Monsoon pilgrimage – Belur

On our annual trip this time, we visited Belur and Mullayyanagiri together with Hornad and Sringeri. This time with the in-laws in tow. It was raining and added to the beauty of the nature during the drive.

We started from Hassan at 9 am in a hired Indica and reached Belur in less than an hour. I have been to Belur innumerable times in the past. I was a child though and didn’t understand the value or beauty of those stone temples. So this time I was keen and curious. We went straight to the temple and hired a guide. The guides are all certified and the fare is standard and fixed (200 Rs). They will be waiting for the tourists and will take turns. I was very happy to see women guides helping and taking foreign tourists around.

Belur temple premises

The main Chennakeshava temple construction was started by the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana and took more than 100 years to complete, hence witnessing three generation of Hoysala Kings. Most of the sculptures have been done by renowned sculptor Jakanachari. The darpana sundari (mirror beauty) is one of the most famous statues. The other structures inside the premises include Kappe-Chennigaraya temple, two shrines, a kalyani filled with water and a dhwaja sthamba (flag post).

Inside the temple is very dark and as usual many pillars can be seen. One particular pillar has very intricate carvings. It is said to contain the miniatures of all the major statues carved outside. And there is a flashlight for the sole purpose of viewing the sculpted ceiling. There is a raised platform in the centre, meant to be used as dancing platform in those days.

The temple is marvelous and I was spellbound by the sculptures. With such patience and devotion did the sculptors dedicate their time and energy to producing such marvels. It did make me wonder if I could ever gather so much of confidence, concentration and patience in doing one thing which I knew took ages to complete. We all want to see immediate results, don’t we? Which made me realize how ordinary I am and hence can not create history. So much to learn from history and we hardly realize it during school, as we just want to pass and get good marks than learn something meaningful. Anyways that’s a post for another day.

We bade good-bye to our guide after learning about Hoysalas, their architecture, many important sculptures and spent sometime thinking about the by-gone era and its splendor. Then it was time to leave.

Monsoon trip continued – Part II

And so after a lot of procrastinating I sat to write and finish the trip details at once. I am not good at writing posts in parts, I simply feel that there won’t be enough continuity. Or the break that I take in between the parts make it difficult to get continuity. Sorry for the long break; will try and avoid it.

Kukke Subramanya – Bisle – Sakleshpur (Manjrabad fort) – Hassan

Date: 16 Aug

After reaching Kukke Subramanya, we walked around a bit searching for lodges maintained by the temple. All of them were full. Only private lodges were available. Our friend wanted to eat churmuri and bhajjis which we bought from a shop nearby. We asked the bhajji guy for assistance regarding our lodging. He suggested a homestay a kilometer away, which we found was pretty good and hygenic. There were two rooms and we took both. It cost us 450 Rs per room.

After freshening up a bit, we went for God Subramanya’s darshana. It started to drizzle, so I and S opened our newly bought rain jackets to walk to the temple. We stopped on the way and enquired to hire jeep for the next day’s journey. The guy agreed for 2000 rupees to take us through Bisile ghat and drop us at Sakleshpur. Had tasty dinner at the temple dasoha and walked back to the room. We sat around and talked for a while before going to sleep. Woke up nice and early to the chirping of birds. The arecanut trees in the background were providing beautiful green view. It was a little cold, which was much to our liking.

We had to fill hot water from a tumbler/bindige. It made me nostalgic of the days at my home where I used to fill water from a bindige (kannada for a big round tumbler/container used to fill water). Had breakfast at a hotel near the temple, topping it with filter coffee. We met the jeep guy and started our journey towards Bisile.

The road was really bad. Only jeeps could tread that road and hence the humongous amount we paid to hire one. There were not many vehicles for the same reason. However, the journey was lovely. We talked, made jokes and enjoyed the lovely green surroundings. En-route was a temple, where we ourselves could do the puja. A small spring nearby where cold water was flowing. I felt like I could just live there.

Chamundeshwari temple

Small spring near the temple

A beautiful and roaring river en-route

We reached Bisile beauty spot at 12pm. The view from the view point is simple breathtaking. We can see water flowing in the distance. And the beauty of mountain ranges of Western ghats need no description We stood there for a while, took pictures. Came back and sat down on the benches and talked.

Gate to the bisile beauty spot

View from Bisile beauty spot

Next stop – Manjarabad fort. We stopped at the junction on NH 48 and had to walk for about half a kilometer up to the fort. Boys had some fun jumping around and trying to click the jump. Trivia: this fort is pretty famous as a popular shooting spot for Kannada movies. Tippu Sultan has got this fort constructed and it is in star shape. The shape is not readily visible as it is in dilapated state. But we got to see the star shape in a picture kept at the shop at the junction. We had tea and eatables at the shop and started towards Sakleshpur bus stand.

Entrance to Manjarabad fort

Boys having fun

View of the fort

We saw a new and pretty decent hotel before we reached bus stand so we bid good bye to our Jeep guy there. We filled our stomachs and walked towards the bus stand, which was about a kilometer away from the hotel. A bus going towards Bangalore was ready, so we grabbed our seats. I and S took tickets for Hassan and rest of the gang travelled to Bangalore.

Reached Hassan at 6pm and simply crashed for the day. It was a wonderful and memorable journey through the ghats. We reminisced all that we did and saw photographs over and again. That said I don’t think I’ll do the train journey again, just because I hate crowd and I hate loud crowd even more. I prayed to Lord Subramanya to give our people more commonsense.

Next up: Hassan – Belur – Chikmagalur – Hornad – Sringeri

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…

Pushpagiri trek

I consider it my duty to inform you that this is quite a long winded post with complete details. Attempt if you have some free time at hand.

Once again, I dive into my own mind to retrieve the silver threads of wonderful memories I have of my treks/travels in the past as I have not engaged myself in any lately. This is an account of one such trek, my first tough one – Pushpagiri mountains. I hope you find it engaging, enjoyable and useful. So here we go.

I had neither heard nor seen this mountain before doing this trek. I wasn’t even serious about the height or the distance of trek that was getting planned. In short, I left all the planning to S and didn’t bother getting to know anything about where we were headed. This, in retrospect was a good thing. Because I might have thought only about difficulty all the while instead of enjoying the trek, which would probably hinder my attempts at completing it successfully. Which you’d agree would not be good as I’d be asked to go back to the base on my own.

It was planned that we are going to trek to Pushpagiri peak and I together with my cousin sister were the only girls in the team. Then my sister joined and that got the count to 7. I was seriously doubting the capabilities of the other two ladies, for they were not very strong both physically and mentally. And a serious trek needs mental strength to kick in when the body gives way. I tried to persuade them not to do it, but they were adamant. So I warned them that I am not going to be responsible for what happens to them. It is their sole responsibility to follow us to the top and back. For me too, it was a first serious trek but I was somehow confident that I will make it, come what may. Because I wanted it so bad, to do something, to feel the achievement and adrenaline.

By the time we reached majestic (in Blr) on Friday night, it was raining and we were dripping wet when we got into the bus. Needless to say that the journey was pretty uncomfortable, both for us and for our unfortunate co-passengers. The bus reached Somwarpet quite late as it had to wait for passengers to board in Bangalore, who were delayed due to rain.

I will skip the gory details of the travel and how we didn’t get time for a bath next morning, for everyone’s benefit.

After breakfast we bundled up in my husband’s brother-in-law’s Pickup to our base “Beedalli” which is 20km from Somwarpet. Coorg is such a beautiful place and I enjoyed the ride at the back of the Pickup, having wind in my hair and eyes closed I almost was one with nature. It was 9:40am by the time we reached the base. There is a temple which we didn’t visit due to time constraint. We had planned 8 hrs of total trek time and be back before sun down so we could reach the safety of house without any accidents.

I wasn’t a serious trekker before this one. I’d only done Savandurga twice and some petty walk in the park types. so when S tried to make me understand the seriousness of the task ahead, I overconfidently brushed it aside saying ofcourse I can do this. I really wanted to see what it would be like to be in a real jungle.

We started walking at 9:45am and just after half hour of walking (and signing some papers that indicated if  we happen to get eaten by any animal, it is due to our own sheer madness) we were in the Pushpagiri wild life sanctuary. And OMG this was REAL forest, with scary sounds and *GASP* blood sucking leeches! Eeyuck!

And so we walked on and on and on and on and were nowhere near any kind of clearing. Clearly the leeches were making every attempt to have the feast that they could smell/sense. Good thing we had tucked the ends of our pants in socks so none could crawl and climb on our legs, which would make me very uneasy. Every now and then there were scared shrieks from me, my sister and cousin, who were the girls on their first real trek. I personally found the moist creatures disgusting and they made me sick. Since it was a forest and it had rained continuously since past two days, it was very wet so there were a LOT of them, bloody things. One even managed to get into my shoe though the lace-hole. Can you imagine my horror?!

We stopped at every possible place where some strong sun would shine and clear ourselves. When I opened my shoe, there it was climbing up to the dark recesses where we couldn’t see it. The only way was to put a hand and pull it out. And no I didn’t do it, my friend did. Bless his soul. From then on there were regular leech clearance breaks for about a minute in the sun and then walk on. As soon as I spotted a bright sun patch ahead, I would shout in my officer like voice “leech clearance everyone” and people would start looking at their and others’ shoes, use deo sprays to paralyze them and kill some with the shoe if they really felt like and walk on. I carried a stiff small stick with which I would wriggle them out.

Brave soldiers resting on the rocky patch. Yes brave soldiers also wear cowboy hats on treks.

Then we came to the first rock patch and I heaved a sigh of relief because there was sun and there would be no more looking at shoes and we could relax after a long climb. I was exhausted and wanted to sit for a while but was too paranoid to land my bum on the stone lest some of that moist creature climbed up. You’d agree that it wouldn’t be nice to get a leech bite there.

Race of climbing the rocky patch. Yours truly comes first.

Yours truly looking up at sun in gratitude which actually looks like she’s posing for the camera. Co-incidences!

There are three such rock patches which we encountered after about half way through the forest. They are real blessings. There will be scorching sun and no chance of leech sticking. And they are very steep so better climb them first and rest on top for a while. For me, the blistering heat felt like caressing breeze for I could keep my mind clear from thinking about them (by now you know who).

As we went on climbing there was more sun and less leeches. At one point I decided I will not keep thinking if some have gotten inside my shoe as I won’t know even if they bite. And from then on it was easy to ignore the paranoia.

After stopping for a while for some oranges and water, and climbing for more than three and half hours we finally reached the peak. It felt good. The clouds, the view, the far away mountains in different shades. It was indeed a pretty picture, a very pretty one. But we had a deadline to meet. We had to start climbing down at 2pm so we could reach the base before dark (read: before the animals decide to find us for their dinner).

Scenic beauty

The chapattis with mango pickle and chatnipudi tasted wonderful after all that loss of salt from the body. And we started the descend at 2:15pm, glad that we were on time.

We are not criminals; faces are sprayed with paint because yours truly was feeling too lazy to use photo editing software to blur them.

We started in three batches. S with his friend, me with another friend, my sister and cousin with another friend, in order of their speed. We were in the middle and I decided to leave behind the friend, to join the two others walking ahead of me and called out loud to the S. He heard and called back, so he must be somewhere near. And I went ahead hoping I would be following quite near to him. We didn’t stop anywhere in the middle in the hope to get back early, so we skipped sitting on the rocky patches and looming ahead of us was the forest and how in the world had it suddenly gotten so dark in there?

I still couldn’t see the two people ahead of me, but wished they were nearby. In front of me now were some rocks which went downhill, may be a stream ran there in rains. And is that the trail? I climbed down and still couldn’t find two tiny figures climbing down ahead of me. This was wrong; I had gotten on the wrong trail. Since how long? And why in the world did I come alone?

Now I could clearly hear the strange scary forest sounds. Did I hallucinate about those faint footsteps somewhere nearby? Is that a deer? Or fox? Or tiger? Or leaopard? My heart thudded while I gathered courage and screamed to S loudly. Thankfully he heard me and came back after a few minutes. And in those few minutes I got the feel of the real wild jungle, which I hadn’t taken in while climbing up.

I didn’t think about how my legs hurt, it was as if they were programmed to jog in a certain speed and I just went with them and jogged my way back till we reached the stream where we had filled water while climbing up. I washed myself thoroughly off the sweat which made me look like I had a bath and forgot to dry myself. It was a welcome relief and when I looked back the mountain and jungle did look intimidating. How hadn’t I noticed it in the morning?

Waiting for others to come. And yes, that IS a bald patch there on my head.

Then we had to wait for the remaining people to come back which they did after an hour. And in the meanwhile I did a final leech clearance wherein I was proud to find that I had no leech bites at all. So huh, damn you blood suckers, you couldn’t get me. I almost went back to give them the finger, but then did it mentally. Wasn’t worth it to get inside the forest then.

Two of them crossing the hanging bridge towards the base. I’m on a spray-painting spree!

Our faithful companion of the trip barely escaped getting spray-painted, as yours truly realized nobody would recognize her anyway.

Distance trekked: 7+7 kms

Total time taken: ~8 hours

Mode of transport: Private

Food: Packed lunch and water filled at the small spring near the base

Energy supplements: Oranges + glucose powder

Leech care: Deodorant sprays, strong sticks

Result: Awesome joy, adrenaline rush, sense of achievement, break from mundane office life, refreshed body and mind

Will I do it again: Without a doubt

Now the time for some pointers, although the regulars already know this:
1. Attempt this if you are fit. Like really really fit. Coz there will not be a break to sit and relax in the middle. Not until the rocks which is a looooong way.
2. If you are a first timer, and are paranoid of leeches, don’t ever go here. At least not during rains.
3. Wear tight socks which has no designs (designs with little holes and stuff) and which is tightly knit. Put your pant ends inside the socks and if you want you can tie the laces tight over the socks.
4. Don’t wear shoes with huge lace holes, which welcome the little guests.
5. Carry a firm and strong stick which isn’t too long. Of course to remove the leeches stuck to the shoes.
6. Carry at least 4 litres of water each. You can fill it at the stream, which is the only source of water.
7. Carry fruits like oranges which quench thirst and gives energy.
8. Carry enough glucose; there are definitely chances of getting faint in the sun.
9. Never ever leave the group and wander alone when inside the forest. It is always better to stick together.
10. Having at least one person who has done this trek helps loads. In my directionless case, it is for staying on track.
11. Carry a deodorant spray each, lest you start fighting among yourselves for it. Spray it a little at the place where the leech has stuck and after few seconds it will fall off.
12. Carry hats/caps. Covering head in the direct sun avoids feeling too fatigued.
13. Don’t, for the love of all that you love; don’t scream/shot/have loud conversations in the middle of the forest. This scares the wild life. Don’t interrupt their lives with your presence. Just because you had nowhere to go, you don’t have to invade their space. Talk in hushed tones or don’t talk at all if you want to spot something.
PS: S spotted a Cobra and a deer. I of course was busy all the while looking at my shoes. Duh!
14. The above doesn’t hold in forests which have too much wild life. Screaming and talking loudly is considered healthier. You’ll guess why if you understood the 13th point.
15. Don’t be too scared, or else don’t go there. The forest and the sounds don’t help. Have a little courage; the animals usually keep to themselves and away from the trail.
16. FINALLY, DON’T EVER LITTER THE PLACE. It is a natural habitat for many beings, don’t spoil their home. Carry a plastic bag to throw your waste in. Carry it back to your place and dispose properly. Better to go with a group that follows this.
PS: This is true for so many tourist places which I’ve stopped visiting for the same reason.

After all this, while climbing down, we found a group which was climbing up and the guys were wearing, floaters!!! On asking he said, the first time there were too many leech bites though he wore shoes, so he wore floaters this time and he got only one. Now that’s what I call brave. Though attempt this at your own risk.

Renamed

Since I haven’t written anything about healthy eating and also since I realized that clubbing eating with travel is kind of a off-putter, even for myself. I am excluding that particular topic from this blog.

Henceforth, the blog trektraveltadka will be known as My Treks and Travels (mytreksntravels).

All my previously uploaded pics will have trektraveltadka copyright on them for convenience’s sake, because it is too much of a job to change them all.

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

In the beautiful mountains

It’s been some time that I’ve written a travelogue or for that matter anything. My recent tour of Manali, Delhi and Agra provided a beautiful opportunity for me to wake up the writer in me.

A week’s worth of travel and sight seeing and eating whatever is available actually made me crave for home made food. So much so that as soon as I came in I hogged the first thing that I was able to prepare.

As usual, I digress. Let me get straight to the beginning of the trip. Travel to Delhi and then to Manali.

Day 1, Delhi, Manali.

We had planned well in advance for the trip, so the flight tickets were booked to and from Delhi. On 27th evening we boarded the Flight to Delhi. Then sat in the AC bus to the inter state bus stand to catch the pre-booked HRTC Volvo to Manali. We later learnt that it was a big mistake to book the government bus. We left the bus stand at 8:45. The bus kept stopping everywhere and we reached our destination only at 11 am the next day. Landed at our hotel very tired and cranky.

Day 2, Manali.

Thankfully we had the hotel cab pick us up from the bus stop.
We had booked Sarthak Resorts in Manali (Naggar road). We had been there after our wedding (2+ yrs back) and liked it so much we booked it again. It is not too expensive and suits our taste as well as pockets pretty nicely. We had a valley view room so we could see the snow capped mountains through the huge window.

Most of the first day went in taking rest and in the evening we went to the Manali market. It got very cold in the evening (which we had not anticipated) and it was drizzling too. We did some window shopping and ate chats for dinner.

Day 3, Snow point, Solang Valley.

As the previous time, this time too we booked cab from the hotel for our day trips. The snow point is a point upto which civilians/tourists are allowed on the Rohtang pass road. I was very hopeful to see Rohtang pass but it was closed. The driver informed us that it might open in late May or early June this year. It differs every year and depends upon snowfall.

So we reach somewhere higher than Gulaba (which was our snow point last time) but there wasn’t much fresh snow. Whatever snow was present was pretty dirty due to too many tourists walking over it. As it had rained the previous evenings there was slush everywhere. My in-laws managed to enjoy a lot, but as I had seen better and fresher snow I was disappointed and moreover damn scared to walk on the ice. We also had to walk a long way and trek up the hill a little, as there were too many parked vehicles and our cab couldn’t go any further than a point.

SIL, her son and FIL opted to ride the horses up the hill. But my MIL put a brave face and walked with us and she trekked up the hill too. So obviously we had to walk back the same distance. There was and is nothing much to see in Solang valley except for the paragliding which didn’t interest us(me and husband) as we had done para-sailing here in Bangalore. So we decided to get back to the hotel and take rest. On the way we stopped at Kothi at the same restaurant where we had been last time for lunch. I still remember the distinctive and very tasty dum aloo that I had eaten in 2009. This time too it was delicious but due to the crowd I couldn’t enjoy much. But unfortunately I don’t remember the name.

Day 4, Manali local sightseeing, back to Delhi.

We had planned to do local sightseeing for half a day and leave for Delhi. We covered Vasisht (don’t ever fall for the Chingu trap*), Manu temple, Hadimba temple and Tibetian monastry near the market.
Later we caught the HRTC bus back to Delhi from the bus stand in the Market. We reached Delhi next morning.

Now is time for some pictures.

Mist covered mountain

Mist covered mountain

View from snow point

Snow point: On the way to Rohtang pass

Ponies

Ponies to bear your weight

Another breathtaking view

Yak, the cow of Himalayas

Beautiful view from up the mountain

View from our hotel window

Marijuana on the roadside. I’m not gonna tell you where exactly

To be continued …

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.