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A Travel Blog from India: June 2013

Friday, 28 June 2013

Skywatch Friday - Himalayan Peaks, Badrinath

All of us have read about the horrible floods that has hit the state of Uttarakhand in North India resulting in death of thousands of people. We pray for the souls of those who perished in these floods and hope the missing ones are traced. 

Uttarkhand and Himalayas is a mesmerising place. It is called "Dev Bhoomi" or "Abode of Gods" for no small reason. You get humbled in front of the nature, in front these mighty mountains. These are the mountains which sustain life in this great country.

These peaks were just opposite the hotel we were staying during our detour to Badrinath - one of the four holiest shrines for Hindus - when we did Valley Of Flowers trek last year. The weather was playing hide and seek and the sky was over cast with slight drizzle. Suddenly, when the envelope of mist disappeared we clicked the peak glittering in the afternoon sun. 

On a clear day one can see the famous Nilkant peak from Badrinath 

If you want to know more about our trek to Valley of Flowers, you may click on this link below.

Valley of Flowers

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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Monsoon Magic

Monsoon in Malnad is fun. Of course, if you like the rains..........

Driving through the mist filled roads with droplets of water splashing on your windscreen is an experience. It is green everywhere. The rivulets and streams are full. Small water falls cascade from the hill sides all along the drive........

We were driving through Malnad last week and here are three pictures which should encourage to hit the road and drive in Western ghats.

If you are planning to experience Monsoon in Western Ghats, you can look at the following posts in this blog which may be helpful.

Monsoon Magic in Malnad - An itinerary to experience it

Mesmerised in Malnad in Monsoon!

Monsoon drive in western Ghats

Sakleshpur - Getting mesmerised in Monsoon!

Driving Holidays from Bangalore - Enchanting Uttara Kannada

Driving Holidays from Bangalore - Karavali and Koffee combo!!

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Road trip Vignettes - Sharavathi Valley view

Plusses of a road trip is the freedom it gives to enjoy the journey at your own pace. Many times we have noticed that journeys are more interesting than the actual destination itself. When these vignettes are captured on the lens, they remain cherished memories forever. We will share some of these in our blog and hope you like it.

Driving in Western ghats is always a memorable experience. Whether you are driving during the monsoon or immediately after it, you will greeted by geerenery all around.

One of the lovely drives is from Bangalore to Goa is via Shivamogga and Jog Falls. The roads are good. The drive will give an opportunity to see magnificent Jog falls. Monsoon is the right time to visit Jog falls which will be at its glorious best. 

When you depart Jog falls and drive towards Honnavar, you will drive through Sharavathi wild life sanctuary. The road is through thick forest. As you drive listening to the sounds of Cicada, smelling the fresh air, you will be greeted with a fabulous valley of Sharavthi. The forest department has built a small watch tower which can be climbed easily to get a nice view of the valley. Here are few pictures of the valley we had clicked on the way to Goa in December last year.

The Sharavathi Valley
The power station in the background
Next time when you decide to drive on this road, look out for this spot and enjoy the lovely valley view.

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Friday, 21 June 2013

Skywatch Friday - Eight stupas in Leh, Ladakh

These stupas - eight of them - strike you when you drive around in Leh.

They are consecrated and dedicated by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

The contrasting colours of white and golden yellow, colourful fluttering prayer flags with Himalayas and over cast sky in the background makes this a lovely picture.

If you want to know more about visiting Leh or Ldakh, you may look at the fseries of posts on Ladakh in this blog here :- Ladakh Diaries


Thursday, 20 June 2013

Chhattisgarh Chronicles V - Chitrakote Falls, Niagara of Asia!

As we left Tokapal Haat, we were feeling little tired. It was four in the afternoon and Bastar sun was in full glow. We were relieved as we got back to Scorpio and switched on the AC.

From Tokapal, Chitrakote is around forty KMs. The roads in Chattisgarh are top class. We took forty five minutes to reach the place.

I have not seen Niagara Falls though I have been to USA couple of times. But having seen the pictures of Chitrakote falls in full glow during monsoons, this was to be second to none. In fact Chitrakote falls was one of main reasons for us to make this trip. 

We were all excited to see the falls. You will not appreciate the enormity of this mighty waterfalls when you approach the place. All we could see was River Indrāvati flowing gently. I park the car and we walk closer to the view point. When we reach the view point, we all stop – dumbstruck!! 

There it was – the largest waterfalls in Asia. 
Wow! What a fall! (look at the small boat at the bottom of the waterfalls)
Look at the huge arc shape of the waterfalls
The beautiful Indravathi valley

The view is magnificent. If this was the scene in early summer, we could visualise the brilliance of the falls post monsoon. The arc shaped falls has a huge expanse. The volume of water falling during monsoons must be outrageous. Nevertheless even in March, we were able to enjoy its beauty. Having seen the highest waterfalls – Jog falls – in full glory, we were now seeing the largest waterfalls. 

The water was falling in two cascades from a height of 100 feet. During monsoons you don’t see any rocks as the water flow will be high. The bottom of the falls form a huge lake. A staircase takes you to the bottom of the falls from where you can go boating on the lake – not sure how safe it is as we didn't see anyone wearing a life jacket - to go close to waterfalls at this time of the year. We did not go down the stairs as it was quite hot and climbing up would have been tiring. We decided to come back again after monsoon to see the falls in full glory!!

This is how the waterfalls get transformed in monsoon...........

The river valley after the waterfalls is very wide and looks beautiful. Being a weekday there was not much of crowd. We spend some time enjoying the serene place and return to the resort as the sun sets in the horizon.

It was an eventful day spent in Bastar!

Take a look at this excellent video shot by dear friend H V Kumar during his trip to Bastar in 2008 after monsoons.

Chitrakoot Falls

Please also look at the following posts in the series here

Chhattisgarh Chronocles 1 - Drive from Bangalore to Bastar

Chhattisgarh Chronicles 2 - Dancing with Bison Maria tribe!

Chhattisgarh Chronocles 3 - Caving in Kutumsar and Tiratgarh falls

Chhattisgarh Chronocles 4 - Tokapol haat and lal chinti ki chutney!

Chhattisgarh Chronicles 6 - Kanker Palace

Chhatisgarh Chronicles 7 - Painted rooms of Chiukudan Palace

Chattisgarh Chronicles 8 - Bhoramdeo, Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh

The above pictures of water falls shot during monsoon is the courtesy of Mr Anirban Ghosh, who is an amazing adventure traveler. You can read more about his journey in Chattisgarh here

Travels in interior Chattisgarh and Orissa - In search of Tribals and water falls!

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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Monsoon Experience @ Mango Range Estate, Nilgiris

We went there to do nothing. Just to soak in the rain. We came back energised!

Monsoons are there to go out and enjoy the rain. Thankfully, Bangalore is blessed. We can reach the hills within five hours and experience it.

Last time when we were in Kadamane estate in Sakleshpur, Cariappa, the young manager was mentioning about Mango Range Estate belonging to the same group near Gudalur on the way to Ooty. The estate is in a place called Pandalur on Gudalur - Wayanad highway. We had travelled on this road earlier when we went to Wayand last year. Instead of taking the regular route via Sultan Bathery, we took a detour and had come via Gudalur. And what a drive it was! This is one of the most picturesque roads in South India. So, when Carry told us about Mango Range, we were excited to do this trip next time.

On a lazy Friday morning we decided to try out this place. Got the telephone number from Carry and called up to check availability. "Yes, it is available" said Ms Meenu Mandanna Nair who manages it. "But be prepared for rains" she warned. We were well prepared as we knew it will be pouring in that area. The weather forecast was also suggesting the same.

Leaving Bangalore at 7 in the morning, we took our usual route via Kanakapura to reach Gundlupet. The sky was overcast. Rains in the past few days had turned the parched lands green. The farmers were busy in the fields. There was slight chill in the air. 

The road through out is in excellent condition. Driving through the forests of Bandipur and Mudhumalai was a pleasant experience. The rains has converted the whole place green and lovely. Few weeks back the same forest was brown and dry.Turning right at Gudalur, we were now in tea country. It is green everywhere. The last few KMs from the Highway to the bungalow was just lovely. Winding roads inside the estate through expanse of green was eye candy. Give it to British to choose the best spot to have their residences. The Sinnadorai Bungalow in Mango range is on top of small hillock with lovely views. (We could not see them due to mist :-( ).

This is a cute little British bungalow under the canopy of a huge pine tree. It is unlike Kadamane estate which is bigger. This makes the place charming and exclusive. It has only three rooms. Each room is large with its own sit out/veranda. There is a fireplace in each room as well. The anteroom is large and elegant. Lot of antique furniture spread out in all the rooms. The dining hall with antique furniture is apt. It did not take too much of time for us to fall in love with this place. 

We had plans to drive around after lunch. That was not to be as it started raining and whole place was enveloped with mist. It was lovely to sit in the veranda and hear the sound of the rain drops. The mist ensured that there was no point to driving and better spend time with a book in hand.

The rains stopped for a while and we took a walk in the estate. The whole estate was drowned in clouds. We could see the layers of clouds passing by us as we walked around the estate inhaling the cleanest air!. 

It started raining and we rushed back to spend the evening with bubbly in hand listening to the sounds of cicada, frogs et al.....

We woke up to the calls of Malabar whistling trush. The rains continued, mist was everywhere. It was a lovely, lazy morning. Rain and mist meant no walking around. Sipping excellent tea sitting in the veranda listening to "whistling schoolboy" made our day.

We bid good bye after a good breakfast. This time we drove via Sultan Bathery. The return drive was delightful. A lovely road. Excellent weather.......chilll, intermittent drizzle, misty. We switched off the AC, opened the windows and let the "atmosphere come in"!!

We will leave you with few pictures we had taken when we drove on this road. Look, how lovely the vistas are.

You can see the "needle peak" in this shot
We are sure we will come back again to explore it further.

Travel Tips

Distance from 

Bangalore - 285 KMs 
Coimbatore - 200 KMs
Mysore - 134 KMs
Recommended Route from Bangalore (click on the links below)

We would recommend you to go by one and return by other to get the best of both!

Getting there

By Road - The best option. Either to drive oneself of take a bus to Gudalur from where one can rent a jeep to go to Pandalur. 

By Air - Nearest airport is Mysore.

By Train - Not a good option as the nearest station is Nanjangud which is 112 KMs away.

Best time to go - Any time of the year.

Other Information

a) A great place chill out and relax. Also to explore Nilgiris, Mudhumalai, Bandipur and Wayanad. Ooty is 70 KMs and Kalpetta (Wayanad) is 45 KM.

b) Ooty and Wayanad can be comfortably done as day trips. So is Bandipur/Mudhumalai.

c) The staff in bungalow will take you for a guided walk. Animal sighting is common. Elephants, barking deer are sighted often. If lucky, one can also see leopard.

d) A drive to needle peak is a fascinating experience where you get 360 degree view of Nilgiris.

e) You can also visit the tea factory to watch how tea is processed.

f) The staff can also arrange for a visit to "Gold Mines" - yes, gold mines - in the area. These are not regular mines but mined locally by tribals.

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Skywatch Friday - Chinese Fishing Nets @ Kochi

There are certain images that will remain with you after you visit a place. 

If you visit Kochi in Kerala, South India, the Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi will be the one you will not forget easily.

These are huge. Unlike traditional fishing by boats, the nets are fixed and stationary. They are operated by the age old "Pulley" mechanism tied with huge stones at one end.

When we were in Kochi few years back, we happenned to see these nets and laid our hands to operate them as well! 

The sky was overcast. It was morning presenting a picture perfect shot. These nets look lovely with sun setting in the backdrop.

Take a look at this fantastic pictures by Arun Bhat in his blog here - Chinese fishing Nets @ Kochi 


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Chattisgarh Chronicles IV - Tokapol Haat and Lal Chinti ki Chutney!

We were hungry as we left Tiratgarh. Chetan suggested that we go to Makri dhabha on the way to Tokapal haat which was our next stop. We were not sure how the food in dhabha would be as we had not seen many in Chattisgarh. Wherever we go, we try and eat local cuisine. Unfortunately, we were not able to get much in Chattisgarh. The dhabha served us typical Punjabi dish. Surprisingly, the food was very good. The best part of lunch was the Kheer.

Weekly haats or Weekly market in Chattisgarh is a scene not to be missed. Every village has a weekly haat. These are something similar to weekly markets we have in our villages. The haats in Bastar generally starts by afternoon and end by sun set. These haats are held on one of the days in the week. The weekly haat in Narayanpur is supposed to be largest and most colourful. Since it is held on Mondays, we had missed it and had to settle for haat at Tokapal which is held on Tuesdays. 

These haats are the nerve centre of Chhattisgarh’s economy. This is also the place for social networking among the tribals. As we moved towards Tokapal, we could see tribals walking over long distances  on bare foot to the haat with their produce. 

What makes Bastar's weekly haats a “not to be missed” event on any tourist itenarary is the amazing vibrancy and energy it has. It is also a place to buy mindboggling variety of items. Everything is sold and bought here. From home made jiggery (gur) to dried fish to dried mahua flowers and fighter cocks! If lucky, you can taste local cuisine as well. We had Bajjis and samosas and washed it with Salfi, the freshly brewed palm beer. Salfi is light beer and taste little tangy and good. We were looking for liquor made of mahua but could not get any. Women in colourful dresses dominate these haats and obviously make the place very colourful. 

Mounds of Home Made Jaggery
Women in all hues and colours
As we were moving around, we stop at a stall selling a familiar looking sweet. It looked like what we call it as “Haalu bai” in Kannada and is made of Coconut, Rice and Jaggery (Halu in Kannada means Milk and Bayi means sweet). We were surprised to see it being sold in the market in Bastar! It almost tasted like ours. I could not get the recipe from the lady selling as she could not speak Hindi! 

Jaggery and Rice sweet similar to our "Haalu Bayi"
Moving on, we saw mounds of dried Mahua flowers being sold. I asked Chetan, our guide as what do they do with it. I get a surprise answer from him “Liquor”. Yes. The tribals brew liquor out of these dried Mahua flowers. Mahua trees grow in abundance in the region and they produce mildly scented mahua flowers which tribal women adorn their hair with.  

Dried Mahua flowers
We continue our exploration of Haat soaking in its vibrant colours and energy. We stop suddenly to see this woman selling live red ants! Is it “lal chinti ki chutney” (Red ants chutney), I ask Chetan. He nods in affirmative. We could not believe our eyes. These were live red ants peppered with Masala!! Like Russian caviar and French blue cheese, this has to be an acquired taste. Either you like it or despise it. We did not dare to experiment being veggies. But for non vegetarians it should be an experience of life time! We had read about lal chinti ki chutney and we were seeing it live now! 

Live ants marinated in Masala - Lal Chinti ki Chutney!!
We come out of the Haat and see a group of people negotiating the price of a cock. I ask Chetan what was this all about. Chetan say that these are fighter cocks and prized ones! Cock fighting is a big game in Chattisgarh and huge bets are laid during these fights. It is also a prestige issue for owners. Fierce competition ensues in these cock fighting sessions. We could not see any in Tokapal haat and Chetan said it was being held at a place which was ten KMs away. 
Negotiating to buy a fighter cock!

It was getting late to go to Chitrakote falls. We had to drop the idea of seeing the cock fight.

Next post in the series - Chitrakote falls, the Niagara of Asia!

If you are planning a trip to Chattisgarh, you may follow this series. The last post in the series can be found here - 


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Food Safari - In search of Udupi Sambar!

Firstly this should have been titled as "In search of Udupi Huli"......

Nevertheless, this is an interesting article for all food lovers who are in search of traditional cuisine of our country.

Mitra Samaj is an Iconic restaurant in Udupi like Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) in Bangalore, India Coffee House in Calcutta or Lakshmi Mishtan Bhandar (LMB) in Jaipur.....

It is also interesting to note that there are different types of "Huli" made based on varied recipes. Read more on this in this article published in "The Hindu" newspaper by clicking the link below.

In search of Udupi Sambar

When you are in Udupi, don't miss visiting Mitra Samaj for its famous "Goli Bajjis". Of course, taste sambar as well......

If you are looking for details on visiting Udupi, you may look at this post in this blog.

Karavali Vistas II - Udupi, Mangalore and Bekal


Monday, 10 June 2013

Lovely Lalbagh after rains!

Come rains, the gardens of Bangalore come back to life. 

Cubbon Park and Lalbagh looks lovely in the mornings after overnight rains have washed the trees and cleaned them up. It is a pleasure to take a walk or jog early in the morning after overnight rains in these two public gardens. 

We were there on Saturday on our usual weekend sojourn to Lalbagh. As we jogged our way through on a lovely morning, we saw small little yellow lilies in a part of the garden. The lilies - not sure its actual name - had sprouted all around after the rains and it was a sweep of yellow. It was a fabulous sight!

I had seen similar yellow carpet of flowers in Hyde Park, London and in Kew Gardens in England. Here we see them in our own Lalbagh!

This place is very close to the giant Silk Cotton tree which is a land mark in Lalbagh.

Go there before they wither away.


Friday, 7 June 2013

Chattisgarh Chronicles III - Caving in Kutumsar and Tiratgarh Falls

We bid good bye to the colourful Bison Horn Maria tribe and head towards discovering Kanger valley park and Tiratgarh Falls.

The drive is nice and through woods. The forests here mostly are dry deciduous and the landscape is generally brown at this time of the year (October). I was asking Chetan, our guide, whether we will be able to spot “Hill Myna” - the beautiful bird which almost imitates human voice - seen extensively in this area. I was a bit disappointed when he said that the probability was remote as these birds have been either shot and eaten by tribals or captured and sold as pets. There could have been a possibility to see them early in the morning. But definitely not at 12 Noon!

The reception kiosk of Kanger Park was not crowded and the lady behind the counter issue us entry ticket to go to caves and falls. There are no safaris or naturalists as guides in this park. Kanger is spread over large area and sustained by numerous streams and rivers. It is a bio-diversity hot spot. The park has Leopards, sloth beer, etc. But still, you don’t have any one to help explore the area which is tad sad.

Kanger has three clusters of caves – Kailash, Kutumsar and Dandak. Kutumsar caves are at a distance of 12 KMS from reception and you drive through the pristine forest. This journey itself was like a safari and we were eager to spot any animals. We were not lucky though. Parking done, a guide with torch joined us to take us into the caves.

Panoramic view of  Kanger national park with Tiratgarh falls in the background
Caving is fascinating. Kutumsar caves were discovered in eighties and are one of the finest stalactite caves in the country. The caves are open only after October and are closed during monsoons. You enter through a narrow creek – one person can enter at a time – and has to struggle to get inside.

Once inside, you will be treated to an awesome array of stalactite formations. Since the roof is high, it gives feeling of huge room. The length of the cave should be around 300 meters. It is very humid inside. There is absolutely no sunlight. This place is also known for “Blind fish” or “Albino fish”. We could not see any. We had seen them in the “Planet earth” documentaries on Caves by BBC. The guide was showing us the formations and I was trying to capture them on camera when the battery drained out. We normally carry additional set and it was kept in the car which was far away. Anyway, we were not able to capture these sights in our camera. 

Narrow entry into the cave. Yours truly in striped Tee....
Lovely Stalactite formations - I
Stalactite formation - II
Entry to the main hall of Cave
We climb up and return to the parking lot. We notice tribal women selling a kind of fruit. We got curious and started talking to the ladies asking them what they were. They said it was “Tendu” fruit and a bowl would cost five rupees. I had heard about “tendu” leaves which are used to make beedis - a kind of local cigarette - but never knew it also bore fruits! The fruit looks and tastes similar to Chiku and has big seeds. 

Caves done, we were eager to see Tiratgarh falls. The excitement had started well in advance as we had seen the falls through binoculars from a view point on the way. It looked lovely. Another drive through forests for 10 KMs brought us to the falls. 

Every waterfall has its own character and beauty. At Tiratgarh the Kanger River gently cascades over layers of rocks. Thanks to the fact that the river is not dammed, there was enough water even at this time of the year. The best time to see any waterfall is after monsoons. Nevertheless, it made a good spectacle.

Tiratgarh falls cascading over the rocky cliff
Climbing up from the falls was tiring and it was close to lunch time. We were now in search of good dhabha for a well deserved lunch!

The pictures of Kutumsar caves is the courtesy of Aravind G J. His experience of caving in Kutumsar can be read in his excellent blog here. - Visit to Kutumsar Caves

Next Post - Weekly Haat (tribal market) and Lal Chinti ki chutney (spicy wild ants)

If you are planning a trip to Chattisgarh, you may follow this series. The first two posts in the series can be found here.

Chattisgarh Chronicles 1 - The Drive from Bangalore to Bastar

Chattisgarh Chronicles II - Dancing with Bison Horn Maria Tribe!