How to efficiently travel plan with the top 7 tips

Travel Planning

So you caught a bug to go places, see and do things but are anxious of how and where to begin? The thought of the gigantic mountain of things to do before starting the actual travel is enough to make a beginner feel jittery.

I won’t lie and tell you that I spent a lot of time reading stuff and learning how to plan for a successful trip. I do spend a lot of time reading now, but I had my own personal planner when I started travelling. The perks of a travel junkie spouse.

After having travelled a fair bit, I started participating in the planning, have my say and take control of the itenary.

The entire process booking tickets, researching the place and the overall planning gives me immense satisfaction and makes me giddy with anticipation of turning the plans into reality. I do the research and draw out the draft, which the both (my husband and I) of us sit and finalise.

While you plan, it is important (and fairly obvious) to take into consideration your budget, interests and priorities. Here are some things that we always take into account while planning our trips.

1.Travel tickets

Travel

Book as early as you can and go for the non-refundable ones if your dates are final. Saves a lot of money. Go for the no-frills airlines, like Tiger Air, that offer some of the cheapest tickets.

2.Accommodation

Hotels

Again non-refundable deals are the best. Hostels and shared accommodations work best for people who don’t mind strangers and the space constraints.

Location of your accommodation is important. Consider priorities of your group and think of a location that agrees with most (if not all) interests.

We are just back from Singapore and we stayed in little India to accommodate our parents’ strictly vegetarian palate. Hunting for a veggie restaurant everyday had the potential to spoil our day. So think about things that would turn the experience sour and accommodate for those needs.

3.Commute

Local commute

Make generous use of Google maps and find out the distances between your places of interest when deciding the mode of transport.

If you plan on using public transport, check their website and keep yourself informed about buying tickets or travel cards.

If you plan to use taxi, Google and read about others’ experiences with taxis at the places your are visiting.

I highly suggest to get a prepaid local number and data activated on it to use for maps.

4.Itenary

Itenary

Plan each day out and list out the activities. Best to write everything of importance you found while reading about the place and print it out to carry it with you.

Note down all places you want to visit and prioritise. Start the daily itenary with the high priority ones(obviously). Note down their opening and closing times, duration(approx) of the visit, tickets and options for commute.

Read a lot of reviews to get an idea about the experience.

Take into account lunch and other breaks you might need if you travel with elders and/or children.

That said, I highly recommend leaving a little room for spontaneity and surprises, if you can. This gives you an opportunity to explore the place and learn new things.

For eg., ask a local what they suggest for an evening experience or a little known place that you can visit.

5.Packing

Like every traveller worth his/her salt, I too recommend travelling light. Pack only the essentials.

Tip: If you are on a long trip, especially if you have to carry you luggage around, then instead of packing clothes for each day you can choose to re-use them as much as possible and make sure you have laundry facilities at the place of your accommodation.

Note: I will soon be uploading a free packing checklist to print. So you can save yourself the hassle of making a list and download it instead.

6.Cultural sensitivity & law

Each country is different, sometimes each state is different when it comes to law. Read about the strict rules and regulations of the place your are visiting and make a mental note of your habits that might violate the law.

For example, in Singapore littering is an offence and attracts heavy penalties. If you are from a country where littering isn’t that big of a deal, you would need to remember to keep the banana peel with you until you find the bin.

Also remember to read a bit about the culture and what might cause offence to the local population of the place you are travelling to. You would be surprised how what you think are small things might end up offending others. You always want to be a polite and thankful traveller.

7.Safety

Travel Planning

Not all places are safe, even in the city you live. It would do you good to be on your guard and read all you can about safety with respect to the places you want to visit and your time of visit. Make sure to have a working mobile phone that you can use during emergencies. If you read a lot of reviews that a place might not be safe, it is better to skip it. If you are on a long stay at a particular location, make local friends or hire travel guides who can accompany you to such places.

Hope you found these tips helpful to plan your next trip efficiently. I wish you an enjoyable trip.

Do you have more tips for the amateur traveller? Leave a comment below.

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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.

5 best places to eat and drink at Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay Travel

Apollo Bay is a very small coastal town on the Great Ocean road and a perfect place to act as a base to explore the Great Ocean Road. The twelve apostles is a little more than an hours drive from here so visiting it both in the morning and in the evening becomes convenient.

Apollo Bay is also famous for a lot of its eateries. Here are some of our finds that were actually chance finds than the result of a serious research as we had decided not look anything up. We just knew the place was amazing and we would work with that.

Sandy feet cafe

The little nondescript looking cafe, facing the beach that served us lip-smacking vegetarian burger and vegetarian lasagna. We loved it so much that we wanted to try other vegetarian offerings they have the next day, sadly it was closed. It was Christmas Day. Yea, go ahead call us stupid. Waiting to go back to try more.

George’s takeaway

Since we missed Sandy Feet, we went looking for any restaurant that would serve vegetarian options and discovered to our dismay that a lot of the shops on the shopping stretch were closed. George’s was open and boy was there a crowd. We finally got our vegetarian pizza after a bit of a wait. We crossed the road and walked just a little bit to climb the crest overlooking the playground and dug into the pizza.

We honestly had no expectations and were just happy we could find food. But we were pleasantly surprised as we took a bite. It was delicious. Next time we are at Apollo Bay, we’re definitely eating here.

George’s is actually a huge eat-in place that serves different cuisines (fastfood), pizza is one of them.

Craft beer at Great Ocean Road Brewhouse

The building of the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse looked inviting and there is a taste house at the back. Yum. So we came back in the evening and had a craft beer in the sitting area. I am not a beer person. My hate for beer stems from the awful strong smell that most carry. I tasted this one and I quote my own self “this beer is so good, it doesn’t taste like beer at all.” Yep I liked it. And next time we are in town, I’ll make sure to pick a crate.

We did try veggie burgers and garlic bread while we were there. Though the garlic bread was good, the burger left much to be desired. We couldn’t try anything the “Taste Of The Region” because it was closed. Gives us a reason to go to Apollo Bay again.

The Icecream Tub

Amazing ice cream. Period. What else do you say about ice creams? It was on our way as we leisurely strolled through the stretch of shops; it was a hot day; so we stopped for some. I should mention the crowd outside the shop that made us go for it. They have got lots of awards too, if such things interest you.

Koala cafe

The cafe is located at Kennet River, on the way from Lorne to Apollo Bay and was our quick pit stop. We knew neither about the cafe nor that we could watch Koalas nearby.

As we were passing by the cafe, we heard loud bird racket and saw many tourist buses, vans and cars parked nearby, so we stopped to see what it was. Sure enough a group of people were interspersed with a rather large group of different species of colorful parrots and ducks (with ducklings). They were merrily feeding on the seeds that the people held in their hands. We also noticed a sleeping Koala on a nearby tree which didn’t look bothered by the ruckus. We walked a bit on the dirt road and spotted more Koalas. This was our first Koala sighting in natural habitat so we were visibly ecstatic.

After the brief walk, we went to the Koala Cafe and were greeted by the smiling staff. We ordered thick-shakes (different from milkshakes) that were absolutely yummy, even for grown ups.

Note: Even though we are vegetarians and can express our opinion accordingly, a quick search on  will push you to give them a try. So I’d say, go try them regardless of your food priorities.

Mt Donna Buang – our first snow as a family

This is my first travel update from Australia and I’m excited to be writing again about travel. It is nothing huge but might give some information to (new?) local Melbournites who want to enjoy the winter and go out.

I was giddy with anticipation as I was seeing snow after a long time (last time it was in 2012). It might also have been the fact that I haven’t gone out in a long time as well. Melbourne winter makes it tough to even think of going out. That and my laziness.

We reached there around 2pm. The road was nice and clear of any ice or snow, thanks to the grader that had gone through sometime earlier. As the snow started appearing on roadsides, I was giddy all over again. And once there was snow all around us, it looked like we were driving through a wonderland. The first thing that came to my mind was Frozen. Which is slightly embarrassing. Baby A still remains blissfully unaware of Disney. It was like we were driving through some fantasy and a reindeer might just pop in. There it was, the thick blanket of fresh snow, in all its pristine beauty, mesmerizing and awe inspiring, all at once. And I was lost. For a moment, until my daughter started her incessant requests demands to know when we would reach ‘there’.

The parking near the summit and the one below it were full so we had to park 3 km away from the summit and were deliberating if we could really do dreading the 3km walk with a child so excited she was hardly hearing us or to just play in the snow nearby and come back again to try our luck for nearer parking. Luckily for us, we saw that the traffic instructors (inspectors?) were letting cars go further, based on how many came down from the summit. A few minutes of waiting later, it was our turn to go up. By the way, did you know it is very very difficult to get little kids gloves on, what with them not getting the fingers through correctly. She was distracted and kept her fingers bent. It took me the longest time.

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We the flashy bunch!

The walk to the summit is about 300m. And while we wanted Baby A to sit on the sled so we could pull her and get ourselves to the summit faster, she wanted to pull the empty sled herself. So it took us about thrice the time. She kept stopping to watch other kids slide down on the road, on their sleds and toboggans, screaming and throwing snowballs. There on the way up, we met our first snowman, complete with a carrot nose.

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When we finally reached the summit we were hungry. I blame it all on the cold. We had a small snack and played in the snow. It wasn’t too crowded and there was a lot of space for everybody to slide down on their sleds. So we did. Baby A was hesitant at first, but then joined me in the sled and went again with her dad. We had to take off the helmet though. Was a bit of an overkill if you ask me. But as is usual with kids, you never know what kind of situation they can get into. People had built snowmen and snow castles. Couple of kids were still trying to carve out the entrance to their huge igloo. Baby A had just begun to open up and have more fun with the snow, rather than being exhilarated and awed by it, that we had to wrap up. It was 4pm and starting to get dark.

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Deciding to come back again when it snows, we strapped our unwilling 2 and a half year old to her car seat and started back. It was a day well spent and we still had a full Sunday to relax.

Here are a few pointers.

  • It’s free! Yes, there is no entry charge to go up on the summit.
  • It is a very good place to experience snow for the first time, especially for kids. It isn’t big enough to be crowded with people who want to ski, but not too small for the sleds either. There is even toboggan runs, which we will try next time we go there.
  • For the first timers, wear thermals if you know you get cold easily. My husband didn’t as he has a naturally hot body *hint hint*. And snow gloves to play in snow. Don’t wear woolen ones, they get wet and soggy. Buy the right size gloves for the kids. They will keep coming off if they are too big.
  • We bought a ski helmet for Baby A just in case. As I mentioned before, you can never be too careful with kids. But none of the other kids were wearing one, so I guess it must be safer here. But wear something on your head, even if its the hood of your jacket or a beanie as the snow from the trees keep sliding down and on to people’s heads.
  • Child(ren) can make the experience unpredictable, especially if its their first time. My daughter was cranky and crying every time we took the sled off her hands or when she couldn’t make a snowball by herself. I had to be patient and make her understand we were there to have fun and not have a tantrum. So prepare them beforehand and be ready to expect the unexpected.
  • Bring water with you and some snack, just in case. To the summit I mean. We, for some reason kept getting dehydrated so we had to keep sipping water. Same goes for kids. Thankfully it didn’t make us need to pee. But yes, be ready to use a less than clean toilet. Hand sanitizer is a must.
  • Keep an eye on the information on when the grader goes through that day and start accordingly. We later found out that the grader had been through the road at 10:30 in the morning. On a good day you can spend a major part of the day there if the grader goes through early enough.
  • Pack a lunch and a snack if you are going to be there early. Or you can plan to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants in Warburton. We didn’t because we were tired and the kid was tired and we just wanted to get home. Which wasn’t a clever idea in the end. The kid slept in the car and had a tantrum when woken up and I was too tired to cook dinner. So eat at Warburton even if you are not staying the night.
  • Pack change of clothes. And huge dustbin bags to carry wet soggy clothes (if at all).
  • No need for chains on tyres. And a sedan will take you there comfortably. No 4wd required. But check the website to make sure of the conditions before you start. And be prepared for drastic change in the said conditions.
  • Be very careful, keep an eye on the kids and also have a lot of fun 🙂

More Information

Visit Warburton

Parks victoria

FB Snow updates

Some more snow report

Snow forecast site

Weather news

Brahmagiri beckoning

I badly wanted to do Brahmagiri before end of 2012. No logical reason, but I just wanted to trek that mountain. Many are on my to-do list, but this was on the top. So the Christmas weekend gave us a very good opportunity and friends were able to take time off work and a plan was made.

We drove to Coorg, the four of us and were supposed to be joined by two there. Now, the beauty of driving is, you can stop where you want, take a detour and enjoy the surroundings. We planned to cover Melkote, Ranganthittu and Tibetian colony on our way to Ponnampet.

Mode of transport: Car
People: 4
Date: 22/12/2012 morning 7am
Place: Bangalore

We left home at 7am and stopped near Bidadi for breakfast at the awesome Shivadarshini thatte idli shop. Idlis there are absolutely awesome. I suggest to try this place for a break if you are traveling on Mysore-Bangalore road. We also tried chitranna which was ok. If you are a fan of strong coffee this is the place you should go. There are many other thatte idli hotels in the area, you can take your pick. We went here because it was recommended.

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Bidadi thatte idli – Shivadarshini hotel

Our next stop was Melkote, which isn’t much besides a Kalyani and a temple on the mountain. Get a water bottle when you start to climb the stairs though, steps are tall and tiring. We didn’t visit the famous two pillar place where lot of shooting happens. We simply didn’t have the interest after seeing all that crowd (due to it being a particularly auspicious day).

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Melkote kalyani (you can see the throng of people and clothes lined on the iron fence)

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Melkote temple – view from the road

Then we took a deviation towards Ranganthittu bird sanctuary. We had lunch at a restaurant there. It was decent, but not recommendable. Never take chapatis there, you’ll only get papads. Fried rice and pulao were edible enough. We also had ice creams since it was pretty hot.

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Ranganthittu bird sanctuary

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Lazy crocs at the sanctuary

We took a stroll to watch birds and unfortunately there weren’t many. There were the storks which were pretty comfortably colonized on a tree and a few lazy crocs basking in the sun. The place is pretty ill maintained (S however feels that it was well maintained!!!) and tourism isn’t promoted as well as it could have been. It made me feel wonder for what I paid Rs. 50 as entry fee. We left at around 2:15pm and decided to skip the Tibetian colony and hit straight towards Ponnampet.

We took Periypatna, Siddapur, Ammatthi route instead of the regular Hunsur road since it is in non-drivable condition. We expected to find a few elephants as it had gotten dark, but looks like the huge fellows gave us a miss.

We reached Gonikoppal at 7:30pm and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. Gonikoppal is a small place and good restaurants are hard to come by. The one where we went was decent. Since it is a completely kodava community dominated place, almost all restaurants serve alcohol and non-veg. Picky vegetarians should get their food packed before reaching here.

We reached Ponnampet at around 9:30pm and settled cozily at our friend’s quarters at CIT.

Date: 23/12/2012 morning 9am
Place: Ponnampet
People: 4

We were bathed and fed by around 9 am and packed lunch. We drove to the forest office at Srimangala to collect our permission for the trek, after which it was straight to the Brahmagiri base. We were quite late already, due to friends not making it in time.

We didn’t spend much time at Irupu falls as the water wasn’t that great and we had a big trek ahead of us. So we followed the guide assigned to us. Now this young man was very energetic, however lacked experience. We all took a guess at his age and we agreed it would be not more than 20. Since S had already done this trek once in oct 2007, we didn’t think his experience would be a problem.

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Map at the forest office, Srimangala

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A very meaningful board at the beginning of the trek

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Another save tiger board. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Friend K was leading together with the guide and due to lack of fitness I was the last and weakest link of our group, so S decided to walk with me. The sun was unforgiving and the heat unbearable. Off came my jacket, which was supposed to protect my skin. To hell with the skin when I was being cooked inside the jacket. Then started the sipping of water at regular intervals. Even with hats on we felt the our energy was being sucked out of us by the scorching sun.

After a couple of hours we first saw Narimale (Nari – Tiger, male – hill), and after a few minutes reached Narimale guest house, built by forest department for forest guards. Trekkers are also permitted to stay here for the night on their two day trek to Brahmagiri.

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Narimale

Our initial plan was two day trek – first day trek till Narimale guest house and stay. Second day trek the peak, come back, see around and climb down. However, our plan had to be changed as there was recent elephant attack on the guest house and the building was completely smashed. All for a packet of salt which people who cooked there the previous night of the attack, forgot to take inside. The packet which was left on the window sill attracted a herd of elephants who tore down the place just to get the salt. And now we were left with no place to stay the night. So one day trek it had to be.

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Forest guest house at Narimale thrashed by a herd of elephants

We replenished ourselves with huge gulps of energy drink and fruits and started walking again.

After a while we saw a couple walking far ahead of us with their guide, to whom our guide reached and after talking to them found out that they were walking to the temple in Kerala. Oh we didn’t know there was a route to the temple too.

We walked till 1:15pm when we saw a watch tower at around 2 kms. And we were climbing down instead of climbing up the peak. S couldn’t remember seeing a watch tower the last time. He briskly walked to the guide and stopped him. Where were we going? To the Kerala temple ofcourse. What the hell!!!

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The watch tower!

We had missed our deviation towards the Brahmagiri peak and walked further down to the Kerala side. Our guide didn’t even stop to ask us if that is where we were headed. Our guess is even he didn’t know the deviation to the peak.

By the time we retraced our steps back to the deviation it was 2:15 pm and we were hungry and tired and I almost fell down. We had lunch near a small stream and decided to call it a day. Yes, we decided to halt the trek and get back to the base before dark. It made no sense to keep walking as we wouldn’t be able to reach the base before dark if we wanted to see the peak. And we couldn’t stay at the Narimale guest house due to obvious reason. At lunch we got to know the age of our guide – 29 years!!!

On our way back we spotted a Bison at distance. It stared at us for a few seconds before disappearing into a bush. Wild animal spotting is always a joy! 🙂

By the time we reached our car, we were all exhausted. Perhaps not being in the best of health took a toll or may be the heat was too bad. Either ways, we couldn’t complete the trek. It was a bittersweet feeling for me. I was high on adrenaline due to the day’s events. But sad that I couldn’t see the peak.

On our way back, while people chose to dose off (except for the unfortunate soul who had to drive) I promised myself that, soon, I will be back to leave my footprint on the peak. Oh, I will.

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 – Horanadu, Kuduremukha, Sringeri

Horanadu – Kuduremukha- Hanumangundi fallsSringeri

Date: 17 – 18 Aug 2012

Mode of transport: Car

It was 7:30pm when we reached Horanadu, as we did a stopover at BaLehonnuru matha. We went straight to the familiar lodge and got two rooms. The lodges at Hornad belong to the temple and hence cost Rs. 200/night. They have basic amenities, are very clean. Carrying bed sheets to cover the cot and blankets for yourselves is advisable.

We washed ourselves and got ready for the most awaited part of the trip: the meal at the temple dasoha. It is one of the best meals I’ve had in my life. I wonder how they manage to make it so tasty every-time, though it is prepared in a huge quantity. So, in the queue we stood and had delicious meal of simple rice, sambar, rasam and payasa. Then we went for the puja and darshana of goddess Annapurna. One can give daana (donation) of anna (rice) here at the temple. Or can sponsor one meal.

The idol of Annapurneshwari is so beautiful that I want to keep looking at her for a long time. In daylight, the mountains that surround the temple can be seen. If you are a mountain lover like me, you’ll find it peaceful and serene. The road that leads to Horanadu ends there and to go someplace, one has to go back by the same road.

There are many shops in the temple complex where Ayurvedic items, puja items and toys etc., are available. I bought two small oil lamps.

We slept peacefully that night and woke up early for the hot water. Hot water is available between 5:30am – 6am. After having breakfast of avalakki and hot filter coffee at the temple, we left for Kuduremukha.

View from Lakhya dam

View from Lakhya dam

We reached Lakhya dam and took a leisurely stroll. My heart broke on seeing the patches on the mountain-face created by mining. The brown patches on the green mountains stands witness to the greed of humans. A scenic beauty is spoiled forever. How many more centuries would it need to recover from this blow? I have no idea. I feels sorry for those mountains every time I go there. The dam has no water. It has silt which is actually the water after it is used to wash the iron ore.

Kuduremukha ranges can be trekked too. We have done the trek to Kuduremukha peak. You can find the details here.

Hanuman Gundi falls

Hanuman Gundi falls (pic taken on previous visit)

Our next stop, Hanumangundi falls is on the way from Kuduremukha to Sringeri. It started raining heavily as we were leaving Lakhya dam. We climbed down and up the falls in heavy rain, which is a first for me. The falls itself is beautiful as always, but I am kind of bored of visiting the same place. I just enjoyed the physical exertion of climbing the steep stairs that lead to it. When we got back, we were all dripping wet.

We reached Sringeri by 6pm and did the familiar routine of washing our feet in the river and visit to the temple. After the dinner at the temple, we started back towards Hassan.

All in all a mundane trip, save for the beautiful ghat section in which the places are. Malnad region and Coorg district are the most beautiful places in Karnataka.

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 …

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.