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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hosur road elevated expressway

At last, the elevated highway connecting silk board junction to Electronic city was opened last Friday giving a sigh of relief for the daily commuters to E-city. Few years ago, it was a nightmare to travel on that road. There were many cartoons that were circulating those days. Few of them are (downloaded from internet and my mail box)


I and Krishna happened to go on this road today. While Krishna enjoyed the driving, I took a few snaps. The whole drive of about 9 km took less than 7 minutes!! There were times when it took more than an hour to cover this stretch.




As an “Inauguration offer”, toll is not levied for two weeks. I hope that the toll collection mechanism would be efficient. Else, crossing the toll point itself might become a bottle neck.


I feel that allowing two wheelers on such a high speed road is not a good idea. The four wheel guys would give a hard time for two wheel drivers. Though the top speed was limited to 80km/hr, it was not seriously followed.

Anyway, opening of the elevated road is a positive development for Bengaluru city.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Palakkad

26th December 2009

When Nelliampathy trip was planned, Palakkad was also included in the itinerary. The two reasons were:
· To get a break from the long journey from Nelliampathy to Bengaluru.
· Palakkad fort and Malampuzha gardens.

Palakkad is located in the area called as “Palakkad gap”. The Western Ghats that run from Gujarat to Kerala along the west coast form a gap here. Being the only break in the Ghats, this stretch forms an important route for vehicles that ply from Tamil Nadu to Kerala.

Palakkad looks “different” from other parts of Kerala by having a large number of “pure veg” restaurants!! The Tamil influence might be the cause for it.

Palakkad fort

Situated in the heart of the town, this fort was built by Haider Ali. The fort is well maintained with nice gardens around it. It houses a Hanuman Temple and a Jail!!


Malampuzha gardens
Malampuzha dam and the garden at the foothills of the Western Ghats is a major tourist spot. It is about 14 km from Palakkad.



The major attraction here is a rope way built across the garden. A km long ropeway takes about 20 minutes. People have to embark and disembark from the ropeway on the move, an action that can be performed by everybody as it moves very slow!!

Nevertheless, it was an enthralling experience for me, my wife and my daughter. She remembered everything that was in the garden and wanted to go to each place after we got down from the ropeway!! It was her day out.


A major attraction in the garden is a huge Yakshi sculpture.


A nice place especially for kids!!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nelliampathy

24th to 26th December 2009

I was planning for a family vacation in some hill station. It was then I realized that I have run out of options in South India!! There were many places but not really ideal for a family outing. The “not so commercialized” hill station of Nellaimpathy in Kerala got my attention and a trip was planned.

Drive
The route I took was Bengaluru->Hosur->Krishnagiri->Dharmapuri->Toppur->Mettur->Bhavani->Coimbatore->Palakkad->Nelliampathy.

It took me eight hours to cover the distance of 360km from Bengaluru to Palakkad. This was much more than my estimate and I must say it was a tiring journey.

Landslide on the way to Nellimapathy

Nelliampathy is 52 km from Palakkad. The road crisscrosses trough several villages and paddy fields to reach a small town of Nemmara (25 km from Palakkad). Few km from Nemmara is Pothundi dam. The ghat road starts after the dam. Though the drive offered beautiful view of the backwaters, I first wanted to reach the place of stay. We checked into “ITL holidays and resorts”.


About Nelliampathy
Nelliampathy is a small village centered on the tea estates. The first place that we reach in the village is Kaikutty junction where the road branches into two. The road leading to the left goes to some good view points like Seetharkundu and Mampara. The road to the right leads to some places like Kesvanpara, Karapara and Victoria, the major tourist locations in the area. Our Hotel was very near to the junction making it an ideal place for visiting the places.

A small note
The major crowd in Nelliampathy is day trippers. If you are looking for solitude, best time to visit the “tourist points” is either during early morning or evening.

What we did
It was 4PM when we checked into the hotel. An half an hour of rest rejuvenated my energy level and I was back in action!! We directly headed towards Kesvanpara view point. A km from the junction is a small Temple. We had to walk for another km on a mud track to reach the view point.


The view point provides good view of Pothundi dam backwaters. Thanks to the haze, the view was not clear. But the place was devoid of any people and offered us a peaceful evening. It was a rocky surface and we had to be careful about Tanu who was jumping and running everywhere!!

Other than the resort, there are no eateries in Nelliampathy. Post sunset, the entire village enters into a “sleep mode”.

Next day I wanted to visit the highest view point of the area, the Mampara view point. But unfortunately the forest department had banned the public entry into that area. The Victoria view point also had restrictions from forest department.

I decided to try to go to Victoria. It was a fun to drive on winding roads surrounded by tea estates. After driving for several km, we had moved quite far from the last civilization point and were inside thick forest. The road condition was deteriorating and finally we reached a point where we could take car any further. The forest might be the part of Parambikulam.

We walked for a while but several deviations lead to confusion. As it was completely an isolated area, we decided not to venture further and decided to return. It was a nice drive and experience.

Next, we visited Seetharkundu view point. Located inside an estate, it is a popular place for tourists.

Post lunch, we headed to Karapara falls. It was again at a remote location. Parking the car, we walked for a km to reach a small falls. It formed an ideal place to spend some time in water.

We then trekked for another km to view a 400ft falls. I had though that we would directly enter into the falls but was little disappointed to see that waterfalls on a far away mountain. Anyway, the view from the place was good.

Overall, it was a nice day!!

Next day we started towards Palakkad. Since we had lot of time to spare we stopped at many places that offered good views.


The views got better as we neared Pothundi dam. A nice garden is maintained in front of the dam.


Where to stay?

ITL Holidays and resorts is located at a central location but still out of the huzzle and buzzle of the crowd.

A very expensive option is "Whistling trush bungalow".

I saw few boards like "Tropical hill resort" and "Greenland framhouses" but looks like they are in remote areas.

Where to eat?
Other than the places mentioned above there are no "decent" hotels!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Is deer a really pure herbivore?

This is a strange phenomenon that I observed during a safari in Bandhavgarh. A stag was eating (or chewing) an antler. A behavior that is not expected from a herbivorous animal like spotted deer.


Some reasons that can be thought and my response
  • Was it hungry? Does not look like as monsoon was just over and grass was plentiful.
  • For salt? May be, but not sure.
  • The deer might just be playing? I watched for nearly five minutes and its action didn’t look so.
  • It might be a piece of wood. I clearly watched and it was not so.


Our guide and the driver said that they were seeing such a thing for the first time. Bit surprised as they would have spent most of their life in jungles. They had seen a tiger eating grass but not a deer eating the antler.

I am no expert in these matters. Can anyone throw some light on the strange case of this spotted deer?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Ulavi caves

28th September 2009

Ulavi is a small town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Located in Western Ghats, it is one of the important religious places for the Lingayat sect in Karnataka. The Channabasaveshwara Temple here attracts a lot of devotees. The nature lovers are allured to this place due to the group of caves in the nearby forest. While most of the caves are located in a single area, few of them are far away from civilization.

Travel
There are only two roads in Ulavi. One road enters into the town and the other road lead to the caves.


We traveled for couple of km from Ulavi to reach a junction. A car cannot go any further and we had to walk the rest of the distance. The wide tortuous track continuously goes down and ended at a cave. By then, we would have walked for about 30 minutes.

The bones of some animal in the cave alarmed us. We shouted for few minutes to make sure that the cave is not home to some carnivore. As we entered into the dark cave, we were astonished by the formations of the cave. Crawling further into the cave we found that the formations only became better. With the cave was being extremely narrow and slippery, we could not muster enough courage to go further.

After this cave, there are steps that lead to the other caves. The path was slippery and we lost count on the number of time we fell down. We could see caves everywhere. It was at this point, we rued our decision on not taking any guide or local. The place was completely isolated and we were not sure whether the cave was home to some animal or not. The experience of waking up a sleeping carnivore would not be a good one. So, we were cautious in our approach to the caves.


Moral of the story:
Take a guide along with you while visiting the caves, especially during monsoons. In summer months, I am sure that there will be big crowds visiting this place. No animals would like to stay so near to human presence. Very few people visit this place during monsoon.


Also, do not forget to take a torch with you.

Back to the caves:
One important cave that we went inside was “Vibhooti Kanaja”, which means a place where sacred ash is stored. This is the structure formed by lime stone.

There were other caves like Akka Nagammana gavi and Rudrakshi Mantapa.

The last and the main cave was Akala gavi. As the cave was at a higher position, an iron ladder is placed to climb. The cave is part of a massive rock formation of several hundred feet.



Lunch time:
It was 2:30PM when we returned back to Ulavi town. The Temple provides free lunch but since we did not visit the Temple, we thought that it would not be ethical on our part to just go for lunch. Also, the Temple was closed. But none of the hotels had food ready and we were asked to go to the Temple for lunch. When we tasted the food at the Temple, we knew that we did the right thing!! It was superb.

The Temple itself is a decent place to visit.

Last words:
We could not visit few caves which were very much interior in the forest. I was thinking of staying a day in Ulavi to visit them. But locals suggested that the caves would be out of reach during monsoon months. So, we had to drop the plan of visiting other caves.


There will another visit to Ulavi to explore few more places!!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Ettina Bhuja to Ombattu Gudda trek

29th to 31st December 2009

Prologue
The trek route to Ombattu Gudda from Gundya was in my “todo” list for quite some time. The execution proved difficult for want of a GPS unit and more importantly being unable to get a “good crowd” for that arduous trek. Some organizations had conducted treks along that route but every time I missed due to some personal commitments.

It was at that time Arjun suggested whether I would be able to join a trek to Ombattu gudda that he was planning. Instead of the usual Gundya route, this trek was from Ettina Bhuja peak. As it was a pretty unknown route, I decided to join him.

Ettina Bhuja
The first task was to climb Ettina Bhuja. I had done it earlier and had to do it again!! Our planned camping for the night of day 1 was on the peak itself but the bad weather made us to look for an alternate place. The Bairaveshwara Temple that was near the peak was an ideal location for us. It has just enough space for 2-3 people to stay.


Night and the elephants
Staying at Temple comes with responsibility. The cleanliness and dignity of the place must be maintained. We set up our “cooking unit” outside the Temple premises. With clouds hovering in sky, the “dinner” was prepared hurriedly and by 7PM we had even consumed the food!!

By that time, thanks to the winds the clouds had all vanished. We set up the campfire and started talking endlessly about various topics. Our discussion was disturbed by the commotion from the nearby village followed by the sound of crackers. It was the elephants that might have entered into the fields.

That was a matter of concern. Our trek to Ombattu gudda was very much dependent on the weather. Rains on the next day meant that we had to pack our bags to Bengaluru. Now, with elephants roaming in the area, all our plans seemed to be in jeopardy.

The immediate problem was to have a plan of action if elephants decide to come near the Temple. We could be in bad shape if those agitated jumbos come anywhere near us. Our guide is not much worried about it. The chances of such things are remote, he says. But I and Arjun are not convinced and start to discuss about different ways to escape from Elephant attack. I even make a mental note on how to climb to top of the Temple!! Luckily, none of our plans were put to test.

We make sure that the Temple gate is locked and set out to sleep. Sometime in midnight, we were rudely awakened by the shouts of the villagers. Elephants again!! But I was so tired that day and got into again the sleeping bag.

Morning and start of the trek
With the rise of the sun, our spirits were also on high. The weather was clear and we had all forgotten about elephants. After breakfast, we were all set for the trek to Ombattu gudda.

The trek was mostly on the ridges of grasslands with occasional hike through the shola forests. An elephant pugmark on the track was alarming. But surprisingly, we did not find any more pugmarks nor elephant dung anywhere in the area. That was a mystery.

The view got better and better as we started walking on the ridges. The trek involved climbing one mountain after another. To avoid climbing, we started walking on the side. This had to be done carefully as the path was very narrow with steep valleys on the side. A fall would render us few thousand feet below into the thick jungles.


A major break was taken at “Atti mara” betta. It was called so because of the lone tree at the top.


The walk on the ridges ended when we hit a Jeep track. Ombattu gudda was nearby.

We crossed the last stretch of shola forests to enter into Ombattu gudda grasslands.

To reach the main peak, we had to cross seven or eight mountains. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the top.

Once on the top, we could see the vast expanse of Kabbinale forests. As usual, the views were amazing.


The hot weather and open grasslands made us very tired. The boring part of the trek was the return from Ombattu gudda to the nearby village. The journey never seems to end. A “short cut” saved us some 3-4km of walking. But still it took little over two hours of non stop walk.

There is no source of water all along the route from Ettina Bhuja to Ombattu gudda and the village. The cloudy weather while returning back saved us from dehydration.

We were asked by several people in the village whether we were the “two guys” who were lost. Apparently two pigheaded guys from Bengaluru had lost their way on Gundya to Ombattu gudda stretch during that week. (Later, I came to know that they were brought to the village safely)

Epilogue
Just before we ended the trek, we saw an Elephant foot print. Again single feet print with no other trace!! Very similar to the one we saw during the start of our trek. Strange!!