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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kabbal Durga

19th June 2010

I had traveled to several places this year, either with family or on an Official visit. There were very few trips with friends. Spider valley was the last place that I went along with Krishna. That was in January.

I and Krishna decided to break this “break” by planning a trek. With neither of us could spare a complete weekend, we opted for Kabbal Durga that was near Bengaluru. I roped in my colleague Manu at the last moment.



About Kabbal Durga
Kabbal Durga is a hill near Kanakapura with perpendicular cliffs on its three sides. The climb starts from the village Kabbal.


Our travel
The plan was to start early in the morning, have breakfast near Channapatna, and then go to Kabbal. And return by end of the day.

The road after Channapatna is narrow and passes through many villages. Kabbal Durga is a prominent hill in that area and can be seen from a far distance.


I and Krishna remembered our failed Madhugiri fort mission. Kabbal durga looked similar to Madhugiri fort!! We hoped to do better this time.

The Climb
The trek starts from the village of kabbalu. We parked the car in an open area of the village and starting walking. The climb starts after crossing a rock quarry.



The trek was pretty easy. At couple of places, we had to cross the rocky areas with no support. Else, it was a simple climb.


We took about an hour to climb to the top of the hill. There is large flat ground on the top with few Temple here and there. Couple of pond had dirty waters indicating the place to be a neglected one. There are also a few dilapidated buildings.


We spent about an hour at the top and started getting down. There was a big group from an adventurous organization climbing up. It was good that we climbed the hill early as we enjoyed the serenity of the place with no disturbances from any one.


Way back
On the way back, we had lunch at Kamath Lokaruchi near Ramanagara. The crowd was less as we were before the “peak” lunch time. We ended up eating a lot as Hotel waiter was very generous in serving food!! I found it difficult to walk after lunch!!!!


I was at my Home at 2PM. I had never reached so early after a trip!!


More photos of the trek can be seen here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dubare

12-13 June 2010

Dubare is a place in Kodagu district is known for its Elephant camp. In fact, many Dassera Elephants are trained in this camp. Kaveri River flows next to the elephant camp and lot of tourists come to Dubare to play in the waters.

It would be a nice place for kids to enjoy. So, I and Sankara decided to visit this place with our families. We booked our stay at Jungle lodges.

Travel
The travel to Dubare was uneventful. Sankara’s car had a DVD player and kids were busy watching their favorite programs!!

We were welcomed by huge crowd at Dubare!! Not a great place to spend the weekend with such a large group of people, I thought. But luckily Jungle lodge was located at the other bank of the river completely isolated from the maddening crowd.

At Dubare
As rain was playing hide and seek game, we spent much of the time inside rooms. During times when rain gave some respite, we just walked along the river next to our room.

We went for the evening safari. We didn’t expect much from the safari as the forests in Dubare has very few animals. It was beginning of monsoon and the entire forest was filled with freshness which itself was an enchanting experience.

Interaction with elephants
This was the main highlight of Dubare. The visitors are allowed to interact very closely with the elephants in the camp. The mahouts clean the elephants and people can be involved in that activity.

My daughter who was looking forward to see elephants lost her courage on seeing those giant creatures at “touching” distance. She preferred to sit at a corner and watch the exercise from a far distance!!
As people were happily scrubbing elephants, mahouts warned them to keep some distance from those jumbos. While sitting, they do not care about people near them. We may be crushed under their bodies!!
One mahout was yelling at some people who were playing lot of games with one elephants. It is not yet completely trained, he told!!


I was taking photo of one elephant that was splashing water. It then turned towards my direction and gives a nice shot!! I and my camera were drenched in water. Poor camera… it had suffered enough with my hands.

Dubare is a nice place to spend a weekend, especially with kids. White water rafting can also be tried during monsoon months.

More photos of the trip can be seen here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Haridwar

24th May 2010
Haridwar was the last place we visited in our Char Dham trip. On the banks of Ganga River, it is one of the prominent religious towns for Hindus.

As we started loosing altitude from Badrinath, there was a sharp change in the weather. From single degree temperature in Badrinath, we were now facing 42C heat at Haridwar. We did not like get out of our AC bus.

Haridwar is a town of Temples. The plan was to visit Mansa Devi Temple and then see Ganga Arti.
Mansa Devi Temple is located on top of a hill. There are two options to get to the Temple. One is to climb up the hill using the road or take a ropeway. The road is also used by vehicles. We choose to take the ropeway to the Temple.


While we had to wait for 1.5 hours for our turn due to huge crowds, the journey on the ropeway was just 5 minutes. There was nothing special for me in that ropeway as I had been to some of the great ones earlier.

And there was no crowd at all in the Temple!! Ropeway was the biggest bottleneck.


The best part of was the views of Haridwar Town from the Temple.


In the evening, we were at Har-ki-Pauri ghat for Ganga Arti. This is the event that should not be missed. Haridwar visit is a waste if Ganga Arti is not watched. The feeling of being part of the Arti performed here is something that has to be best experienced.

This was the best religious activity that I ever experienced. I was not bothered by lakhs of people on either side of the River.



Ganga Arti at Har-Ki-Pauri was the best way to end our religious trip!!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The five prayags

24th May 2010

“Prayag” is a word used for the confluence of two rivers. The word “Sangama” is also frequently used for the confluence of two rivers. (Triveni Sangama where Ganga joins Yamuna River)

The five prayags that are mentioned here comes on the way to Badrinath from Hrishikesh. It is the Alakananda River that joins other river in each of these places. One can see striking difference in the colors of these rivers at every Prayag.


Vishnu Prayag
If we start from Badrinath, Vishnu Prayag is the first confluence seen. It is about 30 km from Badrinath on the way to Joshimath. The Alakananda River flowing from Badrinath joins Dhauli Ganga River.


Nanda Prayag
After Vishnu Prayag, we cross the towns of Joshimath, Pipalkoti and continue further, the place where Nadakini River joins the Alakananda River is seen. It is called Nanda Prayag.


Karna Prayag
Ten km from Nanda Prayag is Karna Prayag. Here Alakananda River is joined by Pindari River. According to Mahabharatha, Karna got the “Kavacha Kundala” from sun here.


Rudraprayag
Rudra Prayag is a place where the roads to Badrinath and Kedarnath divert. It is an important confluence center where Alakananda River is joined by Mandakini River from Kedarnath.

Rudraprayag is also known for an infamous man-eating leopard. Popularly known as the “Man eating leopard of Rudraprayag”, it created a reign of terror in the Garhwal area for eight years. Officially, it had eaten 128 people before being shot by Jim Corbett. Unofficial numbers rise to few hundreds. For details, refer to the book written by Jim Corbett (In Kannada, refer to the translation by renowned author Poorna Chandra Tejaswi).

The Tiger was shot in 1926.


Devaprayag
It is here the Alakananda River joins Bhagirathi River from Gomukh. The River is then called as Ganga.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mana

23 May 2010

Mana, a small village 3 km from Badrinath is the last village before Tibet border. There is an ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) camp. Mana is better known as the “last village of India”.


The village is also closely related to several Mahabharata events. It is at this place where Pandavas crossed over to heaven. While Yudishitira reached heaven alive, others died on their way. And there are Temples constructed at places where they fell down.

Locals here belong to Mangolian tribe and in every winter they migrate to a village near Chamoli. Tourism is the main source of income for the residents.

There are few caves in Mana that can be visited. An important place is “Bhimpul”, a natural rock bridge where Saraswati River gushes through a narrow gorge. It is said that Bhima put this rock on the River to Help Draupadi to cross the River!!

Next to Bhimpul is a shop which claims as the “Last shop of India”!!

Mana is the starting point of Vasudhara Waterfall trek.

In 1968, Mana was hit by Avalanche which killed several ITBP soldiers. A memorial for the martyrs has been erected.

Overall, an interesting place to visit when you are in Badrinath.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Badrinath

22nd-23rd May 2010

About Badrinath:
Badrinath, on the banks of Alakananda River is a sacred pilgrimage town for Vaishnavites. Situated at the height of about 11,000 ft ASL, Badrinath is reachable by vehicles and has all modern facilities. Badrinath attracts lot of tourists because of relative ease of approach compared to other char dhams.


Our journey
When we started at 4AM in the morning from Sitapur, little did we know that it we would be spending next 17 hours in the bus.
I dozed off as soon as I sat on the seat. I could sleep peacefully as I could “sense” that there was a traffic jam with people speaking, sound horns from vehicles and all.

The shock was when I got up at 8 in the morning. We were still in Sitapur!! The bus had just moved 500mtr. This was beyond by imagination and I was terribly frustrated.
The road from Joshimath to Badrinath is narrow and traffic is allowed only one way. Threre is a gate system when vehicles are allowed only at some pre defined intervals. The gate would close at 6PM and we had to reach Joshimath before six.

That looked impossible with the current traffic situation.

Even through the bus started moving, the pace was very slow. It was only after 20km from Sitapur, the traffic eased.

The normal route from Kedarnath is to go to Rudraprayag and then take the road going along Alakananda River to Badrinath. It was here the organizer’s “local knowledge” helped. There was a short cut passing through Ukimath, chopta and Gopeshwar which touched Chamoli on Rudraprayag-Badrinath route. The road was extremely narrow with steep ups and down but on the positive side this was the one least used by vehicles.

It was a good decision as the road was absolutely empty and scenic. Precious time was saved by taking that route. Before Gopeshwar, there was a small village where we had lunch. I can still “feel” that village. It was so peaceful and I could only imagine such places in my dreams!!

From Chamoli, the road passed along Alakanada River. The road was wide enough for two big vehicles to pass which ensured fast movement. Hence, we could make it to Joshimath before six in the evening.

Past Joshimath, the road continuously goes down to the level of Alakanada River. 25km before Badrinath is Govinda Ghat which is the starting point for Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek.

Couple of km past Govinaghat is Pandukeshwar. It was here King Pandu spent his final days and died because of a curse. Here, we had to wait for 30 minutes for the gate to open. The road after Pandukeshwar is extremely narrow and steep. Sun had already set when we left Pandukeshwar and we could feel the bus going up and up.


Badrinath is a big town with facilities like “Star hotels”. Our place of stay was “Paramarth Lokha” that was run by some Saints. It was a decent hotel with required facilities like hot water.

It was already nine in the night and there was nothing much to do.

The Temple opens at four in the morning. The options was either to get up early in the morning and have peaceful darshan or wake up late and wait for 4-5 hours in the queue. Logically, we choose the former.

We had to wait for an hour in queue but again due to a disciplined approach followed by Temple authorities, we had a peaceful darshan.


There is also a hot water spring near Alakananda River. People normally take bath here as the water is believed to be sacred. Unfortunately people also use for brushing and make the area filthy.

Badrinath is a place where people perform rituals to the souls of their expired parents.

Badrinath is surrounded by Nara and Narayana mountain ranges. Nilakanth parvath which is renowned for its “beauty” is also visible. Unfortunately it was always covered by cloud during my stay in Badrinath.

We also visited Mana, a small nearby village which also is known as the “last village” in India. More on that in the next post.

Our journey was coming to an end. All that was left was the return journey back.

We had to wait till 4:30PM at Badrinath for the gate to open. It would have been a peaceful journey back but people at Pandukeshwar gate messed up the things and let few vehicles come from opposite side. It was hard to imagine two vehicles crossing each other in that narrow road. Added to the woes was a big bus that was broken down in middle of the road!!


It was the last traffic jam of the trip!!!!

Others places near Badrinath:
There are many must to see places near Badrinath. But not all can be seen in a particular season.
· Valley of Flowers could be seen only during July-August.
· For snow skiing, Auli is the best place near Joshimath. It is only open during winter.
· Trek to Vasudhara falls is another option during summer.
· There is a trek route from Badrinath to Gangothri glaciers for which permission must be obtained from Army.