2012-09-26

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.

2012-09-14

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.


2012-08-22

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.


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2012-08-17

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.

2012-08-14

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.

2012-08-02

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).

2012-07-30

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.

2012-04-03

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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2012-02-24

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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2011-09-23

A small nano but long wait

Beginning of this year sold our Indica and bought Swift-Dzire(ZDI) which we found very practical and perfect for our Indian need. And we did not thought of booking any new car in recent time. Suddenly things got changed when Pamela started a new job in May. We were quite happy with single car and personally opted for BIAS (Bangalore International Airport - Volvo) as I commute from Hebbal to Old Airport read every day around 20KM one way.
But with rains things started to change and at times had to spend hours for bus and rain is something which I enjoy with a cup of tea on a balcony not on road with umbrella. So we said why not a second car ...
Looked around in the classifieds but nothing clicked. There were just three cars in our list
  •  Nano - Pros Price Cons - no power steering and many more as listed by others.
  •  Alto - Pros A complete car compared to Nano Cons Price difference almost 1.5 L to 1.8L different between different trims.
  •  Reva - Pros Alternative fuel Cons - Long running cost with Battery replacement, niche car in itself, Price is quite high 4.25L with AC model.
After doing test drive on Nano & Alto Pamela said she is OK for Alto but for not for Nano (power steering).

We dropped Reva along the path and did not did a test drive.
But after 10 days of deliberation I had a test drove Nano. Definitely it is different compared all the cars I drove till date. Found I can manage it in city traffic for few days in a week. Plan to drive this when I know for sure I will be late; other sunny days can always take BIAS and have a worry free commute.
Now why CX ??? -having AC in car was a must so the basic model was dropped. Found LX for another 30K is too much. As we would not be driving this car in extreme condition do not need fog lights and other features. With current 20K discount on road price for CX is just 2 lakhs which sounds right for me. Dealer promised to put sun film, mud guard and floor mats as complimentary. Might need to change the seats from vinyl to fabric after some time.
The paper work was quite easy. Never bought a car like this before. The first car I bought in USA almost took 4 hours of marathon negotiation.But the delivery was a sad episode after 4weeks of wait finally got the Nano yesterday. The delivery dates from the dealer kept on slipping which was a shame and last Sunday we even given them cancellation request if they fail to deliver it early this week.  On Monday they said they will deliver it.
P.S. I drove the car for last two days, the ODO reads only 82KM for now. It is OK to drive but definitely does not feel like a complete car. The picture is from Nano website the car comes without alloy wheels.

2011-08-31

Munnar in Monsoon

It was the first long weekend of Independence day of 2011 after Pamela had joined her job. We were very keen to get away from Bangalore as last time it was March when we went to Chickbelapur. Initial plan was to visit Hampi; but after talking to few homestay around we decided against it as that part of Karnataka was expecting to get unusual amount of rain and flood could be any time. While we were thinking where to go and on browsing Mahindra Homestay found there is 50% discount offer (with complementary breakfast) in one homestay in Munnar. We just booked it without any second thought.
We started on Thursday evening around 5 PM from Bangalore and reached Salem at 21:30 PM with one stop at old faithful A2B in Krishnagiri. It was raining almost from 7.00pm and had to drive carefully. We had no clue on where to stay at Salem and on asking at Salem Toll Plaza we were directed for GRT Grand. It is on leftside on highway; we asked for little bit of discount on their printed price which they agreed. GRT is a premier hotel chain within Tamil Nadu with modern room and fully furnished.

On Friday after a good night sleep and grand breakfast we started around 10:30. Just before leaving hotel suddenly met with one of my college junior who was going to Thekkady(Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary). Well, after short talk we continued on NH-47, and reached Chinnar Forest via Tiruppur (famous for hosiery products) and Udumalaipettai. There were around 4 check points where you need to get out of the car and write your name with Forest officials. Did not carried any money with me on purpose and did not paid a single penny of bribe, this officials expect anyone with a KA number plate car as IT professional with spare cash for them. After many photo stops on the way we reached Munnar around 6 PM. Our Home Stay was next to Tall Tree resort. It was raining cats and dogs by then.
Saturday -> It rained whole night quite heavily and in the morning we were under impression that there is no room for going out. But somehow rain slowed around 10ish and our host suggested we move out as next day might be more worse. So we went for Mattupetty direction ( Mattupetty Dam, Echo point, Shooting point, Kundale Lake and Top station ). We reached back to Munnar town for snack but could not find any good one. Around 5PM we reached back homestay.
Sunday –> It was not raining and we headed for Eravikulam National Park. Our host suggested that we should be there by 8 but we were bit late and there was long queue. As the day was sunny many people were there, after an hour long wait we started in the Park bus and reached Rajamala. We hiked on the paved pathway; was very lucky to spot some Nilgiri Tahr. And slowly it became cloudy after which we went to Tea Factory Museum next to Munnar town. Post lunch we headed to Pallivasal for a Kathakali show. The Kathakali show was spectacular .
Monday 15th August -> Started around 7 from HomeStay, reached Salem (GRT Grand) around 1:30 PM for lunch. We spend more money on a grand fat lunch buffet compared to last three dinners. Reached Bangalore back at 5:30PM. The road was great no complain.
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2011-07-14

A quick post

Reading old newspaper clipping fascinate me; an article which earns a good amount space on that day and most likely people read and forgot. and here I am reading it after days with a fresh eye. And most times it turns out to be a great story to read with eagerness.

This one was bit special which caught my eyes today was "Chaturanan Mishra passed away"; now there are few things which made me to write this quick post. First the surname which is very similar of mine, but the name is really catcher. I am quite sure no parent of 21st century is going to keep this name for their boys due to many reasons.

The real meaning of this name is a person with four face and that is Brahma the creator of universe.

It should not be confused with "Chatur" a quick English translation will be a "Smart person" but somehow over years the base word "chatur" is used with dark side of smartness like mischievous act which may result in trap for not so "chatur" person. The last reason is off course if you seen the blockbuster movie from Amir khan - "3 Idiots" the memory it bring back is enough to skip this name as there zillions of name to choose from.

A humble tribute to Chaturanan Misra -- he was a freedom fighter from Bihar's Madhuvan ; was imprisoned by British. Post independence he served in both state and national legislatives and worked for agriculture reform and farmers. Madhuvan northern part of Bihar is famous for it natural color painting with unique style. Some considers Mathali ( the local dialect) as a very soft and poetic .

2011-06-28

Father Day - Thank you Aarush

During month of May there were some sudden turn of events happened that changed the course of my life as father. Well I am quite positive on this sudden turn of event that this happened for good. Pamela suddenly jackpot a teaching Job with one of the premier institute of Bangalore. And they asked her to join immediately. The first week was in training in Kormangala was OK OK  as Aarush had his summer camp in his old school. They also have a day care so he got the adjusted to the same quite easily for the first week.Well end of the above paragraph does not qualify for a thought or blog post  and does not  happen in real life ? The ground reality was very different one but fun filled. The first week Pamela had to reach to her training by 8:30 and she is not yet comfortable in driving in Bangalore traffic. So opted for one temporary driver from an agency while we searched for a permanent one. That resulted in losing the luxury of car for me. Honestly that was boon and I am with BMTC Bus. The fun and difficult part was becoming a morning DAD for Aarush. Now I have to prepare him for school with shower and breakfast and etc. But to my delight Aarush has been very positive as he realised this new person is bit different from his beloved mother.We booked a 2 week vacation in end of May to visit my parental home. My younger brother will be coming from California and we will celebrate ‘rice ceremony’ for their son (Sheryaan). Now as Pamela can not go we cancelled our ticket at first thinking to cancel the trip. Now this is really a big event which we did not want to miss but it means Aarush have to come with me as he can not be left alone in Bangalore. With that I need to make fresh booking of Air ticket with some serious dent on my credit card ? I had to buy the same ticket 3-4 times costlier for myself and Aarush.I had to make Aarush aware of this upcoming BIG trip every day morning while preparing his for school. But the D-Day he was thinking it was more of me going on a trip then himself as the bag was not that big. But when we got down at Airport he was OK and we quickly moved through checking and security and boarded the flight. The flight was a late one starting at 21:00 from Bangalore and reaching Calcutta close to midnight. In the flight Aarush said he wanted to have some food which was a very positive thing as after having it he fall asleep. On reaching Calcutta we took a TAXI and reached a our hotel. A lot of strange eyes in Calcutta even one asked where is his mother ?? Well as it was very late Aarush slept easily.
Next morning we had our flight to Siliguri at noon the postponement was informed to me in advance. So we left hotel late and had a leisurely brunch for Aarush and myself. At the airport Aarush opted for Idli (on of his favorite ) while I slipped a cup of coffee. He was very trilled with the ATR and it wings compared to yesterday’s jet. And more over it was a day flight where he could see lots of things. Reaching Siliguri and at home he was OK. He was a hero to many eyes.  On the day of return he was very excited to go back to Bangalore and joining Pamela whom he missed for 4 days.
The return flight was smooth – Aarush slept on the flight between Calcutta Bangalore and some paste on reaching Bangalore Airport.
On 8th June he started his school with DPS. The first three days I need to go with him and on 13th on-wards he started going by the School Bus. The new routine is very demanding as Aarush have to get ready in 50 min to reach Bus-Stop within Godrej Campus by 07:30 AM. Every morning he suggests it is a holiday at school but once in Bus he is OK. It is already 2 weeks he is going by Bus and coming back to Day-care where he will have his lunch and nap and then Pamela picks him up while returning from School. So far so good with the new role but it is really demanding one for sure.
We watched 'taare zameen par' one weekend though he loves the song 'Bum Bum Bole' the whole school system, punishment, separation from family made him sad he did not like the whole thing about Ishan.  Looks like  it was not a good idea to watch it with him.

2011-05-04

Madurai

Started very early morning around 5.45 from our parking lot and with one stop at A2B restaurant at Krishnagiri reached Madurai exactly by 11.30AM. Then took some time to find out decent hotel two friends recommended “Royal Court” near Madurai railway station. The hotel is clean and neat the management was great to upgrade our room to executive suite as the original room smelt cigarettes.
After settling we had a vegetarian south Indian lunch at market area. Then after taking a well deserved afternoon siesta we went to so called religious hotspot – Meenakshi Temple. It has four entrances we entered via South gate after leaving our shoes with the temple authorized shoe stand. The shops near the gates also offer to keep your shops but they expect you buy something from them in return. Best thing is the city municipality have golf carts to take you around to any of four gates your wish to enter. Like Tirupati they have fast track system where if you buy costly ticket and can bypass some queue. Santanu preferred to go by general path as crowd was not much. Within two hours we were done. Would like you to go through more details of Meenakshi Temple this website is quite useful. The writer has well explained about temple interiors.
By 7.30 PM we were done and were just about to return it rained heavily all of sudden almost stopping everything that whole street was full of water because of poor drainage. Being one way road it was bit difficult to walk of our own and we got into one cycle-rickshaw to go back to hotel. But the rickshaw driver had to stop as rain was too heavy; it brought a great relief from the humidity and heat. Had dinner around 9.00PM at hotel as Santanu got some food packed from a near by Anna Meenakshi Restaurant and then went to bed early.

2011-05-02

Chikmagalur

After finishing Belur-Halebid by 3.00PM we moved towards Chikmaglur as we wanted to reach our Apna-Sapna homestay before dusk. For God knows what reason here all homestay are highly priced based on per person per night. The Mountain section from Chikmaglur to Attigundi (village) was excellent and fun to drive on the twist and turn. The last part was a dirt road where we took diversion for our homestay a downhill road. Almost reaching there we saw three gates to enter three different coffee estates. Bit confused initially but then figured out by guessing. Best part here you don’t get any signal on your mobile other than BSNL (state owned provider).
On reaching there we were given welcome drink and then showed our room by friendly staffs. It was not yet dusk and we freshened and sat in their dinning deck area to watch sunset. Mean while Aarush became friend with their in-house puppy. Although we were bit scared but he was fine with him. Valley in front of dining deck gave great view of sunset and sunrise.
There was another couple other than us who came to celebrate their birthday. They were friendly we enjoyed their company that night. Aarush dozed off early evening unusual then other days as he had lots of activity for one afternoon. Next morning we woke up bit late and missed the sun rise but enjoyed morning serenity. Only thing we encountered here was butterflies and flock of birds chattering merrily. Around 10 we all got ready for their estate trip to go down in their 4X4 jeep.
The first part of the estate trip was an introduction to different type’s coffee and their processing. We saw how it is dried under sun and tested the sweet coffee berries. We went to a roaring water fall within the Estate, Aarush and Santanu had nice time under fall. There after we waited for a while for our lunch. In meanwhile we came to know that all estate managers who kept us in good company with small talks and jokes. With chitchat we all became so friendly that hardly we felt that few min. Before we were all strangers and how time went by…didn’t have any track of time. They even arranged a rifle shooting for other guest to celebrate his B’day.

Late evening we were dropped to our rooms back then after relaxing we went for evening walk. We walked through other estate where we could hear the music of the cascades that dot this scenic landscape. And then finally found small stream of water gushing through their estates.Next morning around 10 we started for our return journey to Bangalore leisurely. On way back we paid 200 INR extra to traffic police for taking one way route at Chikmaglur town.
This resort is more of a tone down motel rather than homestay as it is managed by people rather than owner directly. The food was average and cooked by a North Indian chef and nothing extra ordinary it taste just like any other common restaurant. That way a touch of local cuisine or a real host was missing. Standard of room were very basic. Only thing that was positive for us was since all estate owners were there (it was coffee picking season) we had nice time. And jeep trip and lunch at the bottom of their estate was free for us as we asked for it.

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2011-04-20

Sleeper Class

Indian railway ferries millions of passenger each day. The network is vast and somewhat efficient. But it is no way near to world class even though it was one of the best luxury trains in its flight. For most Indian travelling in train means a sleeper class more and more prefer AC one now days.  With ticket price of Airlines going up more and more people are going back to train as it is still easy on pocket. The only drawback is it is extremely slow in modern context. A 1000 KM journey takes 24 hours to complete, where as TGV cross whole France in couple of hours.

Coming back to the personal part I had to travel to Mumbai on a personal trip and opted for train over the last weekend. I started from Bangalore on Thursday at 20:30 and reached Mumbai around 20:00. The journey was quite peaceful not that crowded general sleeper class. And had catch-up of lots of sleep during that journey. Reaching CSTM (former VT) bought a 1st class ticket for the local and reached Kharghar.

Saturday woke up early, cleaned up the old belongings from my brother apartment and ensured our one is also in proper condition. Settled with old tenant and signed a new lease with the new one. By midday it was all done and I was quite relaxed that all these long pending to-do list ultimately got shortened.

In the evening hired  a cab to reach Dadar for the return train. Unfortunately I did not bought my ticket using TATKAL(immediate) and was on wait list which was in RAC(Reservation against Cancellation) state. Now with RAC you can bored the train but have to share a seat with someone else.

The train was packed and there was no way to move up the chart to get a berth of my own. At Pune a family boarded  who had 7 or 8 confirmed seats. They wanted all their seat nearby and agreed to give up 2 seat in return of one. This felt like a gift from God to me and my co-passenger. This kind of luck never happened to me before to be honest. So had a good sleep during the night. Afternoon I was feeling sleepy so went to sleep again but the rain started to pack-up with normal pessengers. This is quite common in Sleeper class where people without reservation( at day time) gets in as the general coaches are so much packed that flies can not squeeze in. Well it almost lasted till Bangalore and train somehow got delayed by an hour.

So as whole it was a OK journey comparing to my college days. Where it used to take me almost 3 to 4  days to reach home. But definitely cannot do this journey with Aarush at this age, he needs to wait for few more years.

Well this journey is not about any fancy experience but I am sure every common Indian has stories to share on their train journeys. Here is the expense I did …

Train ( Bangalore to Mumbai ) – INR 468

Train ( within Mumbai) INR 115

Cab (Mumbai) – 500 INR

Cab(Bnagalore) – 370 INR

Looks like I spent more on local travel within the city than the train ticket … a more thought on the same……..

2011-03-29

Halebid-Belur:living with past


It has been a long time that we ventured on NH-48; last time we visited Shravanabelagola in 2009. From then on it was always in discussion to visit Belur-Halebid known for its hoysala architecture. This time we covered both Belur-Halebid along with Chigmanglur on 3 day trip.  We started at 7.10AM from our parking lot and reached Halebid by 12 with two breaks - breakfast at Hotel Mayura and at Hassan for ATM.
Compared to 2009 road was far far better and journey was smooth. Still there are many parts where road work is going on and it is not yet divided 4 lane highway and around Kunigal there are some bad pot holes. On reaching Halebid we hired a guide for 200 INR which was in-fact must to know the details and history. The whole architecture is made of soap stone. He carried small mirror to reflect the sunlight in order to explain intricate details of temple.
Halebid’s patron God is Shiva and the temple was built by the minister in honour of the King and the Queen. This is an incomplete construction where 3 generations of workers have worked but in many places you will notice ‘works in progress. It has suffered most damages amongst the three Somnathpura, Halebid and Belur. Today Helebedu in Kanada literally means ‘an old town’ to reflect its neglected past.   It is unique with its two gigantic figures of Nandi (sacred bull) - One of them houses Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara (King) and the other Shanthaleshwara (Queen). The bulls are decorated in distinct male and female ornaments to reflect whom they belong. The temple walls are covered with figures of men in battles, dancing women, Hindu deities, birds and animals. A stone platform is there at the centre of the hall where queen used to dance for the Lord Chennakeshava. Temple stands in the middle of a peaceful park by the side of a lake.
Our guide enlightened us with an interesting tale that many sculptures were stolen and taken away by the British when they left India and those idols are now gracing homes in England and elsewhere. It takes at least two hours to take a round of the temple exteriors. There is so much to see in just one temple that we completely lost track of time here.
Jain basadi is very near to Hoysaleswara temple which are equally rich in sculptural detail they are famous for its pillars, which are highly polished almost resembling mirrors. First is Parshwanatha basadi- this complex consists of three temples. Famous is the Parswanathaswamy Temple, which has a 14 ft high figure made of black stone. A seven-headed serpent has been imprinted on the head of this figure. Adinathaswamy (central mandir) and Shanthinathaswamy are the other two temples here.
At road end there is Kedareshwara temple but there was no one except us visiting the temple.  Though it shares same architectural elements with its neighbour it is a miniature of the former.
From here we went to Belur at just 16 km apart it is a living town. Entrance to both the Hoysaleshwara temple and the Chennakeshava temple is free. The Chennakeshava Temple in Belur is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and active worship still goes on in this temple while Halebid temple, though open to the public, is no longer in use for devotional purposes. Like the Hoysaleshwara Temple, the Chennakeshavatemple is star-shaped and stands on a platform. Elephants, episodes from the epics, sensuous dancers nothing was left without being carved. Forty-six pillars support the extensive hall, each of a different design. The Narasimha pillar is worth watching.
The sculpted inner & outer walls of the temple tell a tale of dedication and sheer hard work by the craftsmen. Each figure is carved to perfection and straining to come to life any moment. The celestial beauties depict the lifestyles of that time showing dancers, shringar, feeding the pets etc. The walls of the star-shaped temple are literally covered with sculptures in stone that depict the various events in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The star design starts from the platform and goes all the way up the walls and up to the top of the shikhara.
We skipped lunch in order to cover this area and can reach Chikmaglur before dusk. A day is enough to explore both sites if you think you are not too bored with sculptures. In Belur we didn’t hired guide which we regret later.
P.S.  As mentioned by Mr.Bhat the worship continues in Halebid temple.

2011-03-19

With elephants @ Dubare


This year we didn't celebrate Aarush B'day as we moved to our own apartment. Being new to complex we hardly knew anyone to invite.So decided to celebrate his B'day at school which he of-course didn't like much as he didn't receive any gifts and top of it he has to give return gifts to his school mates….which he did so with heavy heart.
We decided to  take him to Dubare elephant camp. We booked for jungle lodges...although bit pricey but worth every penny of it.  Everything is done on time and there are naturalist for every activities as mentioned on their web site. No doubt, Jungle Lodge rocks as they pamper with their services and hospitality.  It was unexpectedly cold in the night for which we were not that well equipped but rest all was too good. Aarush enjoyed and made frienship with Mehul ; he had good time there.  We did spotted some deers and small wild animals and the documentary on Indian Tiger on th evening was too good.
One thing I would like to add is that as said that visitor can give bath to elephants ; its definatley something to experience but elephants do potty as they get into water so it was bit unygenic feeling which didn’t allow me to give them bath with same enthu.
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Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...