Its been almost a year, since I went for a road trip, barring the frequent drives home, along Mysuru / Mysore road to Kozhikode. The reasons were many, including:
So, during a 5-day long weekend involving Gandhi Jayanthi and Ramzan, we had an opportunity and couldnt let it go :) Hampi was chosen as the destination and I added few more places in north Karnataka to the itinerary. Versa troubles were a sure possibility, but by now I've gained enough experience in pushing the vehicle out of traffic hotspots :)
The trip started around wednesday afternoon and the trouble started sooner than expected. In the hot sun and packed Tumakuru / Tumkur road traffic, I had to push the vehicle once out of the main road and then take a 'longer than normal' break in a petrol bunk. Finally, at about 3 we were past Nelamangala, entered the toll road and then stopped for lunch in a small dhaba. At about 4.30 entered the Tumkur bypass. Thanks to the current regime in the centre, the bypass construction (part of the 'once Golden Quadrilateral / GQ' construction) was in the same state as it was about 4 years back. Part of the road raised to construct flyovers, with narrow portions of dusty roads around it and frequent diversions. But, once we made it past the ruins of 'Tumkur bypass' the GQ was back with smooth, well marked, four lane roads, through Sira and Hiriyur all the way till the outskirts of Chithradurga, about 200kms from Bengaluru.
- Personal life, work and responsibilities keeping me a little busy.
- Neither Versa nor CBZ is doing well ... CBZ has not gone out of Bengaluru / Bangalore city since 2004 December (for Visakhapatnam Trip) and Versa had been having some heating problem which the service could not figure out yet. Basically, after heating up, it will just refuse to start, even though u r in the middle of a city :(
Sunset among the Windmills @ Chitradurga
Chithradurga is a beautiful place with hills all around strewn with windmills and the sun was just going down when we approached the city. We had to stop for some sunset snaps and by the time we reached the town, it was totally dark. The flyover construction story was same for Chitradurga as well. Add a heavy truck traffic and the difficulty to follow the sign boards in the night, we had a tough time finding our way through this chaos, into the NH13, towards Hosapete / Hospet. At about 7.30 we entered NH13, which was initially a narrow stretch strewn with potholes and jam packed with trucks. As we went further from Chithradurga, the road became better. But, just when u wud start thinking that the bad roads are behind, a string of potholes or a huge unmarked hump will pop out of nowhere sending the spine for a rude shock treatment.
Past Jagalur and Kudligi, at the outskirts of Hospet, Versa needed another break. By the time we reached the TB Dam junction (with Hospet towards the right), it was past 10 and here we did a small mistake, heading straight ahead in the NH13. Only after crossing the Tungabhadra river bridge and seeing no signs of Hospet, we realized that we are headed the wrong way. After checking with couple of people seen on the way, we headed back towards TB Dam junction and took a left towards Hospet, finally reaching the city and settling in 'Pai Comfort Inn' by abt 11. Guys there were kind enough to hunt for food and get us Idly, Vada and Puri for dinner, before we swicthed off the lights by 12.
Day 2 was all about Hampi. We were ready by abt 7 and had 'Masala Dosa' for breakfast @ the restaurant next to our lodge. Then, we took the road towards Hampi, abt 19kms from Hospet town. This road is nothing short of a mess, where, apart from numerous potholes and back breaking humps, cars also face tough competition for the road space - from cattle, poultry, bullock carts, buses, kids playing and everything else u can imagine. Only the final few kms had a touch of sanity before we entered the main entrance towards Hampi Bazaar / Virupaksha temple by abt 9.
Right at the entrance, there were guides asking if we need their service. Since, we weren't very sure about the tariffs, I vetoed taking it right away. This was in spite of the fact that most people had recommended availing the guide right at the entrance; where most of them will be KSTDC approved. We thought of coming back later and talking to them, but it never happened and the whole day went without a guide.
Hampi, situated at the southern banks of Tungabhadra river was the capital of the Vijayanagara kingdom. The Hampi Bazaar of olden times has transformed into a fine flea market catering to foreign as well as local tourists. Countless small restaurants flank it with menus ranging from South Indian Thali meals to Continental and Israeli. The Bazaar stretches from the Virupaksha temple towards the eastern direction till the Matunga Hill and is walking distance from the Tungabhadra river. The river is also called 'Pampa' in this area with reference to Goddess Pampa, a consort of Lord Shiva, also called 'Virupaksha' or 'Pampapathi' here. Virupaksha temple, considered the most important pilgrim point at Hampi, is dedicated to him.
The twin towers @ Virupaksha temple
After parking the car at the main parking lot, we entered the Hampi Bazaar, strolled around a little and entered the Virupaksha temple. The temple premise is paved with stone and has a magnificent 165ft high 11 storeyed tower entrance, visible even from a long distance. Inside the premises, there is a slightly smaller tower built by Krishnadevaraya, called Raya Tower and yet another smaller tower leading in to the 'Kalyana Mantapa' or 'Phalapuja Mantapa'. There was a marriage going on in the mantapa and we gladly spent time watching the functions and talking to the marriage party. Then some more time taking some pictures. But, it was a bad time to take pictures, thanks to the bright, red hot sun.
Out of the temple complex past 10, we spent some time in a cool drinks shop cooling ourselves and later checking out some of the items on sale. Then we proceeded to the other end of the Bazaar till a rather coarsely cut monolithic Nandi (Bull). Towards the left was a footpath leading to the banks of Tungabhadra river aka Pampa. One has to walk along the rocky banks of the river to reach the Vijaya Vittala temple. Another option was to go back to the parking lot and head to the Vijaya Vittala temple in car, via Kamalapura village. But, we decided to go by foot for now.
There were a few restaurants too in the riverbank, including the 'Geetha River View Restaurant', who had a board saying 'recommended by Lonely Planet'. I remembered seeing this name when I was in Hampi a couple of years back, but that was near the Hampi Bazaar. I thought, may be they shifted. As soon as we were near the river, one guy approached us offering to take us along the river on a coracle, show us some temples along the river side and then drop us near the Vittala temple. We were already near the Kodanda Rama temple and went inside the Rama temple first before taking the coracle.
Vishnu idol @ the banks of Tungabhadra
Posing @ Purantara Mantapa
Taking the coracle ride turned out to be a good choice in the end. The ride in the river, with rocky hills on both sides, was good. In between he took us to the banks and showed us the Koti Linga (carvings of many Siva Lingas), Durga idol and the Vishnu carving on the rock. There was also a Nandi and numerous other carvings on both sides of the river. At about 12, we were at the 'Purandara Mantapa', near the Vijaya Vittala temple. The Mantapa, named after a Kannada devotional poet called Purandara Dasa is right on the banks of the river. Next to the Mantapa, a bridge connecting Hampi to Anegundi, the earlier capital of Vijayanagara, is said to have existed. Vijaya Vittala Temple is about 5 mins walk from Purandara Mantapa. The heat was too much to handle, though. A vendor selling tender coconut, cool drinks and ice cream was a welcome sight and we gorged on :)
Vijaya Vittala Temple is considered the best sculptures of Hampi. The entire premises is paved with stone and houses the world famous Stone Chariot. The temple is believed to be constructed by Krishnadevaraya himself and has subtle sculptures all around. I had my share of disappointment, when the security asked me not to use the camera stand (tripod) inside the temple premises. The funny side of it was that they were ok with me taking it inside. Infact, the tripod is disallowed in most Archeological Survey of India sites. Does anyone know why tripod is not allowed when its ok to use the flash lights (infact, almost every visitor here had a camera and most uses the flash) or pose sitting on the artifacts (including the chariot wheels)?
We did spend a lot of time in the Vijaya Vittala Temple and decided to come back again in the evening, when the sun is a little more sober. It was already abt 2.20 now and we had to get back all the way to the Hampi Bazaar for lunch. We did check out the auto guys to take us back, but finally chose to go back on foot, since there were more places to see. The way back was tough in hot sun, walking along the hills with cattle and sheeps gracing around us and the river on one side. Here, we realized that the tower @ Virupaksha Temple indeed stood tall and was visible from quite far. The temples we saw on the way were mostly deserted, since they were accessible only by foot and walking in this hot sun bordered on insanity!
Pushkarani near Achyutharaya temple
Achyutharaya Temple from Matunga Hills
At the Varaha Temple, instead of heading back to Kodanda Rama Temple, we turned left (southwards) towards Achyutaraya Temple, built by Achyutaraya, half brother and successor of Krishnadevaraya. The way to Achyutaraya temple is along the 'Ganika Veedhi' (Courtesan's Street) and there is an empty 'Pushkarani' (Pond) en route. At the temple, one can head right back towards the river bank or climb up the Matunga Hills to get back to the Hampi Bazaar and we chose the later. The path was along some huge boulders and some thorny bushes and the top most point was the 'Anjaneya / Hanuman' Temple. From here, there are steps to go down till the Monolithic Bull and then to the Hampi Bazaar.
At abt 3.30, we were at Geetha restaurant and waiting for food to arrive. This was the same place I had breakfast couple of years back on a breezy visit to Hampi as part of a Mumbai Trip, but the 'recommended by Lonely Planet' tag was gone and the clientale had shrinked. I did recognize the old man who was there at the restaurant even then. I asked him why the tag was gone and he said that the Lonley Planet mentioned their name from 1990 till 2004, but not any more. He didnt know why. Neither did he know anything about the 'Geetha River View Restaurant' @ the river bank. Personally, during my last visit, I wasnt happy with the lazy service and 'the locals are not worth the effort' attitude, plenty on display. But, this time the service was a lot better and quicker. The food was pretty good too; we opted for South Indian Thali meals and the quality was more like home made. But, on the flip side, I also saw the old man talking a bit rudely to one of the customers. May be there is still room for improvement!
After food we did some shopping @ the Hampi Bazaar and then headed towards the parking lot to take out the car. There were a lot more places to visit and we had to skip. We drove by the side of Ganapathi sculpture ('Kadalekalu Ganapathi' or mustured Ganesha) and took the road to the left, instead of the one we came in. This road goes next to the Krishna Temple, Badavi Linga, Ugranarasimha, the sister stones, underground temple and Pushkarani. Most of these places had to be skipped due to lack of time, but some of them, like the sister stones, two huge boulders leaning on each other, is quite visible from the road itself. These stones are believed to be two sisters who turned in to stones on making a derogatory remark about Hampi.
A stop @ Pushkarani and a li'l walking around could've taken us to more places like Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stable, Hajari Rama Temple and a Watch Tower, but we skipped all of them, since we were running out of time. Next monument along this road was the Queen's Bath and I was quite curious because of the name :) It is a building with a mixed architectural style (both Hindu and Muslim styles) and has an 8ft deep pond in the middle for swimming. But, with no water in it, one could only imagine the queens taking bath there ;-) Soon we were in the main road and took a left towards, Kampli village and Vijaya Vittala Temple. A little ahead, the main road towards Kampli goes towards the right while the Vijaya Vittala Temple is towards the left. A little more ahead in this road, there is a mud road towards the left which will take us to the Vijaya Vittala Temple.
From Vijaya Vittala Temple in the evening
Stone Chariot @ Vijaya Vittala Temple
With the hot sun, turning golden, 5.30 in the evening was a good time to be there and ideal for photography. Again, the tripod was disallowed and I just left them at the car. I made some use of the light and took some snaps before watching the sun going down the hill. At about 6.30 we were out of the temple premises and driving past Kamalapura, towards Hospet. On hindsight, there were still a lot of places to see in Hampi itself, apart from the surrounding places like TB Dam. Versa did give us some trouble right in the middle of the Hospet town and that killed all the mood to check out the TB Dam in the evening. We settled for a Thali meals @ the hotel next to our lodge and chose to hit the bed a little early in preparation for a hectic day ahead.
We were out of Hospet @ about 9 after another 'Masala Dosa' breakfast and after a bumpy start on NH13, we found ourselves amidst smooth roads with sunflower fields on both sides. These sunflower fields were pretty much the feature of the trip. The urge to take profile snaps amidst these fields were quite irresistible and we did just that :) Our next destination was Aihole and by about 11 we were in Hungund town, 50kms from Kushtagi and 130kms from Hospet. At Hungund, we need to deviate from NH13 and take the Bagalkot road (SH26). This road was as pretty as the NH13, albeit a little narrower and with cultivable land on both sides was a treat to drive on. 12kms on Bagalkot road is the Amingarh village, from where the road to Aihole goes to the left.
For people who want to skip Aihole, there is another road directly leading to Pattadakal / Pattadakallu / Pattadakkal soon after Hungund. Another option is to go ahead on the Bagalkot road and turn left for Badami at Kamatagi. Otherwise, there are connecting roads from Aihole to Pattadakal and a left turn @ Amingarh enables us to cover all three. Along this road, Hungund to Aihole is about 22kms, Aihole to Pattadakal is 20kms and Pattadakal - Badami is about 29kms. The road to Aihole is a narrow village road, but was reasonably nice to drive on. There were proper signboards everwhere to make sure that one can safely reach Aihole, which we did by abt 11.
Durga Temple @ Aihole
Lad Khan Temple @ Aihole
Aihole, in the banks of Malprabha river, was the first capital of early Chalukyas, till it was moved to Badami. The whole landscape @ Aihole is strewn with temples. Chalukyas built their first temples @ Aihole in a unique style merging the southern and northern styles. The two most prominent temples @ Aihole are the Durga temple and the Lad Khan temple, both within the same complex. Durga temple is probably the most famous monument here, with a fortress like construction and a curvilinear tower. There is a corridor with beautiful carvings around the temple. Lad Khan temple is right next to the Durga temple, has a squarish shape with designed windows and a huge Bull sculpture inside. It is named after a mendicant who lived in this temple in the 19th century.
I personally liked the place a lot, since there was hardly any crowd and it was a quite place with exquisite carvings. Also, the rules here were not so strict and tripod was allowed :) We spent quite a long time in the temple premises, abt 1.30 hours, before heading to Pattadakal. The road to Pattadakal was again a beauty with hills, temples and fields on both sides. It was again a narrow village road for all practical purposes, but an easy drive, especially in day time, with hardly any traffic and potholes. The only negative was the hot sun playing havoc with the hydration levels and we kept emptying water bottles. Hunger was somehow not much of an issue even though we reached Pattadakal only by about 1 'O clock and the place hardly had any eateries.
Pattadakal is said to be the culmination of the Chalukya style of temple construction, which is a mixture of Dravidian (South Indian) and Nagara (North Indian) styles, seen @ Aihole as well. There are about nine temples in a complex here, with few of them in the Dravidian style, few others in Nagara style and notably the Papanatha temple with a mixed style.
|Temples @ Pattadakal
The other temples include the Virupaksha temple (said to be modeled after the Kailasanatha temple @ Kanchipuram), the incomplete Sangameshwara Temple, Kashiviswanatha Temple, Mallikarjun Temple, Galaganatha Temple and Jambulinga Temple. All of them, as the name suggests, are Siva temples and has a 'Shiva Linga' inside. Personally, I already had an overdose of temples and architectures, by this time and was feeling lazy even for photographs, especially with tripod disallowed and unable to even do any experiments.
After Pattadakal, we headed to Badami and reached the town soon after 2, found a restaurant near the bus stand and had lunch. Badami is a busy town and a Taluk head quarters. The place was the capital of early Chalukyas and has legends dating back to Agastya and the demons Vatapi and Ilvala. Infact, Badami was formerly known as 'Vatapi' and the rock cut temples here are built on a sandstone hill surrounding a lake called Agastya lake. The most notable thing about the place was the climate. After the heat @ Hampi, Aihole and Pattadakal, the cool balmy climate at Badami was a welcome change. Initially we felt that it was about to rain, but the rain never happened.
Carvings @ the 3rd cave, Badami
View from the hilltop @ Badami Caves
At the rock cut temple, there were the usual stunts of 'no-camera-stand' and we had to keep the tripod back in the car. Also, the place was a haven for monkeys with 'beware of monkeys' boards all over the place. They were notorious for snatching bags and other things from the visitors. The hills looked majestic with the carvings even more impressive. There were four caves in total @ different levels along the hill, with carvings of Hindu gods in the first three and of Jain Thirthankaras in the fourth. The carvings were pretty elaborate and looked like done right there without involving much transportation. Quite impressive to carve such wonderful structures out of a gigantic mountain face, without the help of modern technology. As we climbed up, the view of the surrounding area with the lake and a nearby hill with a few more structures made out of red stone, became more and more majestic.
Looked like there was an option to do boating in the lake and visit some of the nearby temples, forts. But, it was becoming too monotonous by then and we skipped the remaining things. May be they can be done on another visit :) For now, we took the road towards Kulgeri to join the NH218 towards Bagalkot & Bijapur. To get to Kulgeri, we had to get back to the Badami town and a circle near the bus stand and then head to the left. We were on Kulgeri road by 4. This road was also pretty drivable, with fields on both sides and pretty scenes like herds of sheep being shepherded along the road. All sorts of things were being cultivated here, but the majority at this time of the year seems to be onion. There were large piles of onion fresh out of the field and farmers sorting them out in to huge bags. We stopped at one of those places, just before Kulgeri, for a photo session and checked what they were doing. They seemed to be sorting smaller an bigger onions and packing them seperately.
We were at Kulgeri and entered the NH218 by about 5. The NH wasnt much wider than the road we came in and had more bullock cart traffic than other vehicles. About 10-15kms past Kulgeri, we saw another road coming from Badami. This may have been a better option in terms of time and distance. I guess, one may have to go back on the Badami - Pattadakal road and take a left turn after a few kms to get to this road.
Right ahead of this stretch we spotted more fields and couple of farmers plough the land and sowing corn. We stopped there too and had another photo session and checked out their procedure. Corn was indeed the staple food at this part of Karnataka and pretty much all around the fields were getting ready for corn cultivation.
By the time we reached Bagalkot bypass it was getting dark. There was some road widening work going on around here and the roads had the NH standard from here on. Just after the bypass, the Gatprabha river, a tributary to Krishna, seems to have overflown flooding massive areas n both sides of the road. A lot of trees, houses and fields seemed to have gone underwater. The road itself was at a considerable height and hence was not flooded.
It was dark by this time and the remaining part of the drive was in pitch dark. It was comfortable though, since the roads were good between Bagalkot and Bijapur, with sparse traffic. Soon, we crossed a huge bridge across Krishna river and entered Bijapur district. The city was another 50kms away and we comfortably made it to the NH13-NH218 junction and then to the city by abt 8'O clock. There was a little tension with Versa misbehaving right in the middle of the town and people helping us to push it to the basement of a lodge, opposite the main bus stand. We took a room right there, albeit a little wanting in terms of cleanliness, finished dinner and hit the bed before 10.
On day 4, we headed to the Gol Gumbaz, couple of kms off Bijapur / Vijapur city, along the Gulbarga / Kalburgi road. The Gol Gumbaz, with its huge dome, one of the largest in the world, and a "whispering gallery" with its wonderful echoing capability, is a tourist hotspot. Tripod was obviously not allowed here, but surprisingly even a camera bag was barred! While lady's bag bigger than my camera bag is OK, I was asked to leave the camera bag and lenses in the baggage counter. Damn it!!! I had no option but to leave the bag, but took the lens inside. Its pretty frustrating, the way rules are implemented. Nobody even knows why a tripod is not allowed or what kind of bag is fine. Every security guard was interpreting the rules his own way according to his awareness or the lack of it!!!
Inside the Dome, there was not much to see except for a wooden canopy indicating the location of Mohammed Adil Sha's mortal remains. Isnt it strange that some of the most famous man made structures, like the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and now the Gol Gumbaz are a result of mortal, but powerful men's effort to become immortal! Anyways, the Dome was indeed a masterpiece. I was wondering how these people lifted this huge dome and placed it at that height, without the help of any present day technology. Forget it, how is it staying up there without even a pillar???
But, the best experience of the Gol Gumbaz visit was the whispering gallery. Even at the main hall the echos of people talking could be heard. But, once we climbed up the narrow stairs to reach the gallery at the top, the reasons for the name became quite obvious. Even a faint whisper was also getting echoed about 10 times producing reverberating sound resembling a horror flick. Imagine, hundreds of people shouting and howling at the top of their voice here!!! I was wondering, if some of the famous horror movies got their sounds recorded here!
From the balcony of the Gumbaz, we had an aerial view of the city of Bijapur. A few more photos here and we were back in the main hall, out of the Gumbaz, and then continued on the Gulbarga / Kalburgi road towards our next destination, viz, Jewargi & Gulbarga. The roads were again impressive in this stretch. According to some of the maps, I've seen, this stretch should have been a continuation of NH218, while the NH13 headed towards Sholapur. But, the signboards seem to indicate that this was a state highway. In any case, the roads were a beauty to drive on, with limited traffic, contrary to the reports and my expectations that the North Karnataka roads are neglected. In general, the standards of (state and national) highways in Karnataka seems to have improved in the last couple of years. Karnataka had the worst roads in south and now the situations looks like changing. The only problem was the presence of too many humps and rumble strips. Even with a village road joining the main road, the NH will have a hump and the small vehicles from the village road comes in rushing without even checking if anything is on the highway. Shouldnt it be the other way around?
The balmy climate at Badami and surroundings was surely an exception, as the heat was back with the sun. By about lunch time we found ourselves in the junction of Bijapur - Gulbarga road and Bellary - Gulbarga road, near Jewargi, looking for food in the scorching heat. We had been asking for 'Jowari Roti' (Indian bread made of corn flour) at Hospet and Bijapur, but none of the restaurant we ate, had them. Now, even in 'Mahalaxmi Darshini Hotel' here, it was missing from the menu. The guy at the hotel told that it might be available at some of the smaller shops nearby. So, we went hunting for the smaller shops and indeed found one. There, we were served with tasty 'Jowari Roti', vegetables and later rice and 'Sambhar'. With full stomachs we went ahead towards Gulbarga, by about 2.30.
On reaching the Gulbarga bypass, we parked the vehicle near an ATM and took an auto to go to the Gulbarga Fort. The auto guy agreed to take us to the fort for Rs. 40 (which might have been higher, but time was more valuable for us) and then agreed to bring us back to the same place for some extra money. After wriggling through the city, to reach the fort, we knew that the auto was a good choice.
Canons @ Gulbarga Fort
Anyways, the auto guy's name was 'Asif' and he offered to come with us to show us around the fort. First, he took us inside the fort and to the masjid and then to one of the watch towers, offering an aerial view of the surroundings. The fort was made of black granite and looked formidable. It had a few towers and some of these towers had huge canons too. The place is said to have many tombs but there was no one to show around. The place seemed to be a picnic spot only for the locals with hardly any tourist inflow. We tried to check with Asif, if he knows anything and to my query of "Who made this fort?" he replied: "The people who used to rule here!". To further queries, he came up with a "How do I know? The fort had been there for a long time!" and I stopped :)
But, Asif was good at what he does; something we realized as he waded through the city traffic, showed us a good looking building, which happened to be a college campus, and a lake, both visible from the top of the fort. In between it started drizzling, providing a much needed relief from the heat. At abt 4.30 we were back @ the Gulbarga bypass and watching the roads forking to both sides. We missed the right turn to Homnabad / Bidar in first go and realized it only after reaching the end of the bypass road which continues as the Aland road. We had to come back a couple of kms to take a left for Homnabad / Bidar, before settling ourselves in yet another smooth and comfortable road.
About an hour from Gulbarga, we were at Kamalapur village and soon after, we were passing a hill, with green valleys on both sides. With the sun already settled into a golden hue, this was a beautiful stretch. We drove past mustard and corn fields, watched the sun going down and sheep herds going home, before passing through the village of Hallikhed, with a huge Siva statue right on the road side. After Hallikhed, it a small stretch along the NH9 (Pune - Sholapur - Hyderabad - Vijayawada - Machilipatnam highway) before entering the Homnabad town and then back to the same state highway leading till Bidar. It was getting dark by now and the 50km from Homnabad to Bidar was rather eventless. We crossed the Karanja reservoir, turned right at the Bhalki road junction and reached Bidar town by about 7.30. We had dinner @ a Udupi restaurant and then hunt for a hotel, finding it right behind the restaurant.
Welcome to Bidar Fort
Day 5 started before 7, a little earlier than usual, with a visit to Bidar Fort, a few kms from the city. The fort, built out of red stones, looked more impressive than the Gulbarga Fort. It was built by the Bahamani Sultans and has a three mile wall surrounding it. The fort was later conquered by Aurangazeb and now lies in ruins. We spent some time checking out the bastions and the gates, before heading back to the city by abt 9. We had breakfast from the same Udupi hotel and hit the Gulbarga road again.
Since, there was a lot of distance to cover, we had a non-stop ride past Gulbarga @ 11 and leaving Jewargi by 12 after a small break. From Jewargi, we took the Shahpur road and reached Shahpur town in time for lunch. Here, we found the Jowari roti in the menu and ordered it, only to find something crispy, resembling a 'pappad'. We, finally ordered some white rice and dal / curd to fill our stomachs.
The normal road to Bengaluru from here would be to head towards Shorapur, Lingusugur and then towards Hospet or Bellary. But, we had plans to cover Raichur on our way back. Hence, at a junction just past Hattigudur, about 13kms from Shahpur, we took another highway towards Devadurga and Raichur. This road turned out to be a nightmare, uneven and narrow, with numerous potholes and some truck traffic. Coupled with the extreme heat, the going got really tough. The heat was so unbearable that Versa needed frequent breaks. It took us so much time even to cross over Krishna river and enter Raichur district.
By the time we reached Devadurga it was 4. Then there was a slight drizzle which cooled down the temperature considerably and we could reach Raichur atleast by 5. Thats about 2.30 hours for a 60kms stretch between Hattigudur and Raichur. Raichur had its own fort and a famous temple @ Mantralaya, in Andhra border. But, checking out any of these places now was out of question, with abt 400kms to go for Bengaluru. The only consolation for me was that, all this effort to get to Raichur, helped me to claim that I've driven to all districts in Karnataka, Raichur being the last. Something I had in my 'things to do before 30' list. Now, there are 5 districts in Tamil Nadu and 10 more in AP before I can claim to have travelled all over South India :)
After taking a small cool drinks break @ Raichur and checking out the bakery, we took the Mantralaya road. Mantralaya is a famous temple in AP border, about 40ms from Raichur. We didn't go to Mantralaya, since it was too late, but planned to continue on the same road tll Adoni in AP, then take the road to Gooty and join the NH7 (Varanasi - Nagpur - Hyderabad - Bengaluru - Madurai - Kanyakumari road) and head to Bengaluru via Ananthapur. The road till AP border was pathetic and it was already dark before we entered the AP.
True to my expectations, the roads were a lot better past the border and we looked OK till Adoni to reach Anantapur ateast by 10. But, this is where we made our first big mistake, by taking the Adoni - Guntakkal road instead of the Adoni - Aspari - Gooty road. This was still OK, since Guntakkal - Gooty was only an additional 28kms. But, we made a second mistake @ Alur town and headed towards the Bellary road, realizing it only after some time. It was already 9 by then and we were in the middle of nowhere, with a few 100 kms to go till Bengaluru. We gave a break to Versa, which had been running alost the whole day in scorching heat and had a good hard look at the map. Continue straight ahead till we hit the NH63 and head to Gooty from there? or head back to Alur, take the Chippigiri - Guntakkal road and then go to Gooty? or go back further after Alur, take the Aspari road and get back to Adoni - Aspari - Pattikonda - Tuggali - Gooty road? There were many options, but we finally chose the shortest path. To head back to Alur and take the Guntakkal road.
In the night, we had to ask a few people to get to the Guntakkal road and we did just that. The road was again narrow, with its fair shares of potholes, but was good enough for a village road. As we were nearing Guntakkal, there was a railway cross and a pool of water right ahead ... and no road!!! We stopped the vehicle and had a good look ... the road was there, but only after the pool of water. So, we went ahead, Versa swimming through the water pool and taking us back to the main road and to Guntakkal town soon after. This may well have been the nadir for this trip and things could only get better after this :)
At Guntakkal, we had a fuel refill and a short break and resumed our journey along the NH63 (Ankola - Hubli - Bellary - Gooty road) to reach Gooty by abt 10.30 and stopped at a small roadside hotel for an Andhra meals. By 11, we were back in the highway and in another hour we were at Ananthapur town. The NH7, part of the National Highway Development Project Phase II, for a north south corridor, was being four laned. One part of the road was being constructed and vehicles using the older road for now. This would also mean frequent diversions, humps and potholes, making it a little hard drive, especially in the night. Post Ananthapur, the construction on one side was complete and vehicles started using the newly constructed, but unmarked, road. Anyways, we were soon past Penukonda and into the Karnataka state by about 1.30.
The pace of 4-laning seemed better @ the Karnataka side, with most of the road construction almost over. This is quite contrary to what happened for the GQ construction, where Karnataka's lethargy was surpassed only by Bihar & UP. But, there were still diversions and bad roads in between. At about 2.30 a little after Chikkaballapur town, there was a road block and we took a small break. By 3, we were nearing the Devanahalli Airport and the road was excellent since then. With nice brightly illuminated and well marked roads with speed limits of 80 in the right most lanes, it had pretty much international quality. Though, most vehicles were not adhering to the speed limit, they couldnt be blamed with such good roads :) Whoever said that airport connectivity is bad need to look at other roads in the city and worry about them first. Even after then Hebbal flyover the road was empty and well lit and I was home by 3.30 and the trip meter showed 1705kms.
Well ... the Hampi trip was initially planned as just a photography trip and later expanded as a 'cover the North East Karnataka' trip. But, it became a lot more than that in the end. Apart from the usual tourist hotspots @ Hampi, Badami and Bijapur, we indeed were able to discover a lot more ... of places, roads, crops, people ... it was about experiencing the life of people @ these places, I'd seen only in maps so far.