…And so a Thursday arrives with the promise of a long weekend ahead. You feel a primitive restlessness stirring in your bones; itchy feet that demand that you carry them away from the city. After several hours of your eyes playing tennis between pictures of His Royal Highness Mysore and Pondicherry the Sea Nymph, you decide whom you want to pay a visit: that beautiful, curvaceous mistress of Nature, Dandeli.
Make no mistake, Nature might own her but that doesn’t make Dandeli any less flirtatious with you. She’ll beguile you with her lush greenery, the million glittering forest eyes that come alive in the dark, the velvety fabric of night woven with stars and the fauna that she keeps for pets. For your tired soul, she’ll let you choose between two adrenalin-fuelled activities: a midnight trek through the wilderness or a long, long rafting trip down the Kali river. And should you reciprocate her feelings, she’ll be able to swing a night safari in your favour. (A lucky friend went on one.)
Be warned, though – if she figures that you’re only being nice to her because you want something in return, she’ll let loose a thousand chirping cicadas, snakes and frogs that will slither and croak through the night. Hell, she’ll probably even deny you the rare pleasure of sighting Hornbills. My advice to you? Be good to her, because sleeping in her lap and spotting a Hornbill are two of the best things that will happen to you. (I must have done something only partially right, because I never got to see a Hornbill even once.)
If you’re in the mood for an adventure, then with a sharp snap of her fingers, she’ll get a couple of homeboys to take you to the natural Jacuzzi – a gurgling waterfall that feels like a million dollars worth of spa therapy. Maybe she’ll even let you stay in the tree house, part of which projects out onto the river. If you’re just plain lazy, she’ll lull you to peace with bonfires and sumptuous food.
By the end of the days spent in her company, you’ll long to extend your stay. You’ll turn doleful eyes towards her, beseeching her to understand how you feel. She’ll smile a kindly smile at you and you’ll know then that the decision is entirely yours. And that’s when you’ll feel the burden of the real world, that monster waiting to yank the chain around your ankles the minute it smells your escape. You’ll sigh heavily and just cling on to the memory of the lovely days with Dandeli. As you drive away from her, you’ll look at her, a silent question in your eyes, wanting to know if she’ll be your mistress as well, your escape from reality. And she’ll smile again, that Mona Lisa smile. She’ll look away because what do you know, there’s another car driving right into her arms.
Getting there: Dandeli’s accessible by road and rail. You can drive down – it’s about 8 hours from Bangalore – or take an overnight bus. By rail, you can take a train to Hubli or Belgaum and hire a taxi from there.
Go if: You love nature, wildlife, birds, rafting, seek tranquility and maybe even a holiday romance with the place.
P.S: I’m a big, big fan of Hornbill Resort and recommend that if you’re going to Dandeli, you must stay there. It’s slightly expensive, but the experience is worth it.