Monsoon Road Trip of Western Ghats - 2013

Just like 2012 we planned to go on a Monsoon trip to the Western Ghats this year with my friend. The itinerary was like this.  
Bangalore -> Hassan -> Sringeri -> Agumbe -> Udupi
Udupi -> Agumbe -> Thirthahalli ->Bhadravathi ->Tiptur -> Channarayapattna -> Bangalore

Monsoon Road Trip Route Map

Vehicle Details
Visa D90 features like fog lights, defogger ,AC etc.
Kilometres - 960 , approx 1/4 th of the distance in AC

Day 1: Friday
Starting off on a Friday evening ,we reached Nelamangala via NICE road very quickly. Once we were onto the Nelamangala-Mangalore highway (a toll road) it was very smooth sailing. In spite of some heavy showers during this stretch the lights on the road and the overall excellent road condition helped us to spped upto 150 kmph on my friend's Vista D90. This was his new car (just few months old) and I realized the great comfort of the this hatchback model.

Bangalore Mangalore Highway
The Bangalore Mangalore Highway from Nelamangala

With some great music on the car sound system and great roads we reached Channarayapatna in almost no time. But from this part the the roads were under construction and it was a bit difficult to drive. My friend Mrinmoy drove the whole way upto Hassan and we reached Hassan pretty quickly just around 9 PM. We decided to stay in Hassan for the night as it was necessary to get some good rest before the extreme test of Saturday on the ghats.
We found an excellent hotel called Sri Krishna Hotel at a reasonable price to checkin for the night.
It was already a bit late for dinner and we wanted to have some non vegetarian food so we headed out to seek a non-veg restaurant. We tried our luck at a nearby one and had a decent dinner.

Day 2: Saturday
Next morning we woke up a bit late , as it was cloudy and rainy outside. but soon the skies cleared and by the time we got ready for breakfast it was a beautiful day. Sri Krishna offers free breakfast along with lodging. Although there was very little variety and limited quantity it was a good hearty breakfast. We were happy to see that someone washed the car in the parking spot immediately on check out. But we had to pay around 50Rs as tips on too much nagging about the car washing. And that was the end of Hassan. I keyed in my friend's car for the first time to drive a bit. I was a bit amazed to see some of the new features offered in this car.
Soon thereafter we headed for Sringeri, a temple town that is nestled quietly at the entrance of the main mountain range. It was indeed a picturesque drive through some great roads. The abundance of greenery was particularly very appealing to the eye. 

Hassan to Sringeri
Long Beautiful Route to Sringeri
I drove at a very modest pace because there were many twists and turns and too many places to stop to take some pictures. The rain filled up the lakes and the rivers and the crops on the fields against the blue sky is too much of beauty to capture in a camera. 

Vista D90
My friend's D 90

Beauty of Western Ghats
The route is too beautiful to describe

Greenery of Western Ghats
Vast Meadows

Beautiful villages
Beautiful Villages on the way

Sringeri road
Who wants to stay in School. Its time to run away
 We reached Sringeri just a bit around lunch time. Its a small town which is quite nice except the main market area near the temple which is very crowded. We managed to get a decent restaurant and have some strange biriyani and then we drove off. We left the temple visit for our next trip.
Sringeri onwards my friend took over and we drove towards Agumbe.
Agumbe Rain Forest
The darkness of Agumbe
  Just at the entrance of the ghats there was a small check post where we were redirected towards a sightseeing place called Agumbe Sunrise point. Its a very beautiful spot on the road with proper parking facilities. We stopped there to take a few snaps and then we headed for the real mountains and the huge hairpin bends. The weather was good and so were the roads. It wasn't as hair raising as last years trip.

Sunrise Point of Agumbe
Agumbe Sunrise Point

Thick jungle Roads
Just somewhere we stopped by

Crossing Agumbe
We are about to cross the rainforest
  But it was a beautiful stretch of road after which we reached 'Seetanadi Nature Camp'. The gate was partially open and after inquiring we entered the camp. Its a beautiful resort by the Seetanadi river. The camp organizes forest walks and treks and has tents and cottages for accommodation. We would have loved to stay there as it was a beautiful spot, but it was pretty expensive. I guess this is one of the places to visit if someone wants to get close with nature at Agumbe and may even be lucky enough to spot a King Cobra.
Seetanadi Nature Camp
Seetanadi - The land portion of it seemed like quicksand
 Taking a few snaps we proceeded towards Udupi which seemed to be the logical stop by for the night. Crossing Udupi we reached Malpe beach which is a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. Parking our car we headed for the beach just in time to enjoy the sun set over the Arabian sea.
After sunset we headed out to have some tea and then proceeded to Paradise Isle Resort. This is an expensive resort, but it was full off season and we got an excellent bargain for the night. The cottage we got was sea facing and was excellent in terms of cleanliness, towels , hot water ,toiletries etc. We had a quiet dinner at this resort restaurant and enjoyed some delicacies of the region with some old Bollywood music in front of the sea beach. There were a group of kids playing football in flood light and as we ate ,we watched and we reached a state of trance and bliss which I only hope to describe in words. Then we took a short walk on the beach before heading back to our cottage for the night.
Malpe Sea beach
Wow - what a sunset view
 Day 3: Sunday
Since the breakfast was costly in the hotel (Rs 170 per head) we got fresh and checked out.

Paradise Isle Resort
View from Cottage of Paradise Isle Resort

Agumbe Rain Forest
View from Agumbe Sunrise Point

Time for some Photo shoot
 We got a wonderful hotel in Udupi and had a super breakfast. Then we drove back on the same route towards Agumbe. This time we just stopped for a short while outside Seetanadi Nature Camp and then headed for Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS).
The First Wrong Turn
 We were in for a surprise. According to google maps this was a mud road somewhere in Agumbe. First we entered a mud road that was nice and we reached a farm house. We met the farmer who gave us some directions and we met his dogs who were very surprised to see us. Even the cows were surprised and did not blink till we left.
Happy Cow
 Then we took another wrong turn which was indeed a wrong turn for we entered the forest and it got narrower and narrower till a point where a felled tree blocked the road. We decided a walk a bit to check out if there was anything beyond the felled tree. It was deep into the forest with heavy undergrowth and the thought of King cobras was just hinting us to take a U turn. That we did with a lot of difficulty because the road was so narrow there was hardly any area for a car to take a turn.

Wow this was the best green field I saw in a long time

This Area was so beautiful - not able to describe it in words
 The next time we were lucky to enter the correct stretch of road. But then the road was not very motorable for cars and so we left the car and decided to walk.This was indeed a delightful walk although we were not too sure where we are heading too till we saw this small sign.
Rainforest Research Station , Agumbe
Walk towards ARRS

Agumbe Rainforest
The land is beautiful and so are the forests
  The ARRS was not something that we were expecting. But then I never had any idea of what I was expecting. It was a small hut , seemed like some lodging provisions with some pictures of snakes on the walls. We met a dude who said he is part of the NGO that ran the shelter.
Agumbe rainforest
Some weirdo put up this sign.
 He also showed us a Malabar Pit Viper that was resting in one of the bamboo logs below the tiles overhead. I was not very comfortable with vipers and decided to take a zoom shot.
The place seemed to be too bad to be anything like a research station. I was wondering whether they do anything related to snake venom collection for medicines , but then it was obvious they didn't. Anyways ,after signing the guest book we decided to return.
Pit viper in ARRS
The Malabar Pit Viper napping happily
 Just as we started it started raining cats and dogs and the narrow path turned to a rivulet. But as we crossed this stretch what we saw was unbelievable. The clouds were on an open green field and the place seemed to be like heaven. This was the most wonderful sight I ever saw in a long time. I was too mesmerized to leave the spot.
Walking in the clouds, Agumbe
The return walk from ARRS

A rainy day, Agumbe
Walking in the clouds

However soon thereafter the rain and cloud seemed to reduce and since we were completely drenched we decided to change our clothes. My friend already had a couple of leeches on his feet. I didn't find any ( but there were a couple of those which I found out that night) . We got into clean dry clothes and we headed for Thirthahalli.
The drive to Thirthahalli was smooth and nice. It was already 3 PM when we stopped by at a small restaurant to have a meal. My friend discovered a couple of more leeches that left a bloody impression in the restaurant. I started driving from Thirthahalli and then crossed Shimoga.
Sometime thereafter we stopped for a quick snack and tea.
 Afterwards my friend started the return drive and we managed to skip the highway and took a state highway to meet the Hassan road to Nelamangala again. The rest part was quite uneventful and my friend drove tirelessly and we returned to Bangalore safely.Reaching home I went to take a bath and then I realized the leech attack and the itching sensation. Anyways it was a memorable trip and I'm already yearning to go again.

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