Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hogenakkal Falls, Tamil Nadu - Karnataka Border

The best thing about living in Bangalore is that you can get-away from it when you feel like it. The choices are aplenty for those in love with nature. One such get-away is the Hogenakkal Falls in the disputed Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. Conveniently situated 180 kms from Bangalore city, Hogenakkal is the ideal place to spend your lazy Sundays. Hogenakkal gets its name from Hoge (meaning Smoke in Kannada) and Kal (meaning Rock) because here when water hits the rocks it looks like smoke.

Hogenakkal is part of river Cauvery, and like the river, Hogenakkal is also embroiled in the controversy involving Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Its only when you visit the place would you realise why its being so fiercely fought-over. Its definitely a proud possession, whoever can claim it.

The road to Hogenakkal is one of the best Ive travelled in recent memory. Its pretty much straight and a really smooth ride all way to Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. Once you leave Electronic City behind you, you feel you've left India behind. The road from here is easily comparable to any of the Interstates in the US... well, except that there are only two lanes here. The median on the highway is very well maintained. One could see plants with colorful flowers almost the entire distance of our journey.

It took us roughly about 4 hours to reach our destination, with one breakfast stop in between. Breakfast at Ghar Dhaba, a.k.a A2B was edible. By the time we reached our destination it was 12:30 and blazing hot. This proved to be a dampener of the spirits. Add to that the umpteen number of tollgates already made a dent in our wallets and spirits. Here's a quick look at the charges:

Tamil Nadu Checkpost: Rs 650 (Apparently a Must for rented private vehicle).
Highway Tollgate: Rs 40.
Hogenakkal Forest Entry: Rs. 30
Parking: Rs 30.

Despite all this, we kept the spirits up and proceeded towards the Falls. The only way to reach the Falls is through the round boats. When asked about the rates, we were in for another shocker. Rs. 1000 for a boat. Past experiences tell me that this is way too much to pay. So we began to bargain, and then haggling and finally threatened quit the whole idea, before they settled down for Rs. 500 a boat. And since there were 6 of us we went in for 2 boats. Quite honestly I think they were trying to rip us because of the two Goras in our team. (LOL... I think I can hear one Miss Jane Morrison cursing me right now. Hahaha)

By the end of all the haggling we were totally demotivated and just wanted to finish the whole goddamn trip and go home. Before we got down to the foot of the cliff from where we started the boat ride towards the Falls, we got an actual glimpse of the Falls from right on top of the Falls. Even from the safety of the rocks it looked quite ferocious. No wonder they call it the Niagra of India. So after spending some time at the Canadian side(Tamil Nadu) of Hogenakkal we decided to take the Maid of the Mist (our round boats) and watch the falls from the American side (Karnataka).

We were told by the Oarsman that, August is the best time to visit the Falls here. Because then the water would be way too much and way too dangerous. But it makes for a beautiful sight, which only made us wonder the "real thing" . Inching closer towards the Falls in the safety of our round boats we were already a little cheered up after the disappointment from all the haggling.

The experience of getting closer to the mini Falls (you wouldn't dare go near the main Falls) and getting wet is something that has to be experienced and no amount of words justify the real excitement. After that adrenaline rush, the oarsman steers you away to much calmer waters, and somewhere over here, you reach the Karnataka border. Some fictitious border here 'separates TN from KA. Away from the roaring waterfalls, there's a mini beach where we all got down to stretch while the Oarsman de-watered the boat.

The ride back was much slower as we were going against the current, and somehow we sympathized with the Oarsman for the amount he initially asked. On the way back one would also find the most frivolous way of spending Rs.10. We noticed a man standing atop the cliff as if he was ready to jump. We on our part waved at him and started cheering him to jump. To our surprise the oarsman tells us that if you wave a Rs.10 at him he will jump for you. And that was the end of our cheering.

That also brought our boat ride to an end. At the end of it all, I could see 6 contented and somewhat tired souls ready to hit the road again..... IF only we could spot our driver, who went missing for a good half hour. On the way back we drove into Dharmapuri district for a late lunch. The food at Meenakshi Bhavan was quite filling and satisfying. I particularly liked my Vegetable Fried Rice. The ride back felt quicker as none of us could stay awake.

I don't know about the others, but Im definitely going back to Hogenakkal in August, to watch Cauvery in full fury.

Must-Do: Take the boat ride to one of the mini-falls and get totally drenched.
Must-Don't: Buy chips and water bottles in a supposedly "plastic-free-zone".
Exercise Caution: Rippers disguised as Oarsmen. Taking Goras along :-).

My Rating: 6/10

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