Savandurga conquest on New Year day

I have been procrastinating badly for quite a while now so it’s time to shake it off me. I have 4 travel blogs to write and before the number grows any bigger I need to get these 4 out of my way quickly. This one is the first.

My year started off with a bang. Rohan called me on the 31st and asked, ” coming to Savandurga?”. I asked “what is this place?” He said “Google”, as always is the reply everyone gives when questions are asked now. He said one more thing, “trip starts at 4 in the morning”. I have always been an early riser so that wasn’t a problem. Then he said, “if you commit, there is no turning back”. I thought for a moment and then was like, what the hell, let’s do this. With multiple compression in my lower spine, trekking is always a tricky affair for me. Sometimes, it goes off perfectly well and at other times, I can almost feel my back abusing me. But this one turned out to be one hell of a climb and my spinal cord could have had walked out of my body if it had the option.

So off we went on the 1st of January on a cold morning to conquer a tricky terrain. There were a bunch of colleagues and ex-colleagues Rohan had managed to bring together for the trip. Here is the route map of the drive

We reached there by around 7:30 and started the climb. Rohan had stocked up reasonable amount of food the day before because he knew we wouldn’t get anything substantial to eat from there and after the upward climb, there would be no energy left to climb down. So everyone had their own share of stuff to carry on their backs. The climb in fact was not that difficult, but two things pinned me down. The stones are very smooth and my shoes weren’t gripping them. The sun came out quickly so all the warm clothes had to go. It was a full on battle for me all the way up. The funny thing was, every time we look at other people standing on the slope on their way up, it almost feels like they are defying gravity and they may just fall and roll down anytime. That was more scary for me than anything else because I might also be looking the same for others which means I can also go down anytime. I had to climb up on all four on many occasions and I could feel my back and knees creaking with every step I was taking. Every time I thought I would not be able to go anymore, Rohan would be like, another 5 minutes and we will reach the top. These 5 minutes went on for another 30-45 minutes and I managed to reach the top, completely exhausted with a numb body.

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It took a while to relax and gulp down the food we had bought with us. When we had rested enough and taken enough pictures, we started the walk down.

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That is where it became completely treacherous for me. My shoes just gave up on me. I had to climb down on all four for most of the way and even that became difficult because I had to watch where I was putting both my hands and legs. Worn out and completely exhausted, I somehow reached all the way down. I had absolutely no energy to even talk on the way back. A super hot water bath and a night’s sleep like I was dead was what it took me to get back to normal.

Savandurga is a super climb for trekking enthusiasts and a great place for a one day get away from the rigorous city life in Bangalore. Recommendations:

1. Excellent trekking shoes. The entire walk way is made up of very smooth stones so be absolutely careful to not slip. Go on all four immediately if the climb becomes uncomfortable at any point to avoid the chance of slipping.

2. Start early. Even in January, it became quite sunny by about 8:00 in the morning.

3. Carry enough food during the trip. There is nothing substantial available to eat on the way. Since it’s not possible to fill up the stomach and then climb, there is no choice but to climb on an empty stomach and by the time we reach the top, not an ounce of energy will be left in the body.

4. Carry enough water, energy drinks and chocolates.

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A weekend getaway to B R Hills and Ranganathittu bird sanctuary

Ranjith had started planning for a weekend getaway in March from February. We wanted to go somewhere in Karnataka and we had lots of discussions over it. Ranjith wanted to go to Chitradurga and my friends in Bangalore told me there is no sense in going exclusively to Chitradurga, it is a place we can drop in on our way on a trip somewhere else. We zeroed in on Shivanasamudra and Yelagiri but both were in different directions and that didn’t sound right. So I was looking for good places near Shivanasamudra to go to and that’s when I stumbled upon B R hills. At first it didn’t seem anything special but it had mountain and forest and that is what we wanted, especially as we were totally stressed out from really taxing work schedules and we were desperate for a quiet getaway. We quickly identified  Rajathadri Hill Villa as the place to halt for the night at B R Hills and booked a room. The cost was reasonable and it included home cooked vegetarian food as well.

We had planned to meet up in Bangalore and then travel together but once we fixed B R hills and Shivanasamudra we realized that both these places are closer to Mysore. We quickly revised our plans accordingly. But we had to go to Bangalore for a possible meeting with someone. Then my friends told me that the journey from Mysore to Bangalore is very interesting and there are a few places to visit on the way, the prominent one being Ranganathittu bird sanctuary. So we took leave of absence from work on 13th March (Friday) and started travelling on the evening of 12th. Another interesting part of our trip was, we did not have Ranjith’s car and Rohan was unavailable so the only option left was to take public transport.

So we met in Mysore on 13th morning, quickly showered, got ready and rushed to the bus station by 10:30. We had reached Mysore late by an hour and a half and we missed a direct bus from Mysore to B R Hills. The next bus was at 1:30 pm, so the only option left was to hop through multiple buses. Drivers of other buses told us to take a bus to Santhemarahalli and from there to Yelandur. From Yelandur, plenty of buses are available to B R Hills.

We spoke to the Villa owner and were told to get down at Coffee Day bus stop. The drive from Mysore to Santhemarahalli is dotted with large tracts of cultivation land. It is never ending lush green fields of jaw dropping beauty. I was lucky to get a few clicks from the bus.

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Yelandur is just one stop from Santhemarahalli. The journey from Yelandur to B R Hills was long and winding with bumpy roads. We reached the Villa by 12:30 noon. After reaching there we realized our choice for a quiet getaway was spot on. Hardly any human generated noise, vehicles passing by rarely, the whole environment filled with the chirping of birds. I was finding it amazingly peaceful. The Coffee Day is just in front of the Villa. There was a gorgeous pup there with whom I had an awesome time.

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The food was a huge surprise. Everything they gave us was extremely tasty even though it was all just normal south Indian food. After a small siesta, we went out to explore the place. By evening, we went to the nearby temple where there was a sunset spot. We absolutely enjoyed the sunset from there and took some great pictures.

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On our way back, as darkness was setting in, we could already see wild boars roaming around. Locals told us that leopards roam around the place at night looking for dogs as dog meat is one of their favorite food. That was quite scary though I was wishing I could see one from the safety of my room. The dinner was even better and after eating sumptuously, we quickly went to sleep.

We woke up early next morning, got ready and left for a jungle safari. Yes, it was a surprise we didn’t tell at home because our families would have had made a ruckus out of it. Locals told us that there are 32 tigers in B R Hills area and leopards as well, so I was hoping that we would be able to spot atleast one. Moreover, this was our first jungle safari as well so we were quite excited. The open jeep ride was bumpy as expected and we saw plenty of deers along the way as well as birds, but no tigers or leopards. We went past many waterholes as well, but we saw nothing there.

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We returned to the Villa, showered, had a tasty breakfast and quickly left. B R Hills is a great place to chill out and recharge our batteries. I would recommend anyone to try it out for a quiet weekend.

Although we had planned to go to Shivanasamudra, we realized that this was not a good time to go there because there wouldn’t much water now. Shivanasamudra is at it’s magnificient best during rainy season. Moreover, buses to Shivanasamudra go only to a place called Kollegal. From there we had to hire a cab or autorickshaw and travel about 19 kms to reach the waterfall. The effort was not worthy enough. So we decided to head straight for Ranganathittu bird sanctuary. To go there we had to head back to Mysore, then take a bus in the direction of Bangalore. We got a direct bus from Yelandur to Mysore. We ate a good lunch at Mysore and then headed out. We asked around and were told to take a bus to Srirangapattanam and from there to take an autorickshaw.

Ranganathittu is a paradise for bird watchers even though number of birds was less at this time. There were plenty of Pelicans, Painted Storks and Cormorants. The best part of Ranganathittu was the boat ride in the lake. We happily jumped into the boat which was being rowed and found out that the lake has plenty of crocodiles. Phew….I was glad to get back to land with all my limbs intact. When we were getting out from the bird sanctuary, Ranjith started remembering that he had visited the place a few years back with his family but then he was not that interested in photography and they hadn’t taken the boat ride.

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From there, we got a bus to Bangalore. We reached Bangalore by 8 in the evening and checked into a hotel. Ranjith left for Chennai by train at noon next day and after meeting my friends in Bangalore and having a gala time, I took an evening bus back to Kerala.

As recounted by Ranjeet

Conquest of Kodachadri

This was our first trip together in more than 3 years.  A trek up the Kodachadri mountain together had been on Ranjith’s mind for a long time, so he decided to plan it in the long weekend from 15th to 18th of January. There is enough to write about the planning of this trip as a separate blog. It all started off when he asked me about going to Kodachadri. I became quite apprehensive when he told me he was planning to stay on top of the mountain for the night and watch the sunrise the next day. I had absolutely no idea what it was like at the mountain, so I refused to go with the plan. Well, his plan was to stay at the house of the priest of the temple at the top of the mountain. Then we had planned to return to Chennai and Thrissur respectively. But there was an additional holiday and Ranjith didn’t know what to do with it. I suggested going to Jog falls and he refused saying there would be lot of travelling involved. He went ahead and booked all the tickets for the trip. All our discussion was happening over Whatsapp and there is a group Rohan has created in Whatsapp with the three of us, so once Ranjith booked all the tickets, he informed Rohan about the trip and asked him if he wanted to join. He jumped at it and once he saw the dates, he made his own plan about going to Jog falls from Kodachadri. That got Ranjith interested and he decided to alter the trip plans. Then the first roadblock came up. First, Ranjith was unable to contact the priest at Kodachadri to arrange accommodation at his house. Then, a colleague of his suggested a homestay at Nittur, about 15 kms from Mookambika temple, at the base of the mountain. Finally, after plenty of deliberations, the plan looked like this. Ranjith would reach Thrissur from Chennai on 15th, then we would embark together on a midnight train to Mangalore. From Mangalore, we would take another train to Byandoor. From there, take a taxi to Kollur and from Kollur, take another bus to Nittur. Rohan would drive down from Bangalore with a friend of his, Venu, and meet us for lunch at Nittur. We would then go to the homestay, then trek up to see the sunset on Kodachadri mountain. Next morning, we would trek again to Hidlumane waterfalls, then travel to see Jog falls. From there, Ranjith and I would take a bus to Bangalore and reach there on 18th morning. Ranjith would take a train from there to Chennai in the morning itself. I will spend the day in Bangalore and take an evening bus back to Thrissur. A couple of days before the trip, Ranjith got a hugely disappointing news. There was no water at Jog falls. The water is being managed by a dam and no water is being let out of the reservoir. It was too late to alter the plans because all the tickets were booked. If I was to simply copy our conversations on Whatsapp, that in itself would have had made one blog.

So Ranjith reached Thrissur on the morning of 15th. We decided to buy new trekking shoes and went out at noon. Out of nowhere I got a nasty cold. Before I knew, it was all over me. I was feeling feverish by evening but said nothing about it at home. Our train to Mangalore was at 1 midnight, so our plan was to watch a late night movie and then catch the train. There was a new Tamil movie releasing that day and almost all the theatres were showing this movie. There was only one option left. Tevar, a hindi movie which was a remake of a Tamil movie, Gilli. It turned out to be more than 2 hours of sheer mental torture. To top it off, Ranjith had a conference call on his mobile so he escaped the torture. He came back 45 minutes later. By the time we reached the railway station, I didn’t know if it was my cold or the effects of the movie that was making me sicker. My recommendation about the movie: RUN.

We boarded the train to Mangalore by 10 past 1 midnight on 16th. Ranjith had booked tickets for the travel from Mangalore to Byandoor in the train that was supposed to leave a few minutes after the train we were travelling would reach Mangalore. But our train got delayed and as we were approaching Mangalore, we saw the other train go past us. We had no option but to book tickets in the next train and wait. We lost some precious time there.

 

We left Mangalore by 9:45 and reached Byandoor by 12 noon. Not wanting to waste any more time, we took a taxi to Nittur.

 

Rohan called in between to tell us that he had already reached Nittur. Nittur is a very small town with just the basic amenities available. We had a quick lunch from a small restaurant. Rohan and Venu had already gone and dumped their baggage at the homestay and Rohan told me that the homestay may not be to my liking. The homestay owner sent a jeep to pick us up and he drove us up the mountain where there were no roads.

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The homestay was a shocker. The location was magnificient. A house in the middle of nowhere with plenty of trees surrounding it. We thought they would cook food there, but there was no kitchen. Even tea had to be bought from outside and the nearest available place was 3 kms down the same mountain road. One room was allotted to us and our luggage filled that room. Toilets were pathetic, toilet seats were dirty and taps were broken. Water was icy cold and I was wondering if there was any warm water available. We decided to go up the Kodachadri mountain to watch the sunset so we did not bother changing clothes. Our mobile phones became inaccessible because there were no towers nearby. Only Venu’s BSNL number was getting connected, but only if he stood in one particular spot.

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We asked the jeep driver to come by 3:30 to take us up the mountain but he came by about 4:45. The journey up the mountain was the toughest drive I have experienced in my life till now. These drivers can easily put dirt track champs to shame. I held on to the jeep and sat there shell shocked for a while. But I did manage to take a few photos of the terrain through which we were driving. He stopped a couple of places on the way up for us to take photos. We finally reached the Kodachadri temple and the priest’s house. From there, we had to walk about 3 kms up the mountain. It was a great trek and we had lots of fun on the way. Venu is 10 years younger than us and quite nimble on his feet. Rohan, Ranjith and I were complaining about the sounds of bones creaking in our bodies as we were climbing up. We were lucky to find a local guy who was selling cool curd milk on the way. We had one big glasses each and filled Rohan’s empty Pepsi bottle with curd milk. We also bought a packet of glucose and a packet of nuts. But we were late, the sun was already on it’s way down, so we could not get to the mountain peak. We had to be content with reaching a temple known as Sarvajnapeetha below the peak. Nevertheless, we clicked some breathtaking photos of the sunset.

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More adventure awaited us as we started our journey down in the jeep. We came face to face with a couple of wild buffaloes. One jumped out of the way, but the other one was more obstinate. It moved out of the way and went a few paces up the mountain, but stood there staring at us, clearly expressing it’s displeasure at our presence. The jeep driver honked a few times and irritated it more. I thought for a moment the buffalo would lunge at the jeep as we passed by, but luckily it didn’t.

Back at the homestay, we got piping hot water to bathe, thankfully. Our hosts set up a camp fire and tents outside to sleep under the sky. The sky was beautiful, the moon in half and the sky full of stars. We tried taking photos but without success. I was hesitant initially to sleep outside, but decided to go for it finally. Dinner was chapathi and rice, but we were in no mood to think over it. We were just gulping down whatever was being served to us. We were ready to sleep soon after our dinner. As soon as we settled inside our tents, the Mr. Hyde inside Rohan came alive. He started snoring loudly as soon as he fell asleep. Thankfully I fell asleep, in hope and apprehension, that his snoring would turn wild animals away from our tents rather than attract them.

I usually wake up by 5 in the morning every day and I was surprised to find Ranjith lying awake. Rohan’s snoring had screwed up his sleep. We had planned to wake up by 6 and start on our trek to Hidlumane falls by 7. When Ranjith and I stepped out of our tents at 6, we were a bit shocked. The sky was the same, the half moon and the stars were all there. The crickets were still singing away happily. No sun, no sign of birds and very cold. We rushed back into our tent. It was by 7 that we heard the first sound of birds. I asked Venu how did he sleep with Rohan snoring beside him and he replied that looks like he fell unconscious. We made a mistake by asking for tea. The homestay guy took off to go all the way down the mountain and came back after an hour.

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We started on our trek by about 8:30. The homestay guy was our guide. It was a long and winding walk that took us through paddy fields and houses with dogs barking and following us. There were plenty of birds all around and I clicked a few of them.

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By the time we reached the waterfall, I was dead tired. There was some more climbing to do, but this time on all four to reach the top. I quit and Ranjith decided to stay back with me. Rohan and Venu came back with some amazing photos.

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The walk back was even more tiresome. We had walked past a small house on our way to the waterfall and on our return, a lady at the house served us cool curd milk. We bought a handful of toffees. The glucose pack we had bought the previous day and the toffees helped us tremendously to complete the trek on empty stomach. I was ready to jump into a bed by the time we reached back the homestay. It was then I realized that my fever and cold was attacking me with full force. We gulped down our breakfast gratefully, idli and lemon rice.

Rohan and Venu left for Shimoga by 12 and we followed them in bus a couple of hours later.

We caught up in Shimoga in their hotel room, showered, had dinner together and then Ranjith and I took the midnight bus to Bangalore. Rohan and Venu stayed back in Shimoga for the night.

We reached Bangalore by 6:30 in the morning the next day. Ranjith took the 8 o’ clock train to Chennai. Being in Bangalore already made me feel better. I checked into a hotel in Madiwala and got piping hot water to shower. It completely rejuvenated me. I got back into my long lost routine in Bangalore on weekends. First, a visit to Sai Baba temple in Ulsoor followed by breakfast from Anand Bhavan in Indiranagar. Then I took the metro train to Brigade road. The plan was to have beer with my good friend Alex. The last time I had beer with him was a year and a half back. He came a good two hours late. I found lots of kites hovering in the sky and I went in search of where they roost to photograph them.

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Then, a couple of hours of great time with Alex in a pub. We chose not to have cold beer and took normal beer instead. After I boarded the bus to go back to my hotel room, the full effect of beer kicked in and I was immobilised for about 10 minutes. On the way back, I met Anupama, another good friend. Then, I had an early dinner and boarded the 7:45 evening bus back to Thrissur. My body was broken by the time I reached home but my mind was in heaven. It took me another 4 days to recover, but the trip was worthy of all that I went through.

As recounted by Ranjeet

A short trip to Thattekad bird sanctuary

This was my first solo trip in India, without Ranjith or Rohan. I knew that a trip just to visit a bird sanctuary will never interest them. Migration of birds and their mating season happens between the months of November and April. The worst part of this trip was knowing about this place which I did only last year and is such a shame. Though the trip didn’t go off as I thought it would, it became a very interesting and insightful day for me.

Thattekad bird sanctuary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thattekad_Bird_Sanctuary) was first popularized by the renowned Indian ornithologist Salim Ali. But it has not become a hub for tourism yet, thankfully. I came across the sanctuary when I was searching for “where-to-go and what-to-see” in and around Thrissur. My logic was simple. First explore what is there around my hometown before making big plans to see the world. That was a few months back and since then, I have been mulling about going there. But in the reviews of the place put by visitors on the websites, it has been mentioned that the ideal visiting time is between November and February. So I decided to wait till January. My dad and mom were shocked that I was going to travel alone and when I told Ranjith about my plan, he was wondering what was happening to me.

I checked on Google maps to find out how to reach Thattekad. The sanctuary is in the Ernakulam district, about 16 kms from the nearest town, Kothamangalam.

So I started early in the morning yesterday and reached the Kerala State Transport (KSRTC) bus station in Thrissur by 7:30 and asked about the bus to Kothamangalam. They said the bus left at 7 and the next one is at 10:30. I swore at myself. I had planned to reach the bus station by 7 and I had got late. Then they told me to board the bus to Perumbavoor and said that Kothamangalam is close to Perumbavoor. A winding journey through several traffic jams and signals and after 2 1/2 hours, I reached Perumbavoor. A random thought made me ask the bus conductor whether he knows if buses from Perumbavoor goes directly to Thattekad. He didn’t know. After the hot and dusty ride through the highway, the ride from Perumbavoor to Kothamangalam was very pleasant. It was another KSRTC bus that runs locally. At Kothamangalam, I was told to take a bus run by private operators. As I ran and boarded a bus that was about to leave, I suddenly realized, oh damn, I was right. Buses from Perumbavoor does go to Thattekad via Kothamangalam. I had no idea where Perumbavoor was and how the place fit into my travel plan, but it all came to me.

The journey to Thattekad became interesting as soon as I boarded the bus. An old man sitting at the back seat of the bus called me and told me to sit near him. I was a little perplexed at first but I was happy to get a seat. Then I started seeing other people doing the same as well. If someone was occupying a seat and was about to get down, he/she would call out to the nearest person standing in the bus and give their seat. I was amazed. I have seen this happening all the time abroad, but never in Indian cities and towns. I was telling Ranjith that only Indian cities and towns have become mired and muddled, the rural areas are world class when it comes to people’s behaviour. Then one of the tyres of the bus got punctured and they managed to drive the bus into a petrol station. The tyre change became a loud affair. The driver, conductor and bus cleaning boy were all having fun as they were changing the tyre. I felt really good seeing people truly enjoy what they do, for a change. After a delay of 15-20 minutes, the bus was back on the road. I asked the conductor how much farther is the sanctuary and he told me to keep looking for a river.

I got dropped off on the road right on top of the Periyar river and it was a magnificent sight of the river from above.

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On the left side, there was a beautiful temple of Lord Vishnu, surrounded by the river on 3 sides.

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A few small shops were lined up on either side of the road leading to the sanctuary. There was an office on the right side along with a children’s park and dormitory from where I bought my entry pass for the sanctuary. The sanctuary was about 100 metres ahead, next to a police checkpost. I saw a policeman at the checkpost and struck up a conversation with him to know more about the sanctuary. He told me that birds are visible only in the mornings and evenings. He said there will usually be guides to help locate the birds, but I couldn’t see anyone. I was thoroughly disappointed. It is commonsense that birds are normally visible anywhere during mornings and evenings. But this is the time when birds migrate to the sanctuary to breed. If I cannot see birds in a bird sanctuary during day time, then what’s the point in calling it a bird sanctuary and opening it for people? Question is, where do birds go from the bird sanctuary during day time?

Anyways, I decided to go in and take a look. But the first view of the sanctuary from it’s gate was quite scary. It looked like a proper wooded area. I asked the policeman what to expect inside other than birds. He said deers and monkeys have been sighted. I stepped inside very apprehensively. There was one walking trail and both sides of the trail, there are plenty of trees and bamboo groves. There were also thick bushes around the trees and dried leaves had fallen and piled up everywhere. Ideal places for snakes to hang around. The policeman had said no dangerous wild animals had been spotted but I was no longer sure about it. I instinctively picked up a stick to fend off anything just in case. There were plenty of butterflies flying around without really sitting anywhere. There were birds hovering around in the sky and calling out from tree tops, but the tree tops were also thick. On the left side of the trail, the marshes near the river was too thick as well. I could hear birds but there was no way I was going to get anywhere to take photos. From the trail, it was going to be quite difficult even with a great camera to prise out good photos. I walked a bit and saw the trail get spilt into two. I didn’t know what to expect from there. So I decided to return.

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I had almost reached the gate when I saw a young couple coming inside. I struck up a conversation with the guy and he told me that he had visited the sanctuary before. I decided to walk with them and we went down the straight trail. I clicked one bird high on a tree top and a butterfly but that was all I could catch in my camera. I also saw a monkey jumping around in the trees. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go down the second trail, so I decided to leave.

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Inside the park office premise, they told me that there were a few animals and birds kept in cages. So I went to see them. There was a tortoise, python, peacock and peahen, brown kite, owls, wild cat and an asian palm civet (marapatti in malayalam). Picked up the forest officials at different times, they were all going to be released into the forest.

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It was almost 1 noon, so it was time for lunch. I was carrying sandwiches with me as I read in several websites that there is nothing available to eat near the sanctuary. I did find a small place where they were serving food. I didn’t check what all were they serving, but I saw the policeman at the checkpost having rice soup (kanji in malayalam). I did get to buy a cold drink from there. I was told to have my food at the children’s park. After lunch, I roamed around a bit more and took more photos of the river.

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I contemplated staying around till about 5 in the evening to try my luck at finding some birds. But with so much area to cover inside the sanctuary, I wouldn’t know where exactly the birds would be. There are resorts run by local people around the sanctuary. They will know where exactly to look for the birds. So the plan must be to go and stay there atleast for a night in one of the resorts to see the birds early in the morning.

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So I took a bus by 2 pm and the bus was going to Perumbavoor via Kothamangalam. At Perumbavoor, I had to take a 15 minute walk to reach the KSRTC bus station. Long journeys in state transport buses are fascinating. We get to meet all kinds of people with very different personalities. Some will be drunk and sleeping soundly just like they do at home, with the power supply to their brains turned off. Some will be listening to music at full volume on their earphones. Only discomfort is with less legspace because of which I got cramps on both my legs just above my knees. There was nothing much I could so I put on some music in my iPod and dozed off for a while. When I woke up, the cramps were gone. I reached Thrissur by 5 in the evening. I was exhausted by the time I reached home but it was a wonderful and exhilarating experience.

Through the eyes and lens of Ranjeet

Ezhattumugham – a heavenly hamlet

Ranjith and I were looking to go for a short trip of half a day and that’s when he remembered hearing about Ezhattumugham from Aswathy’s sister who had gone there with her family some time back. I have been specifically looking for places around Thrissur that are filled with scenic beauty yet not so well known. So when Ranjith came down to Thrissur in the weekend, we took off. It was bit of a clumsy trip caused mainly because Ranjith reached Thrissur late and so we started driving by 10 in the morning and it was hot and sunny by then. The main attractions of Ezhattumgham are the Chalakkudy river getting split into seven streams and a nature village built around it. Google Maps doesn’t show the directions to the nature village but it is pretty easy to reach there once we get on to Ezhattumugham road. It took us about an hour and a half to reach there.

There are no roads beyond a point and because it had rained the previous night, we had to drive through pools of water. The way is dotted with never ending rows of oil palm trees. There is a police manning post on the way where they keep a check on the vehicles and it is the pointer to indicate that nature village is close by.

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Entry into nature village is paid with extra charges for camera. There is a small eatery where the predominantly served item is fish.

We were first greeted by the loud cries of this bird on the way IMG_0056_1

and as we entered the village, these guys came in our way IMG_0059_1 IMG_0083_1

The river and it’s surroundings is as picturesque as it is serene. When the rainy season is over, it is possible to walk on rocks in the shallow areas of the river and cross the river. We realized how absent minded we were when we saw people walking through the river and taking a dip in the river. We were both dressed up in all the wrong clothes. The place is filled with rocks and as we were walking through, Ranjith saw a snake lying on one of the rocks in full view (luckily). There were plenty of Pond Herons, Cormorants and Great White Egrets lurking around in search of food.

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Then we walked towards the main attraction, a small waterfall. We were heckled on the way by these agitated local residents IMG_0099_1.

The path on which we were walking on had water filled on one side of it and we realized that during rainy season the water would flow out and fall down, creating another beautiful scene.

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The waterfall is nothing more than slow moving water falling down in certain places but the way it falls down is simply majestic.

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It is possible to walk through the river where the water starts flowing down, so Ranjith took off his sandals, rolled up his jeans and walked off into the water.

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The hills running parallel to the river was so lush and green, it’s reflections along with the reflections of pure white clouds above were creating magic in the river.

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There were plenty of butterflies to go after and click photos of, so I spent some time on them as Ranjith was trying his luck to get the photos of Pond Herons and White Egrets in flight.

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Ranjith snacked on a fried river fish and I munched on some crackers and then we left. We stopped on the way and took a few more pictures of the river view.

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We have decided to go there again some other time and make it a full day trip. Next time, we have to start early, be prepared to take a dip in the river and walk across the river. A bunch of teenagers had come just as we were finishing taking photos and they were screaming and frolicking in the water, making us go green with envy. This is a wonderful place to go on a trip to, especially for calming our minds. It is largely untouched by the human hand of development as it is overshadowed by the immense reputation of the nearby Athirapilly waterfalls and I sincerely hope it remains this way for a long time.

Through the eyes and lens of Ranjeet

Exploring Karnataka – Part II

This was my second trip to Mangalore, in 2011, before I embarked on my MBA course. It was in the first week of April and it was already hot. Rohan had landed in a plum job in Bangalore by then and he was too tied up to come for the trip.

Day 1:

I reached Mangalore on the 1st of April and we had enough time in the evening to drive down to Ullal beach and see the sunset.

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Day 2:

Next day, we drove towards Chikmagalur. It was a long and winding drive and it was noon by the time we reached Chikmagalur. There, we checked into a hotel, had lunch and then drove towards Belur.

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Our destination was the famous Belur temple. It is a beautiful temple with highly intricate stone carvings.

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Then we headed towards the Hoysaleshwara Temple at Halebidu. It is a wonderful reminder of architecture that existed during the Hoysala empire.

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It was evening by the time we finished seeing the temple. We returned to our hotel room and over a beer and dinner, we cheered the Indian cricket team to a famous world cup win. We spent a very uncomfortable night in the company of plenty of mosquitoes.

Day 3:

Next day was a day of misses. First we drove to Mullayanagiri Peak, the tallest peak in Karnataka. It was another long and winding drive up the mountain. But we drove and reached a point where we didn’t know if we would be able to turn the car around if we went any further and it was too hot to trek up the rest of the mountain. So we returned from there.

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Then we drove back to Mangalore and on the way, we went to Dharmasthala temple. By the time we reached there, the temple sanctum was closed. It would be a few more hours for the temple to open again. It was another disappointment. On the way, we came across a Sri Rama temple and stopped there for a while.

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Then we returned to Mangalore.

Day 4:

Next day was the last day of the trip.

In the morning, we went to Tannirbhavi beach. We drove to Sulthan Battery and took a boat to travel across the Gurupura river and reach the beach. It was hot but we still managed to have a good time.

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Then we returned to Mangalore, had lunch and then drove to Bekal Fort. Aswathy chose not to accompany us this time. The beach at Bekal Fort is nothing short of magnificent and the sunset is heavenly. We enjoyed a lot with the waves and took some great photos.

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