We all believe that if we begin the New Year with something it will follow us like karma for the rest of the year. January is the month where gyms register the highest footfalls and the maximum amount of optimism, adrenalin & sweat. We too started this year with a road trip in the hope that our trail into 2014 will be full of hikes, treks and travels, both close and afar. Gopalaswamy Betta (betta = hill in Kannada), located in the Chamarajanagar district in the Bandipur National Park is the highest peak in Karnataka at a height of 1450m. We drove 280 kms from Bangalore in the hope of spotting some wildlife & burning a few calories with a trek through the golden flatlands of Bandipur.
But as Henri Frederic Amiel puts it, “Destiny has two ways of crushing us – by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them.” In our case, destiny and a certain blog crushed our first wish for 2014 and fulfilled my wish of creating poetry (of the worst kind).
What a shitty start to New Years Yo!
We did not dress up for the disco, neither did we jump with joy at midnight
We slept early & woke up at first light.
Drove 500 kms to Gopalaswamy Hill in Bandipur
The closed trekking routes filled us with anger!
So next time you want to take a risk like this.
Talk to a fellow trekker or your New Year’s Day will be a bucket of piss!
Ok, ok you are either cringing or burying your head in a pillow, if you are in the habit of carrying your pillow everywhere. So I am going to exit and present to you the first guest post on Chai Around The World. Meet Nitin, my brother-in-law who was dragged into this trip by Nikhil and me. The poor fellow just wanted to sleep and curl up with a book at home but we bestowed on him one of the worst beginnings to a new year ever:
Guest Post. By Nitin Kumar.
It was cold. Not the elements of nature outside but the way they had me sleep on the couch while they themselves slept, spread-eagled, on the bed. The damn weather was cold too. But I took it with a pinch of asafoetida, like the expression goes, what with it being the first day of the New Year and all, because WE WERE GOING ON A ROAD TRIP!
Nikhil, Mansi and I were off to Gopalaswamy Betta, in the family car. It was a tough competition between Coorg, Munnar and Gopalaswamy Betta but the place with the longest name won in the end. Nikhil was moved by a blog he found online which had a post about the place with pretty pictures in it. He convinced us both that GB was the place to be at on the first day of 2014. Not Coorg. Not Munnar. GB. We agreed because, quite honestly, we used to love Nikhil. Yes. Past tense..
The ride to GB was memorable because of the following events:
1) The speed breakers were just nasty. It seemed like the road humps got together, humped each other and popped out bastard speed breakers all over the place. It was real nasty.
2) Mansi had Maddur Vada for the first time and it was delightful to take her to the Kumar boys’ childhood haunt – Maddur Tiffany’s! Oh those glorious, deep fried discs of bliss! It was so nice to watch her nibble on it like a happy squirrel!
3) I drove the car (I normally don’t, so it was a big deal for me) and got shouted at by Nikhil for stalling on those horrible speed-breaker bastards!
4) We discovered a clean, sterile loo for all our loo-ing needs in the middle of nowhere – Columbia Asia, Mysore!
The journey up to the Betta (Hill) was really beautiful. Every hair-pin curve took us higher and got us better, lovelier views of the fields below. The hill looked like a giant rock that had gathered moss. A thick coat of foliage was wrapped around it and gently tapered down to the fields below. It was a stunning view and like all city dwellers, we were loving the wide open and the low horizon. Our minds felt like caged giants suddenly set free to spread their arms and breathe in deep. The ride up to the Betta, alone, was worth the ride in my books.
Some facts for the fellow traveler:
1) it’s hard to get lost en route. Just follow the road signs and you will be fine
2) The last three kilometers to the foot of the hill, where the check post is, has bad stretches of road, narrow and crumbly. Be careful
3) The check post is a badly organized affair. A member of your party has to get out of the vehicle, walk up to the office, pay the fee and grab the tickets. A toll booth is needed very urgently there.
4) You are given an hour and a half to ‘enjoy’ the Betta up there and be back on the road…very pimp-y behavior.
And when you reach the top, things start falling apart:
The Overflowing Petridish
We felt like we were 3 chubby bacteria in a Petridish witnessing the uncontrolled multiplication of other bacteria. The swarm of tourists kept ballooning out of nowhere. The sheer number of vehicles at the top of the peak made us forget the serenity of the place and forced us to behave like the crazy, space-hungry motorists on the roads of Bangalore – honking at everything that moved and narrowly balancing our vehicles on inches of free space on the road, while trying our best to run down as many people as possible.
The Forbidden Fruit
The beautiful rolling hills and valleys were unfortunately to be admired from afar. This vital bit of information was somehow missed by Nikhil. Mansi does not take kindly to such fools. After giving Nikhil a earful, she ‘rebelled’ against the ‘cruel’, lathi-wielding, adventure-not-allowing guards by crossing over to the ‘forbidden’ zone, albeit a foot, to take a snap. This only infuriated the guard who waved his lathi in the air and whistled away at her. Mansi would give us looks that suggested, “If only I had married a Jat… sigh… he would wrestle the guard and earn the right to enter the forbidden zone. Like Jat men do at tourist spots. Alas, I am stuck here with two idlis.”
We understood Mansi’s disappointment but if there is one thing Nikhil and I know, it’s that one never messes with a pot-bellied, lathi-carrying man-guard! Those bastards are a whole new level of crazy.
The Forbidden Meal
We escaped the betta after spending just 20 minutes of trying to sneak through barricades into the wild. The drive down took us more than an hour, as we were stuck behind a seemingly endless line of buses, cars, trucks and two-wheelers. Frustrated, hungry and hot, we decided to stop at Mysore for lunch. It was 3 in the afternoon and we headed with vengeance towards living another childhood dream at Hotel Dasprakash – a fairly well-known South Indian restaurant. But it was shut after the official lunch timing, We were about an hour too late. Trying really hard to retain our composure, we walked over to the classic Andhra-style restaurant – RRR and were thrown out by the mass of humanity that was feasting there and waiting to feast. By now, we were trudging the dangerous limits of hunger and irritation and hence ended up having a tasteless, rancid meal at a tiny hole-in-the-wall that boasted questionable hygiene.
We finally made it back to Bangalore late in the evening and decided that we still deserve another shot at happiness – cheese! We believe in the adage, “When all else fails, eat cheese.”
We stopped at Hot Oven, a quaint little café in Vijaynagar where we devoured a variety of dishes covered in cheese, with generous dollops of cheese on the side.
Our spirits were up again and we said “Cheese!” for the first time on the first day of 2014.