Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shivanasamudram and Talakadu: A Trip To Remember

Yet another year passed by and I'm back with one more entry into my page here at Blogger that has been resolutely living a life of deprivation. One year at the Indian Institute of Science has been as intellectually challenging and satisfying as can be. But this blog is gonna talk about a very refreshing trip that we made after completion of our second semester, the destination being Shivanasamudram and Talakadu. It was six in the morning - something most of us had not seen in the past year - and there were twenty-two of us packed into a Swaraj Mazda pilotted by Veeranna, our driver. I was carrying a pocket-size spiral pad intently jotting down whatever I thought had a remote chance of figuring in a blog. Armed with a pen, random thoughts started crossing my mind, none worse than a wierd product idea! As I was struggling to write with an unsteady hand on an unstable pad in the moving bus, which seemed to have no shock absorbers, I wondered if somebody could come up with a product that could be strapped on to the wrist of a person travelling in a moving vehicle in order to enable him/her to write legibly. Anyway that's probably something that could be taken up at some other forum, I thought, admonishing myself for the offence.

We crossed Bidadi and Chanapatna as we homed in on Maddur Tiffany's for a breakfast halt. Opposite to the cafeteria was a handicraft shop that sold the intricately crafted wooden toys of the Chanapatna artisans, from ornamented key-chains to multi-colored horses. Maddur is, by the way, well-known for its onion flavoured Maddur vada. After a filling serving we were back on the mini-bus. Our eyes soaked the myriad colors of the country side - pink wild flowers, red Gulmohar leaves and, above all, the green expanse. To my utter surprise, I noticed that as opposed to the usual expectation of seeing quaint little dhabas on the highway-side, there were outlets of Cafe Coffee Day and Barista! I guess, that goes to show how travel savvy the obnoxiously over-paid professionals in Bangalore are (no offence intended). Beyond Malavalli, the road began to deteriorate badly. Amidst a barren patch of red soil was a humble school with all it's walls covered with murals depicting various scientific phenomena ranging from the water cycle to the solar eclipse. That, I thought , was a pretty encouraging initiative from the school authorities!

Finally, after having traversed over 120 kilometers, we reached Gaganachukki, the first of the two falls that comprise Shivanasamudram. Cauvery waters fall from an average height of 90 meters conjuring a breath-taking view for eyes ridden with harsh Bangalore traffic. The raging waters here are notorious for devouring many a daring adventurer. And so the authorities have built fences all around a well-positioned view point, with sign boards everywhere warning against any attempt to transgress the fences. Adjacent to the Gaganachukki falls is Asia's first hydro-electric power station, set up in 1902. The power generated here used to cater to the Kolar Gold Fields, thus making it the first township in Asia to get hydro electricity. The mines were ultimately closed down in 2003 owing to reducing deposits and increasing costs. The same plant also powered the city of Bangalore for long. Today, all of Bangalore gets its power all the way from the Hirakud dam in Orissa!

Having taken the customary photographs, we moved on to the other waterfall called Bharachukki, a half-an-hour drive from Gaganachukki. A flight of steep and rocky stairs leads us down to the foot of the falls. A fifteen-rupee ride on the coracle or the theppa - a circular shaped boat - left us craving for more. As the boatman takes you closer to the action, you cannot help but admire the experience. The feeling of nature sprinkling its cool and crystal clear water on your face is nothing short of sublime. This waterfall looked as genial as the earlier one had been threatening. After we had had a thorough bath and a long photo shoot at these natural showers, a typically playful troop of monkeys bid us good bye.

Our final destination - I'm not the least insinuating about James Wong's supernatural thriller - was Talakadu, about 30 kilometers from Bharachukki. Here the eastward flowing Cauvery river changes course and seems magnificiently vast as the sand on its banks spreads over a wide area. If playing football and catch-catch on these sands was great fun, playing in the shallow river water was even better. But yes the river depth as well as its currents can get quite nasty as you move farther into the deceivingly inviting waters. A historic site, Talakadu once had over 30 temples that today are buried in sand. Some of them have been exacavated and we were intrigued by the kind of mythical stories people associate with why the temples got buried. They say it's due to the "Curse of Talakadu" uttered by a pious lady by name Alamelamma over four centuries ago. Now that does sound supernatural!

We returned thoroughly satiated by the generous helping of nature and the eerie tryst with the supernatural we had just had.

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