New York - The Busy City

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Previous day we had hardly managed to get some sleep. And we were to go to New York with our hurried trip starting at 6:30 AM again. As always the plans did not go as expected. We started a bit late and it took half an hour to reach the metro and 40 minutes to reach Washington DC. You know for Nagesh 1.4 miles (2.24km) in 30 minutes is sooo.. near! :) Instead of getting down at New York Avenue station on Red line we got down Metro Station which is also supposed to be sooo near to the Grey Hound bus station. After a brief walk we reached bus station and after little bit of struggle managed to get the tickets at the kiosk only after a lady helped used. Even though lady was a Grey hound employee even she had to go back and forth with the links. Finally we had the tickets to New York at 10:00 AM and return bus at 9:00 PM.

It was a 5 hour trip to New York. On the bus a Disney movie, “Wonka chocolate factory” was being played. I watched a bit of the movie in between the naps. But as usual Nagesh watched the “movie” fully. I and Naga Satish again wondered about the high ways in America.




Sky scrappers in New York

By 2:30 PM we were at 42nd street of Manhattan emerging out of the grey hound bus station. When we were entering New York we had seen the sky scrapers from far away along the coast. Now we were amongst the sky scrapers! Photos were clicked furiously and Nagesh was on with the video cam which was bought couple of days back by Naga Satish. Some people like taking photographs and some like to have the photographs taken. Nagesh was a guy who is crazy about both taking photographs and becoming part of the photo. Praveen who was not traveling with us this weekend was an extreme case of becoming part of the photo(A week back he was visiting New York and took 10 photographs standing in one spot at the Brooklyn Bridge at different angles). Nagesh was busy with the video cam I guess he is the best handled the video cam among us.

First thing we did was get into the first Indian restaurant we saw and started eating. I was so hungry that I took all the curries that were available in a loaded plate and finished everything waiting for the rothis to arrive. Thankfully before my next plate finished a basket full of soft Nans arrived and I relished them. I had one more round of rice before I gave rest to my mouth only to find out Nagesh slowly eating his first serving.

There were couple city tours were on offer. We were in double mind to take the tours or not. Considering the time we have in our hand decided to utilize the tour itinerary and the map of city and do it on our own. Its like to search through the maps get directions and find a place! The nearest land mark to our position was Empire state building. Due to lack of time we had to satisfy ourselves by looking at the building from a distance. Later on I came to know that tourists can go to the top of the building. Actually people stand queues for hour to have a look at the New York from the top of Empire State building.

We turned around and started walking towards the Times Square. It was a long weekend and the streets were crowded with tourists. All along the foot paths there were hawkers selling T-Shirts, hand bags and what not. Looked like most of the stuff sold by hawkers had made in China tag. Wonder if Made in China costs so less after shipping to other side of the continent, it should cost much less across the border in India. But I have never come across such stuff in Bangalore.Most of the regular shops had on going “Sale” too.I was searching for a binocular and inquired to get Luke warm responses as I was searching for a basic model.


People taking photographs at Timesqure From Newyork

Not only the shops, there were people doing spray painting, playing violin and what not. It was reminiscent of Chikpet in Bangalore or the busy streets of Mumbai. When we reached Time Square crowd was just increasing by the minute, people were some how managing to find some space for a photograph with the billboards and neon signs in the background. NR and NS shopped for a while at Time Square. We found a subway station. Compared to Washington DC metro New York Subway covers larger area and one can take one way ride from any station to any station for just $ 2. I found it hard to understand the system. But I guess if you are new Yorker that’s the best mode of transportation alternative to the busy streets. Washington DC Metro easy to use its less crowded so easy to get in and out. Before a station is reached the driver announces, even the next station is announced. Even closing and opening the door happens with warnings. But all that is not there and you will also see more counters compared Washington DC. At DC there are more ticket vending machines and hardly any counters. Moreover its easy to find out which line to take or when the station is approaching using the map provided at all metro stations. But I guess that may not be possible in New York due to large number of stations and area covered.


Brooklyn Bridge From Newyork

We took the subway to City Hall and reached the site of World Trade center. There are photographs on display which were taken at the time of 9/11. The photos convey what people went through during 9/11.After WTC site we visited Brooklyn Bridge. Constructed in 1870-83, it is one of the oldest suspension bridges and has a story of determination behind the construction. Nagesh was visiting New York for the second time and this was the only place he could not see during last visit. There were boat rides available on the pier 17. But considering the time we time we had in hand we had to start moving back. By then we were feeling tired as well esp Naga Sathish who does not like too much of roaming around. We started back and on the way went to City Hall Park before taking another ride on the New York Subway.
When we reached the bus station we came to know that we had wait for another 2 hours at the station. We had failed to read the fine print in bus timings. An earlier bus was canceled on that day. When we finally reached Washington DC it was 1:30 AM and we had to struggle to get a taxi. We were left with no options than take non-taxi and pray that we reach hotel :)

Newyork

Atlantic city

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Long weekend was coming cup and we were exploring economic options to go to Niagara. Though we did lot search and research we could not find a viable option within the reach. Then Greg offered to take us to Atlantic city which is supposed to be next only to Las Vegas when it comes to gambling.

On Thursday night, there was production issue due to which I was awake till 3:00 AM. Some how I managed to get up at 5:30 AM and get ready hurriedly. Including Greg there were 5 of us – Me, Naga Satish, Nagesh and Praveen. We were planning to start at 6:30 and Greg arrived sharply at 6:30 AM. Then we thought of having breakfast which took another 20 minutes and we hit the road. We were cruising at 65 MPH we went past Mormon temple which had tall towers and supposed to have beguile boy in gold. We went past Baltimore and traffic was ok so far. We had herd that there will be huge holiday traffic and there can big traffic jams.

While on the go roads in Ameerica, was the major topic of discussion. Greg answered all the questions patiently explaining whole of the interstate highway system in America. Praveen(called as officer by Naga Satish for the punctuality shown by Praveen )was the driving force behind discussions. Sometimes he sounded like a question bank which is waiting for the answers to be completed so that next question can be thrown. There was one question on cricket, Why Americans do not play cricket, the way he asked that question looked as if Greg was responsible for Americans not playing the cricket.

In between the discussions we realized that there was traffic jam. The topic turned to how to find a rest room when you are on highway. I guess the discussion was contagious and everybody wanted to “dew”. Greg took the car to shoulders, and without knowing that there is poison Ivy in the woods Naga Satish, Nagesh and Praveen ran to the woods to do the “dew”. Thankfully the traffic situation improved and we were cruising again. I took up my favorite job of navigator. Nagesh was busy watching a movie on the small screen in the car. Don’t know how he managed to watch the movie amidst all the discussions going on. He is movie crazy person who will any movie as long as it is called a movie.

We reached Atlantic city around 10:30 -11:00 AM. Our first job was to search for the parking and we found a self service parking close to the “Trump Plaza” which was supposed to be the one of the popular casino’s around. That was my first look at the casion’s and the slot machines. We tried to decode the logic behind playing. We pressed the help button and went through the instructions, but no body seemed to understand what needs to be done. Simplest had 3 columns of running numbers and you win when you have 7 in all columns. This had a minimum bet of 25 cents. We gave couple of tries using the quarters we had. There were a lot of people who were very busy gambling, without closing eye lids with a finger moving very frequently, every now then lips making some noise and very rarely people asking machines to read between the lines.

We managed to get an old lady who helped us to understand the slot machine. The game was simple we tell how much are we going to bet and on which row. Then we keep pressing the button and ask the machine to play. If we get 2 or more golden biscuits in a row we win and the machine credits us else it will deduct the bet amount. In the olden days you were supposed to pull a lever now all that you need to do is press a button with your finger. What more you can even ask it to repeat the bet and keep playing and just watch. It took nearly one hour to loose my $5 completely, not sure how many win but Nagesh managed to double his $5 and stop playing too. Greg and Naga Satish lost $20 each.

When we were done with the casino we came out the beach bar next to Trump Plaza. Praveen was in an American beach atmosphere for the first r time and one could make that out from his blushing face. For some time there was silence and no questions were coming out of Praveen’s mouth. Then he spoke to Greg, thanked him profusely and said he had gone to Goa to see this and did not see anything. Not sure which beaches he visited though as Goa is one of the most sought after beach destinations.

After some refreshments we set off to find a pure vegetarian Indian restaurant. Though we could easily manage with a cheese pizza, other vegetarians were not even ready to take the cheese. We could not a find any Indian restaurant on the board walk. So we got into a restaurant complex inside the casino. First restaurant we went in, we were told that it was only for the premium members. Then we found an Asian restaurant but the options were pricey and finally we settled for a fruit basket!

All along the board walk we saw what are called the rolling chairs. This is nothing but glorified version of hand pulled rickshaw in Calcutta which is going to be banned soon. There is a chair which enough for 2 persons to sit on human being pushes the chair from behind. The pricing was based on the distance covered in terms of blocks. I guess a rolling chair guy makes 10 times more than rickshaw guy for 10 times lesser distance. But of course they live in areas with different cost of leaving.

Guys were already feeling sleepy and we got back to the parking lot and were next destination was Ocean city. I managed small nap as well before we reached the ocean city. Ocean city board walk is much longer compared to Atlantic city board walk. Here there are amusement parks with roller coasters etc. Nagesh took a roller coaster ride along with some blonde girl who could not get a seat with her friend and Praveen repented the missed opportunity.

In the mean time I, Naga Satish and Greg were busy with food and cheating. Greg managed to feed the sea gulls and I tried my level best to capture photograph of a sea gull catching French fry on the fly! Then I and Naga Satish took a long stroll along the beach, the beach was full of eateries. There was a pizza place and then there was French fries shop, one ice cream shop and one gift shop. The sequence repeated for miles and miles. All the shops were managed by the kids and teens. Later on I came to know that children love to be at the beach during summer. So these places provide means of paying for the beach stay! That sounded cool I never had such a long beach vacation when that old. My first beach vacation was in 1999(I was 20) at Goa and we stayed there for 4-5 days and that was memorable one.

As the sun was setting we started back home. By the time we hit the highway I was fast asleep. In between we stopped for some tea and dough nuts. By the time we reached Rockville except for Greg( Of course he was driving all along) and Praveen everybody had slept and there was snoring concert I believe. Don’t how many more questions Greg had to answer on the way back.



atlantic city

Into the Mueseum City - Washington DC

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All along the week i was listening to "There are so many museums in Washington DC that you should visit". I choose this Sunday to explore those words. Took the Washington DC Metro and got down at the Smithsonian stop. Out I came and all over there were so many museums. Smithsonian is a group of museums with different themes many of them situated at the national mall. There museums on every aspect of American culture and history. Adding to that was the collection of Asian cultural and historical artifacts.




Braille Signs at the Freer Art Gallery

As usual the plan was something and I ended up doing something else. I was planning to visit air and space museum, the planetarium etc. But first I one visited was the Freer art gallery. It contains ancient artifacts related to the Asian culture. One can find artifacts from China, Japan, Thailand. India and Egypt. Each of sculptures or the artifacts have explanation on the history or how the art evolved and about the religion. Though India is the cradle of Buddhism and Jainism, not sure if there is any such museum which explains the facts in such details. For example different forms of Buddha were explained and there was booklet on identifying the forms of Buddha such as Bodhisattva, AvalokiteĊ›vara. Other interesting sections are on Japanese paintings, evolution of Chinese tea pots, Egyptian figures and many more.




Masks on Display at African Art Museum

Next one to be visited was the African art museum. It has got a big collection of masks and tribal artifacts depicting the African culture. There were also sections on contemporary African art. From here I went to the Slacker Gallery which was closed for renovation except for the exhibit on ceramics. Ceramics from Thailand, China and Japan were on exhibition including films on making ceramics. S Dillon Ripley center is attached to these galleries and has entrance from these. There was a exhibition going on American history which included American Indian, French and British lives, wars and on .
It was time for some food. Apart from fruits and deserts only vegetarian stuff I could find was Greek Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, olive and cheese. With that I went to the cash counter. The girl over there asked me if I was an Indian, not sure what made her think that I was an Indian the skin color or the preference to veg stuff? I was greeted with a "Namasthe" and she made sure to check that she was doing it right. It seems she was holding the hands above her head and somebody corrected her. Later on I realized that first thing they do at the cash counter is greet the customer. May be these systems are in place to make people comfortable who are used to the Mom and Shops( which existed long back in America) and it continues.




"New Fungus Corp" at Hirshhorn Museum

After a heavy meal I visited, Hirshhorn Sculpture museum and the garden. One the day of visit R. Tillman's photo's were on exhibit too. Probably this was the first time I was visiting an art exhibition like this. You could find lot of interesting sculptures, designs and ideas, wall hanging, decorative items. Some of the stuff I like included a mushroom garden made of synthetics, then there was collection of flowers stuck to the wall. There was a dark room which replicated atmosphere of sunset by controlling the light entering the room. One had to go inside and then sit till the eye adjusts to the conditions and relax.
From here I went to Natural History museum. I was just in time for the 3D IMAX movie on "Lions of Kalahari". This was the first I was watching a IMAX movie on the Giant screens. When the lions jumped it looked as if they are jumping at you and there was scene where in a plane flies close to the ground above desert swaying all along which made me feel as if I was sitting in the plane. Once the movie was over I got 45 minutes to roam around. The natural history museum has got a large collection of stuffed animals, skeletons and fossils. At the center is the African Elephant standing on the modeled echo system in Africa. There is a huge gallery on Mammals, fossils from Mesozoic era including Dinosaurs and marine animals that have gone extinct. I could not finish the whole round, thinking of coming back again I left to the hotel at Rockville. By this time I had got accustomed to the metro rail and easily reached back.
Smithsonian Museums

First day trip in America - Baltimore Aqurium

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One of the closest things to see near Rockville was National Aquarium at Baltimore. It was an hours drive from rockville where I am currently put up. I was wondering how to go visit there. Thankfully Aneel offered to take me there on Saturday. We booked the tickets online for 11'o clock and we were to start by 9:30. Aneel arrived at my place around 9:45 AM and we hit the road with pleasant weather.
This was my first experience traveling using directions provided by mapquest with the conventions used on the US high ways. It was so organized, the naming conventions of the highways, directions for exit points and there were no traffic signals or road crossing. It was amazing to know that all the states use the same conventions. The traffic was homogeneous and was strictly following the lane discipline. In this kind of traffic somebody is meeting with an accident must be a real bad driver or must have run out of luck miserably. Aneel had to step up the gas so that we could be on time. We entered the town around 10:45 and missed the concessional parking provided by Aquarium. We entered the aquarium just in time for the allotted schedule.
We spent sometime at the string ray tank. There were aquarium personnel who were swimming along with string rays and sharks in diving gear. It was hard to believe they were swimming with same animals which became famous when Steve Erwin died. Occasionally they would pop up on the surface and take questions from people watching them.

Next we headed to the Dolphin show, which was made interesting by the facts about Dolphins, how they acquire the behavior and how one can become a trainer. Dolphin behavior was amazing watch. One of the good things I observed was the accessibility options provided in the public places. All along the show there was also person interpreting it in sign language for the challenging hearing abilities. Wherever possible there will be signs in Braile and wheel chairs will be available for the tours.
Then we had food at the frog cafe. Not surprisingly, I had to eat cheese pizza which was the only vegetarian food available.
Aquarium contains different species of fish which have been grouped on the basis of habitat and exhibited in similar ecological conditions(Including plants, soil, water, rocks and temperature and in some case coral). Certainly its not a like fish tank with different fish. Each of the eco systems has notes on identification, interesting facts. I guess most famous among the children being "The Nemo"(Clown fish).Apart from the fish, there are exhibition area for frogs, rain forest simulation and Australian echo system. We spent almost 3 hours watching all the exhibits and then strolled around for a while on the inner harbor boardwalk area. Sun was getting hotter and we started our journey back.
National Aquarium

Hoysala Trails - Nuggihalli

After couple of trek and birding weekends I and Prem decided explore Hoysala trails. The last hoysala temple we visited was almost 8 months back(Hosaholau) and I was planning to cover lot many during th elast monsoon. This time first choice was Belavadi but we were not sure if we could make it in a day. For a change we were planning for trip on KSRTC instead of the car as there was always a scare of traffic jams on Hasan road and then we did not know how were the road conditions. So we decided to go to Nuggihalli which was supposed to be the closest Hoysala temple on Hassan route.

This time we made it a point to start as early possible and carry some food and Getorade to tackle the hunger problem(guess who? Prem is the most affected by hunger problem). We reached Majestic by 7:30 AM and managed to get a Rajahansa with comfortable seating than Suvarna Karnataka. It was a 3 hour ride to Chenna Raya Patna with a break at Bellur Cross. I and Prem were reading for a while and then chatting for a while about all the topics in the world and sleeping in between.

At C.R. Patna we found a bus to Tipatur and we got down at the Nuggihalli after half an hour drive through fields. I was surprised to see that the roads were fairly good condition compared to the roads at other places in Karnataka. A short walk from the bus stand through the narrow streets took us to the temple. Probably this was the largest of the places we visited so far in search of the Hoysala temples. It was auspicious day(Narasimha Jayanthi) at the temple and was being celebrated by the folks around the temple. Prem inquired if we could get a guide and we got one!

The floor was hot and the guide was running through the explanation. This time Prem did not ask many questions :) and guide also did not tell us any lengthy stories.( I guess both were feeling the heat ?) So we managed to finish of the tour quickly and headed to the other temple. By the time we reached, it was already locked and we could not see the deities. Standing on toes we managed to take some snaps and run back to the shades. We were thinking we will end up with huge boils. But thankfully that did not happen. When we came back to the first temple it was pooja time and after which we relished prasadam served.
Now started the pics session which took me around 45 mins and then it was time to go back. On the way back we had lunch at CR Patna Bus stand and some how managed to get seats in "Suvarna Karnataka"


How to go?

If you are going by car after couple of kms from Hirisave there is a diversion to Nuggehalli on the right. This is the shortest route from bangalore. On the deviation Karnataka tourism development board has put huge banner with directions.

If you are going by public transport go to Channarayapatna and then catch express buses going to Tiptur. There are plenty of buses available and it takes hardly 20 minutes by the express bus.

What to See ?
Nuggehalli has 2 temples Laxmi Narasimha and Sadashiva temple built during Hoysala period. Laxmi Narasimha temple is a trikoota temple with exquisite carvings on the outer walls. There are 3 deities with Sowmya Keshava in the middle and Venugopal and Laxmi Narasimha on either side. As per Grerard Foekema this is a new style temple with one strip of carving describing Krishna. The temple does not have a Hoysala Crest and has been extended after it was built. Like the temple in Hosaholalu one can see 24 forms of Vishnu depicted on outer walls. Many of the sculptures have the form of Vishnu depicted and sculptors name engraved on the lower side of the sculpture. Must see sculptures include the dancing Ganesh with 8 hands on the left side wall, dancing laxmi on the back side.

Sadashiva temple is close to the first temple but does not have carvings like Laxmi Narasimha temple. But this is fine example of Nagara style architecture. On the way one can also see the remains of the entrance to the city. There is also a guide available at the temple who gives explanation about the carvings and takes to other places.

When to go ?
One can go year around but during the summer months it might be tough to stand on the outer section of the temple as the ground will be heated like the charcoal.



Nuggihalli

Yelagiri - The Cardmom hills

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This was another of the plans which was planned a while back but did not realize. We were hesitant will it be good ? Are we going to like it ? It may be hot or it may not be. There were many reviews varying in opinion on the net. Finally I and Prem decided to give it a try due to alluring trek to Swamimalai in the vee hours. Prem was determined to drive on good roads! This was the option which was nearest. 6th April 2:00 PM we set off to Yelagiri from Koramangala.

After wading through the busy traffic to electronic city, we were greeted with refreshing winds on good roads with scarce traffic. We cruised along, enjoying the scenic views and occasionally cursing the drivers who did not follow the lane discipline.We took breaks at Krishnagiri and just before the winding roads to Yelagiri. We were little early and started climbing the hairpin bends close to 5pm. After 10th hairpin bend we found a place to park the car and enjoy the view.

So far it was going as per the plan and we reached Yelagiri around 5:45 and our plan was to get a place to stay then go to the boat club. We got attracted by the posters of Rhythms resort which offered a lake view and followed the directions. Only to find that it will be ready for occupation in another 10 days. That was just the beginning of search. Some people told us there was accommodation available and then retracted and some told us it was not there and then showed us some not so good rooms for exorbitant prices and some right way told that is not available. So we set off to Rainbow Resort. We traveled along the not so motor able roads in the interiors. We thought we lost it .. then again asked for directions and some how we managed to find it after couple times moving back and forth. The first guy out there showed us a nice room which can accommodate 4 people easily. As we were just two we were not too convinced to take that. Soon arrived Mr. Bernard aka Rajesh and offered us to show some dingy rooms for a lesser price. We saw those rooms and found it bright and manageable for a night. Only to realize that there was no fan(which was not a problem due to cool breeze) no tiles on floor and no wash basin either.

Rajesh talked about his past, his farm over a cup of coffee we were having in the vast open space infornt of our rooms. We were told that there will be a night trek and party all night with bonefire and music. It was then I recalled the reviews read on mouthshut.com about the resort. But then it had happend and this was the only guy who could give us accommodation with a "smile", "hospitality" and lots of talking about stuff all around the globe.

We spent the evening with the pretty costly drink Rajesh managed to get and discussing the possible reason for bumble bees getting attracted towards tube light. There was no conclusion to discussion with too many possibilities coming out. There was also discussion if were right on rushing through the night on our coorg trip. In the night we ate homely food with rasam being truly relished and then we walked to take some clicks of the moon. Disappointed with the cancellation of night trek we slept waiting for the morning trek. The weather was cool in the night and it got colder towards morning.

Next morning some how managed to get up at 5:15 AM, and started off to Swamimalai at 5:45. We reached the place around 6:15 but we were late and the sun was already coming out. We parked vehicle near temple and hired a guide who fell upon us and we were not able to decline.
Though the guide was pretty old, he was much faster than us. Path was clearly visible and through out there was steps. Here and there we stopped for watching the birds. Guide was very enthusiastic about showing us the bee hives("Thena" in Tamil) and digging by bears("Karadi" in Tamil). Though initially he had told us that there were bears, we understood that only after seeing the digging. This discovery made me wonder what will happen if a sloth bear suddenly emerges out of the dense bushes flanking our path! There were plenty of bul buls and we sighted paradise fly catcher too. We were torn between watching the birds , finishing the trek before sun becomes too harsh and then there was the hunger factor. On the way were worried not to see anybody else trekking on the way. After nearly an hours trek we reached the top. On the top there is temple and plateau to to watch the the surroundings. One has to climb to the plateu using the shaky iron ladder. I guess the view would have been much better just after monsoon or as Rajesh said Jan/Dec when there is sesame flower bloom in the fields below the hills.

After spending couple of minutes on the plateau we started climbing down. Half way through we started meeting other trekkers. Though it was not an Olympic race we were rejoiced to know that we were the first to reach the peak that day. Also there was a doubt in the mind if we had really climbed Swami-Malai or some other peak, all that was put to rest by the inflow of the people. When we reached temple where we had parked our vehicle, only thing that was on our mind was breakfast. Based on the suggestion of driver of the tourist vehicle behind us, we went Hotel Hills and were disappointed by the food. We thought we will have coffee at another place and reached Hotel Yelagiri. Yet again we were disappointed know there was no coffee available there.After making couple of STD calls we were back at the resort.

At the resort Rajesh gave us directions to find the guide (Thatha) who will take us around the forest. It was a eucalyptus forest devoid of animals and birds. But it was dense all around with thorny bushes.We had a pleasant walk with almost next to silence under the shades occasionally meeting bunch of children who were collecting dry woods. Only thing that was making noise was our foot steps.
Back from the walk we took bath and some simple homely lunch. Then we were back on the track to Bangalore.

For those planning to visit

To find how to go and what to see check out "Yelagiri on wknd.in"

When to go ?
Though Outlook traveller suggests that its all around the year, I would say its best after the monsoon and till may be Jan. If you are going after Jan plan such that you reach the place in the evening and do all the activities in the next day morning and you can leave before the sun gets hot in the afternoon. There is cool breeze in the evening and it gets colder by the night. We slept without the fan and started feeling cold around morning. Afternoons can be hot during the months Feb to Apr. Post monsoons it is supposed very pleasant climate. Compared to Ooty(1858 m) , Kodaikanal(2089m) and Yercaud(1500 m), Yelagiri is situated 1410 m above sea level.

Stay and Food
Though we were visiting their on off season period, almost everybody turned us down for the accommodation. Then if you see the search the net lot of complaining about accommodation too. There is Hotel Yelagiri, Nigress, Hotel Hills and Sterling Resorts. Most of these also have their own restaurant. It is advisable to book in advance. When were searching for stay, some initially said rooms available then backtracked or some said no and then showed us pricey options which not worth that much money. If you are planning a early morning trek to Swami-Malai, ONila might be the closest. Then there was Rythms supposed to open in couple of weeks, offers a lake view. There are also home stay options, if you inquire at the shops or STD booths you can easily find one.
We stayed at Rainbow Resort in a room with limited facilities surrounded by forest and enjoyed the stay thanks to a walk through woods in the morning (The resort also also provides rooms with more facilities). The food served though simple was much better than we tasted else where in Yelagiri. We always had Rajesh to talk about this and that and always smiling at your help resort staff.
Outlook Traveller recommends Hotel Diana at Hotel Hills as the best option for food, but we did not like the breakfast and it was not worth the price as well. The food at Hotel Yelagiri was better but there was no coffee/tea served on that day. To sum it up be prepared for food or stay not matching your expectations if you are not lucky.

Yelagiri

Learning to Fly - Birding at Lalbagh

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I was on the bng birder yahoo group for quite some time and for a long time, I wanted to go for second Sunday birding at Lalbagh . When I reached the west side of the glass house around 7:30 AM on Sunday morning, JN Prasad(He has been doing bird watching at Lalbagh for nearly 30 years now and is regularly guides people on second Sunday outings) was just arriving with his birding scope. After brief introduction we started off. There were easily 20+ people. It was good to see lot of children joining. When I came to know that there were people from as far as Basweshwar Nagar had made it early in the morning,thought being in Koramangal I could have gone earlier :(
First bird of first bird watching session was Shikra(Also known as Black Kite) which was spotted by its voice and because of the crows chasing it. Most of the people were new to birding, so each bird finding followed description of the bird, how to identify and some interesting facts such as How Koel brings up its siblings? To start with spotting was not easy especially when you are moving from bare eyes to binoculars. But slowly I got the hang of it and started spotting too.
We had Nisarg joing and explaining about his water-hole study at Bandipur. Nisarg sets up trap camers and he is supposed to study the water hole usage pattern in bandipur. Then M.B.Krishna(you know who if you are on the bangalore birder list) explained the story behind the poster on oxygen calculations It was developed on a bill left behind by the prevoius customer on the same table ;) ) Crowd was getting thinner by the time and we visited he lotus pond and bigger lake to find some more birds.When I started back home it was 11 AM
Birds Spotted

Bird
Comments
Shikra
Pigeon sized with creamish belly
Male Koel
Looks like crow has a longer tail and red eyes. beak is smaller.
Female Koel
Has white spots on back and red eye
Jungle Crow
Beak is longer the house crow and color is jet black
Pariah Kite
Also known as Black kite
Green Barbet
Makes kutter kutter sound
Flower pecker bird
Dint know that there were 38 varieties of flower pecker.
Jungle Myna
Does not have yellow patch behind eye and has very small crest(?)
Rose ringed parakeet
India does not have Parrots, there are only parakeets
Male Golden Oreole
Yellow body with black back.
Black Drongo
Smaller than koel and has a long tail.
Spotted dove
Clay colored with white spots
Grey headed starling
May be I wrote the name worng ?
Brahminy Kite Juvenile
Looks similar to Pariah Kite but has got white spots on chest.
White throated Kingfisher
Found near the lotus pond.
Little Comorant

Egret

Purple Moorhen
Has got a red beak and purple back of the size of egret
I could not find a photograph when I searched for Gallinula Chloropus did not look like the one I had seen.
Indian Moorhen
Smaller than Purple Moore Hen
Pond Heron



If you want to join .. : It starts at 7:30 AM on every second sunday of the month near west side of the Glass house at Lalbagh. If you are first time birder it will be very good opportunity to learn from experienced and enthusiastic birders full of knowledge. I guess this is the best way to start off.

Birding at Lalbagh

Talakad - Deep into the temple town

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From Talakad - Dee...
It was another of eventful trips! We were planning to go via Maddur, based on the Udaya TV(reported agitations in Mandya) and some old news paper article( had an news item which had Chief Minister Kumarswamy proclaiming though roads to Talakad are not complete by the Panchalinga darshan, will be completed soon) we decided to take the Kanakapura road. Thinking that its going to a short trip (110 km) we are taking ample breaks. Slowly road conditions started to deteriorate. Till Sathanur it was ok ok road compared to the Bangalore-Mysore state highway. After Sathanur it was roads in the well rather than pot holes in the road! Instead of whole road being eroded, there were deep pot holes like somebody had dug up purposefully(were they trying rain water harvesting ?)
It was going slow and steady till we were 1 km from Mallavali and then we saw the stranded vehicles due to agitations. There was smoke on the horizon a little bit ahead. Then we saw a taxi guy was taking a detour and he told us to follow him and he will take us past the agitations. Initially we thought luckily we got this fellow, only to realize later that that was our bad luck! We followed this guy on the narrow mud road through the sugar cane fields and brick kilns and every now and then stopping on the edge of the road to allow bullock carts to pass by. Bullock cart fellows also returned the favor by moving to the side in some places. Suddenly our navigator had vanished. We managed to reach the intended destination which is supposed to get us past the agitations by asking school kids and the farmers. That was also blocked and we saw our navigator taking U turn and yet again he promised us to take through a inner road which will take us to Shivanasamudra. Within seconds he vanished again. ( May be he is stuck in a wrong job should have been a magician or politician but do they recruit through monster?)
From Talakad - Dee...

And we were stuck in a "bul bulayya" with no sign boards or mile stones and with hardly any difference between main road and non-main roads. We started asking for directions with people working in the fields and grazing cattle. It was kind of treasure hunt with us getting to know one village after another on the way and with each person giving us varying distances between the places. Finally after more than hours drive we reached the so called national highway 209. Though the last person giving us direction had asked to us take right we took left and found Talkad road. After couple of kilometers we reached actual right meant by that person. If we had taken the left we would have reached the place we wanted to avoid!
With bad roads all along we reached the temple town at 2:00 PM instead of the original guesstimate of 11:00 AM. We took a guide at the entry point. First visit was to the Vaidyanatheshwara temple which had closed before we reached there we had to be satisfied by going around the temple and some explanation by our guide. After that we visited 4 temples and one temple under reconstruction. It took us about 2 hours to go around the temples and then we had lunch at "Udupi Mess" and strolled for a while along the banks of Cauvery.
Now we were very worried which route to take back. After lots of discussion with the guide, we decided to take the Mallvalli, Maddur, Chennapatna route. Canceled all the other plans like visiting somanathpur, mudukothore temple etc. Started the journey back to Bangalore at 5:00 PM. When we passed through Malvalli around 6:30 PM we let out a sigh of relief for crossing first trouble point. Close to Maddur, We had to go through few anxious moments at a traffic jam till we came to know that it was due to the road construction activity. Sugar cane wielding youngsters running here and there with loud instructions to the truck drivers had made us think otherwise. After having dinner at Lokruchi we reached bangalore at 10:00 PM and I reached home after 11:00 PM.

For the visitors

For information on how to go there and what to see check out "Talakadu on wknd.in"

What to eat: Before travelling I had read in the most blogs that nothing much available out here and its best to carry some food. But I guess after the recently held Panchaling Darshana many small eateries or so called messes have come up where one can have simple meal. There are lots of shaks on the river banks too. We got back whatever we took along with us.

Bannerghatta Buttterfly Park - An afternoon with winged jewels

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Inspired by the last trip to Hogenkkal I along with Som and Prem were eager to go out on a short trip during the weekend. Due to the Cauvery issue we had limited options. As usual lot of there were lot of discussion around the possibilities of visiting a place which can be covered in a day and is not on the mysore road or Hassan road. (May be we love to discuss, discuss and discuss )Options boiled down to Anthara Gange, Devarayana Durga and Butterfly park. As Som had personal work, I and Prem decided to visit the Butterfly Park.

As we had started off pretty late in the day(11:45 AM) we were expecting very less traffic on the Bannerghatta Road. To our surprise Bannerghatta road was another airport traffic junction(before the flyover thing happened) in the making. Or rather surprises make the trip better ? Listening to the traffic signal music concerts (pom pom, honk honk) we moved slowly till the Meenakshi temple (?) After that we had less crowded and better roads. Talking about jungle surrounded by concrete jungles and the animals visiting the villages we reached BNP at around 12:30 PM.

Butterfly park is an initiative of National Bioresources Development Board and Department of Biotechnology (GOI) and was inaugurated in November 2006. The number of visitors is far less though we reached the park at 12:30 we were the only people inside for quite a some time. At any given point of time you will not find more than 10 people. Most of the people have a quick walk and take snaps standing on the small bridge over the artificial stream of water. On its way to becoming Patel's Point of BNP ? Hardly one or two will be taking snaps with patience! Or may be we went at the wrong time ? Jakub Jasinski in his article Get the most from your butterfly hunt says that early morning is the best time to visit. This is when you will find butterflies sitting. Otherwise it is hard to find a butterfly which is not moving unless it is mating. We managed to find 3 such pairs and capture photographs. But I had come to know the butterflies were mating only after another person clicking the photographs pointed at one pair. I was suspicious that they might be planted ones like the flowers they have planted for butterflies to sit and pose for the photographs. Suspicion arose as 99% of the butterflies were moving and hardly one or two were sitting ! After sometime I visited the same spot again to make sure that they were alive and left the place.

The Butterfly Park has a display area with facts about butterfly, specimen and kiosks with puzzle. A 20 minute documentary about butterflies is also shown. I felt that it would have been better if we had watched video before chasing the butterflies. Its very informative, more than the variety of butterflies that can be seen, one should visit for information on butterflies.

We ended visit with a grand safari in the sanctuary. When we are about to leave couple of people were asking us as can they take the car inside and watch the butterflies from car ? Were they looking for carnivorous giant butterflies ? No wonder number of people visiting the park is less. Certainly butterfly park can not be taken on the lines of tiger and lion safari ...



Visitor Information



Where : Just before entrance for the safari on the tar road along the car parking area at Bannerghatta National Park. BNP is 20km from bannerghatta road flyover in BTM/Jayanagar.



When : 10 :00 AM to 5:00 PM except for Tuesdays. As the sun hots up, butterflies will be very active. Its better go when its not so hot.




Lalbagh

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Lalbagh holds flower festival twice in a year. Earlier it used be called autumn and winter flowers shows.Now they are held on the occasion of Republic day and Independence day. I have never been to Lalbagh and this time I got a chance.. thanks Prashanth Pai. Though I went on the last day of the show, still I could glimpse very good flower arrangements. Here is the album and if you would like to see some very good phots there is in Anita who has captured some real good photos as always !! at Fun with Flowers
When will I learn to take photographs like that ?

Where they shot Roja ! - Hogenakkal

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It was the first long weekend of the year, I was there in Bangalore and had some commitments. Som wanted to go to Hogenkkal or Nandi Hills. Nikhil and Munmun were coming to Bangalore with my gift a Canon AS3 ! I went to the Airport in the morning to receive them. Starting early was not possible and I was tempted use my new camera which arrived in the morning. Half heartedly I agreed to go to Hogenkkal and later on I felt there was no reason repent about but feel good and enjoy.

We started off at 11:30 AM to Hogenakkal and hit the Hosur Road. Som thought I knew the route and I thought Som knew the route and we ended up asking multiple persons about route. Some suggested via Dharma Puri and some through Palcode. With majority pointing to Palacode route we thought thats the way to go and later came to know that it was the longest of the routes to Hogenkkal. But the country side we passed through, was scenic and roads were not that bad compared to the conditions in Bangalore, more over there was very less traffic.

With occasional stops to click some photos, we managed to reach Hogenakkal at 3:15 pm and parked the car at Tamilnadu Tourism board parking lot and were off to boating. I was expecting to see some speed boats, ferries etc .. but there were only coracles and there was no life jacket either. With no other options I agreed to sit in the coracle. Som did lot of bargain and the guy agreed take us for 2 hour raid for 350 bucks. The bargain started at 600 bucks.

We sat in the coracle slowly and asking the coracle guy multiple times to make sure that we have sat in right positions so that its balanced. With our navigator sitting on his toes over wooden log inside the coracle and only two of us being the travelers we had enough room to stretch our legs. It felt like a floating bamboo sofa. Paid money at the first check point and went few meters ahead and the boat stopped. I was really surprised that we had to pay 350 bucks for the such a short coracle ride. Then I came to know that Hogenakkal falls is in a gorge. Whole area gets submerged during rainy season and you can not see any falls. Once we crossed the river at the first point ( the 3 min drive) we have to walk to the gorge starting. The coracle is carried on the head to the starting point of the gorge and even the travelers walk to this point and get into the coracle again. Thats why they do not have any boats. Once we got into coracle again, it was taken the below small water fall and then went close to bigger falls. Our boat man showed us the place where Roja shooting happened.
From Hogenakkal

From the falls we went to the island through the gorge. Interestingly there were shacks on coracle too... The island is created temporarily due to the dip in water levels. There were shacks selling fried fish. In here food means fish. Som ordered some fish and we went to the shallow waters on other side of the island. We played bit on the shallow waters till the meal got ready. Som had hearty fish curry rice and I had to survive on Coke. On the way back we went below falls again and this we got drenched fully from hair to toe right under the falls.

After coming back to the mainland I was searching for some food all that could be seen was fish, again fish and more fish. So far it was going good and we were all set to go back that is when Som realized that he does not have the keys And the search began ... Thanks to the neighboring cab driver we got the keys back. Can you belive ? Som had thrown it along with a polythene cover.

were in a dilemma about taking the Dharma Puri route or the Palcode route. The guard suggested us to take the third one via Anchetty. First 5kms was horrible. We saw some jungle fowl crossing the road and all along the way there were so many frogs crossing the road(Why do frogs cross the road ?) It was dark and suddenly we realized that we do not have any vehicles coming from back or front. To start with we had one car in the front, but in my enthusiasm to click photographs even that had gone well ahead. For miles there was no sign of human habitat not even animals except for the frogs crossing the road every now and then. We were worried what would happened if the car broke down. In between we came across dung which did not look like cow dung and that just increased butterflies in the stomach. Around 10km to Anchetty finally we saw a car behind us and that made us to leave a sigh of relief. The road had reflectors and signs all along and was maintained well. But there were lot of curves.

From Anchetty onwards the road was bit wider and occasionally we came across people walking on the roads and we followed a car. Traffic was still very less. On reaching Denkinakote we decided to have some tea. After Hogenkkal that was the first city which had some eating place. From here Hosur is hardly 10 km. On the Hosur road the traffic was less than what we had expected and we reached bangalore by 10:00 PM.

For information of how to go and what to see check out "Hogenakkal on wknd.in"

Makara Sankranthi in Udupi

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Its been long time since I posted on this blog as I had really few oppertunities to travel. Jan 12th-15th I was at Udupi and enjoyed the Makara Sankranthi celebrations in Udupi. I guess its a week long celebration with last day being sankranthi. Crowds gather for the celebrations in the evening starting from "cradle pooja" for the deity, then a cruise in the Madwa Sarovar and ending with a ride on the chariot. Last day celebrated with other 2 temples(Anatheshwara and Chandrmoulishwara) in the temple complex having chariot festival. the In Udupi every alternate year there will be "Paryaya Celebrations" (which is essentially the change of guard at the Sri Krishna temple) and Makara Sankranthi Celebrations.