On Sunday, we took a day trip to Hogenakal Falls, on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. It is a three and a half hour drive from our house in Bangalore. In any country but India, I’d regard this as outside of daytrip distance, but the fact that it takes forever to get anywhere has toughened us with regard to out daytrip driving tolerance.
After driving 100 kilometers while dodging ghost driving motorcycles and busses on the superhighway (ummm… guys, you have two lanes demarcated for you just over there ) and a 50 km jaunt through rural Tamil Nadu, the road came to a barrier. We paid twenty rupees road toll and another ten to the forest department and started into the park that houses the falls.
It was almost like being in an American national park. Suddenly there was no traffic, just the road through the mountainous forest, scenic vistas and the odd roadside monkey troop. It was a tropical Smokey Mountain National Park, complete with stone kilometer markers.
Then we arrived in Hogenakal village, at the falls itself.
It was as if someone took a Tamil rendition of Pigeon Forge and instead of thoughtfully leaving it just outside the park’s boundaries, dumped it smack in the middle of the park. Oh and given Indians’ attraction to waterfalls, it was another taste of Athirapilly style mass tourism. Not a foreigner in sight, besides ourselves. Oddly, every second person asked us if we wanted a massage. It turns out that this stretch of the Kaveri River is famous for its healing properties and has become a bit of a domestic spa town.
The falls themselves were magnificent! They are not high. At their highest part, they are only 120 feet high and look to be much less. They are formed where a wide, shallow section of the river is speared head on by a narrow, rocky gorge. This gorge spears a kilometer (about 2/3 mile) into the river as the river collapses into it.
The result is an endless series of falls on both sides. And we were there at the height of the Northeast Monsoon; so the river was an angry white torrent as it crashed into and trough the gorge. We walked around the lower and middle falls and then we and the rest of India took a ride in a coracle – a kind of round canoe – to a small island at the very tip of the falls; perhaps too close in retrospect. But hey, they were definitely worth a visit; despite the distance and the crowds.