Aug 4, 2014, Monday
I always had an affinity to Karnataka. Perhaps it is the joyous childhood memories that continued to amplify my immense love for the state’s unique flavour. Ever since I left the state, I always dreamt of visiting the land of the Kannadigas, and soak myself in its strange yet quintessential charm.
The joy of being deputed to cover the sixth edition of the Dakshin Dare rally was boundless. Not only was I going to be touring the state I adore, but also the scenic hinterland of South Western India. Thus, I was all packed and ready to go on a six-day journey that was bound to be a travel aficionado's delight – from God's own country to the vast swathes of Karnataka en route to Goa!
I set out from Kochi at 8am to board the 11:15am flight to Bangalore. The flight touched Bangalore at 12:15pm. I was then escorted to my place of stay the Lalith Ashok Hotel, Bangalore. The hotel with a star tag seemed rather satisfactory. But not what I could call luxury at its best. Then again, certain pleasures last for such little time. I had the joy of enjoying a rather sumptuous meal at a Pizzeria at the Orion Mall, Bangalore, indulging in a variety of Italian Cuisine including my all time favourite - Lasagne.
The event commenced with many cars roaring their way into the venue. As soon as the event was over, we headed back to hotel. Quite content with excessive cheese and pasta, I chose to have a light dinner with a cousin of mine before I hit the sacks.
Aug 5, 2014, Tuesday
We were scheduled to leave at 3:30 a.m. The hotel staff were gracious to wake us up at 2 a.m. following a repeat session every 10 minutes. At 3a.m., we checked out of our rooms and had treated ourselves to a light continental breakfast before heading out of the city of Bangalore.
By 4 a.m., the press entourage had left the Lalith Ashok Hotel and were preparing ourselves for a journey of a lifetime. After having dozed off for more than an hour, I woke up to the vast expanse of greenery, with a blanket of yellow thrown upon by the sunflower fields of Davanagere in tow.
Our destination was Chitradurga, a hilly township situated in the district and is perhaps one of the many sources of wind energy in the state. The scenic view from the hilltop, the rustic fragrance of the damp soil and pristine charm of inhaling fresh air was priceless. The locale, while was miles away from civilisation, had the best mobile networks I had ever experienced.
We waited for the first leg of the rally to conclude before heading to Apoorva Resorts. This was not a star hotel, but was cozy and simple in its style, service and hospitality. I treated myself to a large bowl of mushroom fried rice and decided to relax at the lobby, enjoying the calm and peaceful environment outside.
Aug 6, 2014, Wednesday
The following morning saw the group of media personnel and racers up by 3:30. After having a rather light breakfast at the hotel, we pushed off to the hills of Aymangalam, situated nearly two hours away from Davangere. Yet another scenic sight, not to mention the cool breeze combined with light drizzles adding to the charm of the hilly region. Interestingly, Northern Karnataka is one of the most popular areas for iron ore extracts.
The area while windy and cool during the monsoons, is rather dry and extremely hot during the summers. We soon set out to Toganagallu, the home of India’s most prestigious steel plant – JSW (Jindal Steel Works). To our pleasant surprise, we were put up at the Hyatt Place situated within the JSW premises.
This luxury hotel did make all of us feel welcomed and special. I chose to treat myself to a sumptuous chicken club sandwhich following which I went for a cycle ride around the hotel. This was something that caught my eye. For not only did the accommodation give us a sense of peace and comfort, it also let us enjoy certain moments to ourselves, even if it meant peddling around the campus of a steel plant. Interesting the wind mills installed in these areas including those located in Chitradurga generated nearly 56,000 MWh of electricity.
Aug 7. 2014, Thursday
We set out at more earthly hour towards the Bhadra Canal, situated half an hour from our hotel. The terrain for the rally appeared rather smooth but the presence of a clear and calm river with green and rocky hills in the background appeared priceless. It was as if nature was depicting the true sense of harmony.
The river Thungabhadra that flows in this part of this part of the country is in fact a Sangam or confluence of rivers Thunga and Bhadra. I also noticed how popular sheep farming was in the area. Not to mention the many bikes whose two-seater designs often catered to three adults. The water was cool and rather pure. All in all, we were delighted by the peace and sense of freedom experienced.
Aug 8, 2014, Friday
Waking up at 4 am was no herculean task at this point of time. After a quick yet sumptuous breakfast of cornflakes, fruits, watermelon juice and muffins, we had left for the first leg of the rally. This time the rally had two separate routes. The first route was situated about 20 kilometres from the Hyatt Place at Bellary while the second route was enroute to Hampi.
The race was exciting, not to mention the ever appealing sight of the sun peeping from the green yet rocky hills as the fog gradually paved way for its rays. We decided to trek all the way up to one of the smaller hills in the vicinity of the track.
The view from the top of the hill was heavenly; ensuring that we had forgotten all about the race, the tiny scars on our arms caused due to the rocks that flew across the pathway during the rally as well as of the infinite tonnes of dust that had settled on our skin.
We had returned to our place of stay by 8:30 am and treated ourselves to another round of breakfast. The left for the second leg of the rally at 9:45am. About 2 hours later, we reached the top of a hill situated roughly 80 km from the historic town of Hampi. This terrian seemed tough for rally drivers, but was a pleasure to those who loved rock climbing and trekking. The team then decided to head towards Hampi for a quick yet fascinating 1 hour peak into some of the oldest architectural works of the country.
Hampi was like a walking into a time machine. Surrounded by fabulous works of architecture, carved with utmost artistic perfection, this ancient capital of the Vijayanagara King – Krishnadevaraya, was unique in many respects. The first piece of art that had caught my eye was the 12 ft long statue of Narasimha (an avatar of Lord Vishnu). The statue was carved out of a single stone and ,like most works of architecture of the period, had many details.
We then proceeded to the Lotus Mahal, which was also the residence of the Queen. Unlike other structures across the area, the structure is made of a mixture of lime mortar and brick. The palace is surrounded by a fort erected for the protection of the queen. The space also housed two watch towers as well as a giant pool. The queen's space is an interesting example of Indo-Islamic architecture.
To begin with, the Lotus Mahal's arches are typical of the Islamic style of architecture while thee multilayer roof and base structure were quintessentially of the Vijayanagara artisans. The dome shaped archways and the balcony resemble a half opened lotus bud. It is a two storied structure with an open base floor with tall arched windows carved on its sidewalls. The floors above have balconies with arched windows. There are hook-like structures on to the walls to hang curtains. The palace premises all saw a uniquely constructed elephant shed. The structure is yet another example of Indo-Islamis architecture with fine carvings on its edges.
We finally headed towards the ultimate work of impeccable craftsmanship – the Vittala temple complex. This temple is dedicated to Vittala (another name of Lord Vishnu). The temple was originally built in the 15th century AD and was modified by the successors of the kingdom. The highlight of Vittala temple is its impressive pillared halls and the stone chariot. The halls are carved with an splendid array of sculptures on giant granite pillars. The stone chariot located inside the campus is almost an iconic structure of Hampi. The temple complex also houses the unique set of musical pillars which produces various sounds including that of the musical instrument Jal Tarang! For those of you who have visited the Suchindram Temple (enroute to Kanyakumari) and the Padmanabhaswamy Temple (in Thiruvananthapuram), this structure could indeed bring back fond memories.
The day concluded with a fascinating group photo session at the stone chariot followed by a sumptuous dinner at the Hyatt Place. Although it was truly a long day, the trip was memorable in many ways.
Aug 9, 2014, Saturday
Just when we were getting used to being pampered, it was time to hit the road again. This time our destination was Goa. We left the Hyatt Place at 4:30 am towards a village situated in Koppal, roughly 120 km from the town of Bellary.
Yet, another wind-mill terrain. The path reminded of an oil painting by a renowned artist; green fields on either sides of the tarred road, with vast patches of glowing yellow sunflower fields. It was as if they were greeting us a pleasant morning and a pleasant morning it was indeed!
As we drove past the villages, scores of children dressed in school uniforms waved and cheered for the convoy that drove up to the windmills. The race had commenced, and so did some showers. While I was drenched in muddy waters and dust, the feeling of seeing the green yet peaceful world outside at a single glance was breath taking. I could have sworn that had it not been a time-bound trip, I would have camped on the hills and relished the fresh air and sense of freedom.
The rally had concluded in full fervour and the finally the convoy moved towards Goa. The team had halted for lunch a place situated in Hubli before driving past the western ghats. To those who have merely heard of Goa, believe me, it is more than the Fenni and beaches. It was a blessing to see how the clouds kiss the hill tops and showers washed pathway.
The cool breeze while refreshing was a pleasure to those who had spent 3 days at one of India's most popular mining zones. After nearly 6 hours on the road, we had reached the Lalit Golf and Spa Resort, Goa. Some of the members of the team visited the beach after a rather quick yet late dinner. While some chose to call it a night and rest while they could. It was a relief to lay in bed without the pressure of being left behind.
Aug 10, 2014, Sunday
The prizes for the rally were distributed by the organisers. The ceremony seemed to be a forum for appreciation in every sense. On the one hand, it acknowledged the participation of passionate drivers from across the nation while on the other, it was an opportunity for us to give ourselves a pat on our backs for having witnessed southern India like nobody else had. As we stepped into our cabs to proceed to the airport, the thoughts of having to bid farewell to some of the most life changing experiences left many of us sad. At the airport, minutes before boarding our flight, all I could tell myself was – I am coming back and I want more.