Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Destination Karwar

 Blast from past!

 After the jungle stay at Ganesh gudi, we headed out to the only beach resort which is part of jungle lodges. But of course , first we had to conquer the mighty karnataka roads.This time the driver blamed it on central government as the national parks are a protected area. On reaching the coast, a quick boat ride brought us to Devbagh beach resort at Karwar

Devbagh is on an island shared with a fishing village. Though the view from the cottages is of casuarina groove and a distant sea, the almost private beach makes it a good destination to chill out. Unfortunately as you are on island, the only activities one can do are mostly restricted to what the resort offers and they are far by very limited.

Being at a beach resort, we did  lounge by and in the water.But I was looking forward to snorkeling for the first time. After a half hour boat ride into the sea, we anchored close to two rocky, inaccessible islands.The sea seemed choppy and we were about 12 miles into the sea.We were told to jump into the waters from the boat instead of walking into it from a beach as i had hoped.For the first time I hesitated before trying a water sport.But that lasted for a few minutes.

Unfortunately the group conducting this sport was a little unprofessional and did not instruct us before we jumped into the water with the gear on. It took me sometime to figure out the technique after hearing the instructions in the water. But once I did , it was awesome.The instructor guided me along the cliffs. The limited sea life, the not so clear water, swimming along the cliff and feeling the current pushing you closer to the rocks , all added to the excitement. Though the sea life was not as i had hoped or seen on travel shows, it was a good first experience. It was like a trial run for my future snorkeling at Hawaii or Mauritius....No harm in dreaming!!

Yes, we also went dolphin watching and luckily we spotted quite a few. But none put a show for us which was disappointing. We also came across a dead dolphin.It is really sad to see these lovely mammals caught in fishing nets for no reason. Though we were told that the dolphins are bottled nose dolphins,I am not so sure.We saw dark colored and some light colored dolphins. Can anyone let me know which type of dolphins frequent the Arabian sea.

After a totally relaxing and activity filled holiday, we  took a sleeper bus to head back. We had booked through seabird tourist. A comfortable journey brought us back home.

Location: Karwar, Karnataka
Date of travel: December 2010

Tip: Take your own entertainment  if visiting Devbagh and staying more than a day.
Must do: Dolphin watch
First: See marine life in their elements

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Destination Ganesh Gudi

Blast from past!

I embarked this trip on the 4th ride on a train this year and this time it was on Garib Nawaz express to Londa junction. Londa is about 25 kms from Ganeshgudi which was our destination.

This was my first time at jungle lodges. I feel the jungle lodges are little overpriced for the basic accomodation they offer. But their locations are amazing and worth the price.The one at Old Magazine house, Ganesh gudi was no different but also came with a good cook and hence a good spread.

This area is known for safari at Dandeli wildlife sanctuary, Anshi national park, trekking, birdwatching and whitewater rafting along the river Kali.
But of course we started with the rafting. One of the best 4 hours I have had in recent times. The 12 kms stretch was sprinkled with grade 2 rapids. Had so much fun!! The few times we jumped into the water  and enjoyed the river in between all the paddling just added to the fun. I do have to make this note that only in India will you see women all dressed up in flowing outfits with all their embellishments and accessories on a white water rafting expedition. Kudos to them! Loved the whole experience! I am all set to try grade 3+ at the Ganga ....well hopefully soon!!

As comfortable as I am in water to extent that I am called a fish by some, I am just the opposite on land. Trekking especially climbing down, well actually also climbing up is not my forte. I am certainly not a mountain goat. I am generally the one huffing and puffing or the one who hesitantly takes the next step down and is the last one slowing down the trek. But without a whimper from me, we did a short trek uphill about 400 feet and 1.5kms long to reach an amazing view point of the Supa dam backwaters. Certainly worth it. Totally recommend it!

We skipped the safari as the sightings  reported are very few but we did go on few  birdwatching walks and coracle ride over the 2 days. Unfortunately i lost almost all the photographs from this trip due to a technical glitch. The few here are the ones that I could salvage from the last day. I regret losing out on the majestic Malabar pied hornbill, the colorful scarlet minivet, the so cute chestnut headed bee eater, the playful langur snapshots. Maybe that will be a reason for me to return to this place someday!

Location: Ganeshgudi, Karnataka
Date of travel: December 2010

Tip: Always use waterproof sunscreen while trying water sports
Must do: Lounge around the bonfire at the jungle lodge
First: Seek the adventurous taste of white water rafting
The travel connection : Nature in Raw!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Destination Tirumala

Blast from past!
So my last trip of 2010. It was fitting finale with a trip to  the richest abode in the world - Tirumala Venkateshwara.

What can i say which is not already be said about this famous temple town. Though i have made countless trip before it still delights me to go there in spite of the crazy crowds.

We generally take the conducted tour from APSRTC from which the sheegrah darshan tickets are available even couple of days before you plan to go. So one can avoid the elaborate process of getting tickets well in advance from TTD. The tour starts around 8.30pm and with a short break for dinner, we are at Tirupathi by 5-6  hours.We are given rooms in the pilgrim amenities center for couple of hours and then set out very early in the morning to Padmavathi Temple. After the darshan and quick breakfast we head out to Tirumala and by 9.00 am. We are in the line for darshan. After the darshan, head back home and in Bangalore by 6.00pm.

Previously the tour offered the early morning darshan. These days it is the 9.00am seegrah darshan which is priced at 300/-. Amazingly for the first time  with the crowds behaving well, we finished the darshan within 45 minutes.

I will certainly be revisiting this place as often as possible.

Location: Tirumala Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh
Date of travel: December 2010

Tip: Always carry a hand sanitizer.
Must do: Darshan ...of course!!!
First: Every darshan of Venkateshwara is like the first time!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Destination Halebid

Blast from past!
What a road trip!! No, I am not saying this out of excitement but out of frustration. Unfortunately Karnataka has the worst possible roads. The drive rattles and tattles you out of your bones. You will need a holiday to recover from a holiday!

This trip was supposed to be for a social event outside Bangalore. I was a little hesitant about making this trip till my family threw in the bait of visiting this place as a part of this trip.

The place that I got tempted with is Halebid and Belur. For the uninitiated, Halebid and Belur is home to finest architectural examples from the Hoysala period. The temples will turn 900 years old in another 11 years!! Can you imagine that!

Google gives all the information about this place but a fact that I was new to is that Hoysalas were Jains before Ramanuja converted them into Srivaishanavism. There is a Jain temple of 23rd Thirthankara Parshwanath Swami in Halebid. One can see the basic form of Hoysala architecture at this Jain temple before it evolved into what can been seen at the main temples of Halebid and Belur.

Dwarapal- The door keeper
 As you enter Halebid complex, you realize something is incomplete. Halebid houses two garbha grihas (sanctum sanctorum) but the shikaras/ gopurams are missing. It is missing as it had to be brought down because of its fragility. The residing deities at this temple are Shantaleshwara Linga( Shiva) and Vishnuvardhan Hoysaleshwara Linga(Shiva).

Trimurthy- Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

 Unlike the popular misconception, the Hoysala temples with their typical star shaped form are in the Vesara (Deccan) style and not in Dravidian style of architecture. All this talk is so boring right?  Imagine studying all this for five years!!. That is right! I am an architect! I have no clue how I survived the five years.

 Before wearying you anymore, I will let the photos speak for themselves! Hopefully it will make you appreciate this place and tempt you to visit the place sometime.

Scene from daily life

Scene from Ramayan

Frieze :Level 4: Creepers Level 5: scene from epic Level 6: Makara
 Mythological animal Makara- Representative of the qualities of Hoysala soldier- Handsome like the peacock tail, sharp hearing as cow's ears, strong digestive system as a pig, sharp eyesight as a monkey,strong legs of lion,tough mouth of crocodile and trunk of elephant

Scene from Mahabharat

God and Goddesses

Location: Halebid, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010

Destination Sringeri

Blast from past!

After a delayed start from Horanadu due to reasons beyond our control, we stopped over at Kaleshewara (Shiva) temple at Kalasa We had plans to stop at some place on road for breakfast but that was a bad decision. I would totally advise against doing that as we had to survive on banana chips and other snacks for breakfast. BTW, we were on the way to Sringeri by the Tunga Bhadra river

                                                          Temple complex at Kalasa
Once again the most scenic routes but the worst of roads! But due to good weather we made good ground in short time!

Sringeri is home to the Matha (monastery) founded by Adi Shankaracharya. There are two prominent temples in and around the Matha complex. One is the relatively new Sharadam temple, dedicated to the Goddess of learning and wisdom built after the original wood structured temple was destroyed in fire during the early 20th century. The other more interesting one is the Vidyashakara temple which is about 600-700 years old. The architecture of this temple is an exhibition of the astronomical expertise of medieval south Indian temple builders. Even though I did not witness it, windows and doors along the temple walls are arranged such that equinoxes sunrise views reach the deity. The northern and southern gates enable the sunrise view from the hall during solstices.Extraordinary right?

Shardamba Temple
Vidya Shankara Temple

One of my must do things in a temple town is to get the blessings from the temple elephant. I don’t think PETA or CUPA will approve of this but I give a good tip and hope that the elephant gets some of the benefit from it. I can’t describe the feeling but I become a kid when the elephant takes the offering by its trunk from my hand and then taps on my head. Love it!!

Sringeri has twice as large dining hall than Horanadu. After another amazing prasadam, we set off on the last leg of journey to Bhadravathi. As the social event kept us occupied for the rest of the trip, we did not do much at Bhadravathi. This was one of the more bone tiring trips I have undertaken in recent times but I am not complaining!!..Well not much!!

Location: Sringeri, Karnataka
Date of travel: November 2010

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Destination Horanadu

Blast from past!
How can a trip with family not include visit to temple. So after Belur and Halebid, we embarked on the great rumbling and tumbling road trip across the western ghat. If it wasn't for the wonderful scenery , I would not recommend the journey to anyone. The torrential rains along with the pathetic roads took us to Horanadu in chikmagalur district.

Interestingly I always thought coffee plantations covered majority of chikmagalur. But we came across some stretches of tea plantations. We also came across many school kids happily  walking back home, sometimes two-three of them sharing one umbrella without raincoats, least bothered about the cats and dogs showering on them. We under the cozy protection of the car had mixed feeling seeing the kids this way. Hats or should I say umbrella off to them!!!

For some reason most Hindu temples are located in the most scenic locations high up on mountains and hills. Horanadu is no different. We checked into Durgamba lodge which was typical of lodging at temple towns except that it was bearable as it was relatively new. But the view from the room was out of the world. If it was a resort, we would have certainly paid lot more than Rs 500/- a night.

Horanadu is home to Goddess Annaporneshwari . Literally translated it means fulfiller of rice. There is a legend here that anyone who has the prasad here will never go hungry!! The temple is in typical style of the temples in the western ghats with its Mangalore roof.

As the temples serves all the three meals in a day as prasad, there are very few basic options for restaurants in this area. The best choice is to have the prasad at the temple's immaculately clean dining hall. The temple serves the most amazing tasteful prasad of steaming hot rice, sambar, rasam,buttermilk and a sweet payasam irrespective of caste creed gender or financial status of the person. It was a humbling experience for me as I was part of something like this for the first time.

Location: Horanadu, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010

Tip: Always carry rain protection while traveling in the western ghats even if it is post monsoons
Must do:  Experience  Maha Mangalarthi  and offer rice at the temple.
First: Be part of community dining experience at the temple.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Destination Belur

Blast from past!
Belur is 16 kms away from Halebid. As you approach the location, you can see an entrance gopuram painted yellow standing tall. This tower is relatively new and was built by the Vijaynagar kings and is in Dravidian style. The tower is like an anticlimax for what is awaiting you inside. 

Here is an interesting fact I learnt on this trip. If the Dhwaja stambha (flag post) is not in front of heritage temple , it is considered a monument. Otherwise it is an operational temple. Practically the stambha was used to hoist flags. Spiritually it is supposed to be the connector between God and humans. Scientifically rationalized, Stambha generally being the highest point inside the temple complex and made of metal or stone covered with metal,  acted as lighting arrestor and hence connected the energy of heaven with earth. If only we could rationalize all our Hindu customs and rituals this way, many more would embrace it. Let me know if you are aware of any such rational explanations to other customs and traditions!

The temple at Belur houses Chennakesava ( handsome Vishnu) and is dedicated to Queen Shantala who was a danseuse. Sculptures of sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas) are the prominent feature in this temple. The most unique feature of the sculptures here is its 3 dimensionality. This feature has to be seen and experienced in person rather than through text. Here is another titbit. The soapstone used for these temple was transported all the way from Tumkur.

This was my third trip to Belur and Halebid. And every time I have learnt or experienced something new. They are both "not to miss" places.

Location: Belur, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Destination Puducherry

I embarked on yet another train journey within two weeks of traveling to Kerala in 2010. This time it was on Lallu's Garib Rath. One has to pay for the blankets and pillows and there are 3 sleepers on the side also. Other than these differences, the poor man's chariot is like any other train in India.

My destination this time was Puducherry (Pondicherry) .Did you know Puducherry consists of four non-contiguous regions: Puducherry, Karaikal, and Yanam on the Bay of Bengal and Mahé on the Arabian Sea.This place still retains its evidence of French History. Though i had visited this place about 12 years ago, I was keen on rediscovering the place and its french cuisine.

As this was more of hang out with friends and sight see trip, I chose ginger. For the uninitiated traveler, ginger is an affordable, very clean option for budget travelers by Tata.This place was indeed all it promises to be.
As suggested by all travel shows/book, we started our weekend by visiting Auroville which is about 15kms from Puducherry.As one week prior reservation is required, I could not visit the inside of Matri Mandir.Instead I had to walk 1 km back and forth to view the meditation hall from a distance.

I would say skip it and just head out for the beach. The closest from Auroville was of course the Auro Beach. A dirty crowded expanse of a beach. But that didn’t dither us from revisiting the place next morning and enjoying the waters

Puducherry has Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a museum in an old French villa, rocky beach with chow patty hangover, some French heritage buildings and of course churches and temples. We did the tourist route with just one thing in mind: we needed to head out to paradise beach as soon as possible

Paradise beach was the cherry on the cake. We had to take a 15 minute boat ride to reach this estuary. The beach is clean, the waves just right, not very crowded as access is limited and best part is there are change rooms. I loved this place.

Yes, It was worth visiting Puducherry  for a quick weekend break!

Location: Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
Date of travel: September 2010

Tip: Avoid taking the private travel buses as they are pathetic. Stick to Ksrtc.
Must do: lounge around in Paradise Beach
First: Experience the nature's phenomenon at the mouth of estuary

Yet Again ! Nagarahole 2017

Flying Malabar Squirrel Kabini as a winter wonderland was a stark contrast from the lush green paradise I had experienced earli...