September 22, 2011

My First Bike Expedition...!!

The easiest and one of the most unplanned getaway options for Bangaloreans is Mysuru. At a distance of 150 kms, this beautiful cultural capital of Karnataka has been on the tourist map for ages. Though Mysuru has been attractive because of the palace, chamundi hills and the culture, today's travellers look beyond these. Enroute to Mysuru one can cover numerous tourist spots.

I have been on this route on many occasions. Its been either to Mysuru or to the many  lovely destinations via Mysuru. Be it Ooty, Bandipur, Masinagudi or Wayanad, Mysuru tends to be the first stop over. My first biking trip was in the year 2004 when 6 of us left on 3 bikes from Bengaluru to witness the Dussehra celebrations in Mysuru. Even after many visits to Mysuru, this bike ride remains close to my heart.

With an early start in the morning the three bikes zoomed through the city roads on to the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway which was under construction then(Its a butter smooth road today).  We went past Bidadi town which is famous for Wonder La. However the amusement park was inaugurated only a year after our bike expedition. As we went ahead, huge boulders on both the sides of the road came into vicinity. The place is called Ramnagara and the famous movie, 'Sholay' was shot on those huge boulders. It was Gabbar and his army  that brought this little into prominence.

Channapatna is famous for its wooden dolls and this town was next on the pit stop. Wooden dolls with vibrant colours are sold at the many curio shops on the highway. From the land of wooden toys we moved further ahead to Maddur, which is famous for Maddur Vada. We in fact bought a few of those Vadas at the traffic signal. Maddur is today more known for the Cafe Coffee Days along the highway. Bangaloreans drive down all the way to Maddur coffee day for a cup coffee. Now that is one long drive for a cup of coffee (I have done that twice).

Mandya, the sugar town which falls mid way between Bengaluru and Mysuru is where we had a long break. After a sumptuous lunch we proceeded towards Ranganthittu Bird Sanctaury which is a detour from the highway. There were various types of birds at the sanctuary and we spend a lot of time boating and capturing the serenity of the place. After a short siesta at the sanctuary we headed towards the famous KRS dam and then to the beautiful Brindavan Gardens. The place was filled with families and kids playing on the beautifully laid out grass. After spending some playful moments at the gardens we left for Mysuru. We decided to give the dancing fountains a miss and that I feel was indeed a very bad miss.

By the time we entered the city of Mysuru it was dark and the Dussehra festival was in full swing with the bursting of the crackers and the crowd dancing on the streets. After a tiring day we chose our rooms in the middle of the city from where we could view the Dussehra procession the next day. At the break of dawn we left for Chamundi hills. A lovely ride from the city took us to this nice little temple perched  on a beautiful hill. After taking the almighty's blessings and a couple of photo shoots with the huge Nandi, we decidded to visit Mysore palace. The palace is huge and breathtakingly beautiful and brings in a lot of tourists during the festival season. The Wodeyar family still occupies a portion of the palace and the remaining is open to the public. We were in for a disappointment as the queue to enter the palace was atleast a kilometer long. That was not encouraging and we had to be contend with the views of the palace from outside.

After roaming the city streets, we returned back to our rooms to catch a glimpse of the procession. It is usually a tough affair to watch the procession amidst all the crowd and chaos. However the views of the same from the roof top of our hotel was wonderful. We were lucky that we were able to view the long procession without any trouble. The celebrations went on till dusk and we started our return journey immediately. The first stop enroute to Bengaluru was Srirangapatna, capital of Tipu Sultan's empire. Today it is of great cultural and historical importance. As the sun set we explored a bit of this quaint town and visited Juma Masjid and Daria Daulat gardens. It was getting quite dark by then and we got back on to the highway and proceeded to Bengaluru. After a break at one of the highway dhabas for dinner we rode back with torrential rains giving us company for a major part of the distance.

Mysuru is the best place to soak yourself into the culture of Karnataka and a visit during the festive season would definitely leave you spellbound. Mysuru still offers a lot to the tourists and for the greedy travellers, Bengaluru- Mysuru highway gives a platter of options.

Signing Note- Mysuru is definitely the essence of Karnataka.

Distance- 150 kms
Route- Bengaluru- Bidadi- Maddur- Mandya- Mysuru.

September 9, 2011

In Search of Serenity...!!

It was a long weekend and holiday makers from all over the country were swarming into Ootacamund, the queen of hills. Known for its enchanting landscapes, stunning viewpoints and mild climate, this beautiful hill station is slowly and steadily turning out to be a victim of commercialisation. However amidst all the chaos and touristy affair, St. Stephens church stood calm without a soul within its premises. The yellow coloured Anglican church built in the 19th century by the British, caught my fancy for the fact that this was the only place in Ootacamund that was devoid of tourists even though being in the middle of the town. After all those traffic jams, long queues, no-parking spaces and crowded roads, St.Stephens church was where I found peace at last. However the serenity did not last for long as I was asked to remove my vehicle from the no-parking zone. :)
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