How far can you go, when you have got two days. Coorg, although preferable, is too far away for some. There is only so much you can see in Mysuru. Ask Bangaloreans 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 40km from Kempegowda International Airport, and 60km from the city centre, Nandi Hills is quite approachable, too. The easy accessibility, however, has meant it has become overcrowded—these once calm hills have become a hangout destination and, now, unfortunately, are loaded with plastic waste.
If, however, you are looking for a place that is calm, serene—and still approachable—it’s 60km further away, up north. It’s called the Gudibande Fort. We take the new Honda Civic for a drive to the fort.
From 2006-13, Honda Cars India sold what is globally called the eighth-generation Civic. It then skipped the ninth-generation, and earlier this year the tenth-generation arrived in India. It doesn’t look anything like its predecessors. The car looks edgy, premium—the side profile is like a fastback, the rear like a coupé. It resembles the futuristic electrics (almost!).
The variant we drive is a diesel—1597cc engine that produces 118bhp power and 300Nm torque. Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, it has an astonishing fuel-efficiency of 26.8kpl (in ideal test conditions). We get about 20kpl.
The car rides on Yokohama ADVAN dB tyres—fitted as original equipment—and this ensures minimal tyre noise. If you happen to trudge through Bengaluru traffic, to reach Gudibande, you have to take NH44—towards Hyderabad—and turn left from a village called Varlakonda (home to a small fort). NH44 is a six-lane toll road—just like any major highway—but as you turn left, you 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. Hauntingly beautiful, some may remark.
A drive 10km further takes you to the beautiful and blue Bhairasagara lake, and a hamlet. People are curious; a schoolchild stops us, to look at our car. The place hardly sees traffic—we haven’t even come from the hustle-bustle in Bengaluru—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 tells 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 in 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.
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—love signs are carved on the rocks to retain their name in history.
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, free of traffic, and the air as clean as it perhaps has been since the times of Byre Gowda.