Sunday, December 20, 2015

Gitgit waterfalls, Bali, Indonesia

October 2015

Gitgit waterfalls is on the way from Pura Ulun Danu to Lovina. Situated in the hills of Northern Bali, it is one of the several waterfalls in the region. It is a three stage waterfall.

As we got down from our vehicle, our driver indicated that we could take a guide. But the charges mentioned were too high (300K IDR = Rs 1500). I felt that it should be easily possible to find the route to the falls and hence there is no need for a guide. As we started getting down, we realised that it was a good idea not to take the guide. The path indeed was very clear. There were also shops selling souvenir and drinks on the way!!

After walking down for 15-20 minutes, we reached the first waterfall. We had to take a slight detour to the left to reach the base of the waterfall. The water falls in two cascades forming a pool at the base. Ideal for swimming but the pool is deep!!

To reach the second and third waterfall, we had to further climb down. It takes about another 15 minutes.

It was afternoon and hot day and we were hungry. We were tired people when we climbed back the hill though completely satisfied with the falls!! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pura Ulun danu Bratan, the most photographed place in Bali

October 2015

A major water temple in Bali, it is located on the shores of lake Bratan surrounded by mountains. Situated at 4000 feet above sea level, the weather is generally cool. Normally the temple is surrounded by lake water. But during our visit, it was the last days of summer in Bali and the lake water had receded exposing the temple in full.

The image of this temple is printed on 50,000 Rp Indonesian currency!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rice terrace of Tegalalang, Bali

October 2015

The areas around Ubud are famous for rice terraces. Being a hilly area, people cultivate rice on the slope of the hills. This has now become tourist attraction among westerners. So much so that entry fees is now collected to enter this area. The Tegalalang main road is filled with vehicles creating traffic jams!!

For a person like me who comes from Malnad, the rice terraces do no evoke “wow” response but it is a nice place to visit. It is about 20-30 minutes drive from Ubud.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

An experience with Mumbai local train

On the way to Bera, I had some time in Mumbai before taking the train. Last time I visited Mumbai was 29 years back (Ignoring transit at airport), so I decided to spend this time visiting some places. I went to Gateway of India and enjoyed sunset at Marine drive. It was then time to go to Bandra terminus to catch the train to Bera.

Gateway of India
The easiest option was to take a taxi but I gave a thought of commuting in Mumbai local train. With some browsing I found that local train runs between Church gate and Bandra. I was not sure whether it was a good idea to use local train as I had luggage to carry with. Mumbai local trains are famous for its crowds. But anyway I decided to give it a try.

I was taken a bit aback by the crowd at the station. Being evening peak hour, it was not surprising!! I looked for the place to buy tickets which I found easily. While there was a short queue at the counter, automatic ticket vending machine caught my attention. It was very simple. I need to chose the zone and the machine showed the price to pay. In my case it was ten rupees for the 15 km journey. Very cheap!! The minimum charge in BMTC must be higher than that!! It is required to have exact change and in my case it was not difficult. And I got the ticket. It was a 2nd class ticket and I was not sure whether you can get 1st class ticket from vending machine. I moved towards platform.

I was overwhelmed at the platform. Only train number was displayed which did not make any sense to me. Good thing about Mumbai is that there are people who help. I asked a policemen who promptly indicated that there are two types of train, fast and slow. He showed me the platform to stand for those trains. I chose to go on fast train.

The train had not yet arrived but there was quite a crowd. At one place, there were only ladies standing. It must be the place of ladies coach, I thought. I walked further and started waiting for the train. When train arrived people just jumped into the train. I could not be so agile with my luggage. I was still on the platform thinking my next step. I do not like crowds. A thought of going via taxi came to my head but I decided to ignore it and boarded the train.

All seats were fully occupied. I stood near the door after ensuring that Bandra platform lies on that side. It was also convenient as I could place my luggage on the carrier next to it. 

Marine drive
I understood why the local train is so popular. It is the cheapest and the fastest mode to travel in Mumbai. For example, distance between Church Gate and Bandra was covered in 20-25 minutes. It would take more than an hour in peak traffic. I had a look at the kind of people who were travelling. There were middle class people and also from low income group. Also, I saw people busy with latest gadgets. So, it looks like it is the common mode of transport of most people in Mumbai (Except for elite). One has to be careful as the trains are also place for pickpocketers. 

The crowd which looked fine at the starting point of Church Gate became unbearable at Dadar. I could not move an inch. Few minutes before Bandra, fellow passengers reminded me to take luggage. “It will not be possible if you try just before getting down”, they told. It was so nice of them. Bandra is another busy station and I was asked to jump even before train cane to a complete halt. Else, I have to be ready to be pushed back inside by people entering in. As i prepared to get down, there was already group of people barging in. I just managed to get down unscathed with my luggage!!

My destination was Bandra terminus which was about a km away. On coming out of station, I was shocked. I expected it to be posh but it was dark and shady. I dropped the plan to walk the remaining distance. It seemed BEST buses do not have a feeder service from railway stations. Autos had filled the void and were taking people on sharing basis. I got a seat next to the driver in a crowded auto who promptly dropped me at Bandra terminus. That ended my first experience with Mumbai local train.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Bera and its leopards

December 2015

In Pali district of Rajasthan lies a village Bera. Out of tourist circuit, this village is not known to many people. But it is home to 35-50 leopards who roam free in the area that is not declared as protected zone and is intercepted by villages and farms. This is something amazing where there are challenges to save wild animals even in National forests.

I came to know about this plane few months ago and I could find an opportunity to visit this place!!

Jawai Bandh dam near Bera
As I came out of the desolated Mori Bera railway station facing a dusty road, I wondered why the place is so fertile for leopards. It is the rocky terrain with bushes which forms a natural habitat for leopards. But prey is very limited and apart from few small specifies of animals, they have to rely on live stock and dogs. And as per local inputs, there has been no conflict between man and leopards. There is no also no instance of leopard attacking humans. This is surprising.

Leopards are in general hard to sight due to its shy and nocturnal nature. But in Bera, the chances of meeting them is relatively high. Information comes from villagers who indicate the presence of carnivorous. The “safari” is then limited to reaching the place and waiting for leopard to turn up. Photographing leopards is a great challenge as they appear during early morning or late evening when the light is low. 

In our six safaris, we saw six leopards out of which three were cubs. The sightings were impressive though they always appeared from a long distance.

Final words

Note that this area is not a tourist zone. It is suited for a wildlife enthusiast and not for a normal tourist. It is not a good place to visit with family as there is nothing else to see. The stay options are limited to expensive to super expensive resorts. But if you are a person who enjoys wildlife, Bera is the place to visit. it is not yet commercialised. And I do not think leopards will survive if it happens.