The hillocks far away, beyond the valleys, glistened in the golden touch of sun. A perfect setting! It was just like the Malayalam months Karkkidakam and Chingam dawned together at the idyllic hamlet in Karnataka state, Gopalaswamy Betta. An amazing view! At least once, I want to be filmed in a song sequence set here.
We set off together to Gopalaswamy Betta very early by morning 4am in my Honda Amaze with Gayathri, my long time friend. But our spirits refused to spurt off, as the dampened climate outside. Yesterday, the traffic through the Churam (gap) was held up for hours together following a mudslide in the torrential rain. The traffic at Engapuzha had gone haywire due to the flood. We had word that everything was safe, but we couldn't be able to completely overcome the apprehensions of rain afresh. But surprisingly, everything was smooth on our way.
Actually it was my father who first mentioned Gopalaswamy Betta, the beautiful flower cultivating village to me. It seemed that he had a special liking for the place. In fact, I went to Gundlupet, a nearby town several times during my journeys, but, so far has never been able to visit Gopalaswamy Betta. The road was rarely occupied as it was very early in the morning. The driving was very comfortable. You can even hear the rhythmic swishing of vipers on the windshields mixed with the tune of the unending drizzles. The rain soaked roads exudes a rare beauty in the light headlight of our car. Even when the mind tended to indulge in the romantic surroundings, safety measures were never been forgotten. The car sped off, in a comfortable speed without ever revving up to over speeding. I like to drive this way. Gayathri and I had several trips between us like this. How many trips? Backpacking without any particular intentions, totally unplanned trips! Many such trips led us to several destinations, amazingly unique. But that time, that one to Gopalaswamy Betta was a bit different. It was for Mathrubhumi Yathra.
Adivaram was still quite in its early morning slumber. We began to drive the way up through the Churam. "Thamarasheri .. Choram...." that comic number by ace actor Pappu in the Malayalam movie Vellanakalude Nadu once again popped up in my mind. The way up, the first curve was still slimy from the mud slide in the last day though, all the earth came down had been removed. I moved ahead carefully through the slippery road. But still the driving was comfortable as the vehicle had road grip.
The cold slowly began to have its effect on everybody, and by the time we reached Sultan Bathery, all wished for a tea to sort out an equation with the cold weather. While we had pulled our vehicle to a stop by the roadside teashop, the samovar there was already started to send out a copious amount of steam. People one by one also began to reach the shop for their warm tea, some all covered up in shawls, still others in their morning walk attire. After a hot black tea, we were once again back to the road to Gopalaswamy Betta. We would most certainly reach the check post by the time it would open, if we could manage the same pace intact for some time.
The rain swelled Noolppuzha River was gushing forth menacingly near the Sreerama temple at Ponkuzhi. I had never seen this river so overfilled with water. The violent swirl of water went ahead, the river murky from the fresh rains, uprooting the trees and thickets on both the banks in its mighty unstoppable current.
Our vehicle passed the Moolehalli check post behind and entered the state of Karnataka. We drove just two kilometres before that a huge tree uprooted and fell straight into the road, bringing all the vehicles to a pit stop. The driver just in front of our vehicle timely applied the brake to save a tragedy. The branches of the huge tree claimed all the width of the road without leaving the narrowest passage that a vehicle demanded. Suddenly, the road behind us was spotted with a serpentine queue of vehicles. A fervent and heated discussion on cutting off the branches ended up nowhere as nobody was able to lift even a branch of the tree. Meanwhile, a man took his vehicle back to the check post and brought forest officials to the spot. With a great effort, everybody together made a way enough to pass a single vehicle at a time. And we resumed the journey again. Great road! But by the time we began to enjoy the easy smooth drive, a hump appeared. Passed it behind, we were about to get the speed, then again another hump. These humps spoiled our wish for a descent speed of the vehicle. So,inevitably we decided to go slow; taking enough time to enjoy the beauty of the forest, its rich greenery, the cosy cool of its air. We spotted several herds of deer on the way. But that was not enough to satisfy us as it is usual scene on the route. We strained our eyes to get the sight of a pachyderm or two; we even anticipated the glimpse of a tiger.
To reach Gopalaswamybetta you have take deviation at Hanakala in Kozhikode-Mysore-Kollagal road. There is a huge board at the turning point- Himavat Gopalaswamy Betta. Once you enter the interiors of the hamlet, the entire ambience alters forever. The scenes of Karnataka village life are showcased on either sides of the road.
That day, all the schools there were closed following the death of Karnataka's famous writer U. R. Ananthamurthy. So, the children were all on the sides of the road enjoying an unexpected holiday, whiling away the day playing and laughing in the rain. Bullock carts, cars and buses were spotted abundantly in the road. There might be something important about that day at Gopalaswamy Betta, so the heavy traffic.
We reached the check post to Gopalaswamy Hills. Vehicles are not allowed from there onwards. We turned to the right. The road from there would take us to our destination Gopalapuram- the village of flowers. Actually it was a trip to the village’s unending vistas of flower fields, to its garlic and jute fields...The farmers cultivate flowering plants to earn a living by selling flowers.
After a short patch of tarred road, it was virtual off-roading to the village. The road, totally out of shape; pits, mud, puddles...But the Amaze didn’t hesitate even for a moment. It simply went ahead. It was so cool. Take my word for it; amaze is the vehicle a small family could ask for at any given circumstances. A real great car!
Wow; what a sight! A sea of bright orange colour spread out just in front of our eyes; a whole vast marigold field was all in blooms. The greenery of the Gopalaswamy hillocks fringes the vast spread of flowers. It looked a like a perfect canvass. The buses were crawling up through the winding roads to the top of the hillocks which were still awash with mist. And the returning vehicles from the hills were strenuously inching its ways down to the valleys. Flakes of clouds were crisscrossing the firmament. Everybody embarked on a journey, Only the objectives of the trip vary.
Some very green lonely trees could be spotted amidst the vast fields of flowers as if they were being dispersed in field to balance the otherwise spectacular frame. The tree tops were twirling to the whims and fancies of the wind, like luxurious curls of hair. That was a sight enough to draw us out of the vehicle.
All that we could ask for against such a mighty presence of beauty was just a click in its background. When we began to click off, a few children came to the spot. Muthu, who still was soldiering on a very severe attack of cold; his nose was still running and was so very coy. He chewed the end of his shirt to hide the embarrassment of being in the presence of total strangers like us. Then came Radhika with a warm smile, Gopu and Radha. Children, flowers and wind! Beautiful moments in all respects. We wandered through the fields enjoying the beauty for long; breathing in the scent of flowers, and enjoying the fresh winds brushing the flower fields...
Gopalapuram is a small hamlet at the valley of Gopalaswamy hillocks. The people here also cultivate garlic and jute besides flowers. You can watch an endless array of vehicles loaded with sacks of flowers. They all were taking flowers for some paint company. During every Onam season, truckloads of flowers reach Kerala from here. The marigold field we saw was one of them, cultivated with an eye on the Onam market in Kerala. While we were still on the field, the clouds we spotted earlier on the top of the hillocks reached near us, heavier ad ready to pour. I enjoyed the rain, which was so cold. Still the small hillocks beyond the valleys beamed at the touch of sunrays. A spectacle which drew an immediate parallel between the months of Karkkadakam and Chingam in Kerala. An amazing view! Standing amidst those flowers, its mesmerising beauty taunted me with an insurmountable longing to act at least in a single song scene in a set here.
Gayatri obviously was a bit irked by the fact that I never showed the courtesy to hand over the wheel to her throughout our journey. So, I decided to entrust the control of Amaze with her on our return trip. She kicked the accelerator strongly giving a let out for her pent-up anger. Amaze sped forth. But when I saw the Ari flowers (a kind of small flowers seen all over Kerala) I immediately asked her to stop. Another celebration of blooms, it was totally at the expense of the nature. It was wild. Not cultivated by anybody- the floral circles tastefully drawn by the nature. But its beauty is as ravishing as that of the marigolds; an abundance of flowers without anybody’s effort in particular. Earlier, our Athappookkalams were decorated by such wild flowers. Now, all have changed to plastic flowers. Most probably, the dreams of the wild flowers on the hedges would have changed. I touched them; memories came rolling down with a heavy dose of nostalgia.
Translated by Madhuvan Geeth
Travel Info - Gopalaswamy Betta
Gopalapuram, a remote village near Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, is famous for its Flower fields. There are umpteen such villages in and around Gopalaswami Betta. Gopalaswami Betta is a hill (betta in Kannada) located in the Chamarajanagar district of the state of Karnataka, at a height of 1454 m India and is extensively wooded. It is also the highest peak in the Bandipur National Park. It lies in the core area of the Bandipur National Park and is frequented by wild life including elephants.
Getting There: The hill station is situated 16 km southwest of Gundlupet. There are two routes leading to the spot. (1) Gopalapura - Kumagahalli (2) Gundi - Vijayapura- Hangala. Start from Gundlupet, continue in the same Ooty-Mysuru road towards Bandipur. Nearly 8 Kms after Gundlupet, turn right from a junction called Hangala towards Gopalaswamy betta. There is a motorable road all the way to the top of the hill. Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses ply from Gundlupet to this hill. Mysuru(75km). Kozhikode(180km), Bangaluru(220) km.
Stay: (Stay at Gundelpet or Bandipur). Misty Rock, Gundelpet: ` 08229 223331.
Forest Guest House at Bandipur. Enquirse 08229-236051, Jungle Lodges For Booking 080-40554055.
Best Season:Through out the year.
Timings: Visitors are allowed only from around 8:30 AM till 4:00 PM.