Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dodda Alada Mara

"Dodda Alada Mara" - This is not Korean language. Infact am talking about a very ancient language, the first language on this planet beyond words. Yes it is the "language of the nature"

Branches or Roots - Infact both !!

"Dodda Alada Mara"  is the kannada (an Indian Language) name for the banyan tree. This is a place very close to Bangalore about 30kms, on the way to Mysore, where this giant beast stands tall with pride. Yes this is a  huge banyan tree which is estimated to be about 400 years old. As a passionate biker, this was just the ideal place to have a half day trip on a early Sunday morning when the entire city is still sleeping. It was two of us who decided to get there in their respective bikes on that particular Sunday.

Punctured hole located
We left around 7:30 am in the morning and travelled via the outer ring road and then to the Nyce ring road (marvel of bangalore) before getting on to the Mysore road and to the coveted destination. We reached there by 9:30 am. Its not because we rode like snails in our respective Pulsar (my Cheetah) and R15, but my friend's R15 back tyre got punctured. So that extra time went into fixing it.

After a few meteres into the Bangalore-Mysore road from the Nyce ring road, take a right turn and within a few kms, you should be standing under the shadow of this biggest tree I have ever witnessed in my life. Just the sheer size of the tree humbled me as a human. Sincere salute to the immense and vast Nature and its design.

Nature transgressing the manmade boundaries

Spread across a vast area of 3 acres, this giant tree is simply huge and no camera available today can capture its beauty in its totality. But unable to overcome my exictement of sharing this unique experience, I clicked few snaps of the tree. If you feel what is great about this tree by seeing these photographs, I as a photographer has failed to justify a natural marvel in its entirety. So you need to experience it personally to understand the immensity of the nature and what it feels to stand under the shadow of this giant that stood there for almost 400 years braving all odds of the time. English language seems poor to describe my experience.

Sky Scrapper

There were few monkey around with their typical mischiveous gestures which was fun to watch and to photograph them.

Few monkey around
 All in all it was not an another regular lazy mundane Sunday. Today, I am happy and thankful to myself for making an effort to get to such a beautiful and astonishing palce on this planet and even better now I have one more unique experience to upate my blog :) :)

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Sri Kalahasti- Not Just Another Town in India

Recently I had an unique opportunity to be at one of the culturally and spiritually significant place called "Sri Kalahasti" in Andhra Pradesh, India. Though it was my long standing dream to visit this place, but finally much needed impetus came in the form of my cousin brother’s engagement. The bride belonged to this beautiful small town. My first and foremost impression was that the place had an undisturbed tranquility missing in most of the metropolita cities.

Since am put up at Bangalore, Karnataka (shifted from Mumbai few months back only), which is about 7 hours of road journey by Public bus transport, I had made up my mind that I have to make it to this place at any cost this time. What better time could come than my cousin and best friend’s engagement ? There were very few options in terms of direct travel to Sri Kalahasti from Bangalore, infact only one option to be precise. I blocked the bus tickets (return also on the same night of the engagement) in prior, to avoid any last time surprises. There were literally no trains to Sri Kalahasti straight from Bangalore (information for people who want to travel).

Temple complex where engagement happened
 On the journey night, I reached the bus pick up spot, 2hours in advance. I had overcompensated for the Bangalore traffic threat. Nevertheless, that gave me an opportunity to explore that new place (KR Puram), which I usually do whenever I visit a place for the first time. Consequently I could taste some local street food and had an opportunity to quench my thirst with some fresh fruit juices which were unbelievably good in comparison to the aesthetics of that place. Two hours just flew (though at times I could sense the heaviness of the time) looking at the myriad of expressions from people around, of all ages and statures. It was an attestation of how rich and unique the Nature is with its diversity.
Kalahasti Temple Gopuram

Finally the bus arrived after a delay of 30 minutes (not much by our standards). I got on to it and held on to a window seat. The night was pitch dark and could see head lights of distant vehicles as the stars on the dark sky. I somehow managed to sleep for few hours though.

After quite sometime, suddenly  I heard shouts of "Tirupati....Tirupati", I woke up and it was around 4 am and the temple city was already busy with its pilgrimage crowd. From the driver I learnt that it is hardly an hour of journey left to reach my coveted destination. So again I sank into my seat trying to get that few minutes of nap before what is expected to be a long busy day.

Oh Yes !! finally I am there !! This is Sri Kalahasti, which I knew through pages of history and experiences of other people. As expected the bus depot was a small one and not very clean and tidy. It was around 5 am and so not much crowd around except few people in the nearby tea shops. Intially puzzled about where to go and what to do ? (I did not want to disturb my cousin so early coz he is also travelling from Chennai for his engagement on that particular day only). So after making few enquiries around, I learnt that the main temple is a few kms away and I decided to walk there, enjoying the morning cool morning breeze and chirp of birds.

Streets of Kalahasti painted by evening Sun shine

In a few minutes I reached the temple which was an architecture marvel in itself. It was a huge complex and for a new comer there are more chances that one may get lost easily. Early morning rituals were already about to begin and the typical traditional (mridangam (drums) and Naadhaswaram) music was filling the air around with bliss and devotion. At once I decided that I am going nowhere and will spend time there till I get a phone call from my cousin. That was one of the most unique experience I had ever gone through. Two hours just disappeared without warning or trial.

It was then the event of the day which went exceptionally well than expected. Other than very obvious things, one memorable thing that needs a special mention here is, it seems that was a no power day. So filled with happiness inside and drenched in sweat outside (humid conditions), people had mixed emotions in their faces which was at times funny to watch. Offcourse the cuisine at Indian pre marraige (or marraige) ceremonies are always special. So after filling my belly fully, I had an invitation to go around the same temple complex which I had spent 2 hrs in the morning. But this time, I went inside, whereas in the morning I did not go inside for very obvious reasons.

Busy yet beautiful
The big temple was a cluster of many small temples put together, which were built in a scientific and aesthetic way. Description through words can never capture my experience totally and may be gravely doing injustice if I attempt to do that. It has to be experienced in person to know the depth and significance of that place. So I leave to you to experience it yourself, rather than me talking about it which may sound like just a few hollow grand words. But my sincere recommendation would be to go there atleast once in your life time and spend time quietly inside the temple and appreciate the passion and perseverance that had gone into making this giant engineering marvel.

Later in the day after the ceremony (and ofcourse sumptous lunch) when all the people departed, I was left with few hours to explore the town before bidding good bye. So in the evening I went around clicking few snaps of the town's evening life. The temple town was in its full spledour and glory during the Sandhya (sunset) time. Holy chants in the air, camphor smells all around, street foods along the streets and off course young beautiful girls made the whole town came alive when moon lit up the scene.

All in all it was an exciting and holy experience, seeing culture and spirituality shake hands at this is peculiar and beautiful place called "Sri Kalahasti"

Get there and get lost blisfully....Hari Om !!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Mo(u)rnings

Long faces crawling all around,
Nothing but silence that surround

Smiles are only a few millimeters,
Joy already flew away a few kilometres

Thoughts of weekend still grasping tight,
Nothing seems to go right

Simple tasks appear as monsters,
Minds totally lacks the usual shine and luster

Mondays seem to have some mysterious difficulty flame,
To be honest, only we are to b blamed

A weekend of rest and rejuvenation,
Goes utterly waste if not put to function

Just a collection of thoughts....with a cup of tea on a Monday morning !!

Oops.....Boss calling....bye !!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Trek to Kumara Parvata

It was one of those weekends which did not go waste with the universal excuse of rest and rejuvination. On the contrary it was  quite a challenging outing that tested  both my physical and mental strengths.

Yes it was my second trek to the three in one peaks to "Kumara Parvata" about 230kms from Bangalore, Karnataka, India. I should say it was my first of its kind trek where you keep conquering a peak with great effort and persistence only to find another one that requires probably a little more effort to reach it than the first one. In total there were 3 proper high points (peaks) apart from small ones enroute. "Kumara Parvata" is the name of the third and the highest peak which will take somewhere around 5-7 hrs of continuous effort to conquer it depending on your speed and stamina.

Trekkers at the start

We were a group of 9 people who said we don't want to go through the same routine resting phase this weekend too (as always) and lets got out and get some adrenaline rush into our bloods. So we all were like "Aaj kuch toofani karte hain" sorts of mood  (offcourse at the beginning of the trek).

Temple town at the dawn, The Subramanya
A mini bus was hired and we started at around 10 pm on the Friday night (22/02/2013) with a hope of reaching the foothills before sunrise. With passion in our hearts and luggage at our backs our journey started in the dark. A special mention about the mini bus driver is mandatory here because of whom our adventure was preponed even before reaching the foothills. That was one journey which taught me the dangerous effects of sleep debt. We tried all possible ways to keep him and our journey going. In the mean while, few of our enthusiasts had a good enough excuse to try their hand on mini bus driving too. I should say they were pretty good. At the end somehow fortunately we could reach the foothills town named Subramanya (temple town) at around 8 am safely. It was a beautiful little town. The early morning sun rays only added to its splendour which woke the photographer inside me almost instantaneously and ended up with few beautiful snaps.

After answering to nature's call and freshining up, we headed into a restaurant to fill our bellys to start our most awaited trek. It was around 9 am when we started our trek. With  our baggages at our backs, we were very excited to climb up the mountain at any cost. After walking through the city for distance, we reached the bottom of the mountain. We stopped there for few moments to click few snaps just before launching into the trek.
Our way through the jungles and rocky trials

It was more of a rocky climb without any pre-defined flat trials. Route was running through thick jungle cover amidst the chirping of birds and hushing of the tress. After about half an hour of climbing all of us were like steam locomotives with hussshh.....Pusshhhhh.... gasping for breath. With frequent intemittent breaks we could make it to the one and only food centre, should I call it. It tooks us around 4 hrs to get there for lunch. So with food in our plates, puzzling thoughts in our minds whether to go forward after lunch or not, we had a quite and fullfilling lunch I should say. Mind you, we were only half the way up now. It will take the same if not more effort to reach the summit, is what we understood from the local people's talk.

I sincerly admit that our group was a courageous bunch of enthusiasts , so braving the heat and body aches, all of us decided to start our journey towards the peak except one of our mates as he was down and out in dehydration. This journey was like three times tougher than the previous one. Steeper slopes, hotter winds and slippery rolling round stones. Braving all that we could reach the first Peak in 1hr. A sense of awe about the enormity of the nature filled me by the view from there. Not left with much time, we started our journey to the ultimate peak "Kumara Paravata". It took around another ~1hr to reach the second one. But this was the toughest period of the trek I should say. Many a times "Why should I move any further" thought flashed hard on my mind screen brightly. But something within me was even more strong enough to overlook that thought whenever it popped up and kept my desire and journey alive.

Me at "Sesh Parvata"

Finally when we reached the second peak (~ 600 m above MSL), all the pain and suffering I went through enroute vanished in the chill winds of the place. Few snaps ought to be clicked there. But one dissapointing fact was that this peak is "Shesh Parvata" and not "Kumara Parvata". The ultimate peak was standing tall on the other side of the valley which demands  atleast another1-2 hours of climb. It was already getting dark and we had to get back to our camp with very little time left. So the trek to "Kumara Parvata" had everything else except "Kumara Parvata" itself. We decided that lets come back exclusively to conquer this giant, "The Kumara Parvata".

Hurray I have done it !!

While on return, the next day, it was an equal fun when we all trickled down the hill cautiously. It took only half the time to get down as compared to climbing up. The return journey saw all of us to be more alive with songs and dance in the mini bus, creating new definitions for fun and excitement. Dance for songs like "Appadi Podu" and "Fevicol Se" requires special mention.

By around 5pm in the evening (sunday) I am already at home, warming my legs in the hot water and fiddling with TV remote. But my mind still in the clutches of the fun and excitment of the whole trek but somewhere a small dissappointment still prevails as I could not conquer the ultimate "Kumara Parvata".

Thanks to all my fellow companions who made this trek a very special one which will remain etched in my memory for a very long time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bangalore to Ooty via Bandipur/Mudhumalai in my Pulsar (Cheetah)

Firstly Happy New Year to all of you !!

As an avid bike lover who cherishes travelling long distances across districts and sometimes even States, it gives me an immense joy to share my latest unique experience of my ride on my Cheetah (Pulsar 180) from Bangalore to Ooty via Bandipur/Mudhumalai. It was a funfilled round trip of about 700kms in three days.

We were a group of 4 friends (Aravind, Alok, Prakhar and myself) with three bikes, one Fazer, one FZ-16 and of course my Cheetah. We started at 6:30am on Saturday (12/01/2013) from Whitefield, Bangalore. It was an unexpectedly cold morning. Once we crossed the city limits we were freezing even within those thick jackets and tight leather shoes. So we kept having our rides a bit slow until we struck the Nycee ring road which was mind blowing. Even the coldest winter breeze could not prevent me from touching speeds of 3 digits. In a few minutes I came to a cross road, one going Mysore way, eventually which I took. In no time I hit the Mysore road which was a bit of disappointment for me as it was small and congested than I expected it to be. So it was an extra cautious drive on Mysore-Bangalore highway.

After a few kms of drive on this highway it was time for breakfast. After a tasty breakfast of idlis (rice cakes) and Puris (wheat pancake), journey resumed in the same extra cautious way. It was another ~100kms drive to Mysore. We could covered it in less than 2hrs times. So by 11.30am to 12 noon we reached Mysore. A quick look around the ancient city and a few snaps of the famous Mysore Palace is all that was required in the heritage city as the time was a strangling factor.

Fellow Riders at Mysore doorway

From there it was another about ~80kms drive for Bandipur/Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve Forest. Though a single lane without a divider as seen in some sophisticated highways in the country, the road was as flat as a cricket pitch and helped me touch the highest speeds of the trip more consistently. By 1:30 pm we were clicking snaps at the entrance of Bandipur Tiger Reserve Forest. A few minutes of rest was sufficient as there was quite a good amount of distance to be covered to reach our coveted destination, the Ooty.

Just before entering the Reserve Forest
The drive into the Jungles of the Nilgiris in constrained speeds (40kph) was a thrilling and a very strong experience. As it was scorching heat at the noon time, as expected we could not spot any animals on our way throughout our ride inside the Reserve Forests. After about an hour, we reached the border of Karnataka, driving out of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve Forest, but immediately within a few feet, starts the border of TamilNadu, the Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve Forest (no idea to whom the  land in between belongs to). At first glance anybody could tell that Bandipur Forest is a bit more thicker jungle than Mudhumalai Forest. Not sure about the reason but this was my subtle observation.

After travelling through the Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve, a small beautiful village greeted us with chill shades and few smilling faces. We stopped there for a quick refreshment before our final leap to our hilly destination, Ooty. Time was close to 2:45pm and signboards were showing another about 36kms to be covered. So without wasting much time, we got on to our bikes and started our journey towards the Nilgiris hill top.
Foothills of Ooty
After a few minutes of drive, we reached the foothills, where an awesome scenic beauty was awaiting for us. I had to stop without choice to capture it in my cam before heading to the hilltop. The road after this was the highlight of the whole drive. We had to go through 36 hairpin bends. Even with little apprehension initially I started crossing each one of them extra cautiously. But once after first few were crossed successfully, ease prevailed within me and I actually started enjoying the later ones as they came.
It was already 3:30pm as we reached our most awaited destination, the Ooty. We decided to stay just outside the main city to save a few extra bugs that may have to be shelled out for the same quality of the rooms within the city. So we decided to stay at Fingerpost (3-5 kms from the main city). The resort was an excellent one named as Vel's Dingle Dale (strongly recommended by me). We were given a big room at nominal rate (~ Rs.2000/- per day). It was spacious enough to accommodate all 4 of us comfortably. The food served there needs a special mention. It was the tastiest food one can get if you keep the memories of the home made food aside. Cook and all the staff of the resort were cordial and helpful and made our stay a cherishable one.

During the night, there was an obvious party as we recollected the whole drive we went through the day. As we were all very tired, each one of us slept like a pig after the party and could get up at ~9 am only the next morning.

At Dodabetta Peak
This day was dedicated for sightseeing in Ooty. So we started our journey to Dodabetta, the highest peak (~2600m above MSL) of Southern India, at the junction of Eastern and the Western Ghats. It was a dream come true as we clicked snaps from the highest tip of Southern India. From there we headed to Pykara Falls. On the way there were few places which were called as Shooting spots locally, which were very beautiful and did not fail to bring out the hidden photographers in us.

Pykara Falls was also awesome, even though volume of water was very little. The enormity of the falls could be understood by just looking at the huge boulders on its beds that could have been rolled only by high pressure and high volume waters. Snaps again at different angles here. After playing in the water for about an hour, we decided to return back to the town for shopping as we were heading back to Bangalore the next day.

Wild Pigs at the Reserve Forest
The most unfortunate incident happened then, when my cheetah's clutch wire got worn out and I was stranded on the midway towards the town. As we were 4 people, it helped when Aravind carried me on his bike to the town market around 10 kms from breakdown spot. Another shock which was awaiting us was that it was a Sunday and no bike spare part shop was open. After much perseverance we could locate a bike mechanic shop open, who helped us to bring my bike down from the hill top (one of his aide actually drove down my bike about 10 kms without clutch). Then the mechanic actually pulled out a scooter wire to put on a temporary arrangement for the clutch so that I could reach Bangalore without any hiccups in between. It was his day and he charged exorbitantly, like Rs.400/- (original clutch wire costs around Rs.120/-). We had no other option but to oblige for his demand. My kind advice to all those long drive bikers is to carry an additional clutch wire with you to overcome any such hassle in your otherwise passionate beautiful journey.
Baby Elephant after its bath

Now then its time to say good bye to Ooty, next day we left pretty early (~6:30am) with a desire to locate animals in the Reserve Forest. Actually our strategy of leaving early partially worked that we could spot few wild pigs, two elephants apart from deers and peacocks. Few snaps of them were taken on the way. Our return journey was relatively quicker. We had our brunch at Mysore and then headed straight to Bangalore without much stoppage in between. By 3:30pm all were at our homes warming our feet in hot water and fiddling with our TV remotes with a satisfaction of accomplishing such a fascinating and unique task of completing a round trip of about 7ookms in about 3 days.

Thanks to all my friends who made this journey an enjoyable and a memorable one. Special thanks to the resort staff and the bike mechanic and his aide.

Will hit you all soon with another fascinating accomplishment sooner :)

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