Monday, 23 July 2012

Caved!

Here is my account of the visit to the Cavala caves from the archives (2004?). Also please take kindly to the pictures shot with a manual aim-and-shoot camera and scanned for a soft version! This travel-blog is very dear to me. It has got published a couple of times and had triggered umpteen inquiries about the location online...

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I was tired of the monotonous life this software industry had given us, and like I did once every six months, I planned a getaway. The regularity with which we (me and my husband) had been taking these breaks, it seemed as if we had no haven left for a 2-3 day holiday around Bangalore. Then it struck to me that the jungles of Dandeli hd still been waiting for us!

So, the holiday was planned. We were to stay in the nature tents in Dandeli and visit the jungles around trekking and / or with the jungle-safari jeep. This is how we reached Cavala caves, which lie in the midst of a huge rocky hill. A hill that has been cut through by the Kali River. The caves have their only safe entrance opening up to a corridor which oversees the river. The journey to the caves took 3 hours by jeep and a 1 hour trek. It was a very slippery 2-km long and 6-ft wide slush-track thanks to the heavy rains. Had we lost grip we would have had to enjoy a 3000 feet free fall into the Kali River!!!


The dusty road to the cave through the jungle

First sight of the entrance to the cave



Entrance to the cave with a small temple


View from the cave entrance

Far away view of the river Kali from the cave


We reached the entrance to the cave led by our very informative forest guide (Shivanand), It was a hot noon and the corridor entrance looked really quiet and serene. The corridor sported some spectacular views of the valley below. According to Shivanand, this place had only about 2-3 people visiting per day on an average except on Shivrathri when thousands of locals trek for hours to this very special place for the darshan of the Shivalinga. Anyways, there was nobody around when we reached the caves. 

This is where we start crawling


We were to crawl through the cave for more than 50 metres to reach the centre where we would find a huge Shivalinga. And yes, when we reached the centre, we did find a lovely rock formation, a huge Shivalinga, formed due to tricking of chemicals from the roof of the cave. At that moment when we were enjoying the beauty of that place, Shivanand turned off the only torch we were carrying. It was a prank of course. He mentioned to us that its a favourite act of most foreign tourists who prefer to stay in that absolute dark for hours (a way of realizing Nirvana I hear). Anyways, we stayed absolutely quiet for a few minutes just to enjoy the moment (you know, for the fun of it).

But as time passed quietly in that absolute dark, I'd started sweating more and more, and the fun part of the experience was vanishing, and some anxiety had taken over my mind. Now I wondered if I was getting scared of the darkness and the silence, but hey, I was too bold for that. Slowly, the sounds and smell of the bats and the heavy air inside the cave brought clarity to my thought. As the cold sweat trickled down my forehead, I remembered that before Shivanand had switched off that torch, we'd seen multiple exits from the middle of the cave, all of them looking similar and lay adjacent to one another. Only one exit among those was safe, the one we took to enter. The good news is, Shivanand definitely knows which one. Also, I remembered Shivanand mentioning that all the other exits led to places from where, people have never returned. 

So, the point is, only Shivanand could give me a new lease of life, that is, lead me safely out of the cave. And only if he survives the cardiac arrest, if he has one right there!

A creepy root of a tree making its way through the rocks


At that point, when so many emotions were running through my mind, I realized, that the world outside, is so much more beautiful, more safe. I suddenly started missing the elements of nature found in abundance and so taken for granted, the lovely colours, the fresh air and so many people I share my life with. That is when I realized that there are so many routine things I encounter in a normal day like beautiful weather, healthy food, transportation, space to live and the greenery, are the luxuries sought by many other people living in other parts of the world.   Actually, God has been really kind to me all these years!

And again thanks to God, Shivanand was safe and sane till we reached our tents back. Phew, I made it back to MY jungle, my concrete jungle!

Where is this   : Dandeli is a small town close to Hubli, Belgaum and Goa.
How to get there: buses from any of the above places.
Where to stay   : Lots of nature camps in the area, Jungle Lodges and Resorts
Other activities of interest: Canoeing and kayaking on river Kali, Syntheri rocks, sykes point, mountain biking, camping, visit tribes, the list is endless.
Useful link     : http://www.junglelodges.com/V2/Kali.htm

Monday, 2 July 2012

90-minute Ticket to Gopala’s Abode



The government sure has ways of cutting out excess from our lives. Be it excess money or excess happiness. Why else would the forest dept. issue tickets to the beautiful temple hill of Himavad Gopalaswamy betta with a time limit of a meagre 90 mins!!




A 30 min steep climb from the entry post on a rough road takes us to the foot of a short flight of stairs that lead to the temple. I did notice a new car (probably a corolla) and a loaded KSRTC bus struggling their way up the curves and in the former case due to the inexperience of the driver. With a road as narrow as that and with almost no asphalt left on the road, most vehicles were struggling to negotiate their way on meeting a vehicle from the opposite direction.




At the top, there is ample parking space for 30-40 vehicles. You would come across vendors selling wares for the temple, cut fruits and this and that. A short stroll from this busy area will take you to the pristine woods with breath-taking views of the surrounding hills covered with green on all sides.



Climbing the stairs, you reach a platform consisting of the beautiful temple of Lord Himavad Gopalswamy and the ultimate open corridor with the best views. As the chill in the air greets you when you reach the top, at a distance there is a cloud passing through a hill, a stream of sun rays escaping the clouds to lighten up small areas below, a group of devotees straining their eyes to spot a herd of elephants on the neighbouring hill and all this with the temple bells ringing in the background.




Being just an hour away from Mysore, this place is popular among the Mysoreans for a quick bike ride or for family picnics. So, quite often, you will come across couples newly-wed or yet-to-wed imagining a duet while evading the eyes of the forest officials on watch. Gopalswamy betta is also just 30 min drive away from Bandipur on Mysore-Ooty road. Located strategically on the tourist path, the temple attracts travellers wanting to tick off another visit on the agenda for the day. So, there would be people from across the state borders making a quick visit to the temple while on their way to a larger destination. It’s common even among Bangaloreans to plan a day’s outing to these mesmerising hills.

A Devotee



The hill, strictly a plastic-free zone, is open to visitors only during the day time under the vigil of the forest department. The hill is located in the territory of the Bandipur forest reserve and is often visited by wild cats. Sighting wild elephants is an everyday affair.

A herd of elephants spotted at a distance



All said, the basic amenities are still missing. No food and no toilets. So plan your trip well not to miss on any of these. It can also happen that in the available time of 90 mins (which includes the ascent and descent of the hill totalling to about 45 mins) the darshana of the Lord is temporarily not possible for 30-45 minutes (like it happened to me) due to alankaara or naivedya or some other seva. I made the most of the available time in soaking in the beauty of the place, keeping the sight of the Lord pending for a better day!



All in all, a heavenly” real-estate with a view” occupied by the one-and-only Lord Gopalswamy!!



How to get there, history of the place: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himavad_Gopalaswamy_Betta




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