- an ideal picnic spot
Looking for a "week-end getaway" nearby Bangalore? Sans the hassles of overnight train journeys or long, backbreaking bus rides?
Then, Hogenekkal Falls is the place. It's an ideal picnic spot. But then, having gone that far may as well consider a stay overnight and get an invigorating massage next morning. Top that with a bath in the River Cauvery and soon you feel "all new". For, Hogenekkal is touted as a natural health spa. The river here supposedly has medicinal properties and that's no exaggeration.
Early morning is the best time to give your body a work out. Skilled masseurs apply oil on your body as you lie on a stone slab and their deft fingers go to work, in movements that could range from the gentle to the rough. Other than untangling your innards, these experienced "hand on" chaps give you the once over and set right your stressed system. Soon, you are in fine fettle.
Time now to have the "Cauvery Bath" and smoothen out rough edges by taking a dip in the river. For women, there are separate enclosures so that they can feel safe in their privacy. Men can take their dip anywhere along the rivers bank since there's no separate enclosure for them. Men will be men, won't they?
Boating in circular shaped boats...
And what does one do in this small village/town besides the massage and oil bath? Well, you go boating in saucer-shaped circular bamboo rafts called "Parasel" in Tamil or "Thappa" in Kannada. It's interesting because the raft man or boatman or whatever you wish to call him must be extremely skillful in navigating these contraptions. They tend to circle in the gushing waters of the falls and on days when the current is pushy and strong, upstream movement is a very difficult proposition indeed and can be very strenuous for the helms-man.
Actually, when you first step into the boat it kind of makes one feel quite nervous. It begins to wobble and could throw you off-balance if you aren't too careful. You've got to watch out for one other important thing. These guys say they can carry 6-8 people in one boat. Don't agree. If the upstream current is forceful then you could have a problem. Four in boat is a safe bet, worth paying the 100 rupees they ask for a 1-hour ride. Which incidentally, happens in two parts.
First you hop into the boat at the banks of the river, go a short distance and then alight. You walk on a stone pathway some distance and see the falls in all their might. Water gushes down from a height of about 20 metres, crashing against huge boulders of rock forming a mist like effect. That's why they call this "smoke that thunders".
Having done that, you then walk down stone steps that are rather steep, to another point and once again you get into the boat and row down with the river flow. The scene is quite picturesque what with rocky cliffs on both sides of the river. Incidentally, one happens to be the Tamilnadu side and the other is the Karnataka side. Poor Cauvery, caught in between the two.
It all seems so easy one way, but the return is tough. The rowing is against the direction of the river flow and that's hard work. Here's where the skill of the boatman comes into play. He not only has to steady the boat but also ensure it doesn't get caught in a crosscurrent. Don't forget, you are in the boat, feeling like a cup in a wobbly saucer. Your heart has probably missed many beats. But then, it's all part of the adventure. Soon enough you are back where you started, safe and sound, but for momentary spells of having butterflies in the stomach.
Hogenekkal - 636 810, Dharmapuri District
Phone: (04342) 56447, 56448
Tariff (as on November 2001)
Double A/c: Rs. 450.00
Double Non-A/c Rs. 300.00
6-bed Family Room Non A/c: Rs. 600.00
Additional Bed (A/c room): Rs. 100
Additional Bed (Non A/c room): 50.00
Checkout Time: 24 hours
(Please check latest room tariffs and please book in advance especially during summer)
If you plan on staying overnight, then Hotel Tamilnadu is recommended. In fact, that's perhaps the only, reasonably decent place to shack up. Run by the Tamilnadu Tourism Department (and therefore you shouldn't expect too much) the tariff is fairly okay. Food too. The rooms are spacious and bathrooms? Well, okay. Sometimes water may not come through the tap you open or the flush may have a string tied to it instead of a handle, that's broken and not replaced for months. If the linen is bad, which is likely to be the case, ask for it to be replaced. A manageable place, otherwise.
From Bangalore, Hogenekkal is approximately 130 kilometers on the Bangalore-Salem Highway NH4. Some 26 kilometers after you pass Krishnagiri Town, you have to look for the direction finder pointing towards Palacode. That's the road leading to Hogenakkal. On a rough estimate with normal speed driving and accounting for bad roads, it could take around 2 to 2½ hours to get there. Now, the NH4 isn't the best of highways. Good in patches. So too is the road towards Hogenekkal. You are being cautioned - be prepared for a bumpy ride and make sure you have spare tyres. You never can tell.
After you cross a place called Pennagaram, the 15 kilometers drive is through narrow, ghat roads with forests on either side. Wildlife? Well, they say one can see elephants occasionally, but that's not the real worry. These forests are part of those forests where Veerappan is holed out somewhere.
Has anyone seen him around? No one seems to have. But then, one never knows. He probably has his massage and dip much before the rest of the world wakes up.