Coorg Chronicle – Part 2

Continued from here

After having a good sleep, snuggled in warm blankets due to chilly night, we woke up and got ready to go out exploring. After a hearty breakfast we decided to explore the surrounding area of the homestay first. The whole place looked so rustic, serene and charming in the cosy winter sunlight…a small village nestled in the woods and hills.

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We followed the sound of the babbling stream and came upon it after walking a short distance from the homestay. So peaceful and clean without any plastic waste floating on the water. We climbed down through a narrow path and rocks and spent some time playing with the water and photographing the surroundings…sadly we didn’t spot any birds except for a stork.

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After spending some time at the stream, we came back to take our car and go out for sightseeing. Oh noooo!!! One of our tires was almost flat!! That too in this godforsaken place. Though we had a spare, we had to get this one repaired too for our return drive. Thankfully our homestay host informed that there was a repair shop nearby. Somehow we drove to that shop and got it repaired. It was almost noon and this unexpected event had eaten into our sightseeing time. So we had to cut short our list as we wanted to be back before it got dark and driving from one place to another in hilly region takes time.

So the place we decided to visit was Talacauvery. Talacauvery is supposedly the originating place of the river Cauvery. It is located on the slope of Brahmagiri hill near Bhagamandala.

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After reaching Bhagamandala from Kakkabe, there is a T section where on one side is the Triveni Sangama or joining of 3 rivers namely Cauvery, Kannike (Tributary of Cauvery) and the mythical Sujyothi. Also there is Bagandeshwara temple. On the other side is the curvaceous road leading to Talacauvery. The drive to Talacauvery is quite scenic but with some sharp turns so one needs to be careful.

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Bagandeshwara temple

Finding a parking spot is really tough and you may have to park quite far and walk. After a beautiful entrance gate, there is a pond built at the place which is said to be the origin point. The river originates as a spring feeding this pond and then flows underground to emerge as the Cauvery river some distance away. There is a small temple of sorts too at the place where a wedding was taking place when we visited.

This is the pond. Apparently in October on a particular day water gushes up from the spring at a predetermined moment and the pond overflows. That day the temple is flocked by pilgrims.

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There was an outlet through a Nandi bull’s head out of which the holy water was falling onto a smaller pool. People had thrown coins in that for good luck as the tradition goes. There are some other temples in the complex and some decorated holy trees with information written in stone tablets below them. But walking barefoot in the hot cement/stone floor was not possible for me so didn’t pay my obeisance to them.

There were steps leading to the top of the hill which D decided to explore. But he couldn’t make it to the top as I called him back. I got tired of waiting 😀 He did manage to take some photos from up there. On the hillside he spotted many rocks stacked vertically in small piles. We tried searching on internet the significance of this curious way of keeping rocks but didn’t find anything. Any idea readers?

By this time we were feeling very hungry and I recalled spotting a KSTDC hotel on the way to Talacauvery. So we decided to have our lunch there without spending time searching for a restaurant. There was only thali option there and food was not tasty at all. But hungry people can’t be choosers. So somehow we finished our meal and decided to head to our next destination – Nalaknad Palace which was close to Kakkabe.

To be continued….

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Categories: Hills, Karnataka, Religious | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dharmasthala – Malpe Chronicle

I decided to document our road trip to Dharmasthala and Malpe instead of continuing with our trip to Coorg from the first part here because it was an adventurous road trip and just right to write for the BlogAdda travel blogging activity. I am chronicling this road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda.

Back in September 2014, when my research paper got accepted for presentation in a conference at an engineering college in Dharmasthala, I and D decided to make a trip out of it and included the nearby Malpe beach into our itinerary. We love beaches and a visit to any of the Karnataka beaches was pending in our list. So we started out after breakfast hoping to reach Dharmasthala by late afternoon. We decided to go by this route.

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It was to be our second trip through Western Ghats area, the first one being the trip to Ooty. The drive on NH75 was so smooth and awesome. It was a clear blue sky day and a bit hot. It was hard trying to stay within 100 kmph on the great quality of road with less traffic.

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NH75

Soon the highway changed from four lane to two lane which was also good. As we neared Sakleshpur, the road condition began to deteriorate and it was hard to believe that it was a national highway!! We stopped for lunch at Kamath Upachar on

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Two lane national highway

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Road condition getting bad

After sometime from Hassan, we could make out from the vegetation that the Shiradi Ghat area had started.

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The Ghat road was quite wide and the traffic consisted of trucks and cars. But soon the smooth drive ended and the stretch of the National Highway passing through the Shiradi Ghat got very bad. We were going slow anyway due to Ghat region but now we had to drive slower to avoid getting back ache and to prevent damage to car suspension!! Concrete and asphalt were missing altogether!! It was one of the worst roads we have driven on till date. Thank god for CEAT Tyres that we made it through without any mishap.

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We had to stop to take a picture of the road!!

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Horrible road!!

Nevertheless the drive through the Ghat region was mesmerizing with the different varieties of trees surrounding the road, the blue hills in the horizon and a bubbling stream hidden somewhere in the forest cover, sometimes getting louder, sometimes farther. I was not looking forward to meeting any elephants in the area. We had hoped to reach by late afternoon but due to slow speed, evening had started to set in. I was praying that we make it out of the forest before dark. There was no mobile signal also for a major portion of the road. Apart from that, it was one of its kind of drive. The late afternoon sun looked so beautiful through the canopy of trees.

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Sun playing hide and seek

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Heading into the unknown!

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Hills in the horizon

At last we could catch sight of the elusive stream..rather a river!! Google informed me later that it was the Kempuhole river which originates from the Sahyadris.

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Kempuhole River

The road condition became better and soon we turned right onto SH37 which leads straight to Dharmasthala.

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Out of Ghat area at last!

Sun had already set by the time we reached the guesthouse where the college authorities had made accommodation arrangements for our stay. We were exhausted by the unplanned long drive. We checked in, had dinner at the canteen of the guesthouse and went to bed.

The next day D went exploring the town while I was away attending the conference. The town, located in the Dakshina Kannada district, is famous for its Dharmasthala Temple which houses the shrine of Shiva, Manjunatha, Ammanavaru, Chandranath and the Dharma Daivas (guardian spirits of Dharma) namely Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumaraswamy and Kanyakumari. (Source:Wikipedia) Apparently, on an average the flow of pilgrims is about 10,000 people a day!! But since neither D nor I were interested in visiting the temple, I won’t be able to provide any information on that in this blog. D loved the natural surroundings of the place though.

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The Gateway to Dharmasthala

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Sri Manjunatha Temple

I spent the next day also in conference while D watched movies on laptop in the guesthouse as there is nothing much to do in the small secluded town..infact not even a good place to eat. The guesthouse canteen was pathetic in variety of dishes. Then on the 3rd day, after breakfast we moved on to our next destination – Malpe. The road condition was good. We decided to go to Malpe through Mangalore though it is the longest route.

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We stopped at the NIT Surathkal beach on our way. The weather was bit hot but it was so refreshing to see the Arabian Sea. The beach was clean and deserted at that time of day except for a couple or two of lovebirds 🙂 There was a lighthouse at the beach giving a mystical look to the beach. As the tide was low there were some moss-covered stones exposed which were accessible but not to be climbed barefooted!! We spent some time playing in the water and photographing the views. Then the tide started to increase which forced us and reminded us that we have still not reached our destination.

We had planned to stay only one night at Malpe and we had booked our room at Paradise Isle Beach Resort which located right on the Malpe Beach. When we reached the hotel, we were thrilled to see the location. The room/cottage was also good. The surroundings and the garden were well-kept.

After we freshened up, we went for lunch. Even after two years I still remember what we had ordered because it was so delicious!! Being on seashore means seafood for me and so I ordered Crab Masala while D ordered Chicken Hariyali along with rice and roti. Both the dishes were awesome in taste!! The only other time I have eaten such tasty crab dish was when we had visited Puri.

After such a splendid lunch an afternoon siesta was a must. Then we went off to the beach in evening. Malpe is a natural port located about 6 km from Udupi, Karnataka. It is an important fishing harbor too. The beach had golden brown and whitish colored sand which gave it a different look. Beach gazebos, palm trees, less crowd and cleanliness made the beach even more attractive, especially the gazebos which gave the beach a unique look. The water was also quite clean and blue. A melee of activities was going on at the beach. Young boys were flying kites which are made & sold by locals at the beach. Some guys were going on jet ski rides, some were driving ATVs on the beach, some kids were enjoying camel rides, some enjoying the water and some people like me were lazing about on the beach. There is something enchanting in watching the waves come and go..I could spend hours doing that..just chatting with a companion and looking at the ocean/sea.

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Gazebos at the beach

 

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Kai Po Che!

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Sand Sculpture

The different stages of sunset at Malpe beach

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We came back to our hotel after darkness fell. We decided to have vegetarian dinner and that turned out to be horribly tasteless!! Sadly the place doesn’t have much eating options outside. Then at night we sat at the porch chatting while listening to the night sounds of the sea until mosquitoes made it impossible to do so!!

Next day before checking out, we again went to the beach. Malpe beach has many islands off the coast, among which St.Mary’s Islands – a set of four small islands – is the most famous tourist destination. They are known for their unique geological formation of basalt rocks but sadly, due to lack of time, we couldn’t visit that place.

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The golden brown colored sand

Then our drive back home began. We left after breakfast. As we were going to drive from Malpe to Bengaluru, it was going to be a long drive. In the entire Ghat stretch of road, there are just small eateries. We stopped at one to have tea and to stretch our legs. Then in Sakleshpur, we stopped at a restaurant called Surabhi’s Nx for a late lunch. The food was okay. The view behind the restaurant was very good. By that time dark clouds had begun to gather making the weather awesome.

Soon it started raining and that slowed down the drive speed to avoid any skidding. But again thanks to our car’s CEAT tyres, we didn’t face any problem.

Thus one of our work + fun road trips ended with lovely memories and a promise to go back again to visit St. Mary’s Islands next time.

Categories: Beaches, Karnataka, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coorg Chronicle – Part I

Coorg or Kodagu, also known as Scotland of India, was on my to-visit list since I saw it is rated as no.1 destination in India on HolidayIQ. So on Republic Day weekend of 2014 we decided to visit Coorg. As it happened, the road trip to Coorg was going to be our last trip before we set out to be parents!! There are three road options to go to Coorg from Bangalore and we decided to go via Channapatna and Mysore because of known road conditions and eateries.

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Coorg and it’s surrounding tourist places like Wayanad are famous for homestays. So we decided to stay at a homestay this time instead of a hotel. After going through different travel websites I (the trip planner) zeroed in to Naladi Holidays homestay at Kakkabe, Coorg. Now there are two routes to reach Kakkabe…first Mysore-Hunsur-Virajpet-Kakkabe and second Mysore-Hunsur-Kushalnagar-Madikeri-Kakkabe. The first one is shorter by 25 km but we decided to go by the second one because as per the itinerary planned, we wanted to visit the famous Golden Temple on first day itself. Also homestays don’t serve lunch because they expect you to spend the afternoon sightseeing. We were hoping to reach Coorg by 12 noon so it made sense to visit a place, have lunch and then go to the homestay.

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We started out at around 6 am. As it was winter season and we were headed for hilly area, we had packed lots of woolen wear which we were going to regret later!! It was cold only like from 3 am to 8 am! It was quite hot during daytime. We stopped only for breakfast at Vaishali restaurant on Mysore road and by 12 noon reached Bylakuppe near Kushalnagar.

 

Bylakuppe is a Tibetan refugee resettlement, provided by GoI for Tibetans who fled from Tibet following the 1959 Chinese invasion. The magnificent Namdroling Monastery and the Golden Temple are located there. The Namdroling Monastery is the largest teaching centre of Nyingmapa, a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, in the world, and the Golden temple is a very popular tourist attraction. PAP (Protected Area Permit) is mandatory for foreigners to stay at Bylakuppe overnight.

When we enter the gates of the monastery, we feel transported to another realm of peace, solitude and mysticism. We feel we have entered Tibet or Bhutan or similar area and forget we are in South India. Inside the grounds there are two temples – the Zangdogpalri Temple, and the Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara, commonly known as the Golden Temple.

The Zangdogpalri Temple is the one with the huge portrait of the Dalai Lama in front. The building is decorated with Buddhist murals, painted flowers and a rainbow on top. Then on the left side there is a beautiful garden and a small fountain and beyond that the Golden temple.

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The monks move about doing their business according to the time of the day, unaffected by the crowd, its noise and its curiosity. We felt as if we are intruding into their peaceful world with our cameras and talk. This feeling gets heightened when we enter the Golden Temple.

The exterior walls of the Golden temple are decorated with Tibetan murals and Tibetan lion sculptures. We would have loved to have a guide who could explain all the folklore behind the paintings and translate the writings on the walls. One has to leave the shoes outside. Once we stepped inside, we were overcome by awe at the three majestic, beautiful golden statues of Guru Padmasambhava, Lord Buddha at the center and Buddha Amitayus; looking down at visitors above the altar.

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The statue of Lord Buddha is 60 ft in height whereas the height of other two statues is 58 ft. The statues are made of copper plated with gold. I guess hence the name Golden Temple. The insides of the statues are filled with scriptures, relics of great beings, small clay mould stupas and statues which the body, speech and mind of the Buddhas. The altar is decorated with flowers, candles and incense and photos of the Dalai Lama and some other person whom I didn’t recognize.

The big hall is also decorated with murals depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology and lots of people just sit down on the floor to meditate or contemplate looking at the benevolent eyes of Lord Buddha. It was enchanting to hear a Tibetan lady offer prayers by singing a mystical chanting song while rotating a prayer wheel. People were generally following the signboard “Keep Silence” but soon a huge group of school students came and it destroyed the calmness of the place. I feel the teachers should instill the urge to follow regulations by practicing ..for example they could have split the kids into small batches and shown one after another.

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In the monastery campus few other buildings are there.Visitors were not allowed to go inside the Zangdogpalri Temple but we could see inside from the open doors on the side.

Suddenly from somewhere a big bell/drum started to sound and the monks started gathering in one of the building for some activity. It was lovely to witness the prayers in session, the ringing of gongs, drums and the drone of chanting by the monks.

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There is a model of the entire settlement area in which you can see the various buildings of the entire area. The information board was only in Kannada so couldn’t gather any information regarding the model.

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Outside the monastery, there is a small market with 1-2 restaurants and several stores that sell Tibetan jewellery, handicrafts, incense and souvenirs.We bought few souvenirs like a Tibetan doll, a replica of the bell in front of the golden temple etc. Then we freshened up and had lunch at a small restaurant there and started on our way for Kakkabe.

Visiting hours of Monastery – 8.00 am to 7.00 pm All days. Photography allowed. Free entry.

The owner of our homestay had contacted us on email after our booking (through Stayzilla) and given good directions to his home and helpful tips like only Airtel works at his place. Thankfully D has Airtel connection so we didn’t have to rush to buy Airtel sim. Another tourist place, Nisargadham was there on our way to Kakkabe via Madikeri, but since it was getting late and the homestay owner  had advised us to reach before dusk, we did not stop for it. We decided to check it out on our way back to Bangalore.

The mountainous road to Kakkabe was in good condition and quite enjoyable to drive. It had almost got dark by the time we reached Kakkabe. Kakkabe looked like a sparsely populated area midst of dense forest and hills. The road leading to our homestay was quite narrow and scary in the dark. We were almost going to miss the homestay since there were no streetlights but we decided to stop and ask around. Google maps also doesn’t work well in such interior area.

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The road leading to our homestay

The owner’s family welcomed us warmly and showed us our room which was upstairs; the family lived downstairs. It was a big enough room for a couple. There was an attached bathroom which was quite clean. There was hot water facility too. There was no mobile network inside the room. The owner’s wife gave oranges to welcome us which were quite delicious.  The view from the balcony was awesome with mountains at a distance, coffee buds drying outside, tiled rooftops. The quaintness of the small town and the isolation of the area inspired a feeling of peacefulness, away from the hustle bustle of city life, away from the tangled web of electronic devices and internet…but it also gave a feeling of eeriness, all ghost stories (and there are only few I know) coming back in my mind, always expecting a howl to be heard in the distant forest, a worry that if something happens in this godforsaken place then??

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Road in front of our homestay

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View of dusk from our balcony

The food was served on the dining table in the common area without any intrusion on our privacy. We went outside at dinner time and saw food was ready. After a delicious South Indian meal, we turned in for the night, eagerly waiting to explore more of Coorg the next day.

Categories: Hills, Karnataka, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Shivasamudram Chronicle

Bangalore is a great place in terms of one day and weekends trips. There are so many places one can go to take a mini break from routine and city life. One of such places is the Shivasamudram Falls. Shivasamudram Falls are located at around 136 km from Bangalore by car if you take the Bangalore-Kanakapura-Malavalli-Shivasamudram route. One can go via Bangalore-Maddur-Malavalli-Shivanasamudra route too. The Kanakapura road is a state highway road. It is not in that great condition but it gets better after you cross Kanakapura. Also unlike Mysore road, there are no good restaurants or stopovers on Kanakpura road. So carry your snacks etc.

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DSC06870Shivasamudram Falls  are situated on the banks of the river Cauvery. One of the first hydro-electric power stations in Asia was set up in the year 1902 at this location. The plant is still functional. Shivasamudram falls are of the segmented steep cascade waterfalls type. Segmented waterfalls occur where the water flow is broken into two or more channels before dropping over a cliff, resulting in multiple side by side waterfalls.

DSC07365According to World Waterfall Database, Shivasamudram falls has an average width of 305 meters, a height of 98 m, and an average volume of 934 cubic meters / sec. The maximum recorded volume is 18,887 cubic meters / sec.  Apparently it is a perennial waterfall but the water flow varies a lot. The first and second time we visited the place was in November and March. The water flow was very low. The third time we visited was in August after the onset of monsoon and the falls were just spectacular!! So I guess the time of visit is the monsoon season of July to October. The surrounding greenery is also season dependent so for lush scenic views, the best time to visit is during monsoon season.

Waterfall in lean season
Waterfall in lean season

Shivasamudram Falls consists of two falls – the Gaganachukki and the Bharachukki. Cauvery river divides around the island type land formation of Shivasamudram and two separate waterfalls are formed. While Gaganachukki is a large horsetail type waterfall, Bharachukki  is a jagged crashing cascade. Barchukki is wider but Gaganachukki is taller, deeper and faster.

After taking a left turn at Malavalli, one should continue on the road till a left turn comes which leads to Gaganchukki. If you don’t take that turn and continue straight, cross a bridge on the mighty Cauvery; you can go to Bharachukki. Bharachukki is better developed than Gaganchukki from tourism point of view. But there is a Karnataka tourism hotel at Gaganchukki where you can have good and tasty lunch. Otherwise there are no restaurants at the place. One can find tender coconut sellers and other such vendors selling small food items.

There is a parking fee collection point on the road leading to Gaganchukki falls which appears to be totally illegal. The ticket they give is in local language. During one of our visit, they gave ticket and we paid money but while returning they stopped our car and started arguing that we left without paying. We also argued and shouted back and they let us go reluctantly. Since then we have started photos whenever we pay the money.

DSC09116There are lots of steps leading down to the view point at Gaganchukki falls. But the view point is very small compared to the crowd that throngs the place during full flow of river. When the waterfalls are in full volume, the water spray comes to the steps and the view point. The roar of the falls is deafening in a pleasant way and the force of nature expressed through the rushing water is amazing and humbling.

Steps leading down to the view point

Steps leading down to the view point

Waterfall in the "mean" season!

Waterfall in the “mean” season!

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Lilliputian humans in front of Giant waterfall

Hotel Mayura,owned by Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, has a good restaurant and children play area. It has 1 Suite Room, 5 A/C double rooms and 5 double bed rooms in case one wishes to stay the night. It is only place where you can freshen up after the drive to Shivasamudram. During one of our visits, there were lots of ducks in the lawn area. Didn’t find them the next time.

DSC06903DSC07371After a decent lunch (the hotel serves both vegetarian and non vegetarian food), we went to Bharachukki. As we crossed the bridge over Cauvery, the sight of the river in full spate was breathtaking and scary. As it was monsoon season, dark clouds made the atmosphere ominous. Such weather is nice otherwise it gets very hot at Shivasamudram in non monsoon seasons.

DSC09141DSC09150There are lot of steps leading down to the Bharachukki waterfall too like in Gaganchukki. One can go boating in the famous round coracles till the point just beneath the waterfall. But the steps are closed off during the full flow of the waterfall to prevent any accidents. One can sit in nice seating area around the place and enjoy the view. Beware of the monkeys!!! Too many of them around and they literally chase you if you have any eatable or even beverage in your hand. DSC09166

DSC09183The gates close at around 6 pm so one must plan the itinerary accordingly. One can also include Talakad in the itinerary since it is just 35 kms from Shivasamudram.

Categories: Karnataka, Nature, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Welcome 2015!!!

How time flies! It is 2015 now. In 2014, I had taken the resolution to be more active in blogging, reading and commenting. Well…that didn’t happen obviously. Don’t you think taking a resolution is actually jinxing that thing? 😀 How did I let this happen to my once famous blog? I celebrate my birthday every year so enthusiastically but since last two years I have ignored my blog, an integral part of me and my identity, even on its birthday!! 😦 Where and when did I lose the energy and motivation? When did I become so lazy at blogging? ( I admit I am lazy generally :-P) There has been no dearth of travel in 2014 but somehow they didn’t get transformed into posts.

As you can guess, my still loyal reader, academic session has ended at work and now I am free enough to open my dying blog and attempt to resuscitate it. 🙂  Maybe I should not aim at writing a blog post in one sitting. To revive a dying blog, it is better to do it step by step…to slowly get back into the blogging habit. Content creation does require creativity, inventiveness, thought, energy and time which some of us just can’t muster up enough.

So the first travel of 2015 started with us going to Coorg last weekend. Post will come up soon. In September 2014, D went to Netherlands for official work (his company HQ is there) for 3 weeks or so. But I couldn’t accompany as one month holiday from job is next to impossible for me!! Over one weekend, he visited my sister too who stays in Denmark. *Jealous* Even my parents have visited my sister!! I am the only one in my family who has a passport but not a single stamp on it. 😦 Sigh!! Actually I need to update my passport too. It still carried old address and maiden name. Hehehe. Told you I am lazy.

So I am thinking we should now make plan to go to Nepal or Bhutan…Phoren ka phoren and not much expensive. But talking of foreign tours, I happened to come across “TravelTours” travel company which is located in Bangalore.

TravelTours, started in1977, now has 13 offices across 9 cities. They are about 320 travel professionals offering services to each and every customer’s requirement. TravelTours caters to every aspect of tourism. They offer hassle-free holidays to 70+ destinations around the globe. The company is recognized by Ministry of Tourism, India. They also offer services such as Corporate Travel Management, Foreign Exchange and Corporate MICE (Meetings & Incentive tour planning).

Though not much information is available for domestic holidays, they offer lots of international packages under various themes like adventure, beach, honeymoon, cruise, romance, luxury, special interest etc.

So a budget traveller like me can go for a good pocket friendly deals like Singapore Getaway package or D always talks about going on African safari so maybe we can go for the Discover Kenya package! A food connoisseur can live his/her ultimate food dream by doing a special interest culinary tour of Italy package or a newly married couple can plan a honeymoon with their Mauritius adventure package.

TravelTours’ motto is that no two travellers are alike. So they customize the packages for different customers and offer them a wide range of travel options to suit their budgets. They claim that their strong relationship with agents and hotels around the globe has ensured that the customers have a great holiday.

Hope to try our their services soon. 🙂

So, loyal reader, where are you planning to go in the long weekend just around the corner?  Apparently there are 14 long weekends in 2015 but few of them involve one day of bunking work 😛  Sadly I work six days a week not five.

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Vote For My Blog!!

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

I love going on trips and visiting places. I am more of a tourist and sightseeing kind of person so when I visit any travel website I like to get complete and practical information about xyz place..not only the places to see but also how they are really, what are the do’s and dont’s, the timings, where to eat etc. I found many travel websites and blogs lacking in that. Some just hyped up few things about a place whereas in reality it was not so cool! Some blogs would focus more on experience and photos and not real useful information! So I decided to mix my hobby of traveling with another passion – blogging! Thus the travel blog “Ghumakkar Chronicles” came into existence where I began writing my travelogues of all the places I have visited.

What is WIN 2014?

WIN 2014 is the first ever Bloggers’ conference which will see a mix of Bloggers, Industry Specialists & Influencers hosted by BlogAdda.  Write. Inspire. Network – The three core elements around which the day long event will revolve. WIN 2014 promises to have something for everyone: Sessions & workshops which will highlight the various aspects of writing for the bloggers. Icons from the blogosphere and renowned speakers who will inspire the budding author in every individual attending the conference. An evening where every blogger, writer, reader, listener, learner will get an opportunity to network with the best of speaker, bloggers & brands. We aim to provide a physical platform to bring together all the knowledge and learning about blogging followed by an evening of recognizing and honouring the best of the blogs that won the hearts of thousands of readers and the esteemed Jury of BlogAdda Blog Awards.

For the contest part of the event, Blogadda’s jury comprising of Shobhaa De, Dilip Cherian, Simi Garewal,Krishna Prasad, Mukul Deva, Ashwin Sanghi, Gayatri Iyer, Vasundhara Das, Arjun Ravi, Pranav Bhasin, Malishka, Jessie Paul, Karl Gomes, Shradha Sharma, Paroma Roy Chowdhury, Ekalavya Bhattacharya and Sabyasachi Gorai have shortlisted blogs in various categories like Arts Crafts and Design, Humor & Satire, Personal, Parenting, Food & Drinks etc

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And my blog “Ghumakkar Chronicles” has been shortlisted by the jury for the Blog Adda awards WIN 2014 in the travel and living category!!! Yayyyy!!!

I was utterly shocked and so happy when I received the notification email from Blogadda. My blog among so many seasoned bloggers!! 🙂 🙂  Nothing like such news to renew the blogging spirit and faith!! 🙂

Public voting is being done by liking and tweeting!

So please please please my dear readers and visitors go over and vote for me!!!! Click the Facebook like button or tweet, to vote, by clicking on the icon below. You can also leave an encouraging comment on the page to make sure my blog wins!

Make My Blog WIN for BlogAdda Awards

And do share this link with your friends who may like my blog. Thank you for your time!

Voting open till 31st Jan 2014.

Note – In case you can’t see voting options in Firefox, please open the link in Chrome or Internet Explorer.

Thanks once again!!

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Krishnagiri Chronicle

When we bought our car Ford Figo, we knew we will definitely go on road trips because both of us like traveling and D loves driving [only to such places not to market or malls :D] So our first road trip was to Krishnagiri. After that we visited the place once more recently with my in-laws. Here is an account of the place and our experiences.

Krishnagiri is a small town and district headquarters in Tamilnadu, the 30th district to be precise. It is around 90 km from Bangalore. So it is not a long drive especially from south Bangalore where we live. Apparently Krishnagiri is famous for its mango production and it owes its name to the many black granite hillocks that are a part of the landscape. It is also the birthplace of Dr. C. Rajagopalachari, the first Governor General of India. The National Highway 7 makes the drive to Krishnagiri a pleasant one but only after one crosses Hosur. The condition of highway in Hosur is bad. Also the traffic can be a problem sometimes mainly due to trucks in Hosur. There are two tollways till Krishnagiri. After Hosur, there are many fuel stations and restaurants (even a McDonald’s) at Shoolagiri. The hills in the Hosur – Krishnagiri region give an impressive view with the famous 2000 year old Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple located atop the Shoolagiri hill. We did not visit the temple so I have no information about that place.

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National Highway 7

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Hills along the highway

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Approaching Shoolagiri

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McDonald’s!!

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Tollway before Krishnagiri

Further along the road, there is a lake called “Avathanapatti Lake” which has a boathouse and a children park. Though we intended to visit that, we could not due to shortage of time.

The first time when we visited Krishnagiri it was during the monsoon season of 2012. The lush green paddy fields, the countryside, the highway, the weather – all were mesmerizing. We could actually see the drizzle happening at a distance!! When we visited next time in August 2013, it was not raining that much and that beautiful look was missing.

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Dark Monsoon Clouds

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Green Paddy Fields

Krishnagiri doesn’t have too many tourist attractions. The most popular tourist attraction is the Krishnagiri reservoir project (KRP) Dam. Then there is a fortress built on the top of Syed Basha hills (also known as Krishnadevarayar Mountain) which belonged to the famous ruler, Tipu Sultan.

# Krishnagiri Fort – The Krishnagiri district website lists “Rayakottah” as a fort in its tourist places but I am confused whether it is the same fort as the one we visited. Though the fort was a protected monument according to a blue notice by ASI, there was no monument name anywhere to be seen. The fort is clearly visible from the main road but finding the entrance is a tricky thing. The entrance or rather the starting steps to the fort are visible after passing through some gullies and crossing someone’s front yard!! The area around the fort has become a human settlement and reeks of negligence of a so-called protected monument. On the positive side, the steps leading to the top of the hill and thereby the fortress are good. But it is a long hike and not for aged or unfit persons. My in-laws decided to wait at the village. D and I started climbing. There were many goats at the starting of the steps and it was amazing to see them standing on the sloping faces of the hills defying gravity!! We humans wont be able to do that!!

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Krishnagiri Fort on the top of Syed Basha Hill

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Area around the Entrance Steps

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The Starting Steps of A Long Climb

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Goats standing on the hills

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D leading the hike to the fort

As we climbed, the aerial view of the town became visible. There were so many different types of shrubs, even cactus in the hills. We also came upon monkeys, ant hills, salamanders, odd rock formations etc.

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View of Krishnagiri from top

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Slopes of the hill

We climbed 220 steps (I counted on our way down!!) after which I gave up.  From the point where I gave up, the fort was still not in sight. God knows how many more steps were there to the fort! I did not want to take sick leave the next day at work 😀 So even if D wanted to complete the hike, I was adamant and we came back. Apparently there is a museum inside the fort. Maybe next time!!

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The Point where I gave up

    # KRP Dam – The fort is on the left side of the highway and the road leading to the KRP dam is on the right side when one is coming from the direction of Hosur. So you have to take a U-turn on the highway and go on the service road till you reach an arch now on your left. There is an entrance fee which one has to pay before entering the dam area. The dam is built across the Thenpennai river. The dam is working since 1958 and was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu K. Kamaraj.

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Entrance Fees to KRP Dam

First time when we went the road leading upto the dam was open but the second time it was closed. At the front of the dam some sculptures are there. A sculpture depicts a king sort of person giving alms to some ascetic looking person. But there was no sign board explaining the significance of the sculpture or the tale behind it. Then there was a huge sculpture of a demon looking king type of person. Again no story!! 😦 Would love to know the tales if any of my blog readers knows it.

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Front of the KRP Dam

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A fisherman fishing with monsoon clouds looming

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The sculpture at the dam

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Another sculpture at the dam

The narrow road leading to the forebay area of the dam is always open.There is not much place there to sit and relax but if one wants to take a dip in the water, then it is good. We parked the car and relaxed for sometime taking in the view of the water and trying to bounce pebbles off the surface of water 😀 The first time when we had gone we could not stay for long as it was drizzling but the second time it was sunny so we enjoyed the view a lot. Inside the village there is a small outlet which we had seen on our first visit, which sells fried fish fresh from the river. Would have loved to try some!

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The forebay of the dam

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My in-laws and D taking in the view

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Fried fish outlet

Again we returned back to the dam and parked in front of a park near the dam. There is a beautiful well maintained garden which was closed when we had gone for the first time but was open the second time around.  The garden spread over 50 acres serves as a picnic spot for tourists. There are steps leading from the garden to the top of the dam. The view of the embankment is mesmerizing from the top. There are swings and other play stuff for children. There is a round fountain area which was not that well maintained, with a Lord Krishna statue in the middle surrounded by “gopiyas” among which one was wearing a salwar kameez!! 😀

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KRP Park

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Garden

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Krishna surrounded by Gopiyas

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Steps leading upto the dam

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View of the garden from the dam top

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View of water from top of dam

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View of the water

After spending time in the park, we started on our way back to Bangalore. Reached home by 6 pm with enough time to relax, have dinner and sleep for the next day was Monday. Krishnagiri is a good place to go for a short one day outing with family, just to get out of the city and to take a break.

Categories: Cities, Road Trips, Tamil Nadu | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Talakadu Chronicle

Some of my colleagues proposed the idea of going on a picnic trip to any nearby place. Rest of us agreed. The places chosen were Talakad or Talakadu which is around 130 kms from Bangalore and 24 kms further to Somnathpur. Bus was hired and food arrangements were made which consisted primarily of South Indian dishes. Permission to go on a picnic on a working Saturday was taken from the management. Bus started at 6 am from the first pick up point. At around 8 am we reached Kanakpura to pick up our supplies. At around 10.30 we stopped for breakfast somewhere beside the road. After breakfast, on our way to Talakadu, all of us started playing Antakshari. It was fun!!

On Way

Breakfast break

As soon as we reached the outskirts of the small rural settlement, there was a barrier on road and some kids ran up to us to collect “vehicle entrance fee”. The signboard was extremely dubious. But that is the way it is at many places around Bangalore.

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Kids collecting entrance fee

Talakadu is a small town, with lot of ancient history and mythology related to it, located on the banks of the famous river Cauvery. Remains of pre-historic settlements have been unearthed at Talakdu. The town is peculiarly covered with sand dunes several meters deep and has a folklore behind its appearance. Talakadu is also a centre of pilgrimage. It is also known as Kasi of the South. It is mentioned as Gajaranya meaning Elephant forest in ancient lore of India. Tourists come here mainly for the “darshan” or to offer their prayers to the five sacred Shiv-lingas (representation of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva) and especially in the month of Kartika of Hindu calendar. Talakad has been ruled by several dynasties over the ages (Gangas, Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas,Vijayanagar Kings) and recently by the Wodeyars of Mysore.

At the parking area, one can find vendors selling guide books of Talakadu. Those are really helpful in knowing the history of the place and for guiding the religiously inclined to the correct procedure of visiting all the temples in the area. The book has a Kannada section and an English section. If you bargain well, you can get it in Rs 10.

The tale of The Curse of Talakadu goes like this:-

Vijayanagara king had appointed one Srirangaraya as the viceroy of Vijayanagar Empire to Wodeyar kingdom, in 1610. The viceroy’s wife was Alamelamma who used to send her ornaments every Friday to decorate Sri Ranga Nayaki, the consort of Sri Ranganatha of the Srirangapatnam temple. After the death of her husband, the Wodeyar king and his soldiers started to harass the woman for her jewels. The Mysore king sent his force to seize the jewels. Out of helplessness and anger, Alamelamma jumped into the river Cauvery at a place called Malangi with the jewels tied up in a cloth. When she was drowning, she uttered a curse in Kannada saying

“Talakadu managali, Malangi madwagali, Mysooru arasarige makkalu aagadirali”

which translates to ‘Let Talakadu be covered by sand, let Malangi become a whirlpool and may the kings of Mysore not have any heirs’

Now the strange thing is Talakdu is really covered with sand (which scientists attribute to either building of a dam in the 14th century or a fault line  running through the river), the river really has whirlpools at Malangi and the Mysore royal family have faced problem in having a rightful heir to the throne since that time. Apparently the present scion of Mysore Royal Family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, has made amends for the same. I am not advocating any supernatural hocus pocus or superstitions, but one has to admit there is a certain romanticism, charm and curiosity in knowing such folklore. 🙂

Talakadu has derived its name from two hunters called TALA and KADA. They also have a mythological story which goes like this :-

A sage Somadatta with his 16000 disciples was on his way to Siddhashrama situated on Mount Somarka to worship Lord Shiva. Enroute wild elephants killed him. He was reincarnated as an elephant and continued worshiping the god with his disciples at a place where a ‘salmali’ tree stood. In due time the Lord appeared and blessed them all with mukti or emancipation of the soul in human form from the cycle of births and deaths. Now, later in the course of time, two hunters called Tala and Kada, were travelling in the region. They struck the ‘salmali’ tree with an axe and blood gushed out. They fainted. When they regained consciousness, they heard a voice telling them how to dress the wound and heal the tree. The hunters did as instructed and became ‘pramathagana’ (whatever that means). Lord Shiva who suggested medicine to his own illness came to be known as “Vaidyanatheswara” (The Lord of Physicians). The place became famous as Talakadu and the blood which had oozed out got mixed with earth and got the name “moolamrithika”. The sacred mix is supposed to cure all diseases including those caused by misdeeds of previous births.

After reaching bank of the river, we chose a spot under the shade of a tree and settled down. Most of my colleagues went for a ride on the special round boats or “parisals” across the river. Parisals or Indian coracles are primitive, light, bowl-shaped boats with a frame of woven bamboo, grasses, reeds or saplings covered with hides. They are used commonly in South India and are a major tourist attraction. After the boat ride, all of them went for a swim or to just play in the water. There are changing rooms available near the river. There are various food items and refreshments vendors also. I and my friends ate watermelon pieces to cool off. It was so hot in February!

On way to beach

Cauvery Riverside

Changing rooms

Parisal Boats

Boat Ride Across Cauvery

Birds on Cauvery

Expanse of River Cauvery

Frolicking in water

Buried in hot sand, drunk perhaps? (not my colleagues)

After everybody returned reluctantly from the water, we had lunch. After lunch all of us went for the tour of temples around the area on foot. And my appreciation for the “Ship of Desert” i.e. the camel increased manifolds. It is really so difficult to walk on sand. After visiting the first temple (where I bumped my head due to low height of the entrance) and walking some more distance to the next one, some of us gave up. We were sweating profusely and were so thirsty. Thankfully a watermelon seller rescued us. We reached the end point of the tour by a shortcut and relaxed in the bus while the more energetic and religious colleagues completed the tour in that hot weather.

There are about 30 temples at Talakadu, some of which have been excavated and some of which are still buried under sand. Among the temples, the Pataleshwara or Vasukishwara, Maruleshwara or Saikateshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheshwara and Mallikarjuna temples form the famous “Panchalinga Darshana” which is held once every 12 years. The Panchalinga Darshana is held on a Monday falling on a new moon day in the month of Karthika (November/December) when the sun is in the Scorpius constellation. Apparently the last Panchalinga Darshana was held in the year 2006. The Pataleshwara Shivalingam is said to change colors during the day (red in the morning, black in afternoon and white in the evening).  Apart from these, there is also the Keertinarayana temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is built in Hoysala style of architecture. The sanctum has an eight foot tall idol of Keertinarayana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Roadsign

Pataleshwara Swamy Temple

Half Buried Temple

On way to second temple

Restoration work in progress

Keertinarayana Temple

All the visible temples have exquisite carvings and sculptures. The ancient structures always manage to fill one’s mind with awe at the workmanship, isn’t it? The town has an atmosphere rich in history, mythology, religion, belief and faith with the river Cauvery quietly flowing agelessly, a witness to the rise and fall of several kingdoms, to the fervent prayers and resonant chants of devotees, to the happiness and sadness in their hearts and to the progress of human civilization over time.

Religion in every heart

Faith in every grain of sand

We left Talakdu at around 4.30 pm for Somnathpur but by the time we reached there, the place had closed for the day. Maybe I will visit that place on my own someday. There was an excellent shop of antiques and artifacts at Somnathpur. After tea and refreshments, we started for Bangalore and returned by 10 pm.

Talakadu Temple Timings:- 08.00 am – 06.30 pm. Entrance is free.

Categories: Historical, Karnataka, Nature, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Delhi Chronicle Part 2

Continued from here

My parents arrived in New Delhi on 1st May 2012. They were very happy to see their grand-daughter  in person for the first time. Sadly she had fallen sick due to the bad water and weather of Delhi. 😦 On 2nd May 2012 my parents and I decided to go sightseeing around New Delhi. So we talked to our hotel manager and booked a cab for the day. We left right after breakfast but even in such early morning the sun was mercilessly bright and hot. The places we visited were

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Categories: Cities, Historical, New Delhi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reblog:So You Want To Start A Travel Blog

A guide to starting a travel blog by Shivya

The Shooting Star

The Shooting Star has recently made it to the top 30 travel blogs in India (based on global Alexa rankings). While I still have a long way to go to reach the level of the world’s top travel bloggers, this post is an attempt to share my experiences and experiments so far.

 Many of you have asked me on Twitter and via email, as to how you can go about starting your own travel blog and what it entails, and this post is something of an apology to those unanswered questions! I started my travel blogging journey in May 2011, before which my blog was a platform to rant about life and share the occasional travel tales. I must also confess that I started (and dropped) 5 blogs before The Shooting Star, each after a few posts, when I faced the writer’s block. That is perhaps the greatest challenge…

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Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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