The Story of my Solo trip is an e-book now

My visit to the arid land of Spiti was my first solo trip in all sense. I have previously spoken about its beautiful landscape and the wonderful people through my blog posts. But, on a personal note this travel has been one of the most impactful trips of my lifetime. So, here is the entire story in the form of an e-book.

Through this book, I seek your company while I backpack alone on a trip to the mountains. I want you to join me when I gate crash a mountain wedding and dance to the first snow. I want company when I confront a mummy and when I visit a vault full of millennium old paintings. Stay with me as I return home with an unsettling chaos running in my tummy. As you read through the pages of this book, you can bite into the juicy apples of Kinnaur all along, walk with me meeting people and go on a virtual trip to the Spiti valley and back.

You can get your copy of the e-book on Amazon by clicking on the image or the link below:

Click on image to buy the copy of ‘My Spiti Sojourn’

Yes, I know the language could have been tuned a little more and the English, could sound a little more polished. But, due to reading the same story over and over again, a few mistakes have outflown, my humble apologies! This book had been compiled in the first covid lockdown (Apr 20) and I have been procrastinating to publish it for over a year now, even post 2nd lockdown I (Apr 21). So, finally it had to be done….. But, I promise that my intention of sharing my story and experiences from the road has been compiled to the best of my abilities. I wish you all read, enjoy your virtual trip to Spiti and share your honest thoughts about it…

Two Premier Institutes of India- A shared history

HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), Asia’s largest and India’s first aerospace establishment was founded and is headquartered in Bangalore. If you want to walk down this journey of how aviation industry has evolved in India, a visit to the HAL Aerospace Museum, India’s first aviation museum located at the HAL premises is highly recommended. From the first aircraft, Harlow PC to be assembled at its stables to manufacturing the most modern helicopters, planes and equipment for present day requirements of the Indian airfare, navy, railways and space research, HAL’s journey has been a long one. One is bound to get amused in another world by taking a walk between vintage planes, flight simulators, mock ATC and all things associated in this subject of fantasy at the museum hall. Now, this place leads me to my next destination: The IISc (Indian Institute of Science).

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An exhibit of the Pushpak aircraft at HAL

That morning, I had ordered a plate of idlis at this little restaurant on the IISc campus. Just like any other day at that restaurant, the environment was abuzz with the chitter chatter of the people I was surrounded by. A typical scene on any given day includes the best scientists of India and abroad discussing new experiments over a plate of food in what is one of the premier research institutes in the country! Irony has it that similar discussions happened under the same roof, sometime in history. But back then, the discussions were about something more strategic and destructive. It was right here that a bunch of people discussed a war plot. What is now the top-of-the-notch science and technology institution in India, served as a hub for maintenance and repairs of the aircrafts during World-War II.

In the late 1930s, a factory meant for automobile maintenance was setup by an industrialist named Walchand Hirachand in the present day IISc campus. History has it that on his way to China, Hirachand chanced upon a meeting with William D. Pawley who was attached to the Intercontinental Aircraft Corporation of New York, an American aircraft exporter. This connection lead to the procurement of the necessary tools and equipment from the US to setup an aircraft production line in India. It was in December 1940, with funds from the Mysore state, the Hindustan Aircraft Private Limited came into being. The plan was to manufacture the Harlow trainer, Hawk fighter and the Vultee attack bombers at this factory. However, this required huge manpower that was trained in Aeronautics which lead to the establishment of the department of Aeronautical engineering.

A 1942 file photo of the HAL main gate
A 1942 file photo of the HAL main gate. Photo courtesy: HAL museum gallery

The structure that housed the aeronautical engineering department was designed by German architect Otto Koenigsberger. Otto Koenigsberger was a young Jew who had fled his country during the Nazi regime and was later in time, employed as the government architect of the erstwhile Mysore state. His architectural design is an amalgamation of European and traditional Indian styles and can also be seen in the present-day metallurgical department and the hostel office on the IISc campus along with many structures across India. Talking about the aeronautical engineering building- it is an oblong structure with high ceilings and narrow corridors that integrated natural climate control. He has also designed the closed-circuit wind Tunnel, the first of its kind in India and hydrogen plant among other things that are associated with aircrafts. With all the technical back up from IISc, it was in 1941 that Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL) assembled the first aircraft in India: A Harlow PC-5.

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Meanwhile, the threat posed by Imperial Japan loomed large in the on-going World War II because of which there was a need by the British Royal Air Force to boost its military hardware supplies in Asia. With all likelihood, HAL was most suitable as a base for the South East Asia Command of the allied forces for servicing their aircrafts. Hence, all the aircraft manufacturing plans in India were abandoned to support the repair and overhaul services of the American aircrafts and the factory was eventually taken over by the US Army Air Forces in 1943. This led to rapid expansion in the facilities and became the 84th Air depot for overhaul and repair of American aircrafts during WWII. The very same hydrogen plant on the IISc premises was used as a loading dock to supply hydrogen for the American aircrafts. Later in 1964, the factory was taken over by the Government of India and has morphed into the modern-day Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in its present-day location. However, the original Aeronautical engineering department continues to contribute enormously towards research and has its own little airstrip on the present day IISc campus.

As I finished my plate of idlis, I wondered how unassuming I was. This deceptively functional place had just served my meal that had just been cooked inside a hydrogen plant that powered the military aircrafts during WWII.

This article featured in the ‘Spectrum’ supplement of Deccan Herald National daily, on February 01, 2020 edition.

Treading the living root bridges- Nongriat

As kids, we always imagined fairies with wings flying amidst colourful gardens, rope like creepers hanging across the forest thickets, rainbows emerging on the tranquil sky. Do you agree when I say this is how most of the animated movies depict fairy tales ? Nestled deep in the rich forests of Meghalaya; with NO exaggeration, that’s how I would describe this village called Nongriat!

This post is part of my fortnight long road trip across North-east India, specifically covering parts of Meghalaya – Assam – Arunachal Pradesh I had tagged along with two other travelers and drove around the state of Meghalaya visiting Shillong – Smit – Cherrapunjee – Mawlynnong – Dawki – Ribhoi- Shillong.

A pleasant drive through the breathtakingly beautiful valleys and naturally formed creepy high limestone walls brought us to a village called Tyrna in Cherrapunjee. That’s where the tarmac ends and our car had to be parked. Further, we trekked down to the Nongriat village: where the ‘Umshiang bridge’ or popularly called ‘the double decker root bridge’ exists. One needs to climb over 2500 steps each way, so that this piece of marvel can be seen at close quarters. Root bridges are created by inter-weaving the roots of the rubber tree by the tribal folks who live in the deep forests of Meghalaya for their local commute across the bloated rivers during monsoon. A bridge fit for usage can take a minimum of a couple of decades and it only gets stronger with age. There are several such living root bridges across Meghalaya and most of them continue to be untouched by the tourists due to their remoteness. We were here, to tread on some of the most popular living root-bridges of Meghalaya.

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The route to Tyrna village

Although, there is a well laid out path of stairs all the way, we thought it was wiser to have a localite who would enrich us with the facts and figures that we wouldn’t get to learn otherwise. At Tyrna, we met a Khasi villager from Nongriat who agreed upon to guide us through our trek. We passed through several sacred groves and areca farms belonging to the villagers. After decending about 1000 steps, a small deviation to the right indicated the way to Nongthymmai village. We took this deviation to reach the ‘Ritymmen root bridge’ a single bridge and another old one next to it which has taken its toll due to the negligence by the localites. Our hearts were jumping with joy at the first experience of treading on a living root bridge, that we had only read about until then… I decided to throw my shoes away for a while and enjoy the feeling of walking barefoot on the bridge.

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The Rythimmen bridge at Nongthymmai village

After spending some time, we decided to continue the trek and our new friend cum guide, continued to enlighten us about the rich traditions and culture of the Khasis. We stopped by for a quick breakfast at a straw hut selling 2-minute noodles and lemon tea. Further, a short climb of stairs continued only to be awestruck by the marvel of indigenous engineering: The double decker root bridge, the main motivation for us to trek this far. It was like fantasy out of a fairytale: creepers hanging across a little waterfall, fed by a pristine river in the middle of nowhere! It was tempting to get our feet wet as we watched a few tourists who had stayed in the Khasi homes around the root-bridge over the previous night and enjoying their swim in the cold waters. However, spending some time admiring this piece of absolute marvel, we decided to move ahead, towards our next mission: Rainbow falls!

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Entry bridge to Nongriat village

Nature’s best kept secrets are those which are untouched due to their remoteness. Rainbow waterfalls being one of those. The small number of tourists who make it till the double decker bridge seemed to have had disappeared there onwards. The tiring path ahead was going to be tiring, we were told. But, nothing comes easy.

I was doing this trip post monsoon (October to be precise) and that’s when the caterpillar larvae take wings! Like winged fairies, we were greeted and accompanied by butterflies of all colours, shapes and sizes all along the stretch from Umshiang bridge (the local name for the double-decker bridge) till the rainbow falls. We had to be extremely cautious while walking, clear the way for ourselves with a stick, lest accidentally step on these little winged beauties. The path was so full of butterflies, that it cannot be expressed with words and the joy can only be experienced. Truly, in every sense: I was Alice, walking in wonderland!

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Another root bridge enroute to Rainbow falls

It was a walk of nearly 2hours through the thickets of the sacred forests and crossing at least 5 other root bridges and a couple of metal rope bridges that were laid across the deep river that flowed down with its seductive clear blue waters. After the brisk climb, we had finally arrived at the place where a hidden jewel of nature unfolded itself, from amid the greens…

We stood there in AWE….. the green trees and bushes had opened up to display a canvas with milky white waters gracefully tumbling down into a pool of turquoise blue and a hundred fairies flying around us. A dozen spectrums added to this heavenly scenery! On a clear sunny day, there could be 50-100 spectrums around the waterfall, giving the place its name: Rainbow falls! We enjoyed a couple of hours in calm just by sitting beside the naturally formed swimming pool as we were the only people in this fairyland and restoring our lost bond with nature that was shared long ago.

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The Rainbow falls

As described by our guide, camping at the Mawsmai caves (2hours trek further) and climbing up the hill to be greeted by the Nohkalikai waterfalls, the highest waterfall in India would have been a complete story! Unfortunately, we hadn’t known much about the enchanting beauty of this trek before embarking on it and had no preparations now, to have it extended further. So now, it was well past afternoon and distance that required to be walked back was long. The sun sets early in this part of India and that meant that we had very less time of daylight left. During our return, we stopped by at another hut near the Umshiang bridge for a late lunch where we relished a simple Khasi meal of rice and bitter lime curry.

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A metal rope bridge near Rainbow falls

The walk back from there onwards was taxing and it is a very steep climb up the 2500 odd stairs.. I stopped several times at the little homes and stalls put up by the villagers on the way to keep myself hydrated with the local energy drinks and fruit juices. I cannot forget the way our guide cum friend Denzil kept motivating me to complete the stretch. He kept reducing the count of steps by hundreds so that I would climb faster with the intention of reaching the top ASAP. Finally, I was back at Tyrna, even while there was sufficient sunlight for us to drive back to Cherrapunjee.

A small deviation from Tyrna will lead one to ‘Ummunoi root bridge’ in the Laitkynsew village, one of the oldest bridges in the viscinity. It has been truly a very refreshing way to explore ‘the abode of the clouds- Meghalaya’.

Conclusion remarks:

  • For all trekking enthusiasts, a two day trek covering Laitkynsew, Nongriat, Mawsmai and Nohkalikai is highly recommended.
  • Although, we missed to trek up to the Nohkalikai falls, we made sure that we camped overnight at a spot facing this waterfall and caught the view of the sun rising over the Nohkalikai waterfalls!

Top 5 Places to Visit in Nainital

Nainital, with its mirroring lakes and encircling mountains and lush green meadows is a gateway to paradise. It is possible to unwind in the lap of Uttarakhand, which provides a tranquil environment and a sense of peace.

Imagine your feet soaking in the emerald waters and letting go all the stress associated with the daily grind. This place is perfect for those who enjoy historical architecture mixed with a refreshing, relaxed atmosphere. Its favourable weather attracts tourists all year. The following list contains the top places to stay in Nainital. You can also plan your Nainital trip through our Nainital trip package.

1. Naina Devi Temple

Naina Devi temple, also known as a Shakti peeth, is located on the northern side Naini lake. It is home to a goddess of goddess Naina Devi. This temple is also where Sati’s eyes were found after Lord Shiva took her corpse. Here, people worship the eyes and goddess. Visit the Nanda Astymin fair if you plan to visit the area. Two lions guard the entrance to this shrine temple. One can seek blessings from Lord Ganesh, located in the right direction, and Goddess Kali on the left. To get more information about the temple, you can also visit the Thrillopillia review site.

2. High Altitude Zoo

Nainital’s High Altitude Zoo is at 2100m above sea level. It is one of Uttarakhand’s oldest and most important wildlife zoos. Officially, the zoo is called Bharat Ratna Panit Govind Bhalla high altitude wildlife zoo. It’s home to a wide range of diverse fauna and flora. It covers an area of 4,693 ha. There will be segregation at the zoo, where you’ll encounter animals such as Tibetan Wolf, Barking Deer, Goral and Cheer Pheasant. Since 2001, the park has been home to some of the most amazing wildlife experiences in the state. You will have a wonderful time walking and watching the wildlife, especially if your passion is wildlife.

3. Snow View Point

This is the perfect spot to admire the magnificent snow clap mountains located just a few kilometres from Nainital. Snow view allows you to see the stunning views of Peak Nanda Devi and Trishul. You can witness the beauty of nature at its best. Tourists can enjoy a close-up view of the mountain chain. There are many recreational activities available for thrill-seekers. You can ride an aerial cable car from the mall, which will take you directly to the snow viewing point.

4. Naini Lake

Naini lake is located in the heart Nainital. The mirroring river boasts an amazing panoramic view, dotted with magnificent villas and cottages. It is known for its kidney-shaped shape, smothered in milky white snow. The lake is magically lit by the light reflections from the hillsides that surround it. There are many recreational and adventure sports available on the lake for thrill-seekers. One can go boating, kayaking or paddling. You can simply relax and watch the sun change its colours as you pass by if you want serenity.

5. Tiffin Top

Nainital was full of great places to visit. But imagine yourself sitting on a stone bench, your feet hanging from 2290m above the sea level in Aryabhatta hills. This spot offers a spectacular view of Nainital. Col J.P. Kellet built the stone beach in memory of his wife Dorthy kellet. These places are also known by the name Dorothy’s Seat. This place offers both stunning views and an opportunity to go trekking.

These are the Top 5 Places to Visit in Nainital.

Top 5 Things to Do in Rishikesh During Your Trip

Rishikesh, India is one of many amazing locations. This destination, also known as Hrishikesh is located in northern India at the Himalayan foothills, Dehradun, Uttarakhand. It is a popular pilgrimage spot that draws many tourists to its grounds. Rishikesh is also known as the “World’s Yoga Capital” or the “Gateway to Garhwal Himalayas”. Rishikesh is home to many interesting examples of old-school architecture, holy shrines, and Hindu temples. You can find out more about them on Thrillophilia Reviews or similar platforms. You can also find many other fun activities here.

1. Brahmpuri Camping

Camping is a popular activity in Rishikesh, with its stunning mountain views. Take a hike through the hills and then set up your tent. Enjoy the serenity of the surrounding natural landscapes and greenery and make friends with your companions.
Brahmpuri is the best spot to camp while in Rishikesh. You can watch the Ganges flow from the Himalayan Mountains and enjoy the turbulent river waters. You can also set up campfires at night in the cool, inviting atmosphere.
This opportunity is available during the spring and summer seasons, usually between September to June.

2. River rafting along the Ganges

River rafting through the Ganga rivers is a great activity to do at Rishikesh. River rafting is thrilling because of the strong rapids in this river chain. This option is great for both experienced thrill-seekers as well as beginners. Be sure to follow the safety guidelines.
Participation is open to anyone between 5 and 100 years old. Participants must be at least 30 to 100 kgs. If you’re visiting the town between October and June, make sure to add this activity to the itinerary. Avoid river rafting during the monsoon season, and avoid January.

3. Flying fox at Shivpuri

Flying fox is one of the most popular activities that tourists can do on a Rishikesh trip package. Adventure enthusiasts love this unique sport.
You would then have a harness around your body that is securely fastened to your body. You would then roll down until you were 7 metres above the ground from the top of the height. This speeds up to 160 km/hr. You would then return to the top.
Participants over 12 years old can participate, and the permitted weight limit is between 20-130kgs. Two companions are usually allowed to participate in this activity. Additional fees will be required if you wish to test it by yourself.

4. Mohanchatti Bungee Jumping

This is a great activity to do in India. It’s best done after you have reached Jumping Heights in Rishikesh. This is the highest platform in India for bungee jumping. You can jump from this height with a rope around your neck.
To ensure safe bungee jumping, the organizers take extreme precautions. The weight limit for bungee jumping is 35-110 kgs. Participants must also adhere to the rules of harness use and jump safely.
This thrilling gravity-defying experience is available during the 20th September through January or later until 15th July.

5. Brahmapuri Cliff Jumping

Rishikesh’s cliff jumping is a great way to have fun. This is located at 2 km distance from Lakshman Jhula, Brahmapuri’s attraction.
It is located in the Shivalik area’s hilly hills, and many cliffs can be found in Rishikesh. The Ganges pass below. The average height of these cliffs is 20 feet.
This adventure sport is open to anyone over 14 years old. This sport is suitable for both experienced and novice alike. Participants must be between 35 and 110 kgs. You can visit between February and May.

Conclusion

Rishikesh has a lot to offer: natural beauty, religious architecture, rich cultural history, and a wealth of traditional architecture. Try out various activities such as temple-hopping, shopping and eating at local places, or going on wildlife tours and trekking’s. There are so many amazing experiences you can have in this area.

My Decade Long Journey as a Car Doctor Comes to an End

This July: the July of 2021, I complete ten years as a professional. From graduating as an engineer to becoming a professional automobile engineer, this journey as a car doctor has been an enriching one.

Working with machines is every mechanical engineer’s dream, and I have been fortunate to have lived it through. To give a peek into what I did during the last 10 years: I handled after-market quality issues in all Toyota & Lexus cars that are manufactured in India. So, this largely involved travelling to dealers to diagnose problems in customers’ cars (clinic), testing them and taking suitable countermeasures (hospital) through investigation (Read here to know more about my work).

This has been one of those rare jobs that helped me to couple my passion for travelling along with opportunities to learn new technology and science. From the paddy fields of Fatehgarh Sahib to the casting foundries of Aranmula, my work has taken me to the remotest places that I had not even imagined. With dealers and suppliers located across India, it was a unique opportunity to experience different cultures from across my country. Culture not just in terms of traditions, customs or cuisine, but also the culture that influences the habits of people using automobiles. Every state in India offers diversity in terms of their purpose and intent of using a car, I believe is unique to India.

After 10 years, it is now time for me to hang my boots…. Or the stethoscope, should I say! Although I will still continue to serve the same hospital, I will be taking over newer responsibilities: in car forensics! With a decade long experience spanning across functions in the organization and technical areas like plastics, paint, glass, fabric, electricals, rubber and metals, I will now be wearing the hat of a specialist in metallurgy. More on this, some other time!

For now, it’s time for this car doctor to hang down her stethoscope and take a chill pill. Let me find the hat of an investigator and try to get my hands on that magnifying glass!

Ciao!

An Offbeat Day Trip from Bengaluru to Channapatna

The original plan for this short family outing was to make an early morning visit to Sanjeevaraya Swamy temple in Channapatna Taluk of Ramanagara district and return. But, since my workplace is located along the same route, I expressed my disinterest in traveling that way. I pitched in the idea to have a change of route at least for one-way. Hence, I added a couple of other landmarks, picked up an offbeat village road and created a circuit with aid from google maps.

For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of Karnataka, Ramanagara is popularly known for its Sholay hills that was featured as the village- ‘Ramgarh’ in the Bollywood movie Sholay. Channapatna is popular for its cottage industries of wooden toys. I am not going to write about any of these places, the search engines are already flooded enough! I am going to take you around some lesser known places in Channapatna, for a half a day’s trip from Bengaluru.

Our circuit route was:
Bengaluru – Bidadi – Kengal – Devarahosahalli – Neelasandra – Vittalenahalli – Bhoohalli – Kanakapura – Bengaluru

The Details:

We set out on a Saturday morning and decided to have our breakfast on the way. Sri.Renukamba tatte idly (translates to ‘Plate idli’ in Kannada) needs no introduction for the Bengalureans. So, after a filling plate of tatte idly at Bidadi, we proceeded towards our intended destination for the day. To reach there, we had to pass through Kengal, a village popular for yet another Hanuman temple. Moving ahead from there along a small deviation, we arrived at our first major destination: Sanjeevaraya Swamy temple at Devarahosahalli village. This is a small stone structure dedicated to Lord Hanuman and dates back to the Vijayanagar era. The deity is believed to be powerful and hence, we were there to offer or prayers following the recommendations of some well-wishers.

After spending some time there, we continued onward to our next destination, a little cave temple located atop of a hill. The drive, the scenery, the canopy of the majestic trees along the highway was a pleasant one. We stopped by to do some bird watching at the Neelasandra lake as well. We could see Pelicans flocking in large numbers.

Our next major stop came as a rather surprise to us. Gavi Ranganatha Swamy temple was a random destination included in our day based on an internet search result. The drive, the location of the temple, the valley, the village view from the temple porch and the overall scenery was just so stunning and unexpected. There was just no one else in the temple apart from our family and a few local kids playing in the hill, atop which this temple is located. You can watch the video of our visit to Gavi Ranganatha Swamy temple below:

Drive to Gavirangana betta

By this time, the sun was already up and beaming bright. So, we decided to drive back, of course through a different route. We descended the Gavi Ranganatha Swamy hill and took the route that connected to Kanakapura. On the way, we stopped at this beautiful location where the highway passes through green farms on one side, a large lake on the other side and the entire scenery was being overlooked by the temple hill.

Vittalenahalli highway and lake

Our drive from there continued through large stretches of rocky hillocks, mango orchards, paddy fields, coconut groves and mulberry farms. Ramanagara is also known for sericulture. Several households in the villages here are involved in silkworm rearing. As we passed through, we noticed that families were sitting out in the verandahs of their traditional houses and collecting the fully grown cocoons from the bamboo trays. We stopped by and walked over to one of the houses on our way and learnt a thing or two about sericulture from them.

Silk Cocoon trays

In a short while, we reached the Kanakapura main road where we had our lunch. Well, it was a late evening lunch before continuing towards home and thus ending a quick trip to the Bengaluru outskirts.

A weekend Backpacking trip to Satara

This was a post monsoon, weekend trip I had planned with two other friends who had joined me from Bangalore to Mahabaleshwar. The main agenda of this trip was to visit the ‘Khas plateau’ in its bloom season, but it was just for a day (Click here to read more about my visit). Since we were travelling all the way, we decided to extend the weekend for a little longer by adding a few other places and make it a backpacking trip around Satara district.

Our Itinerary:

Day 0: Leave from Bengaluru to Satara (overnight private bus)
Day 1: Satara to Wai (MSRTC bus), Visit to Menavali village & Dhom Dam; Wai to Panchgani (Local bus), Local sightseeing and night’s stay at Panchgani (Walk and shared taxi for local transportation)
Day 2: Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar & local sightseeing at Mahabaleshwar (hired taxi for full day); Mahabaleshwar to Satara (MSRTC bus) and night’s stay at Satara.
Day 3: Visit to Khas plateau & local sightseeing at Satara town (hired taxi); Return from Satara to Bengaluru (overnight KSRTC bus)

The details:

Day 1: Wai and Panchgani.

Since we required to start our Khas plateau visit from Satara, we decided to visit the places around the town later (on day 3). So, we moved ahead on the day of our arrival at Satara.

After alighting at Satara bypass on NH4 that morning, we hired an autorickshaw to reach the bus stand located in the town. From there, we boarded a MSRTC bus to our first major destination of the day: Wai.

Part 1: Places to see in Wai

I had come across the name of this place in a newspaper supplement. I had read that a large part of Shahrukh Khan’s “Swades’ movie was shot in and around Wai. Since we had to anyway pass through this place to reach our intended destination of the trip, I thought it was a good idea to add Wai it our itinerary. However, we had no idea of what to see and things to expect in Wai. We decided to just go there and explore the place by ourselves. Upon our arrival at Wai, we enquired with a few locals who guided us to the banks of the Krishna river.

A. Menavali village: A walk of good couple of miles from the Wai bus stand, we arrived at this village located on the banks of river Krishna. The locals call this as the Wai ghat as well. Apart from being a prominent setting for several Bollywood movies, the Wai ghat is also an important destination for history and archeological buffs. It holds great treasures from the times of the Marathas and the Peshwas. It is especially known for the contributions by the 18th century Maratha stateman- Nana Phadnavis.

Phadnavis Wada: Wada is a local name for a residential mansion with an inner courtyard. Residential complexes leading to river banks on one end and housing temples is a signature architectural style of the Peshwa era. The Phadnavis Wada located on the Wai ghat is one of the handful of such structures that still remains intact.

We did a quick visit to the Dholya Ganapathi mandir & Sri Kashi Vishweshwar Mandir (This temple is called as the Kashi of Maharashtra), both situated on the river bank.

Wai ghat on the banks of river Krishna at Menavali village
Wai ghat on the banks of river Krishna at Menavali village

As we took a stroll along the ghat, I realized that reality was far from the destination on reel. The real Wai looked very laid back and rustic. However, we decided to sit by the riverside and spend some time by photographing the local kids enjoying their time by diving and swimming in the polluted waters of the ghat.

B. Dhom dam: This waterbody is a good place for water sports with a nice view of the surrounding mountains. Located at about 10kms from Wai and connected by frequenting local shared jeeps, it is a nice place for catching a sunset. But, we gave this is a miss since we hadn’t booked our accommodation and has to reach our next destination ASAP. The bus left Wai and travelled around the curvy road of the mountain. The entire journey was beautiful with great views of the Dhom dam whose waters reflected the clear blue sky.

Part 2: Places to see in Panchgani

We had alighted at our next major destination: Panchgani. Although Panchgani is a small hill town that doesn’t extend beyond a stretch of 2 kilometers, surprisingly, it is an educational hub of Maharashtra. Around 42 international schools are located here. Given its small area, all the popular tourist places in Panchgani are located close by. So, we decided to get off with our backpacks at the entrance of the hill station, explore the landmarks and then find a place for our stay. The details of our time in Panchgani is as given below:

a. Harrison’s Foley view point: This is the first major landmark you come across, even before you actually enter the town. However, we thought of giving it a miss because our next stop was going to give us a view of this Foley as well.

b. Sydney point: We got breathtaking view of the Dhom dam from here. After a long day travelling and walking with our backpacks, we thought this was just a perfect place for us sit down and soak in some relaxing views. We sat down right there on the footpath, facing the dam and spent some peaceful time amid nature. After spending some good time and having all our limbs relaxed, we walked back towards the main road.

c. Table land: Our actual plan was to check-in to a hotel and sleep early that evening. However, we changed our minds and decided to visit the table land to use up our time in the remaining daylight. Sometimes, even with no plans, god really wants you to be at the right place at the right time. That’s how this evening turned out to be. As we went up the road leading to this place, it looked like quite a mela up there. There were so many makeshift shops set up and the place had been littered all around with plastic bottles and wrappers. But, as we walked past the maddening crowds, we saw that the table land was a vast stretch than expected. We decided to walk the entire land before dark. The grassland was naturally gifted with vast stretches of native flowers: all white, purple and yellow. It was a magical place that got us busy photographing the silhouettes of the grazing cattle, the horse riders etc. against a beautiful backdrop of the setting sun. An artificial lake amid the grassland added romance to this place. The sky was painted in all hues with a beaming full moon reflecting in the lake’s water, adding to the spectacle. It felt like as if the sun had gone down sooner that day. With that, we had to scoot out of the place as area suddenly started to feel deserted and had no guiding lamps to the main road.

d. Rajapuri caves: This place falls on the way up to the table land. We were told that the cave has a temple dedicated to lord Ayyappan and hence, women of menstruating age are not allowed inside. With that, we headed back to the town and checked-in to a hotel.

We wanted to have some food that are a must try in Panchgani. So, we dumped all our luggage in the hotel room and set-out to walk around the town, yet again.

  • Panchgani is famous for channa, chikki and fudge: the shops say this all over the place. So. we picked up some of these to carry back home.
  • What caught our attention was a bottle of strawberry wine at a wine store.
  • The day’s events concluded with a sumptuous spicy hot ‘veg Kolhapuri with roti‘ for dinner.

On the following morning, the idea was to be at the table-top for sunrise. However, we snoozed the alarm for a little longer and we woke up only when the hotel staff rang the doorbell. We then started our day with a yummy plate of Poha for breakfast and hired a taxi to our next destination: Mahabaleshwar.

Day 2: One day at Mahabaleshwar

The hill station is a favorite haunt of tourists from the nearby metropolis and afar. Mahabaleshwar can be broadly classified into two parts, the New and the Old. Both have been explained in detail in a separate post as the list of things to see and do in Mahabaleshwar is going to be long.

Kate's point and the elephant head view point at Mahabaleshwar
Kate’s point and the elephant head view point at Mahabaleshwar

Day 3: Satara and Khas Plateau

This day was the sole reason that had got us to plan this entire trip. We woke up early to reach Khas plateau for sunrise and get some wonderful photographs. Being early gave us the benefit of avoiding the scorching sun and also to escape the crowds that would normally pour in at a later time.

Apart from my visit to Khas plateau that requires a separate post, I am listing the places of interest around Satara town for those wishing to explore this region:

a. Around Khas plateau: If you have sometime in hand, you can drive further from the Khas lake to reach the boating village of Bamnoli and take a boat tour to Vasota fort or Tapola.
b. Vajrai and Thoseghar waterfalls: These picturesque places were a disappointment when we arrived there as these are mainly rainfed cascades.
c. Chalkewadi windmill station: Considering that we had visited a windmill station earlier, back in our home state and to save time, we gave this place a miss.
d. Forts for the history buffs: Sajjangad, Ajinkyatara, Pratapgad, Kalyangad are places that can all be covered, but only with the convenience of having own transport. We skipped our visits since we were largely dependent on public transportation and taxi service that was expensive.
e. Natraj temple: This ancient structure located in the center of Satara town, is worth visiting

The Pink balsam carpet at Khas valley
The Pink balsam carpet at Khas valley

Food to try in Satara:

  • Kandi peda: This is a specialty sweet of this region
  • Zunka baakri: This is roti made of a locally available variety of maize, we had it for a late lunch that kept us filled throughout our return journey.
  • Fresh strawberry with cream in Mahabaleshwar.

We boarded a bus back to Bengaluru and thus, ending a long weekend in Satara.

Backpacking in the Coromandel Coast

The Coromandel coast on the south-eastern shoreline of India extends from Nellore till Kanyakumari. I have tried to traverse the entire length of this coast and explore it to the best of my abilities. Although not all at once, I have managed to do it in parts as explained below.

Part 1:

The topmost point of this region starts with lake Pulicat. The fondest memory I have of this place is witnessing a rocket-launch at Sriharikota. Apart from that, lake Pulicat is the second largest brackish water lake that is home to several avian species. I couldn’t help but take a boat ride with the help of a fisherman to see the greater flamingoes that come here annually during their breeding season. My family and I just went into the middle of this large waterbody and decided to lose ourselves in the moment. It was a moment of sitting in front of a million flamingoes and enjoying the vastness of the planet.

The Rocket Garden at Sriharikota

Part 2:

I have explored Chennai during multiple visits for business and leisure. One of the most memorable of them all was my visit to this city with my friends, volunteering for ‘Turtle walk- A sea turtle conservation event’. That was sometime back when I had just graduated from college. We had seen the beaches of Chennai coupled with a visit to Mahabalipuram. Thus, touching the northernmost tip of ECR (East Coast Road) in Tamil Nadu during this trip.

Turtle walk- a sea turtle conservation walk in the beaches of Chennai
The Baby turtle- Our prized catch for the day

Part 3:

This was a family backpacking trip, mainly conceptualized by my dad and one that had been long due on his bucket list. He wanted to see how the end of River Kaveri; our family deity looks like. Our family of four planned to cover a portion of the Coromandel coast during this trip. Our itinerary for this trip was Bangalore – Mayiladuthurai – Poompuhar – Tarangambadi – Karaikal – Nagapattinam – Velankanni – Tanjavur – Trichy – Bangalore.

This remains to be one of the BEST family trips, even to date. We travelled by train, local transport and public buses during the entire trip and hotels/ lodges were booked after reaching the planned destination. Since this itinerary was mostly planned by my father, we were able to more-or-less stick to it without any surprises.

Part 4:

This was an offbeat backpacking embarked on by my friend and me to mark the 100th anniversary of an engineering marvel. We took a train ride over the iconic ‘Pamban bridge’ that connects mainland India to the island of Rameswaram. Our itinerary was: Bangalore – Madurai – Ramanathapuram – Rameswaram – Dhanushkodi – Kurusudai island – Rameswaram – Madurai – Bangalore

View of Pamban Bridge in Rameswaram from the lighthouse
The sunset and Pamban bridge view from a fishing hamlet

The holy town of Rameswaram needs no introduction (Click here if you want to know more about our trip). From there, we explored the ghost town of Dhanushkodi and caught a glimpse of Ramasetu and managed to gain access to a protected island and get mind blown with the natural treasure of the gulf of Mannar. (Click here to read more in detail).

Part 5:

This time, I decided to use my week-long plant shutdown for Diwali at my workplace, to cover the remaining of the Coromandel coast in this south Indian state. For this to happen, my brother and I had embarked on a backpacking trip with the itinerary in which we originally planned to cover Bangalore- Kumbakonam – Gangaikondacholapuram – Chidambaram – Pichavaram – Pondicherry – Tiruvannamalai – Bangalore

Although the main intention was to cover ECR, we couldn’t make it as the weather ruined our vacation and we had to return home mid-way, only to visit those places at a later date. The best part of this trip: Seeing the grandeur of two of the greatest living Chola temples in an off-tourist season. (Click here to read the detailed itinerary) But, what’s the highlight? Finding a place on the globe that I wouldn’t want to visit again (Click here to read my nightmarish travel experience).

Airavateshwara temple at Darasuram, partially submerged during the rain
Airavateshwara temple at Darasuram

Part 6:

Kanyakumari- the last stretch of the coromandel coast and the last bit remaining on my shoreline itinerary. This too was part of a family trip to the edge of Indian mainland. However, unlike all my previous family vacations along the ECR, this was a well-planned itinerary with all bookings sorted (Click here for the complete story). The whole intention of this trip was to see the famous sunset and sunrise at the edge of Indian sub-continent but that, however, continues to remain undone!

A post sunrise view of Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanyakumari
View of Thiruvalluvar statue, post Sunrise at Kanyakumari

Have you done a road trip in East-Coast road of India? Which is your favorite destination? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Pet-Friendly Resorts near Mumbai

Planning your vacation in Mumbai but worried about leaving your little pet behind? Do not worry I’ve got your back. Mumbai is a home to some luxurious and pet-friendly resorts which allows you to not only experience a comfortable stay but also allow you to bring along your little munchkin and play along.

Enjoy your long-drive from Mumbai to reach these locations with the lush green landscape views. The sound of waterfalls flowing during monsoon, panoramic view of valleys, mountains and greenery of these resorts will leave you mesmerized. The resort here is known to offer best-in-class services and amenities and offer a pet-friendly environment so that you can chill and relax while your pet also has something to do. These pet-friendly properties have various facilities to enjoy your holiday that allows you to experience the feel of Home, away from Home.

Manas Resort Nashik

Located in the expanse of the Western Ghats of Igatpuri, Manas Resort Nashik is the first Indian resort with Petting Zoo, hosting human-friendly animals and walk-in aviaries. If you are a true nature lover and love animals, this resort might be the best place for you. Located at just a distance of 2 hours from Mumbai, Manas Resort Nashik allows you to enjoy fun-filled activities in the lap of nature.

This resort has exclusively offered Petting Zoo and Organic farming which is a very different experience to the travellers while they enjoy and take a weekend break from daily life. The resort gives you the privilege to interact with wildlife, The lavish villas with personal pools and modern facilities are ready to give you a warm welcome and with the soothing massages and relaxing sessions, you can enjoy a rejuvenating spa during the stay. The resort has luxurious rooms of various designs and categories, keeping the view of multiple family needs. The Facilities in this resort include an All Day Dining Restaurant, Highway Café, Lawns, Swimming Pool, Spa, Kids Zone, Games Room and Car Park as well. You will also have options to choose from outdoor activities like tours, treks, nature walks etc and make you truly stay fun-filled.

Also Read:Treading the Living Root Bridges- Nongriat

Rippling Edge Gadhok Cottage

Nestled in a river bank and surrounded by the verdant forest, this thrilling resort offers you a memorable & luxurious stay with modern amenities and gives you a chance to live with nature as you step in this beautiful and relaxing oasis. This beautiful resort is a perfect getaway to spend a weekend with your furry friends. Huge lawns surrounding greenery give you freshness, chill and natural vibes. This is a beautiful property that is highly recommended for those who love a mix of adventure and nature. Head to this exotic bungalow by the river in Karjat and enjoy unwinding in the midst of nature with your furry friends. Huge lawns, gazebos, mind-blowing views of greenery all around with fresh air make it a beautiful place to stay, You will also be offered the cycles to explore the surroundings.

Also Read:Marvel at Caves and Crannies Kurnool

The Whey Side

A 60 kilometer drive from Mumbai with your pour paws friend, this is a wonderful eco-friendly resort offering some really comfortable accommodation, surrounded by a forest in Karjat. This beautiful place offers you the fully furnished tree-houses with a splendid mountain view. You can choose the room with a balcony. Barbecue facilities, board games and books for children are the other facilities which you can avail. There is also a swimming pool within the premises for its guests.

You can definitely indulge in trekking, cycling, fishing, etc while kids can play in a spacious play area. This is one of the most ideal pet friendly resorts in Mumbai to bring your four paws friends along for a wonderful holiday. A quick getaway from the hustle bustle of the city, this place offers a relaxing stay, good homely food and an amazing view from the room. No matter which cottage you select it offers view from sides

Eko Stay Sea Breeze Villa

A beach front villa which is situated near Saswane Beach, Eko Stay Sea Breeze Villa is quie n amazing place to come with your pet. This property makes travelling with your pets even more enjoyable as it offers both you & your furry best pal the freedom to enjoy your holiday in a mind blowing surrounding without any unwanted and unusual restrictions which are a norm in various pet friendly resorts near Mumbai.

Eko Stay Sea Breeze Villa allows you to enjoy a crazy evening with your friend. A private pool, and an open-air barbecue are the perfect ingredients for an ideal staycation offered by any resort, and this Villa has it all. Bon fire and candle light dinner with beach view would not be a bad choice though. You can be here solo or as a couple for Honeymoon or with friends, bachelors and family.

Bali Style Villa

Not everyone can fly all the way to Indonesia. A 10 minute walking distance from Mandwa Jetty, this beautiful Bali-isque holiday home is a getaway for Mumbaikars. Whenever you are stressed from work, head out to this delightful farmhouse for a relaxing staycation. This place comprises an expanse of beautiful greenish lawn and comfortable accommodation .This home stay with its serene atmosphere will diminish the stress and strains of daily life. Managed by Eko Stays, the villa consists of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and 2 bathrooms along with a garden. Moreover, As a pet-friendly place, there are ample open spaces available for your pet to wander about so you can play fetch with your pet or go for a run together, to make your pet happy and relieve your own work pressure. Encircled by greenery all-around, this villa offers indoor and outdoor dining areas to party with your loved ones. Bonfire nights with your colleagues, friends or family will enhance your vocational experience.

Best Luxury Resorts in Karnataka

Karnataka is one of the most beautiful Indian states that weave both heritage and contemporary culture together in a beautiful blend. Karnataka is a hub for travellers looking for some adventurous things to do or for globetrotters planning to travel amidst nature. From the strikingly beautiful hill station of Coorg to the ancient ruins of Hampi and from historic Mysore to the tech city Bangalore, Karnataka has never failed to amaze people with its hospitality.

And since this state attracts thousands of travellers each year, one can easily find some amazing resorts right from the budget category to the most luxurious ones. Luxury resorts in Karnataka help you tailor your vacation or work trip just the way you want! The cities have quaint boutique resorts that will make you forget the bustle of the town, and then there are resorts where you can go and have the perfect business meeting. These resorts are some of the best in the State, offering world-class amenities with all the warmth of traditional Indian hospitality.

1. Purple palms resort & spa, Kushalnagar

Purple Palms Resort and Spa is one of the best luxurious resorts in Karnataka. Relax in a magical paradise that makes your greatest wishes come true. Experience the lush green surrounding and serene beauty bounding the resort and witness the beautifully crafted rooms with the bliss of luxury and soothing comfort. Dive down in the swimming pool and fill your day with fun and give yourself a treat by relishing a delicious breakfast with a local touch at Purple palms resort & spa.

Indulge in the luxurious ambience of his amazing resort that makes you feel royal. If you can’t resist the allure of the hills, step out for a regal sojourn. This resort has all that you and your family are looking for a perfect holiday with all the tourist attractions in the vicinity. You may relax and rejuvenate at the Resort’s Spa with Ayurvedic and Western massage that will cleanse your mind and body to make your stay at our resort more meaningful.

2. Evolve Back, Hampi

One of Karnataka’s most treasured gems, Hampi is full of history and serenity. With various rulers reigning over the Vijayanagar Empire, the map of Hampi was designed in such a way that today, it stands as one of God’s blessings to humankind. Offering a spa centre and hot tub, Evolve Back Hampi is located just 4 km from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi.

Here at Evolve back resort, you will experience the Vijayanagara Royal Style at Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi – an opulent palace whose stone-paved boulevards, arched hallways and regal chambers reflect the royal lifestyle of a past but glorious era.

3. The Tamara, Coorg

The Tamara Coorg, a luxury experience nestled in the heart of the hills, is a perfect place where you can rediscover the joy of being in nature, where your quest for serenity will end. Lush greenery, aromatic coffee plantations, spices, beautiful streams, and flowing waterfalls, all experienced in a stunning eco-resort. Your stay at The Tamara Coorg will be filled with uniquely curated experiences and nature-based activities as the resort spans 180 acres and is located over 3,500 feet above sea level where you will experience nature and luxury at its best as you wake up to the breathtaking view and the calming silence of the hills, disturbed only by the chirping birds and the crackle of leaves.

Wake up to the smell of tranquilizer coffee, and enjoy the scenic beauty and try so many activities in the house, and the expert yoga instructor will tailor a perfect session for you. You can even enjoy a private gourmet meal under an open sky at a variety of stunning spots.

Take a cozy walk through the rain soaked plantations in Coorg
Coorg- Coffee trails

4. Coorg Wilderness Resort

Coorg Wilderness Resort is nestled amid the deep valleys, majestic hills of Coorg and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Move into the wild and find a distinctive ethos of extravagance implanted in the thoughtful lap of nature. The luxury from this resort with rich European-style masterful rooms and palatial suites that are spread across a large area and allows you to stay in Karnataka luxuriously.

The ambience is so warm, and the air is so cool and cozy, air-conditioning is not required throughout the resort. During romantic rainy days of the famed monsoons and lazy, gentle winters, you will find each room is cozily warmed with traditionally designed electric fireplaces; the facilities and unparalleled quality of services provided by the staff are worth spending your vacation. For adventure and thrill lovers, the Coorg wilderness resort will fill your heart with contentment and excitement through various outdoor activities like trekking, coffee plantation tours, and other adventurous activities.

5. Machaan Plantation Resort, Sakleshpur

The resort is tucked within a coffee plantation in Sakleshpur. Machaan Plantation Resort is ideal for a quick getaway to relax, rejuvenate, and refresh your inner self. Workspace at the resort will help you break free from routine, and your family would also rejoice in a change in environment. Your pre and post-work routine could be a host of activities ranging from estate walks, yoga in the outdoors, visit a waterfall, trekking, evening barbeque, to name a few. The resort has an outdoor pool where you can just lounge all day and enjoy splashing pool water. The sit-outs are ideal for lazing in & enjoying marvellous views of the hills and valley. On a rainy day, one can curl up with a book and a blanket here if you want to be in the room. Then each room caters for the views of hills and mountains, which will refresh you in seconds. A day here would not be complete without a campfire, a bonfire area that gives access to a 360° view of the night sky.

The papersweet of Athreyapuram

This was a part of our family’s five state road trip covering Chhattisgarh – Odisha – Andhra – Telangana – Karnataka in Dec’20.

The visit to the place described in this post was impromptu. While I had just woken up at Rajahmundry and was scrolling through the watsapp status updates of some of my contacts, I happened to see a post with green paddy fields that was captioned as ‘Andhra’s best kept secret- Konaseema’. The videos of my friend driving around those green paddy fields and through the roads lined with coconut trees had me hooked instantly. For a moment, I was reminded of the Kuttanad or Karavali regions of the neighboring states. I looked up on Google and realized that I was just around. As per the original plan, we were supposed to leave for Bengaluru by Afternoon. The drive to Konaseema was in the opposite direction. But, noting a few special things to do in this region, I managed to convince my family to allow me to drive for about 30 additional kilometers before returning to Bengaluru.

Firstly, we drove through the Dowleshwaran barrage. It is one of the chief sources for water based agriculture to the several villages in the surrounding. This heritage barrage passes over the group of islands created by river Godavari. The lush greenery and sandy beaches of these islands seemed to me like they were gleaming in joy from the nourishment of mother Godavari. We were told that boat rides to these islands can be availed during early mornings by talking to the local villagers. For now, we couldn’t afford it on our schedule and hence, proceeded by adding it to our to-visit list. The destination that I wished to visit in Konaseema on this trip was a tiny village called Athreyapuram.

The serene roads of Konaseema

After crossing the Dowleshwaran barrage, the roads suddenly transformed from noisy and dusty to a serene and scenic stretch with lagoons, banana plantations, paddy fields and palm fringed canals. With number of tiny shops suddenly lining the road, we did notice that we had entered Athreyapuram. But the drive and the scenery was so serene that we lost track and drove past the village and gone ahead. We came into our senses only when we realized that there was no sight of any more shops on the road. What shops? These are shops that sell a traditional sweet of Andhra Pradesh called Putharekulu. What’s so special about this Andhra sweet one may ask. This is a snack that looks like paper and tastes like sweet.

It was several years ago that I had tasted this peculiar looking paper at one of the events hosted by the department of Khadi & cottage industries. But it was long forgotten and the memories were rekindled by the early morning watsapp post. It had gotten me all drooling until I reached Athreyapuram. This tiny village is where this sweet paper was invented! For an unassuming person, it looks like lot of ghee, nuts and jiggery is rolled into a super thin white tissue paper before eating. But it is not just the ghee and the jaggery that gives it its flavors, making of this paper is in itself a labour intensive job.

We returned back looking out for a shop and we stopped at a small family run establishment. The excited family demonstrated the steps of making a perfect roll of this traditional Andhra sweet. Boxes of authentic Putharekulu were the souvenirs we bought for our friends and family. Here, is a small video on our drive around Athreyapuram and the demonstration of making Putharekulu.

A tour of Athreyapuram

This is my humble attempt to promote local tourism and help small businesses in these trying times. Please try to reach out to them and order your favorite local products from around India.

What is that one favourite souvenir you have bought from your travels? Please do share your thoughts on this post with me. I would love to hear them.

getting lost in traveling through places and time…

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