Tag Archives: Offbeat things to do in Karnataka

Of pre-monsoon showers and coffee blossoms

It is that time of the year when the entire hill station awakens with the fragrance of the blossoms.. On the ninth day after the 1st pre-monsoon showers, the coffee plants around the hills of Kodagu will be in bloom..

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It is an annual spectacle of nature whose occurance is unpredictable and is wholely dependent on the pre-monsoon showers. If the rain fails, it creates some sort of panic among the growers who then resort to artificial sprinkling sytems.. Be it rain showers or irrigation, in either case, what follows is something that one must experience atleast once in a lifetime..

White bunches of coffee blossoms adorn the trees as if some one has strewn cotton all over the hills.. And these flowers last for a maximum of 24 hrs which makes it even more special.. And like the saying goes.. You HAVE to be at the right place at the right TIME to see the right thing happen..

Have you experienced the fragrance of coffee flowers?

Day tripping at Tumkur

It was exactly a year ago, that I decided to celebrate my birthday by taking a short trip and break from my work. Mom and I drove our car from home in Bangalore at around 8.00.a.m. and headed towards Tumkur with a plan to spend the entire day outside. We wanted to cover as many landmarks in Tumkur as possible.

List of places covered:
* Devarayanadurga hills: This area has two ancient temples, also a reserved forest area at Naamada chilume
* Koratagere: Goravanahalli Lakshmi temple and the reservoir nearby.
* Siddaganga Mutt: You can combine this with a short trek up the Siddaganga hilltop.

First, we headed towards Devarayanadurga hills where the twin temples are located. A winding road along a picturesque landscape lead us to Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple atop. The view from the top was beautiful with early morning dew settling on the warm rocks. We got the first aarathi (Pooja) of the day and rushed to Bhoganarasimha Swamy temple situated at the base of the hill. It is the custom that the doors of the later opens only after pooja at the hilltop.

Top: The view of Devarayanadurga hills; Bottom left: the temple pond at Yoganarasimha temple; Bottom right: Bhoganarasimha temple

From there, we drove towards Naamada chilume. This is a small spring nestled amid the greenery protected by the forest department. It is believed that Lord Rama rested at this place enroute to Lanka. When he woke up in the morning, he did not find water to make his vermillion (Naama- in Kannada). Hence, shot an arrow to a boulder from where a small spring emerged. This is a perennial water source even till date. This is part of a reserve forest area and there are a few spotted deer kept in an enclosure. Nothing very exciting about this place, we would have skipped it if we had known.

Top: The road to Naamada Chilume; Bottom left: A guesthouse at Naamada Chilume park, Bottom right: the water spring where Lord Rama’s arrow struck

From there, we lost our way and reached the main road after a very long drive. We asked the locals for directions towards Goravanahalli. This village is famous for the Lakshmi temple and better known for- Late Kamalamma, the holy lady. We finished our pooja amidst the crowd, took turns to make a wish at the wishing pillar. There is a small lake and a reservoir at a walkable distance from there. We went up there and had our packed lunch with the cool breeze and a good view. Soon after, we planned our next destination- Sri.Siddaganga Mutt.

We were blessed with the holy water of Siddaganga. We took a stroll around the huge campus of the mutt and were awestruck with the service rendered to the society. And then, we were in for a BIG surprise… An occult of the least expected. We felt blessed when we got the darshan of his holiness Sri.Shivakumara Swamiji… It is when least expected, miracles happen. Swamiji who is fondly called ‘the walking god’, was gracefully sitting on the porch of the Mutt and blessing the visitors. Even after several days of planning to get an opportunity to see him, people consider it hard to be able to see him. And there I was, right at his feet, taking blessings from this Holy man. I was thrilled, ecstatic and had goosebumps. Only countable people on this planet have this magical aura around them (according to me), and he is one!

Sri Siddaganga Mutt
A nandi carved out of a rock at Sri Siddaganga Mutt with the image of Sri.Shivakumara Swamiji

With that, it was a wrap to our day tripping, and we headed back home, feeling all blessed (literally! With a long day of temple visits) and having a small peek into history and mythology here and there along our way.

Trekking enthusiasts have a lot of options around Tumkur. I have covered these places on separate occasions.
* Siddara Betta: A trek and a holy place
* Madhugiri Betta: A trek with a good view and has ruins of an old fort atop
* Siddaganga Betta: A hike accessible near the mutt, offers good view from the top with some mythological spots along the way.
* Seebi: A place for those interested in history

Tiger Census Part 1- The Chase

Tiger Census is a week long quadrennial event conducted all over India at the same time. A total of 5,00,000 sq.kms area – 17 states- 40,000 forest beats to be covered with 2000 personnel pulled in to count an estimated 1700 tigers nationwide. The event was scheduled from 16-Dec-13 to 23-Dec-13. With 2 days of training, the census will be done in 2 parts. The 1st 3days will mainly concentrate on tracking the carnivore population(including tigers, leopards etc) through critical carnivore trails and the next 3 days will be through specified transact lines identified to count the herbivores and evaluate the healthiness of the carnivore habitat.

The public can participate based on an online application and selection procedure. It is purely voluntary wherein, 1 volunteer will be accompanied by 2 forest guards and allocated a specific beat inorder to spot the mighty one with the stripes..!! The forest department would provide bare minimum logistics (read it food) However, beddings need to be carried by the volunteers themselves 🙂

So all said and done, I was shortlisted as a volunteer for Kallahalla Wildlife Range in the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. Last minute preparations, arguments with folks for permission, hunt for a notary for getting the indemnity bond attested.. I was all done and all set for the LONG week ahead 🙂

Day 1: After getting misguided by google maps a couple of times, I had arrived at the forest office in Kallahalla by noon. After the enrollment formalities were done, there was a small briefing for the volunteers about the do’s and don’ts in the forest. We were not in a luxury campsite, we had to remember and be alert always. We were then directed to the camp to grab some rest before the hectic week ahead 🙂

The camp itself was in the middle of the national park that boasts of the highest density of tigers in India. The shelter we had to look upto during our next few days was an old abandoned 3 BHK house which once served as a forest staff quarters. Now, there laid only the walls and a thatched roof with no doors, no electricity and no phone connectivity. We would have the privilege of being greeted by wild animals at our door step every morning and reptiles creeping in to the living room every now and then. We did not have to be surprised even if one fine morning, the tiger himself waved a ‘Hai’ at us while sitting on the porch.. The only things that we had with us to protect ourselves were our sleeping bags, camouflage clothing, trekking boots, torches and some insect repellents. That evening, we opted to sit out in the open, under the clear starry sky until the biting cold of the December night froze us. It was just a day past full moon 🙂

Day 2: We all assembled by 6.00.a.m in front of our camp where I was introduced to Mr.Swamy & Chikkanna. They were the guards who would accompany me through the due days ahead. Chikkanna was a ‘Kaadu Kuruba’ tribal person. He could recognize the forest with just it’s sounds and smell. He knew every grain and twig in the forest. Swamy was a Bachelor’s in Biology. Chikkanna’s role was to manage the team with the survival skills for the deep jungle and help identify things with their local names. Swamy would then document everything with the local and their scientific names. And me? I was a general public, getting aware of various aspects of forestry and the habitat census procedure itself.

Mr.Swamy saved the camp as the reference point in his GPS and the three of us marched towards our beat. We stopped by every now and then to make a note of the different animal scats that we found along our way. Also, the forest grass cover, vegetation, commercial trees, medicinal plants, herbs, shrubs, every thing were recorded. The scat samples that we collected in small sachets included those of wild cat, barking deer, rabbits, sambars, spotted deers, bears etc. along with that of the tiger as well.. Further ahead, as we marched a few kilometres into the thicket, we reached a small bit of moist land. We spotted aleast a dozen of jungle fowls around there. We walked around the place and noted fresh pug marks of a tiger mother & a cub who had just dropped by, to quench their thirst. We proceeded further and the sight I encountered next needs a special mention. Atleast 50 parakeets emerged out of a small bush when I walked by. It was truly Awesome 🙂 I cursed myself several times for not being able to identify the innumerable bird species I came across all the way. We saw a tree-full of langurs, Malabar giant squirrels and sambars. We encountered a pack of wild dogs(dholes) who surely were upto a well laid strategy. However, the day soon ended without any major direct sighting of the tiger.

Day 3: Another day, filled with anxiety began at 6.00.a.m. We were greeted at the entrance of the transact line by some wild hogs. The 2km stretch of the transact was covered without any sightings apart from elephant dung all the way. Further downhill, we saw fresh tiger scat and I had already started to crib about having missed a glimpse of the striped beast by a few minutes 😦 Peacocks, barking deers peeked into our way at times. We then grabbed some wild berries from one of the trees along our way. We consumed it only after it was okayed as ‘Safe for consumption’ by Chikkanna.

When we continued our walk further, Chikkanna stopped us suddenly and asked us to stay still for a while. He pointed- “Elephant..!!” He concentrated on the sound and again said- “There are 2..!!” Within moments, we heard the thumping sound of the elephants moving towards us.. 100mts.. 50mts.. 10 mts.. SHIT.. We saw them both right there.. “RUN…”Chikkanna commanded.!! The three of us just ran… and the elephant mother & calf duo followed us… We ran.. they ran.. We ran further. “TREE..” Chikkanna pointed. And we three climbed and reached the top of the tree within seconds. (It is unbeleivable how you end up doing things that you have never done before, when it is for life.. I had never climbed a tree before. Atleast not one this high..!!) The duo continued towards us. Swamy grabbed a few crackers from his bag and lit them one by one. After bursting 5-6 crackers, the elephant duo decided to spare us. Although petrified a little bit at my first near death adventure, I descended the tree and continued our walk further.

We passed by something that looked like a tiger’s den with few bones stranded here and there. We reached Kiggere- the tropical moist deciduous part of the forest. It is a grassland, where we saw herds of spotted deers grazing all around. We rested there for a while and feasted on the fruits that we had collected along our way. The second leg of the day continued here on, towards Kebbekatte.

Climbers, creepers, bushes, thorns- we waded them all.. and suddenly pug marks appeared from nowhere. “The tiger has just walked down to the watering hole-200mts down the line(Kebbekatte), we might be lucky“- Chikku said. “Shh..” followed an alarming sound. “It’s a tusker.!! He is close..” We looked around and couldn’t find any trees this time. We real7sed that we were stranded between an elephant chase. Swamy reached out to his supervisor over the walkie-talkie to inform him of our status. He was informed that we were stuck midway and it was not possible for help to reach us from either ends of the beat. Without an option, Swamy lit a couple of crackers this time. And, we were all releived for getting lucky again, for the 2nd time.. We then walked towards Kebbekatte. It was an unfortunate day for us as we had just scared the tiger away which was spotted by the other beat who had arrived there before us.

Day 4: My heart kept thumping a little harder than usual. I felt a bit nervous while I was heading towards the jungle. My fingers were crossed all the way hoping to have no more adventures. I felt it was okay even if I did not spot a tiger, but wanted to reach back alive and kicking. I kept walking blindly behind Chikkanna who lead Swamy and me. We had to literally find our way out of the bushes which had overgrown all of us, blinding our way further. We could not even see if a tiger sat by, snarling at us. I heaved a sigh of releif when I got the 1st glance of the Kiggere grassland. the 1st part of the beat was accomplished, peacefully..!! Chikkanna moved into the bushes to answer the nature’s call. And so did Swamy, behind another one. I was trying to pacify my thumping heart standing all alone in the meadow. Tigers are mostly spotted in open grasslands, I had read. Then, on hearing the trumpet of an elephant, Chikkanna emerged out of the bush. He signaled Swamy to join us asap. He explained to us that the tusker was calling for a fight and is moving towards Baalekatte(our route further). We walked ahead slowly along the same route. Suddenly, Swamy pointed out to our right and screamed- “Run Run… its a Herd.. Herd..

It took few seconds for Chikkanna & me to believe our eyes. We had forgotten to look out in other directions while we were concentrating on the lone tusker. About 10-12 gigantic pachyderms were marching towards us, at a distance of barely 20mts from us… We three started to run… Chikkanna shouted- “The tusker & the herd, both are heading towards Baalekere, let us run towards Doddkere“. We three ran..

Tadan…. Another tusker stood right infront of us…. We three were surrounded by these pachyderms from 3 sides.. Chikkanna and Swamy ran.. I followed them.. While the two were running much ahead of me, I got entangled in between a thick bunch of creepers. “F**K… This is it..!!” I thought. But, I saw god in disguise running towards me with a dagger in his hand and free me out of the tangle. It was Chikkanna. After running for a distance, he had turned back to check on me. On noticing that I wasn’t there, he had come back.

The monsters were close, we continued to run.. I again tripped over a snake that crossed my leg.. I leaped over and continued to run. Meanwhile, Swamy had lit a few crackers and planted them along the way. Out of 6 odd something crackers, only one bursted. The sound was good enough to shoo the tuskers away.. We continued to run and reached the safe confines of a tree trunk on the otherside of Kebbekatte lake.

After a short while, we met the group from the other beat and headed towards Sulekere along with them. This was the last option we had, to catch a glimpse of the striped monster. We waited there for a long while hoping for him to come there to drink some water. We saw bisons and other animals walking in there, but hard luck- we could not spot a TIGER 😦

And thus ended our tryst with the wild.. The pug marks were all accounted which will be matched with the camera images captured by NCTA and a compiled report will be out in a few months’ time 🙂

Whether it was my chase of the ‘Tiger trail’ or if it was ‘Me getting chased for being in the elephant trail’, I don’t know. But what I’m certain was ‘The Chase’ was over..

Well wait, did I say the chase ended? No wait, our adventure followed us all the way to Bangalore and stayed with me for atleast another month. You’d be excited to know…. Click here to read Part TWO!

The monsoon delicacies of Coorg

So stuck up with my professional life.. I am finding little / No time to visit my native, where my basics belong to.. Politics, emotions, manners, education- on the whole the basics of every aspect of the human that I am today 🙂

Nostalgia fills my heart as I hear of heavy rains in the recent weeks- little villages have turned into islands, water levels are atleast 2 feet above bridges, waterlogged paddy fields now look like a never ending stretch of the river itself.. WOWwww…. An amazing picture of a rain fed rather filled-green COORG flashes infront of me.. And what my heart is craving for at the moment is some AWESOME Coorgie food.. And what my taste buds are asking for are the lesser known typical monsoon delicacies native to Coorg and cannot match their original taste if tried to re-create in any part of this wide world even by the greatest chef ever born..!! So here goes the list..

VEGETARIAN:

1. Therme thoppu palya (Fern salad)

2. Kembu suli curry ( Colocasia shoots)

3. Baimbale curry (Bamboo shoot curry)

These are varieties found only on river banks.

4. Kaad maange curry (Wild mango curry)

5. Kummu curry (Mushroom curry) especially the wild varieties- Aalandi kummu, Nucchi kummu, kaatola kummu.

The above stuffs taste deadly when combined with hot Akki Otti(Rice rotis) prepared on mud ovens lit with firewood 😉

6. Chutta chekke kuru (Roasted seeds of ripe jackfruit smeared with red soil and dried in the sun and preserved especially for the monsoon)

NON-VEGETARIAN:

7. Njend curry / Chutta njend (Fresh water crab curry /Roasted crabs)

8. Chutta yarchi (Barbecued meat)

9. Onak yarchi fry (Since Coorgs hunted regularly, venison, wild boar, barking deer and several other kinds of wild game formed part of their diet. These meats were also sliced, rubbed with salt and turmeric, strung or skewered and sun-dried or hung from the rafters in smoky, wood fired kitchens)

10. Koile meen curry (Used to be in abundance where bamboo traps were laid in cold, swift flowing streams and the flooded paddy fields were full of these tiny freshwater eels)

SWEET DISHES:

11. Kuvale putt (Prepared with ripe Kuvale chekke (a variety of jackfruit, locally called Kuvale) wrapped in Kuvale ele (Leaf from a local plant found on riverbanks) and steam cooked.

12. Baale nurk / nurk putt ( Bananas fritters)

13. Maddh paaysa/ Maddh putt (Porridge /cake made of an aromatic herb, which is expected to have 18 types of medicine available only during the month of kakkada or aadi)

And last but definitely not the least – A peg of Nell-kall (vodka made of paddy) and some homemade wine…. Or a cup of steaming hot ‘Bellatha Kaapi’ for the teetotalers .. 🙂

People often complain about my eating habits and how choosy I get about what I eat and the little quantity that I peck onto.. Treat me with a platter filled with the above stuffs and see how I can binge on… This city food is CRAP.. and not what I savour…Not even the 6-course expensive meal cooked by the executive chef de cuisine of the costliest restaurant in the world…!!

Kuvaleputt , Nurkputt & Kummu
Kuvaleputt , Nurkputt & Kummu

The Kodava Hockey Festival

Army and Hockey runs in Kodava blood.. It is that time of the year again when the schools and colleges are closed for summer.. Bosses have approved the leave requests from their Kodava employees atleast a month in advance.. Schedule is out.. Flight tickets booked in time as a player /Techie/Banker working abroad has to make it for their family match.. Its the biggest and the maddest festival dedicated to a sport anywhere in the world… It’s the ‘Kodava Hockey Festival’ yet again…!!

Over 300 teams participate with players including people of all age groups- right from a 10yr old primary school kid to a 75 yrs old granma.. Anyone with a mere passion for the game are allowed to join the team, only to fight it out for the coveted trophy each year.. Only 2 rules apply to participate- #1. Be a Kodava and represent your family team   #2. Play the game with passion.

One Kodava family volunteers to take the ownership to organise this huge event each year. This year- it was the ‘Madanda’ family. Hooked up with too much work, I couldn’t make it to this year’s tournament.

The Iychettira cup cover photo
The Iychettira cup cover photo

Hence, I’d like to make a mention of the last tournament I had attended- ‘The Iychettira Cup-2012’.

The Indian hockey team during the opening match
The Indian hockey team during the opening match

The opening ceremony was a gala event with some of the who’s who of the Indian VVIP league gracing the event.. It was followed by a nail biting, action packed, stiff fight during the exhibition match between the ‘Indian national team’ and the ‘Coorg XI’.. The men in blue(Oops.. in white) battled it out at the end though..

Palanganda vs Kaliyanda match in progress
Palanganda vs Kaliyanda match in progress

During the 23 days long sporting fiesta, the family where I belong to- The Somayanda family, came through till the 5th round/the quarter finals, but failed to make it further.. The last day was the final fight between Palanganda and Kaliyanda.. The latter lost the cup inspite of a tough fight of 1-2.

Trophies lined up for the final presentation ceremony
Trophies lined up for the final presentation ceremony

One has to experience the madness sitting amidst the crowd cheering for their family teams atleast once in their lifetime.. All up there in the spectator gallery with just one thought in their mind and one feeling in their hearts- ‘HOCKEY’..!!

Picture courtesy: Iychettira cup website

A farewell trek to Madhugiri

That’s what we call bidding farewell in style…

One of our friends was moving out of India and we thought it was good idea to send him off on a happy note; with something that he likes doing and something that he will cherish. With that, my group of friends hosted him for a dinner and then planned a trek to Madhugiri. Madhugiri is Asia’s second highest monolithic hill and has the ruins of an old fort at the top.

After a dinner party on a Friday night, we started to drive towards NH-4 in 2 cars and 2 bikes at 1.00.a.m. With a smooth highway road and bumpy country sides, we reached the guest house at the foothill of Madhugiri by around 4.00.a.m. The initial plan was to reach the peak for sunrise. But, on reaching the guesthouse, we were advised by the caretaker to start the hike after sunrise. There were recent cases of hikers attacked by bears reported on the hills. We waited in anticipation until sunrise.

From the foothills of Madhugiri - A view from our guest house
From the foothills of Madhugiri – A view from our guest house

It was 7.00.a.m by the time we started our ascent after a coffee break at a petty shop in front of the fort entrance. The start of the trek made me feel like it was going to be an easy climb. A well laid flight of concrete stairs took us to about 1/5 th of the total climb of the hill. However, the climb started to get tricky further from there. The hill seemed a little steep, the concrete stairs were replaced by steps carved out of the rock itself. With this stretch, we covered 2/5th of the total distance.

The Madhugiri fort entrance
The Madhugiri fort entrance

The steps disappeared in the next stretch. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.

A view of the Madhugiri town after climbing the flight of stairs
A view of the Madhugiri town after climbing the flight of stairs

And then the steps disappeared. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little more steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.

Somewhere in between, an old and ruined wall emerged out. This added to the climbing woes which gave us only limited space to place our footsteps and less grip to place our hand. And then, we had to jump across a crack in the monolith to get to the other side was the steep valley. Once we reached the other side, every structure that was man made suddenly disappeared. It was just one super steep hill stretching into the sky. we had to literally use all four limbs to scale this 4/5th of the hill.

Fort Madhugiri
Fort Madhugiri

And finally, there emerged the first glimpse of the Madhugiri fort- gritty, yet seemingly elegant. This was built by Raja Heere Gowda who owed allegiance to the Vijayanagara kings, which was later reinforced by Hyder Ali. It is believed that this fort was a comfortable hideout for many freedom fighters during the Independence struggle. Beehives on the ramparts of the fort were the only means of sustenance for them and that is said to have given the place its name – Madhu(honey)- Giri(hill).

We walked across the structure in its dilapidated form, where the view on the other side was a treat to our eyes and feast for our tired souls. Our joy knew no bounds when we found a puddle of rainwater, which tasted no less than nectar from a beehive.

A puddle of water atop the hills
A puddle of water atop the hills

We spent some time atop and started our descent so that we could reach the base before the scorching sun made his way. The descent was a rather difficult, with me losing my grip every now and then and having nothing to hold onto. I had to sit and slide down inch by inch at most places. And finally, Bang at 12.00. noon, we had reached the base…

Overall, it was an awesome trek and the last one with our friend.

Cheers..!!

P.S.: photo credits to Sam (I’d left my camera in the safe confines of my home)

A Day Out At Mekedaatu

It was after a long-time that we cousins were catching up and so we planned to have an all cousins day out (no aunties, uncles, mammas and Pappas). We narrowed down to visit Mekedaatu for the weekend. At 10.00a.m on a Sunday morning, we were late to leave home to any tourist places around the city. And to add to our woes, it was Banashankari temple’s annual festival that day. This only means that we had to wade through hopeless traffic jam along with the Kanakapura road metro line construction also being underway…!!

List of places covered:
Food stop at Vasu hotel, Kanakapura- This is popular for its crusty Masala Dosa
Chunchi falls
Sangama
Mekedatu viewpoint

Details of the trip:

Six kms before Mekedaatu, a board pointing to the left indicated the way to Chunchi falls. We decided to take the deviation. The summertime visit to Chunchi falls was a disappointment for us after reaching there. There was hardly any water in the river and the rocks shined bright in the sun’s reflection. Just as we were about to turn our backs to return, a localite who was around us started a conversation with us. He eventually told us that he could take us to a better viewpoint. We blindly decided to follow him.

We crossed a small dam, a ridge and continued to walk. after a tiring walk in the scorching sun for about 1.5 kms, we slowly started to grow suspicious as to where this man was taking us as the place started to look more secluded. But, just then, he pointed at a watch tower and told us that we could get a good view from there. Before we could react, he intruded – “But, you need to walk down there. Behind that bush”. We were like, “OK… hmm huh…!!” and continued to walk further. He would certainly not be able to mug us as we outnumbered him, we thought. Once we reached that spot, it was a total sense of relief and a surprise. Had we returned earlier; we would have missed such a great spot. I’m sure this place would look more amazing in the monsoon season.

Chunchi falls
Chunchi falls

After spending a while at the falls, we thanked the old man with a goodwill amount and headed towards Sangama. ‘Sangama’ is a confluence of river Kaveri and Arkavathi and supposedly a very scenic spot post monsoon. But disappointment was waiting for us again after reaching there. Insufficient rains and the influx of tourist on a weekend, the place was crammed with very little place to even sit peacefully on the riverbank.

Legend has it, that a goat had jumped across a gorge to escape from a chasing tiger and hence our destination derived its name in Kannada. (Meke = goat; daatu = cross). Trekking the 3 kms distance from Sangama to Mekedatu was banned then and hence, we had to wait for the pick-up bus to come. After disappointments back to back, we were apprehensive of going forward till Mekedaatu wondering if it would be worth our visit. We lost our patience in waiting and walked across the shallow waters to reach back to our car. The security guard who had been observing us, walked up to us and suggested that we go to Mekedaatu since we had already come so far from the city. We were still half minded and tossed a coin. Heads said a ‘Go’.

The view around Sangama
The view around Sangama

After disappointments back to back, we were apprehensive of going to Mekedaatu wondering if that place would really be worth our visit. Trekking the 3 kms distance from Sangama to Mekedatu is banned now and hence, we had to wait for the pick up bus to come. We lost our patience, and crossed the shallow waters back to reach our car. The security guard who had been observing us, walked upto us and suggested that we go to Mekedaatu since we had already come so far from the city. We were still half minded, and tossed a coin. Heads said a ‘Go’.. So we again crossed the river, by then the bus had returned. We got the last seat for ourselves. The bus was a total-out-of-the-junk-yard-thing. The seats we were sitting on were infact tied to the roof rails with strings- more like a swing..!! And the fully crammed bus(packed to twice its capacity) started. It was an unpaved road, and a lot of dust was filled inside the bus which made us literally stand up from those swinging seats..

View enroute to Mekedaatu from Sangama
View enroute to Mekedaatu from Sangama

So, we again crossed the river and by then, the bus had returned. We got the last seat for ourselves. The bus was a total-out-of-the-junk-yard-thing. The seats we were sitting on were in fact tied to the roof rails with ropes. It felt less like a bus seat and more like a swing…!! And bus was fully crammed and packed to twice its capacity. The drive was through an unpaved road, and a lot of dust was filled inside the bus. We could barely breathe inside and all we stood up from those swinging seats. Once we reached Mekedaatu after a strenuous back seat ride, we felt that the security guard was right- It was a nice place. But again, insufficient rains did not give me the internet picture I wanted.

Since our onward ride was a bad experience, we chose to sit on the top of the bus for our return. Trust me when I say that the ride was the highlight of our entire day… The best bus ride we all ever had in our life. The bus went at high speed blowing the dust high up from the unpaved roads. There was just one thin steel rod around for us to hold onto, that too was tied to the windows below. At one point, another bus came in the opposite direction, and our bus went completely off road. It felt as if our bus was balancing on a few small stones on the slope of the valley so that the driver could make enough space for the other bus to pass through the narrow road. We could reach the treetops, see the best views of the river and the valley below. It was one AMAZING ride.

The bus, road and our shadow of sitting on the top of the bus- between Mekedatu and Sangama

We ended up feeling that the return trip was a very short one and wanted more… one adrenaline rush moment it was…!! It was the last ride for the day as the sun had already set and we returned to our homes high on energy and all charged up and motivated for another boring week ahead.

There are a lot of options around Kanakapura for a full day or half-day trip. I have covered these places on separate occasions. A few of them are:
* Kabbala Durga trek
* Bheemanakindi trek
* Pyramid valley meditation center

Day tripping in Nature- the Mysore Circuit

The initial plan was to leave before sunrise so that we could see the birds at the Ranganathittu Bird sanctuary before they left their homes for the day’s chores. However, a flat tyre and multiple pit stops added up to late arrival at the Srirangapatna-Yelwala bypass. This led to a few additions and deletions in the original plan so that we could see the birds when they returned to their nests late in the evening.

List of places covered:
Gaganachukki and Bharachukki waterfalls
Talakadu
Kaaranji kere in Mysore
Ranganathittu Bird sanctuary

Details of the trip:

As per the new plan, we headed to Gaganachukki and Bharachukki waterfalls. After a nice long drive through the green paddy fields and rusty countryside, we reached Shivanasamudra. This is one of the island towns formed by river Kaveri through its course. This is where Asia’s first hydel-power project was set up, commissioned by the then Diwan of Mysore- K. Seshadri Iyer; in order to supply electricity for mining at Kolar Gold Fields. River Kaveri plummets down at two places, a couple of kilometers away from each other and then merging together again. The beauty of the twin waterfalls is truly mesmerizing. If you’re seeking for some thrill, coracle rides are available that takes you closer to the spot where the water drops. But we did not want to take the risk of venturing into the water without a life jacket. At least, not after we heard someone say that the water was 1000 feet deep at some point. We weren’t not sure of the exact depth of the river, but certainly did not want to take a chance!

Gaganachukki- The western branch of river Kaveri
Gaganachukki- The western branch of river Kaveri

The sun was approaching his highest point by this time, and hence we decided that we should be heading towards our next destination- Talakadu. Kannadigas have all grown up listening to the story of the curse of Alamelamma. It is believed that her spell turned this once prosperous town to a sand desert. As a student reading history in school, I had always been intrigued to visit this place and see the romance between the sand and the temples during different seasons. However, the excitement that we had when we started to this place soon died when we arrived there (in fact, it got buried deep under its sands). Given the poor rainfall, less waters and hordes of tourists over the weekend, the place was had gathered so much filth and poop everywhere. There was an unbearable stench that had spread around. The river was shallow and looked stagnant and unappealing. Yet, we did manage to go for a coracle ride which was definitely not worth the buck. The place was a total turn off…!! We lost our interest to explore the famed temples of Talakadu and left the place (I did visit the historically important temples on a later date though).

Bharachukki- The eastern branch of river Kaveri
Bharachukki- The eastern branch of river Kaveri

We wanted to reach the highway back again but lost our way at some point. Without being able to connect to the highway, we just kept driving on some narrow road through the countryside. After the frayed trip to Talakadu, this drive through the rustic countryside was somewhat a deal breaker and a feast to our city bred souls. After a bit of driving around and just when we thought we had reached the highway, we realized that we had in fact reached Mysore…!! Mysore city was never on our itinerary when we left home that morning. We were extremely hungry and hence decided to feast at a nice restaurant in the city itself.

Some friend suggested us to visit Kaaranji kere in Mysore where we could do some birding. Around 3.00.p.m, we headed there- This was in fact the highlight of the trip- though unplanned, it came as a treat to us. We took a boat ride around the lake where we spotted several migratory birds. Not in large numbers, but many in varieties. It surely is a haven for the bird lovers. I pitied myself for not being able to identify what birds most of them were. I’m not an enthusiast of zoos as these places are where animals and birds are kept in enclosures. But, if you are around with kids, this place is good as there is an enclosure here as well that hosts many native birds, a few animals and reptiles.

The birds at Karanji kere

So, finally by 5.00.p.m, we headed out for what we had come all the way– Ranganathittu Bird sanctuary. It was the time when all the birds returned to their nests… We were there for sunset. We then took a boat ride around the small islets where thousands of birds have made their homes. The trees looked amazing with the birds and the water looked equally dangerous- with crocodiles swimming right past us… Again, we spotted a lot of different birds since it was the peak of the migratory season.

The winged hosts on the islet
The winged hosts on the islet

With a pleasant sunset ride in the river, a long day tripping in the Mysore circuit came to an end. Although most part of the day was unplanned, it was a weekend well deserved.

Love in the air- The Aero-India show

<10-Feb-13>

I have been tad busy at work with less time to post a thought.. February being a month of love, inspite of my hectic schedule at work, I’ve managed to make the most of my weekends spending quality time with my 1st love- “Traveling”. Every weekend will be posted separately in the days to come.. But, before the ‘month of love’ ends.. I wanted to ensure that the chronicle for the month ends with a love note on my 2nd crush – ‘The Aeroplanes’ 🙂

“Aero India” is a biennial event that happens only in Bangalore and is something that I have been religiously visiting since it’s inception.. I was there this year too.. But, compared to the previous years, it wasn’t a great show.. Unfortunately, the expectations set for the aero-enthusiasts by ‘The Russian Knights’ were too high to be met.!!

The 'Mirror Image' formation by the Flying Bulls
The ‘Mirror Image’ formation by the Flying Bulls

The Suryakirans were missed greatly, due to the passing away of 2 pilots in mid-air crashes 😥 The ‘Flying bulls’ and the Desi-team ‘Sarang’ were clearly the show stoppers.

The Russian Knights
The Russian Knights

<14-Feb-2009>

This takes me back to the show of 2009 – When there were too many participants with almost all the biggies in this business from around the world who had set up stalls. India was on a look out for 126 fighters for its mighty air-force. The F-16, F-18, Eurofighters, Rafael, Sukhoi etc etc. India’s LCA- Tejas made her 1st debut. There were many other contenders among the LCH-Choppers like Dhruv, Cheetah, Cobra; Cargo carriers like the C-130: Super Hercules, Omega tankers; Missiles and UAVs.

It was a day of dreams to several other aero-enthusiasts like me. Hopping from one stall to another understanding the latest technological developments in the industry, defence and warfare from across the world can happen only at one-stop-shows like these and not everytime or everyone gets such opportunities to learn.

Here, knowledge is accompanied with entertainment. Aerobatics by various teams from India and abroad, individual competitions that are related to flying or making scaled-down models, display of some vintage aircrafts, flight simulators, interactions with the personnel from major aviation companies are opportunities that every enthusiast looks forward for show after show. Aero-India 2009, being its biggest show ever, it was an amazing day… especially when it falls on 14-Feb..!!!

The 'Tango' formation by the Suryakirans
The ‘Tango’ formation by the Suryakirans

A great show put up by the SuryaKirans and the Sarang team..!!

The Sarang team
The Sarang team

It is a feeling of contentment that fills my heart when I come here for each show and a sense of sadness to think about waiting for 2 years for the next show.. It gives us a sense of pride when we say we are Bangaloreans and the Air show happens only here..

If you want me to write further, I can go on.. About every show and every machine there.. But i’d like to save some for the coming shows too.. So, I end it here with a ‘Love Note’ in the month of love and let the love spread in the world 😛

Re-visiting the Happy Valley – Makalidurga

I had already been there before.. I knew what to expect (Click here to read more) and so had declined repeated requests for my participation in the trip.

Even then, the second visit to Makalidurga happened. I was forcibly dragged out of bed on a cozy Sunday morning. I was supposed to be the guide to the first timers so that they could hike up the hill.

I knew the way to reach Makalidurga- but could not guide them any further to the exact spot from where they could get the photo of the train crossing which they wanted.. Considering it was around 11.00.a.m, the sun had already reached a good position to suck the fluid in us..

Alighting @ the Happy valley : Makalidurga railway station
Alighting @ the Happy valley : Makalidurga railway station

We had left home without breakfast hoping that we could have something on our way and pick up some water bottles.. Hard luck..!! We could find neither!!

The Makalidurga railway crossing
The Makalidurga railway crossing

All of us reached a railway track finally.. And randomly climbed a hillock, climbed further up.. We continued to climb hoping to find some shade to sit and wait till our catch of the day appeared… But again, no luck- no water, no food, no shade. We randomly stopped on a considerably flat area without being able to proceed further under the ruthlessly shining sun and waited for the train..

After about half an hour, the smoke from the engine chimney appeared near the horizon.. We all got excited.. As it neared, the engine emerged from behind a bush, then a bogie.. Before our cameras reached their position, we saw the end of the train 😥 It was a small train with just 1 engine and 4 bogies…

So, we continued our wait.. After a while again we found some smoke at the horizon. So, this time we hoped that our tiring wait would end soon and we could get that perfect internet photo of a blue passenger train passing across the frame… Hard luck once again- It was indeed a super long train with over 55 bogies: But, it was a goods loco and not the one that we had waited for and moreover its colour did not match the background 😥

This meant that we still had to wait. We were restless… We decided to walk further up hoping to find some shade atleast..!! And we did find a small tree (or rather a bush). Something that was better than nothing, we thought. All the five of us squeezed into that small patch of shade and continued to wait….

After a while, we heard the hooting of a train at a distance… This time, we couldn’t see any smoke rising up… The sound became louder and louder but still- there were no signs of the train. But, we knew for sure that the source was somewhere closeby. And suddenly, a Nizamuddin-Yeswantpur bound passenger train came buzzing into our visibility. We all took our cameras out and started clicking… The train was really long and it stretched beyond the 2 ends of the frame. Yet, this was not the photo we wanted. The train was actually in the opposite direction. So, even if the engine is very much in the frame, it appears like it is gone beyond 😥 But, anyway it seemed like we could not hope for anything further because we were all dehydrated.. So, we had to be contended with what we got and return back to pavilion 😦

The Nizammuddin-Yeswantpur passenger
Our prized catch- The Nizammuddin-Yeswantpur passenger