Tips for air travel with kids

We recently got back from a long trip Melbourne Singapore India – Melbourne. This was the first long air travel for our daughter after the one she did at 9 months (she’s 3+ years now). So naturally I was a nervous wreck, googling for tips and tricks to be used during the travel. She is a good road traveller, as long as we have music and stop every 2-3 hours. But since air travel is completely different, I had to up my game (or create a new one).

Air travel with kids made easy with these tips.

Things to pack in your child’s carry on

  • Water bottle

Aircraft is an enclosed space without enough air. It is dehydrating and we get thirsty. Keep a water bottle from which your kid can sip whenever he/she likes. Especially useful for night travel when everyone is asleep and you have to ring for the stewardess for water. You can request them to fill it up once it is empty or before the child/ren sleep/s. For easy access it can be kept it in the space used to store books and catalogues in front of the child’s seat.

Tip: You child needs water for the commute to the airport and during your time at the airport. Empty the water bottle before security check and fill it up after. Empty it again for security at the transit.

  • Jacket+Blanket

Airplanes can be unpredictable; sometimes warm and sometimes cold. And when its cold, its very cold.  It is best to pack a jacket that the child can wear and you can sleep peacefully knowing that the child will be warm even though they don’t have a blanket up to their chin.

Tip: Carry a throw instead of a blanket for smaller children.

  • Kid’s travel pillow/neck support

This was helpful when she was sleeping in her own seat. We were worried we (I) would have to carry her through the night because it wasn’t a bed. She did sleep horizontally on the both of our laps but she wasn’t comfortable. And she slept really well in her own seat, with a pillow around her neck. The one in the picture is what she uses. And it is available at Kmart.

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  • Snacks, lots of them and hand wipes

If your child is anything like mine, then they like to eat. A lot. So carry a variety of small(in size) non-perishable snacks. Things that the child can eat by themselves without making too much of a mess. You can buy from your usual store instead to buying the overpriced ones at the airport. Also think of snacks that can double up as food if needed (in case of delays). Call up the airlines and confirm how much food you can carry in your carry on. Make sure you don’t get them on a sugar high before sleep time though J

Eg: Dry fruits (for energy), wafers, biscuits, pretzels, mini cakes or cupcakes, candies/lollies, lollipops (to suck on for blocked ears during take-off and landing)

Tip: Hand wipes are different from the regular baby wipes. It is gross to use the ones from the same pack that is used to clean dirt/poo/puke, to wipe her/my hands. So I use Heinz sticky fingers for the purpose.

  • Things to play with

This is a no-brainer. Bring some things that the child enjoys playing with. Nothing huge though. I bought some less expensive new toys that she would be excited to spend some time with. I wanted to pack the magnetic board that she loves writing on at home, but it was simply too big. So buy a travel size magnetic board if you like. Also get colouring books. You can also make a DIY version by buying plain sheets in bulk , stapling them together, putting cellotape so that staple pins don’t hurt the child and make big drawings on the sheets with sharpies/markers. Let them choose some things but have a few as a surprise.

Eg: Miniature animals, small toy cars, wind up things, erasable boards/book and wipe-able markers, colouring book and washable crayons

Tip: Carry washable crayons that can be wiped with baby wipes if it gets on the tray or seat.

  • iPad/tablet and kid friendly headphones

Most people swear by this. We don’t have a tablet or iPad so I just loaded my mobile phone with songs that she likes and new ones that I thought she would be thrilled to watch (she doesn’t get much screen time at home). But we didn’t really get to use it much. The headphones that we bough for her, didn’t work (I forgot to check at home). And I was wary of letting her use our earphones. Thankfully she was content watching soundless cartoon video on the screen in front of her (I didn’t want her to use the earphones they provided and she wasn’t comfortable plugging them in her ears).

Tip: Check the headphones right after you buy them.

  • Extra pair or two of clothes +bibs + cloth napkins

I always carry two pairs because I’m paranoid that way. I like to be prepared for the worst case scenario. But it is pretty obvious why you might need clothes. Younger the child, more the clothes you need. Including the vest and socks (according to the weather).

I also like to be as sustainable as I can, by bringing two bibs and two cloth napkins for mealtimes. So I can avoid throwing away the disposable ones. Just bring a plastic carry bag that you can throw them in after use and wash them at your destination.

  • Enough diapers + extra and baby wipes

My child is out of the diapers during day but she wears them for bed. And I didn’t want to take a chance during our first air travel as a family, so I promptly put her in diapers when we left home. Saves a lot of headache, if you ask me. I suggest the same for older kids as well, especially if you have even a speck of doubt that they’ll wet their pants. Get them in a diaper before boarding and tell them they still have to pee in the toilet. It’s just for emergencies.

Pee before boarding, pee before take-off, pee before the meal and pee before the landing. Be sure to use the toilet beforehand to see its usability. Trust me, you want to do this. I took the child in without checking and the toilet was so gross I was worried she’ll catch a bug right on the plane. I used a ton of sanitizer afterwards and still couldn’t put my mind to ease.

Tip: Pack more diapers than you think you might need.  Face the delays like a boss.

  • Hand sanitizer

Keep it handy but don’t take it to the toilet (you still have to touch the door). Use it immediately after you are back in your seat – both you and the child. No matter how much you try and educate the child, they are just themselves and when you are in an extremely confined space that isn’t stable (aka plane bathroom), it is inevitable that they touch something in there.

  • Travel size baby lotion (optional)

For times when you or the child smells of poop/puke. Or when you are nauseous from the stale air inside the aircraft.

  • Medicines

Kids can get pain in their ears due to the pressure change inside the aircraft. Keep travel size kids paracetemol handy. I also keep a saline nose spray for her in case her nose gets blocked. But really just think of what your child might need medicine for: air sickness, diarrhoea or just band-aids for small wounds. If they are already on prescribed medicines, carry the prescription with you.

Tip: Incase you forgot to bring the paracetamol and you need some, ask the cabin crew. I was suggested to do so by my doctor.

  • Garbage bags

Bring small garbage bags that you can put garbage like soiled clothes etc in to carry back with you. I use nappy disposal bags for the purpose. They are scented and will keep the smell away.

On the plane, use the wrappers that the blankets are packed in as garbage bags. I carefully remove the wrapper so it can be used, tuck it in the pouch in the seat in front of me and use it to collect any trash that I don’t want to carry back with me.

Important things to do when you are flying with children

  • Prepare them for the travel

Start prepping the kid a week or so before the travel. Especially important for first timers. If they know what to expect they won’t be taken by surprise. Involve them in packing. Talk to them about security checks and the behaviour expected from them. Show them videos of planes, take-offs and landings and explain how it would be. Tell them about the new places you are going to see and how much fun you all will have.

  • Confirming meals on board

We travelled through Singapore Airlines. A few days before our travel, I logged in to their website using our ticket details and double checked our booking. I noticed that the meal information was missing. So I called them up to confirm the meals. I was informed that kid’s meals are available on board. But since I wasn’t sure about the contents or the quantity, I booked the same meal as ours for our daughter as well. So choose according to your preference. If your ticket doesn’t include meals, it is best to feed the child something before boarding, even if it is a short flight. This prevents their need to incessantly snack on the plane.

Tip: If it is a late flight and you are going to be served dinner, get your child fed before boarding. They might be tired and want to sleep right after they are buckled in. Ours did on one flight and missed her meal.

  • Use a stroller

If your child can be seated in a stroller, bring it for the airport. The fold-able umbrella kinds that are allowed by the airlines. Even if you don’t use it elsewhere in your destination. Airports can be big, little feet get tired of walking and the result might be a tantrum to be carried. If they want to walk, let them but when you need to move fast (late check-in?), just put them in and run. I’m assuming you have help with the trolley filled with check-in luggage.

Tip: Confirm with the airlines before you bring one (it should not be included in your allowed cabin baggage weight) and that it can be checked-in at the gate.

  • Tire them out

If you arrived early (which I suggest you do), let them run around and play at the kid’s play area after you have been checked-in. If they are tired before boarding, they are more likely to doze off without much trouble.

Tip: Be prepared for the tired, half-sleep tantrum, if they are over tired and not able sleep as well as you thought they would.

  • Ask for priority boarding

Most airlines provide this facility for families with children. Ask for it during your check-in or after you arrive at your gate. Stay near the gate so you don’t miss it when they call for boarding. It helps avoiding the crowd and getting your child settled before everyone else boards.

  • Get the child settled first

Once you board, get your little one comfortable by taking off their shoes and spreading blanket on their lap. The bag with all the child’s necessities goes under the seat in front of the child, for easy access. Store the water bottle in pouch of the seat in front of the child. Give them lollipop if you are worried about their ears popping during take-off.

  • Let it go

Travel is exciting as it is overwhelming. More so when you have little people for company who are just having too much fun to be worried about appropriateness. Airport or the airplane is not the place to re-inforce good behaviour. Though the basic decency is expected out of everybody, kids are just kids and you can’t do much when you are all in a confined enclosed metallic container. But to keep them relatively happy, you will have to break some of your own rules. Let them watch more TV or tablet than they would at home. Let them eat more candies than they are usually allowed. Rules don’t apply during travel. You just want them contained, entertained and happy. Try by all means to limit everything, but when it gets to the verge of a meltdown, you know you have to let go.

  • Ignore your co-passengers

I might sound like an anti-social parent, but hear me out. Sure you need to make friends, sure you need to be on good terms with people sitting next to you, be courteous and all that. But when things go downhill and you are already feeling guilty for being the cause of the mayhem (it’s your kid after all), you don’t need to worry about the stern glances from people all around you to make it worse.

It did happen to us during our late flight. After 30 minutes of sleep, she woke up screaming her lungs out. We didn’t know what to do. She isn’t young enough to be carried and pacified. I was desperately trying to find out what the problem was while hoping that she would go back to sleep. Many people around us woke up because of the noise and I couldn’t do anything until she fully woke up and didn’t want to sleep any more. I refused to look at anyone around me, not wanting either the pity or the reprimand.

Know that you are doing your best under the circumstance you are in and try not to care about how much the next person is judging your parenting abilities.

Extra tips:

If your child is asleep at meal times, check with the crew if they can bring the meal later. We didn’t and the croissant was gone by the time she woke up. If you are not sure they will bring it back, store some things like crackers/cheese/buns/croissants/yogurt tub with you for when they wake up.

Keep asking the child if he/she want to pee. All the time. Kids simply get excited or overwhelmed and might forget that they need to use the toilet.

Keep them hydrated. They can get cranky when they are tired and you don’t want to get dehydration to add to the chaos. Carrying a bottle is not hydrating. Remind them to drink up.

Here are some more air travel tips from Mara, who I regularly read.

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The most memorable trek of my life

Warning: This is quite a long post and no pictures too. You’ll find out the reason as you read through.

Until now. And the most trying too. You’ll soon find out why.

The trail of Bababudangiri to Kemmangundi has been my favorite as it was my first trek where I slept overnight in a tent, in the middle of the forest and mountains, beneath the twinkling stars. It was unbelievable, it was magical and funny. You can find the details here and here.

Right after monsoon, we planned this trail again with new people. There was only one very experienced trekker – S. He had been here 6 times before this. I and friend K were the only ones who knew this from the previous trek.

So 9 of us started at around 6:30am from Bangalore in a tempo traveller. Some were meeting each other for the first time. Some were first time trekkers. We stopped at Hotel Mayura at Bellur cross for breakfast. After sumptuous idlis, dosas, vadas and khara bhaths, we got back on the road towards Chikmagalur via Hassan.

When so many people are together, a place can hardly be silent. What started as a friendly discussion, soon reached the status of heated arguments, which died down after we agreed to disagree (some rather reluctantly) and peace prevailed.

After reaching Chikmagalur (and picking up a tent from a friend), we took the road towards Mullayyanagiri and after a deviation, were climbing uphill towards Bababudangiri.We could see drifting black clouds and knew that rain was apparent. However, how much of rain, was something we couldn’t have expected. The prediction on Accuweather was that we could expect storm that night.

The road, towards the end was blocked due to construction work (just like the previous time but this time for a longer distance). We wore our belongings on our backs and like warriors marching towards battlefield, we marched towards Bababudangiri and then reached Gaalikere.

We couldn’t eat our lunch here, unlike last time as there were a lot more people. We walked further and then opened our lunch (packed at Chikmagalur) near a rock and ate. Food always tastes so amazing when had amidst nature. Much to our dislike, it started drizzling. We had 4 hours of walk ahead of us to reach the camping site and with rain it would get difficult and not to mention uncomfortable.

We donned our best jackets (few had to borrow since they came unprepared – good lesson for future) and marched forward. It was around 5pm when we reached our campsite. The light drizzle had started to gain more strength and it was obvious that we would have good rain that night. So a poll was taken whether to walk further and complete the trek in the dark (which I cannot even begin to imagine) or walk back to Bababudangiri (which would be disappointing and of-course means walking in dark) or to spend the night in tent in rain. I immediately knew that option three was best since it didn’t include walking in the dark. If we died, we would all die together in the storm and not by falling down the side of the mountain or being eaten by predators. You can say I have a very imaginative mind, especially during difficult circumstances.

Thankfully most people opted to stay back. We pitched tents in the rain. Talk about tents and rain and the scene that plays out in front of me is the pegs coming off after we repeatedly drive them inside the wet earth. And that is what was happening with us. However we finished all three tents and some very hopeful boys even tried lighting a fire! I need not say that they weren’t successful and we all got into our respective tents to settle down, which means push all the heavy bags at the corners of the tent so it doesn’t get blown away by the monstrous wind and sit and shiver. It was rather cold and we were all wet from head to toe.

After sometime we realized that the cold was becoming unbearable and we made the decision to spend as much time as possible in a single tent which was holding up well compared to the other two. Unfortunately that was a three men tent. We had to spend time until next day 7am with in each others warmth. That night, rain came down like I’ve never seen it come down. It lashed from all sides making the tent tremble and water came in through the net-like sun roof covered by a meager piece of material for roof. And we sat in there, not minding the water flowing beneath us and the tent coming down on us due to the roaring wind. The only thing we had to hold on to (besides each other) was hope.

Dinner of chapatis gave us something to do and that too was quickly over. Someone suggested talking. We did talk a lot, about  – first impression of each other, first crush, childhood dream etc. It all went pretty well in the beginning and the bottle of elixir (vodka in this case) was being passed around to keep us warm. As soon as we started getting sleepy is when we felt the suffocation. 9 of us were stuffed inside a 3 men tent. I made up my mind to move to another tent. S came with me and so did friend K. We saw that another 2 men tent lay flat due to the wind. The spacious one was holding up, to where we shifted.

From here, it is only my experience that I can document as I wasn’t aware what went on in the other tent. We didn’t talk after coming to the big tent. My teeth were talking to each other and I was shaking rather badly. I got into the sleeping bag, S took a blanket, so did friend K and we tried to sleep. The elixir worked well for sometime and I even slept for a while and when it started wearing off, I would wake up shaking only to take a sip and try to sleep. S started shaking bad and I opened up my now wet sleeping bag to get him in. We had each others warmth even though we couldn’t close the bag. We realized friend K was shivering. I could even feel it. But we could do nothing about it. He didn’t complain. I’m guessing he didn’t have the strength to. Sometime during the night he went to the other tent again to get some warmth but came back. Three from the other tent also followed him due to space constraint. and we all decided to sit up and spend the remaining time talking or rather breathing in each others breath.

Everything was wet, the tent, sleeping bag, backpacks, clothes we wore, jackets, everything. We prayed fervently to all the Gods we could remember. Eventually it was light and yes, we could see that our prayers yielded and rain stopped.

I still didn’t want to go out of the tent into the bone chilling cold. But I had no option. I came out and just stood still, biting my teeth together and making my mind immune to the cold.There was fog everywhere. Visibility was only a few meters. Few guys from the other tent were already out and about their business. Soon everybody was cleaned up and we finished the chapati breakfast. We started on our way further.

Since all of us were tired, we decided to not to go all the way to Kemmangundi (also because it is a very slippery descent) but to get down to a village called Santaveri. The two routes diverge at the British bungalow and that was where we were headed. I was filled with a renewed conviction of making it all the way to the end without letting out an ouch. Thorny bushes were really bad. There was no trail and bamboo had grown all over making us get our bags down and walk on all fours. I mustered all the strength that I could and pushed forward.

We had to cross a small stream the banks of which is filled with leeches. After that we walked uphill and lost our way. Just like that. Thick curtain of fog was not helping one bit. We couldn’t see any further than about 15 meters in any direction. So we decided to walk close to each other so the first person should be able to see the last.

We roamed for a while and reached spots we hadn’t seen on our last visit. Sometimes the path would end in a steep incline down the side of the mountain. We simply couldn’t see any of the features surrounding us. How was one supposed to decide which way to go. Even though compass directed us towards the right direction, we couldn’t be sure of the terrain. Time was running and we had to act if we didn’t want to spend another night there.

Now again, we were presented with two options. Either take our time, explore and find out route, if failed pitch tent for the second night. Or go back all the way to Bababudangiri. People were desperate and many suggested that we go back. Then I suggested to break for lunch after which we may take a poll and decide. S didn’t have lunch and went around looking for familiar trails. Friend R went another way. By the time we were done with lunch, fog lifted for a while and S said he was positive about a trail and we could take a chance. We decided to give it our best, again prayed to all Gods and walked. Surely, it was the right path.

I couldn’t contain my happiness on seeing the British bungalow. More than happiness it was relief, that from here, we couldn’t get lost. We spent some time there and started walking towards Santaveri, where we spotted few wild Sambar deers at close proximity. Road towards Santaveri is a jeep track used by forest department. Now it was filled with hungry leeches who made good use of the opportunity that presented them meal in form of us.

British bungalow pic from the previous visit
The ruined British bungalow pic from the previous visit

From there we walked like zombies until our vehicle came to pick us up. Bless their souls, S and friend R had dumped their luggage and gone to get the vehicle for us. They even got us bhajjis and mandakki.

There was talk of stopping on the way to shower. But I realized we were all completely dry right then and I couldn’t spare a minute out of my snoozing time to shower. Not then. Soon, we all dozed off, only to wake up for dinner at Hassan, then back to sleep until we reached Bangalore.

A hot shower later, I could appreciate what I had, however less it was. I appreciated our small house, our small bed, the hot bath, hot food, just about everything. And I thanked, everybody existing and non-existing for what I had. That night, will always remind me to be thankful for what we have and to realize the strength that we don’t know we have.

I also appreciate everybody who shared the tent with me that night. Especially my two younger sisters who were on their first trek, and in all probability a last one with us :P. Also friends who lent their arms and legs to be used by others as headrests and whose breath I have inhaled to be alive. I appreciate S whose impeccable sense of direction and years worth of trekking experience helped to find out the right trail.

I will do this stretch again and again and again. It is so beautiful, that I cannot even begin to explain but in all probability I will never go again when there is a rain prediction.

Now time for moral of the post:

1. Always be over prepared when going out of civilization.

2. Always count in the unknowns and prepare for them.

3. Always have plan B. And plan C just in case.

4. Do not discourage or talk negative during difficult times.

5. Always wear good shoes and carry a good backpack.

6. Carry jackets and rain jackets according to weather predictions. Carry always if you are easily irritable.

7. Always carry compass and a map.

8. Get GPS with terrain if you are not sure about the trail.

9. It is best to have one or two experienced trekkers who know the trail very well. Best are qualified guides.

10. Lastly always help, share and smile. You’ll be lifting someone’s spirit.

You can find the pics from previous visit here.

Find the Kannada version of the trek from Thrilochana Rajappa here.

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Monsoon pilgrimage through nature

Whooshing wind in the hair, whistle of the train, rain drops that are forced inside the window, serene and mystic nature, mist, green trees, cold pristine flowing water, beautiful pink flower that couldn’t be pluck. So many beautiful memories to take back home from this monsoon trip, yet my heart yearns to do it all over again.

Independence day holiday, if comes in the middle of the week, can lead to a trip. We being the opportunists, grabbed the opportunity of taking two days leave from office and getting whole of 5 days vacation out of it. Aren’t we simply smart? Turns out many other smarties also thought of the same, as we later found out.

We made hay of the holiday on August 15 and planned two trips. One with friends and one with family.

Bangalore – Kukke – Hassan

Who: Me, S and three friends

When: 15-16 Aug

Mode of transport: train, jeep, KSRTC bus

I wanted to experience the famous Mangalore train route (which is actually Karwar train which goes through Mangalore) since quite sometime and when I suggested the same to S, he readily agreed. Tickets booked and we were ready for it. Our spirits were doused by the cancelling of the same train on the previous week. So we started looking out for alternatives. Elated to find out that our train wasn’t cancelled, we started packing bags on Tuesday evening.

Started for Yeshwantpur railway station at 5:30am on 15th August. It was very nice and refreshing. I once again made a pact with myself to wake up early and go for walk on daily basis, which until now remains un-done. BMTC bus was relatively empty and we reached Majestic in 45 minutes. A friend joined us and from there we boarded a bus to yeshwantpur railway station.

Reached the station at 7:00am and waited for two more to join us and boarded the train at 7:20. Our reserved seats were near the toilet so we sat down on the un-reserved seats. Thankfully there was not much crowd.

At 7:30 am the train started and we started getting chatty and soon we were all hungry. I had packed ragi-rotti, idlis, palya and kempu(red)-chutney for all of us from home. The joy of eating while traveling is something only travelers can understand. I don’t know if it is the dust, sights and smells that affects our perception but everything tasted supreme that day, even if I say so myself.

A railway station on the way

Arasikere railway station

However much I want to say that the engine chugged, I can’t. Because it didn’t. It made sounds like dum dum – tak tak. Diesel engine you see, not the good old steam engine which would invariably chug. Sitting there watching the trees and buildings go by made me nostalgic. So many train journeys that I’ve undertaken in my life and there are only a few which I resent and that is mostly due to crowd. Given a choice of travelling comfortably in train and bus I’d pick a less crowded comfortable train any day. There is a strange almost losing-oneself kind of feeling in letting the wind shuffle your hair every way. Only I’d  have to ignore the fact that I’d look like Cruella from 101 Dalmatians minus the black and white partition of course.

It was an uneventful and quite the routine journey until Hassan. We grabbed idlis and vadas at the Arasikere station for our afternoon meal.Terrain started changing after the train left Hassan. Tall coconut trees slowly started getting replaced first by coffee bushes and then by thick growth of forest trees. It was a lovely transformation, the one which we made this journey for.

Board at Sakleshpur station

The train reached Sakleshpur at around 2pm from where the journey became real slow. I could run beside the train if I wanted to. I guess it is only the steep valleys and dangerous looking rock faces that stopped other young people from doing the same. I can’t describe the scenic beauty that only gets enhanced with passing time.

Crazy people hanging out of the train

The scenes for which we boarded the train

This route has around 40-45 tunnels, journeying through which would’ve been amazing had there not been loud hooting and screaming by the aforementioned young people who filled the train. Everybody wanted their share of seat at the door. Everybody flocked the the side of windows where the scene was the best. I for once, traveled someplace inside my mind and was quiet as is my nature when I am with nature and went straight into contemplative mood. While people were busy photographing trough the windows, I was thinking of things that I wouldn’t have on a normal day.

Reaching Kukke Station made me let out a sigh of relief of being relieved from those screamers. I can’t be so lucky so easily; could I? Most of the people got down at the same station and below scene played out.

Crowd at Kukke Subramanya station

To be continued…

The blaze of Delhi and Agra

Here comes the delayed second bit of my so-called travelogue.

Lately life has been a roller-coaster, what with a full-time job which takes full time and little bit of house hold chores, amidst taking time out to keep myself clean healthy. I end up exhausted every single night with absolutely no time to write whatsoever. Though I don’t forget to read the blogs I am regular at, so I don’t miss out on things I enjoy reading.

As usual, I digress at the very beginning. Let me cut straight to the travelogue.

Day 5, Delhi.

We reached Delhi by 7 am at ISBT Kashmere gate and waited to find a decent taxi who might con us very little. We could already feel the hot air on our faces. Hiring a taxi, we headed towards Paharganj, well-known for its cheap non-expensive hotels. We had booked hotel Kwality through their website.

We checked in only to find ourselves in a shabby little hole they called double bedroom. The other room in which we got an extra bed was pretty good in comparison. We somehow spent a night there and asked for a change of room from next day onwards. I am not someone who splurges on stays, I’d rather spend money travelling and seeing more places, but this was the limit. The room looked so shady I refused to bathe with lights on. So I had the bathroom light off when I was in there, which cracked up the husband. *eye roll* So to be changed it was.

Bath and breakfast later, we headed out to the nearest metro station. The plan was to visit Qutub Minar, Connaught Place, Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate through the network of metro rail.

Last time we were in Delhi, we went for a one day trip to all the tourist places which includes running from one place to another, our preference of the place not taken into account, since it is a bus full of tourists. So this time around, we were on our own and wanted to explore the effectiveness of Delhi metro. I should say that it was very effective and useful.

Qutub Minar is one place which I can visit many times and still marvel at its structure, not only the Minar but the surrounding ruins as well. It is an amazing place. We reached there donning our caps, just when the sun was at his peak. We took our time, went around and took a lot of pictures.

Then we came to Connaught Place and aimlessly roamed a bit. Just when I was pondering over my mindless-ness, flashed the main aim of the moment – to have lunch. Now, we had to hunt for a decent place to sit and eat lunch. We being vegetarians and hygiene freaks, not many options were open. Me and S ended up arguing about a common place to eat because in-laws don’t eat bread so burger and pizza are out of question for them, I don’t eat at shady little places, so those meals are out of question for me. So we had a little heated discussion or may be it was the Delhi heat getting to me. Later I, S, his sister and her son ended up eating at McD and his parents ate rice at a little place. I later found out from a friend that there was a Saravana Bhavan nearby. Dang! I’m not a Saravana Bhavan fan, but it would’ve helped.

After a bit of shopping at Janpath, we went to Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was a lovely spectacle of the majestic old buildings under the orange light of the setting sun. Last time, we weren’t allowed to go so close to the square in front of the complex. This time, we sat at the compound wall of Rashtrapati Bhavan and roamed around in front of the nearby buildings seeing all officials leave sharp at 5:45. I was wondering if they ever have deadlines and work overtime or slog like we do.

I, S’s sister and her son lazed on the lawn while S and his parents went around to see the Parliament house. Then we walked down to India Gate. Lights were on by the time we reached, which was as we planned. It looked different, more majestic. But the crowd and litter kind of put me off.

We took an auto rickshaw to the metro station and headed back to the hotel. Needless to say we both slept in the dingy room.

Day 6, Agra.

Woke up early in the morning as we had booked a cab to pick us up at 7am for one day trip to Agra. He was there sharp at 7 and we got going. I have to say something about the cab services that we booked. We booked the trip through ziptrips.in. You can choose the type of vehicle and number of places you want to see and the trip will be customized for you. You can also talk to their representatives online.
They sent us the details of the driver in email. They missed sending sms as mentioned in their site. But there he was bright and clean at the time mentioned by us.

Plan was to visit one among the wonders of the world The Taj Mahal (obviously) and Agra fort. We had been to Fatehpur Sikri, the last time and I found it beautiful. Due to lack of time, we had to let it go from the schedule.

We had awful parathas somewhere on the way, which made me sick by the time we reached Agra. It was quite late as we had to get a flat tire repaired on the way. I distinctly remember it was very hot and I was finding it difficult to breathe. I like how they’ve banned all vehicles from the office where you buy tickets. They have electric vehicles which charge 10 rupee per head to drive to the main entrance of Taj. I had no enthusiasm to see the Taj. I just went through to get done with it. I badly wanted to have something cool and something nutritious and juicy like watermelon. So we purchased one whole watermelon, get it cut then and there and devoured it. Though I felt ok for a while, the uneasiness kicked right back in. Agra fort is a vast and beautiful monument. I wish we had more time to check it out.

I fell completely ill while returning back and vomited twice, didn’t have dinner and longed to just get back and sleep at the hotel. Thankfully they gave us another, much better room. And I just slept like a log.

Day 7, Delhi.

Though exhausted, I did have a little bit of spirit left in me to explore some more of Delhi. This time Akshardham temple, Sarojini market and Red Fort.

We hired an auto rickshaw directly to Akshardham, instead of taking the Metro because he offered us discount to the hyped price. We are nice and lazy like that. Again, by the time we reached, sun was right above our heads making us tired, thirsty and irritated all at the same time. But it helped that the Akshardham temple is so beautiful and a treat to the eyes. It is artistic, majestic, beautiful and traditional all at the same time. They told us that all the carvings were handmade and it took nearly 11,000 men 6 yrs to finish the structure. The huge Swaminarayan statue makes you feel so small. We even watched the Swaminarayan movie and went through the whole exhibition show of the life history of Swaminarayan played out by dolls. Very neatly done. There was even a boat ride through history. Wonderful I’d say, this is how you improve tourism. Give people a chance to get to know your culture and history while making them feel good about money well spent. We’ll definitely go there once again. Also, the lunch we had there was simply awesome. After all that oily parathas it felt like amrita to my tongue.

We shopped a bit in Sarojini Nagar market. I didn’t buy much, but S’s sister splurged quite some. When she wasn’t done even by 7pm we were getting sceptical about the light and sound show we planned to watch at Red Fort. Sure that we’ll miss it and still taking a chance, we caught a metro to Chandni Chowk. As expected, the show was over, but there was one more in English at 9:30pm. We decided to wait.

We walked a bit to the place where seating arrangements were made and waited in dark for the show to start. All the while trying to shoo away the mosquitoes which bit and tore us apart. Finally when the show started, I waited for something to happen. Besides the lights on three buildings and the commentary coming from different speakers at different times, there was pretty much nothing in it. We decided to call it a day and went to find a hotel for dinner. Dinner was had at a very nice restaurant which I think charged extra for serving after 10pm; ridiculously expensive. But hey, I got to eat dosa after a week.

Day 8, Last day in Delhi, back to Bangalore.

We had booked cab from ziptrips.in for the last day too as we had airport drop in the evening. We had lined up Raj Ghat, Indira Gandhi museum, Lotus temple and Parliament house.

Lotus temple is an amazing architectural structure which makes me spellbound every time I’m inside it. It helps that you are supposed to maintain pin drop silence when inside the hall.

We spent some time checking out stuff on the way in Dilli Haat, but didn’t buy anything. The good driver dropped us to the airport at a time too early for our flight. We checked in and while away time looking at all setting sun and taking off flights.

Reached Bangalore late at night and boy did it feel good to be back home. Never thought I’d say that. Never thought food would get to me so much during travel either. But ever since I fell ill on Ladakh trip, I’m kind of a wary eater while travelling.

Lesson learnt from the trip : never visit Delhi/Agra in summer. Always research for food options near the place you stay and/or visit.

Yes, yes I know, time for pics 🙂

India Gate in the evening

Orange sun over Rashtrapati Bhavan

View of India Gate from Rashtrapati Bhavan

Qutub Minar. I know you’re thinking what I was thinking when this was taken.

Lotus temple/Bahai meditation center

View of Taj from Agra Fort

The Taj Mahal

Interior of Agra Fort

Why are we hurting those who are helping us save our ecology?

Read in the newspaper yesterday about the murder of Forest Office of Dandeli. Why? Because he was doing his job and asked the visitors not to feed the crocs. Which, we all can understand is quite sensible. He might have never thought it would cost his life. And what more, the Police department is still unable to bring the murderers to justice. Such a horrific thing happening in broad daylight and the people who broke law are not arrested depicts the sad state of affairs.

Here is the link to the Deccan Herald report on the protest of people of Dandeli for justice for the dead officer’s family.

And I think we need a follow up of what happens to the perpetrators, if they are caught and brought to justice, and if yes, what punishment did they get. Who were they and why they did what they did? I hope media will do a follow up and report this out.

Disgusted by this continued neglect of the authorities towards bringing the murderers to punishment and provide justice to the victims. I strongly feel that the Police Dept. should do act now to save the respect people have on them.

Here is a FB link.

Updated: On an unrelated note, I remembered the petition to save Hesarghatta grasslands. I urge you to please sign the petition. Check my post for more info. We need to start protecting and preserving whatever we have right now, for our children to be able to see the animals and birds we did.

Kotebetta climb

It was a beautiful morning. A bit too sunny for my liking, but it was beautiful nonetheless. According to our plan we headed towards Madapur from Somwarpet by around 9 am and reached Madapur 15 minutes later. Since we had a private drop-off, we chose to get down at the HattihoLe bridge (a little further from Madapur). It was me, S and our friend. The river HattiHoLe flows with such a melodious sound that it stayed with me for a long time. In Kannada we call it “jhuLu-jhuLu naada”. It is melodious and rhythmic. Made me want to take a dip in the water, but we had a much serious business at hand. Also, I couldn’t see a way from where we could get into the water. I wasn’t sure of the currents either. Better not venture into unknown waters.

We started on the beaten path taken daily by workers and owners at the estates en-route. Yes, there are a lot of coffee estates on the way. At some point we came across a signboard indicating the direction of Kotebetta and the distance.

Hatti HoLe

Hatti HoLe - The river at the base of Kotebetta

Direction board at the base

We saw a hanging bridge on our way, which was very well-built. I personally have a phobia to step on anything that doesn’t hold still. It was a great experience to walk on this bridge while it swayed above the river in full flow. But we didn’t cross the bridge for our trek.

The hanging bridge

Then we walked through bushes, patches of forests and open lands trying hard to ignore the scorching sun. But he didn’t ignore us. We were tired more often and kept sipping water throughout the climb. The climb was made worthwhile by breathtaking view of the mountains around.

Me and our friend, watching the drifting clouds

The clouds drifted freely, making our view hazy but equally wonderful. We could feel the cool wind as we reached a considerable height. We also experienced clouds on our skin once we reached the peak. They drifted toward the peak, and we stood there, arms wide open as if to embrace the passing clouds. Meanwhile getting chilled by their cool.

Temple

Temple at the peak. Not the actual peak. The actual peak can be seen behind the temple.

There is a temple at the top and we observed that there had been a sacrifice the previous day for the deity. However, I wasn’t interested in going inside the temple. We watched the mountain ranges and passing clouds for a long time, after which the guys relaxed a bit on the low-lying rocks, S read Sherlock Holmes while the friend watched an episode of Friends. Yes, that is exactly what they did! While I was busy capturing their madness on camera.;)

After spending some time there, we decided it was time to climb down. The climb down somehow seemed never-ending. We got back to the bridge where there is a bus stop and had some tea at a nearby shop. In Coorg, private bus transportation is really good. Everybody seems to know everybody else. And people are very friendly, making jokes about things and generally being joyful. It was raining faintly and the bus we got into was a small one. The conductor loaded a bunch of bananas into the bus and I was surprised to see that he gave everyone in the bus a banana each while he ate one. Now, who does that these days?

We got down at our stop and walked back to my sister-in-law’s house for a hot bath and food, while remembering the wonderful trek.

Information:
Kotebetta literally means Fort-mountain. It looks like a Kote from far away, hence the name. There is no fort on the mountain. Google says it is the 3rd highest peak in Karnataka, next to Tadiyandamol and Brahmagiri. Madapur is located around 20 km away from Somwarpet. The buses which goes to Madapur from Somwarpet stops at Hattihole, and there are plenty return buses before dusk. Who knows you might get a banana or two too 🙂

Updated after a few memory refreshers from my husband 🙂 I should give it to him, he has a great memory.

Save a grassland, save nature

Spreading the word, to save a grassland in Hesarghatta (near Bangalore), which is a wonderful habitat for migratory birds. The place is under threat from Govt. which wants to build a theme park there.

Please share the news and stop a natural habitat from being exploited. Please sign the online petition and support the cause.

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-chief-minister-vidhana-soudha-bangalore-stop-the-development-of-a-theme-park-on-the-grassland-near-hesaraghatta?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=friends_wall

Why I can’t not travel

Some people can’t be alone and some people can only be alone, some people like staying at home watching TV or meeting friends in a mall or something for a party. We all have our reasons to do what we do. It mainly being, our like or dislike for something. That is the first reason for me not to stay at home all the time. Because I don’t like it. But it used to be a lot different earlier.

Flashback to my earlier days (say when I was in college). I loved being left to my own devices. I was mostly found with a book, reading or with a notepad and pencil in hand, sketching. I didn’t like meeting people (grownups to be specific) though I liked making friends at college I was not so conversative with others my age I met outside of class. To be brief, I didn’t have many options to spend my time and I made do with what I had at hand. Even in the so called parties and gatherings I used to grab a magazine and read cover to cover just for something to do to keep from talking mundane to others. I was simply not interested in gossip and no constructive conversation happens at such places.

If I come to think of it, I never once felt the need to just get out of the house and take a walk. That was how I was conditioned and being a small south Indian town, my place didn’t offer much avenues there either. And if I did it, I’d probably become talk of the town, me being a girl and all. Not that I cared, but my parents sure did. 😛

Flash forward to now.
If I stay at Bangalore for more than 3 weekends in a row, I’m sure to feel stuck and irritated, like I’m caged. Too bad for a free-souled (ha! a new word). On second thoughts, I might have got that from S. Can travelling be contagious?
The idea of packing my bags and seeing a new place excites me. It is the ‘unknown’ that does the magic. How the experience of the same journey is different everytime tickles me, opening my mind for the games of snakelike paths.

Also scientifically, the more energy we expend in trekking/running/exercising, the more is the production of endorphins and adrenaline. They simply make you feel good and happy. Yes, despite all those sore muscles. So everytime I get back from a travel or trek, however short it might be, I am rejuvinated. Though I feel tired, there is a new found shine on my face and twinkle in my eyes. I acquire the zeal to go through life, like every day is new and the power of being able see things in a new light. It is so good it’s almost philosophical.

So yes, thats why I can’t not be on the road. If you are reading this, do drop in your thoughts. Why can’t you not be on the road?

Mishap on Ombattu Gudda trek

“A student from BMS college drowned in the falls while on a trek to Ombhattu Gudda with his friends.”
I’m sure by now all the trekking world knows the news. However, I don’t want to write about how it happened. The media has hyped a lot about how there were girls too in the trek (as if its a bad thing) and how the forest was infested with wild animals.
While I feel terribly sorry for the boy and his family, I also feel angry at their stupidity. Ofcourse this could happen to anybody anywhere. But when it happens at a tourist spot it is a different thing. When you deliberately go into a forest and get into wild waters, it’s not a joke.

I’ve made the first line bold so it serves as a warning to the amateurs who would want to venture out there for fun. Trust me S has been there and it’s the toughest trek in Karnataka. There is no trail for most of the way and the chances of getting lost are just too many. Forest is humid and houses lakhs and crores of leeches. There are bushes and trees everywhere and some trails can be misleading. Can’t get out without a guide/map/compass/GPS. These details have easily put off S from including me in this trek. But I guess the word ‘trek’ has become a fad these days and every other person thinks they can do it, even if they don’t know what it is. I feel sorry.

A little note of request/s from me or rather from all the passionate trekkers.

1. Please refrain from doing something you don’t have much idea about.
2. Please consult experienced people before planning treks.
3. Please hire an experienced guide, he might cost more but he also knows what he’s doing.
4. Don’t monkey around when you’re on a trek. You are out of civilized world and in the wild territory.
5. Pay attention to nature and your surroundings.
6. Refrain from infringing the wild life with loud shouts and music.
7. Please consider the word of caution as seriously as possible.
8. Always prepare for the worst.

Hope the boy’s soul rest in peace.

Update: Post by Poorna Prajna on the same. Also few more pointers