Sunday, March 23, 2008

My first visit to HGB





Once Kiran had shown me a video in which place looked like something straight out of a story book. Greenery as far as you can see, fog playing hide and seek, Herds of elephants trying to fill their never fulfilling appetite. The highest point on this place had a temple because of which the place had got its name; the main deity was lord Gopalaswamy. Since the coming weekend we had no plans, we decide to visit this place.
This was the first long distance travel. We left Bangalore by nightfall and reached Mysore around midnight. We had told Kumar that we would stay at his place for the night. He had arranged for a wonderful dinner. We started to speak about our good old school days. We were literally rolling on the floor laughing. All this fun and frolic continued till 2AM. Shortly after that time we had a cop who climbed up two floors to slightly lower the volume, since it might disturb the neighbors. This was the first time that I had heard or seen a cop climb up two floors and tell us something like that, especially in a city like Mysore, where people would be fast asleep by 11. We had to get up by 5 and leave Mysore by 5.45. But things never go as we decide. The first person to get up was me and it was already 6.30, we got ready in a jiffy as if someone was serving us free breakfast. We headed towards a relatively less crowded NH212 which continues till Kozhikode. I hate this stretch of road because once you cross Nanjangud and you head till Gundlupet the road doesn’t seem to end. I have failed to know the cause of this because even the roads are good, so no complaints over there as well. The roads after Gundlupet was a bit of concern as it seemed that this piece of land was forgotten by the government to develop. As we reached the check post for Gopalaswamy hills the view was something like what all hills looked like. Guessing what might be up there we countered hair pin bends one after the other. The first view of the top was a dull coloured temple which seemed to be ruined .As we got closer and closer the air became chiller. The view was panoramic with greenery all over. It was exactly like I had seen in the video on Kiran’s phone. Enveloped in mist most of the time, the hills were literally an abode in the clouds giving one an ethereal feeling of walking in them. As the mist rises from the hillock, the surroundings become visible offering breathtaking glimpses. There are many scenic valleys, gorges and hills like Neeladri, Hamsadri, Garudadri, Pallava and Mallikajunagiri. Once we were near the temple, the network on our phones kept changing every 15 ft as this place sits on the edge of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Your phone picks up the nearest network available
We were also told that this place was virtually a storehouse of medicinal plants. Far more wooded and quiet than many other hill stations, Gopalaswamy Betta is like a watch tower for the Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary .A 13th century fort of the Palegars of Terakanambi and a temple within is believed to have been patronized by the Mysore Maharajas. The temple is dedicated to Lord Gopalaswamy. The specialty of this temple was that there is mist on top of the stone statue which is believed to keep the lord cool. The priest had some interesting stories to tell about the place .As he told this place was surrounded by 77 small ponds. By the first sight of the place we could hardly count seven or eight but as we went around the place we could find few more. The priest told us that this place was totally absent of crows and he also had mythological incident backing up his story. We hadn’t noticed that there we no crows around in spite of the fact that crows would sometime act like alarm clocks back in Bangalore. The only buildings atop this hill are the temple, a fort which can only act like a good background for photographs, a IB reserved for forest officials, and a small house for the security guards. We roamed around the place till the clock reminded us that we had a stomach to be filled. Since there was no hotels or shops around tourists had no option to go back to Gundlupet or head towards Bandipur safari. We were totally reluctant to leave this place, so we enquired the security guards whether any arrangements could be made for food. He pointed us to the priest at the temple. The temple serves food if there are any pujas offered by any devotees, to our bad luck there wasn’t any. One of the security guards offered us to cook lemon rice and curd rice as it was lunch time for them, but the problem was they had enough supplies left only for a day or two. So we had to drive down twenty kilometers for rice and other things, until we could find a local boy would do that for us for nominal money. We had no problem in paying someone for something like this. As we were exchanging few words with the guards, this boy returned back. We were all wondering as to which off roader he took because it took us 20 min just to climb up the hill and this guy came back in about 30 min with the groceries packed. As we were having lunch the guards we came to know their struggle for survival in the forest. When asked which animal they feared the most, all of them unanimously replied “Elephants”. As city dwellers we usually think them to be sober creatures, but these people were completely of the opposite opinion. Later they took us to the compound of the inspection bungalow which was damaged, the reason for that a herd of elephants that went rampage. It was a total eye opener for the immense damage potential that these usually gentle giants have. Asked if we could see any animals around, one of them took us to a nearby waterhole the chances of we being able to watch a wild animal in its own habitat was high. To our surprise we saw few spotted deer grazing happily. We moved a bit further near the water we saw a herd of elephants with calves which was as cute as a few days old Labrador pup. The guard who was with us strictly warned us not to make the slightest of sound as we may be attacked, because the elephants are very protective of their young ones and they wouldn’t let anyone to come any closer to them. As it started to get dark we decided to leave this place. Keeping the memories intact I was desperate to reach Bangalore to tell my friends who weren’t able to turn up with us .