Before I begin, a small warning, this is going to be a long post, so read at your own peril.
I’ve been stuck in the regular grind of getting to work and back (6 days a week!!) of late and desperately needed a short vacation. Since I could take a few days off, I toyed with the idea of taking an extended weekend to go visit Hampi, the fabulous ancient temple complex in Karnataka. At around the same time, Rohit, who organizes treks at Nisarga Bhraman, told me of his plans to head to Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it is now known) and cover some places near the city. His plan included covering some temple complexes as well doing a short hike to a hill fort called Madhugiri. The plan looked very appealing, and in no time leave was sanctioned, tickets bought and bags packed. We planned to leave Mumbai by train on the 2nd December. The train would reach Bengaluru on the 3rd evening, which would effectively give me two days in the city, before I flew back to Mumbai on the 6th.

Day 0

We caught the train at Dadar station at about 21:30 in the night. Since we had booked tickets at different times, the three of us viz. me, Rohit and Hemant got berths in different compartments. The night train journey was distinctly uncomfortable for me. Seems the Indian Railways standard sleeper beds aren’t meant for tall people.

Day 1

The road

Spent most of the next day, flitting between my compartment and the one where Hemant and Rohit were sitting. I spent the afternoon reading Vikas Swarup’s (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) “Six Suspects”. It’s a good train read, but great literature it isn’t.  I also spent the evening shooting some of the dying rays of the sun. Finally, moved over to Rohit and Hemant’s compartment where we spent the rest of the evening plotting the next day’s travel. The train soon pulled into Yeshwantpur station and we got out and made our way to the prepaid autorickshaw stand. Soon we were on our way to Rohit’s uncle’s place at Rajaji Nagar. Along the way, I was treated to sluggish traffic courtesy of the Bangalore Metro. And here I thought that by leaving Mumbai at least I’d be spared the traffic snarls caused by the Metro construction. We had a quick dinner and after which we decided that in order to beat the morning traffic we would leave at about 5:00am in the morning. When we finally went off to sleep it was 1:00am in the night.

Day 2

Early morning we set out from home with our bags. The idea was to spend the night in Tumkur so that we could set off early for Madhugiri from there. Rohit’s cousin, Vikram picked us up at about 5:00 in the morning and we set off for the day. We stopped along the way for breakfast. The medu vadas I had there were excellent, nothing like what passes off as medu vadas in Mumbai.
We planned to cover the temple towns near Bengaluru that day. Our first stop was Shravanabelagola, which is situated in the Hassan district and is about 158 Km from Bengaluru. The place is famous for its 57 foot monolithic statue of the Bhagavan Gomateshwara Bahubali, which is widely considered as the tallest monolithic statue in the world. The temple complex surrounding the statue is accessible by a long flight of stairs that go up the hill. We had to leave our footwear in the car, and climb up barefoot to the top. The view from the top was amazing, with clouds filling the horizon and giving the landscape a beautiful look. Below we could see the town, along with its central tank. The temple complex was also very beautiful and had many inscriptions dating between 600 to 1800 AD. After a round of photography and sightseeing, we began our journey back to the car. Along the way we stopped for some refreshing coconut water at a local stall.
Our next stop was the temple complex of Halebidu, which is about 31km from Hassan. Vikram was of the opinion that Halebidu was not as large as the other temple complex of Belur and so we thought that we should cover this first. Along the way a bus splashed mud on the car, making it look like we had just been through a cross-country rally race!! We stopped along the way at one point, where some workers were washing some roots that looked like fresh ginger. The smell of fresh ginger in the air was heavenly.
Soon we reached Halebidu. We were expecting a small, drab place but were very surprised to see some extremely intricate carved statues and carvings on the walls of the temples. Ancient Gods and Goddesses filled the walls, while on some other walls there were intricate carvings depicting scenes from ancient battles.
Halebidu was one of the ancient capitals of Hoysala Empire in the 12th century and the carvings and architecture that we saw represent one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture. We spent quite some time at this place, clicking photographs of the various carvings, statues of the Nandi bulls and the surrounding environs in general. However, my old ancient camera battery abruptly died on me and I couldn’t capture everything that I wanted to. Guess I’ll have to come back here some day.
Overhead dark clouds were gathering and fearing that it may rain soon, we decided to move to Belur. Belur was the early capital of the Hoysala Empire and is about 16km away from Halebidu. So the drive to this place wasn’t very long. As compared to Halebidu, Belur was huge. It had a very expansive temple courtyard. We spent some time inside one of the temples, shooting the intricate carvings inside the temple. We then roamed about the exterior of the temple and visited some of the other buildings. Finally, we shot one last photograph – the group photograph and then left the place.
Group Photo
On the way back we decided to drop the plan to head to Tumkur for the night and decided to go back to Bengaluru instead. We decided that we would go to Madhugiri from Bengaluru itself. We spent the long journey back home listening to music, discussing ideas, places and Farmville (of all things). We soon reached back to Bengaluru, and Vikram suggested that we head to the KSCA club for dinner. There he treated us to a lavish dinner. We had numerous starters as well as a main course of Naans and a chicken dish. By the end of it we were completely stuffed.

Day 3

We had decided to start a bit late for Madhugiri on the next day. Madhugiri is a hill fort in the Tumkur district. It is built on what is one of the largest monolithic hills in Asia. The fort is among the most beautiful hill forts built by the Vijaynagar dynasty. A series of doorways and fortification levels finally lead to the fort on the top of the hill.
We managed to get a bus quite easily for Tumkur and after about 2 hours or so we reached the town. From there again we were lucky to get a connecting bus to Madhugiri. The bus was a private bus and not one of the state transport ones. Like all, private buses in Karnataka it was replete with finery and a mind boggling 4 television sets to show movies to the passengers in transit. The windows oddly had head rests fixed in them. We soon realized that these were there to prevent your head from bumping into the window bars when the road got bumpy!!
We reached Madhugiri town by about noon. We decided to grab some quick lunch at a local restaurant before starting on the hike up the fort. We had masala dosa’s unlike anything I have had before. The dosa’s were very thick, yet crisp. The filling inside included a very spicy red chilly based chutney. After lunch we picked up some bananas to have along the way and started for the fort.
The most striking features of the fort for me were the numerous large rocks that littered the way to the top. We even spotted one that looked like a giant Moby Dick. The climb up wasn’t tiring at all, and we were soon moving from one level to the other. Along the way we passed a giant dry water tank, an ancient prison and some citadels. We also met a herd of grazing goats. Rohit fed some of the goats with banana skins. We also saw numerous monkeys, who jumped from wall to wall, engaging in aerial acrobatics. After some time, we finally reached the steep rock face.
The Steep Climb
The rock face has steps cut into it which allowed us to easily climb to the top. While climbing up wasn’t that difficult, it does look very dangerous in the photographs. We were soon at the very top. We met a group that had just come from the top and were posing for photographs. We clicked a group photograph of them. When they learnt that we had come all the way from Mumbai to hike here, they thought that we were “professional” trekkers. This line was soon to be very hilarious.
We began climbing up the exposed patch that led us to the final fortification at the top of the fort. Seeing the way ahead, Rohit decided against climbing any further. That left me and Hemant. I reached about mid-way when to my surprise I found that my feet weren’t getting a firm enough grip on the rock and that the footholds were increasingly becoming smaller. So even I decided to turn back. Thus two “professional” trekkers gave up and turned back :).
Hemant continued on and reached the top. However, he had a tough time climbing back down and got a minor catch in his leg. We rested for a little while, eating the bananas that we had bought. One curious monkey gathered the courage to come close enough to us. The monkey was quite alert and caught the banana pieces that we threw to him in mid-air.
We continued down and we were soon back at Madhugiri. After that we quickly got connecting buses and were back to Bengaluru.

Day 4

Rohit and Hemant left for Mysore in the morning as planned, while Rohit’s uncle dropped me off at the bus stand. I caught one of the airport transfer buses from there. The ride to the airport was a smooth one and must not have taken more than 40 minutes. At the airport, I checked in my baggage and grabbed some snacks at an airport restaurant. The flight luckily was on time, and soon I was on my way back to Mumbai. Thanks to Rohit’s brother, I got some great seats right up ahead. The view of the hills rising above the clouds and numerous small clouds scattered like cotton over the green fields below was magical. I think I also passed over some forts on the way, but I’m not very sure which forts these were. A short while later I was back in Mumbai. I had a chance encounter with an old school pal at the airport which kind of was the icing on the cake for the entire trip.
So to conclude, it was an amazing short trip to Bengaluru and the surrounding areas. I would definitely like to do this again someday, preferably with more time on my hands. The trip also showed me how painfully inadequate my current camera was, dying out when I most needed it. I have made up my mind to buy a DSLR soon. And lastly, a big thanks to Rohit, his uncle and aunt and his cousin Vikram for making this trip possible.


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  1. Priyanka says:

    Very nice travel log… Though a bit intrigued by the blog title as I was in bangalore for 6 months and found it disgusting (came running back to Mumbai). Your blog (with a misnomer attached) has changed the face of Bangalore for naive people to some extent 😉
    I will definitely visit a place or two out of the ones you have mentioned.
    One of the avid followers of Nisarga Bhraman (courtsey Hemant)


  2. Yashoda says:

    hey…kool description man… n d pics taken are nice (as usual ;-P ) especially the 1st one…itz really BEAUtiful… 🙂

  3. Rickey Kiefel says:

    i know i¡¯m a little off topic, but i just wanted to say i love the layout of your blog. i¡¯m new to the blogegine platform, so any suggestions on getting my blog looking nice would be appreciated.