Saturday, September 1, 2007

Vitla - Mudbidri - Karkala - Mumbai

Once potholed twice shy! For the return drive to Mumbai, decided to take the much heard of scenic route via Moodbidri, Karkala, Agumbe and onwards to Shivamoga, Harihar, Hubli and back onto the comforts of NH4.
Set out from Vitla at 0630hrs for Moodbidri where we wanted to visit the Thousand Pillars temple. Covered the distance of 46kms in an hour on one and a half laned roads with hardly any traffic for company. Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani (also known as Thousand Pillars temple) basadi (temple) is the largest and the most ornate of the Jain temples of this region. Moodbidri is described as the 'Jaina Kashi'.
Built in 1430 A.D. at the instance of Devaraya Wodeyar of Nagamangala of the Mangalore kingdom, the basadi enshrines a panchaloha (5 metals) idol of Lord Chandraprabha, the eighth Thirthankara. The entrance to the temple is imposing, giving one an idea of the awe inspiring structures inside. There were barely any people inside. Just a couple of guys sitting and possibly discussing philosophy. But pillars , yes, there were plenty!
One thousand of them. I didn't venture to count though as I trusted what was posted. Entry in the sanctum sanctorum was restricted to Jains. There was a board restricting entry and we had to satisfy ourselves by squinting in the darkness at the idol inside and pay our respects from a distance.
Then we did a parikrama of the temple appreciating the amount of effort that must have gone in erecting the one thousand pillars for this wondrous temple. Had also read somewhere that no two pillars are alike! Amazing. Now we were ready to face the Gomateshwara in Karkala which was a mere 25kms away. Again very decent roads helped us cover the distance in 25kms.
The 42feet high monolith is situated on the top of a hill. Fortunately the weather was very pleasant and we climbed up the steps, admired the Gomateshwara and came down appreciating the views, all in 30minutes flat!
Then on to Agumbe! Had read and heard so much about these fearful ghats (a dozen hairpin bends coupled with Naxal threats) that we were quite excited at what lay in store.
Thankfully, did the ghats in relative comfort and crossed Agumbe into a bamboo forest on our way to Tirthahalli where we had our breakfast - some delicious vada sambar and masala dosas followed by filter coffee - heavenly!
All along, the roads were very decent and the traffic sparse. Surprisingly did not encounter much of cattle and human traffic either. Just before reaching Shivamoga, at Harakere saw this wonderful Shiva statue. Don't know why it was built. But there.
Having entered Shivamoga, could not figure how to get out to Harihar. Were told that we would have to take some diversion due rain-ruined roads. Spotted a couple of elderly souls waiting to cross the road and asked them for directions. While one of them started giving directions, another asked whether they could accompany us to the spot from where it would be one straight road to Harihar?! 'Of course Sirs, Please get right in!' One of them, Mr.Narayan, was a music teacher running a music school in Shivamoga since years and entertained guests like Pandit Jasraj and other famed musicians at the school while the other gentleman was a retired Physics professor. Shortly we reached the spot where they got off and bid us farewell wishing us bon voyage and thanking us for having given them a 'lift'! Told them we were extremely grateful for their kindness and prayed 'may their tribe increase'.
Had an uneventful but a thoroughly enjoyable drive to the highway and then on NH4 right upto Belgaum. Since it was almost 1800hrs, and the sky was getting overcast, decide to spend the night in Belgaum. Did so in Hotel Ramdev International - very decent,clean and efficient Hotel with reasonably good food too - all at very very knock down prices! Set out from Belgaum at 0700hrs, had an energizing drive to Lonavala where we stopped for a vadapau lunch at Datta Snacks on the Expressway. Around 1430hrs got back onto the road and soon the rains hit us with a ferocity that can be seen and felt only on mountainous terrain. Visibility was down to maybe a hundred feet at the most. Sheets of rain wrapping all in sight and the wind howling to make us crawl in awe on the expressway! And it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared leaving behind gleaming wet tarmac and glistening greenery all around. Beautiful!
A perfect way to end our journey back in Mumbai to the daily grind! Distances Vitla-Shivamoga - 208kms Shivamoga - Belgaum - 313kms Belgaum - Mumbai - 485kms Total - 1006kms Car - Indica V2 DLS TC