Saturday, November 02, 2013

Why this Kolaveri Di - Kolavara Homestay, Sringeri, Tirthahalli and Kollur


It has been a long pending plan of me to visit the Malnad area of Karnataka. The plan got postponed for quite a while, and it happened finally in Oct 2013. While searching for places to visit in Malnad, I had come across few stay options. They were mostly homestays, since there were only very few or no hotels in some places. The places to visit included Tirthahalli, Sringeri and the towns around them.

The plot

This October I decided to go there for few days. The plan was to drive to to Tirthahalli, spend couple of days there, visit Kollur Mookambika Devi temple and return to Bangalore. I wanted to spend 2 lazy days in Tirthahalli just to cut-off from the daily hectic routine, and then visit the temple.

Shortlisted Kolavara homestay for stay in Tirthahalli. Did the bookings by calling them and confirming availability, and later on transferring an advance amount. I did not want to do any advance booking at Kollur since I will be reaching there on a Monday and rooms should be available since it is a weekday.

Day 01: 26 October 2013

We were 4 adults (me, my wife and my parents) and my daughter Samyuktha who is just 14 months old. The plan was to start by 0400, and reach Tirthahali by lunch time. Started finally around 0430 from Bangalore, passed Yeshwantpur in 30 min and Tumkur in about another 1 hour. Traffic was there but relatively less. Took the Tumkur bye-pass to take the road to Gubbi, Tiptur, Arsikere and Bhadravathi.

The break

We broke at around 0800 before reaching Arsikere to have our packed breakfast. We were carrying idlis and chutney for breakfast. I was lucky enough to find a place with a seat and toilet to break for food. This seemed like a new shop in the making. The roads  were good throughout except the Tumkur bye-pass which is about 7-8 kms.

There seemed to be a small play area in the making, as we could see a couple of swings. Samyu enjoyed the swing and was reluctant to come out from it. We all had idlis, and fed Samyu as well. The total break was about 30-40 mins and continued our journey towards Bhadra dam.

Bhadra Dam

We wanted to visit Bhadra dam as well to see the place where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar meditated for 10 days in 1982 after which he conceived Sudarshan Kriya. This spot is next to the dam, attached to the Tourist Banglow. We reached the place in about an hour after taking a detour from the highway. We could take the car up to a certain point to one end of the dam. We could not enter the dam since we did not have prior permission. We walked towards the Tourist Banglow, but to our disappointment we found this to be locked. Nobody seemed to be there.

We waited for few min, and then 2 fellows came in a scooter, who looked like the caretakers of this place. When I checked with them on entering the premises, they denied, saying that we need prior permission to enter. This permission has to be got from the Bhadra Project office which is about 3 km away. We taking permission meant another 1 hour delay here (time to go and come back with permission, and visiting this place again will take away 1 hour minimum). So we decided against it and started off to our next destination - Tirthahalli.

Bhadra Dam to Kolavara

Here, while driving from Bhadra dam to Tirthahally, I could have done a clever thing, which I thought about. But decided against it since it was risky, being with a family. There is a road which you could take to Koppa via. Narasimharajapura from Bhadra dam. You need not touch Shimoga to reach Tirthahalli in that case, and can cut down on travel time. This could have saved about 20 kms. But I did not take this route since I was not sure about the road conditions. If the road condition was bad, it would have been pretty difficult to drive with family. So I decided to take the more safer Shimoga route. Below is the route which I could have taken (in Blue) and the route which I took (in red).

The roads were good throughout. Took the Shimoga bye-pass and entered the road to Tirthahalli. The road surface is too good and drive was cool. The only drawback is that there are no good break points in between.  Folks inside were getting impatient since we did not break anywhere else for a tea or coffee. So after taking the right from Tirthahalli I stopped at a small shop where we all had tea, bajji and biscuts. This seemed to pacify them a bit.

Meanwhile I asked for directions to the homestay and they guided me properly. But I overlooked one point and hence lost my way taking a wrong right wandering off about 7 kms. Finally called them again and got the correct update. Finally reached there by around 1430 hours. All of us were tired and were hungry as well. We had lunch and went to the rooms allotted to us.

Kolavara Heritage

This heritage homestay is located off Tirthahalli - Koppa route, about 7 kms from the main highway. Kolavara is the name of their family, which is now the name of the village. So you might see sign boards in Kannada towards this place but nothing in English. There are no boards put by the family for the homestay on the way apart from the few boards which are there once you are really close to the homestay.

Once you reach there it is so silent, serene and calm. There are no houses nearby, and you are amidst a plantation. The house is maintained well, and tastefully done with antique furniture and curios. There is a huge central courtyard which houses a tulsi plant in the middle which adds to the serrenity. There are lounge spaces on 2 sides of this courtyard. One side is the main part of the house which the family uses, and the other side has the rooms where the guests are housed.

We arrived for lunch at Kolavara and was greeted by the owner of the homestay along with his son, who currently manages the plantation and homestay. They ensured that we felt at home right from the moment we stepped out. We were taken to the dining area which is big and is adjacent to the house. It is open, clean and has some entertainment options like tv, carrom and newspapers. The lunch was buffet style with fixed menu. Food was authentic, malnad cuisine, and healthy. We are vegetarians and hence cannot comment on their non-veg fare. But I think that should also be good.

After food we went to our rooms, got freshened up and rested for a while. We did not have any plans for an outing that day. So we wanted to go slow, enjoy the surroundings and roam around for a while. We had coffee by around 1730 and it was already getting dark in that area. We spoke to the owner to understand about this locality. It was so nice to be away from the city, with no phone calls, no tv, no access to internet, not much unwanted thoughts.

My wife and I played a game of table tennis, and carrom. Dinner was ready by around 2000 hours which was again buffet style. Food was of same, high quality, served generously. It was interesting to note that they had provided some innovative and interesting desserts using brown bread and white bread. Later on we came to know that it is the owner's wife who manages the show in kitchen with her helpers. She is also interested in flori-culture and gardening which was very evident with the landscaped surfaces, bonsai and orchids of different varieties displayed across the compound. We were even invited to do wine tasting - the wines prepared by the owner's wife again. They had some interesting wines - banana wine, arecanut wife, and the usual grape wine. It seems she had even prepared jack-fruit wine earlier, but that was not available now. Had dinner and roamed around the property for a while doing chit-chat and finally went to sleep at around 2200 hours.

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