Category Archives: Travel

Weekend Wanderlust – Bangalore & Kolar Highway

kolar 1.png

Deccan Plateau of India has astounding views. I am amazed by every nook & corner that I travel here. Last Saturday I went for a long drive on the Bangalore-Kolar Highway. Soon enough we were greeted with open roads & minimum traffic on the national highway.

kolar3.pngFor all the romantics out there, I would insist for a drive on this highway. The distant hills in the background give it a picturesque look. It gives you all the pleasures of the Indian countryside.You will pass through small villages and communities at certain intervals.Farmers working in the fields, coconut trees along the both sides. Flocks of sheep grazing the grass & group of kids running along with them. 

kolar 4.png
Let’s go to those hills !

There is also a resort Amoon Glamour Resort along the way, but its closed for renovation now.After about an hour drive we came across a Cafe Coffee Day outlet. Nestled in a cozy spot on this highway, shadowed by a hill in background & small lake on opposite side. Just the perfect place to plan a date!

We had spent some good time sitting there & admiring the beauty with a sip of coffee. As the sun set, we also took leave and started our drive back home. Next time I plan to visit it with a picnic planned – basket of sandwiches, fruit juice & the view of sun rising above the horizon.

 

Do you have a similar experience of a random drive which had left you spellbound ?

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Mystic Baratang Island

Baratang Island – part of Andaman Islands is a place just out of the Nat Geo & Discovery documentaries. Andaman Islands are one best place to visit in India. Best time to visit would be from October to April. I have been there twice, but the second time was marred by sudden cyclonic disturbances. As excepted the beaches are one of the best ones. My favorite place for the whole trip was Baratang Island. It is like nature’s hidden secret which someone accidentally stumbled upon.

We had left 04:00 am from Port Blair to reach the Baratang. Journey is divided into three parts –

  • Port Blair to Jirkatang
  • Jirkatang to Nilambar Jetty
  • Jetty to Baratang Islands

We had hired a private cab for one day. Government run buses are also available for the journey.

First part was covered in approx. 1.5 hours. We reached Jirkatang where Forest Department officials have a check post. To be honest, I was sleeping for this part of journey. At Jirkatang Check Post, the refreshments are available. So wake up yourself with a sip of tea. There is an old temple on the roadside which reminded me of all the Bollywood movie temples with bells ringing. 🙂

The second leg of the journey is interesting. You have to pass through the Jarawa Reserve Forest. The vehicles are only allowed to move in convoys, heavy vehicles in front with policemen accompany them. This area is inhabited by the Jarawa Tribe, native of Andaman Islands. Stopping on the way & photographing is strictly prohibited. Even talking or giving any food items to Jarawa is forbidden. The road passes through patches of dense forest. Tall trees on both sides of the road & scattered sun rays all along the way. Pictures wont to justice to this beautiful sight.

andaman

It leaves us to ponder about the strange ways of life – some are busy with all the modern amenities & then there are tribes still untouched by all this fuss.

The third leg of the journey is a short distance covered by Jetty boats to reach Baratang Island. You are welcomed by loud voices of tour guides promising you the best services. Places to cover in Baratang –

  1. Mud Volcano
  2. Limestone caves
  3. Parrot Island

I did not visit Parrot Islands as they cannot be covered in single day trip.

We took motorboats to visit Limestone caves. I was left awe-struck by sheer beauty of Mangrove forests. Mangrove trees have formed a natural path which leads to the caves. At places the mangrove trees have covered the area as if to form tunnels. This was the highlight of the day for me.

Mangrove forest

The limestone caves take you back to the geography lessons about stalagmites & stalactites. The water seeps through the rocks crevices and forms amazing structures. Well, the guides there would show you all the possible figures in those structures – fountains, humans & even holy deities. Even though we understand the science behind the cave formation, it is a natural wonder.

Limestone caves

The Baratang Island did not have many options for food. Better to be prepared & carry light snacks. Remember to wear covered clothes to avoid mosquito bites & a big no to open toed shoes. We took return Jetty from the islands at 4:00 pm & followed back the same route to return to Port Blair.

After visiting this place, I often find myself thinking about the inhabitants of North Sentinel islands. They are one of last known tribes in the world with no contact. They have discouraged all attempts to be contacted by outside world & remain a mystery till date. People about whom we know nothing, unheard & unknown. Does anyone else also wonder that some more secret tribes would be existing today?  Do let me know to assure me that I am not alone with all these weird thoughts.

 

A day at Shivasamudram.

With the holiday season in sight I was looking for places to wander around Bangalore. The last minute plans at a long weekend to find reservations don’t always work.  Well, that’s a lesson learnt for me.

After spending the Christmas with friends, I went for a day visit to Shivasamudram located in Mandya district, Karnataka. There were two ways to reach there, first via Kanakpura – NH209 and second via Bangalore-Mysore highway. Its located at approx. 130 kilometers from Bangalore.

We had left early morning around 7, via Kanakpura Road. My original plan was to spend the day at Bheemeshwari Fishing Camp located in Basavana Betta Forest. The drive included passing through the Forest Reserve Area.

To give you a glimpse of the wonderful ride – we passed through a very narrow strip of road on the mountains. Cauvery river by the side at times & occasional spotting of deer. But, beware of the monkeys on the way who will jump at car windows to snatch your camera !

Unfortunately, the Bheemeshwari fishing camp was all sold out for the day & we were unable to stay there. Not to be one to be disappointed we moved towards our final destination “Shivasamudram” to enjoy the waterfall. You should be prepared to walk down some 250 steps to reach the waterfalls or you can enjoy the not so cool view from watch towers. We could easily spot people climbing up the rocks to go and bath. That’s bit risky and I would advise not to try it at all. The water is shallow near the corners & you can easily enjoy there.

shivasamudra

Best time to visit would be just after the rainy season in October, when the mighty Cauvery river is filled with water. After spending half of the day in lap of nature it’s time to head back home. For return journey we took a detour through Bangalore- Mysore highway and stopped at Rasta Cafe for refreshments. And headed onto the NICE Road to avoid the evening city traffic.

Nice road

A word of advice – we could not stop many restaurants on our way, so do keep a stock of food items and water with you for the journey…

Happy Reading & a Happy New Year !

Bienvenue à Pondecherry !

Promenade Beach

Pondicherry, officially called Puducherry, is reminiscent of the French colonial era. The street signs in French & Tamil, both are the official language.  Strolling across the French Quarters or feeling the sea breeze at Promenade Beach is just few of the perks of visiting Pondy.

It’s easy to reach Pondy from Bangalore or Chennai for a weekend getaway. You can drive down or take a bus ride for few hours. It took us approx. 7 hours from Bangalore by bus. Best way to travel in Pondy is to rent a two-wheeler. Make sure to get your ride early in the morning!

You can plan up ahead & mark all the places you want to cover. Sharing my travel plans for visiting Pondicherry.

Day 1

Our travel for the day started late so we could not get an Activa. Rented a cab for the day. Visited Auroville City, it’s an experimental global township established by Mirra Alfassa (known as The Mother).

Matrimandir, Auroville
Matrimandir, Auroville

In the center of this city lies Matrimandir & passes are required to visit it. The cafe in the premises serves yummy food & fresh flower juices.

Then we visited the nearby Auro Beach. Also, covered Sri Aurobindo Ashram on the same day. Few steps ahead lay the French Consulate. The old buildings in these French Quarters carry you to an all together different time. I could spend hours just walking down those lanes.

Took blessings from the temple elephant Laxmi at Manakula Vinayagar Temple.

Highlight of my day was the evening on the Promenade beach. Just to give you a small picture, it felt like sitting on the Marine Drive in Mumbai. Facing the sea & watching the sun go down.

Day 2

It’s Beach Time…The must visit place in Pondicherry is the Paradise Beach. You can reach there by a 15 minutes boat ride from Chunnambar Boat House.

p4

Mind you, it’s not easy to get that 15 minutes ride. On the busy weekend, it took us 1.5 hrs just to get onto the boat after waiting in the long queue for tickets. But, all despair is lost after landing on the Paradise beach. It’s definitely the cleanest beach in Pondy. Spend hours in the sea. Sit back, relax, sun bath….

Our evening search for good food took us to “The Promenade” at Goubert Avenue. It’s location near the sea is a plus point. Make sure that you get to have dinner on their rooftop restaurant which is towered by an old abandoned Lighthouse.

War Memorial & Lighthouse
War Memorial & Lighthouse

Walked on the Beach Road, crossing the French War Memorial & Gandhi Statue.

Day 3

It was our last day of Pondy visit & we were lucky enough to get two-wheeler for the day. Went to Le Cafe for the early morning breakfast. It’s a sea-side cafe & best part is that it stays open 24 hours!

We visited the Auroville again. Went to the nearby Serenity Beach. I had heard it was a good clean beach to go, alas it’s not so now…

If time permits, one should definitely visit the Botanical Gardens & the churches – The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This marks the end of my happy weekend.

I had also wanted to visit- Pichavaram Mangrove Forest. Its located 80 km. ahead of Pondicherry, near Chidambaram. One can enjoy boat rides in between the tree caves. It would be breathtaking sight. There is always a next time for everything…

Story of Mountains, Monasteries & Maggi – Sikkim

It all started with the random plan with my bestie. With her being in Kolkatta and me in Mumbai, we seldom get to meet. But who can stop the wandering souls from all the planning. So one fine day, we decided to explore the magical land of Sikkim & got our tickets booked and just flew away.

My journey to Sikkim itself was eventful. I had almost missed the plane by reporting on wrong terminal & realizing it 10 minutes before takeoff. Running along the airport with shoes in my hand & people staring at the me.

The itinerary included travelling across North Sikkim & covering –

  1. Places in & around Gangtok.
  2. Lachen & Lachung
  3. Namchi

Day 1 –

Had reached Bagdogra by 12:30 pm. Took a cab from airport &reached Gangtok by evening. It takes approx. 4.5 hours to reach Gangtok, depending on the road conditions.   Checked into the hotel & just had a good night sleep. That included gossip sessions till early morning !

Day 2 –

We had a lazy morning breakfast & then headed off to roam Gangtok. We had booked a cab for the day tour. Got to visit the beautiful monsasteries – Rumtek Monastery, Ranka Monastery, Do-drul Chorten Monastery. Each surpassing the other in architecture marvels….

Also, then were mesmerized by visit to Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden. The

Ranka Monastery
                                     Ranka Monastery

An evening in Gangtok in incomplete without walk on MG Road. We enjoyed our leisure walk in rain on MG Road. And headed to “Golden Dragon” for dinner. This place has Karaoke Sessions every night & all the guests join in the singing.

Day 3 –

Time for us to head further into the beauty of Sikkim. One can easily book shared tours to Lachen & Lachung from Gangtok. We need to get permits arranged for visiting various places in North Sikkim. The hotel owners easily get that done.

Get Set Go !
                                   Get Set Go !

It takes approx. 6 hours to reach Lachen covering the distance of 123 km. The first sight of the snow-clad mighty Himalayas is breath taking. Lunch is generally served on the small hotels along the way. It’s almost evening and we stay in with the locals at their home for the night. The people are generous and open up their hearts to all travelers alike.

Day 4 –

Our day started early at 5:00 hrs in the morning.  We moved towards Gurudongmar Lake via Chopta Valley. Never before had sight left me as mesmerized as this.

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                                  Gurudongmar Lake

Gurudongmar Lake is located at height of 17100 ft. Legend says that there was no drinking water available in the area & Guru Padmasambhava had walked over a part of lake. This part never freezes, so that local people can have access to drinking water throughout the year.

Same evening we started our journey further to Lachung and rented out rooms in small yet cozy Bed & Breakfast Inn.

Day 5 –

We explored Yumthang Valley, the valley of flowers. But did not get to see much of it, as the flowers had just begun blooming in April. Continuing our drive to Yumesamdong, also known as Zero Point. It stands tall as a natural border between India & China.

And, I was lucky enough that Maggi was not banned till then. Maggi + Mountains = Awesome….

Meri Pahado vali Maggi :)
                              Meri Pahado vali Maggi 🙂

We had the evening free to ourselves & indulgent in nonstop talking & laughter sessions.

Day 6 –

Departure to Gangtok from Lachung, en route sightseeing at Tashi View point, Chumthang Valley. Spent the evening on MG Road, Gangtok. Had authentic dinner at Hotel Tibet.

Day 7 –

Time to head back to Bagdogra, via Namchi Valley. Visited Samdruptse Hill, famous as the 135 feet tall statue of Padmasambhava is located on top of it. Also, visited newly built Sai Temple.

Samdruptse

Then we went to Solophok Chardham, famous for the 108 feet height Lord Shiva & also replicas of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Also, there are replicas of other four Dhams, sacred to Hindus.

Checked into a hotel in Bagdogra for the night.

Day 8 –

Last day of the vacation. Did some shopping for souvenirs in the local market. Time to head back to our respective places with bag full of new memories.

We did regret not being able to visit Nathula Pass due to weather turbulence there. That will be taken care of in many more trips to come….