The road to Gudibande – Planning a road trip around Bengaluru? Move over Nandi Hills, Gudibande Fort is almost as approachable and far more serene | The Financial Express

The road to Gudibande – Planning a road trip around Bengaluru? Move over Nandi Hills, Gudibande Fort is almost as approachable and far more serene

If you are looking for a place that is calm, serene—and still approachable—it’s 60 km further away, up north. It’s called the Gudibande Fort. We took the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder for a drive to the fort.

The road to Gudibande – Planning a road trip around Bengaluru? Move over Nandi Hills, Gudibande Fort is almost as approachable and far more serene
Easy accessibility, however, has made it overcrowded—these once calm hills have become a hangout destination and, now, unfortunately, are loaded with plastic waste.

How far can you go from Bengaluru, when you have got just a day at hand. Coorg, although preferable, is too far away. There is only so much you can see in Mysuru. Ask Bengalureans their favourite weekend getaway or a day trip, and a lot of them would likely reply Nandi Hills. This place, at an elevation of about 1,450 metres, is cooler than the already pleasant Bangalore. At a distance of 40 km from Kempegowda International Airport, and 60 km from the city centre, Nandi Hills is quite approachable, too. Easy accessibility, however, has made it overcrowded—these once calm hills have become a hangout destination and, now, unfortunately, are loaded with plastic waste.

If you are looking for a place that is calm, serene—and still approachable—it’s 60 km further away, up north. It’s called the Gudibande Fort. We took the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder for a drive to the fort.

The Urban Cruiser Hyryder is Toyota’s first mass-market hybrid car in India (after the niche Prius, Camry and Vellfire). It has been co-developed with Suzuki, and is available in a full hybrid option (1490cc petrol engine as well as an electric motor) and a mild-hybrid variant (called the Neodrive, with a 1462cc petrol engine).

From Bengaluru, you have to take NH44, the longest highway in India—from Kanyakumari to Srinagar—and turn left from a village called Varlakonda (home to a small fort). NH44 is a six-lane toll road, but as you turn left, you will enter a world not envisioned by many city dwellers, a world less seen. A road scarcely travelled. In fact, some stretches are so empty, they feel haunted.

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Hauntingly beautiful, some may remark.

A drive 10 km further takes you to the beautiful and blue Bhairasagara Lake. The place hardly sees traffic, and you’ll have a hard time locating plastic waste, a usual sight at most tourist destinations.

A 5-minute drive further, to your right, you’ll almost miss the Gudibande Fort. “It wasn’t supposed to attract enemy attention,” a tea-shop owner told us. In fact, the fort is made entirely out of stones from the hill on top of which it’s located—and that ensures it blends with the environment.

You have to take a few hundred stairs to the top, which takes about an hour. The fort, the story goes, was constructed by a chieftain Byre Gowda in the 17th century. Locals say he used to rob the rich and help the poor—a Robin Hood-kind of character, but unlike Robin Hood, Byre Gowda was a real person.

The walls of the fort are well preserved, and on top is a Shiva temple. Locals say it’s one of the 108 Jyotirlingas—the lingam or the radiant sign of the Almighty—in the world. But there are signs of disfigurement, a common sight at all tourist places in India—heart-shaped signs carved on the rocks.

Unlike Nandi Hills, which is also a birdwatchers’ paradise, Gudibande is a place where you would come to do nothing. For people who love to drive, or ride a bicycle, the drive is a heaven, so is the place, of course. The roads are well-paved, are free of traffic, and the air as clean as it perhaps has been since the times of Byre Gowda.

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First published on: 26-11-2022 at 03:30 IST