Leaving on a Friday morning, we drove past bright green fields bursting with vegetables and paddy and impossibly symmetric rows of arecanut palms. The water bodies were full thanks to the bountiful rains that ensured we made, even more pit stops, to admire them than on our usual trips whether it was to sit by a calm pond or stop by a bridge to watch and listen to the gushing water flow under it. Even the tree lined roads are scenic in the most alluring way. We noticed saris used for bordering the fields at many points on our way and were intrigued by them. And thus, we reached Shimoga just in time for lunch one fine August day. We decided to start off with the Kavaledurga fort. On the way we gave a lift to a very old lady who wanted to reach the nearby village to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with her family. She solved the puzzle of the saris and explained to us that they were used to keep pigs away from the fields!
Note: Maps shows 2 locations mapped to Kavaledurga fort, take the one that says Kavaledurga fort in Kavaledurga not the one mapped to Shimoga.
After the explanation above, it’s needless to say we reached the wrong one first.
With a sigh, we headed to the next spot- Mandagadde Bird Sanctuary. Now bird sanctuaries are notorious for not having any birds during most of our visits except during winter when they are seen in plenty. So with very low expectations, we headed that way, and just before seeing the board towards it I let out a gasp! The scene was splendid…trees amidst the water with every branch filled with egrets and cormorants. As it turned out we had landed on the right season for this view. We spent some time with the other people who had stopped by, watching the noisy young ones being fed by the older birds, birds swooping into the water for their meals or just chilling in the sunlight.
Note: It is not a huge area but just a viewpoint from the road itself so while you could spend time watching the beauties like we did, do not expect a large area to walk within. It is very easy to miss since it’s a small board by the side and the viewpoint is behind a moss-covered structure by the road. Nevertheless, it’s a view that’ll make your heart happy.
The next nearest place was the Sakrebylu Elephant camp and the Gajanur dam of which the former was closed.
To be honest, the dam is really not the highlight. What’s truly surreal is the sight of its stunning backwaters. Tree trunks stripped of their leaves upright in the calm river, and twigs in all directions perfectly reflected in the water make for a haunting scene you’d never want to leave. The Gajanur dam itself is a pit stop to watch the water and eat some delicious hot corn on the cob with a mild drizzle for company.
Since it was a long weekend and the whole of Bangalore had landed in Shimoga, we only found a shady looking lodge by the highway that turned out to be cleaner, significantly cheaper and better equipped than many others we’d stayed in. Shimoga is truly an excellent place if you’re travelling on a budget- especially for the stay. Just leave your popular sites (that all showed “sold out”)and head to the not-so-popular sites to find places to check out yourself before making the payment.
The next morning we headed straight to the most time-sensitive of the places- Sakrebylu Elephant camp, but not before passing by more fields in brilliant greens that do not require photo editing software.
Note: Its hours of operation are 8:30 Am – 11:30 AM. Do reach as early as you can to make the most of watching the pachyderms.
Amidst the backwaters, it’s a delightful spot to watch the elephants being bathed while they play in the water.
We picked a baby elephant to watch who was an adorable bundle of clumsiness – what with him unsuccessfully trying to pull out some grass with his plump trunk. Even standing in the drizzle was completely worth it to witness his antics.
Note: They do have boat rides, elephant rides, being allowed to bathe elephants at a charge but all of them are suspended during the rains. So do not promise your kids any of these like a parent had unfortunately done, much to the annoyance of his child who immediately threw a tantrum! I’d rather go during this time though, since otherwise like we saw in the Dubare sanctuary, the close interactions with humans only leads to more pain for the elephants.
From there we went to Sri Siddi Vinayaka Temple, Chibbalgudde. From appearances outside and even within the temple, it’s quite non-descript. However, most of its beauty lies just behind the temple that faces the beautiful river Tunga bursting at her seam. The river was full and rushing ahead even drowning out the seats on the bank for people to sit and watch the river go by. However in summer, one could feed the fish that crowd at the steps of the temple, being used to devotees feeding them. It is also officially a matsyadhama /fish sanctuary with notices not to harm the fish in the water. It’s a spot that manages to feel vast and yet like a secret hideout at the same time. If you’ve a keen eye, you will also see a variety of birds in the area.
Up next : Shimoga- Of ruined palaces and green wonderlands