Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thusharagiri waterfalls in Kerala

As I wait for the arrival of rains to start monsoon trips, the thoughts of some waterfalls visited last year hit my minds. For some reason the photos did not go out of computer. I did not think of posting anything about it. While I am doing nothing much, it is a good time to reflect some of the beautiful waterfalls visited last September with my friends Sankara and Chitrai. One of them was Thusharagiri waterfalls.

Tusharagiri is a famous waterfall in Calicut area though it is less known outside the district. The waterfalls is easily accessible with good approach roads. A diversion at Adivaram from Mysore-Calicut highway (NH-212) after Wayanad ghat section takes to the waterfall. The road after highway diverges a lot and hence we missed the route many times. We also misguided others and then hoped that we do not see them again for the fear of repercussions!!

Anyway, we reached the falls with the help of locals. Forest department has constructed path to the base of the falls. They charge entry fee to the waterfall but the place is well maintained. It gets crowded often but the cleanliness of the place is well preserved. Kudos to Kerala Forest department guys!!

Tusharagiri is not one but a series of waterfalls. Anyone can visit the first waterfall but to reach the higher ones, uphill trek is required with permission. During our visit in September, forest department was not allowing anyone to go higher. Post November would the time to trek to those waterfalls.

It is a one step waterfall with a small pool formed at the base.

An interesting place near the falls is a big tree with hollow trunk. A very old tree indeed. Forest guard mentioned its age but I do not remember now. Not to be missed.

Best time to travel to this waterfall is in monsoon. But to see all falls (there are about 4-5 in number), visit after November.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A surprise defeat at Bananthimari betta

23 May 2015

Bananthimari betta is one of the hillocks near Kanakapura. We had climbed nearby Bilikal Rangaswamy betta and Kabbal durga before and hence we decided to knock of another hill. Little did we expect to return back with failure!!

View from the top (Almost!!)
I and Krishna started in the morning to hit Kanakapura at breakfast time. Vasu hotel, a good but small hotel was our breakfast place. After a good breakfast, we continued our journey on village roads to reach Bananthimari Temple. The last stretch of the road was not good for car and we parked bit away from the Temple. The hills nearby looked small and we felt that our job was a simple affair though the destination hill was not visible from the village.

A group had arrived at the Temple before us. With big utensils they had come to prepare lunch and eat at the Temple. As we started our climb, they asked us to come back by noon for lunch!! Interesting!!

It was a gentle walk and in few minutes we reached a small pond. A tortoise resting on a rock attracted our attention. By the time I could change my lens, it had jumped into water. Krishna was luckier than me.

Tortoise lake
A short distance after the pond, the path split into two. We knew that the hill we planned to climb was on our left side. Hence we took that deviation even though it was going down. The path directly entered into the valley covered with forest. It was dense though it did not possess the grandeur of rain forests!!

A tree with flowers on the way
After walking for half an hour, we saw the hill for the first time. It was a monolith and in no way we could climb from that side. We walked for little more distance hoping to find a way though the rock wall. By then we were convinced that we had missed the path. The hill was simply not climbable from that side. So, we retraced our path to reach the pond.

We cannot climb from this way!!
With the help of GPS, we found a possible way to climb the hill from the other side. But very soon we hit the steep boulders and had to come back. That was not looking good.

View of the village and lake from the route
When technology does not work, locals help. This time it was in the form of a herdsman. He sympathized at our plight and felt bad that we were walking for two hours without results. “There is a path, even cows go there” was his words. “If I go to Bengaluru, I will lose my way. You city guys are experiencing it in village!!” he told with a glee on his face. It certainly did not look like a compliment!!

An anthill in the forest
Anyway, he showed us the deviation we had to take. Well, there was no deviation but we just had to get into the shrub forests at a particular point. The herdsman gave a general indication of the route we need to follow and asked us to shout in case of any help. We could not understand how he can guide us standing at the base. Anyway, we walked in the direction he showed.

But the day was not ours. We knew that our defeat was certain. Considering a “quick and clean” climb we had come with just one water bottle. We emptied it as we started our climb on the new path. The scorching heat with humidity was already taking toll on us. We were sweating profusely and we knew that we cannot continue at this situation for long. We decided to stretch as much as possible without being foolish.

So near, yet so far
We finally reached a place where we could see the top of the hill. We still were at least 30 minute away from it and the walk was on rocks. We were already tired with dehydration and decided to get down.

We bid adieu to Bananthimari betta by saying “We will be back”. In our adventure we had found out some more good places nearby where we can spend an entire day. Next time we come we will be better prepared.

How to reach this place?

There are two routes to climb the hill. One is on Kanakapura Ramanagara road. Other is near the village Kuthagondanahalli. We choose the later route. To reach the place, go towards Sathanaur road from Kanakapura. At the outskirts of Kanakapura, after a lake (or remains of the lake!!), take the road going towards right. Drive for 5-6 km. Take right turn at the arch. The road ends at Bananthimari Temple which is the starting point of the trek. There are no asphalted roads after the deviation from arch.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How do I travel so much?

This is the question posed to me by many friends. They are surprised that how I can find time to travel with all family commitments. True, it is not an easy task if you are married and have kids. The flexibility of bachelor life cannot be expected but that does not mean that people have to stay indoors. In the subsequent sections, I would try to explain how I manage to handle my travels.

By the way, contrary to the title of the post, I do not consider that I travel a lot but that perception is built.

Chaya and Tanu in Andaman Islands - December 2014
Three things are fundamental for travel. They are interest to travel, health and wealth in that order. If person or the partner is not inclined towards travel and to experience new places, there is no point in looking at other points mentioned in this post. In worst case, if one is not interested to travel, at least allows partner to travel with friends/solo. Willingness to travel is critical. So, first try to convince oneself and/or partner and then rest are ‘manageable’.  

I must say that I am lucky on this front.

Tanu in Rajasthan - December 2013

This is a big issue for many people. There are still people who believe that leaves are there to encash!! People also consider that taking leave amounts to doing less work in Office!! I do not know from where this thought process has born but have seen many people with such school of thought.

My calculation is simple. Let us consider the amount of days I can get off from Official duty.
Weekends – 104 days
Holidays – 10 days
Privilege leave – 20 days
Christmas shut down – 5 days

That puts total to 139 days which is about 38% of days in a year. Isn’t it amazing? With this math, even a person dedicated for outdoor life can only travel max 2.5 times than an Office person. Of course the mathematical calculations can give a false picture but the point is that there is enough time for everyone to travel.

I cannot travel on all these days as I have to keep other commitments. There will be family functions to attend; festivals to participate, paper work to complete which eats up the free days. That is normal. In 2014 I travelled for 58 days utilizing about 50% of total free days available. In that 58 days, 30 days was on long travel (longer than a week), rest being done on a weekend.

Annapurna circuit trek - October 2013

I make a list of places that I want to visit beginning of the year. It is not a detailed agenda but good enough for me to plan my leaves. Weekend trips are executed in an ad hoc manner but long trips get planned well in advance. Any long trip plan starts with booking a flight ticket. Usually, flight tickets are cheaper when booked early. Since my daughter goes to school, the longer durations family trips can only be planned during April-May, Navarathri or Christmas. These are peak seasons and planning well in advance saves lot of money. Also booking flight tickets puts pressure to execute the trip. Else, I will lose out money on cancellation!!

I also go for couple of trips every year with my friends. That is usually during June-October period.

Beginning of the year, I send my leave plan to my Manager so that he/she can plan activities during my absence. I always had their support!! Ensure that things do not get messed up during the absence.

Chattisgarh - December 2012

Cost – Domestic travel
All my domestic travels are self sponsored.

Once I had to cancel my trip to Ladakh after booking flight ticket. I realized later that the costs were too much to handle. I learnt one lesson from that experience. Plan properly keeping budget in mind. Allocate certain amount of money for travel each year. The amount allocated does not matter but once I allocate funds for that year, I know what I can do with that money. Other way is to plan the places and then allocate budget.

Other than the flight price, lot of other parameters dictates the cost of the trip. They are the mode of transport, kind of hotels to stay, food we eat and luxury. Sometimes, location itself will be expensive.  For example, there is little scope to handle cost for Kailash Manasa Sarovar trip. It is expensive, period. We can only control flight ticket price.

Kailash-Manasa Sarovar - July 2012
Cost – International travel
Most of my international trips are part of Official travel. I utilize the time by seeing places during weekend. Travel outside South East Asia and Middle East will be very expensive. It gets super expensive to travel with family to Europe/America/Africa/Australia. I haven’t yet travelled outside Asian continent with my family. It needs better planning in terms of cost.

Budapest - October 2012

Final words

In spite of all these, there are times when one cannot travel. Priorities differ during the course of life. For me travelling is a hobby. I do not know why I travel and what kind of traveller I am!! I go to religious places, treks, touristy spots and less visited areas. So, I do not belong to any “type” of traveller. May be I am still trying to discover myself!!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Akkana Basadi

16 May 2015

Akkana Basadi is a Temple constructed in 1181 AD during the reins of Hoysala ruler Veera Ballala II. Said to be the oldest Basadi in Shravanabelagola, it was constructed by a Jain devotee Achiyakka and hence derives the name “Akkana Basadi”.

The Temple is a simple Ekakuta construction hosting twenty third Thirthankara Paravanath. The outer walls are plain, a feature of many Jain Temples.

The tower of the shrine also has limited carvings.

The interior of the Temple has four polished pillars with highly carved ceilings.

There is an old inscription in Kannada which mentions about the grant by King Veera Ballalla II.

Housed in the same complex is Siddantha Basadi. It does not have any architectural work but housed the library of Siddantha texts. But the religious texts were shifted to Mudabidri in 18th century.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chandragiri hill in Shravanabelagola

16 May 2015

People visiting Shravanabelagola normally go to see Bahubali statue situated on Vindhyagiri hill. Either they are not aware of Chandragiri hill or simply too tired from climbing big hill that they decide to skip the smaller one. I belonged to the former category when I visited Shravanabelagola several years ago. Chandragiri hill looked impressive from Vindhyagiri. But I could not visit due to lack of time.

Out of 106 memorials in Shravanabelagola, 92 are located in Chandragiri. So when I and Chaya visited Shravanabelagola last week, the itinerary just included Chandragiri hill and other less visited places. Keep it simple!!

Chandragiri hill is just one the other side of Vindhyagiri. The hill is situated just across the main road. Like in Vindhyagiri, it is required to walk bare foot on Chandragiri.

Climbing Chandragiri is very easy compared to Vindhyagiri. As we climb up, the scenery becomes better and better. Bahubali statue on the other hill can be seen clearly.

At the entrance of the Temple complex is Kuge Brahmadeva Pillar known as Manasthambha.

There is a small statue of Bharata, brother of Bahubali. The statue below the thigh was mutilated at some point of time.

The important Basadi is Chanvundaraya Basadi. The outer walls are plain but the parapet and tower are ornate.  A narrow passage inside Basadi leads to the upper storey. It was locked.

Another interesting Basadi is Terina Basadi. While Basadi is simple structure, the chariot stone structure in front because of which the Basadi got is name is beautiful.

Other important Basadi is Chandragupta Basadi which is associated with Chandragupta Maurya.

There are many inscriptions on the hill. Many of them are preserved under glass covering.

The place is so serene, peaceful and clean. There was handful of people at the time of our visit. At the same time we could see hundreds climbing the bigger hill!! The place is simply beautiful.

There is a small cave outside the Temple complex. Nothing exiting but it provides a nice view of the Temple complex. Not to be missed.

We never expected the visit to be so memorable. It exceeded all our expectations. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Temples of Nagamangala

25 April 2015

I came to know about this place when I visited Mallikarjuna Temple at Basaralu. The locals mentioned about a much bigger Temple at Nagamangala.

Nagamangala is a small town. The most visited Temple is SaumyaKeshava. It looks formidable from the front with dwajastamba stading at the front of the Temple. Unfortunately the religious people who maintain the Temple do not appreciate the architectural beauty. Parts of the Temple have been whitewashed giving it an ugly look.

This trikuta Temple was built in twelfth century A.D. during Hoysala period. It does has features of Hoysala, Vijayanagar and post Vijayanagar period. It is said that the entrance and tower were later constructed by Vijayanagar Kings.

While there are very good carvings inside the Temple, exterior of the Temple do not exhibit such carving. The six feet SaumyaKeshava statue is very impressive. Photography was not allowed inside the Temple. One of the priests explained about the Temple. The focus was not about architecture or historical events but on the mythological aspect of it. Visitors come from far of places to get rid of issues.

Behind SaumyaKeshava Temple is another less significant Laskhmi Narasimhaswamy Temple.  It was locked and we did not get information on who can open the Temple. There was a function in the town and many characters appeared in their costumes on the street. It was nice to watch them.

On the outskirts of Nagamangala town is Kote betta, a small hillock with a Temple on top. It is a nice place to visit in the evening.

Where is Nagamangala?

Nagamangala is about 120 km from Bengaluru. Take a deviation from Bengaluru-Mangaluru highway at Bellur cross to reach Nagamangala. The town is about 20 minutes from highway. The roads are good throughout the journey.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Karian Shola trek

3 May 2015

The trekking activities in Parambikulam are very limited. The amazing tramway trek is stopped and so is the tiger trail trek. But couple of short treks is conducted for the interested. One of them is the Karian Shola trek passing though evergreen forests.

Forests during sunrise time
The trail to Karian Shola started behind our bear hut cottage.  After a little climb, nice view of the surrounding hills is visible.

The trail continuously passes thought the forests. After we entered into evergreen part of the forest, exciting events occurred. The leopard made its appearance. It was there for a split of a second before running away. We would have thought it was our imagination but our guide showed the foot marks where it made the final jump!!

Trek route
Before we could get out of leopard hangover, a sloth bear made its appearance with a heavy noise but fortunately ran out. Again it was all over within a second. Bears are very unpredictable animals and they attack in their excitement. We were glad that the encounter ended peacefully. Later in the day we saw a forest guard who was attacked by a sloth bear. He was still limping.

Within few minutes we heard another sound. The sound made my heart stop for a while!! Some animal was very annoyed on seeing us. It was a gaur and it fled.

All these events occurred within the span of few minutes. We needed something peaceful. It occurred in the form of a Giant Pied Hornbill on top of a tree with little awareness of our presence. We took many photos till we could satisfy ourselves.

The trek lasted for little more than two hours. But the experience was amazing. Encountering animals on foot is different than seeing animals in the comfort of Jeep safari.

When we returned back to our cottage we were shocked to see leaches on our legs!! We never expected leaches in May. But then it is Parambikulam with evergreen forests!!