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From Deccan to the coastal land of Mangala in May 2004

Mangalore (Managaluru) is 352 kms from Bangalore (according to the milestones i.e.) along the NH48. Once again, my trusted CBZ was with me, along with another friend. We hit the Tumkur Road by around 4.00 on a Friday evening. Even at this time the traffic is messy in this area. But, once you go some distance in the NH4, it eases out. At km 27 (from Bangalore city, according to the milestone again), 325 kms from Mangalore, is the NH4 - NH48 junction and towards left is Mangalore. Nelamangala (Neelamangala) is a few kms to the right from this junction. From here on, for some distance, road has lots of potholes and is not generally good. But the climate was - cool and ideally suited for biking. There was nothing special about the landscape in the beginning, but, as the distance from the city increased, the landscape became greener. Adding to it was the slight misty, wet look due to the drizzle. We had a short break at Kunigal, 72 kms from Bangalore.

Road is developed in stretches after here. A big yellow board to the left signifying a big stretch of repaired road was a welcome sight more than anything. 103 kms from Bangalore, another state highway joins the NH48, coming from Mandya. By then, we were already in Mandya district and Mandya town is around 53 kms from there. Soon after that is a town called Nagamangala with some decent shops and hotels. Although it was past 6.00 by that time, we decided to go on. The original plan of reaching Hassan, before its dark, now seemed difficult. We had to find some decent accommodation in between.

By 6.45 we made it to Channarayapatna, a good town around 150 kms from Bangalore, and some 40 kms short of Hassan. Found and checked into some hotel there, had a good bath and dinner, and slept early to get up early morning.

Have you biked in countryside early morning? It is always something to cherish about, especially when it is lush green on both sides and you have a good road to drive on. Also, due to the rain in the previous days, it was all wet and dewy around, resulting in a fresh, sweet smell of morning. By 7.00 we were in a junction, 4kms to the right of which, is the Hassan town. Hassan is a major junction; in the sense a lot of places like Chikkamagaluru, Belur and Mysuru is accessible from here. Chikkamagaluru, embedded in the Baba Budan Giri Hill ranges (check out Mullayanagiri & Kemmanagundi trek pages) is 62 kms to the right. Belur, known for its Hoysala temples (most notably the 'Channakeshava' temple) is 42 kms in the same direction. 'Channakesava' means 'channa' 'kesava' or 'handsome krishna' in Kannada (from whatever little kannada I know). Mysuru is around 110 kms from Hassan, from another junction, a km away.

After a brief break amidst the greenery, we set off for our next major destination, Sakleshpur, another 40 kms from there. The drive to the Sakleshpur was similar, lush green on both sides, good roads and this fresh morning's smell. We hit Sakleshpur by around 8.30, stopped for breakfast and proceeded by around 9.00. One notable thing about Sakleshpur is the wooden carvings you will find for sale on both sides of the road. This looks like a major occupation of people here. Or maybe it's a temporary thing. Soon after Sakleshpur is a huge bridge across Hemavathi (Hemavathy) river, a tributary of Kaveri (Cauvery). The road became extremely tortuous from there on, with sharp bends, left and right to teach you a thing or two on 'banking'. This was definitely the worst I've seen outside Kerala. On the way, we also spotted the abandoned railway track going towards Subramanya, which is a very popular track for trekking.

Soon, I figured out that these 'chicanes' were only a prelude to an exciting ghat road. The Deccan had to descend down for the coastal Dakshin Kannada district. Numerous streams, bridges and some amazing view points dotted this entire track spanning almost 20 kms. Tall, misty mountains capped with white clouds were visible. With numerous big trucks, treacherous turns, a narrow road and lots of breaks, it was a very slow ride. At km 260 it was Gundya and a board said, end of ghat road. A road goes to the left, 22 kms to Subramanya. Btw, the sun was well out and combined with the decrease in altitude, it was becoming warmer.

End of the ghat road doesn't mean end of turns, curves and greenery. Another 17kms through the sinuous roads covered by woods on both sides, you can spot a road on the right side, going to Dharmasthala, 22 kms from there. The secluded, lush green on both sides, kind of roads soon ceased to exist. Busy coastal towns started to appear. There were still a good amount of greenery on both sides, also numerous streams and bridges, but nevertheless not as exciting as the ghat descent. So, I turned my attention to other vehicles, a Ford Ikon, Ford Estate and a Tata Indigo gave us company. They were fast vehicles, but I could keep up with them for a some distance.

Next major town was Uppinangadi, (meaning something like salt shop/bazaar in Kannada) 300 kms off Bangalore. More state highways are available from here to reach Mysuru (220) and Madikeri (100), the capital of Coorg / Kodagu. Following it was B C Road (Bantwal Cross road) with another huge bridge and tollbooth across river Nethravathi at km 326. A road going to Chikkamagaluru (125 kms from there) was seen on the right side.

My four wheeler mates had gone way ahead by then and I did spot a two wheeler by then. A single seated Pulsar 150 was more than a match for my CBZ. We exchanged leads couple of times and with me in the front, I went inside a petrol bunk. My bike needed gas and the 'Pulsarian' gave me a glare while passing me.

Few kms more, 4kms from Mangalore city, we reached the intersection of NH17 and NH48. To our left was Kerala (NH17 passes thro' Kasargode, Kannur and Kozhikode, joining NH47 at Edappally near Ernakulam) and to our right was Udupi, Kundapura, Karwar and Goa. At the petrol bunk, we had enquired for some decent hotels in the highway and he named one 'Hotel Pentagon'. It was right at this junction, and we got in. At last we have made it to the land of 'Mangala' from Deccan.

A lazy lunch and a slow lunch at the hotel ensured that it was 3'O clock by the time we got out for sight seeing. We had two places in our mind - St Mary's island and the beaches. After asking a couple of people for 'island' we reached in the front of a building and our next enquiry was met with a finger pointing to the nearest building. The 'island' was a shopping complex or something!!!!!!!!!

Okie ... so we had to revise our plans. An enquiry in the taxi stand revealed that St Mary's island is actually near Udupi. And there is nothing much to see in Mangalore other than some temples, churches and mosques. We soon went to the hotel, got back to the biking gear and started off to Udupi by around 4.00.

That was one hell of a journey. Non stop rains ensured that we couldn't enjoy the ride. It was actually a beautiful route, with lots of rivers and bridges on the way. Heavy rain started before we covered 5kms and we had to take shelter at a bus stop. When it abated, we started off again, only to go to another bus stop in another 10 mins. 3rd time we took refuge in a tea shop and had coffee. It was time to review the feasibility of reaching Udupi and coming back. It was already 5.00 and we were now midway - 30kms from Mangalore. Prospects of a scary night drive back in heavy rain loomed large. It was indeed a dangerous prospect. But, finally we said to ourselves - Jo Hoga So Dhekha Jayega and set off.

Near Hassan
Near Hassan

Hassan - Sakleshpur
Midway Hassan and Sakleshpur

Woodworks @ Sakleshpur
Woodworks displayed on road sides - near Sakleshpur

Near Sakleshpur
Past Sakleshpur

Road meandering along the Hills

Going past a stream - View from the bridge

View from Gundya
A view from Gundya - end of ghat road

Me @ Malpe ferry
Me near the Malpe ferry point for St. Mary's Island

Malpe beach
Malpe beach

Sravanabelagola - Taken using the mobile phone Camera

The gamble paid off, apart from some drizzle, which we ignored, weather was clear. We reached near Udupi around 6.00. From the highway you need to go 2kms to the right for reaching Udupi. Go straight for another km and take a left for Malpe beach. Malpe beach is 4 kms from the highway. The ferry service for St. Mary's is available from Malpe. Only that we were just 2 hours late!!! The service closes at 4.00. We roamed around for sometime in the beach, which was nothing special [1], and left by 6.30.

Return to Mangalore was as difficult as expected. Slight drizzle and glaring headlights of big vehicles ensured that I couldn't see the road at all. Anyways, we reached back in the hotel by around 8.00.

Next day morning by 6.00 clock we left the hotel, back to the base. We took a breakfast break at Uppinangadi. Drove thro' the ghat road around 8.00 and reached Sakleshpur by 9.30. Soon, the weather became warmer and the drive became a bit monotonous. At this rate, we could have reached Bangalore by 2.00 and decided we are not in a hurry.

Shravanabelagola (Sravanabelagola/ Shravanbelagola/ Shravanabelgola/ Shravanbelgola/ Sravanbelgola/ Sravanabelgola/ Sravanbelagola), near Channarayapatna is a popular tourist spot. It has a huge monolithic statue of Gommateshwara (Gomateshwara) on the top of a hill. Around 11.30, we reached near Channarayapatna, from where a road goes to Sharavanabelagola (18kms). But, we decided to go ahead and have food at Chananrayapatna. We had lunch from the same hotel where we stayed on Friday night and then by noon started off to Shravanabelagola. Just past Channarayapatna (guess, at km 147 from Bangalore), there is a right turn to Shravanabelagola (11kms). It was a nice state highway and on both sides had trees ornamented with red flowers. Soon, we could see the huge statue at the top of the hill.

I'll flick couple of paragraphs from the Karnataka Tourism web site [2] to describe this statue:
"Wedged between two star rocky hills, this legendary pilgrim center and shrine of the Jains. The monolithic statue of Lord Gomateshwara, a Jain saint and an object of worship for centuries, standing atop one of the hills (Indragiri) is 18 meter high and is said to be the tallest monolithic statue in the world. The symmetry in stone was created around 983 AD by Chamundaraya, a general and minister of the Ganga King Rachamatta. The Mahamastakabhisheka festival, an elaborate ritual, held here once every 12 years, attracts devotees from all over the World. Priests climb up to pour pots of coconut water, turmeric paste, vermilion powder over the statue head. Just opposite is the smaller Chandragiri hill where some Jain temples and tomb of Chandra Gupta Maurya, famous patron of Jainism can be seen"

So ... what is not told here is that the statue is completely naked, but somehow not considered offensive or obscene!!! Instead, tourists and pilgrims throng this place. Especially, on this Sunday afternoon it was as crowded as Brigade road, Bangalore on a Friday evening. After all, we worship Shiva'linga', so this must be fine too!!! I thought the name of the hill was Vindyagiri. Maybe, Indragiri and Chandragiri is together called Vindyagiri. In any case, we stopped with Indragiri and didn't go for Chandragiri. Rest of the journey was mostly monotonous drive in partly rainy climate. We took a state highway connecting Shravanabelagola with Hirisave in NH48. It was around 18kms to Hirisave and 128 more to Bangalore. By this time (1.30) sun had given way to some dark clouds. Atleast it was cool for another 20-30 kms, but finally it started drizzling. Couple of stops to avoid rain, a coffee break about 45kms from Bangalore and past a huge traffic block along NH4, we were inside the city by 5.00, on time to catch a good sleep before another of those bad 'Mondays'.

  1. This was wrong, from the ferry house if u travel 2 kms towards north, u will reach a very good shallow beach, which is infact the actual Malpe beach.
  2. The text is from

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