Archive for the My-Travel Category

Australia – The Land Down Under

Posted in My-Travel on December 23, 2014 by prajwalpai

AUS1

I had never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be choosing to visit Australia for a vacation. The seeds of this getaway was planted in Deepti’s mind when she joined ANZ. The constant ‘visit Australia’ ad during Masterchef Australia just watered and nurtured them. Her official reason was for me to cover yet another Continent. I need to give Deepti complete credit for flawlessly planning our itinerary patiently for several weeks. She decided which states to cover, in which order and how much days we spend in each city. I hardly got involved with any of the planning till the tickets were booked. She had done such thorough research that I would believe that she has actually lived in Australia for some time.

This will be bit of a Travel Blog but more of a memory log. I have come to realise that a blog accompanying some snaps are a wonderful way to refresh memories. I stumble into some of my old travel blogs and it’s a nice feeling to relive those wonderful trips after many years.

I didn’t wanna write one big blog covering everything and hence this generic blog on Australia. The later instalments with specifics on each city of visit will follow.  I have to make it clear that my idea of Australia comprises of just Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast. It may be like just visiting Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai might not give us authority to make generic statements about India, but take all of this with a pinch of salt.

Australia – Flora and Fauna:

The land down under was isolated from rest of world for a very very very long time. This is very much evident in the Flora and Fauna of this region. The nature’s self-healing is at its best display. All trees are evergreen and shed leaves across the year. The thick layer of leaves just piles on and on and the seeds from trees never make it to soil. The natures answer to decomposition is ‘Bush fire’. The bush fires create the mineral rich ash and allow the sun rays and seeds reach the soil. Most trees now do not have fruit but dry seeds and they have a trigger mechanism to drop the seeds ONLY after a bush fire. Isn’t that amazing!! They actually have controlled bush fires now. The animal kingdom isn’t far behind either – Australia has most of Marsupials and most of the species found in Australia doesn’t exist in other parts of the world. The Marsupials ( animals with pouch) have adapted to the most extreme survival conditions. The most shocking fact is their adaptability for reproduction. The gestation period for a  kangaroo is just a month but they have a ‘special power’ to pause their pregnancy! A kangaroo can pause its pregnancy midway during the gestation period if the conditions around gets too hard to survive. It can pause the pregnancy for as long as 5 years!! How adaptive is that!

Australia – The People!

Our visit just covered 3 places and we were pleasantly surprised to see how friendly the people were. Most people we met were all very welcoming. I wasn’t expecting to see a huge Chinese population and the presence of China-town in both Melbourne and Sydney. The local’s were extremely friendly and I mistook this over-friendliness for sarcasm, initially. The country has immense Brit influence and sometimes I felt I was back in London whilst talking to people. The driver greeting us, strangers saying ‘Hi’ on eye contact did add to the good experience.

Australia – The Transport :

The one thing without which I cannot imagine this vacation is Google Maps! We didn’t opt for a package tour and so had to plan each of the smallest detail ourself. The free-wifi helped us at most places but my new Optus sim with an unlimited internet (well, almost), was at our rescue at every step. The google map giving directions in ‘Bus’ mode was the best. The maps even predict accurately, at which time the bus will arrive at our stop! Melbourne has a free tram to get around CBD and we got a one day pass in Hop-on-hop-off tourist bus. Our hotel location in Sydney couldn’t have been better. All the attractions in Sydney were within walking distance from our hotel! Gold Coast was the place where we used the bus/tram transport to the fullest. In about less than 2 days, we were comfortable in even giving directions(and bus numbers) to the others tourists!

Australia – Our Timing!

The delays in passport and Visa would have forced us to push this vacation next year but somehow we managed to squeeze it. Australia, apparently gets very hot in December , Schoolies everywhere and not to forget- expensive! A couple of weddings too, made us postpone the travel dates. In retrospect, our timing couldn’t have been better. Melbourne is supposed to have a fickle weather but it was ‘well-behaved’ during our 2 day stay. However, the day after we left, earthquakes were reported in Melbourne. Sydney too, had severe storms the weekend after we left. The Lindt Cafe was hardly a minute walk from our stay. We did get drenched in GoldCoast once, but we could hardly complain. We stayed in Goldcoast for 5 days and it was a nice experience to get drenched. Our snorkelling wasn’t interrupted by the weather conditions. The Sky Dive for my next batch might have cancelled due to rain and dense clouds but the weather Gods made sure I had clear blue sky during my dive.

 12 days, 3 states, 7 flights , 1000+ photos and innumerable memories! Each penny we spent was worth it. All in all, I believe Australia tourism has the most appropriate tag line – “There’s nothing like Australia.”

Kodai – A drive to remember

Posted in My-Travel on January 2, 2012 by prajwalpai

After a lot of cancelled plans, I just wanted to go somewhere for the year end..anywhere.. When the 114 gang mentioned plans of Kodai, I was already on my toes. I knew that even though the agreed time of departure is 22:00 IST , we would invariably be leaving after mid-night as always. Having that in mind, I went a bit early to JP Nagar to spend some quality time with Deepti.

The most historic event that happened during this trip and I doubt that it will ever repeat is the fact that Maggi was on time! It was hardly 22:30 when I got a call that Maggi is already waiting for us at BTM. None of us could belive this till we actually witnessed this Once in a lifetime occurrence. We set out on our journey to Kodai. Our first stop was at a Cafe Coffee day on Hosur road. We celebrated Anoop’s B’day by a Pastry cutting ceremony. We stopped at some place for a quick breakfast by some 8 in the morning. This trip will be memorable for me as one of the best driving experience I ever had. I had not slept the previous night for some reason I don’t recall now, Despite that, I drove for 530KM in a stretch with hardly any breaks and throughout the night. It was raining at parts and the early morning drive on NH7 was blissful as is seen in that above snap. After breakfast, we headed up the mountains of Kodai through the Ghat sections where Rahul took the wheel. We reached by noon and to say the place was cold would be a gross understatement. I just crashed on the bed as soon as I saw one while the rest of the gang went for lunch.

On New year eve, we were sitting together and were just playing cards indoor. It only got colder in the evening, The visibility was hardly few feet and all we could see was dense fog. We had a nice dinner with the resort guy preparing chapathis and Egg bhurgi and some other curry for us. We all headed back to our rooms by 10ish.

At the 11th hour, We set foot outside to eat Pizza! At literally the 11th hour of news years eve, we set out an expedition in search of pizza. On my normal clothes, I was wearing a thick pullover with a hood and on that I was wearing my thick jacket. I even wore gloves as I felt the severe chills. After a long uphill walk, we discovered the location of Dominos Pizza. I had no appetite for a pizza but that didn’t stop me from having a Choco lava cake! This was one of the yummiest thing I have ever had or may be the long trek made me a bit hungry. We all headed back to the resort as it was close to mid night.  The first person I wished this new year was Deepti, This year is gonna be a milestone year for both of us. We all were back to the Resort minutes before mid-night and all hugged each other as the clock struck 12!

I had one of the sweetest sleep of my life on this night in the chilled weather of Kodai. On the first day of the new year, I woke up at 6 without any alarm, I had got complete and deep sleep and at 6, I was as fresh as I can get. It was a beautiful morning with the sun was still looking like a ball of fire hiding behind the mountains. While I witnessed the sun rise, I immediately called up Deepti as I wanted her to be the first person I talk to this year. Kodai was hardly visible the previous day but at 7 in the morning, I could see the beautiful landscape of Kodai. The tiny and nicely built houses on the slopes of the hills reminded me of Switzerland. Only now, I noticed that our car parked outside our room was actually parked on the cliff. AT 7 I was hungry after bath and Rahul was awake too and hence We went to the small hotel across the road for a quick breakfast. I love to eat pongal anywhere in TamilNadu and I love the tengai chutney it comes with. I was having the best day and It only got better after we roamed around Kodai, We saw a couple of tourist spots and did a fair amount of shopping.

The journey back was pleasant except for the hiccup for lunch. The first day of the year was a beautiful experience and I am hoping the year only gets better. I have a lot of things lined up for this year with my marriage on the headlines. I am hoping this year 2012 will only bring good things into my life.

Kaptivating Kodachadri!!

Posted in My-Travel on September 20, 2011 by prajwalpai

The Prelude!

Finally it was down to Fantastic Four to set on this epic trek. The numbers had drastically come down but that didn’t stop us. Sushruth has dropped off at the final moment but that didn’t stop us. It was supposed to be raining hard in Kodachadri but that didn’t stop us. We had no clue about our accommodation there but that didn’t stop us.  As far as I remember, This is my first trip with the boys without Sushruth. This was my first trip ever when I had not carried my camera. This was the smallest trek group which we had set on. Maggi, Darshan , Rahul and Me were the final travelers. As usual, We all got together and were waiting for Maggi to join us. We managed to catch 12.30 bus to Shimoga.

Day 1. Shimoga -> Karekatte -> Kodachadri

We reached Shimoga at 5.30 and went directly to Rahul’s place to get freshened up.  I was in shimoga after a year and I could see a lot of transformations. Rahul’s mum and dad were great hosts. Rahuls dad told us what bus to take and where to get down and where to have food. Rahul’s mum fixed us a delicious breakfast to start an energetic day.

Day 1 Breakfast : Awesome Avallakki and Piping hot Paddu. 

We got on to a bus to Kollur. I slept through the journey and didn’t realize that we took close to 4 hours for this journey. The private bus was actually over crowded. We had 2 routes in mind. The first was a long route following the Jeep track. The Second route was through a patch of Jungle crossing some waterfalls. We were hoping to take the second route. Rahul’s dad suggested a third and the shortest route. The bus conductor dropped us off at ‘Karekatte’. We were hoping that we would see at least some petty shop where the trekking starts but we were dropped at a god forsaken land in middle of the jungle. What a change the chirping birds and cool morning breeze of Karekatte was from the shrieking honks and pollution of our Bangalore.

As we started at 11.30, We had a lot of blood sucking leaches to welcome us onto their terrain. I had donated blood at office the previous day but seems I was due for more involuntary donation. This was my worst experience with leeches. The others had been to worse leech infected but this was the worst that I had seen. It was here that I realised that even blood sucking leeches could be seen as a motivator for keep us on our toes, These leeches made sure that we never stopped on our way to even catch a breather and were constantly on the move. At 2’O clock, We had accomplished to reach half way. The trek so far was easy but only for the irritating leaches.

There is a joke which says that When Neil Armstrong had landed on moon, He was greeted by a Mallu who had set up a chai stall there. I now wanna believe that it’s not too far from reality. We trekked for some 5 km into the jungle only to find a Mallu hotel.

Day 1 Lunch : Ideal Idly and Tasty Tea.

After close to rock solid idly and a refreshing tea, We set off towards our destination. We were fresh now and we now had a weapon against the blood suckers. The Mallu guy prepared a mix of salt and lime into a small cloth and tied it to a small stick and finally dipping into neem oil. As soon as the leech gets into contact with this, It just gives up sucking blood. So after we crossed the Level-1. We earned this weapon against our enemies.

Post lunch it was a literally uphill task. The Leeches unleashed a stronger wave of attack but we were well prepared this time. This phase of the trek was the most difficult I felt. This moment we realized that it was a good thing that only we four set on this journey. We could think of many people who couldn’t endure this terrain and stress. Special Kudos to Darshan who did keep pace with us even with a bit of problem in his ankle. The patch through the jungle was very steep but towards the peak we came across the green grasslands. After some 2 hours , we finally were able to spot the Inspection bureau. With a renewed energy, we reached after half hour of more walking. The timing was perfect, Just as we reached a shelter outside the IB, It started pouring. This rain continued till next day noon. We were extremely lucky to have a very trek under favorable weather.

Day 1 Evening Snacks : Awesome Avalakki and powerboost Peda

We enquired at the Bhattru Mane but didn’t find a positive response. We had sleeping bags but still needed a place to crash. Maggs and Rahula struck a deal with the guy at IB. The IB was wonderfull building and there was a tree right outside that building. This was one of the most beautiful tree which reminded me of “Whomping Willow” from Harry Potter. We were told that even though its closed for renovation, It would be unofficially open for us to crash that night. While we waited for that to happen, We unpacked the avalakki that Rahul’s mum had packed and also the Sweet peda giving us a quick boost of energy.

Day 1 Dinner : Mane Meals!

It was raining from the time we arrived, We couldn’t make a trip to the peak to see the Sarvajna Peeta. It was raining so heavily , we couldn’t even go out for a tea at a shop next lane. The bonus of staying here in IB was the night meals and the morning breakfast. The IB guy cooked our dinner at his house. It was a simple rice and Sambar with pickles and tangy chutney. This simple home food was more than what we could ask for having endured a long day of strenuous trek. The night we slept inside IB. We slept with plans to see the peak at early morning and also the plan was to trek our way down. We did a lot of stretching ( Thanks Koli) and I hardly know when the sun rose.

Day 2 Breakfast : Lime and Lemony Lemon rice!

It had rained the whole night. We woke up by 8 but it was still no sign of sun ad-mist the thick mist and the persistent rains. Our plans of trekking to the peak went off the window. We were hungry and I have never loved Lemon rice more than this day. May be it was the abnormally active digestion the previous day, but I took 3 servings of Lemon rice. We were having second thoughts on walking down the hills and the 20-feet visibility only added to our woes. We thought it would be wise to take a jeep as we had plans to reach Shimoga before 4 if possible. The Jeep ride again was the highlight of the day. We were extremely happy about making the right decision to hire a jeep.

Day 2 Lunch : Mane Meals again!

The 4X4 jeep ride resulted in a sudden adrenaline rush. No words would make justice to the beauty of the nature we witnessed on our way down. It was heaven painted green only the angels were missing. We were dropped by the jeep to Sampe Katte. We narrowly missed our bus to Shimoga and so decided to look for a hotel for lunch before the next bus. We came across a place called ‘Hotel Kodachadri’, It was nothing more than a small house with the front room having a table and few chairs. Again we were greeted here with delicious Mane oota. We got the bus to shimoga at 2 and reached Shimoga by 4.15! Thus ended our Kodachadri trek!

Shimoga Tour!

We picked up Rahul’s car and even without getting into Rahul’s house, we drove to Anoops place. We collected our return journey tickets and dropped him to railway station. It was after a year that I was back in Shimoga. The first thing I wanted to do more than anything else was to see the House where I had most of my memories. Half of the house was in rubble. I could hardly recognise the house where I had spent some 15 years of my life. Thats how life is I guess, Things change beyond recognition but you still feel a connection. Many roads have come up and a lot of new bungalows.

Day 2 evening Snack : Meenakshi-bhawan Masale!

 Maggi and Darshan asked us to take them to the place which makes best Masala Dosa in Shimoga. We took him to Meenakshi Bhawan and it indeed were good. We then went back to take a video of my house and a small round of Shimoga. I wanted to see what all had changed. We headed back to Rahuls place to have the much-needed bath and wash off all signs of Kodachadri.

The Afterword

I think this was one of my most perfectly organised trek. The only plan we had was we didn’t have a plan.We had the best of food every-time during this trek. We all enjoyed the food as much as we enjoyed the trek. so, I did a special mention of all the food too.  We were blessed with a good weather. It had not rained the previous night we trekked, So it was not too slippery. The whole day we trekked, It didn’t rain till we reached our destination. We were very lucky to reach our shelter just in time , even a few mins of delay would have got us completely drenched and would have made things difficult for us. We four people were the best coordinated lot. We had no controversy, no objections, no voting,no arguments. We were always together and always in agreement about everything we did. A satisfying experience all in all. Lets hope to have more of these. Thanks Gang!

Venki Weds

Posted in My-Travel on March 31, 2011 by prajwalpai

There was a special moment during this trip when I felt good. We all were travelling from Ananthpur to Hyderabad, We were accompanying the Groom’s family troop in a mini bus. I was surrounded by my friends, Subbu,Rahul , Sunil and Sush. I was listening to some song on my iPod which I had more or less not used from few months. A nice breeze from the window with some movie playing in the vehicle. I have no clue why this moment was special for me, may be because I had a genuine smile on my face after long time, may be I wasn’t feeling too lonely for the first time in few months. All I remember is that I was enjoying that very moment.

Venk’s marriage was a long-awaited event. Venki had informed us about the dates and the Venue very well in advance. Venki had a small function in Kurnool on 18th early morning, 18th evening was the reception at Ananthpur. Marriage was on 19th in Ananthpur and finally a reception in Hydrabad.  This trip was one of the worst planned trip in long time. Even the day before reception, We had done no booking. Me and Rahul had off on 17th and so I was in 114 early on Wednesday. I didn’t get involved much but plans of going by car was cancelled and around 1 week before the event, Subbu booked flight tickets for return. Car being ruled out, we booked bus tickets to Kurnool starting 17th night. When I got involved, things changed. We had long discussion on the departure time and consequently We cancelled these tickets just hours before the journey and decided to skip Kurnool and head directly to Ananthpur. The worst part of this mess in plans hours before journey was we left out Anoop who was already travelling to Kurnool from Coimbatore while we were cancelling everything.

So we set out on 18th morning. We went in some APSRTC bus which was super slow. We got the first taste of Andra when we stopped for lunch at a dhaba. The whole journey of that tomato masala from tongue to tummy through the esophagus was a trail of fire. Tears rolled out to put off the fire. Welcoming us at the Venue were posters of Venki with his fiancée. The groom’s hadn’t reached yet, We being the groom’s friends were given a warm welcome. Venki entered the hall with a ribbon cutting ceremony which was followed by spot the bride competition.There was a HUGE basket and a giant heart-shaped and Venki got it right that She was hidden in the giant heart.

Ananthpur Reception

Two words that could sum up all the events, excitement,the liveliness of this evening was ‘Jolly boys’. The reception was electrified and made memorable by this hyper active entertainment group. The singers were really good and the liveliness was contagious. They made the whole crowd get involved into their act. The highlights of the evening was Venki’s dance with his fiancée.. Sush requested a kannada song and the singer surprisingly sang it wonderfully. Basanthi joined us for the reception.

The Marriage

The marriage was grand and traditional. I saw many traditions which I hadn’t seen before. It appeared fun and the bride and the groom were blissfully happy doing everything everybody was asking them to do with a grin on their face. We all were happy to be there, to see Venki enter into a new phase in his life. Anoop and Basanth went back to bangalore the same day. We all had to get to Hyderabad the same day, Our initial plan was to go by bus or hire some transport which we can use in Hyderabad too. We finally changed our mind and decided to join the baraath in their bus only, Since many of Venki’s relatives were relatively familiar now, we all thought it would be fun to join them and convenient for us too. With so many ppl, the journey was indeed fun. I went into a state of bliss during this journey at one point of time. We reached Hyderabad early morning by 4ish.

Hyderabad

Our stay in Hyderabad started with a BANG.. literally.. the lock of our hotel room got screwed up. Me , Rahul and Subbu were struck inside our room and the hotel guys had to break open the door which again took some 2 hours of loud bang bang. The reception was on Sunday and so we had a whole saturday for Hyderabad darshan. We had many things in mind but the first on our list was the Fort golkonda. Venk’s uncle gave us a vehicle with driver so that we could see around. We hired a guide and he showed around the whole fort, The whole fort is so huge and so much of walking around, It took us more than a couple of hours to come back to where we started from. We loved the place as its such a picturesque place and Sush and Subbu clicked some million pictures. It started raining when we came back and our plans for rest of the evening were washed out. The vehicle was needed back and so we headed back to the hotel. The drainage of Hy’bad is one of the most mismanaged system in the world I think, Just few mins of rain resulted in almost floods and total chaos. When we had almost reached hotel, we decided not to call it a day yet. We gave up the vehicle and caught a rickshaw to Hussain Sagar Lake. It had rained a lot and it was almost closing time and so there were almost no ppl. We took a boat ride in that lake and Buddha Statue looked majestic in the night. The next stop was the most famous Hyderabadi Biryani, We went to Paradise Hotel and had a feast there. Subbu was the happiest of the lot having the mutton biryani while rest of us had to be content with the veggie. From there we went to Venki’s Apartment. The newly weds were on their way and we were there at his apartment to welcome them. The rituals and all the halla gulla lasted till some 2 in the morning and we went back to our hotel.

Hyderabad Reception

The Hyderabad reception was the final thing in our agenda. The reception was in the evening and so we had time to explore a bit more of Hy’bad. We decided that Hy’bad trip  would be incomplete without seeing Charminar. We paid a visit to the reception hall and asked for directions. We decided to travel in a bus and it was a good but long experience. It turned out that charminar was indeed on the other side of Hy’bad and we took close to 1.5 hours to reach there with moderate traffic conditions. The Charminar is a great monument but again nothing special to mention about it I feel. We went to the chudi bazaar as Sush wanted to buy some girly stuff.  This street reminded me so much about of the khan el khalili of Cairo. We headed back to the reception on time. When we reached the hall , we were able to see almost the same crowd of Ananthpur. The biggest difference here was the Orchestra. The acoustic of the hall was pathetic and the choice of songs of this group was making it worse. He was singing some unknown old hindi songs. We all endured that music for couple of hours and went back by mid night.

Venki’s wedding will be a thing we will cherish for really long time. We were present at every aspect of the marriage. We got to know so many of his relatives. This experience personally for me pushed me out of a depression and hence very memorable. I hope this couple live happily ever after.

Off Season

Posted in My-Travel on November 24, 2010 by prajwalpai

No two words could better sum up my laziest trip of 5 days in Goa. We did enjoy every bit of it but still somehow feels unfruitful. Sush has decided to write a blog on what NOT to do in Goa. We had so many plans before we started our journey. The trip was planned in Jan, Mahesh aka Maggi does have a resolution to be in Goa during his Birthday every year. His birthday falls on June 6. We did go to Goa in June a few years back and is part of my fond memories. We hoped to better it this time. As with every trip of mine, It was initially a big group of 8-9 ppl and narrowed down to 5 ppl. We decided to go in Sush’s car.

The Actual Plans:

We had so many things lined up and planned that we were concerned if 5 days would be enough time. Main attraction of our plan was Scuba diving which would take almost one day,Then there anyway was the exotic water sports covering Para-sailing,Water Bike and the never tried before Banana boat. Then there was the Dolphin ride which we had been on few years back. Playing at beach was a given and finally to visit Basilica of Bom Jesus where the dead body of St. Francis Xavier is on display. Rahul claimed that the dead body’s fingernails are still growing and we did carry a nail cutter all the way from Bangalore.

The Hotel!

The Alu da paratha

The Alu da paratha

Sarita’s was the hotel we stayed in. We had high expectations with this place as we have been hearing of the melting Alu Paratha at this place for 2 months from Maggi. Darshan too had hyped up the place and he too did a special mention of the melting Alu Paratha.  Staying at place was an enjoyable experience but somehow in the back of mind this was a huge strategic mistake. This place was in south goa and it very far from the places of our interest. We lost an hour everyday to go to any place and again close to an hour to come back to our hotel. The food tasted good on first day, The Alu Paratha was indeed good but not really worth the hype i think.The eating place was literally on the beach and was very serene as the Bogmolo beach was totally deserted with high tides.

Road to Goa:

The departure schedule was 21:30 but we counted on Maggi to be on time at 01:30. Me and Rahul slept off after packing rather than waiting. 02:00 has been our standard departure time lately and this time it was no better. Our first stop was Davanagere to have Davanagere Benne dosa for breakfast. This really set the tone of our journey ahead. What was to follow was peda from Dharwad and Kunda from Belgaum and lots of Fish in Goa. As usual we started at some 2 in the night. We didnt mind a late start as we had 5 whole days in Goa and nothing was planned. First stop was for Davanagere Benne Dosa for Breakfast and what better place to have that than at Davanagere itself.

Day 1:

After leaving Davanagere, Goa was our next stop. We reached Goa at 14:00. We went to some beach on our way, I think it was Benaulim beach, not sure if my memory is serving me right. It was a very isolated and rather non-commercial beach and there were hardly any people on this beach. We noticed many small snake-like creatures on this beach and many crabs and stuff. It was fun to walk on this beach but we were hungry too. We went to a hotel on this beach and had our first sizzler here. It was almost sunset time when we reached Colva. We had stayed in Colva in a cottage kinda thing on our previous Goa trip. Sush and Rahul couldn’t resist a dip in the beach. After some shopping, We set to the much hyped ‘Saritas’. That night we had yummy food at the next door hotel called ‘John SeaGull’s.

Day 2:

The second day started with a delicious Honey Pan cake.

Honey Pan cake

We set out the day with lot of plans. We had now enquired that Scuba Diving wasnt an option anymore cause it was still ‘OFF-Season’. Our first stop was a fish market which Maggi wanted to see badly. He is a pure vegetarian but has a fetish for fishing and seeing/touching fish,surprises me to the core. We then went to a dead port where we hardly saw anything before heading towards Fort Aguada. We stopped for a Dolphin ride only to realise that it was closed as it was ‘OFF-SEASON’. This was the first of a series of ‘off-season’ things to happen. We went to fort Aguada. I love this place for the serenity this has and more than the fort there was a place around the fort. A place where I think guards used to be there. A walk down here was wonderful, It was a bit of drizzle but the visit to this place was worth it. It was sunset time and we headed towards Calangute, We spent a bit of time on the beach before going to Sauza Lobo. We had great food last time at Sauza Lobo, this is a
78 old  restaurant. Sush was getting restless to dance but none of us joined. Finally some good person in the next table couldn’t see his plight anymore and took him to the dance floor.We then went to ‘Electric Cats’ restaurant and had sizzler’s.  The electric Cats restaurant was a recommended hotel by Lonely Planet travel guide and the food here tasted the best in Goa. The mocktail we had here were out of the world.

Day 3:

First stop on day 4 was Baaga Beach. We were sad that there were no water sports at Calangute beach cause it was ‘OFF SEASON’. Then we headed to the Wegetor fort or the DCH fort. After clicking the routine pics at the DCH spot, We walked to the most desolated spot in the fort. This place was magical . We were here till almost 8 in the night. We have had so much of delicious food in GOa till this time that we decided to have a plain veg meal at plantain leaf. Since Rahul with his upset tummy was in so much need of a loo, we stopped at a restaurant called ‘Bamboo Palace’, We decided that we will just eat some starter here and then have dinner at plantian leaf. One thing lead to another and we spent couple of hours in the place trying everything in the menu. The Grilled Veggies here was the best . I think we had Pizza too here and also the yummy fish fry. That night we drove around the Tito’s road that night, Had amazing Custard Apple ice cream at Calangute beach at close to mid-night. We then went to a place where Maggi wanted to go and called it a night.

Day 4:

This was last day in Goa and we had got lethargic. With all the OFF-Season nonsense going on, we were just having nice food with almost no other activity worth mentioning. We had been seeing the Naval aviation Museum close to Sarita’s everyday while we were going in and out of hotel. This final day we decided to check out this place. There wasn’t anything great in here but it wasnt bad either. It was a museum and so we felt like clicking a pic of everything we saw and after some 130 pics, I was bored with this place. We had plans to go on the famous Cruise Ride of Goa, This was one of the item in our checklist. We got the tickets at 5 in the evening but the Cruise was at 8.30 in the night. We had 3 and half hours and hence decided to cover some more places in this duration.  Our next stop was the ‘Basilica of Bom Jesus’ , Rahul had his nail-cutter ready. This museum is closed for fumigation for 2 days every year and non-surprisingly, this was that day. We didn’t get to use the nail cutter and were let down again by our timing. We next went to Mangeshi temple and everybody loved it. Worth mentioning here was the ‘Misal Pav’ that we had here. We next went to one of my favoritest place in the world, The Mahalasa Temple of Mardol. It was almost 7ish and we just had enough time to make it to the Cruise. We didn’t have high expectations from this Cruise but it was worse than what we expected. the worst part was that the dance floor was not on the open air on the roof but inside the boat which was no fun at all. After the so-called cruise, We just thought of driving around Panjim and was the best part of our trip. We saw one of the best looking church in the middle of Panjim and we were hungry by this time. The next stop by accident was ‘Rajdhani’ , The thali served here was one of the best I have ever had, I wanted to click a pic of the Thali and patiently waited till everything was served. The sign language used here to serve the items was intriguing. We next stopped at Miramar Beach at close to mid night and this place was surreal, right on the main road with benches on the beach, I was loving it. We spent close to an hour on this beach untill driving to the Dona Paula beach. At 1 in the night, this place reminded me so much of the South Bank in London. This place carries with it an aura both romantic and mythical. This was my most favorite spot in Goa. I didn’t wanna go home from here. Some guys were fishing here and it was so relaxing to spend time with them. This was the most eventful day on this trip and most memorable day too.

Road to Bangalore:

It was already time to go back to the Chaos of Bangalore. We checked out by 11 in the morning, This was the most earliest that we have woken up all week . The return journey was the best route I have even been. We covered the scenic and most luscious green route I have ever been to. With a little bit of drizzle , The green just got greener.

We got deviated seeing the Doodh Sagar Fall’s sign board. We reached the Castle Rock railway station and this was one bestest railway station. Almost secluded and looked like that Chaiyaa Chaiyaa song was shot here. . After a refreshing Tea in this station , we drove straight to Hubli. We had some thoughts on having ‘Kanda Bajji’ , Sushruth stopped a police and asked him where we get ‘Kanda Bajji’. We had dinner at a hotel in Hubli and that was the end of a journey. When we were close to bangalore we had a empty petrol tank scare but after knocking doors of some 15 petrol bunks we finally managed to get petrol on time. It was 5.30 in the morning when we reached bangalore and we had clocked 1801.2KM on before this trip came to an end.

End of Journey

 

Looking Back:

This was a trip where almost everything we had initially planned didn’t work out and most of the things that worked out were never planned. During the trip we thought that this was a disaster and all we did was eating and more eating. Each one of us had an upset tummy at some point of time on the trip. But writing this blog I realised that we did do a lot fo things other than just eating. We visited some memorable places and each one of us have some memory etched into our minds from this wonderful experience.

A Journey to the Roots

Posted in My-Travel on April 22, 2010 by prajwalpai

Date : 13th and 14th March’2010
Group : Prajwal,Venu,SK,Sethu,Charles,Venki,Moorthy,San and Ramesh

I was born in Shimoga but within few months from birth, My Dad got tranferred to Chickmagalur. Chickmagalur was the place I have spent my entire childhood . When our UBS gang started on the lines of planning another trip, Many places were shortlisted. When I saw Chickmagalur being one of them, I got fixated on this. I did a lot of lobbying to make sure that we went only to this place. Actually, nobody had been to Chickmagalur before and everybody was keen on this so no lobbying was necessary.
When finally the dates were fixed, I felt that we were less people. Prabhu,Pravin and Sudhi were the key people from our gang missing this time. Sethu kind of stepped into Prabhu’s shoes and I invited Charlie to accompany us and thus we finally had enough number of people to form a group. We all did miss Sudhi though.
Departure :
Chikmagalur is just 240 km from Bangalore and so is just a short journey. We had plans to leave by 9 in the night so that we could reach late night and get some sleep and have a productive weekend. I had mild cold and terrible wheezing and so had taken a sick off on the day of departure. When the TT came to my place and as soon as I got into the TT , I was offered Wine and Rum (which I declined) and this was even before I could sit or take off my backpack.
We had hardly crossed Banashankari and one of the guys puked! It was past midnight by the time we left Bangalore and reached only by morning 8. We all had kind of a tiring journey and everybody needed some rest before we could start our fun weekend.

Home Stay : When Venu first sent a mail on the HomeStay we were planning to stay at, It gave me a chuckle reading the name. The name of the homestay was ‘FarmVille’. It was kind of a huge villa and it indeed was in the midst of a coffee plantations. The name obviously names on one of the most popular app on Facebook made it really funny. It was close to 8 km from the main city of Chikmagalur. The day when we arrived in Chikmagalur, we had touch time finding this place. WE even didnt have network to call the manager but finally Airtel arrived to our rescue and SK got some feeble signal. The manager came to pick us up and direct us to the farm from the point where we were stranded at 6 in the morning. He told us that it was just half km from that point but it took atleast 5 mins and our odometer incrementer by atleast 3km.

FarmVille - Home Stay

FarmVille - Home Stay

The homestay indeed was very impressive and looked like it was newly built. The interiors and the sanitation department was well taken care off. We stayed in multiple rooms and had the whole place for ourself. The terrace was kinda open with a shelter and looked more like a cafe with all the dinner tables. Around the Homestay was the coffee plantation and a nice view of the mountain range around Chikmagalur.  It had a badminton court right outside and everything in place to make a bonfire.

Day 1 : Mullayanagiri,Manikyadhara and KemmanuGundi
Everybody had a late start on saturday morning. As everybody was getting ready , Some got tempted by the badminton court and the rackets to play shuttle. So, by the end of couple of games(which my team won 🙂

Playing Badminton

Playing Badminton

I was very exhausted. I think my cold and wheezing had a major part to play in making things worse for me.  All we wanted to do that day was to take a dip under any of the water falls. Our guide took us first to Mullayanagiri.

Mullayanagiri was a great place to start. As our cab went towards the tip of the mountain on a narrow but well maintained road with cliff on the other side, We witnessed some breathtaking view and we got a feel of the place. It wasnt really as hot as we expected but a pleasant sun. We reached the tip from where we had to climb few steps to see the M’gire temple.

Mullayanagiri pic

Mullayanagiri pic

. Its a ritual that we need to carry wooden logs over our head during our few final steps of the temple. The temple of ‘Mullaya’ is very well maintained and we were served a very tasty raagi drink (forgot the name). There is a cave below the temple and many myths about that cave.

Our group was desperate for a dip and so the next place we headed was supposed to be some falls, But the guide kinda conned us here. He tooks us to a small falls and a resulting small water stream.In fact doesnt deserve to be called a falls. To make matters worst, the water was ice cold and our feet literally went numb just after few mins in that water.

In Freezing water

In Freezing water

Our next desperate hunt for a water fall was M’dara falls. This place had a nice view and the water falls here is supposed to have water entire year. This was again a huge disappointment as the water was really scarce and again nowhere close to the kind of falls we were expecting to see. It was more or less like a shower falling from a high place. It was close to 3 and the whole group was hungry , demoralized and desperate for a swim. We had good lunch which we had packed from our home stay.

Our original plan was to visit one more falls but we decided that we were done with falls in this area. The next target was Kemmanugundi.  It  was already late by the time we reached this place. Thanks to our ill-informed guide, we hit a point ahead of which our TT couldnt go. It was very very similar to Dhanushkodi experiance. The road ahead was really bad and it was actually a jungle terrain ride and a road didnt exist. We somehow managed to get a 4×4 jeep ride.

Jeep Ride

Jeep Ride

This was again a ride which I will never forget my entire life, The experience has just to be experienced. On the jeep we reached a point ahead of which we had to walk. It was almost close to dark and we had to cross 5 streams of water to reach the falls. The Jeep ride and the falls made our day. The falls again was more than what we expected. The freezing water didnt stop some brave souls in our group from swimming.  The return journey for me was a disaster, The jeep ride on our way back tire me off and the whole of TT journey I was feeling pukish. The sky did look brilliant that night. It had never seen such density of stars in the sky and so many falling stars.

When I came back to our home stay, an induced puking set me free. I was feeling more fresh than ever throughout the day. It was time to raise our spirits around the bonfire .

Bon Fire

Bon Fire

In the pondy trip, Everybody remembers that San created a scene(in a funny way) but at Chikamagalur, Instead of a scene, He made a full movie. He started with few of his old materials from Pondy. He repeated the 110%, The ‘talk in kannada’  and few more things that I dont remember now. I am banking on few stories being recollected in the comments section. What followed that night will be etched in everybody’s mind and I dont see a need to account that in this blog.  All in all, It was fun and a night to remember.
Day 2 – Coffee estate walkthrough and Arrival
Sunday was a day of  rest.  Having an eventful long night, most ppl woke up late. I somehow was feeling fresh by 8 in the morning. With everybody sleeping, I went on a stroll with my camera. San was still almost unconscious and rest of the ppl were getting up one by one and we had a good breakfast with fresh pineapple juice. We again played some badminton. We dropped all the plans that we had for the day and decided to go on a walk around the home-stay we were staying.

Through the Coffee Estate

Through the Coffee Estate

The guide again misled us into believing that we could swim in some water body. The guide wanted to take us to a view point from where the whole of Chikmagalur was visible but we gave up on walking after some 45 mins. We saw the plantations around and the coffee berries too. The walk around the estate was very refreshing and made us really hungry by lunch time. We had a late lunch by 3 and set on our journey back.

Back to Bengaluru :
The journey back was somehow seemed long. We left Chikmagalur by 3.30 I think and had plans to stop at Belur if possible. When we reached Belur, nobody including me was in a mood to get down from the vehicle. We all happily watched Arundathi and then we had fun watching Om Shanthi Om. We stopped for dinner at a slow serviced dhaba where we had dinner spanning close to 2 hours. I think I reached back home by midnight on Sunday.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

The best part of the trip for me was seeing the house I grew up in. The house hasn’t changed a bit in 2 decades. I still remember, I used to spend most of my evening sloping down this stair railing which again used to result in me buying new shorts every month 🙂

Ah… Childhood.

Journey to the southern tip of India

Posted in My-Travel on March 26, 2010 by prajwalpai
Dates : Feb26 to Feb28 ‘ 2010
Group : Prajwal,Anoop,Sushruth,Sunil,Mahesh(aka Muggi),Sanjeev, Kushal,Venu(Chaari) and Nithin
This trip had been in pipeline from long time but everything fell into only place this time. Few ppl dropped out in the last week as the date of departure came close but a final 9 was assembled. Sush and Sanjeev got their car and we set out on a journey to the sourthern tip of India.
Departure:
The agreed time was 19:00 on Thursday on 25th Feb but due to many unavoidable turn of events , we could only leave bangalore by 01:00 on 26th Feb.
Day – 1 ( Fri) – (Bangalore -> Madurai ->KanyaKumari)
After several pit stops for tea and other things, We reached Madhurai by 7.30 in the morning. The best thing about the Tamil Nadu trips that I have been to is the ‘tengai chutney’ for me. I relished the first breakfast of the trip and continued to our first destination KanyaKumari.

NH-7

NH-7

The National Highway-7 is one of the best roads to drive I guess, Its just too easy to maintain a speed of more than 100km/hour. It was around 12ish by the time we reached KanyaKumari and it took us more than an hour to finalise on which hotel to stay. The view from our Hotel was the biggest reason for us to decide on that hotel I think. Once all set , We had lunch at a fake saravana Bhavan. We had plans to catch a boat to Vivekananda point. The closing hours was approaching and we knew it would be a futile effort to burn in that queue. So, It was decided to visit Vivekananda rock the next morning. We just had time to wet our feet in Indian ocean and literally run to watch the famous sunset at KanyaKumari.

SunSet at Rameshwaram

SunSet at Kanyakumari

The sunset was followed by a visit to the temple and dinner and then a wonderfull sleep.

Day – 2 ( Sat) ( Kanyakumari -> Toothukodi ->Rameshwaram)

The next morning I woke up 6 to catch the sunrise at Kanyakumari. This place being the tip of India might be the only place in India from where both “BEST” Sunrise and “BEST” sunset  can be experienced. We had plans to see sunrise from our terrace but by the time me and Sunil went to terrace the rest of the group was at the view point. I had just the time for a quick coffee on the terrace waiting for the sunset. We then decided to join rest of the group. Me and Sunil had a long jog to the view point and watched the amazing sunrise. More than the actual sunrise, the morning soothing sky and the morning colors were appearing like a painting.

Sun rising at Rameshwaram

Sun rising at Kanyakumari

Thiruvalluvar and Vek point

After sunrise, we had plans to sail to Vivekananda rock. We were there by 6.30ish and the shocking queue made us drop the plan. We clicked some pics and honestly nobody had any interest to see the vivekananda point. We had high expectations of that place and somehow didnt impress us. We drove on the southernmost road of India which is literally the tip of india. We went to a nice beach and experienced the ocean and left towards Rameshwaram.

Our next stop was Thiruchendur Murugan temple by noon. We went on a special darshan and all were kinda appalled  by the level of commercialization. Skipping lunch, we stopped at a bakery and went on a binge. The next destination was Tuticorin beach. WE all wanted a splash in beach and had no idea where. We just asked around and arrived at tuticorin beach which was 8km before the actual town, So with a bit of doubt in our mind and after a nice drive around the Tuticorin port we came to the beach. Sush got into conversation with some ppl playing cricket and an instant match was fixed. The game of beach cricket was wonderfull but the results were equally disastrous.

Post Match snap

Post Match snap

Nevertheless , The game made our day and one of the best thing to remember of this trip. While we set off on our journey towards Rameshwaram, we were warned about the route we were set on. We had planned to take the ECR road and the local boys told us to be extra carefull of the dangerous curves on this road and the pitch darkness. The road indeed was dark and very curvy but not upto our expectations. The strangest experience we had on this road was our encounter with a filmy evil old lady. It was almost pitch dark and we were in the middle of nowhere with no houses for a long distance and out of the black came a old lady shouting at our car with her hands raised. The group in the car ahead hardly noticed we thought but the guys in our car were very confused with the incident. We didnt even think of going back and seeing what was that lady doing there, but we thought of spicing up the story and told the guys in the other car that the old lady vanished when we saw her in the rear mirror.

Day – 3 ( Sun) – Dhanushkodi -> Rameshwaram Temple

It was 1 in the morning when we reached Rameshwaram. We decided to get some sleep and skip the 3am spatika lingam darshana. Our hunt for a hotel lasted for close to one and half hours and almost gave up. There was  a shooting going on for a Vijay movie and the crew had occupied almost all the hotels making it almost impossible to get a stay. Sush got into talking with a security guard and with his help we landed at Rameshwaram guest house. Within minutes of check-in everybody crashed.

It was a late morning. I went along with Sunil to the beach in front of out guest house. The water was kinda still and crystal clear and was a nice experiance. Then we went on  a guide hunt near the temple and found one kannada speaking specimen. As per guide’s guidence we set to Dhanushkodi. On our way we covered Ramar paada and Vibhishan’s temple. Dhanushkodi is the thin line that you see between india and Sri Lanka on the map.

Our Ride - Mean Machine

Our Ride - Mean Machine

Their isnt any solid road connecting Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi  and so our car isnt competant enough for this ride. We hired a antique 4X4 vehicle as our escort. This ride was a ride to remember, The 8KM ride on the sand was more tipsy turvy than a roller coaster and we sitting on the roof of the vehicle enjoyed this to the core. Dhanushkodi was a prosperous city as recently as 1964 but a cyclone wiped off this city from the map and all we can see is the ruins now. The beach at dhanushkodi as as spectacular as it can get. This is the point where the bay of bengal meets the indian ocean and one can see that every evidently. We can see waves meeting perpedicularly and splashing at each other. It a thing you need to see to believe. We had a blast at the beach, Played for more than an hour and I almost learnt swimming here which I will never forget. We came back to where we had parked our car and went on a binge when we spotted ice cream.

On our way back to guest house, we went to Panchmukhi Anjaneya temple. Here we can see the floating rocks. Its claimed that using such rocks the ramarsethu was built by the vaanar sena. You have to again see this to believe this.

Floating Rock

Floating Rock

We headed back to the city and went directly to Rameshwaram main temple. It a ritual that we need to take a dip in the beach next to temple and only then enter the temple. We then went ahead to decided to take the bath in the 22 holy theerthams. I think its a must thing in ones lifetime to do this. I honestly dont know the significance of the 22 wells but the experiance was wonderful. We came back to guest house and freshened up. We went to a souveneir shop and got many goodies and checked out of the guest house.

Arrival

We started at aound 9 in the night and it was not what we had planned at all.  We were all tired by the end of this day and all I remember is stopping at couple of places for tea. The next thing i saw was Electronic city fly over at 8 in the morning. The NH-7 being super smooth, Sush drove real good. We went a bit off track around Madurai but covered a good amont of distance after that with average speed clocking easily more than hundred. With too many things done and covering a distance of 2000 in 3 days resulted in a pain in every bone and every joint. I was lucky enough to have an off that monday due to Holi festival. One of my most memorable trip came to an end with the best way possible, Complete rest.