Saturday, April 19, 2008

Doddamakali - On the banks of River Cauvery

I went to a place called Doddamakali over the weekend. Ever heard of it before this? Nyet, nada, zip, zero. I never knew it existed till I walked into the office of Jungle Lodges & Resorts and I was forced to do the booking in a matter of minutes. Till then, I had only heard of the Bheemeshwari Fishing Camp and was told that two more existed very close to it. Since I have mentioned quick reasoning and decisioning abilities on my resume, I went ahead and booked it and I turned out to be a very good decision (like I can ever go wrong, come on, I mean PLEASE). After I booked it and went on to the net to look up some reviews, I didn't find any well-written reviews. I was pretty apprehensive till I got there so all those fears have inspired me to write this article. So here I am, lighting the lamp for the rest of the world.

Doddamakali is about 130 kms from Bangalore. The car we took was a Maruti Alto and I was pretty worried as I was told that the last 8-10 kms was rough and that I would need to drive very slowly. Also a couple of articles on the net had mentioned that a 4WD was required and that cars could get scratched or damaged. We left at about 8.45 am on Saturday. The route we took was through Maddur on Mysore Road, which is about 80 kms from Bangalore. As usual, the perennial jams took their toll on our tempers and the State Transport buses made it even worse. On nearing Maddur, there was a board displaying 'Maddur Town'. On asking, some friendly locals told us to go 2 kms ahead and then take a left to Malavalli. From then on, there were yellow signboards placed by Karnataka Tourism, which indicated a couple of tourist spots including Doddamakali. The road was a bit bumpy in stretches and we had to slow down to between 20 – 40 kms per hour. I almost ran over a big rat snake and spent a few minutes working out if it could have actually executed a super jump onto the car, till good sense prevailed. It was also one of the three sightings of wildlife we had, the other two being a wild hen and a lone deer. After about 30 kms, there was a board indicating left to Doddamakali and a huge arc displaying ‘Welcome to Shimsa Hydro Electric Project’. From here on, it was a decently tarred road for about 10 kms after which we came to a dead end and a signboard indicating right to Doddamakali. The dirt road began here and continued till the camp, for about 8 – 10 kms. It was downhill all the way, gradually getting steeper and we didn’t need to slow down too much till we came really close to the camp. Here, it started getting pretty steep and very very stony and it was first gear all the way. There are about 10 hairpin bends that we had to negotiate and finally the camp was in sight. The Alto was perfectly capable of handling the road, so unless you are planning to go during the rainy season, please don’t get your Mahindra 4WD out from the estate. The time we reached was just after 12.00 o’clock, a journey time of 3 and half hours. The camp is right on the banks of the river and the first look told me that I had made a good decision, as the place was very picturesque. The river looked very green and peaceful with short sandy banks flanking it on either side. On the other side, there were towering green hills against a backdrop of clear blue skies. The river stretched on, dotted with rocks and ripples.

The staff took our booking slip and guided us to the tents. In all, there are 8 tents, each of which faces the river. It is placed on a wide concrete platform. There is asbestos roofing, which keeps it protected and a toilet cum bathroom at the back. The toilet is clean and functional. It has a shower as well but no hot water facility. The tent has a double bed and a cot. There is a fan and a small electric lamp, powered by the camp generator. Overall, it was very clean.

As we had reached in the afternoon, it was pretty hot in the tent and we headed out for lunch. The food was served buffet style and was decent. Nothing fancy but quite tasty especially the chicken curry. After eating, we headed back to the tent and sat outside on the chairs provided, chatting and reading. A word of caution, please ensure that the doors are kept closed at all times to ensure that spiders and other insects do not get in. We headed back to the dining area for tea and biscuits at around 4 o’clock. After tea, we were urged to get on to the coracle boats. The boats are small and round and look very flimsy. Once you get in, you realize that with all the bodies piled in, the edge of the boat is almost on level with river, which is not reassuring. However, the river was very calm and the boatman very . He took us a kilometer downstream and bought us back. Overall, it was not exciting but something you must do at-least once so you can tell all – ‘Yeah yeah I have done coracle riding’.

Once we got back, there was a group of Wiproites playing volleyball and I joined them. I was glad to know that the old skills were there and we had two good games. By then, it was sundown and I quickly took a shower with what remaining light was there. Again, we sat outside our tent and opened a bottle of wine (no alcohol is served there and you have to carry your own). It became pitch dark and the mosquitoes really started to get bothersome. I had to light up a coil to get rid of them so people, please carry a torch and mosquito repellant to brave the wilds. At around 8 o’clock, the bonfire was lit and we took our place there with a plate of barbequed chicken and onion pakoras. It was very tasty and we stuffed ourselves, which was a good thing as the dinner that followed was just a variation of lunch. After dinner, we went to sleep by about 10.30 pm as there were none of the usual distractions. Thankfully, the generator was on throughout and it was pretty cool. We didn’t sleep too well though, either due to the unusual surroundings or the bites and itches. We were woken up at 6 o’clock in the morning, as we had asked to be a part of the morning trek. After freshening up and a cup of coffee, we headed out just after 7 o’clock. We began a climb of the hills behind the camp, which was pretty steep and took our breath away. I have a suspicion that the camp guys have designed the trek with the toughest part first so that the weakling drop away and don’t hold up the rest. After all, in the jungle, it is survival of the fittest, baby. The trek was essentially over the hill that doubled back to the river and provided some lovely patches of trees as well as great views of the river. We didn’t spot any wildlife though. On reaching the river, we took a break for about 15 minutes and then headed back. On the way back, we crossed a spot where rapids were formed but couldn’t get a close look as we were a bit far and there was tree cover. It took us a total of 90 minutes to get back and boy, was I hungry.

Breakfast was pretty good with a spread of idli, vada, poha, toast and eggs. After we ate our fill, we headed back to the tent and rested a bit. Checkout was scheduled at 11 but we left a bit earlier to beat the traffic back.

We passed a few cars on our way back. As Jungle Lodges also offers day packages, I am not sure if these guys were staying over. I think it would be rather tiring for a day-trip as driving back and forth and negotiating traffic would be pretty straining. However, it is a perfect one-day trip and the place really soothes you. The staff is polite and non-interfering. Nobody was fishing so I can’t really comment on that. I guess Nov and Dec would be a great time to go there, as the weather will be very cool. Of course, August to Feb is season time for fishing.

So if you need a weekend break,
Doddamakali is the route to take,
Make a lot of merry
And swalpa enjoy maadi