On the third day of our road trip to south coastal Karnataka, we drove down to Mangalore to visit some relatives for lunch. The drive from Manipal to Mangalore on the National Highway was a beautiful one. The sea is never far away and one can smell the ocean in the air. Throw in swaying coconut palms and the warm humid air and it’s just about perfect!
In the evening, we visited Surathkal beach. And again, it was just about perfect, with extremely clean sands backing on to coconut palms, warm clean water and the sun setting on the horizon. Kids had a blast splashing about in the waves.
It was dark by the time we headed back to the hotel, but it was a good day out.
The second day of our Road Trip to Manipal was a quiet one. We spent a relaxed day taking in a couple of sights around the town.
The first place we visited was the Heritage Village Museum. This is a private initiative of the Hasta Shilpa Trust which is striving to restore and conserve India’s incredible architectural heritage of private homes. They have meticulously reconstructed examples of traditional houses from different parts of the country, some dating back to the 13th Century! We went on a one hour guided tour which was an enlightening experience. Some of the houses have to be seen to be believed. This is a not-to-be-missed attraction while in the region.
We then went to a local hang-out for lunch. Manipal is essentially an University town. Having studies in one (Pune), it was nice to spend time in another, much smaller and more student oriented.
After lunch, we headed to Mannapalla Lake. There was a small children’s play area that the kids enjoyed playing in before we took a walk around the lake. The sun setting over the lake was a beautiful way to end the day.
We decided to take a end of year road trip to Manipal in Dakshin Kannada district of Karnataka. This is not a typical tourist destination for people from Bangalore, but we wanted to head somewhere warm and not too crowded. It turned out to be a good break.
I had hired a car for the trip and we left early in the morning from Bangalore. The route we took was via Hassan, Mudigere, Kalasa, Kudremukh and Karkala. We made good time in the morning and halted for breakfast at Anagha Grand Restaurant a little before Hassan. The food was excellent, the tables were socially distanced and the toilets were clean.
After a refreshing halt, we continued on our drive towards Kudremukh National Park. Along the way, we took out next halt at Gumminkad cafe, a little before Kalasa. The place was clean, bright with stupendous views out the back towards the rolling hills and tea estates of the region. We purchased some local food items and drank some refreshing juices before proceeding on the next leg of our journey.
The drive through Kudremukh National Park was simply brilliant. Kilometre after kilometre of a winding road alternating between dense forests that even the sunlight could not penetrate and open grassland ‘Shola’ forests – this is one of the jewels of the Western Ghats. All of us enjoyed the drive tremendously.
We finally exited the ghats and hit Karkala where we took the turn towards Manipal. The last leg of the journey was uneventful and we reached out hotel, The Country Inn and Suites by Radisson at around half past four.
If you were to ask tourists to India to name their greatest sights, or the one that they would like to visit, the chances of anyone saying ‘Ajanta‘ or ‘Ellora‘ are remote. In fact, I would argue that most Indian tourists themselves might not have it high on their bucket list. And that is a shame, for I believe that these are the greatest treasures in India.
I admit that there are lots of places in India that I am yet to see, but the caves at Ajanta (and Ellora) were easily the most awe-inspiring and moving sights of all the places that I have visited. The mind boggles to think that some of these caves were excavated, carved and painted over 2,000 years ago! They should rank high on the list of must-visit sights in India and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen them.
For people who would like to read and know more of these stupendous sights in Western India, here are a few resources that I came across recently:
The Life and Times of Walter Spink – Walter Spink was an American researcher and professor, who dedicated over 60 years of his life to the study of the Ajanta Caves. This page provides details of his work. There is also an excellent film on the same site.
It was 14 years ago, somewhere around this date, that my wife and I visited Ladakh. It had always been on my bucket-list, so I was looking forward to the trip, and it did not disappoint. It’s a place that’s like no other in India.
Back then, it was not a very popular place with Indian tourists. We visited ‘off-season’ and, if my memory serves me right, there were more foreign tourists than Indian ones. I have not been back since, but I am sure the situation would be different now – the place has featured prominently in blockbuster Hindi movies, and the Manali to Leh road is the go-to road trip for adventurous bikers and drivers.
For people who would like to know more about this fascinating corner of the world, here are a few articles and videos that I recently came across that you might enjoy perusing:
Ronnie & Barty’s vlogs – Ronnie & Barty are a couple who traded their big city life for a life in the mountains. They have a background in media and it shows in the quality of their vlogs. There are a couple of superb playlists worth viewing:
Soul Trails – documents an overland trip from Manali to Leh