Day 1 -I always plan well ahead, researching the route, place to stay and eat to create interest in the road trip. Hence the planning started a month early, and this time, we decided to drive to  Sakleshpur. The Thar was eager to see new terrains, and I started from Chennai to reach Banglore around 10.30 am. The roads were getting better after Vellore, and the scenic part of the drive began from Krishnagiri. The highways were super smooth like butter, and I enjoyed it. As planned, we stayed overnight at Holiday Inn Express, Yeshwantpur, to relax before our journey the next day early morning.

Day 2 – Since it is March, we expected the heat to beat us. But with lots of water and juice with us for the road, we kept ourselves hydrated adequately. We missed the Namdroling Monastery Golden Temple during our last trip since it was closed due to COVID. The route plan is to take NH 75, hit Nelamangala and cross Channarayapattana to reach the Tibetan settlement. His Holiness the 3rd Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (1932-2009) is the founder of Namdroling Monastery (popularly known as ‘the Golden Temple’). Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery is the world’s largest teaching centre of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. It was the first time we saw monks riding on bikes and cars. The temple has three giant statues,  Buddha Shakyamuni, Guru Padmasambhava and Buddha Amitayus.  This is a wonder to explore, full of history, intrigue and impressive architecture. Peaceful and quiet, wandering the temple’s grounds while we lost our thoughts and had a meditative experience.

After the heartfulness, we started our 2 Hr drive towards Shettihalli Church, otherwise called the floating church. This church is a ruin of a 19th-century Gothic church that will submerge during monsoon season. Built-in the 1860s by the French missionaries in India, the church was abandoned after the construction of Hemavati Dam in 1960. Since then, it has become a famous tourist spot to see the half-submerged floating church during monsoon. After enjoying the surreal beauty of Shettihalli church, we decided to head to our stay at Rosetta by Ferns at Sakelspur. But agreed to come back in October to check the partially submerged church.

We reached our resort after driving 36 minutes on hilly, windy roads. The Thar automatic was roaring and seamlessly changing gears. The 100-acre property welcomed us with warmth and so much greenery. We were starving and wanted to fill our stomachs to recharge. Evening came, and we strolled around the property. One could imagine the property is full of coffee plantations and exotic flowering plants. The resort was full of surprises for us; it is a hidden gem tucked away from the main roads, and it is a perfect place to unwind and de-stress.

Day 3 – After driving 7 Hrs the previous day, we decided to start the day a little late. The resort served both the Indian and the English breakfast, and we enjoyed the traditional dabara coffee and started our 60 Kms drive to Bisle Ghat View Point, which comes under the Bisle State Forest. The narrow roads were challenging, and it was thrilling to navigate those roads to reach the viewpoint. The view offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the mighty western ghats. The significance of this viewpoint, one can view the three hill ranges, i.e. Pushpagiri, Kodagu’s Doddabetta and Kumara parvatha. We were mesmerised by the views, and after being eyes full of green and mountains, the next plan was to drive to the heritage temple at Belur.

Our conversation touched our loving darling Regi and filled us with sadness as we started to move. She would have enjoyed these roads with small streams and flowers, and we felt missing her. As my eyes became foggy, the weather too became foggy outside, and we couldn’t continue as per our plan and decided to go back to our room. Later in the evening, we took a stroll to explore the property. To our surprise, we ended at a beautiful wooden chapel, beautiful with grace, surrounded by the coffee plants and rows of white flowers. After spending some time at the Chapel, we decided to have dinner and retire for the day.

Day 4 – We had early breakfast to visit the infamous Manjarabad fort. The fort was built in 1792 by Tipu Sultan, and it is a fine example of French architecture. It is a star-shaped construction and is 988 meters above sea level. After spending 30 minutes and taking some breathtaking photos, we started our Thar to reach the Chennakesava temple – a Hoysala marvel. We understood that the temple was built in the early 12th century by Hoysala ruler, Vishnuvardhana, when the town of Belur was the capital of the Hoysala kingdom. The entry fee is free, and you need to leave your footwear for a holding charge. The vast complex has a magnificent main temple and is surrounded by a few smaller temples. Attractions in the temple complex include two ornate pillars, one of the Garuda and one with a lamp. We enjoyed our time seeing this marvellous structure and moved to reach the Hoysaleswara temple, also referred to as the Halebidu temple, dedicated to Shiva.

I missed to mention the drive from the fort to the temple, it is a 40 Km drive, and it took 1 Hr to cover. I have never had such an experience and the roads through the jungle were a sight to see, and the Thar was a joy to drive. If you are around Shaklespur, visiting these temples with exclusive carvings is a must.

We packed our luggage and were ready to drive back to Chennai the following day.

Day 5 – The F&B team had our breakfast packed with sandwiches and fruits for our journey as we had planned to leave at 6.00 am. It was dark, and we had to use our headlamps and fog lamps to reach the main road. The roads were terrible, and the tuckers were cruising at 20kms speed. There is a lot of road work happening, and one needs to be careful till we reach Hassan. Later, the roads became world-class with three lanes, and the Thar throttled at 120 Kms /  Hr. As usual, my co passager was sleeping till we reached Bangalore. Took the NICE ring road towards Hosur. We wanted to try the Ambur biryani for lunch and stopped at Star Briyani. It was noon, and the biryani was served hot out of the pot. After enjoying the quick lunch, we started our 3 Hr drive towards Chennai and reached home around 4.00 pm. This trip gave us time to spend together and reflect on the good things. With heartfulness of gratitude, we arrived home safely.