Updated: Aug 12, 2022
Before the pandemic, we used to go on these short road trips often. We'd meander through Ramnagara's mountains and Mandya's fields, crossing villages and rivulets and soaking in the greenery for a few hours before returning home. We again set out on a small trip a few days back. We took our usual route, Mysore road, and discovered that the scenery had changed dramatically. The world has evolved since the pandemic years. The metro had expanded further into Kengeri, and new highways appeared out of nowhere near Ramanagara. We decided to go to our favourite jaunt, Manchanabele Dam. We took the turn near Hejjala instead of the Aladmara route. The Aladmara route leads to interesting places, like TG Halli, Manchanbele and Wonder la. The first time we drove that route was in the late 1990s. Back then, Mysore Road had a single lane, one for the flowing and another for the oncoming traffic, unlike the four lanes on either side now. The road was picturesque with huge trees on either side. The construction of the outer ring road and the NICE road had just then begun.
To meet the Big Banyan, one has to drive on the Mysore road, cross Bangalore University and Kengeri, further down, take a right near the Mysore Press (Deccan Herald paper) building. The Aladmara road was also narrow then. There were bushes and massive trees on both sides. Through a few gaps, villages and plant nurseries could be seen. There were streams that ran alongside and across the road. Now both the Aladmara and Mysore roads are wider and the dense vegetation has been lost over the years.
The Hejjala route winds through a state forest and villages. A significant turn takes you to Chikkanahalli, where the terrain changes and you realise you're driving up an elevation. The lake appears unexpectedly in one of the meandering turns. It's a great "aha!" moment and a childlike joy fills the heart.
The huge lake has different moods. Sometimes it is mist-covered, sometimes sun-baked black, or a soothing emerald. Today, it was blue, reflecting the cloudy skies. To absorb the scenery, you must pull over to the side of the road. Fences have now been erected to prevent us from walking down the slope. The fence is covered with a creepers and plants. A milkweed next to me was hugged by a stinking passion flower. Can you see those bristly things on the fruit? These keep birds and insects away from eating the fruit. The bristles fall away as the fruit ripens and when the seeds are ready to be dispersed.
I often wonder what makes the countryside so rustic and cheerful. I suppose it's weeds and vines that climb trees and power lines. Among the plants, we often see Lantana, Parthenium, Coatbuttons, and a variety of grasses. Here is Cat's claw, Martynia Annua where our car was parked. It is called so because the seedpod has a thorn that looks like a claw. I couldn't find a seed though. And the dark purple color on the petals makes it like a cat's paw though, right?
And then we headed home content from sipping in the greenery.