[Warning : A very long post ahead. I just wrote it to relive the experiences of a fun filled trip that we did last week. I doubt if it'll appeal to anyone else other than the ones who were actually part of that trip and experienced it first hand :) ]
Dandeli - that was one place that we had missed out in the main tourist attractions of Karnataka. We always felt it's too far and needs a 'long' weekend to go there. Somehow we had the mindset that we need 2 days to drive and 2 days to spend there. So that was the first choice when we got a 4 day weekend in March. As usual we sent a mail to the 'travel gang', but somehow except for the 3 defaulters no one else was ready for various reasons. And the fact that not many companies had that 4 day holiday made it difficult to invite anyone outside the company. Normally we are reluctant to include others who are not from our gang mainly because even though they might enjoy traveling, each person travels for a definite purpose and if our interests doesn't match the trip will end up as a disaster. We have had a few bitter experiences before and so is always cautious about the people whom we invite. But since it would be even more boring if only 3 of us went, we decided to take the risk and checked with another travel gang in the company and they were more than willing to join us. Quick planning followed. It was they who pointed out that we can take an overnight train/bus and avoid driving this long distance in the hot summer. That way we saved 2 more days and we decided to include Karwar as well. All these planning happened in Jan and by the time we actually set off last week there were few additions and subtractions to the group. The final troop consisted of the 3 oldies from the original gang and 4 young bloods and it was these newbies who made all the difference to our otherwise 'sightseeing and photography' oriented trips. Although only few knew each other beforehand, after the introductions in the railway station it was as if all of us were long lost buddies :)
Saturday morning we reached Londa junction where the resort pickup vehicle was waiting for us. Although Dandeli is synonymous with white water rafting we were quite sure that it is not going to happen in March. The dry forest on the way added to our belief. So we were expecting to spend 2 days in the resort and chill out. The only thing that we were hopeful was the safari since animal sighting's will be good in summer. When we reached the resort we were in for a surprise. The Kali river behind the resort was FULL and the resort people informed us that if we would like to go for rafting it's better we go immediately as water level might fall the next day. So after a quick and tasty breakfast we headed to the rafting site where we got ready with the gears and instructions. The highlight of rafting was KK's new waterproof camera that captured the adventure well although initially it did give some shock to all us and also to fellow rafters in the other rafts. How often do you see someone dipping a camera in water to clean the lens that has water droplets splashed on it!! Only problem was that many a times,esp near the rapids,the instructor had to remind KK that he is supposed to paddle as well and not just click pictures. Even otherwise he seemed hard on hearing and Sid had to repeat all the instructions specially for him :) The entire stretch was 9 kms long with 8 rapids some of them 3rd degree and it took us about 3 hrs to finish. This is my third rafting experience and each of them were totally unique. Once we reached back, freshened up and finished our lunch it was already evening and we were lazying around near the river side. Lot of photography sessions followed. Yeh that was another difference in this trip. Other than the usual nature or wild life photos we also had some fashion photographs. Who can resist such a chance when two models are readily available to smile into the camera ;) One of the models even fell into the river while trying to give us good poses and even that was captured :P A coracle ride followed where we watched the sunset and some birds too (don't be mistaken - the flying types) and more photography experiments. Once we returned after the coracle ride we decided to go for a walk to a dam site nearby. It was a moonlit night (just 2 days for pournami) and we had great fun walking through the middle of the road and at the same time our individual singing and dancing skills were also put to test :) A late dinner and a game of 20 questions followed which kept us awake past midnight. The kiddo's were ready to continue but we insisted that we hit the bed as we had to get up at 4 am for the safari the next day.
Sunday, although half asleep, we all were ready at 4.30 am for the safari. It was 28 kms to the sanctuary and 40 kms safari inside. We were supposed to go in a Gypsy. Since it was quite cold, most of us tried to fit in inside and continued our sleep. The safari was very disappointing mainly coz the guides had no idea of the forest and where to spot what. Many a times we spotted some animals and had to tell him to back the vehicle. Once we reached the sunset point(at sunrise time!) we could walk till the view point. On the way back V decided to propose S in full filmy style with song, dance n flowers. S accepted it immediately and we expected a happily ever after ending. But it seems the relationship didn't last till we reached back the resort! On the way back except me n KK everyone opted the open ride but realized the effect of a speeding Gypsy in dusty path the hard way. By the time we reached all of them were red in color from head to toe!!! And the smarties chased us, gave a tight hug and ensured that they transferred half of their possessions to us. Grrr..
We had our breakfast and was supposed to go for a natural Jacuzzi bath at 10.30. But unfortunately they came and told us that the water level is low and we can go only at 12. Half of us went to sleep and others waited and again at 12.30 we were disappointed as they said the force is still too low and we cannot have the Jacuzzi but can just go n swim in the river. Somehow a swim in the scorching sun didn't appeal to me and I decided to stay back n catch up with my sleep.
Once they came back we had our lunch and was ready for a nature walk. A tribal came with us and I was expecting it to be only a WALK. But to my dismay I realized that this again was a trek and the climb though short was quite steep :( The path was slippery and covered with dried leaves and it made the climb even tougher. But it was worth it when we finally reached the catchment area and the evening light was just perfect for photo shoots. We stayed there till the sun went down and then headed back. We told the guide not to take the same path as the prospect of climbing down that steep path in the night was not too appealing. Instead we took the jeep trail which was around 1.5-2 kms longer and Oh boy that was fun. The uneven path lit only by the moonlight, sounds of birds all around and the guide's stories of how he has spotted tiger, elephant etc in the same route! By the time the tired gang reached back , barbecue was ready and we feasted ourselves. Another long session of chit-chat followed and I went to sleep while others decided to stretch the day lil more longer.
Monday morning we had to catch a bus to Karwar and the resort guys were supposed to drop us till the bus stop. But to our dismay, we found out that there was some problem with the transaction and the resort guys hadn't got the advance payment. We had carried only the remaining amount as cash and to add to the worry the STD lines of the resort was not working ruling out payment by card. The only option was to go to Dandeli town, find an ATM and hand over the remaining money to the resort people. This meant an extra 40 km drive. So we were packed in the Gypsy again and started off at around 7.30 am. Once we reached Dandeli and settled the accounts, we got in to a waiting private bus and even found time for a quick breakfast. Most of the ride was uneventful and the troop went back to sleep. But the last stretch was like a roller coaster ride and there were some in the gang who was determined to sleep even in that stretch. Once in Karwar town, he had some snacks and headed towards the office. From the port it was a 20 mins boat ride to the resort in Kurumgad Island. Me and Sid had gone there 3 years back and were surprised to learn that they still recognized us. Again a tasty lunch and we went to our tents. The change from dry forest to humid beach was not going so well with most of us and we were longing for a nice bath. Also we were very tired after the long journey and some went to 'sound' sleep in the middle of chatting session itself. After a short nap, we headed to the beach for water sports. Unfortunately because of the strong wind, only banana boat ride was possible. Others went for that while I chose the speed boat to capture the fall ;) Once back in the dining hall with a camp fire and barbecue on the side, everyone seemed to be at their creative best. There were lot of photography experiments happening at one side ranging from bulb mode to multiple exposures to ghost photography, while on the other side experts with two left legs were giving a tip or two to the ones who were holding back. Towards the end all were exhausted and sat down for the dinner were more games followed..
Next day morning was supposed to start with an island tour but all were too tired and was reluctant to get out of the bed even at 7 O' clock. So we decided to skip the walk and directly go for Dolphin watch. We were taken more into the sea where we spotted many dolphins close enough. Finally the boat left us back in the beach where we could do water scooter and kayaking that we missed the prev day. Since the sun was hot and both these activities were individual sports, others rested under a tree. It was then that we discovered what can happen to a person when there is wet sand in front of you - the child in you comes out. In no time what started as a simple mickey shoe around Sid's leg formed in to a full fledged city with an airport, underpass, bislery plant, paddy fields, palace, cheesy manyatha tech park, swimming pool, granite view point,'innova' garage and so many other things that I can't mention here :P It was a very innovative bitching session and all the guys were in full enthu in developing the city in the most 'agile' way :) The entire action with running commentary was shot by the guy who is ever behind the camera and we had a hearty laugh all though. That was the perfect ending for a perfect holiday and soon we headed back to the mainland to catch our bus back to Bangalore.. Think I should officially thank the newbies for making this trip such a wonderful experience.. Thank you guys and gals and hope to have many more :)