The third morning found us on the road to Horanaadu.
Horanaadu is the abode of goddess Annapurneshwari and is about a hundred kilometers from Thirthahalli. It was not on my list of places to visit. I had heard that the road to the goddess is not smooth and had decided to offer a long distance prayer and be done. But Horanaadu is a famous spot on the tourist circuit and it is not easy to brush aside compelling suggestions like “not visiting Horanaadu? after coming all the way to Thirthahalli? Hardly hundred kilometers and such a beautiful place" "So much of greenery all around. Coffee and tea estates on both sides of the road. It is wonderful. You should not miss it." "Bad road? Eh, that is just about twenty kilometers. The rest is quite good and they say that if you add Annapurneswari’s rice ‘Prasaad’ to your stock of rice at home, you will always have enough to feed hundred people. Don’t miss it and repent later”. (Prasad is a part of the offering made to god, returned with the deity's blessings)
Even if twenty meters of the road is bad, I think twice before venturing there. Twenty kilometers of bad road is reason enough for me to avoid any trip. I would have avoided Horanaadu. I was capable of brushing aside the goddess and facing her wrath. But there were people in our party who were vulnerable to such compelling suggestions and I was not capable of brushing aside their sentiments and face their wrath.
So there we were. On the way to Horanaadu.
The journey was really enjoyable up to a place called Koppa. From Koppa we took the road to a smaller town called Balehonnur, a distance of another thirty kilometers. It was not bad either. Comes under the ‘good’ category actually. After Balehommur we stopped at a fork in a place called Jayapura to ask for directions. We had been told that there are many roads leading to Horanaadu from Jayapura , all of them bad, but the one through Kalasa was comparatively better. There was a fruit seller there and a buyer was selecting apples from the cart. I addressed the fruit seller.
“Can you please tell me which is the way to Kalasa?”
The buyer who was selecting apples from the cart turned towards me.
“Kalasa? Where do you want to go?”
“Then why do you go to Kalasa? That is twenty kilometers from here and another six to Horanaadu. You go straight for twelve kilometers and take a right turn at Balekatte. From there it is ten kilometers to Horanaadu. The road is single (meaning narrow, meant for one vehicle a time) and winding but you drive slow and it is fine. You will save four kilometers.”
Now the fruit seller addressed the buyer
“Are you telling them to take the Basrikatte road?”
The seller looked up towards the heaven (like Sachin Tendulkar) in despair (unlike Sachin tendulkar) and then turned to me
“Don’t do that sir. That road is horrible. You save four kilometers but it will make you wish that you were never born. Go to Kalasa and then to Horanaadu”
It was the buyer’s turn again
“Telling them to go via Kalasa? Have you seen that road? That is worse than Basrikatte road. It will kill them.” He turned to me “there is no road there sir. Only craters. You take my advise. I am a driver myself and traverse these roads every other day.”
We had a choice between wishing that we were not born and getting killed. Devil and the deep sea. There is a saying in Kannada. “hedarirona mele kappe yeseyodu” (it roughly translates to - throwing a frog on one who is already scared - translation not as effective as the original but gives an idea) that was my state. But we had reached the point of no return. We discussed amongst ourselves and since we had heard that one of Sri Krishnaswamy’s friends had gone to Horanadu by the Kalasa road two weeks back and had come back alive, decided to go the same way.
It took about an hour and a half to cover twenty four kilometers but we were in front of the temple at quarter to one - in time for lunch. About the natural beauty on both sides of the road - I have no information. I did not take my eyes off the moon faced road.
I had expected the Annapurneshwari temple to be an old structure detached from the external world and located amidst greenery and surrounded by hills all around. It was not. It is a common looking structure obscured by a ‘noveau rich’ looking multi storied residential block. You will see the temple after you have passed through the massive decorative concrete arch and climbed some fifty steps. Not to my liking. But you do get to see the beautiful slopes of the Sahyadri at a distance, if you are standing in front of the temple. You just have to ignore the eyesores around you.
|view from the car park (the metal net barricade avoided)|
The Diwali tourist season had just ended and it was not a day of any special worship or significance. So, there was not much crowd and no sign of the long line which we usually see in front of famous temples. However, we had to walk through the steel barricades meant to maintain the queue, turning around again and again, buying the ‘Pooja’ tickets and rice from counters conveniently located on the way to the sanctum. We poured our rice into the container meant for receiving it, got the ‘Rice prasad’ meant for mixing with our rice stock at home, had a ‘Darshan’ of the deity and walked to the dining hall.
The clean dining hall meant to seat hundreds had just the three of us sitting for lunch and we finished our lunch in record time and were back in the car by half past one. Since I had had my lunch I sat in the back and closed my eyes for a nap and my son had flown over the dreaded craters on the road and had arrived at Balehonnur when I opened my eyes. We were back in Thirthahalli by tea time and our hosts had another living example to motivate others undecided about visiting Horanaadu.
We had planned to shift to the Arya Akshobhya Math at Balegaru that night and the Swamiji had asked us to be there by half past seven if we wanted our dinner. We had another two hours to spare and Mrs Krishnaswamy suggested that we could visit ‘Chibbalu gudda ‘( Gudda is a small hill) before we left for Balegaru. ‘Chibbalu gudda’ is a plateau right next to the Tunga river where there is a small Ganesha temple and one can climb down to the river through the steps behind this temple. The place provides a beautiful view of a large expanse of the Tunga river and you may enjoy the company of hundreds of large river fish which almost eat out of your hands if you offer them puffed rice. Looking at their size, they are capable of eating your fingers or even the hand but I hear that has not happened till date. We spent a pleasant half an hour there, purchased some good honey, cultivated by a family residing at the spot and returned home to pack up.
|river getting darker and reflecting the last rays of the evening sun|
|Fish ( not seen) making waves|
We were at the Arya Akshobhya math at Balegaru exactly at half past seven.
|Balegaru Math - First look|