Idukki – God’s own place

Prologue

Precisely a year after our titanic Maharashtra Trip, we planned our fifth cousin’s trip. Though we had many places like Dhanushkodi, Masai Plateau, Meghamalai in our drafts, we zeroed in on Idukki. Unlike our erstwhile trips, there was very little fervor as we were not too sure about everyone’s availability. But on the D-Day all of us were present.

Day 1 (22nd December, 2018)

We left from my aunt’s place at 3 AM to beat the long Christmas weekend traffic. We were able to munch miles much faster and covered close to 130 kms in the first two hours. By 530 AM, we were in the periphery of Salem and started looking for small boiler tea shops. Finally found one on the Kondalampatti bypass road. The tea was damn good, that I ended up taking two cups. We also bought oven fresh hot pakodas.

Some taste for these boiler teas

We hit the Madurai by-pass and reached Karur by 730 AM. After crossing the Amaravathi river bridge, we stopped for breakfast at Annais Restaurant. The food was good and the washrooms were clean.

Real bliss to drive


Breakfast at Karur

An impeccable filter coffee

By 815 AM we were again on the roads towards Dindigul. After Dindigul, we took a right onto Theni. The drive was picturesque with fertile lands, check dams, corn fields and beautiful mountains. We stopped at one check dam for a photo shoot and quenched the thirst with tender coconut water. We took a right after Cumbum that took us towards the hills.

Batladundu Bypass – Beautiful backdrop

Add to that, a temple atop the hill

A check dam near Theni

Tender coconut water

Golden fields

Zoomed in !!

Our initial inkling was that we would reach our stay by lunch, but with all the impromptu breaks, we were staring at a hill drive of 90 kms more at 12 PM. Nice clean highways gave way to bumpy and broken hill roads. The initial 20 odd kms were so bad that it took us almost an hour to cover it. After a place called Kattapana, the roads got better and we finally reached Idukki town by 2 PM. We had another 20 KMS to cover and the exasperation started growing inside the car with hunger. As destiny would have it, google maps could not get us to the exact location of the resort. We decided to check with the locals and out of desperation just 200 metres from our actual target, we moved in the opposite direction. Finally lady luck smiled on us on this long onerous journey . A lady helped us in steering to the exact location and we got to know that she is a neighbor of our resort owner. There were no official check-in formalities. We had a sumptuous lunch and dozed off immediately. We got up at 6 PM and took a stroll around the resort. This was more of a farm or a home stay than a resort. With hardly any mobile coverage, we ordered our dinner and decided to retire early for the day.

Cheetah resting after a fatiguing journey.

Our first day food actually changed the way we looked at Kerala food. This was by far the best Kerala food we ate.

Day 2 (23rd December, 2019)

We woke up unhurriedly the next day and decided to take a ramble around the farms. The stay also had a small stream flowing through the middle of it and the owner had made couple of check dams and a tiny little water fall. Even though the stream had less water it was good enough to fill the tanks.

Nutmeg Valley – Farm Stay

Full of Vegetation

Our room

More than enough for five people. We spent most of our time in the balcony chit-chatting

A small stream flowing through the heart of the farm as seen from our balcony

Check Dams

With check dams you get a natural pool and a tiny waterfall

With morning fog and mist, the place looked like Kashmir.

Tent accommodation also up for grabs

Even the water sprinklers and street lamps were designed in an artistic manner.

For breakfast, we had black coffee, kappa with khandari and parotta with veg gravy and omelets. Before this trip, we always had the notion that Kerala food (esp with coconut oil) was always not the tastier lot of South Indian foods. Now it has become a myth after this trip. When prepared with the right amount of coconut oil and mixed with right and fresh spices, the taste becomes delicious. Take a bow Ravi (our cook) and his team !!! Farm also had a good variety of veggies.

Our breakfast. Must say the Kandhari (green) gravy was top notch.

We decided to hit the stream and take a dip in one of those tanks. Even though the tanks were artificial, it was not chlorinated and we saw many spiders. The water was frigid and we spent close to an hour in there and by the time, we came back to room, we were again hungry.

Look at the servings for lunch

All we did for the last twenty four hours were to eat, sleep, eat, sleep, eat, take bath and eat. Hence this time, post lunch we did not hit the bed, instead we left to Idukki Dam. This dam was in the wrong news throughout the month of August, when most of Kerala suffered due to rain. We went to hilltop view park and had a splendid view of the arch dam. Post that we also saw the sluice gates of Cheruthoni dam.

Hill Top View Park. Neatly maintained.

Artificial lake for boating

Idukki Dam

A beautiful Arch Dam. This is truly God’s own country. Serene !!

Sluice gates of Cheruthoni Dam

After spending time at Idukki Dam, we returned to our stay and continued with our routine of eating and gossiping. We had barbecued pineapples for dinner.

Day 3 (24th December, 2019)

It was the last day of our trip, the return journey to Bangalore, but till then, we did not live up to our tag line of “Our Trip, Our World and Our Way”. That’s when the idea of circumnavigating via Munnar came about. We climbed up from Idukki towards Munnar and finally climbed down towards the other side into Bodi. The journey was so beautiful and enthralling and we relished every bit of it. After a couple of breaks, a lunch at Thallappakati (Batlagundu) and a coffee at Krishnagiri we reached home at 7 PM.

Epilogue

A trip that started with less exhilaration turned out to be an indelible one with luscious food and immaculate stay. Like most of our bygone trips, we promised ourselves that we will come back to the same place with a larger group.

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A Maha Pravasa

60 days to go…

On a Friday morning, I got a call from my cousin. The voice was down as we both realized that after our successful 2015 Valparai and 2016 Muzhappilangad trips there were no trips and the fear of losing out of this year trip was visible. It looked more and more unlikely with the year starting to close out. Just to cheer ourselves up, we spoke about possible places for our next trip. Over the conversation,

V (Myself) :  I’m fully occupied in December with a trip to Tirupati and Mumbai.
R (My Cousin): Wow !! That’s great. Flight tickets to Mumbai?
V: Onward is booked.
R: That’s even better. Do not book your return tickets.
V: (Casually) From where you guys can pick me up?

And that’s it, we both knew, what we were up to. Between brothers, a 5 minute call is a very long time and a lot can happen – from looking impossible to having a viable plan after 5 minutes.

The five enthusiasts !!!

 

59 days to go…

Hemant, a team-bhp guy decided our 2016 trip. This time, he chose where to start our 2017 trip. Isn’t this photo enough?

4 BHPians, 4 Days, 1850 cc, 1650 km - Panhala, Masai & Sagara-dsc_2154_5_6_fused.jpg

All rights reserved to Hemant & Team-bhp. Thanks Hemant for inspiring us for yet another trip

Where is this place? Most of the Maharashtrians have not heard even about this place. Masai Plateau !! Combining Masai and Recce-into-maharashtra travelogues, we finalized our plan.
Day 1  – Tuesday (19/12/2017) – Bangalore to Kohlapur (I will travel to Kohlapur from Mumbai by an overnight bus)
Day 2 – Wednesday (20/12/2017) – Masai – Ratnagiri – Ganapati Pule
Day 3 – Thursday (21/12/2017) – Ganapati Pule – Mahabaleshwar
Day 4 – Friday (22/12/2017) – Mahabaleshwar
Day 5 – Saturday (23/12/2017) – Mahabaleshwar to Bangalore

From the plains of Bangalore

To the forts of Kohlapur

To Masai Plateau

To the hills of Ratnagiri

To the seas of Ganapati Pule

Finally to the hills of Mahabaleshwar. We had an unforgettable trip.

D-Day: Day 1 – Tuesday (19/12/2017)

The D-Day of our trip. Alarm rings !! There you go, for an otherwise monotonous Tuesday office day, we were going to start a very ambitious trip. We left home at 510 AM. After a slow start with Bangalore traffic, we picked up pace. After a solid 3 hour drive, we stopped at a highway restaurant for breakfast. Coincidentally the name of our dining place was Super Highway.

After a brief halt for 30 minutes, we hit the highways again towards Kohlapur. At one stage, we maintained an average speed of 120 KMPH. After driving for about 500 kms, we filled the beast’s tank. Near Dharwad, for about 25 odd kms you encounter a two way and the work on express way is in progress. After an 8 hour journey, we reached the outskirts of Kohlapur and soon after reaching we checked in to our room at Hotel Madhuri Executive. It was a nice comfy room with two double beds enough to accommodate four people. The washrooms were clean. The rooms had parking at the front. But I don’t think it would be enough when the hotel runs houseful. We hunted for places for our lunch and decided to have it at Silver Oak. We consumed great food, indeed a great start to our trip. Post that, we reached the room and slept close to four hours. We had mild dinner from a nearby place. Food was not great but after a hearty lunch we weren’t hungry either. We retired for the day.

PS: “We” (I was not there for the first day. I joined them on the second day at Kohlapur)

Day 2 – Wednesday (20/12/2017)

I arrived in Kohlapur at around 615 AM by an overnight bus. My cousins picked me up from a nearby place and we went to Hotel Madhuri Executive where they were put up. I freshened up and left for our first visit of our trip, The Mahalakshmi Temple, a 10 minute walk from the hotel. En route to temple, we energized ourselves with a cup of hot tea. I should say one thing that in Maharashtra, tea always tastes better than coffee. You have to deposit your SLRs (INR 5) outside. Queues are not big and we finished our dharshan in about 10 minutes.

View of the temple from outside

Walls are pretty much like the South Indian temples

Interesting structures just outside the temple

With the temple visit done, we decided to have our breakfast at Vithal Kamat. We had Misal Pav (instead of pav, we were given bread) and South Indian Vada. Food was decent and nothing to boast about. We checked out of our room and headed for our next destination, The Masai Plateau – A 27 km jouney towards Panhala. Narrow winding roads once you near the plateau. The views kept bettering as you move. The final pinnacle, I should say is worth a drive of 700 kms from Bangalore.

Narrow winding roads

Beautiful view with golden grass all around. We realized how green this place would be in monsoon.

Cheetah enjoying the view

A lone tree at the top

View from the top

A panaromic view of the plateau

After spending an hour at Masai, we started towards Ganapati Pule at 1045 AM. We decided to take the coastal road of Ratnagiri instead. We refreshed ourselves with a native grown corn. Corn was very tender and tasted much better than an imported one. I must say, that this is one of the beautiful winding roads of 100 odd kms I have ever driven. You keep going up and then there is a sudden drop and each time on your left, you will see a beautiful valley. We reached the outskirts of Ratnagiri at 145 PM and decided to have our lunch at Dawaat, a road side dhabha. We had thaali and the food again was very decent. After a quick 30 minute break, we were back on the wheels towards Ganapati Pule via coastal road.

Tasty Corn

En route to Ratnagiri. What a background !!

And the valley views were equally good if not better

Lunch break at Ratnagiri. Food was decent enough.

From Ratnagiri to Ganapati Pule, the most scenic drive of our trip. We stopped umpteen times to enjoy the nature. Cheetah emerging out of the forest.

On one side the back waters and the mangrove forest.

Another side, boats and settlement

The same bridge from a distance !! Next up is the most anticipated curve, Indian equivalent of “The Great Ocean Road”

With the beautiful sea breeze, the sight was even more spectacular

A sight to behold

Beautiful !! Isn’t it?

After the scenic drives, we reached our stay, Atithis Kaulr at Ganapati Pule. I must say that this was our best stay in our trip. We specifically chose it away from sea and I should say that it was worth every penny. We rested for a while and had a refreshing tea and headed to the beach for sunset. Beach was a five minute drive from our place. It was a pristine beach. The tides were low and hence we had a huge amount of space to walk. We had to be careful because it was loose sand all around. We spent close to two hours enjoying the sunset.

Our Stay

Clean rooms

Clean washrooms

Aaswad Restaurant – Attached to our stay

Night View

A place to sit, chit-chat and relax

Ganapati Pule Beach

Golden waters under the setting sun

Washed away corals

Cattles retiring for the day with the sun setting

I must say that this place has one of the most beautiful sunsets

The time lapse

After that we returned to room and ordered room service. Even though the menu card had many items, we were placed with only few options. But the food was indeed great.

Day 3 – Thursday (21/12/2017) – Ganapati Pule – Mahabaleshwar

It was a leisure start to the day as we knew our destination would be Mahabaleshwar. We got up and ordered bed coffees/teas. Then we chit chatted for close to an hour without doing anything. We practiced our catching skills and played with our cameras. We went to the in-house restaurant and they had only poha and upma. The quantity was less but tasty. We had one more round of teas and left for Mahabaleshwar. At the start of our trip in Bangalore, we knew our front left tyre had some issue. It was a nail and we fixed the puncture at Ganapati Pule and checked our remaining tyre pressures too. The entire journey was through hills and the 200 km journey took us close to five hours with a lunch break and numerous photo breaks. We stopped in a dhaba for lunch and food was too good. The highlight was the Lassi. Looking at the quantity, we ordered half but each one of us ended up taking one and a half. As we went uphill, we felt the chillness in the air. At every turn uphill, the views were amazing. We had to cross the Mahabaleshwar town for our stay, Mahadev Baug Cottage. When we reached the cottage, we realized that it was nowhere near our expectations. Definitely the photos in booking.com where photo-shopped. But nevertheless, we decided to stay at the same place but we did a good bargain for the next couple of nights stay. The only x-factor with this stay was, it had a small grass bank wherein we could play cricket. The stay also had their own strawberry garden. After relaxing ourselves, we decided to play cricket. After an hour’s play, we were completely exhausted. For dinner, we went to the hotel, attached to our cottage. Surprisingly we were the only visitors for the night.

En route to Mahabaleshwar – Winding roads – Decent enough

Red tin amidst green and golden grass

Our lunch. Tooo tasty!!

Drivers dream

En route to Mahabaleshwar – Simply Wowww!!

Lake en route to cottage

Stay at Mahabaleshwar – Room

A lonely stay nearby

Strawberry Garden

Private Garden in our stay

Hotel attached to the cottage

Day 4 – Friday (22/12/2017) – Mahabaleshwar

The night sleep I must admit was a bit scary. As part of our negotiation, we took a lonely room at the back side of the cottage. There was an eerie silence throughout the night. We got up early and again had a round of cricket followed by breakfast at the same place as night. Again we were the only visitors at the hotel. After bath, we left for table mountains. This is again a plateau but a commercialized one unlike Masai. We saw horses with interesting names as whatsapp, facebook etc., After wandering for about 15-20 minutes, we left for Mapro garden. Mahabaleshwar is known for its strawberries. Mapro Garden is a strawberry garden with a shop that sells Mapro products. I must say that we men surprised ourselves with our shopping skills and each one of us ended up spending close to 1500 bucks in a flat 15 minute shopping. After that we bought strawberries from a local shop and moved to Kate’s view point.

Table Mountain – Decent one – But cannot be compared to Masai

Good old horse ride

A small pond

Mapro strawberry festival

A serene view of Kate’s view point compensates for the bad stretch en route to it

A power plant?

Zoomed in a temple from the top

A wow house !!! Isn’t it?

Once the site visits were over, we decided to have lunch at a different place. We chose little Italy right in the middle of town. The wood crust pizzas were mouth watering. We filled our tummies and returned to room. We played another round of cricket till 530 PM. As I said, in the beginning, a 5 minute call is enough for cousins to plan a trip. If the same cousins talk face to face, they can even better that. Our actual plan was to stay overnight and start early morning to Bangalore. We spoke for little over 15 minutes and we were ready in our car by 6 PM for our overnight journey to Bangalore. The plan looked ambitious and even GPS showed us that we would reach Bangalore by 1045 AM on Saturday, a whooping 17 hour drive. Plan was to take step by step. The first 100 odd kms were difficult since we had to descend down the hill amidst traffic and had to travel by two way road. We made cautious and patient progress over the next two hours and reached our dinner location at Yelur, Sai Pangat. Food was delicious, the final Maharashtrian food of our trip. We filled ours as well as the beast’s tummy as we were not sure whether pumps would be open throughout the night. All set, we started from there at 945 PM. We drove in round robin fashion and reached the outskirts of Bangalore by 5 AM. We had tea at a local shop. The long weekend traffic had already started. Beating all the traffic and defying all odds we reached our respective houses by 7 AM, a cool 4 hours early as was initially predicted by google maps.

Didn’t we live up to our wordings? “Our trip Our world Our way”

 

 

 

 

 

Belur – A hoysala Jewel

During our recent trip to Western Ghats, we visited Belur Hoysala Chennakeshava Temple. This is a Vishnu temple. This temple was built in 11th century. It took 103 years to complete this marvel. We hired a guide (an official from ASI) to explain us about the temple architecture and history. Parking and washrooms are present just opposite the temple complex.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Halabeedu temple: Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best

Date: 5th May, 2017 (Friday)

Main Gopuram – Top is made of ceramic and the bottom is made of granite

The temple is made of soap stones (local name), which is soft beneath the earth but when exposed to atmosphere, becomes hard and looks like a metal from a distance.

Garuda

Look at the intricate details of the sculpture – this is not metal. This is stone.

Hoysala – Young boy who conquered a lion

Such intricate details on the dancing sculptures. A lady looking at the mirror.

A monkey pulling the saree

Look how the left hand is placed on the drums. Isn’t it amazing?

A sculpture that says love is blind

Varaha avataram

Arjuna during his swayamvar

Ugra(Angry) Narasimha Avatar – Final stages

Maha Vishnu

Vidya Ganapathi

Ananthapadmanaba Swamy

Ravana lifting Kailash Mountain

Surrounding the temple, first tier is occupied by elephants (Strength), second by lion (Courage) and third by horses (Speed). There are about 600+ elephants and each one of them is unique.

Star shaped perimeter

When art meets the right people, you get this. Look at the details.

Outer walls

Balconies were there those days itself

Inside the temple complex – Artistic excellence

Lady with the parrot

Pillars look like metals, but actually they are not! Also this pillar was placed on top of a ball bearing kind of structure, and is supposed to rotate. But due to poor maintenance over the years, it has lost its function.

Art work on the roof

Soumyanayaki (Goddess Lakshmi) temple

Another main attraction is the floating pillar. There is another one at Lepakshi

At the entrance before the main deity. Work and perfection speak for themselves

And finally Mr and Mrs. Vishnu

Even though many sculptures were broken because of invasion and local vandalism, this temple stands tall amidst the test of time showcasing the mettle and skill of our ancestors. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) owns it and preserves it as well.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Halabeedu temple: Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best

Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best

Have you been to Dwarasamudra? Have you tried searching for this place in google maps? Aren’t you able to locate it? What is its new name?

A tank was built opposite the temple to serve the water needs and due to huge inflow of water, tank always had waves and looked like an ocean and hence the name Dwarasamudra, entry by ocean. The new name which everyone can relate to translates to “ruined city” in Kannada, Halabeedu. We visited this temple during our return journey from Western Ghats to Bangalore. Halabeedu was the capital city of Hoysala empire. This Hoysala temple construction was not completed when Muslims invaded the city and hence inside the temple you can find many unfinished structures.

This is a Shiva temple. When it was designed, it was decided to construct it twice the size of Belur Hoysala temple. Belur has 650+ elephants and this temple has 1300+ elephants.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Belur temple: Belur – A hoysala Jewel

The name board

Huge open space and lots of greenery outside the temple

Ganapathi

Royal Entrance: King would enter the temple from this entrance after worshiping Lord Ganapathi

Which is the largest built Nandi? Many would say the Tanjore one, but that is a close second. The first biggest Nandi is in Lepakshi and the one in Halabeedu is the seventh largest one.

In all the temples, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva will be in order. Creator, Protector and the destroyer. But since Halabeedu is a Shiva temple, the order is Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.

Look at the intricate details on the roof – These are soap stones just like the Belur temple which is as soft as a soap but hardens on getting exposed to atmosphere.

Below sculpture looks like a British man with a stick on his right hand, a hairdo and a long over coat. Isn’t it? But British came to India after 1600s and this temple was built in the 13th Century. A mere coincidence? But as per temple books, these are Saints and this was their attire. So did British copy the dress code of our Saints? Hard to believe, but definitely creates enough doubts.

Who invented or used telescope first? Galileo? Year? 1600s? But look at the below sculpture. This is again from 1300s.

Astronauts of that age?

Chakravyuh in Mahabaratha.

Bhima killing elephants during the war. Anyone remember “Ashwathama is killed”? The famous strategy to kill the Guru Drona?

Rama killing Vali in Ramayana

Rama giving his ring to Hanuman to be delivered to Sita

Dresses of that age? Three fourths and a skirt

Krishna lifting Govarthana Giri

Look at the upper right corner of the above picture – An interesting thing to note is that on top of the mountain, there is a banana tree and a monkey is trying to pluck bananas. Who would have thought of all these minute details ? A magnified view of that.

Spellbound by their architecture. Granular level details at its very best.

Look at the hind leg of the cow – its slightly bent, signifying Shiva’s weight. He weighs more than Parvati. Simply wow !!

And another one: Look at the bench they are sitting. It is tilted towards Shiva

Because of his weight, Parvati is getting tossed around when elephant moves !!

Some commonalities with Belur. Ravana lifting the Kailash mountain and Arjuna during his swayamvar.

On the outer walls

Guides are available in English, Hindi and Kannada. They are part of ASI. They take a paltry amount of Rs 300 for 45 minute tour. The guide said that there are 24 guides in Halabeedu and they share their earnings for the day. They are not monetized by the Government of India.

Halabeedu as the name suggests, a city of ruins, but the architects have left enough sculptures like these which stand tall amidst the test of time and all the invasion and local vandalism.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Belur temple: Belur – A hoysala Jewel

A short trip to Western Ghats

Planning

It was summer and we as a family had not gone for any trip since my last visit to Muzhappilangad drive-in beach and Bekal fort with cousins. Off late the travel bug started hitting me hard. Chikmaglur, the last time we planned, we could not get any accommodation. My wife’s usual wish is to go to a place and be sure to cover maximum number of tourist attractions there. This time though with the advent of our daughter we were looking for a more leisurely vacation. We were looking mainly for home stays and we zeroed in on Forest Home-stay – Gowdahalli lured by the splendid reviews on tripadvisor.

5th May, 2017 – Friday

We left home 20 minutes past 6 AM. We took Hebbal, Yeshwantpur and Nelamangala exit to reach NH75. Traffic was sparse, but we missed the service road at Nelamangala to take the exit. Hence had to go around and take a ‘U’ turn. Going with my brother, its not new. At least I am glad the ‘U’ happened early . NH75 was smooth but with lots of toll booths. We did a scheduled stop at Swathi Delicacy for breakfast. Butter Dosa, Vada and coffee were too yummy. The restaurant was jam packed. Not a surprise though given the delicious food served. The place also has good parking space and clean washroom.

Swathi Delicacy

Kid Friendly

Nicely laid NH75

After having sumptuous breakfast, we left for Belur – Chennakeshava temple. It was a two hour journey. After Hassan, there is a road on your right that takes you to Belur. A scenic route but with lots of unmarked speed humps. We hit one of them really bad – worst to the point of all three who were sitting in the backseat going and hitting the roof –  and we slowed down thereafter.

We reached Belur Hoysala Chennakeshava Temple fifteen minutes past 11. Sun was at its scorching best. Parking is just opposite the temple. Its a Vishnu temple. This temple was built in the 11th century. It took 103 years to complete this marvel. I decided to dedicate a separate thread to Belur temple just because I didn’t want to miss out on any of the micro details. For more details and photos on Belur temple, look at the thread Belur – A hoysala Jewel.

Architecture, skill and perfection at its very best

We spent close to 1.5 hours at the temple. From there we left to our home stay at Gowdahalli. Turn on your GPS early otherwise it’s very difficult to get the network connection after a point. We reached our rooms little past two and lunch was awaiting us. The care taker Dileep looked after our stay and food. A thumbs up to this guy.

Our home-stay in the middle of forest. It reminded me of my days in Mettur.

From the top

The entrance

A simple and a neat cottage.

A cooler and a TV (which we never switched on)

And a very basic roof

Parking is just in front of the stay

Car’s ramp, a bit risky but nevertheless drivable

They have badminton rackets, shuttle, cricket bats etc. One basically comes here to unwind and laze around. The network connectivity is poor with only airtel and BSNL working at a few places but its a blessing in disguise given that people come here only to switch themselves off from the outside world. We had an amazing time. They had couple of kids’ ride-ons as well. In addition, they have rifle shooting, carom, chess and cards.

The toy horse

Post lunch, we slept for a while. We were served our evening snacks consisting of bhajji, pakoda and hot coffee. Again food was delicious. Post that , we spent the evening playing badminton and my brother did a bit of rifle shooting. After our dinner we retired for the day, but because of terrible power cuts and a lack of in-house UPS, we had a disturbed sleep.

6th May, 2017 – Saturday

My brother and dad went for a trek to a nearby bull shaped mountain called Ethirbujha. It took them close to an hour to climb up. First three fourths of the trek didn’t require much efforts but the rest was literally an uphill task with close to 90 degrees inclination. But if rain gods decide to shower, the first half can become equally treacherous with leeches and the entire place can become slushy and soft. At some places, you had pebbles and the trek was slippery.

Parking at the trek spot

Even with very little rain on the previous day, the path has become slushy

Go though the vegetation

And here is the first glimpse of the summit. The near 90 degree trek !!

From the top

Wow !! Worth the effort

Imagine this place post monsoon

The climb down took around 40 minutes. We spent the entire afternoon in the home stay with the sun beating down hard. At around 4 PM, climate suddenly changed and it became very cloudy. We went to nearby Devarmane hills. The backdrop of sun setting, heavy winds and a light drizzle made our stay at the top very pleasant.

Devarmane Hills

View from the top

Sun setting. How many shades of orange and pink?

And not a lot to climb from the parking,

Western Ghats – You beauty !!

After spending close to fifteen minutes at the top, we descended and visited the Kalabhairava temple. This temple was built by Hoysalas prior to Belur and Halabeedu. It was built in 900 AD.

Tank opposite to the temple

Gatekeepers

It was a nice short trip and we returned back to our stay for dinner. We had neer dosa, a malnad special.

7th May, 2017

We woke up to the tunes of birds chirping on the last day of our trip. We went for a short cycling around the estate. We saw peacocks at a distance. But before we could reach them, they disappeared.

We had idly and kesari for breakfast. We also packed water melon juice for our onward journey and bid good bye to our stay and proceeded towards Halabeedu via Belur. It took close to an hour and a half to reach Halabeedu, a Shiva temple. This is a twin city of Belur and warrants a separate thread and can be reached at Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best.

We spent close to ninety minutes in the temple. With not so good vegetarian restaurants in Halabeedu, we proceeded towards Hassan and after an hour journey on the highways just opposite to the famous Kamat, there was an A2B. We had a very good Tamil Nadu style dosa and sambhar. Rains lashed us on our entry to Bangalore and we reached home little after 7 PM.

It was a nice short relaxing trip to get ourselves rejuvenated. The trek and visits to Belur and Halabeedu were the highlights . Both these temples stand the test of time amidst all the invasion and local vandalism showing the greatness of yesteryear artistic skills, perfection and dedication to work.

Bozeman – A photologue

It was a trip of many firsts. First time to US, first time in a sub zero temperature and first time in snow. I had my flight booked with Lufthansa via Frankfurt and Denver and stay with Homewood Suites.

I reached Frankfurt at 830 AM local time (21st January, 2017 – Saturday) and had my first glimpse of Airbus 380

Airbus 380 – Wow !! Its huge

Boeing 747 – Most Intimidating look

Germany – Local train to shuttle passengers between terminals

Sunset at Greenland

Greenland – The land of no greens but Ice. Frozen Ocean

It was the longest Saturday of my life, started from India on a Saturday and arrived in Germany, Denver and Bozeman all on Saturday.

Denver – Just before landing

Frozen lakes

Golf Ball like weird Structures

Bozeman – Early morning before Sunrise

Sunrise on the hills

Post Sunrise – Clear blue skies

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Bozeman

Reception/Lobby

Kitchen

Dining Area

Bison

Elk

Swimming Pool

Outside seating area amidst Snow

Enroute to Bridger Ski Area

Clear Skies

One for the wallpaper

Skiing Area

It was freezing cold and people called it “A pleasant weather”

We saw kids as young as 3 years ski !!!

My Office. What a backdrop !!

Snowing !!!!

And it became heavier

Hotel Parking

Fresh snow next morning

Bozeman Airport (Complete wood)

What a backdrop the airport runway has !!!

Up and Over !! From the top. Bye bye Bozeman. See you next time !!!

Avani – A little known Jewel

We planned for a day’s trip around Bangalore. Plan was to start after 10 AM and reach home before sunset. Most of our previous trips were towards Mysore and Hyderabad. So this time we decided to head towards Kolar. Thats when we came across Avani, a place with so much historical significance and closely associated with Ramayana.

Excerpts from Wikipedia

Avani is known for the Sita temple situated on a hill. This temple is one of the few temples dedicated to Sitadevi in India. There is a belief that the sage Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana, was residing here during the period of Ramayana. Sitadevi lived here in his ashram while in exile. Sitadevi gave birth to her twin children Lava-Kusha here. Even today the room where Sita gave birth to her children exists. The war between Sri Rama and his sons Lava & Kusha happened in this village.

31 st October, 2016

As planned, we left home little after 10 AM and took the Varthur road to reach the Bangalore-Tirupati highway. But for tolls, drive was a breeze and without much trouble we reached the Avani town, Ramalingeshwara temple.

There are three temples in Avani town.

  1. Ramalingeshwara Temple
  2. Sringeri Sharadha Temple – Adjacent to above temple
  3. Sita Temple – We have to trek up the hill to reach the temple. The temple opens only on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There is ample parking space right next to Sharadha temple. A cautionary note for travelers to carry your own food, otherwise we have to get onto highways for restaurants.

Broken Roads for the last 7 kms

Sitabetta (Hill) seen from the road

Ramalingeshwara Temple

The belief says the main shiv ling was installed by Lord Rama himself. Later Chola Kings built this temple to spread their dynasty.

Temple Entrance

Temple Ratham

There are so many small shrines inside the main temple complex.

Subramanya shrine

Lakshmanalingeshwara shrine

Temple with Sita betta background

Temple complex is maintained cleanly

Carvings in Tamil

Intricate carvings

A small temple between Ramalingeshwara Temple and Sita Mata temple.

Sita Mata Temple

We had our lunch at 1245 PM and started climbing up to see the Sita  Mata temple. It is said that Sita took refuge in Valmiki Ashram when she got separated from Rama. And this is the birth place of her twin sons, Luv and Kusha in the cave on the hill. There is a cave inside the ashram called Valmiki-Gavi, where the great sage Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana, sat in meditation.

There are multiple ways to reach the top. This one is little tougher.

Else walk till Sharadha temple and take the steps.

Then you will reach the midway, stairs give way to something like this with rails to support.

A closer look. Definitely safe and easy to climb.

Our first destination was this setup. The belief was that Sita saw her twin sons fighting Hanuman by sitting here. The black strips on the rock were her tears and the white ones were her milk.

Bee hive – Little did we know that we will be chased by them later in the day

After 20 minutes of leisurely walk, you will reach the Valmiki Ashram. And the view from here is simply amazing.

Valmiki Ashram

Cave inside the Ashram. The belief is that, any child who has stomach problem will become alright after taking the water mixed with the sand here.

A closer look

Luva Kusha house. Behind this you have a shrine that has two shiv lings back to back emphasizing twin sons of Rama.

Lakshman theerth

Supposed to be Sita Devi’s foot steps

Still a lot to climb to reach the temple

And the view kept getting better

Smaller steps gave way to much larger ones, pretty exhausting.

Finally after an hour’s climb we reached the summit. The place where Sita Devi by praying to Parvati Devi went back to earth.

The mountain opposite to Sitabetta Hill is the Mulbagal. The belief says “Hanuman picked up two sets of stones to make a temporary living for Rama and Lakshamna enroute to Lanka. Since he thought one set is enough, he made Avani, and the other set he threw it to opposite end and that beacame Mulbagal”

A panoramic view of the surroundings

A place to just sit and gaze forever.

This was when destiny stuck. We were enjoying the views and suddenly saw a group of honey bees. It stung my brother and around fifteen to twenty started circling him. We were asked to go down without disturbing them. He was bitten at seven places. It took 20 minutes to get down to a safer place. The learning from that is that even if bees come and sit on you, just keep calm without disturbing it. If one bites, then the rest will encircle you. We rushed to the Government hospital at Avani and he had a tetanus and pain killer injection. Also heard from the natives that bees are a common sighting at the top.So I strongly discourage people to take their kids to the top.

Trip Summary

  • Round trip  from Marathahalli – 195 KM
  • Total round trip toll – Rs 119
  • Time to climb up the hill – 115 hrs (leisurely climb)
  • No hotels at Avani. Get on to highways for any restaurant
  • Disclaimer – I neither agree nor disagree with the above said beliefs. Whatever has been said to me, I have documented them.

We left Avani around 415 PM and reached our home at 6 PM. It was such a nice and pleasant trip made adventurous by the honey bees.

My ever favourite Munnar

Munnar is a picturesque place with abundance of beauty , tea estates and lush greenery all around. Head to Munnar if your idea of vacation is to relax and enjoy nature.

A much delayed travelogue. This trip was done in december 2014 – By Preethi

Day 1 – 6th December, 2014

This was a trip planned around my birthday and one more specialty was my parents were also joining in as a surprise. It was supposed to be a sweet surprise but they could no longer keep it away from me as a feeling of guilt!! The confession happened three days before the trip.

We started from Bangalore home around  7 AM and had breakfast at A2B Sulagiri. The quality of A2B is always top notch not to mention the appetizing flavor of food. We reached Salem railway station around 11 and picked up my parents. I was overwhelmed with merriment as this was the first trip with them post marriage. Gossiping occured with my mom and also the driver swap. We reached Hotel Duke in Madurai around 3:45 PM. After a brief recess we got going to Meenakshi amman temple. It is the prime tourist attraction in Madurai which draws huge crowds. One can only marvel and be in awe of the splendid architecture. After seeing the main deity we saw the remaining Gods. Since we had visited thousand pillars before we didn’t see it then. There are lots of guides available there and I feel you must hire them to unravel the history and meaning of various sculptures and pillars. Since the encyclopedia of temples (my dad!!) was travelling with us, he suggested we go to Ramana Maharishi house in an adjacent street. It was a special day that day because it was Karthigai deepam and Ramanar is fond of Thiruvanamalai. What a blessing to have visited it that day which we realised it later only. It was a small house and also lodged a meditation hall upstairs. It was supposed to be the place where Maharishi experienced his soul moving away from body. Then Immaiyul Marumai Tharuvar Shiva temple was our next stop. After praying we set forth for our dinner to the famous Murugan Idli shop and also devoured the popular jigirthnda there. We were back to the hotel by 8:45 PM.

Day 2 – 7th December, 2014

There was a complement breakfast at the hotel and we finished our breakfast at Duke’s itself. We were ready for the journey to Munnar by 8:15 AM. Enroute we saw Kilakuyilkudi Karupana swamy temple with Jain bed. Karupana swamy which incidentally was my native God was at the ground level and the Jain bed was at a distant height. One has to climb many steps to reach there. Since it was a laborious task we returned after climbing only a few steps. The backdrop was scenic with lush greenery all around along with banyan trees and temple tank not to mention the rural setting with chirping of birds. Many Tamil movies were shot there.

Temple with a beautiful mountain backdrop

Much closer look at the temple

Steps leading to heaven? We climbed them.

And the view was breathtaking

Big banyan tree and the temple tank

Then we traversed through Usulampetti, Theni and Kundal Ghat (diversion to Kurangini). Kurangini hills was the shooting spot of the famous Tamil movie Myna. Then via Bodimettu we reached Lakezone resort around 12:45 PM. When we planned for this trip we first booked in Club Mahindra and later only my husband decided to surprise me by calling my parents. But by the time they checked for the availability it housed full and so they were staying in Lakezone resort which was just three kms away and it was to become our breakfast/lunch/dinner spot. Misfortune struck with the car tyre getting punctured because of the rough terrain and we got it repaired at Suryanelli where many departmental stores and petrol pumps are present. We had lunch at a small hotel called Mahavir and reached Club Mahindra around 2:30. We rested for some time taking pictures and started off to Periyacanal around 3:40. It was a small falls near Club Mahindra. The weather was pleasant with little mistiness. Next, we headed to Aaniyarangal dam – as the name suggests,herds of elephants visit the lake to quench their thirst. Idyllic picnic spot it was. Then we retired for the day in our respective rooms.

First view of the mountains

Periyacanal falls enroute to Aaniyarangal dam

And finally the dam. What a place if you want to relax

A boat waiting for a ride

Dam was overflowing. Icing on the cake

Much comfortable room

Superb view to complement

Day 3 : 8th December, 2014

We had breakfast at Lakezone resort which was too yummy for words. If anybody is planning to visit Munnar, I highly recommend this place for satisfying your hunger pangs. The rooms are also pretty decent. We set forth for sightseeing with many view points and tea gardens everywhere. Tata has their presence there also with their extensive tea gardens. We reached Matupatty dam around 11:15 AM. I have visited Munnar thrice before during my school,college and family trip and yet it never ceases to amaze me. Boating takes place and there is an echo point also there.Our next spot was Kundala dam. Then we reached Top station around 1:15 PM. It was cold with very low visibilty beyond a point. Mist was engulfing us and we had a stroll.We had lunch there itself at Manasarovar Periyar Residency.We were returning back and shopped for coffee, spices in the local market.

Photopoint: Live to drive

Photopoint: What a view

Photopoint: Clouds playing hide & seek

Full of tea gardens

Our car hiding in one such estate

Views are just mesmerizing

Trees are aligned so neatly with the mountain backdrop

Mattupetty Dam

With so much green, even the water from an angle looks green

Echo Point: Offers a panoramic view

Kundala lake

And finally the dam

Again overflowing

And finally the top slip. What a welcome we had. Full of mist and fog.

With this kind of mist, not many pics.

Day 4: 9th December, 2014

It was the day of checkout from Club Mahindra and my birthday too :). We did so after having breakfast at our usual place. We decided to go around the resort.

Kathakalli dance

What a place to stay – Club Mahindra, Munnar

A closer look with the misty mountain backdrop

A look at the club house and restaurant

Play Area

We started our journey back home around 11:00 AM. We had a brief stopover at Theerthathotti Arumuga Nayanar temple . The shrine is dedicated to Lord Muruga and it has water oozing out of the earth intermittently.

Murugan Temple

Its a beautiful place indeed

And maintained much cleaner

We had lunch at Saravana bhavan, Theni (not HSB) and reached the same hotel Duke in Madurai by 3:30. After resting for a while we did some shopping and my parents left to Chennai by night train.

Day 5: 10th December, 2014

We had my husband’s friend’s marriage in Virudhunagar to attend and reached mandapam by 6:40 AM. After gracing the occasion with our presence we started back home. Enroute we saw Thiruparankundram temple. We then had lunch at Thoppur A2B and reached home safely.

The above picture says a lot about Munnar. Its misty, ever green, full of mountains, falls and dams. I can never get enough of Munnar and hope to visit it again soon 🙂