black beauty in search of light at the sun-set point. Dark forest had a different attraction, fearsome but attractive. Very soon I reached my destination.
Jungle area ended at right after a U-turn and darkness reduced. Entire area was surrounded by thick fog and mystic light emerged from the cloud. Raindrops further intensified. No question of Sun-set. Even in this inclement weather, few tourists arrived there. There was no place to hide or prevent ourselves from the blessings of rain-god. Standing silently I was listening the sound of raindrops, croaking of frogs and ambient sound of rainforest. My whole body was fully soaked, only helmet was acting as raingear to protect my head. There was a view-point on the left-side top. Climbing there I awaited for
the rain to stop.
After around half an hour or so, to my delight the fog was beginning to evaporate. Within next few minutes the entire scenario changed dramatically. Curtain of dark cloud was removed by the creator at last and the spectacular show commenced. Rain fully stopped. Mountains in the distant horizon were slowly emerging from the cloud. Initially only few lines like a pencil sketch could be noticed. Gradually, the clarity enhanced. White clouds were floating between the mountains like pieces of cotton. A lengthy waterfall was glaring at distance. Gradually, a pale and round sun could be sighted between the clouds. Wild forests could be viewed far away. It was a magnificent sight and all my distress disappeared.
There was a roadside eatery just before the Sun-set point. The shop-keeper was frying “Bhajjis” inside. I could not restrict myself and fully enjoyed hot “bhajjis” served along with tea.
When I returned to Agumbe, the village plunged into darkness with few shops open, mostly eateries. Fortunately there was no rain. My hotel did not have restaurant facilities. I was advised to finish my dinner at the nearest hotel without delay.
The restaurant was located
opposite to my place of stay. I rushed there, unfortunately the food was already exhausted. On the way back I located a small road-side eatery, but when entered I could realise it was a small pub serving country liquors to the localites. But the shopkeeper was so gentle. He arranged a seat outside and served food which was reasonably good and hot.
The hotel room was full of dampness. Entire climate was wet and heavy. I switched on the fan at full speed whole night to get my clothes and belongings dried up. But in the end the room became so cold, I could not sleep un-interrupted at night. Another pain was the continuous sound of horn and movement of vehicles outside throughout the night, the hotel being located near the bus terminus. Next time if I visit, I will avoid this hotel. 30th July, 2017 - Sunday
Consequent to the disturbed sleep at night, I missed the early morning wake up. It was around 6.30 AM and many tourist vehicles might have already left towards the tourist spots. I had a quick breakfast with Idly, Vada and tea and checked out of the hotel. Food was
served hot and tasty.
I had to go back today, thus every minute was precious.
I selected to visit Kundari Hills first (17 Kms) and then to the nearest waterfall, if time permits. After a brief visit to the “Sunset Point” once again, I started towards my first destination, Kundari Hills thru the same road which brought me to Agumbe yesterday.
A few kilometres on, a left turn and I entered a narrow road. I was travelling thru forest area with innumerable number of trees on both sides of the road. Rain started, initially quietly but intensity increased gradually. Riding slowly, I was really feeling the speciality of this region. Occasional human habitation, small cottages could be traced in between. Otherwise, there was hardly any person on the road to enquire about the route to my destination. A beautiful river emerged from the forest and a mountain could be seen far away on the right side of the road. The river was flowing towards the mountain. There was not many hills nearby. That must be my destination. But how to go?
All road indicators were written in local language. Moreover there were number of intersections with
other small roads. My Google Map was not functioning here. When almost lost the way, luckily I found a local resident who would be going towards Kundari Hills. He became my pillion rider and accompanied me near to the foothills of the hills.
A terrific ride thereafter. It was a kachha road, surface totally broken with big stones and boulders scattered everywhere. Last but not the least, it was full of sharp twists and turns thru the dense forest. Entire journey upto the top of the hill was thrilling. Thanks to my Enfield, I could overcome the challenge without much difficulty.
A few steps from the parking place, I reached the top. A small but well decorated Jain temple with adjacent water tank, an ideal place to worship the almighty. Puja was going on inside and wave of chanting mantras with ringing bell enlightened the entire surroundings. Outside, a circular courtyard with seating arrangements was made to enjoy the valley. Far away, tiny lines of paddy fields, rivers could be spotted deep in the valley between the clouds. There was nobody outside in the hilltop except me.
Suddenly heavy rain started. Heavy drops of rain crashed on
my helmet which luckily I was wearing. Whole area was gradually covered by thick fog. Even the courtyard was not clearly visible. I stood there silently for quite some time. That unique experience was amazing and difficult to explain.
Time to return, since it was already late. No time to visit any other spot. I commenced my return journey. Within half an hour this country of unending clouds and rain ended. Weather improved a lot after Begur. A little bit of sun-shine and the entire scenario changed drastically. My clothes, back pack received much needed heat to get dried up. Entire landscape was glittering in soft sun-shine. A glimpse of blue sky with white cloud on top of the black road. Range of mountains in distant horizon covered with green carpet of wild forest. Lush greenery looked fresh in rainwater on both sides of the road. There were small villages in between, so quiet and peaceful. I stopped my bike witnessing thousands of betel nut trees at one place. Village women were sowing paddy seedlings in the nearby field, possibly preparing for the next crop. Immediately after Hariharapura, Tunga River emerged and continued on my right for quite some time before disappearing in the thick forest. Jayapura, Belehennur and Aldur before reaching Chikmagaluru ultimately. Tunga’s brother Bhadra after Belehennur was a terrific sight. I took some rest there.
While driving I was absorbing the matchless gift of nature. My Enfield was singing in delight too. Driving Enfield thru sharp twists and turn of hilly track in that serene environment was really thrilling and a rare opportunity.
From Chikmagaluru to Hassan via Belur had been uneventful ride, except loss of track for a while. Well maintained two lane broad road and it was a sunny afternoon. At Hassan when my bike finally touched NH 75, the road to Bangalore, I noticed a thick black cloud on the distant horizon towards my destination. The spacious six Lane Highway appeared to enter and penetrate the Black Hole. There was no escape, since I had to drive towards the cloud. Rain started within no time. Gradually, it became so intense and violent like a cloud burst with high wind. My clothes, back pack, my entire body were fully soaked. I was shivering in cold. I could hear the sound of torrential raindrops hitting my helmet. I realised the madness of venturing in full monsoon. With poor visibility it became extremely risky to drive. I stopped for a while, but had to resume since I must reach Bangalore in daylight. Last thing I do was to drive in the highway at night. It was a catastrophic situation. For the first time I started lamenting for my un-prepared adventure.
Suddenly a convoy of around ten Enfield bikers emerged. They were all well prepared to face those eventualities. They were driving together slowly due to very poor visibility with the indicator light on. I simply followed them for the rest of the journey, which they welcomed merrily. I regained my strength and courage. I thanked almighty, they were god-sent.
I reached Bangalore before the nightfall. This two day adventure of both sweet and difficult times will remain in my memory for a long time. I had to return once again to Agumbe, this time with more preparation and more time to spare.
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