Car festivals in Coastal Karnataka

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From Car festivals

Come November and its beginning of car festivals at temples in coastal Karntaka. The festivities will be spread around 5-7 days and last 3 days devotees visit the temples in large numbers. During this time idols are taken out in palanquin or chariot and the last but one day is the car festival day.
This is also the time when people staying away from home try to make it to their native so that they can meet friends and relatives.
During my vacation first one to be visited was the Ganesha temple at Anegudde ( around 30 km from Udupi). At the entrance we were greeted with 2 boys who were supposed to ward of evils buy beating themselves !! They were collecting money by beating themselves with long whips made up of coir and collecting money from the passers by. They were good at keeping track of people who had given money and who had not.
From Car festivals
Car festivals All along the way there were shops selling offerings for the god. You can find every kind of makeshift shops selling electronic items, sweets, clothes and toys which are generally in majority. The temple is situated on hillock and till sometime back one could see loitering monkeys on the climb up. But this time around I could not sight even one! We reached the temple and prayed. When we came out, there was a guy posing as Mahathma Gandhi and he was painted in silver from toe to hair. I just wonder why Mahathma Gandhi is always painted in Silver ? Can't he show up with normal skin or is it do with the title Mahathma?
From Car festivals
Next 2 days I was visiting Manjeshwar a town in Kerala pretty close to Mangalore. The rituals followed here are similar most of the other temples in that car festival spread over seven days. In all the temples there will be community meals(prasadam) served on banana leaf and I enjoy them for the curries made out coconut gravy. After the meal there was palanquin procession at night which ends with a symbolic war on evil spirits by shooting arrows with a silver bow. Each of the processions is accompanied with magnificent fire works illuminating sky in the night. Eating joints are integral part of the festivities and were open through out the night. Eating hot pakodas in the cold winter nights has its own kind of kick!
Next day was the car festival day and there was huge gathering of the crowds. After the car festival I went roaming around, it just reminded me of Mark Shand's description of Sonepur Mela(Indian Journeys edited by Dom Moraes), though there were no cattle to be sold rest all was there. You could find astrologers, mini lotteries, fancy item shops and eateries. These were mini Sonepur or Pushkar Melas.
Next day it was back to Udupi and then to Bangalore.

Goa - Not of the beaches

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Thinking of improvements done to Indian Railways by Lallu Prasad Yadav and hoping for sunset cruise on Santa Monica along the river Mandovi, I reached the Udupi railway station only to find out that all the trains were running late on that day. While we were waiting for the train to arrive, a hungarian woman who was travelling to Goa had become the centre of attraction. At one part of the railway station all eyes were glued on to her even though she was just sitting with a book in her hand. May be in Udaupi foreigners not to be seen so often and that too a lone woman. She asked me to watch her bag when she had to go to the rest room and all of sudden all curious eyes turned to me!
Shantha Durga temple at Velling From Goa - Not of ...

Finally Manglore Verna passenger arrived late by 1 1/2 hours and there was a huge rush to get in as it was to stop for only few minutes at Udupi station. We manage get some seats after some gifts! to TT. Konkan Railway passes through some vast landscapes full of agriculture fields, long tunnels and bridges. Some kids from the town were fascinated by seeing Cows ready for Gow Pooja with flowers ballons. Important part of the indian travel includes carrying home cooked food and eating in trains. The family sitting next to us had come prepared with loads food. Close to Murdeshwara stations we could see Shiva statue erected amidst the mythological concrete jungle near Murdeshwara temple. statuBy the time we reached Madgaon it was 3:00 PM already.
Deepastambh infront of
Vijayadurga Temple, Keri From Goa - Not of ...

We took a bus to Ponda. It was green all along the route. It was surprise to see so much of greenery as my ealrier travels were limited to Gude-Avadem, Madgaon and beaches of North Goa. We had a nice meal which included suki bazi (suki bazi which is made of potato and pathal bazi which is made of green peas are server with anything and everything in goa)and spicy Cokam jucie. We set off to Velling via Mardol where we were to stay that night. The place was calm and has a hill behind the Shanth Durga temple. We were greeted by the red faced Langurs (as they were eating teak leaves). Close by are the Laxmi Narasimha temple and Bethaleshwar temple. In the evening we visited Ramanth temple and Vijay Durga temple(at Keri) and returned to Vellinga for the night pooja. All temples brightly illuminated as it was Diwali time. Most of the temples are rebuilt during 17th to 20th century after displacement during initial period of Portugese rule. The Goan temples do not have the customary Gopura found in the south indian temples. Most of the temples are situated outside the city amid lush green cover. Typical of the goan temple is huge Deepa Stambha infront of the temple which is fully lit up during auspicious occasions. We could not visit Panaji due to lack of time in the evening.



Spice Plantations
South Goa where Ponda is situated has many spice plantation which day visit which includes guided walk through the plantation, Goan lunch and some even offer boating, elephant ride etc. These plantations also good places for spotting birds.

Next day morning we went to Mahalas temple at Mardol and then moved to Gude Avadem to visit Kudtheri Mahamaya temple which is situted interiors of south Goa away from Ponda and close to Madgaon. The temple is on the banks of a river and all around there are plantations. After hearty lunch at the temple we were back to Madagaon to catch the train to Udupi.
Again train got delayed by 2 hours but it was blessing in disguies we moved with the setting sun playing hide seek along the western ghats and rivers.
Sun set caputured from Train From Goa - Not of ...



Goan Temples
Goan temples were rebuild in the 19th century and architecture has similarities of a Church architecture as when these were being built there were shortage of workers and they were also working on the church constructions. Unique feture is Deepastambha infront of the temple. Most of the temples have large ponds close by.
Where: Temples are situated in Ponda taluka of goa and Farma gudi, Mardol and Ponda are the center places for visiting these temples. Ponda is 29km from Panji and 20km from Madgaon frequent Buses and abundant taxis are available. Its best to take a Taxi at Ponda to see all the temples. In Goa tourism being the main industry even the interior raods are maintained well(Though for a person living in Bangalore all roads other look better !!).
From Farmagudi
Farmagudi is situated on the Ponda - Panji road and is around 3km from Ponda. From Farma Gudi one can visit Ganapathi Temple at Farm Gudi and Naguesh temple at Nagueshi and Ramanth temple at Ramnathi. Nagueshi is on the way to Ramanathi from Farma Gudi. Ramanathi is few km from Farma Gudi. Shantha Durga temple at Kavalem is at a walkable distnace from Ramnathi
From Mardol
Mardol is situated 2km from Farma Gudi and Mahalasa Temple is situated here. Close to Mahalasa temple is the Shantha Durga temple at Kavalem. Famous Manguesh Temple is one km from Mahalasa Temple.
Velling
Velling is 3kms from Farmagudi and 2kms from Mardol. At Vellinga there are temples of Laxmi Narasimha, Shantha Durga and Bethaleshwar.

Tarik Per Tarik... Finally Rafting at Bheemeshwari

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Some of us were waiting for 2 years, some decided at 10:00 pm a night before and some were worried about the excuse to be given at the office the next day. After multiple postponement, idea of rafting at sita nadi was dropped and we choose for rafting at Bheemeshwari through CARE adventure. We got into the bus at 8:30 am near Family Mart. Soon after settling down we started Dumb Charades and this time Som did not get a chance to act anything close to "36th Chamber of Shoalin Temple" ( On the way to Bandipur Som had given oscar performance as nobody else did not know the fact that a railway coach contained 72 seats).
From River Rafting
When we reached JLR at Bheemeshwari, we came to know from the Ozone guys that we wont be rafting at the scheduled time of 12:00 noon and we have to wait for atleast 1 hour. So we were offered volleyball or a little trek. We choose to roam around a bit then play a bit. We were excited when the rafts arrived at 1:30 pm. But then again we were offered to either raft in batches(we were 8 in number) or wait for the next shift. We decided for the next batch. By then all of us were very hungry and had lunch under tree shade with couple of monkeys dogs keeping a close eye on us!!. Then we rested on the social hammock(inspired by web2.0?) discussing the outsourcing chain of river rafting business. Som put great effort in making our stay on social hammock comfortable with all the swings.
At 3:30 rafts were back. We filled up the indemnity bonds and put on the buoyancy jackets and helmets. There was a photo session for the couples. We had a briefing on the equipment and usage by one of the navigators. We could not go in a single raft So we split into 2 groups 5 going in a small red raft, I, Maruthi and Raksha going in another raft with 3 girls from Delhi Public School.
From River Rafting
Vishnu was our navigator, it was his last day with Ozone also the last trip. That night he was leaving to Bhutan for weeklong expeditions. Once we got into the water various commands and the responses were explained. Most used being the "Forward teeem.. forward". It was fun all through. There was little bit of explanation by Vishnu, little bit of rafting, little bit of cheering, little bit of water splashing wars with the other rafts.. You will never feel tired! We did some swirling of the raft like the one they do it on a coracle. We also came up with our slogan "Yo babe Yo babe .." with tapping paddle on the raft then raising it. We managed to win the water splash war with neighboring raft, when Vishnu managed to drown their navigator Rajesh!!
After maneuvering through 3-4 small rapids, we came across a sharp turn. Our guide gave us instructions on how to balance during higher grade rapids and we were all set for the last 3 rapids with last but one being the biggest among all the rapids on the streach. First of them was called "Thats All" and it was really that all. Last but one was really good. That might be a rapid close to grade 2? One more rapid and it was all over.:( We had already reached Galibore and rafted for 8kms and for more than an hour!
While coming back to the base camp we were all standing in a open Jeep ( around 20 people) and stared grading the turns and comparing ourselves to the animals rescued by PETA. It was a long trip back to the base camp watching mountains growing bigger in between the trees flanking the road. We quickly changed the clothes and were on our way back at 6:30 PM and reached bangalore 10:00 pm.

River Rafting
Sep 25, 2006 - 11 Photos




For those who are planning for river rafting.
Place: Cauvery Fishing Camp at Bheemeshwari is around 110 km from Bangalore and you have to go via Kanakapura, Sathanur, Muthathi. The roads are motorable till Kanakapura and after that its narrow and not in good condition. There will also be animals both domestic as well as wild(monkeys) and slow driving is required.
Link to Road Map
Service: CARE offers river rafting from July to October on Cavery river. The distance covered is around 8km. They take care of transport as well as food. Rafting is managed by Ozone. After reaching the base camp I came to know that Ozone also offers river rafting. I guess Ozone gives priority to the people who booked through them directly, food is arranged through JLR and probably they do not take care of transport.
Facilities:Once you reach the base camp(JLR) there is no shop or restaurant around. JLR does not give any food unless you have paid atleast day visit charge i.e. Rs 650. There was not even a small tea shop near by. I guess they don't even sell water for others. We were asked to get water bottles at Sathnur itself.
Rafting & Alternatives: There are 5 rafts with 3 of capacity 7, one with 8 and one with 6. The capacity is including navigator. Before the rafting starts one of the navigator will explain safety and equipment usage.
The rapids were small ones. This is good for first timers. River Sita is supposed to offer more exciting rapids than Cauvery. Adreno offers river rafting on sita. They offer 8km and 14km rides. I have herd that preparation is more elaborate which includes mock falling out of the raft then getting back in etc. This is again seasonal. One river Kali the rafting facility is available through out the year based on when water is let out from the dam.

Bandipur Selected Photos

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Took sometime to go through the photos and create a picasa web album. It did not turn up the way I was thinking. I guess it would be better if all the photos are visible on the blog. The upload takes a lot of time and 5 photos cane be uploaded at a time. Once uploaded picasa will give the html code to embed which is the link to albun. Next I would like to post a blog using Writely or Zoho writer

Bandipur
Sep 10, 2006 - 6 Photos




About Bandipur
How to reach: Bandipur is 220km from Bangalore. Can be reached through Mysore-> Nanjan Gud - Gundlupet. After Mysore, road conditions deteriorate.
Season: Just after the rain to March. The forest is deciduos so green coverage dcreases after January. Also Gaur and Elephant migrate to Kabini and Nagarhole in search of green food. But January and Febrauary are good months if you want to spot predators, Tiger and Leopard. Jan-Feb is the mating season for tigers and spotting chance increases and tigers will be moving around more in search of the mate. Spotting in pure luck. When I was there during last feb, tiger was spotted consecutively for 3 days before our visit but I was not lucky to see one. The JLR guyz even told that they have been spotting tiger or the leopard for the last one month. Bandipur also homes dhole(asiatic wild dog). Chittal herds(Spotted deer), Elephant herds and Sambar can be spotted very easilyy during 1 hour open Jeep Safari. In South India there are no Elephant safari as situation can get dangerous when wild elephants are spotted. There is elephant ride available and number of rides are limited based on the availability of green food to the elephants. So if you reach the spot after 9:00 AM there will be little chance of availability.
Stay: There are plenty of options including Jungle Lodges and Resorts which offers evening safari and morning nature walk along with package. Food and arrangements are good. In the night wild boars, chittal can be spootted inside the JLR compound.


From October 2nd - 8th is Wildlife week

Hoysala Trails - Hosaholalu

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Laxmi Narayana temple at Hosaholalu Side view

After canceling multiple times, on 5th August again we planned to visit another Hoysala temple. This time plan was to cover Hosaholalu and if possible cover Somnathpura. I reached Prem's place around 8:00 AM and we started off in his car. At 8:55 AM we reached Kamath Lok ruchi(KL) for the breakfast.It was crowded and it took us nearly 45-50 mins to complete. Though there was buffet breakfast which can be had quite fast we did not opt for that as we wanted to have neer dosa. But to our surprise KL had changed the design, look and feel of neer dosa and was serving crisper and longer version of it but with same kind of chutney as earlier.
After briefly studying the maps and info downloaded from google we left to Mandya. Reached Mandya around 10:00 AM and started asking directions. Our first attempt was futile as one of the traffic police told us to go to sharavanabelagola or srirangpatna and then reach K.R. Pet. But then we took help from tempo guys to find out the best possible route. Just after the Mandya city on SH 17 we had to take right for MeluKote road to.
We stopped at Jakkanhalli(On right Cheluvaraya Swami temple as seen from Jakkanahalli). On the way there are quite few old styled jaggery manufacturing units. We decided to visit one of them on the way back, but we were hungry on the way back and did not think of anything other than food.
At Jakkanahlli we realized it was not as close as we had thought. We were thinking it will be around 25km from Mandya. As per the signboard at Jakkanahalli, K.R. Pet was 31km ahead. But it turned out to be 24km. Funny part was through out the road we came across milestones few meters apart but showing different readings that too a difference of 4km I guess. Dont know who was trying to fool whom. At one place there were three. But we could not drive fast as the priority goes to the sheep and cow being taken for grazing. After Melukote the road has patches of recently built to lot pot holes to under construction. Moreover there will be village cattle, so driving was slow and it took 1-1.5 hours to drive 24km. At one point we came across a goat feeding its 2 kids in the middle of the raod. From K.R. Pet we took Hosaholalu raod to reach the temple

This time though we found a better guide. But we could not utilise him as he was occupied with somebody else already. But he pointed us to sculputres and the we tried to relate to the Ramayana stories.

Vishnu depicted as Govardhana(left) and Vamana (Right)

This Puja is being carried out on a daily basis, so we were not supposed to take the photographs inside temple. Inside the temple cielings have carving and there are beutiful pillars. Idols carved on black stone are beutiful. We prayed at the temple and started our return journey.
We had to wait till Mandya to get a nice place to eat. We came out with many resolutions on how to plan the next trip better, like packing food etc. Got to wait till the next trip see the results. On the return journey it was raining at many places. We could drive at better pace on Melukote Mandya road as it was empty allthrough.We had lunch at Hotel Amaravathi on SH17 after the Mandya city and stopped at KL again to have refreshing sugar cane juice. Amaravathi just reminded of the locking the car with keys inside near the tea shop just opposite of Amaravathi.


Hoysala Trails - Hosaholalu
Aug 5, 2006 - 26 Photos





The Laxminarayana Temple
This temple has trikuta structure with deities being Laxmi Narayana(Main dieti), Laxmi Narasimha(Right Side) and Venu Gopala(Left side). Temple does not have Kalasa and Hoysala emblem (Sala fighting with lion) on top. The outer walls have 24 figures of Vishnua such as Keshava, Maddhava, Vamana .. Below the figures there are 6 strips with intricate carvings of Horses, Peacock etc. One of the strips has illustrates Ramayana.
Gerard Foekema classifies this as new style temple built during later era of the Hoysala's. New style temples have 6 strips of carvings running around the temple. Where as the old style have only 5 strips running. In the new style temples one of the strips contains the depiction from epics like Ramayana, Mahabharath. We could manage to figure out stories like Sugreeva meets Rama. Rama asks for help from Sugreev. But Sugreeva wants to check Rama's strength and asks him shoot 7 plam trees with one arrow. Sugreeva realizes Rama's strength. Vali and Sugreeva fight. Rama kills vali. All these and more stories from ramayana were depicted on a strip of height 12-15 cm running around the temple.


Info that can be of help ...
Getting There: Drive on Mysore Road, just after Mandya city take right on the MeluKote road. There is board giving directions to Melukote and sharavanabelagol just before the right. Once you take right there will be a railway crossing a few hundred meters ahead. From Mandya to Melukote it was 35 km. In between u will come across Jakkanahlli which is around 6km before Melukote. 4km from Jakkanahlli there will be a deviation to Melukote, this deviation is just after climbing 2-3 hair pin curves. Take the raod to K.R. Pet. Till Melukote the road is in good condition. After that its not good. On reaching K.R. Pet, drive towards Bus stand from there take the Hosaholalu road(The road is named like that). Jakkanahlli is around 6km from Melukote. Hosaholalu is around 2km from K.R. Pet, on the road first you will get a small lake and then there is a Anjaneya temple. Take the right just before the Anjaneya temple to reach the Laxmi Naryana temple. On the Melukote road there is also diversion for reaching Basaralu which also has Hoysala Temples
Facilties: After Mandya Jakkanahalli is the only place where one can buy some food like fruits, biscuits, water etc. Rest all are small villages.On the Hosaholalu road there is a petrol bunk. After Mandya this is the only Petrol Bunk we came across, though petrol is sold in bottles in some shops on the way.
On the way breakfast can be had at Kamat Lokruchi and if u can wait a few minutes more then at Maddur Tiffanys.

Hoysala Trails - Koramangala to Koravangala

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The day started quite early. I gave a call to Prem at 6:20 to check if he has got up. By 7 o'clock I was on BMTC bus No. 171 to majestic. We reached KSRTC bus stand at 7:40 AM, and found a bus to Hassan and it started off at 7:40. Plan was to visit Koravangala, Mosale and Nuggehalli. Over a period one month I had done some googling on Hoysala temples. Hoysala kings who ruled a large part of Karnataka during --- had built around 350 architectural marvels. Out of that around 90 have been identified and around 30(?) are being maintained by archeological society of India. Belur and Halebid are the most visited of the Hoysala temples. I got a list of 15 places from index of the book by Gerrard Foekema. Also there was good amount information got from Hassan district web site.
I forgot to take a print out of my research compilation so we were left with only names of the three places. While Talking to the conductor we found that the Bus will reach Hassan at 11:45 if there is no traffic jam near Nelamangala. So we gave rethink on our plan and decided to visit Nuggehalli some other day, as it was 55 km from Hassan. We thought of visiting Mosale (8 km from Hassan) and Koravangala (12 km from Hassan). There was no significant traffic jam and around 10:00 am we reached Bellur Cross and had breakfast. The hotel had nothing except idli-vada and rice bath. For the hungry souls the idli-vada tasted very well. While having breakfast Prem realized that he has lost his mobile. Last three times we went on a trip we had lost something or other. It started with Som’s comb, then my mobile charger and now Prem’s mobile. Its started to drizzle around Chennarayapatna and it continued till we reached Hassan at 12:00 PM.
We asked a person from KSRTC about Mosale and Koravangala, the reply was which Mosale and Koravangala? There are so many ... He directed us to inquiry office. There we were told that the last bus to Mosale left at 11:30 AM and next bus is only at 4:00 PM. But there are lots of buses to very close to Koravangala. All the buses going to Arisekere stop near Koravangala. Our previous conductor helped us to find the bus and again when we were taking the tickets same question popped up which Koravangala. The conductor was trying to enjoy his job by cracking jokes and being enthused interacting with passengers. Wonder.. did he read "Fish", can author a similar book in Kannada.





Country side next to the temple

We got down at Koravangala and one of the co-passengers who got down at the same place showed as the way to the temple. To our surprise there was a big poster of the temple and just besides the bus stop. Prem was expecting a ruined temple in the dilapidated state got excited.


We walked down the curvy road for one and half kilometers through the serene countryside. The road was so narrow that only one omni can go at a time and we came across couple of them. The wind was blowing heavily and at one point Prem was walking sideways! On our left side we had fields till our eye range could see and on our right side a big lake, which was having, waves due to the heavy wind. There were plenty of common mynas and occasionally we saw egret and herons.
And then we saw the temple... with proper fencing and 2 boys who were coming from school fell down from their bicycle. We tendered help to lift the bicycles and guys were very happy. They just followed us and we came to the locked compound. One of the guys offered to help us by taking us to the so-called guard of the temple. We started following him and by the time we entered the hamlet the word was out "Photo thegiyor bandidare" And we had a bunch of 10 children coming behind us. Mr. Venkataramiah, "district tourist guide", accompanied us to the temple.



Children of Koravangala

As we entered the temple compound the kids were all ready to pose for us and there was competition to occupy the strategic points like the elephants back and the feet of big idols. Prem obliges and took some snaps of kids and they were overjoyed to see thier photos on the camera. Our guide started off with explaining the Hoysala history and the "Pratijna Kallu" which was the root for temple. As per he inscription on that stone document, the area was ruled by Cholas and Butiraja had a fight with cholas and he lost his 2 sons the battle but won the battle. Then ascented on the throne and took oath to build the temple. In the oath taking part Buchiraja and his wife are depicted and the next step they are worshipping Lor d Shiva.
Next he explained how Hoysalas were following Atharav Veda and how that is depicted in their temple architecture and the sculptures. Facing north was the beautiful idol of Marthanda Bairavi, which the king used to worship before the battles. There was small shrine of Biravi, which was locked; this had uniquely carved "Dwarapalakas" with very different ammunition. On the front side there was a Ganesha idol with six hands. Our guide explained the story behind birth of Ganesha for 20 minutes. I guess for a person who does not know much about India this would have been fascinating, Prem was all attention and I was just waiting when it will get over.

Because of Prem’s questions somehow the guide felt that Prem was interested in knowing multiple stories (“Siddantha” as per the guide) about the idols. And explained two different versions Indradumn’s story. Next to that was a food chain (power chain ?) with a stag being swallowed by python. Elephant was harassing python. A Lion was trying to kill the Elephant and Mythical animal of “Sharaba”(Indian version of the Chinese Dragon) trying to kill Lion. The “Sharaba” was getting hacked by another mythical character “Ganda Berunda”(A two headed powerful Bird, which also happens to be the royal sign of Mysore Maharajs and K.S.R.T.C) Overwhelmed by Prem’s attention our guide started seeing “Darwins evolution theory” being depicted there !


There was also beautiful depiction of Prahalad Charitha on the southern wall. Among other notable sculptures was the Varahi(Note this is female form of Varaha Avatar of Vishnu), Kodanda Rama (On the south side), Varaha Avatar (West side) , Krishna , Sarswathi (On North side). This temple also has the Hoysala emblem on the top of the temple.

Then we went inside the temple as it was getting late and also there was drizzle. All the ceilings were carved intricately. Inside there are idols of Sapta Matrika, Sarswathi and Surya. Surya and Sarswathi are carved with details and one could see even the nails in the fingers.

There is also Nandi which can be rotated. We could not visit other two temples, which were covered by plant growths. Our guide told us that during summers other two temples are also cleaned up. Buchishwara temple is maintained by the central government agencies where as other two temples are maintained by the state government agencies. Some of the texts say that other temples were built by King Buchi’s brothers. As per the Guide the temples were build tby the Chola kings.
We hurried left the place at 4:30 and had a late lunch in Hassan at 5:00 PM. We caught the 5:30 PM bus to Bangalore and were back in Bangalore by 9:45 PM.
Hoysala Trails - Koravangala
Oct 8, 2006 - 25 Photos

Chennai Dairy

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When I and Arvind reached chennai by Chennai Express on 27th May we were thinking that the plan has horrible gone bad. Earlier that week everybody was telling us that we were going to get roasted in Chennai heat. We settled down at Picnic Hotel which was closest to Chennai central. At 11:30 we ventured out. We needed a rick(auto) to go to Spencer Plaza the most visited shopping mall in Chennai. This was first encounter with "Chennai Auto". Before we took any auto we used call up friends and find out price range and then bargain. Lunch was at Noodle palace at Spencer. Soon we were joined in by Vijay and set off to Mahabalipuram in a honda city. Mahabs is one of the five UNESCO heritage sites in India. Thankfully the temparature had climbed down to 31 C due to the clouds hovering around and it was much better than what we were anticipating.
From Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is around 50 kms from chennai and with the good roads it took us just one hour to reach. Our first stop was at Hotel Mamalla where we had hot Bajji and bonda with coconut chutney and samabar. Then we moved on to Ratha complex. Here there are Ratha's named after Pandava brothers. Most of the rathas were incomplete. There are various theories around the incomplete structures. According to one of them during the Pallava days, people used to learn sculpting here and that is why you see so many incomlete structures. One the way you there are lot of shops which sell sculptures and you can see the workers doing the job. One can also learn scultpting for few minutes to few days.
From Mahabalipuram

From the Ratha complex we went to the Arjun's Penance, which is carved magnificiently on huge rock. This is featured in most of the photos taken from Mahabalipuram. There are lot of shops selling stone carvings near this place. We went one of them the owner seemed to tell the prices some what randomly. So we decided to go to the next shop. The next thing wee see that the same guys is calling us to a different shop and we came to know that this on was his shop. The stone carvings were avaialble in 4 types of stones. Th red marble which is the costiliest, rose marble which is priced little bit less, then there was white marble on which is it is tough get a fine finish. On rose marble you can apply oil the color will look differently. Then there was black stone for which I guessed the name .. black marble. It turned out to be granite. I bought a stone carving after a hard bargain the price had started at 1600 and I managed to bring it down to 1000. Arvind and Vijay bought elephants which had carved elephants inside.. that too there were 2 elephants inside. Most of the stone carvings were of Ganesha and next plac was taken up by smiling Buddha(note that this is not same as laughing buddha). I guess ganesha was the easiest to carve as well.. as soon as there is human face it was the difficult one to do. I had to search so much for a sculpture with nice smile on it.
Last thing we saw was the Shore temple. Though worn out due to its age Shore temple seemed to be the only complete structure in Mahabs. Surroundings of shore temple were maintained well and there was cool breeze coming in. Though I had read that after Tsunami more structures were unearthed I could not visit them. In the evening we settled down at beach resort near by and discussed issue ranging from infrastructure, rain water harvesting, financial markets etc etc. We returned to Picnic hotel at 11:00 PM. The key of the Hotel room broke when Arvind was trying to open it and we had to manage with half of the key for rest of the time.
The next day was comparitively uneventful. Again we visited Spencer Plaza and bought some clothes and I managed to find some VCDs from "Planet Blue" presented by David Attenborough. Though we discussed for an hour we could not figure out what gift to be given to Lourdes. Earlier plan of attending Lourdes Engagement was ruled out. In the evening we had bonda and bajji at Woodlands drive in restaurant and later settled down at Speed.
Santhome Basilica, Chennai

On monday we moved to Pastoral Center near Santhome Basilica where Lourdes was also staying. We were meeting Lourdes after 6 years so lot of discussion happend around the days that had gone by. Lourdes wedding with Betty was at Santhome Basilica which has beutiful glass painting and wooden carvings. Reception was at the community center and tamil movie hits were being played by the band. This day was much hotter compared last two days and I was sweatting at 10:00 PM night in the open air. It was a big relief when Bangalore Mail started off from Chennai.

Golden Temple and Return

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From Golden Temple

From Dubare it was around 30-45 mins drive to Kushalnagar. On the way we came across the Nisarga Dhama, after seeing so many elephants and spotted deer in last 2 days nobody was intrested in visiting Nisargadhama to see the deers in enclosure. So we skipped that part and headed to the Golden temple at Bylakuppe.Bylakuppe is around 7km from Kushalnagar and is home away from home for Tibetans. There are many monasteries in Bylakuppe. The one we visited was Namdroling monastry, which has the golden temple. The complex has 2 temples with giant statues of Buddha and paintings having intricate details on all over the walls. During festivals masked dancers can be seen. There is a near by shopping complex where in one can buy Thankas and even the Hindu gods painted in thnaka style. There are other tibetan handicrafts such as knifes with carvings, lacker work is also sold. Other monasteries are also supposed to be beautiful and have very peaceful atmosphere.
From Golden Temple

By the time we came out of the temple complex sky was all dark with clouds and we could here the thunders. We hurried up and got started at 7:00 PM. When we were just crossing Piriya patna it started raining. Though rain subsided after some time it was enough to cause flood on the roads where widening work was in progress. We had to move very cautiously and as far as possible we let the heavy vehicles to pass the flooded area so that we are sure that there are no ditches in between. It was raining till we reached Hunsur. After that it was drizzle till we reached Yelwal.At Yelwal we came to know that the sringapatna shortcut we had taken while coming was closed for smaller vehicales(Only lorries allowed) after 9 pm and we have to go through Mysore. We reached mysore around 10 and then had food at some daba on the way. We were driving slowly on the mysore highway and after Mandya we thought having some tea. I guess it was around 12:00, i can not recollect properly .. Som locked the car with key inside. Started frantic searches for screw drivers etc. There was a guy who had come have tea started to help us. We looked for any gap in the door glass. Then we came to know that central locking can be opened only from door next to drivers seat. He removed the beading on that door, from somewhere Som got a file. We are not able to open the door. Prem called up the Car dealer, he suggested us to try with the name plate. The helping guy removed the name plate by using one rupee coin as the screw driver and finally managed to unlock. That was a big relief .. We reached bangalore around 1:30 AM with lot of sweet memories from Coorg

Dubare

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Dubare
From Iruppu we joined the main road and from there we crossed Srimangala, Hudikeri, Poonampet to reach Gonikoppa. The drive was for around 20 km. From there we took the scenic raod to Kushalnagar. After Gonikoppa we took the road to Pollibetta. All along there were coffee estates, ponds and it was very scenic. From Pollibetta we took the road to Ammathi and then to Siddapur. This was the most beutiful strech of all. We found many Tata Cofee estates and whenever we were passing through the Tata Coffee estates the roads improved dramitaclly. When we reached Siddapur, it was already 1:15 PM. So we were in quandry to have lunch there or go to Dubare and tried have lunch. Then we saw the Orange County hoarding, Som called up o inquire if they serve food to people who are not staying with them. The plans took another course correction and we were off to Oracnge County. It is 5km from Siddapur and we had a heavy lunch buffet for 400 buks each. The lunch included 2 italian dishes, 2 north indian, 2 andhra, some indian non-veg dishes, 5 deserts and very very tasty Butter milk !! After lunch we came back to Siddapur and we were on our way to Dubare. Siddapur has many golf courses. We reached Dubare arouund 4, though we did not know the timings we were at the right time. The elephant camp is open between 4-5 PM for visitors. From the main road you go to go around 1 km before reaching the banks of Cauvery. From there take boat ride to the other bank for 15 buks to and fro. You will start seeing elephants come one by one to take bath. Inside camp after paying a fee you can take photographs with elephants and feed them as well. They have rides as well, but it was stopped as elephants do not get green grass and it might be tiring for them. We came back to the other bank again had some cool drinks for the "air bubbles". Next Destination --> Kushalnagar

Iruppu

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April 15th morning we got up early around 6:00 AM. The plan was to visit the river nearby and do some bird watching. It was Som's new year and he made couple of calls and then we headed towards the paddy fields, through the coffe plantation slopes. On seeing the holes in the paddy fields, Som backed off. Prem and I crossed the paddy fields to reach the river. Without any clear view and it being pretty small, river did not enthuse much. We started to spot the birds and soon we discovered that our binocular was not helping much. Though Prem could distinctly hear 15 bird calls, we could not spot many. Prem identified flying muniyas and there were parakeets.
Lakshman Tirtha Falls at Iruppu
From Iruppu
We noted down a balck bird little larger than sparrow. Back in the guest house we searched for the bird in Salim Ali's Birds of India. Then we thought it might be a wag tail, but we did not remeber seeing a white patch over the eye. Later in the day we saw the bird again and noted that there was small white patch on the wing. Finally I identifed bird as Pied Bush Chat after looking at the Common Birds book.
We we came back to the guesthouse only to realize that balcony might have been a better place for watching birds. Prem took some good photographs of the sun rise. We had Akki Roti and coconut chutney for the breakfast. Som again got the idea of visiting Dubare and Golden temple on the way back.
So there was one more course correction in the plans, now it was Iruppu, Dubare, Nisargdham and Golden temple. Iruppu was around 11 km from the place we stayed, we had to move around 3km on Gonikoppa road and then take left(There is big banner with the photograph of Iruppu falls) and go another 8km (?). The vehicles need to be parked at the temple and there is a walk for 1/2 km to reach the falls. There is a bamboo platform on which one can walk and sit right below the falls formed by Lakshman Thirth river. The water is very cold. Everybody in Coorg had advised to take bath out here. Only Som took the advise.
Iruppu is home to variety of rare butterfly species such as Malabar banded peacock, paris peacock etc.. Above is the picture of Papilio Budha or Malabar banded Peacock
From Iruppu

While Som was finding a place to change and I managed to take couple of snaps of butterflies. From 5 km from the falls there is Narimallai Guest house which can be only reached by walk. We climbed down and had some cool drinks to combat "air bubbles coming from everywhere" (Copyright Som-2006) and set off to our next destination Dubare.


Update : Aug 9 2008 . By mistake I had claimed it as Malabar banded peacock. But it is not. Look at the comments for picture of malabar banded peacock.

Nagarhole

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Prem arrived at my place around 8:30 AM. We had not yet decided the place to go. I packed up and got into Prem's car we went to Som's Place. There again the debate started then Som came with the idea of going to Coorg. We checked the distances, everything was within 230 km. But we were yet to decide where in Coorg? At 10:00 AM we started from Som's place. One the way I explored "52 weekend gateways". One by one place was ruled out. Kabini was not a option as too few accomodations were listed. Siddapur and Kakkabe did not sound that intresting. 10:50 AM we hit the Mysore road via the ring road.
Our next destination was Kamath Lokruchi. By then thankfully the options had narrowed down to Nagarhole and Madikeri. Prem had gone to Nagarhole earlier and was not impressed. He had even trekked through Brahmagiri. He had not visited Madikeri though. Som had been to Madikeri multiple times. I was all for Nagarhole. We reached Kamat Lokruchi at 11:45 AM. Everybody ordered for neer dosa or poori and discussion resumed. At one point the pitch was so high that the guys at the next table were staring at us. Finally it was decided that we will go to Nagarhole as we can get accomodation and there is Iruppu falls nearby to be visited.
Around 12:15 we started from KL and headed towards sri rangapatna. Close to Srirangapatna Just after a bridge we took the deviation(right) going towards ranganthittu bird sanctuary. After couple of kilometers we hit the hunsur road. On the Hunsur road you will also find deviation towards Brindavan Gardens and you will also get a Balmuri Ganesha temple near Belagola. Hunsur road was being broadened repair was on. At some places it had been repaired already. We reached Hunsur via Yelwal and Billikere. When it is very close to Hunsur the road divides into one going towards Nagarhole and one to Madikeri. Before this division itself the signboards for Nagarhole can be seen. We took a break at Hunsur and had some water and bananans. Little bit urgency to reach Nagarhole started up. We did not wanted to delay and miss the evening safari. In Hunsur just after the Petrol bunk we took a left to go towards Nagarhole.This also the road connecting to HD Kote. After around 8 kms at Neerpalla junction we took the raod going towarWe ds nagarhole. (Other one goes to HD Kote). From here onwards raods are pretty bad we could manage a speed better that 30km.We passed through Jungle Inn resorts, Som was very keen on staying there. We reached first gate of Nagarhole at Veerhasanhalli. Gaurd took the vehicle number and told code of conduct No Horns, No Music system and No loud noise. You have to be out of the park by 6:45 PM and the safari's arranged between 3:00 - 5:00 PM in the evening and the Parks opens at 6:00 AM in the morning. ( In contrast to Bandipur where safari's allowed only in the evening. Morning there is only elephant ride, not elephant safari) Next was the Murkal gate around 10 Km from the first gate and we saw some tamed elephants grazing around. Again guard noted down the vehicle numbers and asked we had already booked the stay and provided us with a option for stay. Around 4:30 we reached forest depart office and lodging facility from where safari's are arranged. They had stopped the Jeep safari's. The other was a van safari which took 19 people at a time for which forest department charged Rs 75. I registered my name on the book and the waiting began. Then we discovered that private vehicles are allowed but with Rs 400 vehicle entry fee, 150 guard fee and there was per head fee of 50 bucks. But cars were not allowed and 400 entry fee was for a zeep. We could not manage to tag up with others who were taking their own vehicle. In the mean time we saw some spotted dears which crossed the raod and then we there was a lone spotted dear which was grazing on the grass infront of the guest house.
In the mean time we came to know that most of the guest houses are full and it will be tough to get a stay. I discussed with sitting forest officer and gave couple of options for stay. There was also a option to come back in the morning for safari with a private vehicle hired from Kutta which would have cost us another 400 buks. Again the debate started to go for the safari now or comeback in the morning.. As we had waited enough we decided to go for the safari. In the meantime Som and Prem talked to the parking lot attendant, Raju and he said he will take us to guest house. Then there was a bull elephant came close to the area, i did not see as I was in the queue to get tickets for the safari.
The safari started at 6:30PM and we managed to get 2 window seats. We were surprised to know that while issuing the tickets they allot the seat numbers. The safari was worth the wait it started with spotted deer and herds of bison. Sambar followed soon. Jungle fowl and Pea fowl were pretty close to the trail. Next we saw elephant herd which had around 10 elephants. At around around 7:00 PM the sun set and still we had some light as it was next to the full moon day. In the moon light we kept comping across spotted deer, bison and sambar. When we were very close to the base we saw a bull elephant just 10 m away from the trail. It did a mock charge at the van. That was the first time I saw a mock charge. 7:30 pm he safari ended and we were on our way to Kutta. One the way we came to know that it was raining on the repvious day. The clouds had started to gather. We were worried that it might rain. We reached Kutta and made couple of phone calls. From there we had to drive around 6km to reach our guest house. It started raining at Kutta we drove in the rain and when we reached the guest house there was no power.
We got into a huge bedroom and then there was huge bathroom (of the size of a bedroom in bangalore) with bathtub. Som was delighted. We took bath and started off to emptying the bottles we had bought on the way. Soon we were joined by Raju and then Gopal who was owner of the guesthouse. We were sitting on the spacious balcony and cool breeze was coming over the coffee estates below. Rain had stopped by then. At 10:30PM the dinner was ready with Chapathi's, beetroot curry, Pulav, rice, samabr, rasam, raitha etc. Som also got to taste the Chicken cooked in Kodava style. Everybody was hungry as the last proper food we had was at 11:45AM. We went to bed.

Run up to Nagarohole

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I , Prem and Som were debating the possible places that we can go to. As it was summer we decided to go to hill station. Then we started comparing the hill stations. We wanted to go to a place which was closer to bangalore so that we need not drive much and need not drive under difficulat conditions. So choices were Yelagiri, Yercaud and Kodai. For Kodai we had to do lot of driving and Som did not wanted to go to Kodai without his wife. Then Yercaud took precedence over the Yelagiri as there were more places to visit and more scope for activities. But then Som started explaing his recent experince when we he went to Erode and claimed that the place may not be as cool as we expected. Next I checked the heights of Kodai, Yercaud and Ooty in 52 weekend gateways. Yercaud was some where around 4600 ft compared to Kodai's 6,800 ft and Ooty's 7,400 ft above the sea level. Subsequently Prem checked with his friend to find out how will be the climate in Yercaud he did not get a positive answer. So Yercaud was dropped. The next idea was to go to Bheemeshwari via shivan samudra , sangam etc. But accomodation was a big issue. Only option available was a forest dept. guest house at Muthathi and we had not booked JLR.