We love monsoon season and are always ready for a drive to chase rains. Waterfalls, green fields, muddy trails, 2L twisty roads lined with old trees, mist & clouds flittering through pristine forests, swollen rivers and backwaters – all of this makes us want to slow down and meander through the roads/trails, enjoying the cold breeze and the soft touch of rain. The pitter patter of rain on leaves and wet earth is sweet music and if we have a room with a view, don’t need much else. Hence the plan was 6 cars with one goal, drive out to experience monsoon green around the ghats of Karnataka and spend some time together.
The usual travel gang of CSK, SSG, PCR and my family decided to head out to Gundimane, near jog falls, for a couple of nights and we were joined by RajX, TCR and SS. We zeroed in on Gundimane as a) it was located near sharavathi backwaters b) we could have the entire place to ourselves and c) allowed us explore the route to the coast from Jog while we also had the option to drive back up via Honnavara. We decided to head out on Sunday and get back to BLR by Tuesday night so as to avoid crowds as much as possible.
Day 1 – BLR – Gundimane
4.15 am start from JAS toll ensured that we were able to make quick time and reached Sri Meenakshi Bhavan, Shimoga for breakfast at 8.10 am. I exploited cruise control to the maximum on the 4L stretch between Tumkur – Chitradurga, which resulted in a very relaxed drive. After a healthy south Indian breakfast, we headed out towards Sagara as our first stop was Champaka Sarasi near Anandapura circle. Champaka Sarasi is a small temple set in the middle of a pushkarni, surrounded by fields. The road to Champaka Sarasi was SUV territory, hence the XL6 and vRS were parked on the road and all of us hitched a ride to the small temple. We ended up spending close to an hour here, post which we were back on the road towards Talaguppa.
The next stops was paddy fields around Talaguppa, which one can see while driving towards Jog from Sagara. I had a mental note of the location based on previous drives on this route and always wanted to stop here to soak in some green. We did spend a lot of time goofing around and taking a lot of photos of cars, kids and the fields. After a second breakfast of jam & cream buns which we had carried along, we headed towards Gundimane via Kargal chain gate.
The drive to Gundimane was through some twisty and well laid roads, which set the tone for the next 36 hours of the trip. While the RajX and CSK pushed their steeds around the curves, the rest us took our time and enjoyed the drive through the twisty sections. The last 1.8 kms to Gundimane is a mud trail, which even the vRS could easily handle.
We were greeted by the host, Mr. Ganapathy and his family, and were served hot, tasty, home cooked south indian food on plantain leaf. Gundimane is a family owned plantation that borders the reserve forest area that surrounds linganamakki backwaters. While there are no cats around there, the land around gundimane does play host to chital deer and indian gaurs.
The main home where the host lives has 4 guest rooms and there is an hilltop annex that houses 5 guest rooms. The hilltop annex can be reached via steps OR you can drive up to the same via a trail. They do have Jio fiber and their wi-fi speeds are quiet comparable to what I get at home, which would make it a good place to work from . After a sumptuous lunch, we stretched our for a while in our rooms and relaxed awhile before heading out to the Kopparige watch tower.
Kopparige watch tower is a small tower that is build on a hillock close to gundimane and offers breathtaking views of linganamakki backwaters. After a round of hot coffee, we headed out to the watch tower and climbed up the small hillock to enjoy the vista. The forest department guard at the watchtower was quiet surprised to see so many people at once and we had to talk to him for a bit and convince him that we will quietly and quickly make our way up and down.
Rain played hide and seek with us all through the day and while it did not quiet pour down on us, we did enjoy the fine drizzle that accompanied us through the day. At night, it began to pour and the symphony of cicadas was quickly silenced. We sat on the rooftop sit-out in the hilltop annex, enjoying the sound of rainfall on trees and earth. We were completely cut off from busy lights of civilization and we enjoyed the thick blanket of darkness that threated to envelop us in its cold embrace. After a long busy day, we wrapped up dinner quickly and settled down for a few hours of rest as the next day promised to be another enjoyable day.
Day 2 – Drive around the Ghats & Coast
Monday morning, we were greeted once again by intermittent rain. After a sumptuous breakfast of idli-vada, we headed out towards Kargal – Bhatkal road. While 3 cars quickly drove out onto the main road, an issue with one of the cars delayed start for the others by 90 minutes. As there was no mobile network around Gundimane, we were not aware of the problem with the car. Even after we reached Bhatkal highway, we did not get mobile network on Airtel/Vodafone. While frist group of 3 cars slowly wound their way down the twisty sections, wondering where the rest were, the second group was busy working on fixing the issue at Gundimane. We reached turnoff to Bhimeshwara temple and called Mr. Ganapathy, who informed us of the trouble with one of the cars. We were not sure about how this would affect our plans and were mentally prepared to drive back up to Gundimane. Thankfully the issue was sorted and the other cars were headed for Bhimeswara temple.
Located on the Kargal – Bhatkal road, local history attributes the origin of Bhimeshwara temple to the Pandavas. The shivalinga was supposed to have been brought to this place by Bheema and established there by Dharmaraya. Arjuna supposedly shot an arrow into the hills to make water flow down to the temple. Located deep in the mountains of Sharavathy valley, the last 2 kms to this temple is mud road that you can walk or take a jeep. During the monsoon season, the waterfall is a sight to behold and its cold, clear water is enticing. Get here early to enjoy the peace and quiet of the place as even on weekdays, it can get a little crowded at the temple, as there is not a lot of space.
We parked our vehicles on the main road and took the jeep to the temple. Rain had turned the mud trail to slush and the 3 odd kms in the jeep was a memorable experience, to say the least. Since it was a weekday, there was only 1 jeep ferrying people up and down from the temple, which resulted in some delay as some of us had to walk down the trail both ways.
It was 1.30 pm when we got back to our cars and started to drive down towards Bhatkal. The roads to Bhatkal are absolute bliss. Narrow, twisty 2L roads with many sharp corners and sparse traffic. We enjoyed the drive down the hills and as we neared Bhatkal, we stopped at this small flat stretch of grassland for a quick regroup and a photoshoot.
We had zeroed in on Tamara for our lunch stop and we thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food that we were served. After a long lunch break, we headed out towards Apsarkonda view point. Somewhere after Murdeshwara, it started to rain cats and dogs and visiblity reduced to 10 feet. The highway turned into puddles & streams, forcing us to drastically reduce speed and drive cautiously. This rain lasted about 20 min and as we neared apsarakonda, rain turned to a fine mist. We reached the view point parking lot and quickly made our way to the falls, which was roaring away to glory. Kids were promised some beach time and 3 cars headed out to the beach while the others spent some time at the view point. There is no allocated parking space near the beach and the locals directed us to a gate, which was closed. We decided to take a small trail towards the beach and parked our cars, while kids ran out to the sea. After 45 minutes of rain, surf and sand, we decided to have a cup of coffee and start our journey back to gundimane.
Couple of points to note about Apsarakonda beach marked on gmaps:
- Parking is an issue and the govt parking area closes by 5.30 pm. Hence you are forced to park on the narrow road next to the beach. Locals are not too happy about you parking on the narrow roads but we managed because we spoke to them and convinced them that we wont be long.
- The road to apsarakonda beach is very narrow for a 700-800mtr stretch and can barely accommodate 1 car. It’s a cement road with no shoulders, which means there is no space for you to maneuver your car and allow another vehicle to pass you.
After a coffee stop on the highway, we sprinted towards Honnavara at 7.30 pm and quickly turned onto to NH69. Since we were driving post sunset, convoy mode was on with CSK leading and me sweeping. The drive up the ghats was super fun as the roads were well marked, there was hardly any traffic and rain did not play spoil sport. We did run into a dense section of fog after Upponi, which ensured that we slowed down to a crawl at many spots. We managed to reach Gundimane by 9.30 pm and devoured piping hot food that they had prepared for us. After dinner, we relaxed on the hilltop annex sit-out and enjoyed the rain and company well past mindnight, as the next day was a relaxed morning with no plans.
Day 3 – Gundimane – Jog Falls – BLR
Tuesday morning was a lazy start for half of us, while the other half decided to walk to the watch tower and soak in the views. Most of us had decided to stretch our legs and relax at gundimane, while a few decided to head to the backwaters and have some fun.
We had decided to check out after lunch and the plan was to do a quick stop at Jog falls before heading back home. Post lunch check out turned into 3 pm check out and we ended up reaching Jog falls by 4 pm, after photo stops. We had driven to the British bungalow view point and only managed to get a quick look at the falls for a few minutes before it was engulfed in a blanket of fog and rain.
After a quick round of coffee, we started on our way back home at 5.15 pm via Shimoga – Channagiri – Chitradurga. Rain continued to play hide and seek with us and just after Sagara, we ran into some serious bands of rain that continued to pour down on us for about 30 minutes. Just before we entered Shimoga, clouds vanished and we managed a quick fuel stop + bio break at Bhargavi fuels.
The first 12 kms after Shimoga is a narrow 1.5L road with a lot of potholes, which made for an unpleasant drive in the dark. I did get stuck behind busses on a few occasions and over taking them was not easy. The roads get better and easier to drive after that 12 km stretch and we managed to make good time and stopped for dinner at 8.30 pm at Upadhyaya Veg, Chitradurga. After dinner it was a slog home amidst all the truck traffic and we managed to reach home by 12.30 am. Thus ended another awesome monsoons drive through the ghats of Karnataka.
Route and Road Conditions
- BLR – Chitraduraga: Usual 4L roads
- Chitradurga – Channagiri – Shimoga: 90 percent of this stretch is good to great roads except for the last 12 odd kms near shimoga, which is a narrow potholed 2L road
- Shimoga – Sagara – Talaguppa: Good to great 2L roads
- Talaguppa – Kargal Chain gate – Gundimane: Good twisty roads. Last 1.8 kms to Gundimane is mud road which is drivable in any vehicle
- Kargal – Bhatkal: Amazing 2L road with sparse traffic
- Bhatkal – Honnavara: Good 4L road
- Honnavara – Jog Falls: Excellent 2L road that’s a delight to drive on
Points to note
- Mobile network availablity around Gundimane is very patchy. Best bet would be BSNL/Jio
- Gundimane is an only veg homestay – they do not serve Non Veg and are also not open to you bringing Non Veg food onto their premises
- Kargal – Bhatkal stretch again has very patchy mobile network. Download offline maps and keep driving
- Honnavara – Jog Falls route again has sections where there is no mobile network. If you plan to drive on this route after sunset, you might be better off tagging along with another car as most sections are very dark and traffic is again very sparse.
- Talaguppa – Kargal Chain gate is a beautiful drive and offers really good view of linganamakki dam. One could drive down this road and then drive up to Jog, if you are in the mood for some twisties
- Food at Tamara was very good and there is ample parking around the restaurant, as its slightly off the highway. Would definitely recommend non veg fare as folks in the group did enjoy the fish and prawns that they served.
- If you want to visit a beach near honnavara, then Eco beach might be a better bet given the parking issues at Apsarakonda beach. There is no problem with parking space provided at Apsarakonda park/view point.
- View from the road leading to apsarakonda view point is stunning. At the entry to the marine view point, you get a beautiful view of the hills and we did see a lot of cars stop there for a photoshoot.