Visakhapatnam Chronicle Part 2

Continued from here.

Here is the second post in the series titled “Visakhapatnam Chronicle”.

28th Oct 2008 – As I told in part 1 that we had booked a tour of Araku Valley and Borra Caves. We were supposed to report to APTDC counter at station at 5.45 am. That we did with groggy eyes only to know the train leaves at 7.00 am! Aarghhh! There were lots of other tourists too on the same tour. The rail-cum-road tour included breakfast, lunch and evening tea + snacks too. We were served delicious idli along with chutney for breakfast. The train journey comprised of 46 tunnels, glorious view of the valley and hills of Eastern Ghats. One of the tour guides kept informing us of interesting facts regarding the journey.

View of Araku Valley from Galikonda View Point

From Araku railway station we boarded one of the 5 buses of APTDC. First we went to Tribal Museum which had various aspects of tribal life on display along with various tribal handicrafts. We bought some souvenirs from a nearby shop.


Then we were taken to APTDC resort for lunch. Lunch consisted of plain rice, pulao, dal, rasam,curd, papad, chhole, sabzi and halwa. I guess roti is hardly available down south.


After the excellent lunch, we were taken to see the Padmapuram Botanical Gardens. The sweltering heat was not allowing us to enjoy anything. It was supposed to be a hill station but it was not at all cool. The tropical sun is the biggest adversary of tourism, I tell you! We just rested, clicked some photographs and waited for the bus to leave. Our guide took us back to the resort to see tribals perform their folk dance Dhimsa.


The route to Borra caves from Araku was through the coffee plantations of Anathgiri Hills and was a thorough Ghat road. And thus started my trouble. I suffer from motion sickness and the turns made by bus aggravated it. Our bus stopped at Galikonda view point. Dad bought coffee beans and pure coffee powder. Then we stopped at APTDC’s Anathgiri rest house for tea and snacks. I didn’t have any as I was feeling nauseated. Borra Caves comprise of million-year-old stalactite and stalagmite formations. Illumination of the caves has been done by APTDC. The 300 ft. thick roofed wonder spread over one square km., presents a breath-taking display of natural sculptures of Mother Earth. There are some 400 steps inside to go deeper and more down there. Mom didn’t go and gave me company while I rested at a restaurant outside. Dad went some 100 steps and came back. Old age prevents one from such strenuous adventures. It had started to get dark by then.

Monkeys at Borra Caves

Then as more winding road came, my motion sickness got worse. Thankfully I was not alone in this suffering. Most of the women passengers were in same condition. The twists and turns of hilly road and darkness made the journey scary. By the time we reached city outskirts I was totally dizzy from vomiting reflexes and weak due to hunger. We had our dinner and hit the sack. And that is how I spent my Diwali. It was a mistake to go to Araku on such a short trip. It gets too much hectic especially with aged people and motion sickness patients.

The next part – here

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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.


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.





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.


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.


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.


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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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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.



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??


Road in front of our homestay


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.

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Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani Chronicle

This is the final post in the series of posts I have posted about my trip during the summer. In the first post I had described Aurangabad and Ellora Caves. In the second post I had described Pune, Khandala and Lonavala. From Pune we left for a 3 day stay at Mahabaleshwar.

6th Day :- Checked out of hotel at Pune early morning as our Volvo bus to Mahabaleshwar was to leave at 7.00 am. Bus left at 8.00 am!! Checked into pre-booked rooms of the MTDC holiday resort. I had inquired at 16 hotels including this one for their rates and MTDC resort was the cheapest one which had a restaurant too. After seeing the place I was satisfied with my choice. Awesome surroundings with a small playground, nice rooms and good room service with wonderful food. There are a lot of monkeys there and can create a lot of ruckus. And bookings are tough to get here especially during the tourist season. This is MTDC resort.

resort mhswar

7th Day :- After a lot of rest on the previous day, we went sightseeing. There are several “points”, temples and a lake (Venna lake) to see in Mahabaleshwar. Thankfully it didn’t rain and we were able to see lots of places. Venna lake is enjoyable more in the evening due to all the stalls including video games parlors! but the boat rides are very costly! The place where Marjorie point, Arthur’s seat etc are there requires a fit body and a pair of good legs. I was amazed at so many old people climbing so many steps!

There were a lot of horses too but I didn’t have the courage to ride them. Dad and I paid Rs 10 each to just sit on a horse and take photos 😀 We ate strawberries too but didn’t like the taste. 😦 And there is a nice market place too! 😀


8th Day :- We left for Panchgani early morning . There are not many sights to see in Panchgani. To increase the business of the taangas (which charge 300 rs for a 10 min ride around the table land) vehicles don’t go into the tableland whereas its perfectly accessible. And if you can walk, you can traverse the area on foot. One can see many gliders para sailing in Panchgani. There is a picture of one in the collage. I have only 5x Optical zoom 🙂

There was a place where the Pandavas had lived while on exile. Seriously why on earth would anyone climb so high to live during exile? Then we went to Mala’s farm and bought a lot of jams of different flavors. 🙂 I found a strange figurine etched on a tree trunk there. Then we had snacks and wonderful ice cream at Mapro farm. After lunch and rest at MTDC resort, we went to Venna lake in the evening. The weather with clouds and slight drizzle was awesome! It can get quite cold in Mahabaleshwar so its better to have warm clothes with oneself.


9th Day :- Though our bus for Pune was to leave at 11.30 am, we had to checkout at 9.00 am from the resort as per their rule. We just waited at the hotel which was the pick up point for those going to Pune. After sometime someone shouted from the back of the bus “Stop the bus! Everyone get down soon. Something is burning!” We all got down hurriedly. The fan belt had burnt out. The driver took the bus to a nearby restaurant and called for a replacement bus. It took 3 hrs and those 3 hrs was full of heat and sweat. We all missed Mahabaleshwar and we were facing the harsh reality of weather in June in India. We reached Pune totally exhausted.

10th Day :- Some more shopping in Laxmi road market in Pune and loads of rest and sleep.

11th Day :- Headed back home.

Thus ended my wonderful summer vacation trip!! Looking forward to next vacation 😀

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Pune and Khandala Chronicle

This is the second post about my 12 day vacation trip. In the earlier post I had described the trip to Aurangabad and Ellora. From Ellora we left for Manmad where we had the night train to Pune. Trains usually leave late from Manmad. God knows why! Next morning we arrived in Pune and after a lot of hotel search (Hotels are usually full during June – July in Pune due to admission time.) checked into one with available rooms and reasonable price (considering Pune prices). It had wonderful surroundings..peaceful and green. And the hotel rooms were good too. 3rd day was spent resting.

4th Day :- We hired a vehicle to take us to Khandala and Lonavala and back. The driver turned out to be a mobile phone addict!! Thank god we had a safe trip. We stopped at a little restaurant “Shiv Sagar” just outside Aundh. The food was tasty and reasonably priced. After filling our stomachs we moved on. The Pune – Mumbai Expressway was beautiful and the long tunnel awesome!

As it hadn’t started raining yet, all the waterfalls and greenery were dry in Khandala and Lonavala. So we didn’t get to enjoy much in the hot sun. We found Lonavala to be better than Khandala though. We bought several packets of the famous Lonavala Chikki and came back to Pune by evening.

5th Day :- Again we hired a vehicle from the same guy to take us around Pune. And ended up with the same driver. First of all we went to Aga Khan Palace in Pune. It was a wonderful place with such green surroundings and peaceful atmosphere.

The Aga Khan Palace Pune is a national monument of India’s freedom movement. Following the launch of Quit India movement in 1942, Gandhiji, his wife Kasturba, his secretary Mahadevbhai Desai were interned at the palace from August 9, 1942 to May 6, 1944. Mahadevbhai and Kasturba passed away while in captivity at the Agakhan palace and their samadhis are located in the campus.Situated near the River Mula, the palace is a simple memorial to Gandhi and his life. The famous movie ‘Gandhi’ was shot here.

aga khan palace

Then we went onto see Pataleshwar Caves and the adjoining Shri Jangli Maharaj Mandir. I was surprised to find so many office goers ( from their attire and bags) lounging around with newspaper or some book in that mandir and caves area on a late weekday morning.

From there we went to visit Shaniwarvada, a palace fort built by the Peshwas.


Then we went to see the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum. It was awesome but camera was charged at Rs 150 extra!! It was too much! But yes it is indeed a place to take snaps. Such wonderful artifacts. Maybe I will take photos when I go to Pune next time. From there we went to Nivant Garden Restaurant on Paud Road. There were three sections at that place – one ac section full of agarbatti smoke, one hot garden considering there was no wind and one inside with very less fans. We were all sweaty by the time we finished eating. I won’t recommend the place in summer. The chilly chicken dish in Pune restaurants (I ate at 2 of them) is quite different from other places. It is served as long slices!

After lunch we skipped a few places and went to Khadakwasla Dam which didn’t turn out to be much enjoyable at afternoon.


Then we came to back to hotel. On way the driver stopped the vehicle and went to attend some personal work. He was gone for around 45 mins! Atleast this time he didn’t play bad songs like he had done on our Khandala trip.

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