Driving down Donigal
It is six long years
since the last time I traversed these winding roads. The descent
from Donigal has begun. Donigal, the place just below Tipu's Manjarabad
fort, which appears to have been recently renovated. A fort from
which Tippu could oversee all routes and troops that could approach
from coastal Mangalore. Manjarabad fort is one of the many such
billets fortified on hill tops by Tippu to contain the invading
Firangi. His sworn enemies, the British to be precise.
Donigal is just five
kilometres out of Sakleshpur also known as Sakala-Aishwaryapuram,
to many in the days bygone also known as the poor man's Ooty. Even
today this land of 'all-wealth' Aishwarya boasts to be in the forefront
as the major cardamom trading centre for the country, apart from
being in the heart of the coffee growing belt of Malenad that stretches
from Bababudan Giris near Chickmagalur to Madikeri in Coorg. And
Sakleshpur assumed further prominence being the neighbourhood of
Hole-Narsipur when from one of its villages Haradanhalli Doddegowda
Devegowda became Prime Minister of India.
This land of Sakleshpur
beckons me now and again because of old associations, the umbilical
cord which proves difficult to sever, and a childhood spent in the
coffee estates my father owned within its precincts. It is also
here just behind the Town Hall on the drive way up to the town's
travellers' bungalow, that a small building of the Bharat Scouts
and Guides has been dedicated to the memory of my father for services
rendered to the local community during his forty long years of association
with this coffee, cardamom, spices and honey town.
As we drive along
down the descent from Donigal, broken by only one small hump of
Doddathappalay near Heggadde, colourful Bougainvillaea in crimson
and red and other hues of orange and yellow, greet you. To break
the monotony of green that fills the expanse of mountain on one
side of the road and valley on the other. Each bend along the meandering
road replete with cherished memories of an episode here or an incident
there. What as children we experienced, may be changing of a bad
tyre, tending to a broken down engine, replacing over-heated radiator
water. A stop over to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the environs,
or may be just a halt to relieve the over bloated pressure in the
bladder by the wayside.
The descent levels
as we near the streams on either side of the approach to Maranahalli
Police out post at the junction of the road leading to Cadumane
- the then one and only tea estate in our parts. In a land where
OG was never seen earlier, I am surprised to see three Shaktimans
chug-chugging up the incline with jawans in camouflaged battle order.
Must be one of those periodical 'exercises' of the Army Command.
A legend on the road side sign post informs us that we are 840 metres
above sea level. And at this point the hair-pin bends start. I recall
these were the bends that made us strain our heads out of the bus
windows to bring up all and more from our insides and vomit our
guts out. In them days we could never travel without a lemon to
chew on - in an effort to somehow contain the dizzy nausea.
The forest on my
left has cleared, and the milestone reads 60 Kms to Uppinangadi.
I see the hills where once the growth was heavy, now quite denuded.
Again a strange matter. The western ghats were never known to be
denuded in any of its parts -- especially not in the heavy 'ghati'
road sections as people wont to put it. We have now arrived at the
view-point for tourist travellers put up on a bend at a vantage
point looking down into the valley and the mountain range across.
The legend here put up by the Karnataka Forest Department reads
that it is the Kemp-hole State Forest in Sakleshpur range of Hassan
A string of trucks
and other vehicles are seen struggling up the climb. There is a
road block caused by an accident. That reminds me when we were children,
each accident in these parts created a sensation and the story got
repeated with changes, adding more sensation with each repetition.
And we would stop our vehicles to get off and peer down the edge
craning our necks to see the fallen vehicle hundreds of feet below
in the gorge. Steep gorges and precipices hugged the roadside along
all these ghat roads.
We cross Shiradi-ghat,
the border between Manjarabad Taluk of Hassan district and the South
Kanara district (Dakshina Kannada). Heavy rain is lashing across
the windshield, and dirty brown rivulets of rain water are flowing
on either side of the road. The abyss below on our left displays
the rock laden part of the river. Everything is so misty, the visibility
is hardly of few yards; despite the headlines blazing.
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can
interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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