Arasinamakki: One Free and Many Memories

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Pay for one and take one free was the offer forwarded to me by my friend, from a homestay. I am usually not the one who succumbs to get one free sort of offers. I took this offer on insistence of my loving spouse, only to thank her for persuading me to take this offer.
 
Arasinamakki has fog by morning and smog when that occasional monster goes off road. The sublime odor of soil sprinkled by drizzle only could conquer the overwhelming presence of wild fragrance. Squeak of the crickets would replace the clatter of the big city. Alas there is silence. Absolute, when they stop their squeaking. The 8 million elbows of Namma Bengaluru get replaced by twigs and twirls. Though hushed in green and seemingly so remote as the end of the world, Arasinamakki is extremely efficient and civilized with fanciful folk. The definition of a village here is a cluster of houses, distanced by thick vegetation by around two hundred to five hundred meters.


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If you were puzzled about those ten spots, which you crammed in your itinerary in Ooty and Shimla, you are in for a delight. Every corner is a tourist spot. If you can’t tell apart mahogany  from teak or drongo from tree pine, you can still be startled at aesthetics of what nature has to offer. Plenty of work for your camera, whether you know photography or not (not kidding), any angle is fine whilst the shutter lets in the light.
 
You can forget the time, loose your way and go off track as I am here. Though my English teacher did teach me to draft travelogues in a structure, the thoughts of Arasinamakki are so intense that we can overrule teacher’s advice and jumble the narration with the introduction.
 
Yes, it was about my two-day visit to Arasinamakki, with my beloved one, which I started narrating. Though it took us two hours to exit Bengaloru, in the next two hours there was an exodus of greenery as we approached Hassan. We thought of a quick stop at Hassan Ashok, but their excellent food, great ambience and extremely competitive menu made us spend a little more time and a great start for our journey. Through the sleepy town of Sakleshpur we reached Shiradi ghat. If you have been expecting the bad roads of Shiradi Ghat, you are in for a surprise for most of the part, barring a few Kms. We regret being restless and rushing through the dusky light without trying to concentrate on the prettiness around. As guided by our good friend, we kept a vigil on the sign boards, which were sequenced Shiradi, Udane and Enjira. At Enjira we said good bye to NH 47 and started plying on a narrow road with patchy asphalt and no asphalt. Dark, no light, absolutely no light, no houses and nothing around. That was exactly what we wanted to drive by with only two of us around and it was thrilling (honestly I did have butterflies in my stomach while negotiating bad patches).


After traversing roughly three kms, we reached a main road, turned right and take there, an active village was welcoming us. Do not imagine thatched shops and dirty water in front. All structures are well built with Mangalore tiles and are absolutely clean. Ask anyone where is Buddha the stream of Joy, they will guide you. If you are ready to shell out 25 bucks, an auto will guide you till you get fragrance of Sambrani (Dhoop) at Buddha’s cave. We were welcomed, offered water to freshen up and a cup of welcome herbal tea which gave us the signal of what is in for offer. My wife whispered "Where are we to stay?", as an ordinary looking private house seemed to have no space for us. Our hosts prompted us to walk with them through uneven steps, rocky bridges over water bodies and eerie silence for 100 meters and there we reached a cool place. We chose to be in a cottage, all amber in color with bright furnishing.  Typically rustic ambience with clean walls brightened our eyes. We had a sumptuous hot water shower and hurried to the dining hall. Though we did not have much orientation in the darkness, we were getting a hang of the place. Dinner was SUPERB. Typically south Indian, but exotic. Not too sure about what we had, some names where in Tulu, others were sounding North Indian. It didn’t matter since it was no less tasty than Ashok. Barely do I remember what happened next as my wife was comforting my burning feet due to the long drive, I fell asleep. It was very cold during the night, March in Arasinamakki seemed like winter in Bengaluru.


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Next morning a Malabar whistling thrush woke us up as signs of life were appearing from the silence of the night. I saw my wife struggling with the video cam to record the long notes of the thrush and peeped through the window to find our host standing at the dining hall with coffee. We were in an areca nut plantation under a green canopy. A moderately louder gurgle could be heard from the front window. Though weekends start beyond seven, we could not resist opening the door at six. WOW, what a paradise we were in! Our cottage was bang next to a river and the scene was picturesque. We looked at each other with eyes wide open and wearing a very very big smile. Looking through the fog grazing through waters, visible was a raft made out of Bamboo. Two kids (host’s son and his cousin) seemed to plan something for the weekend. They were already trying to push the raft into the water. We decided to savor our coffee with the morning newspaper in hand. My water crazy wife could not resist but join the kids on a ride. I had small chat with the host who was extremely flexible about the itinerary (he had so many options, we had to choose which could fit in within our time).


As I went back to my car to pick a few things, I could get a hang of the place better. There was this very thick Evergreen forest through which a river was flowing. The mountain besides the river was dug and flattened for cultivation. Each landlord had around three to four acres of small plots throughout the course of the river. A road would run between forest and plantation. I thought the place should be renamed as ‘stream of life’ as life appeared around the river. We crossed the river through a narrow bridge built with thin logs of wood. Walked over pebbles of all shapes and reached another small plantation. This trek was a part of bird watching but there wasn’t even a crow around. LOOK, said the host with a pointed finger towards a tree (all fingers will point towards a tree in the jungle), we looked there was nothing. "Do you see as if a white handkerchief is kept for drying?" He yelled with excitement. Yeah said I (So what was actually what we wanted to say). ‘That’s a paradise fly catcher- Male’ he hummed. He had a pair of powerful binoculars. As my wife pressed her eyes against the lens, ‘Beautiful’, she screamed, ‘Waggy’ look, it has two long tails with a black head. Our interest in ornithology never stopped from there. We could see noisy Tree pies, crimson red trogon (we were supposed to be lucky to see it), restless racket tailed drongos, squeaky bright yellow oriole, many brown birds which we can?t remember, kingfishers ? blue and black & white, a couple called minivets one yellow and the other orange. These are all I can instantly remember. The list in my note book was 16 of which black bird was the easiest to remember. The walk was like an obstacle marathon through river, pebbles, plantations, dry deciduous bushy mountain, serpentine road which ended with a steep slop.
 
The breakfast was ready. Stuffed idli wrapped in leaf was giving a special fragrance. We ate so much it was too tough to keep an account.


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Rafting took me off to an all time high. The water below was around 3 feet with clean flow. We were given two long sticks and as we pushed them through the river bed our raft moved like a swan. To add to the fun, we jumped, swaddled and got drenched ourselves, rowed zig zag and walked through the water. Up and down, below and besides the bridge, standing, sitting and sleeping we went rafting for nearly two and half hours. Though we didn’t have enough of it, we reluctantly came off and freshened ourselves with a cold shower. Tea & biscuits, books & hammock kept us busy till afternoon lunch. I never knew Mangaloreans cook so well. I think someone has to seriously look into their cooking as they have a lot in their kitty.


After a small nap for thirty minutes, we hired an auto and reached Shishila Temple. A Kerala styled temple was kissing the river. The river was filled with very long fish, which would come rushing towards you as you step in with puffed rice. We spent one hour feeding the fish. The sun was hot and I think it was not the right time. We should have come by morning here. We started back and stopped after a few kms near a house. The house was like a museum of Yakshagana. Glittering colorful dresses, chiming bells, big head gears of all shapes were explained to us in great detail. I requested for a snap with the Yakshagana costume, which was readily obliged to. From there we were taken to the river and made to cross it. This was a little difficult but we managed it. Other side looked like Moghli’s world with hanging big creepers and many huge trees. Five minutes passed by and we saw relics of a Jain temple. There were two wells and a fort all in shambles. I still ponder why did anybody build a palace or a fort here? What was the necessity of a temple where there could have been no population? The most charming sight was that of a small barricade built by villagers across the river. We tried on our photography skills, which were fruitful. Back to Buddha and the campfire on the river bed was very romantic. As usual great food, great silence and we had a great sleep.


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Some birds that you get to see here


The next morning was a trekking day. Though many tall mountains around keep calling us, we chose for a simple 3 km trek. Started at 7 in the morning and reached the spot by quarter to eight. The Buddha’s point as it was called made us recall Lion King. Do you remember Simba being shown to all animals in Lion King animation? Such a rock is a delight with breathtaking view of layers and layers of mountain. We were told if we could make another 3 kms we could reach Buddha’s peak. (We will definitely come back next year and summit it – we pledged). Some snacks juice and the cool breeze made our day. Wished we had a botanist with us who could identify all the trees. Seriously, no two trees here are alike!
 
Back to Buddha and we peeped through the cave in which a Buddha’s statue is kept. The nice smell and dim lights give divinity to the place. We went around cycling in the garden and swung ourselves through till the lunch. After lunch we had an academic session on agriculture. The amount of work involved in agriculture, the type of equipment used, the rural technologies were eye openers for us. We learnt about Areca (supari), Coconut, Cashew nut, Coco, Vanilla, Pineapple, Pepper, Cardamom, Beetle Leaf etc. Around ten women were busy making eco friendly plates from Arecanut leaves. They export them overseas, no wonder the quality of the plates was immaculate.
 
Though we felt that time was too short, it was a sweet trip all the way. We decided to make a list of things we missed which went like this 1. Buddha’s peak trekking, 2. Amedikkal Trekking, 3. Mountain biking 4. Rock climbing (we just saw the cliff), 5. Natural obstacle course. 6. Star gazing by open ground.
 
We will definitely return back to this place next year.
 
In the car we were discussing how to describe the place. My wife who is a definition master summarized. "If you are looking for a little adventure, lot of good food, soil on your hands and legs, ready to drench in water and stay in a hut just for thousand rupees per person, here is a great holiday spot". Non-vegetarians and scotch lovers will find a pinch here. It is not a three star luxury but three star comfort. We started back to Bengaluru by 3 pm and reached back safe by 10 pm. Buddha, the stream of joy is still lingering in our memory.


If you Wish to visit the paradise please contact Kashinath on 9845088088, 08251-268225 or email


Author: Nagaraj Nadig- Bangalore


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