Monday, November 30, 2009

Anthargange, Bangalore.

The name Kolar evokes in the minds of many, nothing but the images of the famed Gold Mines, which by the way is now shut. Even though the Kolar Gold Fields (a.k.a KGF) are now abandoned, this district of Karnataka is by all means still a gold mine. A gold mine for the ever-wandering tourist. A gold mine for the avid devotee. A gold mine for scholarly archeologist. My R&D into Kolar yielded a long list of places-to-visit. Ironically, most of these places are temples and temples are, as a principle something that I avoid while on trips. But, given the nature and significance of the temples, I was ready to make an exception. Foremost on the list was Anthargange, which also happens to be the closest to Bangalore. Then there are places/temples with mythological significance. There are also these ancient temples from our country’s glorious past. Temples built by the Cholas and the Chalukyas. Add to that there’s the Kotilingeshwara – the one crore shivlinga temple and the Chikka Tirupathi.

The plan was to first get to Anthargange, and IF the body permits, to move on to the other temples. I said IF, because Anthargange has a good vertical trekking trail on offer. We left for Kolar at 7 in the morning and hit the Old Madras Road. The route is very straight forward. Once you take the Old Madras Road, you get off it only at Kolar, which is roughly about 65 kms. There’s a road sign which tells where you take the left turn to Anthargange. From the highway it’s a mere 5 kms to Anthargange.

The temple at Anthargange is famous for its natural spring water source from the rocks believed to be coming from the Ganga of the north. No one really knows the actual source of the water. The source as one can see it is a small crevice from which a steady stream of water flows down into the temple pond. What happens after it flows into pond is something that’s not very delectable to the eye. There are scores of people taking bath (with soap and shampoo), kids jumping into the pool and splashing water all over creation and the like. And right before the water falls into the pond from an elevated platform that looks something like a jump board of a swimming pool, there are hordes of people (not devotees) collecting The Water in water cans and water bottles. From the looks of it, this source of water serves as the drinking water supply (not to mention the bathroom) for the whole of Kolar. I say that because, it looked like the whole of Kolar were there either collecting water in their cans or taking a bath.

Visiting the temple was not our primary motive. It was the hiking that began from the temple. The hike up the hill was challenging especially if you have Asthma. So here were two Asthma sufferers pitted against the mighty rocky terrain of Anthargange. After about an hour or more (we really lost track of time) we were, as we presumed at the top of the hill ranges. And to our surprise we found a village on top of this hill. But no, the villagers here do not have to hike this path every day to reach their home. There is a motorable road one could take to reach here. The hamlet up this hill looked a sleepy one. As we began to wonder what to do next, we found a few (6-7 year old) kids playing in the Raagi fields. So when we asked them what else this place had to offer, the kids replied there were caves further up the hill. Yeah apparently the hill still goes higher.

The kids were now our official guides to explore these mysterious caves. I say mysterious, since I’ve not encountered anything in relation to Caves in my research on Antargange. Now the only problem with this guide-business was that we had five of them. Nobody was ready to let off of an opportunity to earn some money. Though we designated only two of them as our “official guides” the other three tagged along. After a little bit of scheming among the guides, they sent back the youngest and most gullible guide back with a toy as a bribe.

Our guides for the day were an enthusiastic and energetic lot, compared to us lethargic city folks. One of them, from time to time even plucked Guava fruits for us. Pretty sweet – the guava and the guide who offered it. Just like any good guide, they showed everything that could be captured with your lenses. Finally after another hour or more of hiking we reached the so-called-caves. So-called, because these caves were never inhabited. So-called because these caves can never be inhabited, except of course by tiny midgets or seven year old kids. The kids took us deeper and deeper into the rocky formations. The gaps between the stones were so small and our bodies so huge, that many times it seemed impossible to go through. But somehow we went further and further. Most times on all-fours, sometimes contorting our bodies in unimaginable shapes and sometimes sliding down rocks like on a slide in a playground. And then finally we found a crevice between two rocks where we just could not go. It was so narrow that we got stuck after just a couple of kids. But the silly kids were so confident that we could cross, that my co-traveler tried and almost dislocated his nose when her tried to keep his face straight.

The kids then showed us a different path for the exit. And by the time we got out, I had a couple of bruises on my elbows and knees and even managed to twist my shoulder again (as a result of an accident couple of years back). But we were never more glad to be finally out. That place there, could kill a claustrophobic.

The way back was pretty uneventful except for the continuous chatter of the kids, and their stories. They told us quite a number of stories, but after knowing eagerness to talk bull, I wouldn’t put any of those guide-stories here. After tipping out little guides (all of them) at their village (Paparajanahalli), we started to make our way down to Antargange. But soon we realized that folly of our intitial misconceptions of this sleepy hamlet. The place was suddenly hip and happening - and how. There we found an agricultural well where about forty young men and kids were assembled around the well and splashing themselves into it. On the main road though there was a large gathering of young men who had some kind of drag-racing-cum-wheeling competition going on. Next to the local tea-stall hangout place was a large swing suspended from a tree where again young men were swinging away to unbelievable heights.

Unable to believe this sudden transformation of the place we walked back to Antargange. Now with most of the devotees gone, the temple was quieter on the devotional front but noisier on the recreational front. It was all fun and frolic for the kids and men who came to the temple for their afternoon swim in the swimming pool (ex-temple-pond). However there was no variation in the number of people carrying the spring water back to their homes or businesses where they sold the water. We took this opportunity to have a closer look at the Fountainhead of the water. Surprisingly the stream just kept coming from an elevated platform, between two tiny Nandi statues. We filled out bottle with this stream and to our surprise, it tasted as pure as a natural spring water can be. It was a real life saver for our parched throats. Somewhat rejuvenated by the generous amount of stream water we made our way back to so-called mineral water haven of Bangalore.

Getting-there: Old Madras Road -> Left at Kolar 65 kms later -> Left before Bus Stand.

Must-Do: Keep yourself hydrated. Taste the natural spring. Explore the Caves - if possible.

Must-Dont: Carrying excessive baggage. Even backpacks and waterbottles and coats are a liability while exploring the caves. Littering, bathing and the like. Claustrophobics should stay away from the caves.

Road Report: Good Roads after T.G.E (or a similar combination of alphabets) Extension. But too many diversions, because of the laying of the 4-lane roads.

Food: Kamat Upachar, 10 kms before Kolar - A must!!!

My Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, November 20, 2009

Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose your weight - A Must Read.

So what motivated a to-be-30-year-old 68 kg guy with a more-than-faint sign of prosperity to pick up the book Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose your weight? Well, firstly it was the word-of-mouth publicity it received. I’ve heard people about this book on more than a couple of instances. Secondly, it was written by the dietician behind the now-famous size zero of Kareena Kapoor. Thirdly, and most importantly the book actually busts many a myth dealing with the diet-culture, thereby offering a whole new dimension to eating-right, rather than just being another mashed-up offering from the Atkins stable.

Rujuta Diwekar is no run-off-the-mill dietician. She's highly qualified in her line of work. She has worked with many famous personalities/celebrities like Kareena, Saif, Sonali, Anil Ambani et al.

The book is easily available at every bookstore worth its paper at a reasonable rate (so you don’t have to wait for the footpath-release). I got mine from Landmark in Forum.

Thankfully the book does not disappoint you. The first few chapters are all about busting the myths which have by now become a way of life for many. Every legend busted is supported with a lot of scientific explanation for the same. Rujuta goes about creating an awareness of what goes behind the eating process, something that we just don’t bother to look into. The book actually is an expedition to explore your body. About how our body tries to communicate with us, and how our mind fails to establish contact in return. When it comes to eating we often listen to our mind but seldom to our stomach. Rujuta stresses on the need to listen to your stomach to lead a healthy life.

What’s commendable about the author is that, she doesn’t quarantine any food as bad - as long as they are natural of course. Processed foods and deep-fried items are a big no-no. But then there are cheat codes to beat the system. Example, one Pizza slice a month for the Pizza freaks and stuff like that. Similarly no vegetable is bad (read fat-inducing) as long as they are taken in the right quantities at the right time of the day in the right format.

What makes the book interesting is the numerous co-relations of our eating habits to real life examples to drive the point home. The entire book revolves around the four main principles of eating which forms the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. I will not mention them here, because if taken out of context, it could be totally misconstrued. Moreover this book is one for the keeps. Hence go to your nearest bookstore and get your own copy. It’s your ticket to a healthy lifestyle.

My Rating: 7/10

Monday, November 09, 2009

Savanadurga, Bangalore.

It had been almost a month since I hit the road and I was beginning to develop an itchy feet. Bad health and family commitments had kept me off road all this while. So the first chance I got, I was away. I announced to my partners-in-crime that this weekend was a biking and trekking getaway. 60 kms of biking and 4050 ft of vertical trekking. The Destination – Savanadurga. As I stepped out of the house at 6 in the morning and saw the steady drizzle coming down, I thought about all the blogs I read by those who have vanquished this mighty giant of a hill. Every blog I read warned of the danger surrounding the terrain during the rains. Now looking at the drizzle I must say I was elated. Yes, you heard me. Elated. I mean, what fun is an adventure without some danger!

The Savanadurga is 14 kms from the Manchanbele Dam. There are two routes to reach Savanadurga. The first and fastest being taking the Magadi Road. The second and highly recommended is the Dodda Alada Mara-Manchanbele Dam route. I recommend the later because the 14 km stretch road leading from MD to Savanadurga is simply exhilarating. No, Im not talking about the quality of the road, but the beauty of the surroundings. Immediately after the dam is a village and after that you enter a forest reserve. The drive through the forest makes the slow-paced and time-consuming drive worth its weight in gold. After entering the reserve I could not but take my helmet away to breathe-in the fresh air. It’s a totally invigorating experience. Not for miles and miles away from Bangalore can one breathe such fresh air. It sure can rejuvenate your body to no end.

One more reason why you need to take this route is the umpteen number of hamlets you will cross. These are places where time stood still. It also brings back memories from my own childhood - memories of the humble village I’ve come from. Inhabitants here stare at you, like you’ve come from outer space.

The final 4km stretch – where all you do is circumvent the hills - to the foot of Savanadurga is a biker’s nightmare. Back-breaking is an understatement in this road - or what is left of it.

Just before you reach the foot hills you go past an ancient Nandi Temple (yes, there has to be a temple wherever you go). Outside this temple you will find an equally ancient Stumba and next to it, what looks like a giant swing with two mighty heavy iron chain hanging from the top. Also on the ground next to this giant-swing-like thing you’d find two mighty perfectly-circular boulders with a hole in the centre. Personally I have no clue what this is all about. A few more meters further and you reach ground-zero, where you’ll find a temple…again.

It’s always a good idea to have some coconut water before the long and demanding climb. Keeping yourself hydrated is the key. Traveling light is also a good idea, so we finished whatever water we had and threw away the bottle.

Wikipedia Corner:

Savandurga is a hill 33 km west of Bangalore off the Magadi road. The hill is famous for a temple and is also believed to be among the largest monolith hills in the world. The hill rises to 1226 m above mean sea level and forms a part of the Deccan plateau. It consists of peninsular gneiss, granites, basic dykes and laterites. The Arkavathi river passes nearby through the Thippagondanahalli reservoir and on towards Manchanabele dam. Savandurga is formed by two hills known locally as Karigudda (black hill) and Biligudda (white hill).

The climb to the top not surprisingly is tedious. No amount of yoga or umpteen hours on the treadmill will make the climb a cakewalk. While you are huffing and puffing your way up this monster of a hill, remind yourself to enjoy the breathtakingly scenic view. The silver lining is the Akravathi river winding its way down to the Manchanbele Dam. You could also get a good look at the ISRO Satellite Dishes situated near the dam. Further behind the ISRO you also see the concrete jungle that Bangalore is.

Barely a few feet away from the top of the hill and it started raining. But we were not in the mood to quit the mission after having come this far. Hence we quickly rushed to the top (the final stretch being the most difficult), took a few seconds to catch our breath, one last look at the scenic beauty laid before our eyes and we started our way. Almost immediately we realized the danger all those bloggers were talking about. Yes, it’s very real and very imminent. The slippery wet surface of the hill brought back memories of the day I decided to do a little bit of ice-skating. This is the best time to tell you that, Savanadurga is one real large, bald rock. It’s so bald it can put Pritish Nandy to shame!

We crawled, slipped, slid, skated, fell and sometimes walked our way to the foot of the hill. Getting down the hill was one of the most exhilarating episodes of my life. And it will remain etched in my mind for a long time to come.

Getting-there: Mysore Road -> Left at Raja Rajeshwari Dental College -> Big Banyan Tree -> ISRO -> Manchanbele Dam -> Right at village immediately after the Dam -> Through the Forest -> Right at the T-Junction Main Road.

  • Keep yourself hydrated. Carry a backpack for carrying water and other liquids. Otherwise, there are boys who sell juice at the top of the hill – for DOUBLE the MRP.
  • The bag pack will also help in carrying your trash, there-by not littering the place.
  • Get your Trekking shoes on – preferably those by Woodland!
  • Breathe the fresh air of the forest.

Must-Don’t: Carry things other than a bag pack. You need two free hands along with your legs for the climb.

Road report:

  • Mysore Road – Paradise in the city.
  • Raja Rajeswari Dental College to ISRO – Good
  • ISRO to Manchanbele Dam – Bad.
  • Manchanbele to Main Road connecting the Hills – Drivable but narrow.
  • Final 4km stretch to the foot of the Hills – Nightmare!

My Rating: 7/10