Saturday, 30 July 2011

Destination Ranganthittu

If you don’t know what a twitcher is then, this might not interest you. No it has nothing to do with the Blair witch project or maybe it could. In the Blair witch project, there were three film makers who hiked into black hills to film the legend.  In the twitch project, three of us had journeyed through the hard roads of Karnataka, fought the potholes, and conquered the crowd to film the migratory birds.

Like with all discoveries, we chanced upon Ranganthittu on our way back to Bangalore as we had taken some crossroads. Our driver tried to dissuade us from venturing into the waters claiming that the sanctuary closes by 4.00pm. But nothing can stop us “the mighty twitchers”. OK technically I am not a twitcher as I don’t walk the distance to spot the rare birds, but even the everyday birds are becoming a rare sight. So I guess the term twitcher is fine.

It was a mixed crowd on the boat. As most of us were birding enthusiasts, our guide agreed to take us on a longer trip for some extra money. We eagerly complied and enjoyed the sights. Here are few of the shots from that day.

 Black Headed Ibis

 Black Headed Ibis

 Open Billed Storks Chicks

 Open billed Stork chicks

Open billed stork chicks

 Night Heron

 Painted Stork

 Snake Birds

 White Egret chick

White Egret chick

Location: Ranganthittu, India
Date of travel: April 2011

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Destination Manchinbele

Weekend day trips – Can anything be better than heading out of the city. But before heading out, one has to get over the hurdle of getting the group to agree on a place and the date. After a long time, a big group of us had managed to make plans. But on the day of the trip, from a group of 8, we were down to 4. Why don’t plans always fall in place?

All days trips lead to Mysore road. This was no different.We were about 5 kms into the trip when we were stopped by the Bangalore traffic police. It was the end of the month and the cops are like werewolves on a full moon day. Is that politically incorrect? Now twihard fans know werewolves can be good too! They always look out for their loved ones. Don't you agree?

So Getting back to the  honest cop. He claimed we had run a red light and without batting an eyelid, asked us to grease his palms. Grease is a very useful lubricant. It can make you dance like Travolta, let you transfer money without  IFSC code and help you cook up stories too. Grease was the hero of our day, at least for the next 10 minutes

After we the pink ladies, pretended ignorance of the term grease and demanded for a reciept, the Indian werewolf in Bangalore made an excuse that the full moon had discharged the life of his blackberry. Once upon a time our Bangalore werewolves would sing this all the time

Whoooh ooooh who's that guy?
Whoooh ooooh who's that guy?
He came out of the darkness in the middle of the night,
Blazing like a mother with a fist of dynamite.

But with the blackberry, they just need to punch in the licence plate number and entire history rolls out. Yes technology has become their friend. The situation had all the elements of a hindi movie. The bad cop, the honest heroine, the side kick cop, the sweet friends of the heroine and the hero grease. Of course the gulabi hengasaru ( pink ladies) won the round that day! Jaagte Raho!

Though Bangalore is the most accommodating cities in India when it comes to languages, it is in these kinds of situations that knowing the local language becomes important. Pink turning to gulabi helped the situation. Isn’t it always good to adapt some of the local culture of the city you call your home.


Just one word of advise. Avoid taking the KR Market route towards Mysore unless you want to play " I spy with my own little eyes something black and not going round and round" forever
After crawling for more than an hour, we took a detour from Mysore road into the by lanes toward the Dodda alada mara. Dodda alada mara translates to big banyan tree. No prizes for guessing! We were driving towards a big tree which we were confident we would not miss. Lo behold, we almost missed it! Now don't you dare comment on the driving skills of the fairer sex.

Now I had been here as a kid. I remember it was just one big tree in middle of nowhere and we picnicked and played cricket with lots and lots of  macaques as our spectators. As with all tourist spots in Karnataka, the government has spruced up the place with pathways, manicured bushes and fencing. I had mixed feeling about this change. There is something odd about the mighty “I don’t care for anyone” banyan tree pruned so that pathways and seating can be accommodated. Something so natural, should be left to its own elements and not tampered with. As expected with this "improvement" we could spot just a few monkeys.

A couple of kilometers away was our final destination - Manchinbele. Because of its proximity to ISRO, the good roads make the drive enjoyable. Manchinbele dam was built for irrigation purpose and there is a small reservoir. We had planned to picnic by its banks. Its an ideal spot of picnic on a nice day. However as there is no tree cover close to the reservoir, this location would not be great on a sunny day.

It is always advisable to be safe by the water rather than sorry as just two weeks after we visited  this place, two deaths were reported at this reservoir.

As a finale to our eventful day , we the pink ladies turned into T birds when a van ran into our parked car. Though we tried to stop the culprit scooting away, he did just that. It is very unfortunate that help is never rendered when required. People around us instead of helping us , told us to move as we were blocking the traffic. Yes, everybody is always in a rush. The incident did'nt ruin our day but just made it more memorable one. We have a small dent on the rear bumper to prove that.
Location: Manchinbele,India
Date of travel: June  2011

Tip: Learn the local language!
Must do: Acknowledge the movies grease 1 and 2 without which this blog would have been incomplete!
First: Bring the traffic to a stop!
The travel connection: Memories!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Destination Coorg

When I got to know this place is called the "Scotland of east" I was eager to holiday there once again. Considering Scotland is one of my favorite spots, Coorg had lot to keep up to. Coorg is a district in Karnataka and you can either stay in the plains by the river Cauvery or in a coffee plantation high up in the hills. Considering it is summer, I choose to go up into the hills as high as possible.

 The place I wanted to unwind in was situated at foothills of the highest peak in the region - Thadiyandamol about 5700 feet above sea level. The palace estate got its name from the nearby 17th-century Nalnad Palace and is one amazing home stay in the Kakabe area of Coorg. The quaint little wooden structured rooms with the balcony overlooking the valley are a perfect place to rejuvenate. The friendly hosts, the amazing local food for breakfast, simple home cooked food for lunch and dinner made the trip to this place worthwhile.

To the dismay of most and if my work permits it, I generally cut off from the city, its people and my daily routine on my holidays. Most cannot live without their cellphones, TV, electricity and other luxuries they consider necessities. Also many require a drink or two to unwind and relax. For me it is just the opposite. The time out from cell phones and other gadgets except my camera is what I look forward in my breaks. The clean air, the peaceful atmosphere is what relaxes my soul. The small walks that I take, the indoor games that I play, the appetizing food that I eat and the snooze that I take helps me unwind and lets me get back to the grind with a smile. To each his own. This is my way to deal with the stressful life. I would love to know what is yours.

One of the highlights of my holiday was when we realized that the big butterfly that was hanging around our room was real. We had a bit of back and forth if it was a butterfly or a moth. On returning i figured it was the Atlas Moth, the largest in the world with respect to its wing span. It was one beautiful creature.

Also amazing thing was the Coorgi food. Yes , i am a vegetarian and though coorg is well know for its meat dishes, i loved the variety of puttus.(steam-cooked dishes) for breakfast. You can have Kadambuttu (ball shaped puttus), Thaliya puttu (flat puttus steamed in plates), Paaputtu (cooked with milk and shredded coconut), Nooputtu (thread puttu, pressed into noodle like threads with a mould), Od puttu (baked on a flat mud pan), Nuch puttu (made of broken rice), Madd puttu (made of a medicinal leaf called Madd Thopp) among other things. And palace estate had the best of these puttus. I tried each of them on different days for breakfast. Lip smacking most delicious breakfast!

What is more interesting than the coorgi food is the coorgi attire. Even though i had seen the coorgi saree work before, it was never this close and personal.It was only this time i realized that the pleats which are traditionally in front in the conventional saree,are at the back in a coorgi saree. The kodavas are one handsome and pretty lot!

After a relaxing stay at Palace estate we headed back to Madikeri. For the shopaholics, this is a good place to buy spices, coffee and home made fruit wines like jack fruit wine, passion fruit wine. Among all the sights to see in coorg, we narrowed upon two- Nisarghadham - miss it! and Golden temple - don't miss it! Nisarghadham was certainly not heaven but for the antics of the residing monkeys. As long as you cooperate and give in to their demands, they put up a lovely show for you!. I didn't know till then that monkeys could swim!!

Kushalnagar is the second largest settlement for Tibetans after Dharmasala. It houses their golden temple - a mesmerizing sight, not to be missed. It is also a good place to pick up their artifacts and eat momos! The momos we had were a little disappointing but the chowmein and fried rice was certainly not indianised and tasted very good. There are no established eateries around this place. So one has to make do with the road side eateries. For the less adventurous, there is always CCD about 15-20 minutes away from kushalnagar on way back to Bangalore.

So did Coorg keep its reputation as Scotland of east? It came close but nothing can beat Scotland!!

Location: Kakabe, Coorg
Date of travel: April 2011

Tip: Go for the less traveled option
Must do: Do nothing!
First: Spot something that is largest of its kind!
The Travel Connection: Coorgi Cuisine

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