Saturday, July 22, 2017

Windmills of Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

Netherlands is known for windmills. Windmills were mainly used to generate energy needed to turn raw material into a tradable product. It was also used for reclaim land from sea. Most part of Netherlands is below sea level. 

Windmills seen from the watchtower
The two places that has large number of windmills are Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans. I had visited Kinderdijk before; it was a difficult place to reach by public transport. This time I decided to go to Zaanse Schans. It is near to Amsterdam and hence more popular with tourists.

Fields and the windmills
It was easy to reach Zaanse Schans. Bus number 391 from Amsterdam Central dropped me directly in front of Zaanse Schans. The popularity of the place was clearly seen with the number of cars parked. And there were buses dropping people in big numbers!!

It is said that there were 1100 industrial windmills before industrial revolution. Today there are only 5-6 windmills. And most of them are literally taken out from their original site and put here. In that way, the place can be considered as open air museum.

View from the canal
There is a watch tower that gives a nice view of the surrounding areas. The path next to the watch tower is used less by tourists but it provides some good opportunity to photograph.

Another view
The main path was crowded with visitors. While it is possible to enter into the windmill, the entrance is not free. For each windmill, you need to pay separately!!

You can also cross the bridge to get a full view of all windmills.

The bridge opens up when a boat has to pass. It is a sight to watch!!

Zaanse Schans is a very touristy place. Two hours is sufficient for this place. There is also a museum which I did not visit. Boat rides also available to see the windmills from water.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A day in Texel island, Netherlands

My official travel to Netherlands was suddenly extended by another week. That allowed me a weekend to spend. Since I have visited most places in Netherlands, I usually try to go for a longer destination on flights. But last minute flights were expensive and I did not find it reasonable to spend lot of money for weekend trip.

Long stretch of sand in Texel
My colleague Adriaan suggested Texel, the island in North Holland. That sounded like a nice idea.  But Friday was a busy day and I could not spend any time to plan the trip. All I did was to put the destination in google maps and get the approximate time to travel.

Light house in Texel

So it was in the train, I started digesting the information about Texel. While looking at the map of Netherlands, the chain of islands on the northern coast always intrigued me. I was wondering whether anyone was staying there!! And I was visiting the one of those islands!! By the time I got out of the train station of Den Helder, I was an armchair expert on Texel!!

Texel ferry terminal
A short bus ride brought me to the ferry terminal. I expected some small boats but a big ship was waiting. My earlier experience was with small cruise ships carrying 100-200 people. But this was considerably large with large dining area and kitchen. Two decks were dedicated for parking vehicles!!

Inside the ship
It looked like sea gulls were “attached” to the ship. Apparently, the food given by passengers was their main attraction. I enjoyed watching them play. Managed to take a close up shot of the birds using my mobile camera.

Sea gulls
20 minute of ride and I was in Texel island. I was fascinated how the ship nicely docked into the harbor and cars popping out of the ship and zooming away. 

Ship docking in the harbour

Vehicles coming out of the ship
My destination was the lighthouse on the other side of the island. Since there was some time for the bus, I walked along the sea for some time.

Walk along the sea
It took about 45 mins to reach the light house. Built on top of a sand dune, it provide a panoramic view of the sea and it surroundings. Tourists are allowed to climb up after paying for the ticket (4.5 euros).

Light house
The lighthouse built in 1864 was damaged heavily during Georgian uprising of 1945. Repair was done by building a new wall around the original lighthouse.

Light house
The beach in front of the light house is wide and nice. It is a great place to spend time. I roamed around for a long time before it was time to catch the bus back to ferry terminal.

The beach side
Travel to Texel on public transport requires multiple hops. 
  • Train from Amsterdam to Den Helder
  • Den Helder station to Ferry terminal. Bus number 33
  • Ferry - runs once in an hour or every 30 mins during tourist season
  • Travel in Texel: Regular buses ply only on few roads. For rest of the places(including lighthouse), texelhopper service is available. It provides service to more than 100 points in the island. One need to purchase the ticket online or get it at the bus or at Den Helder bus stop. One need to call 0222 784 000 at least an hour before to reserve. It looks cumbersome but works well once you understand the system. Something similar to shared cab service but with fixed points. Tickets cost 3 euros per journey per person.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Mookana Mane falls

I like to visit waterfalls during rainy season. While it may not be the best time to get into water, but the falls look absolutely beautiful in rains. 

Mookana mane abbi
Stopping at the place where a hand written sign on a bus stop mentioned “falls”, I wondered whether we should park our car there or drive further on the mud road. The empty nice space next to the bus stop was inviting for the car. Not wanting to take any risk on unknown mud roads, we parked the car and started walking.

"Falls" stop
A nice walk of 10-15 minutes brought us to a small settlement of few houses. They turned out to be facilities constructed for tourists. All of them were empty at that point of time!! Very shortly we reached the stream that formed the falls.

Near the falls
There was some confusion here. In the downstream there was the waterfall but we could not find a way to reach that place. A path led to the pile of rocks which we felt was not the right track. Crossing the stream we tried to find a way to get down but that did not provide any result. It looked like the rocky path was the only way out. It was bit tricky but nevertheless we managed to move and very soon we were in front of the falls.

Bridge across the stream
It may not break any record with respect to height but the falls had its own beauty. It was wide and had enough water to give its majesty. 

Mookana mane abbi

The sad part was the broken alcohol bottles in the area. Being popular, the falls attracts lot of people. There is no shortage of senseless people in our country. No point in ranting about it.

A "normal" shot!!
There was a small team of four people when we reached the falls. They seemed to have plans to take bath in the stream but were disappointed with the high water levels and rains. They silently returned back as Sankara and me opened our cameras and tripods. The entire place was ours for few hours!! 

Side view of the falls
We spent a long time in waterfalls. With rains playing hide and seek, it was a challenge to take photos but we tried our best to get some shots. 

Struggling to move
While coming back, we saw a tempo traveller stuck in loose mud. I was surprised how a driver could blindly drive vehicle in such difficult areas. The group of about 8-10 people were struggling to push the vehicle. We gave some suggestions but it did not work. With nothing much to contribute, we walked away.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A heaven in western ghats

Look at the photo below. One need not go abroad to see beautiful places. Within few hours of drive from Bengaluru, we can reach such places!! On a long weekend, when half of Bengaluru throng to the nearby hill stations, Sankara and me were the only people in this place.

The village is in the heart of western ghats. Cows graze peacefully without any disturbance.

One of the interesting places in the village is a fort situated on a hill. The small rectangular complex is in ruins. Looking at the size, it does not seem to be built for living. It may have been served defense purposes. I should ask villagers about it next time!!

The weather was playing hide and seek. While it rained heavily for few minutes, it would suddenly clear for few seconds giving us an opportunity to view the scenery. 

When we looked back at the village from the hill, it looked beautiful and pristine.

Back in the village, the mist did not seem to go away. The same place looked different!!

We chitchatted with some villagers about various topics including the farm waiver which they were excited about. We heard them telling “City people get bored with their work on weekday and come to hills in weekend”. We silently nodded our heads.

We returned back from the village promising to come back again. Hope the charm still remains.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Finding Kannarama falls

With an old article in Prajavani newspaper, we had gone in search of a waterfall. No information was available in internet about this place. As we moved from highway to village road, we switched from GPS to LGPS (Local GPS)!! That always help. Locals told us that we were on wrong road and asked us to take another path. Blindly following google maps would have taken us “almost” to the village but with a mountain to cross in between!!

Kannarama falls

The road was bad and we moved slowly to ensure that the underbody of the car does not take a hit. We reached a place that looked like the end of motor able road. I showed the villagers the article with the photo of the falls and they nodded their head positively. Great!!

Like many malnad villagers, they were simple folks. They happily showed us the way to the falls. It was a short walk to the falls but the mud and slippery conditions made it difficult. Very soon we reached the stream forming that small waterfalls.

It was a small but a beautiful falls. We had to get down to the stream to have a view of it. It looked like a ultra (1/100th) small Jog falls with four branches. By then it was raining a lot and the clear water gave way to muddy color. 

Four branches!!
Climbing up from the stream was very difficult. All we needed to climb was two steps but we were continuously slipping down!! When we came up, we were in a messed up state with mud all over our body. 

Kannarama temple inside forest
A small detour from the route to the falls is the old temple. It is opened only once in a year. No one goes on other days. We were told about this when we asked about the direction to the falls. In respecting local sentiments, I stood outside the border and took a photo. An old, small and beautiful temple.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Travel back in time: A visit to “submerged bridge”

This was the bridge over a big river connecting two towns. It had a railway line too!! The construction of a reserviour over the river submerged the bridge along with many villages and forests. Now when the water level recedes, the bridge makes its appearance. The window of opportunity to visit this place is very small. It can be for few weeks in summer.
The submerged bridge
Eight years ago, I made an attempt to visit this place with my friends (Link here). The road to the bridge was still under water and we had to return back disappointed. Due to good rains in subsequent years I could not get an opportunity to visit this place. It gradually faded off from my memory. But a month ago, I saw a message from Subbu telling that the bridge has made its appearance. A quick check revealed that the water in the dam was about to reach dead storage. Knowing that the monsoon was just few days away, we quickly made a plan to visit the place.

The "road" to the bridge
The town near the place looked same like eight years back. With help from locals, we were able to find the way to the backwaters. In the meantime, we were holding our breath until we reached the backwaters due to our disappointment last time. A big relief went from all of us as we saw the water levels. It is strange to feel happy at seeing low levels of water!!

Remains of the forest
The remains of the road was very clear. The trees lined up on either side of the road had gone long back but their stumps gave a glimpse of the past. We had to park the car and walk as trenches were dug to block any vehicle movement.

First view of the bridge
It was a hot day with no shade but we enjoyed walking in the reservoir. I was feeling that we had moved back in history. The silence of the place was only broken by the chirping of the birds. It was so pristine. The landscape was barren with all trees cut.

Effect of receding waters
Within 30 minutes of walking, we saw the glimpse of the bridge. It looked near but the way was blocked by water body. We had to take a long detour to reach the bridge. At some places, we had to be careful about quick sands. 

Remains of a well and milestone
It is a old bridge and submerged for last 60 years. But it still looks strong which shows the quality of engineers and their construction in those days. The railway track is barely visible and can be easily missed. A trench has been dug to restrict any movement of vehicles. 

The ramp to the bridge
I was wondering whether there is an approach to this bridge from other side. But between the bridge and the town on the other side is a National forest that cannot be crossed.

On top of the bridge
We spent a long time at the bridge appreciating the beauty. 

Remains of the railway line
Though the place is not well known, it is famous among locals. The place becomes a heaven for drunkards. The outcome of their acts are visible in the form of broken glass bottles which has become a benchmark for Indian tourist places. One need to be careful if coming with family as the place is very remote. The drunkards become active post noon and hence it is a good idea to visit this place in the morning!!