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Trips to Hogenakkal in January 2013

I first visited Hogenakkal in May 2002 and since then, the place stayed as one of my favourites near Bangalore. I was there a few more times after that, but did not manage to go on a full coracle ride inside the canyon. The coracles do not go inside the canyon when the water level is high. So, I always wanted to go back there during summer, but it never worked out. When Guojun visited Bangalore, from our Beijing office, Amit and myself decided to take him to Hogenakkal for a weekend trip.

For those who do not know yet, Hogenakkal is in the Karnataka - Tamilnadu border, about 180 kms from Bangalore and about 40kms from Dharmapuri. The most straight forward route from Bangalore is to head to Dharmapuri first (via Hosur, Krishnagiri) and then take the Dharmapuri - Pennagaram - Hogenakkal road. Alternatively, one can take Hosur - Rayakottai - Palacode - Pennagaram road, the Shoolagiri (between Hosur and Krishnagiri) - Rayakottai - Palacode - Pennagaram road, the Krishnagiri - Rayakottai - Palacode - Pennagaram road or the Kaveripatnam (between Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri) - Palacode - Pennagaram road. At Hogenakkal, river Kaveri (Cauvery) flows through a canyon and forms numerous waterfalls and islets. coracle rides through the canyon is an unforgettable experience.

We were not sure if taking children along to the canyon was possible. So, Preethu and Manu stayed back home, while the rest - me, Guojun, Amit and Priya - started off on an early sunday morning in Amit's i10. We took the Hosur - Krishnagiri - Dharmapuri highway and stopped en route for breakfast, finally reaching Dharmapuri by about 9. From Dharmapuri, we took the Pennagaram - Hogenakkal road and reached Hogenakkal by about 10. It was already quite crowded by then and the fried fish stalls were enjoying a good business day. The fried fish is quite an attraction here, but the rest of the gang was not as excited. Amit and Priya are semi-vegetarian and Guojun had some starting trouble with the street food here, even though he is usually quite adventurous.

Waterfalls next to the hanging bridge at Hogenakkal
Waterfalls near hanging bridge

At the entrance, one option was to head straight for a coracle ride which will take us across the river. Alternatively, we could opt for a longer walk through the hanging bridge. We chose the later, for a good view of the gushing waterfall besides the hanging bridge, from right across. After spending a while at the waterfalls, we walked along the stream and crossed it further up to head towards the canyon. The coracles at the entry point will skip this water fall and take people across the river, directly to the canyon.

Past a few more fish and fruit stalls, we were soon near the canyon. We stopped at a sugar cane juice stall and I can easily say that it was one of the freshest and tastiest sugar cane juices that I had - for just Rs 10 per glass. Needless to say, we all had one more round!

The view of the canyon from the top is actually breathtaking. There is a watch tower here, from where one can get a good view of the canyon as well the main waterfalls. But, I wanted to spend more time there, than what is allowed at the top of watch tower. So, I walked across some of the rocks to a point at the corner to get a good view of the canyon.

Amit, Priya and Guojun in coracle
The ride is about to start

During monsoon, the canyon is half full with water and watching water falling in from all directions is a magnificient sight to behold. The only problem was that, since the water level is too high, the coracles will not be able to go inside the canyon. But this time, it was just right. We took the steps down and a couple of coracles were waiting for their rides in to the canyon. We chose to take the whole coracle for the four of us - which can normaly accomodate 6 people. We were charged Rs. 960 (Rs. 160 / head) for a full ride, which I believe can vary based on how well you bargain and how crowded the place is on the given day.

Floating shops on coracle
Just in case, if you feel thirsty!

Main falls at Hogenakkal
The main falls

The rocks at Hogenakkal
The rocks and the river

Our coracle guy was very friendly and helpful - first, we were taken towards the main falls and our coracle went right under the falls for a good shower! After that, we headed back in to the canyon towards the islet. In between, he showed us some of the caves in the rocks and was nice to stop a few times for us to explore the caves.

Cave at Hogenakkal
Checking out the cave

Views at Hogenakkal
Trees on the rocks

Later, as we headed towards the islet, he even encouraged all of us to try our hands on rowing, which we all did. Towards the end, he suggested that we could take a plunge in to the water and I readily obliged - to swim along the coracle till the islet. The water is pretty deep at the middle of the canyon, but once about 10-20m away from the islet, I could touch the ground and walk along.

Coracles at the islet in Hogenakkal
Parking area at the islet

At the islet, it was finally time to jump on to the fish fry - Amit and Priya stayed away, but Guojun tried it and loved it. Needless to say, I ended up eating a few pieces myself. If you love fish, this is one thing not to miss at Hogenakkal.

On the other side, we could see the Karnataka side entrance to Hogenakkal. Apparently, the other side can be reached by road from Mettur - MM Hills - Kollegal road. We could see that the coracles from TN side had a TN number (similar to vehicle registration number), while the ones from the other side had a KA number.

View of the canyon at Hogenakkal
Looking back!

A little later, we headed back towards the watch tower after giving a good tip to the coracle guy. I spent some more time at the hill top for pictures of the canyon and coracles, while the rest waited for another serving of sugar cane juice. We walked back to the main entrance, which felt much longer this time. By about 2, we were back in the highway, heading back to Bangalore. I was thinking that I made a big mistake by not taking Manu and Preethu along - especially after realizing that there were no restrictions on taking children along.

The best part of the trip was that Guojun seemed to enjoy it a lot and was thanking us profusely for taking him there. I had to finally tell him that we enjoyed the trip as much as he did and may end up doing it all over again!

And ... I did end up doing it again! In just a couple of weeks, I was back in Hogenakkal - this time with Manu, Preethu and her parents. Basically, Manu wanted to go to 'water' and the first thing that came to my mind was Hogenakkal! We were on our way to Palakkad for a family visit and decided to come to Hogenakkal while returning.

On our way back from Palakkad, we took a left turn towards Mettur after Bhavani dam. We took a few confusing turns to finally reach Mecheri (on Thoppur - Mettur road) via Idappadi. From Mecheri, we took the road to Pennagaram, which was quite scenic. By noon, we were at Hogenakkal and had lunch at a TN tourist department hotel. Lunch was nothing fancy and I would recommend the road side hotel, for people who are not too finicky.

Soon after the lunch, we were at the 'water'. This time, we headed straight to the coracle point (skipping the hanging bridge) and crossed the river in the coracle. At the canyon, the coracle headed to the main falls first and then turned towards the islet. A problem this time was that our coracle guy looked as if he is in a hurry. He did not take us close enough to the falls and totally ignored the caves and all other things - heading straight to the islet.

Manu and grand parents at Hogenakkal
About to get his swimming lessons!

At the islet, we had the usual dose of fried fish and followed it by some quality time at the river. Last time, we had missed a shallow stretch of river on the other side of the islet. But, this time, I realized that this stream was just perfect for Manu - it was just about half his height and Manu had a gala time playing there.

We were back at the main entrance by evening and headed back to Bangalore. This time, we took a left at Indur (about 15kms before Dharmapuri) and headed to Hosur via Palacode and Rayakottai. This helped significantly as the toll plazas on Hosur - Krishnagiri stretch has long queues on sunday evenings and we managed to avoid all of that, along with the mad rush in that highway. We were safely back home savouring the experience.

Every time I visited Hogenakkal, I have had a good time, even for the 6th time by now - be it in summer or monsoon - every visit was a new experience. The fun time we had in Kaveri stayed in Manu's mind for days to come ... for me though, what lingered most is the taste of the fried fish :)

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