COORG ROAD TRIP, KARNATAKA
Nestled amid ageless hills that line the southernmost edge of Karnataka is the luscious region of Coorg, gifted with emerald landscapes and superb back roads that run through the scenery. This is an experience that few roadies are ever likely to forget. A major centre for coffee and spice production, Coorg’s rural expanse is home to acres of leafy plantations, which radiate from the town of Madikeri in all directions. The only way to get around the region is by rolling down a network of narrow roads which form a curious maze of access, often being interconnected with each other. Needless to say, it’s great fun trying to find your way through these arteries, drifting past entire mini forests of coffee, areca, pepper, cardamom, vanilla and other assorted spices in the process.
Best time to go: throughout the year
Road: deluxe AC buses run daily from Bengaluru to Madikeri, the main town in the Coorg region, stopping in Mysore en route. The total journey time is about 6hrs. If you are driving from Bengaluru, it’s a 260-km, 6hr drive on generally good roads, but remember that the tarmac gets narrow after Mysore, and begins to climb through hilly terrain once you approach Coorg.
ANGLING AROUND MYSORE, KARNATAKA
Adventures of the piscean kind is the mantra in the forests east of Mysore, where the Cauvery flows through a virginal landscape blessed with nature’s bounties. Imagine tussling with a 40kg mahseer at the other end of your fishing line! Don’t be fooled by the apparent lack of action in angling, which mostly seems like a lazy boat ride out on the waters with a fishing rod in hand. Veterans anglers will tell you that there are few other experiences in the outdoors that give you a greater adrenaline rush than a giant fish battling it out with you even while being hooked to the fishing line.
Best time to go: November–March
Road: the camps of Bheemeshwari and Galibore are located about 50km east of Mysore, and can be accessed by taking the old highway no. 209 leading from Mysore to Bengaluru via Malavalli (you can also access the camps from Bengaluru, in which case the distance is around 100km). Coming from Mysore, you have to cross Malavalli and then turn right at Halaguru, taking the road leading into the Basavana Betta forest. Bheemeshwari is 20 minutes down this road – for Galibore, you have to go another 30 minutes on a rough road.
ADVENTURES IN HAMPI, KARNATAKA
Hampi’s ruins of over 20 elaborate temples and innumerable other smaller structures are scattered over a boulder-strewn topography, dissected by the Tungabhadra River. From rocky thrills to watery delights, this place has it all. The most popular (and fairly easy) adventure activity in Hampi is the dawn trek to the summit of Matanga Parvath, a giant rocky outcrop standing at the end of Hampi’s main bazaar area. The climb takes about 30min, and is best started about an hour before sunrise so that you’re up on the summit to catch the sun’s first rays striking the sublimely beautiful landscape. The 570-step hike up Anajanadri Hill in Anegundi (Hampi’s neighbouring village) is another popular activity, though it’s a lot more exhausting than it sounds. On the mountaintop, you can visit the Hanuman Temple, meet resident monkeys and chillum-puffing sadhus and savour fine views of the rugged terrain all around.
Best time to go: October–February
Road: Hampi can be accessed from different points along NH7 running from Bengaluru to Hyderabad (in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh). Both cities have regular overnight buses to the town of Hospet, located about 13km from Hampi – take an autorickshaw to get there in about 30min.
Rail: the 16592 Hampi Express is one of the most convenient trains connecting Hospet to Bengaluru. It departs Bengaluru at 10pm and arrives in Hospet at 7.40am (9hrs 40min).
SURFING IN GOKARNA, KARNATAKA
Indulge in some Baywatch-style action on the crashing waves along Gokarna’s beautiful coastline, and learn the basics of what is clearly the newest adventure sport to hit India’s shores.
Until a few years ago, surfing was virtually unheard of in India. Most concluded it was a sport best enjoyed on foreign shores, and that the Indian coastline didn’t boast waves that were good to ride on. Well, they were wrong. In recent times, surfing as an organised activity has caught on with aquatic adventure seekers, and Gokarna is one of the many places in India where the sport has made a mark.
Best time to go: October–May
Air: Dabolim Airport near Panjim in Goa is connected to all major Indian metros by daily flights. From Dabolim, there are taxis available to whisk you away to Gokarna, roughly 150km south of Panjim along the coastline. Expect to pay around INR 3500 for a drop – the price can vary from season to season. Journey time is about 3hrs.
ADVENTURES IN WAYANAD, KERALA
Wayanad’s awesome landscape combines mountain scenery, rice paddies, skinny betel nut trees, bamboo, red earth, spiky ginger fields and plantations of rubber, cardamom and coffee. With easy access from Mysore and Bengaluru (in Karnataka), it’s still fantastically unspoilt and satisfyingly remote.
Ask any Malayalee what the prettiest part of their state is, and most will whisper Wayanad. Encompassing part of a remote forest reserve that spills into the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, this 345 sq km sanctuary has two separate pockets – Muthanga in the east bordering Tamil Nadu and Tholpetty in the north bordering Karnataka. Three main towns in the district make good bases for travellers and double as transport hubs for exploring the sanctuary – Kalpetta in the south, Sultanbatheri in the east and Mananthavadi in the northwest – though the best of the accommodations are scattered throughout the region. Most hotels and homestays can arrange guided tours for you around various parts of the sanctuary (7am and 3pm).
Best time to go: October–April
Road: deluxe AC Volvo buses run daily from Bengaluru to Mysore (journey time 3hrs). There are at least two daily buses connecting Mysore to Mananthavadi in Wayanad (journey time 3hrs). There are frequent buses between Mananthavadi, Kalpetta and Sultanbatheri, the three local hubs in Wayanad. You can also hire jeeps or taxis to get between towns for about INR 700 each way, or hire a dedicated vehicle for a longer multi-day tour (INR 2000 per day).