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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 2: The Dodda Mane Hospitality

This blog is dedicated to a lady we were fortunate enough to meet in Agumbe, one who must ideally be conferred with the greatest of the civilian honors in the country for what she has been inspiring for years now, personifying "Atithi Devo Bhava". Read on for more...

So, there we were, at the Agumbe bus stop, needing to inquire about reaching the three waterfalls in and around the town (theoretical knowledge from reading multiple travel blogs) - Jogi Gundi, Barkana Falls, and Onake Abbi Falls. We found the "Mallya Residency" - a small lodge that I had read about in one of the blogs as a possible place to stay, and as we looked around in vain for a few minutes for the owner, we also got to know from the passers by that the falls we were after were all in a radius of 10 kms from the town. There were also an unusual number of policemen around, that being the Independence Day, presumably for the early morning flag hoisting.

Thomas was quite thrilled about the fact that Agumbe was the place where most of the now legendary Doordarshan Serial "Malgudi Days" was shot - this despite having never watched the serial himself - and was reminding us, the Kannada speaking folks, Karthik and myself, to check with the locals about this large old fashioned house called "Dodda Mane" which played host to all the episodes of "Swami and Friends" and a few more. I had also read about this place and the fact that they offer a home stay there, but was sure that we won't get any chance to stay there as we hadn't told them beforehand.

But we decided to check out the place in any case, and there it was, in the main street itself, covering itself with tarpaulin to overcome the sprinklings from the incessant rain. We captured some photos to remember the place, and thought of asking them if they can help us about a possible overnight stay and with directions to the waterfalls. Within next ten minutes, rest of the day was fixed for us, thanks to "Kasturi Akka" and her amazing family who own the Dodda Mane.

They conducted themselves as though they were expecting us all the while and treated us with great hospitality and care, told us that we could stay on for a day even though we had not informed them beforehand, this despite having quite a few guests in the house that day and expecting a lot more on the coming two days. The ever smiling Kasturi Akka, as people address her, the old lady who is the chief of the house, just asked our names once and addressed us individually with our names unfailingly every single time for the rest of the day. She spoke to Anurag in her Hindi and English, Thomas in whatever little Malayalam she could muster up, and in Kannada with Karthik and myself, although her mother tongue is Konkani. She is very comfortable in many languages, and her smile, caring attitude and talkative nature replenished us with new energy, even as she treated us with great breakfast of sweet and sour forms of Dosa, a mixture of Avalakki (flattened rice / Poha) and Jaggery, and the healthy Malnad Kashaya (a drink prepared out of 29 different spices and Ayurvedic ingredients). 

We had our afternoon lunch at their place too, in between the trips to the waterfalls and the hills. She took personal care and served all the food items herself, despite her failing health of late. The lunch was a typical Karnataka Western Ghats preparation - sumptuous, healthy and very tasty! Her family members were not to be left behind in this great spell of hospitality, as they arranged for our trips to the falls, which I'll talk about in the next part of the blog. They also ensured that we felt at home in every step of the way. Kasturi Akka (or should I say Kasturi Ajji in respect of her stature and age?) and her family have been looking after visitors to the town of Agumbe for over 35 years now, without any expectation of favors, and it is this selfless motherly care that has typified the "Guest is God" saying we have in this land.

Hats off to them again, and here are a few more clicks from Dodda Mane premises:

Karthik tries his hand with dumbbells at Dodda Mane

The old fashioned "Thotti Mane" from inside - splashed with rains

Kids perform march past on occasion of the Independence day, braving heavy rains

Us, before embarking on the first waterfalls journey from Dodda Mane

And here is a video I came across, of Dodda Mane and Kasturi Akka:

Friday, 23 August 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 1: The Totally Unplanned Trip

When we thought of taking a day off and plan a long weekend getaway around the Independence Day holiday this year, we had no clarity on where exactly to go, how to go, and who all would join. Thomas had expressed his idea of going to Jog Falls about a fortnight back. I too had not visited Jog, so was thinking on the same lines. Of course, this would be the ideal time of the year to visit Jog, and we had received good rains this year too. Anurag had his eyes set on Pondicherry, Jog, Alleppey boat race and what not. I had complicated matters by calling up my long time friend Karthik to check if he could join an unplanned trip just two days before we had to set off. He had to choose between this "adventure" and a well planned trek, and he chose the latter. But as luck would have it, the trek got cancelled and he said he could join our trip. Anurag and Thomas could not convince any of their other friends to join, and there, with less than 24 hours to go, we could book a bus trip to Shivamogga, an overnight journey starting Wednesday night and reaching there early morning on Thursday, 15th of August, 2013.

We had our options well and truly open, with so many places around Shivamogga in the list, and we thought of taking "run-time decisions" in true software professionals' approach. The whole of Wednesday it was raining heavily in Bangalore, even till we boarded the bus in heavy traffic jams. And we were travelling without any plans to the rainiest parts of Karnataka. Good start to the adventure.

Just before the bus started, we all came to a conclusion that we would get down at Shivamogga the next morning and head towards Agumbe - the "Cherrapunji of the South" - the place that receives highest amount of rainfall in Karnataka, in Western Ghats and in Southern India. This decision was driven by the fact that many people would have started towards the more attractive Jog Falls directly from Bangalore the same day, and we wanted to avoid that crowd and go there a day later.

We got a bus to Agumbe as soon as we got down in Shivamogga at 5:30 am the next day, and we were off on a picturesque trip that took us there by 8 in the morning. We stood there, in the small town of Agumbe, getting drenched in the rain that followed us every step of the way for the next two and a half days, with no information on how to proceed, although we knew we had to trek to a couple of waterfalls nearby. First thing to do was to inquire among locals about those places, and we set off to do exactly the same.

Up next: The Visit to "Dodda Mane" and meeting "Kasturi Akka"

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Exploring Around Shivamogga

The Independence Day holiday on Thursday this year meant that we could plan a four day getaway trip, and although we left it too late to plan it, a thought of going on a completely unplanned trip brought a sense of adventure to it. We, Anurag, Thomas, Karthik and I, had a great time in the three and a half day sojourn to different places in the district of Shivamogga, Karnataka. Some breathtaking, humbling, and indeed very enjoyable experiences followed, which I hopefully would be able to share in a set of blogs over the next fortnight or so. Here's how the blog post plan looks, indicating the different places we visited:

Part 5: Kundadri Hill greenery and the Jain Temple:

Here is a sneak preview: