On Friday night, we decided as an experiment, to wake up at dawn, randomly pick a destination and spend the weekend there. At sunrise the next day, we were heading towards Jog Falls. An excellent way to welcome in the monsoon.
Having decided on taking only NH roads along the way, our route was as below. Roads were ok, in some parts recently laid. But there was no divider and it was 2 lane all the way, Avg speeds of 80Kmph. Our Course as usual was charted by MapMyIndia and Google Maps ( on both, the Motorola Milestone and the HTC Desire HD ). Invaluable tools! Aside - I'm looking to buy holders for the phone in the car. If you can suggest a brand, pls drop me a comment.
Stopped for a "natural" bathroom break, saw a few snakes too :)
Our Route to Jog
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Where to eat
The monsoon fuels my appetite, and on long drives with gorgeous scenery and intermittent drizzles, I like to have something to munch with my sugary sweet highway tea. But, food on the highways in Karnataka presents a bit of a problem. The number of eating joints are few and far between and often pretty run down.
Breakfast - Coffee day and the Kamats
We usually prefer Kamat( though food quality has deteriorated ). It opens at 7am. ( I know this because we once startled them by showing up bright and early at 6am ).
1. Shimoga - The smart option
2. Sagar - for the over confident who failed to stop at Shimoga.
As you might have guessed, we belonged to the second category. Our gargantuan breakfast meant that we whizzed past Shimoga without the slightest of hunger pangs.
When it comes to eating in Shimoga, you are spoiled for choice. Among others, notable are The Royal Orchid which has recently opened in the city centre and offers a star option. There is also the reliable and reasonably priced Mathura Lodge for the vegetarians. Both places are also good options for stay.
But as we foolishly drove on and were approaching Sagar, there were audible rumbles and it wasn't the engine. A quick search of Google Places Directory yielded no known restaurants nearby. Then we spotted Chaya. Going by the crowd of vehicles, it seemed to be the only place to eat. We parked and followed the crowd. The restaurant and lodge is well placed and has a lake view.
Sadly, I cannot say much for the restaurant or indeed for the manners of its patrons. It was essentially a Mess (and I mean that in all possible ways). Everyone seemed to order the set meals, so we did too. Hygiene was a bit dodgy - I tried hard to ignore the slight crust of a previous meal on the edge of my plate. They employ children to clear the dishes, which I disapprove of. Food was basic and actually quite nice - taste wise, but the unclean surroundings, terrible noise of clanking plates and shouting people made it an awful experience @ 125Rs for 3 meals. Do NOT have the paan at the paan shop below. We had to spit it out in under 1 min.
You can also try Sri Pavitra Lodge - which we saw 20 minutes ahead, it looked cleaner, bigger and better; and that's the last eating option at Sagar. If you do eat there, please share your experience with me.
Enroute, you will pass a stunning bridge over a gorge which is a must stop place for the photo ops. We passed it 4 times, and each time, it was pouring rain. A Rs.20 admission fee is collected at the gate to Jog. The parking lots are well organized. The instant photo dudes pounced on us as soon as we stepped out of the car, but beat a hasty retreat once the tripod and equipment came out the boot. At Jog, the mist was wonderful, the incessant rain refreshing but slightly annoying.
The highlight for me was the presence of 3 Scarlet Minivets ( 2 males, 1 female ). No photos sadly, they were just too far away for my 300mm. The males put up a splendid show, the tiny scarlet birds stood out starkly against the misty green and white backdrop of the falls, it left a deep impression on me. I almost wanted to move into the the little lonely house on the hill!
Where to stay
Once at Jog, you will notice the huge boards of Mayura (KSTDC hotels). We thought we'd risk a stay against our better judgement. After all, the hotel had a stunning view of the falls, being bang opposite to it.
After some driving around in circles, thanks to the absence of a board in English, we found the main entrance to the hotel. It looked like something out of India's Most Haunted. The lobby was devoid of all furniture, the windows were all broken and a stray dog was manning the reception. Shortly, a man arrived and asked if we had a reservation, and on hearing that we hadn't, he said they had no vacancies.
Google to the rescue! Matthuga Homestay is the ONLY place to stay at Jog (8km from the Falls). I found their website online and even recalled seeing a board while we were driving to Jog from Sagar. It has only 5 bedrooms, so call ahead and reserve your room. Its a popular place among those in the IT industry, going by the companies listed in their guest list. Being the very first homestay of my experience, I was keen to try it out.
The approach road will test your vehicle's suspension and the under chassis rubber coating and the rust proofing will finally be worth it. It is clean ( i cant stress this enough actually ) and homely. The staff of 2 speak both Kannada and Hindi. The bathrooms are clean, ventilated and have 24hr hot water ( we have verified at various times). It also has toilet paper. Also provided was a small cupboard with clothes hangers. Beds were comfortable, pillows were not lumpy, sheets were clean and fresh smelling. 2 plug points + 1 in the bath.
Soap and Bath towels were not provided - this was the only negative point. And the windows didn't have a mesh to keep out the insects, so we had to keep them closed.
The Food: sorry to disappoint you, it was hot, hygienic and probably very healthy too. But it was not tasty by any standards, no one was having seconds. It seemed to be made in a bit of a hurry, perhaps they were overwhelmed by the number of guests. Food is kannadiga style vegetarian (chappatis at dinner are pre-made and kept in a hotcase). The breakfast the next morning was delayed and really not up to mark. The tea was good, curds were too. I liked the peanut chutney served with the pale and limp excuse for a dosa. Upma devotee - keshav, was visibly upset at how his favorite breakfast was made.
The homestay has backup generators for electricity. There is no room service for food. Evening tea is delivered to the room. It is self service, served and communally eaten in the dinning room. Other than the food, I was happy with everything else. Having to leave your shoes outside is an annoyance.
Our Return Route:
On the way back, we did something silly, we thought of going via Chitradurga to reduce travel time, since NH4 from chitradurga is excellent, and we really like that road.
From Bhadravati we took NH13 to Chitradurga. NEVER EVER should you do this with the intention of reducing travel time. The route was very scenic indeed, and we had ample time to enjoy it, considering our top speed of 20kmph.
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We had lunch at a road side dhaba - Jai Hind Dhaba on NH4, 10 km from Chitradurga towards Tumkur, food was pretty good and filling. There were a lot of sparrows that kept me entertained while we waited for the food. Tea was awesome.
The Impromptu Plan Survival Guide
For an OCD control freak like self, these impromptu trips can be very unsettling. To avoid panic attacks, I remember to pack the following essentials.
We cannot all be Bear Grylls. Some of us need material comforts.
1. Large Fluffy BathTowel - if you've read The Hitchhiker's Guide, you'll know that your towel is an important survival aid out there in the galaxy. Its mighty handy on earth too.
2. Tube of Face wash - soap is messy to carry, face wash can be used as a body-wash.
3. Plastic Bags - to wrap damp towels, clothes, cameras, lenses.
4. Moisturizer and Deodorant
5. Hair care products - Do not scoff at this. I find the modern male is picky on the matter of hair care and will often have as many if not more products than the modern female. Carry only essentials.
6. Breath freshener ( I carry saunf in chewing gum containers - chewing gum is difficult to dispose of )
7. Medication ( for indigestion, avomin, crocin, something for headaches )
8. Traveling toothbrush and small tube of paste
9. Charging cables for mobile phones.
10. Tissue paper
11. Torch and safety pins - never know when you need it ( i also carry a small folding scissor )
If you wear contacts - small case + travel pack of solution, extra pair of lens. Spectacles with Case.
You can also carry some hand sanitizer - I haven't been able to find the right size bottle.
Carry some biscuits and water, they will sustain you while you search for suitable restaurants.
A few weeks ago, while indulging in some deep thinking, K and I concluded that we make very poor use of our time. The thinking went some what as follows: assuming an active working span of say 60yrs (retirement age), it means that we all start off with 60x52=3120 weekends in our accounts. Now minus the weekends that we have already lost due to age. In our case, we are down to 1664. Assume that only every alternate weekend is available for use in the pursuit of "Things you've always wanted to do/ Places you've always wanted to see". ( This is where having multiple hobbies can present a bit of a problem )
That brings us down to 832 (the other weekend is spent in necessary evils like laundry, grocery shopping, work, processing photos of the previous weekend :-) and other commitments ). Suddenly, the humble weekend seems more precious. If your number seems large to you, you may want to get some hobbies.
The gist of the matter ofcourse is to make every day/weekend count, use it well - take up those classes you've always wanted to take, meet the people you've been always meaning to meet, see the nearby places that you've always wanted to see.
Don't waste this weekend lazying about in front of the Tv, there are places to see and people to meet, get going!