Rolling hills and verdant expanses, sudden bursts of flaming red amongst greenery and winding, picturesque roads… this is as close to country bliss as you can get. Via the winding district road of Malavalli you suddenly come to the slightly crooked signpost with the text ‘Georgia Sunshine Village’. The exit is actually a dirt road that seems to meander in pure jungle. Well, shift into first gear, adjust your seat and go for it…. Winding, curving, bumpy and all but non-existent, the trail continues through the jungle until you’re sure you’re lost. Then picturesque red roof tiles peep through the foliage…. Welcome, the forest seems to be murmuring.
Shivanasamudram is the domain of Mother Nature. Gentle rolling hills seduce with their pristine freshness, the forests are virgin and the experience is sublime. These hills are home to boars, peacocks, partridges, elephants and even the occasional marauding panther. Bands of elephants are known for moving as close as the outskirts of the village in these regions. How much more forest can you ask for, so close to home? The eastern end of Mandya District is much more lush than the Mysore Highway would have you believe. Turn off the back roads for a quiet weekend in the woods at the incongruous Georgia Sunshine Village, just a few miles away from the roaring waterfalls of Shivanasamudram.
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From the Panditahalli exit you will reach the village of Hebbani; drive 5 minutes on a winding county road until the ‘Georgia Sunshine Village’ signpost pops out of the green. Turn onto a dirt road that winds through the jungle. Look for the signpost announcing a left turn on a small path. Look closely, because the signpost is 20 feet above the eyeline. Just a few more turns from here and you hit Georgia Sunshine Village. Shivanasamudram, a possible day trip from Bengaluru, is an ideal weekend getaway thanks to the Hatherell family’s country home, Georgia Sunshine Village, named after your hostess, Georgia Hatherell. Anyone looking for nothing but nature at its unspoilt best is welcome. The place is the experience and the keyword is ‘chill’.
Those in urgent need of rest can grab a book, put up their feet and relax by one of the many small streams that run through the woods surrounding Georgia Sunshine. Those who can’t sit still can venture further into the forest to look for waterfalls, wildlife or fishing. The Cauvery, the lifeline of Karnataka, splits into two streams here – Barachukki and Gaganachukki. About 9 km by road from Georgia, turn left at Panditahalli and drive to Shri Vishveshwaraya hydroelectric power station referred to as the ‘Bluff’. From Bluff it is only a 5 minute drive to the falls.
Beautiful waterfalls spread over two expansive slopes will greet you. The water is diverted to feed what was Asia’s first hydroelectric power station (built in 1902 by the maharaja of the former state of Mysore). Gaganachukki also has a fall-side dargah across the bank, a short drive to the other slope. A word of warning though – in these regions the falls represent a literal Xanadu for rowdy local revelers and their ilk. The falls are therefore best avoided on public holidays, while they are quite acceptable on weekends.
A few food stalls and some vendors of fresh coconut water and locally grown gooseberries, generously spiced with red chilli powder, complete the experience Shivanasamudram. Barachukki is just past the Dargah, a few miles away. The falls here form a sylvan, deep pool. You can swim here or even ride an attraction (Rs 50-100). The falls are amazing all year round. The forests here are lush, which also means that traditional hiking trails are non-existent and a trek is what it should be – tough and rough. The Hatherells will organize a guide who will map out a route and also guide you. Routes are adapted to the energy balance of tractors and can range from a simple 2-hour chick to a day-long journey complete with food, water and supplies. Animal sightings are rare on these tours, but groups have been known to get lucky and see fresh elephant footprints and dung!
When was the last time you actually walked through a village that seemed lost somewhere in time and space? Where can you still find farm implements that are hand made and actually have a market for cow bells? The villages of Malavalli, Panditahalli, Manchanahalli, Hebbani and Shimsapura offer all this and more. Don’t miss the traditional Friday market when you’ll find a plethora of sound and color and pick up some unusual buys in a single wacky and undeniably rustic location.
Location: Shivanasamudram, in the east of Mandya, runs through the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
Distance: 109 km S of Bengaluru
When to go:The best time to go is in the months after the monsoon, from June to January. The forest will be lush and nature will be at its richest. February to April may be too hot for some, but the air-conditioned rooms attract people even then. If the rain is good, the falls are amazing even from April. Water enthusiasts will be happy to learn that Barachukki Waterfall is good all year round.