Hampi - history carved in granite

Day – 1, As planned we left Bangalore quite late in our standard after a big breakfast at home around 11, the traffic on a Saturday as usual was very heavy and it continued that way till we crossed Nelamangala. After that the traffic got better but there were too many diversions as there was work going on to build flyovers and road widening on NH-4. We filled fuel somewhere after Nelamangala, and noticed there were not many decent stops like CCD or others. We did make a quick stop after one of those toll-plaza before Chitradurga to have lunch inside the car with the home cooked paratha (stuffed bread).

At Chitradurga we need to take an diversion and left NH-4 and continued on NH-13 (Solapur Highway). This is a undivided 2 lane road. There are not many small vehicles but lots of big rigs. We found lots of Sunflower field and stopped in one of them for a quick photo-shoot. The road is full of pot holes and unmarked speed breakers. But it was not that bad and I got used to it after a while and reached outskirts of Hospet around 4PM. There we saw the many mining dump-truck but this is just a small part compared to its neighbor Bellary.

Finding our destination Hotel Malligey was easy as it is quite well known, we checked in before dusk. The room were very spacious and we were welcomed by very friendly staff there. After getting freshen up we fixed a guide from hotel’s travel desk for next day. Initially we planned for 3 nights stay with 2 days of Hampi but Hotel people suggested we could shorten one day. Later realized it was a good idea as one gets bore with stone after a while. But if you are coming from a distance it might be a good idea to spend second day as there are many sights to cover.


Day – 2, We started with complementary breakfast from hotel towards Hampi as our guide was waiting near his village. We picked him up and started with “Pattabhi Ram Mandir” . From there we went to “Vittala Temple” via “Talarigatta Gate”. From the car park there are golf cart which takes you to Vittala Temple (around 2 KM) via the historic market area. Tough it was just 10 on the watch but the Sun was too bright and hot. Our guide did a good job in explaining the details. From there we proceed to Royal Center.

We started with Saraswathi Temple, it was only us in this less visited temple. Next to it was Octagonal Bath, a place used by horse traders and other outsider. After that we came to Queen Bath a unique mix of Indian & Persian architecture. Each dome is designed differently. The peripheral verandah provided the required shade and privacy for royal women.

The ‘Mahanavami Dibba’ is a huge area with many sites within the key is off-course Dassara platform. The kings of Hampi used to celebrate Dassara a big way currently royal family Mysore celebrate the same. Aarush became bored with stones and fatigued with so hot sun, he preferred to stay in the car to play ‘angry bird’ ?

After this we moved our car to ‘Hazara Rama Temple’ a royal temple which depicts the Indian epic Ramayana on stone wall. This was a temple only for royal family to pray and enter. There is ‘Archeology Gallery and Office; which we skipped and headed straight to ‘Zenana(ladies) Enclosure’ . The key attraction inside is offcourse ‘elephant stable’ and ‘lotus mahal’ another key thing to notice is the watch towers. Each of them are different- one is circular and other one triangular. Now it was almost 12:30 and we agreed to stop for lunch and have a good break to avoid the sun which was really too hot to handle.

The number uno destination for food in Hampi is Mango Tree – a vegetarian place next to the Tungabhadra River under giant mango tree. You get all kinds of food which is a delicacy given the remoteness of Hampi. The best part was we ordered in parts to linger our stay in shade.

At around 3/3:30 we started again, and there is a road which connects to Virupaksha Temple. But looks like it is kind of private road where our guide opened a huge gate next to Mango Tree to let us in. Virupaksha temple is still a working temple and you will find Laxmi , the temple elephant there. After Virupaksha temple we crossed Hampi bazaar and drove uphill to Kadalekalu Ganesha. This is known as Hemakunta hill where many attraction can be covered on foot. But we skipped it as that would mean we have climb down the hill to Hampi Bazar again.

From there we went to Laxmi Narayan and Badavilinga temple. We drove past the famous two storied gateway. A perfect place to enjoy sunset among glowing granites. We headed to Krishna Temple and on route saw ‘Akka Tangi Gudda’ (sister stone) two giant boulders forming an arch. We visited underground Shiva temple next and noblemen quarter.

The sun was now dropping and we had a dilemma what to do next, our guide suggested we visit one more temple not so visited by tourist due to its offtrack location. The temple is Pattabhirama Temple a huge temple with stone carvings are still intact. We should have went to ‘Hemakunta hill’ to watch sun set but instead headed to Tungabhadra reservoir and got lost in Hospet town. It was a long day and Aarush went to sleep so headed to hotel.

Lots of stone, art and history at the end it at times feel heavy on head reminding touring Louvre museum of Paris for a whole day.

Road trip - October 2012

Visiting the northern part of Karnataka for its historic and artistic monuments were long due. We thought of doing it two years back during 15th August long weekend but postponed the same due to late rain and high water level at Tungabhadra Rivers. This year we started to plan early and consulted two avid travelers and their guidance in setting up the itinerary. It was planned that we would use the 2 weeks school vacation for this trip, but then I personally felt it would be a great miss Durga pooja twice in a row. So we modified our itinerary again and split the same in two with 5/6 days of stay in Bangalore to celebrate Durga Pooja.

On the negative side it resulted in longer drive for me and dropping few destinations from Northern sea-side destinations. Now we have to do that another time as it would require another sojourn of a week to complete. Here is both the list for a easy reference.


Bangalore-Hampi-Aihole-Patadkal-Badami-Bijapur-Bangalore

Days

Start

Activity

Distance

Stay

Day-1BangaloreHospet - a simple a laure drive365 KMHotel Malligey
Day-2HospetHampi - Day Trip in Stone Age15 KMHotel Malligey
Day-3HospetAihole + Patadkal , night stay in Badami158 KMBadami court
Day-4BadamiBanashankari tempi and badami cave followed by Mahakuta Temple and drive to Bijapur and covered as many place we could142 KMHotel Pearl, nothing great checkout others
Day-5BijapurEarly morning Gol Gumaz - we were the first and sole visitor of the wispering gallery. Head out to Bangalore by 9. lunch at Chitradurga and visit the fort and drive back home527 KMSweet Home

Coonoor - Acre Wild

We followed road suggested by Mr. Vijay to reach Coonoor, which was quite deserted except few local people we were the only one on that road. This road goes via tea gardens and gives a treat to your eyes. Once we reached Coonoor we parked next to the bus stand and had a quick thali lunch in nearby busy restaurant. After that we headed towards our Farmstay - Wild Acre. The direction given by Mr. Mansoor is very accurate and we reached without any trouble. The location is just back of Coonoor bus stand and very well marked.


After putting our stuffs and a small introduction of the cheese and farm and its produce from Deepak we went out to explore Coonoor. We went to the botanical garden which has trees from all over the world. We must admire those British for bringing tree or plant from faraway places and making themselves feel at home far away from their motherland. Be it Shillong (summer capital of Assam in British days) or Coonoor, they have similarities with parks, lakes well planned roads in hills and old British Bungalows. Coming back to the botanical garden, it is well maintained but Indian common culture of eating and playing cricket anywhere and everywhere within the park will surely take a toll slowly on the green patches.

Aarush demanded to take a boat ride and as he was upset about leaving RedHill behind ;   we managed to get our turn quickly as there was no proper queue for boating. It took 10 minutes to complete the paddling.And after some photo shoots of here and there we left the botanical garden behind.

Next we drove through Wellington – a Indian Army Area. The whole area is under Indian Army and they have officer training camp and many other training facilities. Also there is a golf course which is really worth its name. After driving cluelessly we headed back to Acre Wild. We went down from our cottage to main dining area for dinner around 8 and literally forced them to cook on time. The food was OK, the quality and service was on the negative side. Though Mr. Monsoon appeared briefly and promised he will join ; but after many minutes of waiting and as food was getting cold we had our dinner and told them again and again to keep the breakfast ready for next day on time.


Next day we woke up around 7.00am and took morning walk through the farm and some picture shots of birds and surrounding scenic area before we went for breakfast. The breakfast included freshly baked bread and farm made cheese. It was much better than dinner we must admit. We met another family from Bangalore who were visiting Coonoor for the second time. We shared our previous night dinner experience and it seems they had the same on their first night and opted for self prepared dinner.

We had a big plan to ride the World Heritage Blue rail from Coonoor to Ooty and visit Ooty city and comeback. The railway station is a small one and parking was a nightmare as there were many many taxi, vans waiting for tourist coming in the peak of summer vacation. We booked the ticket of 1st class train ticket. And Parking attendee told me to wait and park once parking lots get little free after all passengers came to Coonoor moves out. It sound simple but it was not so....it was too congested and as I was driving backwards; scratched my bumper and everyone was honking at me. In mean time, Pamela was calling to tell the train is about to leave.

In that process I missed the train and had to drive from Connor to Ooty while Aarush and Pamela went by train. Pamela & Aarush were really upset, Aarush cried whole way thinking his dad was lost..... it was total disaster.Now after driving from Conoor to Ooty (via the main highway this time) was waiting at the railway station.  Pamela appeared unhappy with the situation but looking at car dent she didn't had anything else to say.

Having own car was bliss on other side, we reached botanical garden of Ooty to start with but with rotten mood. This time parking was OK and as we were taking a stroll within garden it started to rain. We took shelter in the glass house.  After botanical garden we drove to Ooty main market from there we came to Café Coffee Day for a break and it rained again. Lucky us, we dodged the rain twice. We saw tourists drenched in the sudden rain and shivering in cold.

We had a late lunch at XXX and bought the famous Ooty chocolate from king's Star.

After that we went to Rose Graden, by this time we could feel the chillness in Ooty’s air after the rain as day was coming to an end. After taking a full round of the rose garden we headed back to Coonoor. The Rose Garden is really big and has many varieties of rose from Japanese green to black rose.

We bought some packets of Maggi before entering Acre Wild. It was raining like dogs and cat as we had self prepared dinner. It was a day which ended with high note as we had our car and saved from rain.

Next day the breakfast was again a disappointment as no cheese no fresh bread. It was simple plain toast and omelet. Mrs. Mansoor joined us for breakfast as both the guest were leaving for Banglore. May be she was there to ensure we settled our bills properly or not. Any way I would not rate this place for hospitality. They have functional kitchen, clean bathroom and it is your choice to stay there or not. May be coming out of a great hospitality of Red Hills our expectation was high as we read many positive comments in travel forum and blogs.

Before heading back to Ooty we went around Wellington one more time. Crossing Ooty with traffic reminded us of reality. Traffic police tried their best to prevent us from going via the shortest route (36 hairpin bend). But we convinced them we will drive slow and maintain 2nd gear all along. Coming down a steep hill is always riskier than going up but we just followed the rules mentioned on the road. We drove in 2nd gear, no speeding, no overtaking and following lane.

We stopped Popeye's at Masinagudi, it is a fast food center with French Fires and burgers & wraps. The place is clean and has a clean toilet the food is decent and run by a lovely couple. What else to ask in the middle of nowhere.

We came across few tuskers of forest department as we cross Masinagudi jungle range. We did not stopped around Mysore and finally stopped at Café Coffee Day for a refreshment.

A magical gateway called - RedHill

The drive to Ooty was thrilling with those 36 hairpin turns. We reached the outskirt of the city and asked for direction to Emerald/Avalanche and reached bypassing central Ooty town. We passed Ooty lake on Lake Road and crossed Good Shepherd School, Fern Hill Road and at last drove on Avalanche Road. The place ‘Avalanche’ gets its name as there was a massive land slide in early 1800. From Emerald (after the bridge) we took a left and the road condition continued to degrade as we crossed Avalanche Lake. We called the Mr. Vijay few times just to ensure we are on the right track, road is full of small stones and pebbles. It is easy to start doubting oneself and its direction, as there no one to ask for directions from. It is treat we enjoyed the pristine beauty of the surroundings while ensuring not scraping bottom of my car.

When we started in the morning it was clear sky but the sky was getting darker every hours. We were the only guest during lunch time, the food was Indian freshly made and tasty. Post lunch it was dark sky as we returned to our room for a siesta and it started to rain. It was a pleasure to enjoy the rain only from the hill top. Rain made it even more pristine with each leaves shining after talking bath. Once Aarush woke up he found his newly found best friend waiting for him. It is German Sheppard named Moby who is so friendly that after a while we were not scared that Aarush was almost touching his teeth. While we were having evening coffee we met another family. They were also from Bangalore and we mingled up very well. This family of four had 2 boys who became Aarush new hero. And adult had fun chatting while taking a stroll. Aarush was happy as it was all boys and “Moby’ the German Sheppard of Red Hill kept him busy.

At evening, temperature started to drop and we enjoyed a lovely conversation in front of a working fire place. It is unimaginable when whole India is basking with summer in Middle of April we are seating in front a Fireplace. We planned for next day’s activity with our host. Dinner served was continental - absolutely great one. After a long time really had a true continental dish in home setting.


Next day we woke up at 5, big thanks to Pamela for her determination to capture the Sun rise. We captured a perfect rise. After a good night sleep and a healthy breakfast we were all set for the big hike. Mr. Vijay arranged for the guide and we started to climb up. The climb was steep but best part was Aarush walked most part himself. We took many small breaks in between to look down at the lakes. After each climb the view got better and effort worth it. From the peak you get a panoramic view of lakes. When I uploaded picture from my mobile people commented was it ‘Scotland’ ?


After climbing down and having our lunch we continued with chit chat. Most times as time permitted Mr. & Mrs Vijay joined us. After evening tea we left for Parsons Valley Dama and soundings. This time all the guest travelled in Mr.Vijay’s Scorpio and the driver drove gently to ensure spotting wild life. We spotted a herd of Sambar deer and black color Nilgiri langur. They are just like normal grey langur in height and etc. only deference is body color.

On the way back Aarush fall asleep after a full day of activities. And we let him sleep as he was very tired from the long hike and continuous running with Moby. We were joined by another couple from Bangalore where the gentleman just came for a long hike next day as his preparation to Mt. Everest base camp.

Next morning the sunrise was not perfect as it was covered by sun. Post breakfast we were supposed to move out but for once we did not want to leave this beauty of soundings and wonderful hospitability of Mr. Vijay. And we lingered there enough and made a move to our next and last stop ‘Connor’ which is only

Even after months of this trip Aarush is still a big fan of him and looking forward when he will go back to Red Hill.

Masinagudi

The long waited Summer Vacation of 2012 ; earlier we used to escape the peak season madness now we are in the madness since both Aarush and Pamela are now part of active school. And we are going to be like this for years to come with no other choice. With that said, still wanted to avoid the crowded destinations. We wanted to visit ‘ Nilgiris’ the number uno summer destination of South India and picked Mudumalai, Ooty(Red Hills) and Connoor. We booked Red Hills Nature resort first, Wild Acres in Connoor second and at last Jungle Lodge at Masinagudi. All these booking were done with at least month in advance keeping in mind pick season.

We started from Bangalore on Sunday 15th April. The plan was to start very early morning but the alarm in BlackBerry was only for weekdays and it did not buzzed as it was Sunday (alarm only on weekday). We started from our home around 6:30 AM the traffic in Bangalore-Mysore was as usual crazy. Reached Mysore around 9 AM and stopped at Kamat near Mysore-Zoo for breakfast. From there the road to Masinagudi is 100KM and we had to travel on typical Indian 2 Lane Highway (undivided). The drive was nice only in the last part of Karnataka side there were many unmarked speed breaker in Bandipur Forest range. On the way we spotted many spotted deers. We reached Masinagudi in high noon with scorching heat and filled up the tank with diesel there. The road to JungleHut is well marked and we reached around 12 there.


Host welcomed us with warm greetings and invited Aarush for b’day party later in the evening. Aarush was very keen to jump in the swimming pool right then & there and we pursued him for later. The lunch was great with many choice and felt like a great start for vacation. We retired to our hut and took a small nap. Around 16:30 we went for a open jeep road side safari. We saw many spotted dears on our way to mayor dam. On our way back we spotted wild Boar, peacocks; the driver/guide was great and he took us to a detour and we spotted Mongoose and Sambar Deer. Sambar Deer was very shy and camouflaged and being dark could not take any picture.

Coming back to JungleHut we found the B’day part just finished but there were cakes and etc. We celebrated the same and got freshened up. The dinner was excellent with a touch of continental food. Aarush was very happy as there were many others around his age group and had a good time before retiring to bed. It was decided next morning Pamela will go for walk into the nearby jungle in the early morning . This track sound very promising as the Sunday Morning people were able to spot a leopard.

Pamela and another lady left for tracking early next morning and they spotted one sloth bear just outside the resort. Rest of the track they spotted plenty of birds no more luck with big cat. Me & Aarush dipped into the pool and had great fun; being Monday most of the guest left for home and the resort became little deserted. Within the resort we spotted woodpecker and other birds. In the afternoon post lunch we went back to Bandipur (Karnataka Side) for safari. And were extremely lucky to see one sleeping tiger. Apart from these we spotted many dears, peacocks (in umpteen no.) wild boar, elephants as well.

Tuesday morning it was my turn for morning jungle safari. I was alone with the guide we spotted sambar deer and others. While trekking we could hear noise of wild animal roaring from very nearby (it seems animal spotted us) but I couldn’t see any. Well, after breakfast we headed out for Ooty.


South Trip

Our trip to South  was one for which we hardly planned meticulously. Moreover, my son got fractured elbow but then also our spirit was on high although bit dampened that whether we will enjoy or not; kind of excitement mixed with anxiety, hope and happiness. I still remember the moment we sat in the car and started for the trip which was going to be one of the longest drive with Aarush.

We  left Bangalore on 11th December 2010. As nothing much planned we packed some fruits and snacks which could be of help in desperate times and of course a camera to capture the moments.

Our route-

Bangalore -> Madurai(via Salem) -> Rameshwaram -> Kanyakumari -> Kovalam –> Kumarakom -> Malampuzha (via Palghat) -> Bangalore.



View Road Trip December 2010 in a larger map

Although the principle best followed in the case of accommodation is – ‘To each to his own’. In this trip no prior booking was done as we didn’t knew which night where we will be. It was on-spot which Santanu liked most. Well the trip was a great one on our Indica as we sold the car within 3 weeks after returning to Bangalore. It was a sad separation but too much hassle to keep her with change of registration and etc. And now after almost two years all the travel-logs are now published.

Malampuzzha

After being guest of GK Homestay for 2 nights at 7.00 we hit the road towards Malampuzha. It is about 8 km from the Palakkad town; Palkad is known as gateway between Tamilnadu and Kerala as it is a valley between hills. It is major rice growing area and home of many Tamil Brahmins who are living in Kerala for centuries.

Malampuzha Garden is build next to reservoir on river with same name. It has a mini hydro-electric project. The garden in that has a scenic setting with the forested hills of Western Ghats forming the backdrop. Just like Brindhvan garden of Mysore is build next to a reservoir on River Cauvery.

The garden consists of a unique ropeway that allows visitors to move around the whole area. The park includes flowerbeds, pools, snake garden, Japanese garden pedal boats, aquarium & etc. The whole park was under renovation and only spent some time in children area where Aarush like the Helicopter a lot. Within the Malampuzha Gardens is a large cement sculpture named Yakshi by Kanayi Kunhiraman which you like or dislike there is nothing in between. Kanayi is the most famous living sculpture of Kerala and his work are displayed across Kerala which are huge and very modern. With traditional Kerala his sculptures sometime looks out of place.


We stopped at Hotel Tripenta opposite Rock Garden for lunch. The food was OK best part the restrooms were clean. We liked it and wondered with many ‘w’ questions about the nice property as it is really off-track but has modern amenities like swimming pool & etc.

The rock-garden is the only one of its kind in southern India - inspired by Nek Chand Saini, the artist who made Chandigarh’s famous Rock Garden. All the art is made with recycled materials. The best part was the rock Garden was almost empty and recently renovated under the supervision of Nek Chand Foundation. We took many pictures and really they are beautiful and worth spending some time here.

Around 4.00 pm we started our journey back; crossed Coimbatore before dusk and continued driving. This was a change from the morning plan as initially we thought of spending one night in Palakkad. It was a long long drive; we stopped at Salem for a quick dinner around 9 PM and continued driving all the way to Bangalore.



We reached almost safely after 8 days trip at 2.30 AM at night. We could have stopped at Salem and had a good rest. And next time we travelled again towards Salem for Munnar we stopped at GRT for the night which is on the highway.


Links



Backwater:Kumarakom

Around 10 we started for our next destination to Kottayam which was around 140K M away. From Varkala we started following the road signs for Kochi but once we almost approached Kottayam/ Kumarakom we got little bit lost but soon found our way towards Kottayam. Roads were good except last part near GK Riverview home stay (Rough Guide recommendation). The owner of the homestay tried his best to discourage from coming with a small kid which infact made us more determined to stay with him. We were to stay here for 2 nights.



It is situated on the bank of river Meenachil in Aymanam. Right in front of house had backwater canal where you can take ride on country boats and watch people. They have only 4 rooms and facing the paddy field with hammocks and swing. Worth staying here if you don’t like TV in room and want to be close to nature and far from all noise of urban life. We spotted many birds there.

When we reached here, it was almost 3.30-4 00pm and were hungry. They offered us with some sandwich as we told we would like to have early dinner at night; traditional Keralite home cooked food was prepared & served at night along with other guests (foreigners). While dining we planned our next day itinerary with our host (he offered us with choices).


Next day our host walked with us and dropped us to respective ferry junction where from we took ride to huge Vembanad Lake along with other localities. From here, we went to Alappuzha (Alleppey) to hire house boat and took an 2hr. ride on lake with scenic beauty. We spotted many birds, house boats and could see the every-day life of common village folks. In between, the boat stopped for a tender coconut break where there was a pet eagle whose picture you see with Aarush. It was easy for him to hold the bird on his hand as it was with cast. After that we had lunch at Alleppey.

And came back to Kottayam railway station by another normal ferry, where auto was waiting to take us back to homestay (sent by GK only).

We preferred to avoid any night stay at houseboats being December they were exorbitantly pricey. But we thoroughly experienced boat rides whole day. In total, we spent almost 6/7 hours on boats. And as we traveled in public boats it gave a real glimpse of day-to-day life from children going to school, people coming back from town to village with their rations.

At night, had dinner and went to bed early so that we can leave the place as early as possible. Every food GK provided was excellent a perfect host.

Kovalam and Varkala beach

Drive from Kanyankumari was smooth, Aarush took a small nap. The road was undivided two lanes so the speed was limited but the lush green from paddy field , coconut grove and plantation leaves was pleasant for eyes. We reached Kovalam as per our plan, saw sunset which was magnificient. It was great to watch perfect sunrise and sunset on a same day. Public Beach was next to Taj and Leela hotels where large part belongs to them for their private beach. Now we started to search for hotel and ended up with Blue Sea. Did not find anything special but food was definitely good and the property looks like going down the hill as two brother split on the same.



Next morning we went geared up towards light house beach which we found to be much more serene compared to earlier one. It has long stretch to take a stroll. Had our breakfast at one of the sea facing restaurant; there were some reasonable price hotels with a view need to explore sometime later. Aarush and Santanu went inside the water to take a dip. Aarush with his plaster initially was reluctant but once he got used to the waves wanted to spend more time there.

At afternoon, came back to our room had lunch and some rest then went to Thiruvananthapuram to visit “Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple”. Drive from Kovalam to city was was not long but full of traffic. One of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples in India displays a supreme blend of Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture. The temple has strict order where only Hindus are allowed and male must enter bare chest and wear dhoti. Even for Aarsush they had a dhoti to rent. From there we went in search of place within Thiruvananthapuram to see Kathakali and martial arts but in turn ended up seeing Napier Museum, Oriental Research Institute & Manuscripts Library and other old heritage buildings which was worth passing by but we failed to capture them in moving car. Unfortunately, these all are on main roads where you cannot stop unless you park your car properly. One thing definitely caught our eyes was the number of jewelry/Gold shops. Around 8 PM we returned to our room so that we can have early dinner and head off early morning to next spot Varkala beach. Settled the bills with hotel for a early start.

Left Kovalam at 6AM and crossed Thiruvananthapuram city without any traffic jam this time. Varkala is also famous for the 2,000-year old Janardana Swami Temple considered as Dakshin Kashi. But we skipped and headed straight towards beach around 7am it felt like heaven. Really worth it would be staying over there. Since we have already booked for that night at Kumarakom we could not make it. The views of the sunset sunrise are worth lingering over. The cliff and the beach house a lot of resorts, restaurants and other shops. The cliff has a long stretch of small shops which goes on for over a kilometer where we took a walk and had breakfast in one of the restaurant there. Looked like Varkala is more famous with foreigners. The breakfast was great as we had some European breakfast.

Kanyakumari : Where the Seas Meet

Continuing from Madurai (2010-December); we setup the alarm clock to ensure we do not miss the sunrise. But to our surprise we were awaken early by anxiety and whispers from the corridors. We went to see if the Sun was rising soon but the horizon was dark and there was faint rays of light. We let Aarush sleep and went to the rooftop where we saw every hotel rooftop is full of people as all are waiting for the Sun-rise. After some wait the magnificent sunrise did happen but it was quite late around 6.30am but worth watching. This is a small video of the same.
After a very ordinary breakfast in one of the small stall we went to see Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue, a Indian version of the Statue of Liberty . It was 8:30 in the morning in December but the Sun was really hot, it was quite along queue for ferry ride to that spot but worth going. When we reached Rock Memorial the Sun was on full blast it became tough to move around with bear foot.

Thiruvalluvar is ancient Tamil poet who lived almost two thousand years back. His work is part of everyday Tamil life but not very known beyond South India. This huge statue definitely stole all the limelight in the southern tip of mainland India. Personally felt it too huge and little eye-sore but again that I my personal view.
On return from ferry ride we came to hotel it was noon and Kanyakumari(Virgin goddess) temple was closed. We had to wait till 4PM for it to reopen or move forward. After temples of Madurai and Rameshwarm I was bit tired of temple queues. And in this temple all males must enter only in dhoti (the traditional Indian dress) and shirtless. So we escaped Kanyakumari Temple, located on the shore and headed towards next spot – Kovalam.(target was to reach before sunset).

Yercaud - March'12

Yercaud is mentioned as poor man's Ooty in 52 weekends gateway but the article also mention it is a smart choice compared to Ooty. We were supposed to visit Yercaud in 2011 September but after wonderful vacation of Munnar and just before Gujarat we cancelled the booking as it was becoming too much travelling in short span.  I strongly believe in the words of Tagore that good things in life needs to scared or they will become mediocre :-)

Now after a short break around Anandhama we pushed for Yercaud as it gave us a perfect destination of little bit driving and get away from Bangalore heat. We did not booked any hotel as we kept everything for last minute.  So on the D’day we left basement parking around 5AM to avoid Bangalore traffic.And we did hate to navigate rush escaping traffics from Bangalore. We stopped for a quick stop after crossing Tamilnadu border to fill the tank and realized somehow fuel tank release was not working. After playing with screwdrivers it finally opened which was a great relief otherwise we would have to wait till 9/10 for a mechanic. As usual stopped at A2B before Krishnagiri for Breakfast.We crossed Salem town and took the road to Yercaud. Soon we were on the hill road which gain altitude quite quickly with many twist and 20 sharp hairpins bends. But driving these 32 KM was fun, The first hotel we enquired for accommodation was GRT but the price they were offering on spot was bit steep for our budget. Bit disappointed there as last night when we checked the same on internet it was showing quite low with discount. May be the GRT guys will save those offers for late comers as days come to end. Next we tried Shevaroys resort near lake and decided to stay there for the night. This is an old landmark resort in Yercaud. The place is a decent one but would recommend you check on internet before deciding on this.

We wanted to visited the famous Botanical Garden but it was closed due to weekend (what a weird place who keeps their top destination closed for tourist). May be they do not want any visitors ?. We drove towards Servarayan temple and Cauvery Point road. On the way Aarush fell asleep and we went to Pagoda point. Pagoda gives a nice view of the plain below. From there we went to Lady's Seat & Gent's Seat .Here, we could see the ghat road from Salem via which we reached Yercaud. We also got the ariel view of GRT hotel. Next to this was Horticulture Farm and it has Rose graden. There was not a single rose as they were freshly trimmed so we have to make ourselfves happy with other green beauties.

We came to hotel and it was around 15:00 and went straight for a very late lunch and by this time Aarush also woke up. After lunch we went for a small plantation walk within the resort which is pretty nice. Aarush had some fun time in the children's play area. Finally, we entered room; got freshen up & took a beauty sleep and had an early dinner same evening.

Next day, we went for a morning walk around lake before breakfast and after breakfast we visited famous Montfort School. This school was started for anglo-indians around WW-I. The architecture and natural beauty around it is really worth spending some time there. It is a one of the convent residential institution in South India. The school was having admissions test on that day and we could only spot expensive cars and anxious parents who were dressed in their best.

After that we returned to room and started for Bangalore. On the way we stopped at A2B just after crossing Dharmapuri for lunch. Aaursh was very sleepy but he played role of a cranky child all along. After Hosur, we forced him to sleep and reached home safely in next hour.



The NH7 was excellent with many toll plazas which was constantly emptying my wallet ;) so not sure is it the best hill station or not but definitely it did not felt crowded like Coorg.

Anandhadam

Prologue, On 2nd of Feb received an open invitation from  our MD to be a part of her team to walk 100KM within 48hours. The walk was organized by OXFAM to raise funds and awareness of their work among poor section of society. I immediately hit reply as my earlier discussion with another friend on the same walk did not materialized.
In the late afternoon I received confirmation that I am in and need to walk on 10 & 11th Feb.  But around seven in the evening I received another mail telling me the team composition changed to make it gender balanced. I did not act on that immediately and left it for Monday. On Sunday morning received another mail asking if I am still willing to be part of the first team and I replied YES again.  In the afternoon meet-up in person in one part of Bangalore where most who-who of Bangalore stay.  Somehow luck was not with me and Aarush was sick from Friday(2nd) evening whom I had to take care for the next few days week at home.
It was a viral attack with high fever touching 104 F once or twice a day. On Wednesday fever got reduced and doctor gave him some antibiotics. So on Thursday 9th with lots of anxiety left him behind in day care and headed to office where we had a mini-bus waiting for us.
The starting point of the trail walk  was around 70 KM from Bangalore after  Kanakpura next to Sangam. There is one resort where OXFAM organized as starting point and night stay. Being little early and a big group we were able to push around the organizing committee and   lucky enough to get a isolated two storied building to ourselves.
Now after 34 hours of walking and many blisters we finished the trail walk and returned to Bangalore like a wounded soldier on Saturday night. My situation was really terrible and had to see a doctor on Monday ; he took a good class of me explaining such extreme should not be tried without proper training as body releases potassium and that can cause kidney failure.  Well after a week of rest in bed with elevated feet I resumed work on 20th.
This Trip :
But in mean while I was looking for a break with Pamela and Aarush as after Gujrat we never got a chance to get out Bangalore.  As Pamela works on Saturdays it is difficult to go anywhere over weekends but  then  the idea of Anandadham (the Oxfam place) stuck me. I kept it under wrap for few days but could not make a complete surprise for Pamela as few more surprises came our way like a sudden notice of  PTA for Aarush on the same Saturday morning.
So, on Saturday  after PTA, went to Pamela’s school and started for Kanakpura ; we reached Anandadam around 4.00pm. The place was very quite as we were the only guest supposed to spend night there. They served us some snack around 5 and then left for coracle ride on river cauvery. The ride was great as we spotted many birds ; but the best part was the complete silence which we enjoyed thoroughly.
Evening around 6ish electricity was resumed and we  returned to our tent room. We were tired but the breeze from river was very refreshing. We had a big dinner and headed for bed early.
Sunday Morning we woke up and had coffee and after that we went for a 5KM walk to the Vedic School . It was walk via near by forest where termites have eaten the entire forest turning it to hollow trees. After walk we had a big breakfast and then we headed out for some more activities. Found archery  a great sport to focus and forget about any thing around you. But I chickened out when tried to swing like Tarzan from the high platform. Pamela was brave enough to give a try.
After that me and Aarush went to the river for a quick dip. But the Sun was right on our head and we  were forced to return to our tent. Aarush was too happy to continue playing with his new friend (our guide). There was no electricity as it went away around 10. After bath and lunch we took a short nap before leaving for home. We started around 4 PM and reached home around  7.
It was a very short break but very refreshing as the whole resort was ours and we had a lovely experience with the staff of Anandhadam .
Maps

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Rameshwaram

After complete rest and rainy night we woke up to find a perfect morning in Madurai. Breakfast at the hotel was quite elaborate and we did a good one before starting for Rameshwaram. The hotel guys were kind enough to give us elaborate maps which really helped us to exit Madurai without asking for any direction. One thing we noticed in Tamil-Nadu the direction boards are mostly in Tamil and less of English compared to Karnataka. The distance between Madurai and Rameshwaram is around 170 KM. The road is mostly undivided 2 lane Indian highway. There are few patch of the road which has pot holes otherwise the road is in good condition. The general scenery was very green and the key factor Vaigai river flows along the highway NH49.While going we did not stopped and directly reached Ramanathaswamy Temple. We crossed the unique Pamban Bridge and left photo shot for our return. We had to pay around 30 INR as entry fee for Rameshraam.
As soon as we entered the temple we were approached by a guide who was fluent with Hindi and agreed for a mutual price. He guided through many kunds ( holy water – hole) where we had to wash our head. There is a catch 22 situation you might get drenched in the water but when you enter the temple to pray you must be in dry cloth. We literally dashed through the huge complex and this guide used all kind of tricks like pushing, back door entry to ensure we get the a good glimpse of the dieties with minimal wait. It was good to have him otherwise it would have taken us long time to go around. The walkway is always moist while hallways are dark so be careful with your steps. I was bitten by some insect badly on one of my foot.
After temple visit we went to Dhanushkodi to see the beach;  drive was worth. From there you can see Sri-Lanka’s shore line. The beach was not very clean and more over it was hot noon so returned back quickly.One of the attraction of Rameshwaram is Abdul Kalam’s house. But it was very sad to say the approach road was full of knee-deep water and it felt like driving over sewage water to reach the great man’s birth place. Definitely Rameshraam city council needs to spend some money to make this ex-house of the great Indian a true attraction.At 3.30 pm after lunch when we started back towards Madurai.  We stopped at Pamban Bridge for some photo shoot. This is the first sea bridge in India connecting Rameshwaram and mainland India built by British in 1914.  Mid way we encountered a big torrential Northeast Monsoon. It was almost 6:30 in the evening when we reached the outskirts of Madurai. We had two options either to stay back in Madurai for the night or drive down to Kanayakumari.
After calling friends and gaining confidence on the road condition we opted for the second one. The NH-7 between Madurai and Kanayakumari was very new which meant even though it is a 4 lane divided highway the toll collection has not started yet. That had one major draw back as you need to be extra vigilant as road marks were also not proper.
We stopped for refueling (near Tiruneveli exit) and stretched our legs. At the end the main highway goes towards Kerala and we needed to take an turn which we missed and had to make an U-turn after missing it for the first time. It was 11 in the night when we reached Kanyakumari . We settled for hotel Samudra, the room was very basic but we were OK and did not had any energy left to find a better place. The best part of this hotel is it was just adjacent to sea where you can hear the sound of waves.
Indeed it was a long driving day with almost 600 KM from the morning.
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