Drive through the state-borders during strike

I knew Ooty to be one of the busiest and most famous hill-stations in South India. But, I wanted to visit the place in real to know why it is that famous. Well, I had too many assumptions and imaginations about how the place might be in real. Feeding my curious thoughts to rest, my weekend trip started off to the coolest place in the nilgiris.

I departed from Bengaluru on a friday night. As the bus moved through mysore I was asleep. Later, I woke up subconsciously sensing the bus to be static in a place. I moved the curtains and stressed my eyes for the view out as it was still dark. Sudden thought: Oh god !. Don’t tel me now that the bus actually broke down and I will be arriving after a delay or something… Shhhitttttt… Noooo *fingers crossed*. As I peeped out in the dark, I found a huge entrance at a distance camouflaging with the shades of the dawn. Yes, it was as early as 04 am in the morning.

The entrance which stood there was the gate for the Bandipur National Park. Well, if you are travelling to Ooty via mysore, then the route is through Bandipur. As the rules made by the forest department, no vehicles are allowed inside the forest area from 9pm-6am so that the wild life doesn’t get disturbed. Cool, isn’t it !. So, now you know why my bus was not moving. As the clock struck 06:00AM, the gates flung open, my bus entered inside the forest.

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Bandipur entrance

The road was labyrinthine with multiple turns coming in the way. As it was just the time when the first rays of the sun were hitting the land, the environment was freezing with dew drops falling from trees and the mist blocking the far-away views. The thorny forest remained in silence as I tried to find a Tiger (I didn’t, unluky). Yet, within few seconds I spotted a huge group of spotted deer feeding on the fresh greens. The velvet brown skin of the deer with chrome-yellow spots added beauty to the animal. As I covered more parts of the forest on my way, I found a lot of deer in my way. I was still surfacing through the borders of Karnataka and I knew somewhere within the forest itself, I will be moving to the state of Tamilnadu.

As the bus moved through a turn, I saw a beautiful arch bridge coming on our way. As I was staring at the bridge, I also spotted forest monkeys jumping across trees. I was feeling happy about my trip, looking at the nature and then I saw Mudumalai Tiger Reserve entrance. So, this entrance from where Tamilnadu begins also has a check post and a gate to let vehicles pass-through. As we approached the gate, the bus suddenly halted. I guessed maybe the bus stopped because it is a check post and the officers do mind to check the vehicles for goods and let us pass on. Well, my guess went wrong and then the real scenario hit my mind.

Karnataka and Tamilnadu are neighbouring states in India and when it comes to the matter of Kaveri river and it’s water, the conflicts arising are too casual for either of the states. So, on the day I was stuck between the borders there was a strike happening in Karnataka which was against Tamilnadu (TN). Due to differences between the two states, the bus I was travelling in as it belonged to Karnataka State wasn’t allowed to enter Tamilnadu. For around 15 odd minutes I did not step out of the bus hoping that the bus would be allowed to get in. Sadly, the kick of excitement began to fade off as tension made room for itself in my mind. I got out of the bus hoping to try my best to let our bus go. Nothing was working. After procrastinating there for around 30 odd minutes we received the final hearing from the check post officer that the bus cannot be sent inside TN.

When I head out for traveling, I count on every single minute. A long delay in the middle of no-where in a tiger reserve spread out in a huge area divided between two states could easily damage my itinerary for the day. Quick plans had to be made to go to our destination. Fortunately there were TN jeeps who were ready to provide jeep service all the way to Ooty at a moderate price. After few solid quick decisions we left the bus and boarded the jeep.

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Front seat be the best

My excitement hit my mind back again and I was very happy about whatever happened. Who wouldn’t love a jeep drive in the middle of a  dense forest filled with wild habitat. So, the jeep took the shortest route to Ooty ditching off the long route which the bus was supposed to take. As the jeep took the Masinagudi route, I got to see herds of deer again from a very close distance. There was a lot of dry land with thorny shrubs growing everywhere. As the drive was only through the plains without any deviations the driver told us that we were about to get into a road with crazy hairpin bends. Yayyyy, I was excited. Finally, something good.. 🙂 🙂

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View found on the way
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Beautiful views all the way

The jeep started climbing the hill. There were a lot of bends in the road. With every bend higher, there was a better view. After few crazy twisted bends, at a distance the view turned out to be spectacular. I literally saw the thin clouds floating far away at the same height where I was. As the altitude increased, the climate turned out to be cooler. I feel this hairpin bend road is the one you definitely shouldn’t miss if you are driving to Ooty. It really gives you some adrenaline rush along with beautiful view points at every intervals.

We got onto the top a bit earlier actually as the jeep driver took a short route. Just because the bus was stopped and not allowed further, I got into this jeep which took me on an amazing drive in the morning through steep twisted roads and guess what even after all that drama, I reached my cottage earlier and I ended up with more time to tour around Ooty. If the bus itself had moved, I couldn’t have experienced all of this. Sadly, I would have reached Ooty almost by noon affecting the itinerary. Well, after this situation I somewhere started believing on the phrase ‘Everything that happens, happens for good’.

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Trekking in the steeps of Savandurga

Will I be able to climb the precipitate hill in my canvas sneakers 😦 ? Will I finish the trek successfully or accept the defeat by returning back half way disappointed? So, what actually happened later is in the story below.

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Savandurga from the bottom

I was gazing at the hill to be conquered positioned in front of me from the parking lot. After a cheerful morning bike ride, I was high on enthusiasm to begin my trek for the day. The hill looked manageable to conquer and return within a duration of around four hours from the spot where I stood. Before I set my feet next, I filled my tummy with spicy churmuri ( local snack). Behind the food cart was the way made through the forest to reach the foot of the hill. As the hill did not look of much height, I moved in slowly through the woods and reached the foothill just to see the steep hill in front of me.

As the hill was steep enough, I started placing my steps having a grip on the floor. Not beyond 100 steps, I slipped when I placed my feet on the wet rock and few seconds later I felt the rock hitting my body. Yet, being highly determined I started off with a bang. Exposing to the sun, as the sweat dripped down from the skin, I moved ahead having a look at the cactus, forming the main vegetation of the hill. Also, to see away, every height had a promising view. After certain height without any steps to climb or any grill to hold on, the trek turned out to be a challenging one.

I still remember a point where I struggled to cross a rock as it was precipitous and I climbed the rock with great efforts after two to three trials. As I sighed and sat down to take a break, I found a beautiful patch of water at a distance. As the trek resumed, I had to stop by as I found something very much precipitous on my way. As I lifted my head to view the huge steep almost raised at around 75 degrees, I felt that the trek had turned very challenging. I found few goats and their kids climbing the hill with ease. Probably, the hill was home to them. I also found those villagers who were climbing the hill with greater ease that also holding a baby in their arms. Trust me, these things motivated me and powered me up to climb the rock. Thus pushing myself, I climbed up and at a point I had to even rely on my hands for support. Luckily in that steep, few acorn-grinding pits were carved to have hold on the rock while climbing. Once covered, I could grab a better view; a bit microscopic of that found from the bottom. Later, the trek turned out to be ease as we ascended further.

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Precipitous much !!!

After climbing through the steeps and reaching certain height, I found an old ruined watch point built by bricks. This led to some serious worm running in my brain. How strong were the people back in those times to carry bricks up and build something at that edge like a watch tower? Well, anyways the hiking later turned out to be mere walking as we reached close to the peak. Strolling through the plains and woods, I reached the final raising which upon climbing, the hill would be conquered. As I was holding rocks for support during climbing, I also discovered the garden lizards camouflaging with the rock sticking onto them.

As the clock showed 04:00 pm in the evening, we had reached the top. The hilltop has a mini open gopuram (dome) inside which resides a statue of Nandi (Bull). Again wondering, building a mini monument at the hilltop might have been a habit by then who ruled the area. The gopuram had great carvings and the Nandi was beautifully carved as well. Woah, the artisans who lived by then deserve a bow. Surpassing the steep trails and later building a structure at the top of the hill made me feel exceptional about the people back then.

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view from the top
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The Nandi Gopuram

After sweating off completely, sighing for minutes, reaching the hill top gave me bliss with the spectacular view it offered. Every minute ran during my time on the peak. As my trek was during the beginning of monsoon, the sky was filled with milky clouds making the look more eye-catching. The blue sky filled with cotton like clouds and to contrast with that the green fields at the bottom was making the view beyond beautiful. One thing that is unique to the peak of savandurga is the view of the amoeba shaped Manchanabele Dam from the top. The bluish water spread over the area surrounded by greenery looks mesmerizing. Trust me, this reservoir definitely made the view from the top exceptional. Watching the panoramic view and indulging in absorbing the beauty of it I couldn’t get enough of the scenery.

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Nandi

Moments like these when you feel serene at the peak gives contentment for burning energy and reaching the top. The feel of contempt is out of this world, which has to be felt and cannot be explained. Later, with the accomplished happy mind I started returning back. As I moved down, the view was getting more zoomed in and macroscopic. Since I had to get down safely, I couldn’t stay up for the sunset. As I moved down, again at a steep I was about to slip and fall to some depth but luckily my friend caught me. We came down chilling around enjoying every view, clicking pictures, climbing trees, making merry. By the time I got down completely, the sky had turned dark welcoming the moon and the stars.

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Hiking this hill had a lot of challenges but these slippery precipitous rock without any carved steps made my expedition more thrilling and gave me an adrenaline rush. If the hiking was easy, probably it would have washed away from my memories. The more tougher it gets, the more thrilling it can get.

Key Details:

  • Savandurga is located at a distance of around 56 kilometers from Bengaluru, India.
  • Hiking can be fatal during rainy seasons.
  • As no food/beverages are available during hiking except for the overpriced soft drinks, it is suggested to carry water bottle, some snacks and energy bars in your bag.
  • Advisable to go in a group as the route up to the peak can be confusing at times.
  • If you are a beginner at hiking/ trekking, then consider starting your trek by morning itself.
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Embracing the backwaters in a houseboat

Kerala is a compact state that runs along the Arabian coast of India. This God’s own country is famous for its enthralling pristine backwaters and lush greenery. The lure backwaters are spread over a huge area comprising the Vembanad Lake and also forms an archipelago in the area it surrounds.  The handcrafted houseboats gliding and floating through the enchanted backwaters is the unique identity of Kerala. As attractive as the houseboats can get, I always had a ‘visit to houseboat’ pinned on my bucket list. So, I will be taking you on my wonderful memories of living a day in the houseboat.

Alleppey or Alappuzha known as Venice of the east is a small town in Kerala and is known for its extravagant houseboats adorning the backwaters. My story on exploring the labyrinthine canals, the brackish lagoons, as the alluring houseboats glide through the serene backwaters begins here.

We had booked a room in a three bedroom houseboat. I stepped into the houseboat around 12:00pm. The houseboat consists of a living hall as well as dining, bedrooms with attached bathrooms/washrooms, a kitchen and a bay to walk through. As soon as we entered the houseboat and got into our rooms, we were served with welcome drink. Later, I guess around 1pm the boat revved on and drifted through the waters.

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As the wheel steered, the rustic boat glided through the labyrinthine canals covered by lush tropical coconut tress on either sides. The scenes were getting breathtaking as there was a lot to catch every second. Be it the other beautiful wooden houseboats floating in the vicinity, the islands at a distance, the tall coconut trees or the blackish-green colored waters filling the area; everything in a sight was flamboyant. After floating through the meandering backwaters for a while, the boat anchored for lunch. The lunch served inside the boat was scrumptious and the food had great flavours of Indian spices. After having delicious food, the boat drifted back into the waters. To immerse completely in the serenity of the backwaters, I stretched my legs out and sat down at the bow. As the boat floated through the infinite space, I relaxed watching the lush water plants floating in the waters, the ripples,coconut tress dancing to the winds at a distance and the enthralled backwaters as far as my eyes could see.

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Floating Houseboats in Alleppey
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An authentic houseboat that was passing by
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Sitting at the bow and watching the backwaters

After embracing the beauty of the poised backwaters, our boat stopped by for Tea/coffee and snacks. Meanwhile, we stepped out of the boat and visited the paddy fields in an island. The day was spent completely in the lap of nature. Later, sipping on my cup of coffee, I relaxed in the couch of my boat, listening to the waves of the waters and the winds. The boat halted around 5:30pm signing off for the day. Having ample amount of time with the night arriving, we chilled out in the boat, made friends with the fellow boat mates. We were served with delicious dinner and then watching the silence of the calm waters I let sleep overtake me.

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Evening ride

Mornings were absolutely mesmerizing. As the sun appeared with the rays lighting up the earth, life began. The local fishermen started launching their nets into the waters in their tiny boats with the public transport boats and ferries moving around. Slurping my cup of morning coffee I watched the misty backwaters. The breakfast was served and the boat started moving for a ride. Since I opted for one day stay, it was my time to leave the boat post breakfast. I stepped out of the boat packing my memories of royal indulgence in the lush coconut lagoons, floating through the enchanted backwaters in a beautiful houseboat. The time spent on houseboat is to be cherished forever and I would love to go back again when I need a tranquil break away from hustle of city life.

Additional details:

  • Houseboats are available all over the backwaters of Kerala. Yet, I would suggest you to visit either Alleppey or Kumarakom.
  • You can stay for as many days in the houseboat but I feel one day of stay is sufficient for absorbing the beauty of backwaters.
  • Houseboats beyond three bedrooms lose their charm as they look too huge and vast as a building and I feel the antiquity is lost.
  • Book a single bedroom houseboat for a private date or a romantic getaway.
  • Alcohol can be carried over but it is not provided in the houseboat.
  • You can ask for Vegetarian food in prior in case if you are vegetarian. For Non-vegetarians, local fresh sea-food delicacies will be served.
  • Nearest City: Ernakulam/ Kochi
  • Nearest Airport: Kochi
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Road trip in the monsoon

Traveling in monsoon has been my favorite since 2013. Mangaluru is my all-time getaway. As my best friend also lives there, I visit this city quite often. Thus, on one of my visits back in June 2016, we girls made a random plan to go on a road trip. We were done with our grad school and before entering into our profession, we badly needed a break and what’s more better than getting connected with the nature. My favorite monsoon had arrived as well. So, the engine revved and the trip started.

We traversed through Udupi in NH-66 and after a while we stopped by Maravanthe Beach. This particular beach appears by the side of NH-66 itself with a river on the other side.

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Maravanthe Beach

After relaxing for a while, we resumed our journey back into the track of NH-66. Our next place of visit was Murudeshwara. After a drive for about 2 hours, we reached Murudeshwara which is covered by water on three sides. After visiting the beautiful spot, we headed to our next destination, Gokarna. On the way, we also visited a temple called as Idagunji dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Ganesh. Later, it was post afternoon and the sun had fallen into its off the horizon mode. By the time we reached Om beach in Gokarna it was dusk. So, we paid a visit to Mahabaleshwara temple in Gokarna town and called it off for the day. (I will be discussing Gokarna in detail soon)

The weather was completely humid next day with slight drizzle. We left Gokarna early in the morning and set forth our drive into the woods of Uttara Kannada, Karnataka. Our destination was Yana, but on the way we happened to visit a waterfall named as Vibhuti Falls. As it was rainy season, the water was falling down the rock in full swing. Later we visited Yana, known for its unusual rock formations. These places are completely inside the dense woods and thinking of a public transport to visit these places is big NO. It was very hard for us to find any petrol pump or even some food for ourselves. So, if you are visiting make sure to pack sufficient food for yourselves.

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Yana

The road was pretty good with zero traffic indeed and we drove through the forest for almost a couple of hours getting totally connected with the moist nature. Next in list was the world famous Jog Falls which is 100 odd kilometers away from Yana. For some food and fuel, we traversed through the Sirsi town and directed ourselves to Jog Falls. On the way, we could spot few streams running with fresh water where we stopped by, played in water and enjoyed the pour down of the season. As the sun was above our head, we reached Jog Falls. Even though there were lots of showers in that season, waterfalls had scanty of water. So, when you travel in and around Jog falls, you get to find lots of pineapple sellers by the side of the road probably as they grow it around in the surroundings.

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Jog Falls

While driving back to mangaluru, we decided to get some essence of Agumbe as well. We drove all the way up to the peak of Kundadri hills. The moment we reached there, the sky was drizzling, the clouds had blocked all the view up there. We could barely see anything, maybe for a couple of seconds we managed to see the view of the fields down when the clouds were moving as the winds took them off. It was very cool like that of inside a refrigerator. We paid our visit to the Jain Basadi over there and departed.

The actual struggle we faced was while climbing down the hairpin bends of Agumbe. As the monsoon was at its peak, the clouds and the fog had blocked the way completely. The visibility was very very poor for even 1o meters away. Even though there are a lot of view points in Agumbe, we couldn’t have a view at all. Everything was completely blocked by dense clouds. After a lot of struggle, we managed to reach the foot of Agumbe safely. Crossing those hairpin bends was such an adventure that evening. So, to sum up, this was one hell of a trip. The dense moist woods and the thick fog was amazing to watch and feel the wet nature. Trust me, tripping in rainy season is really adventurous. 🙂 🙂

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Girls voyage in the monsoon

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View of western ghats from the train

Rewinding my life back to almost four years ago, when I was in 1st year of engineering. I had a group of close friends consisting of four girls including me by then. To add to the excitement of the teenage or be it with the beginning of college life, we had named our group as Sizzlers (hahaha this might seem funny) but we were crazy indeed. So, in the second half of the second semester we felt like we need a break and we started planning for ‘The Trip’. Initially we decided to go to Karwar but later the plans got changed and we clinched to Mangaluru (Mangalore) in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. Mangaluru because it is my native ,I have lots of love and emotions for that city and probably the safest plan for attaining parents permission for the trip.

In the month of June usually we used to have our semester exams and July was our vacation time. Our exams used to last for a whole month as we were part of the most famous university in Karnataka VTU and dragging exams for a month is VTU’s tradition. So, our study holidays and exam times were also meant for all sorts of planning for the jaunt. On the last day of the exam, we finished our papers and headed directly to the railway station to book our train tickets to mangaluru. After a couple of hours and then again after another couple of hours, the spoilsport rain started to open its mask. During that time, just turn on the television and watch any news channels, the only information we could get was floods ,floods ,floods, floods…everywhere in and around mangaluru. Roads have been completely water logged and blocked, transportation has been cut in various places, huge unconventional rainfall…blah blah blah…. these were the sort of over plugged information that was popping out from every possible corners of the world. Still, we manages to convince our parents and firmly made up our minds to enter into the monsoon adventure in the coastal area of Karnataka.

We boarded the train from yeshwantpur railway station early in the morning around 7:45am. We girls were having a normal travel gossipping, clicking pictures until we reached Sakleshpur. Western Ghats was all set to welcome us with its lush green peaks covered with floating mass of clouds and mist. The journey was breathtaking. It was an alternate view of misty peaks in the top and full swing fresh water streams flowing in the bottom. We got involved into the nature’s monsoon attire and started writing poems as well. When the train used to pass in tunnells, we screamed until our vocal chords frazzled. After the wonderful journey, we reached mangaluru and headed to my aunts place for the stay.

Next day, early in the morning we left to Hanuman Gundi waterfalls which is in Kudremukh forest, played in the fresh monsoon water, got completely drenched under the shower and then we moved to Karkala. We visited the Bahubali hills and chilled out over there at the hill top. Such a peaceful evening it was, total bliss. Due to heavy showers in the area, we slipped a lot while walking and even had a fun fall at certain places. My friends were waiting to hit the beach and bathe in the saline water, so the next day we hit the Panambur Beach in Mangalore. A best friend of mine from mangalore also joined us as well. We had our perfect girl time in the beach. We had to head back to my granny’s place in Kerala that evening, but we were completely wet playing in the sea and getting wet in the rain simultaneoulsy. We were sort of late in reaching mangalore and to add more pinch of tension, there was a bus strike in kerala. So, we had to take a different route. We were looking like some hippies on that evening for our looks, body language and some sand stuck into our skin as well (hahahaha). After such a tiring journey, we reached my granny’s place and dozed off.

Next day,  we had relaxing time roaming around the farms of my grandpa and he took us to nearby streams as well. As the downpour was heavy, everything was looking so fresh and green. All we could see was just water everywhere, like literally. Later in the evening we visited a temple called as Anantapura in Kerala known for the sole living crocodile. Then, the next day we were feasting over jackfruits at my granny’s ,the second half of the day was at the Bekal Fort, Kerala and again a local beach on the way. The next day we left my granny’s and left to mangaluru.

As this was the last day of our trip, I took my friends to Sulthan Battery Beach and we partied over there for the whole day. The weather was just so perfect. As the tides were high, getting into waters was abandoned, but still we made a way and soaked ourselves in the salty waters of the Arabian Sea. To add more into our excitement, the sky was pouring down in intervals.

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Sulthan Battery Beach, Mangaluru

As the sun hidden behind the clouds declined down the horizon for the day, we left the beach and explored the city of Mangaluru. Late in the night we left Mangaluru signing off our monsoon vagabond. Since this trip, I have become a die hard fan of monsoon and taking trips in monsoon has been my year goals.

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Wandering through the rocks

 

When it comes to history, Karnataka is no less in flaunting its rich historical sites. To get some exposure towards the history of India especially Karnataka, I decided to go on a budget trip over a weekend. I was very much interested in exploring the history of chalukyas and the royal Vijayanagara empire. After some research online , I decided to visit the historical places laid in northern parts of Karnataka where every stone has a story 🙂 . Let me give you every detail about my trip.

The places we decided to visit was Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole and Hampi. Thus, I started my journey from Yeshwantpur Railway Station in Bengaluru. We boarded onto the Golgumbaz express by evening 07:15pm and we reached Badami station next day by 07:45am. Badami is majorly filled with rocky hillocks and is a very small town. Outside the Badami station, there were lots of Autorickshaw drivers who were waiting for arrival of the passengers. We boarded into an Auto and asked the auto driver to plan our itinerary for the day as we had to reach Hospet by night. The auto driver really gave us an amazing plan which made our trip a tension-free escapade. As we had just 2 days in hand and we were traveling on our own, every short route mattered and every time was being counted.

We later checked into a hotel for a couple of hours for just bathing, got ready and checked out of the hotel. We later had our breakfast in a nearby hotel as none of us were actually hungry. P.S. : In case you have a good appetite do try the ‘Khanavalis‘ over there which serves the authentic local food. We dumped all our luggage in the Auto, which was a huge one with baby seats in the backside. We started our sight-seeing with Badami Caves, Badami Fort and by 12pm we headed to the famous Banashankari Temple, where we also had the lunch. About a 30 minutes drive later, we reached Pattadakal. Again a 30 minutes drive from Pattadakal we visited Aihole. Around 04:30pm we left Aihole and our driver took us to a place called Amingad. We tasted the famous ‘Karadantu‘ (a dry-fruit dessert) and bid goodbye to the auto wala.

We got into a KSRTC bus in Amingad which took us to a place called as Ilkal. From Ilkal, we got into another KSRTC bus whose destination was Hospet. We reached Hospet by 08:30pm and found a good room for ourselves and put an end for the day.

Hospet is a huge town in Bellary district and is the closest town to Hampi. The next day morning we started off by 9am after having our breakfast in Hospet. We hired an auto again to tour the ruins of Hampi. Hampi is also filled with lots of hillocks with tiny rocks. We visited all the ruins of Hampi in the Auto itself and we were done by afternoon 3pm. Hampi is a village where u can hire bicycles, two- wheelers for roaming around. We came back to our rooms at Hospet later and relaxed for the day. We had our Train at 9:15pm from Hospet Railway station, Hampi express.I call this as a budget trip because we spent really less and you can have this on your list for pocket-friendly ones. Also, it is necessary to have Cash in hands when you travel as ATM/Paytm or any digital transactions are barely found at few places. Thus, after exploring through the historical sites for 2days, the next morning I was back in my city, Bengaluru carrying tons of moments and memories.

 

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Badami
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Pattadakal
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Aihole
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Hampi
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