It was night and I could feel the cool breeze hitting my face. I could see the stars and enjoy the fresh air as we drove into the forest. It was a real pleasure, which left an indelible mark. It was as if this place had been bestowed upon us to experience heaven on earth. It was like riding in a picture-postcard, which made me wonder whether it was all a dream. Only the occasional honking of the vehicles and the constant pestering of my parents to slow down, reminded me that it was all too real.
Generally we leave Bangalore at around 4 AM in the morning so that we can reach Mangalore by 11. This helps us to avoid the morning traffic at Bangalore and its easier to navigate through the Western Ghats during daytime. This part of Western Ghats is popularly known as Shiradi ghats with an average elevation of a couple of thousand feet. It stretches for about 100 KM from Shaklespur to Uppinangadi, which is about 80 KM from Mangalore. Shakleshpur itself is about 200KM from Bangalore. Unlike the roads in Bangalore these are really good. You can travel the entire stretch within 3hrs in spite of stopping a couple of times in between. Once you reach Shaklespur its pure heaven. The drops are pretty steep but the views are nothing short of being spectacular. You can always hear the birds chirping along with the sounds of the small streams flowing right beside the road.
Even though we had driven to Mangalore many times, it’s never been during the nights. But this time because of my father who got delayed due to a meeting we had to leave Bangalore at 4.00 in the afternoon. My dad wanted to drive and I was all too willing as I was not all that keen driving on the chaotic Bangalore roads. He drove for about 80KM, which took us about 2hrs because of the huge traffic jams on the NH. Our city was making sure of living up to its reputation. Once we touched NH48 I took over. With the AC on full blast I was driving at an average speed of 80Kmph with the maximum touching 130Kmph. The road from Bangalore to Hassan is one of the best and roads are as straight as it can get. Once we reached Shakleshpur I thought the best was over. We had dinner and then took to the road again. That’s when I realized the pure bliss of driving through the forests during nights. If you want to see the forest go by day but if you want to hear it then go by night. We rolled down our windows to let the forest air takeover our car. It was an amazing experience driving through the hairpin curves with the forest around us providing the excellent background music. It was midnight by the time we reached Udupi but with a ride like that I was in no mood to sleep.
When was the last time we actually saw stars in Bangalore?
The maximum that we can expect to see is the Orion belt, with a few other stars. I don’t think I even need my toe’s to count their number. The other day we went to a hillock very near to my village. The setting sun was effulgent as ever. It was getting dark and my cousin’s left for home. I stayed back for some more time. I lied down on the rock with my face staring at the sky. The last time I had done this was exactly about a month back when I had come to this place along with my good old friend. We had then spent about an hour and I was surprised to see the sheer number of stars that was above us. I was actually amazed to see a couple of shooting stars, which I thought, existed only in theory. I had a wish for each one of them:). It remains to be seen how many of them actually gets fulfilled :).This time too it was an unforgettable experience even though there were no shooting stars. The celestial view was just amazing. It made me feel so small and tiny. It was an ideal place for introspection. The only thing I could have asked more was some company to share this celestial spectacle. It was so good, only the fear of sitting alone on a rock in complete darkness compelled me to return back. The entire experience was something that you wont get in Bangalore even if you are ready to pay millions.