Sunday Jun 01, 2008

Our Trip


Our team took off on a fairly long trip to a few places in the state of Kerala. The trip lasted all of 4 nights and 3 days. Its a rarity to see trips of such duration happen with our teams and while we did'nt really expect too much attendance, I must admit that i was amazed at the actual participation which was very high.

The prominent places we visited during our trip include, Nelliyampathy, Kumarakom and Cochin, all of them located in the state of Kerala.

Rather than put an account of the entire trip in one large blog entry, i'll use this post as a main page linked to additional entries (which i shall post shortly).

In summary it was a great trip with a great team.


Sunday Apr 06, 2008

Wayanad ... again !


Our second team trip to Wayanad. With good memories of our past trip, we left on a bright beautiful Saturday morning in a Force Traveller which we had hired to transport us during this trip. Some members of the team had'nt visited Wayanad and so our plans were to cover two of the same places we visited last time viz. Muthanga wild life sanctuary and Edakkal caves. The other place we planned to visit was Soojipara falls. We intended to stay at the same place we stayed the last time.

The journey was great which was not unexpected considering the group I was with. We stopped for break fast at Tiffany's on the Bangalore - Mysore highway. We reached Wayanad in the afternoon and decided to have lunch at Sultanbathery town. After a nice & heavy lunch, we went to visit the Muthanga sanctuary. 


Our experience of Muthanga, the last time around was not too great since we did'nt really get to see much wild life. Of course, last time we did encounter some deer and foxes. We were now hoping to do better and off we went. We were allowed to do the safari using our vehicle instead of hiring the jeeps (vehicles normally used for safaris and can be hired at the entrance of the wild life sanctuary). Just as we entered the sanctuary, we smelt something burning and within seconds our entire vehicle was engulfed in thick white smoke. We managed to open the doors and rush out - apparently the vehicle's electricals were fried, but not completely. Interesting experience indeed ! Couple of us trekked back to the entrance of the sanctuary to hire a couple of jeeps (should've done that in the first place, probably !) while the driver of our vehicle was trying to figure out the extent & nature of damage. We hired two jeeps and resumed our safari, leaving our vehicle's driver to get the vehicle fixed.

With fingers crossed, off we went - our cameras were on and ready to capture any trace of wild life which crossed our path. A short while into the trip we encountered a wild elephant that looked pretty dangerous. The drivers of the jeeps we were traveling in did not stop and continued lest the elephant get into a playful mood with us. After a while we took a less traveled path inside the jungles and stopped in a clearing. Apparently there was some wild animals at a distance. Straining our eyes, we could see a bison and some deer far away. This was one time i wished i had a camera with better optical zoom (my point and shoot had just 3x optical zoom which seemed woefully inadequate here).

We resumed our journey and met a group of tourists who were returning from their safari and we stopped them to ask if they had sighted any animals. The forest guide in that vehicle said that a tiger had crossed their path a little while ago. The first thought that passed my mind was he probably must've been hallucinating or making things up to raise the levels of our curiosity. Ok, its not that there are no tigers here, there supposedly are tigers and i don't deny that. But the possibility of sighting of tigers during the day (considering my past experiences here plus conversations with some of the folks around) seem akin to sighting of large pools of cool fresh water in the middle of the Sahara desert during noon.


Anyways, giving them the benefit of doubt we set forth on our endeavor to sight the large cat, or at the very least some other wild denizens of these forests. We reached a large clearing next to a placid pool of water in the midst of the jungle. Parking the jeeps there we wandered around the place and took a few pictures. I must admit, the scenery was beautiful.  After loitering around for sometime, we left again and after traveling some distance we saw some deer and another elephant in the distance. Soon, we returned and completed our safari.

The one thing to note when compared to the last visit, was the timing ... last time it rained and there was a lot of lush greenery plus water everywhere. The scenery looked very beautiful. Forests in the rain are beautiful indeed ! This time it was summer and things looked a little dry. The open vehicles we traveled in kicked up clouds of dust that required some of us to cover our noses ... makes me feel that visiting the place when there's a light rain would be better. Anyways, it was a refreshing experience for us city dwellers.

After Muthanga we took the jeeps to Sultanbathery town to catch up with our driver who was getting our vehicle repaired. The vehicle would need some more tinkering and could take some more time to be ready. So, we went walking around town in smaller groups of two-three members. I had a bit of shopping to do too. By this time the vehicle was ready and we left to the resort where we would be spending the night. Its about 10 kms from town and after a nice drive, we reached the place. After a bit of freshening and relaxing we decided to start our evening and night activities on the lawns of the resort. There was a lot of food and drinks going around. The amount of energy in the team needed to be seen to be believed. We had a lot of fun; we tried our hand at playing mid-night volleyball (using a very light but large plastic ball) which turned out to be very entertaining, followed by other group activities ... all of these fun activities had made folks hungry and after a real nice dinner we ... continued our interesting activities ... by early morning (1:30 - 2 AM ish) we decided to call it a day and grab some shut eye.

Woke up early on Sunday morning and after some folks had a splash in the pool, literally speaking ... we bid adieu to the resort and began the rest of our tour. Our first pit stop was the hotel in Sultanbathery town for breakfast. After a typical Kerala style breakfast, off we went to our first destination, Edakkal caves. Some of us, me included, had seen this place earlier. However all of us were game to go see it again, for the benefit of the folks in our group who had'nt seen this place.


The trip to Edakkal requires parking your vehicle at a designated parking spot and then going up to the entrance of the caves, where you purchase tickets for your entry into the caves. However, one thing to note is the journey to the entrance of the caves can be very tiring and exhausting especially if you are'nt the regular trekking enthusiast or marathon runner types. Ok, i was probably exaggerating that a bit, but not too much. What I would advise is for folks to hire a jeep (again the same kind of vehicle we used for our safari). Yes, thats the only vehicle that seems qualified to do this uphill journey to the entrance of the caves. There are jeeps for hire a little distance further from the parking slots and you'd be advised to conserve your energy and hire these vehicles. Of course, if your plan is to only visit Edakkal all day and don't plan to go around anywhere else, then walking all the way up is probably a good idea.


However, to save time and energy, hop on a jeep and if you are lucky, you'll get a jeep driver who's gonna treat you to an experience that can leave your adrenalin pumping ! Yep, some of the drivers in this area make me think these guys really wanted to participate in Formula 1 racing, yet due to some unfortunate circumstances probably ended up here driving jeeps on these narrow mountain paths and boy they sure can make the roller coaster ride seem like a drive in the park ! ... again., depends on the driver you get. One of the jeeps we hired (the one I was traveling in) had this young driver who appeared before us with tyres screeching to a halt and beckoning us to get on board for an exciting ride ahead ! ... our expectations were not belied and off we went with wheels spinning wildly on rock and gravel via narrow paths upto the entrance of the caves.


When we reached the entrance we saw a large number of tourists. Looks like weekends and holidays can get to be very crowded. Once you purchase tickets, you then make your way up to the caves. The cave area is a little spacious and you can see inscriptions made by the Neandrathal man. We took pictures, savored the scenery and crowds! and left the place. On our return from the caves, we again took the jeeps down to the base of the mountain, a little distance from where we'd parked our vehicles. The visit was good and the scenery plus views are very good. Crowds were a little too much and seemed very much like traffic back home, on the roads of Bangalore. Not sure if this is a regular weekend phenomenon. During our last visit the place was not crowded. By the looks of it, it seems this place is getting to be fairly popular with the average tourist ... what with man's quest to see what his ancestors have been upto !

We set off to our next destination, Soojipara falls. In summer we did'nt expect much water though. Anyways, at Soojipara we need to trek a little distance to reach the water falls. The walking path is well laid out for most of the distance and could take about 15 - 30 mins depending on the walking speed. Carrying drinking water is very much advisable since walking during noon / afternoon times can be pretty hot and tiring. However, with our group, the fun quotient is pretty high and we spent a lot of good time as we walked. Fortunately, there was some water at the falls and many of our team members decided to bathe in the falls. After some fun times there, we trekked back to our vehicle and left to reach Sultanbathery town for lunch. After a fairly heavy lunch we set off on our way back to Bangalore.

The journey back was great fun too, again not surprising considering the enthusiastic & fun loving bunch of folks I was traveling with. By evening we reached Mysore and some folks got off there whilst the rest of us continued our onward journey to Bangalore. Barring a minor incident (our vehicle had a flat tyre near Mysore ... gave us some time to get out of the vehicle and stretch our limbs), we reached Bangalore by ~11 PM on Sunday night. Looking back, it was like all our team trips - simply super !


Here are some pictures ...












Sunday Dec 23, 2007

nothing special ...


Its been quite a while since i've posted anything ... hold on, i'm trying to think of an excuse ... lemme see ... aha! the oft repeated phrase ... frankly i've been busy lately ... thought i'd simply post a quick update on my recent activities and so here's an update on a recent short trip to Chennai ....


So, whats special about this trip ? Absolutely nothing and thats probably of interest ... i'd say its time we rejoiced in the ordinary rather than wait for something extra-ordinary to happen.



Chennai is at a distance of about 360+ kilometers from Bangalore. Boarded a train (Sanghamitra Express) that goes to Patna via Chennai, from the Bangalore City Railway Station at 9AM last Thursday. The coach was'nt too full, which is a good thing. I like the idea of traveling during the day and having a window seat is a bonus ! Was wondering who my fellow passengers would be ... my wait ended shortly when an elderly husband-wife duo perched on the seat opposite mine. They seemed like nice folks and there were just two instances when they communicated with me - the first instance was a request from the lady asking to borrow my copy of the day's newspaper for her to solve the daily cross-word puzzle and the second instance was actually a high-pitched squeal directed at me ... i'll explain the squeal bit shortly.



Its been ages since i've traveled by train and i must admit its truly a fine experience ... there's always something interesting happening if you keep looking around ... anyways, there was a steady stream of vendors traversing the length and breadth of the coach selling bottled water, breakfast, soup, beverages, snacks and hawking their wares pretty loudly. Close to lunch time, a railway attendant arrived to take our meal order. Lunch was delivered at about 1 PM. Just as i was about to dutifully complete my task of polishing off the contents of the lunch tray ... the lady sitting opposite my seat let out that high-pitched squeal which i alluded to earlier in this post. Although taken by surprise, i retained my grip on the spoon and looked up at the source of the noise only to see her looking at me and pointing a finger ... apparently trying to communicate something. And, she did look a wee bit uncomfortable as she gestured towards the side of my right hand.  Looking to my right i noticed  that  we had another fellow passenger (probably hungry too) ... it was a fairly cute looking rat ! I soon realized that the ticklish feeling that i felt couple of times earlier on was probably this rodent trying to grab my attention and share some of the food with it. Anyways, the rat soon realized that it was the center of all the attention and probably being a tad too introverted, it scampered out of sight ... leaving behind some not very comfortable passengers  ... this was one of the times i missed all those cats of mine ...



The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful and we reached Chennai at about 3:30 PM.  Took one of the famed Auto-rickshaws of Chennai to my destination (needless to state the obvious - we had a short haggling session to decide the fare). Anyway, this was a short trip and my plan was to leave to Bangalore the same day after finishing some personal work at Chennai. I returned back to the Chennai central railway station by about 6:30 PM. Before entering the railway station, took a leisurely walk on the streets outside and gorged on some very tasty street food. As darkness set in, slowly trudged back to the railway station and looked for the return train to Bangalore. The train was due at 9:30 PM and i had close to three hours to spend in the railway station, which seems like eternity when there's not much to keep you occupied. The station is truly a sprawling place teeming with humanity ... its so easy to get lost in the crowd here and after walking around for a while, in a slightly less crowded area, found an interesting place to sit, where i could spend some time quietly observing the crowds & activities at the station ... the seat was a large unused railway trolley which is generally used to ferry luggage ... hey there's a  bit of the kid within ! After about half-hour of watching people watch me, I wanted some solitude and paradoxical as it may sound, sometimes the best way to get alone is to be part of the crowd. So, went ahead and joined the milling crowds; walked past various platforms and watched trains from different parts of the country arrive and depart ... and finally the time came when the Mysore Express (thats my train to Bangalore) chugged into the platform and before i knew it, a whole sea of humanity converged on the train and even before the train stopped there were hordes of people scrambling to get in. Thankfully i had reserved my seat and could take it a little easier.



The train left on time and all that was left to do was to catch some shut eye. My fellow passengers were again an elderly couple (don't ask me why !) .. who after a while, woke me up from my beauty sleep to ask me my seat number ... apparently they seemed a little confused about their seat numbers and soon figured that they were in the wrong seat numbers. They soon left and suddenly i had the entire area to myself ... just as i drifted back to sleep, an entire family with tonnes of luggage packed in innumerable boxes of all shapes and sizes, landed next to me and occupied every inch of free space. Their banter made it hard to get back to sleep. After an hour or so, they seemed to have gotten tired with their vocal exercises and settled down to take a nap which afforded me another chance to sleep. This time i was terribly tired and simply slept like a log until about 4 AM in the morning whence a couple of excited little girls ran down the aisle shouting that their station had arrived. I realized that in the next half hour we would be reaching the Bangalore City station. As the train chugged into the City railway station in the wee hours of dawn, it felt good to be back after a pretty interesting trip. That, was a short quick update from my side.


Happiness is a journey not a destination, work like you don't need money, love like you never been hurt, and dance like no ones looking ...


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Thursday Sep 13, 2007

Wayanad Trip

Well, its been a few days since i've posted anything ... partly due to the hang-over from a recent team outing to Wayanad  located in God's own country a.k.a. the beautiful and very green state of Kerala


For those interested, here's a real quick summary of our trip ...




  • About 10 of us from our team, started from Bangalore at around 7:00 AM on a bright Saturday morning. We had hired a Force Traveller to ferry all of us to Wayanad.

  • On the way, we stopped at the Shivalli restaurant for breakfast.

  • We passed through Mysore city and traversed through Bandipur forest

  • Reached Sultan Bathery, our destination in just about 6 hours since we left Bangalore

  • We stayed at the Orchid Resort, initially in the thatched huts to experience nature first hand - but a short rain later (when some of the huts leaked a little), we moved to contemporary concrete dwellings with plumbing and electricity ... frankly, i was very happy to stay in familiar environs !

  • After a super Kerala style meal, we set off on a safari to the Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary. Apart from some great scenery in the jungles, we spotted couple of foxes that walked alongside our vehicle for sometime and posed for snaps; we did see several deer idly standing in herds and watching us watch them; oh yes ! we also saw couple of peacocks, but nothing much else ... guess we were'nt too lucky that day

  • Saturday evening after the safari was time to see most of the team in their natural state ... with "interesting liquids" flowing freely, and lots of delicious food, we stayed up very late ... singing, shouting and generally having a boisterously fun time !

  • Woke up fresh on Sunday morning and got ready to visit couple of tourist spots

  • Our first stop (after a very filling b'fast) was Edakkal Caves, which has carvings from the Stone Age / Neolithic times ! The climb to the caves is fairly steep and can be a challenge for folks who are not in the right shape (yep, round i realized is not the right shape to be, while attempting to clamber onto the rocks to see what the neolithic man has carved !)

  • After this pretty hard endeavor, we proceeded towards Meenmutty falls. Vehicles can not go close to the falls and we had to park our automobile a little distance away and walk for about 3.9 kilometres to reach the falls. A quick word of free advice - to the faint-hearted and not so nimble-footed, out-of-shape and out-of-breath types ... stay away from this place ... its sooo very easy to take a wrong step and be terminated or better - break a few bones and be rendered immobile for some time. OK, if you are confident and feel fit as a fiddle, trek along ... there's some truly breath-taking scenery on the way to the water falls. You walk through tea, pepper and coffee plantations and to add spice to the spicy climes is the presence of cool mist that floats all over the path ... the trek can at times get ethereal (until you reach the more dangerous part where you start praying and clawing onto earth and plants around) ...all in all a great experience ... Even for folks who are fitness-challenged, you should walk for atleast about 2 kilometeres where the path is safe, see the beautiful scenery and fill your lungs with the fresh crisp oxygen rich invigorating air !

  • Well, after Meenmutty falls with little energy left, we had a heavy meal following which, we went over to the house cum plantation of our friendly documentation team member (Sunil), at Wayanad - I must admit, this was a very nice experience. After spending some time there, we finally decided to start on our journey back to Bangalore

  • Except for a short stop at a roadside tea stall for some hot tea (it was good !), we reached Bangalore virtually non-stop and in record time. Needless to state the obvious, the journey to Wayanad and back to Bangalore was definitely fun filled, with lots of leg-pulling and light banter



Its definitely been a very memorable trip and is one in a series of trips our team's been having ... the last one was a super exciting, adrenalin pumping trip to Coorg ! wow ... it was mind-blowing to say the least ... on hind-sight, we really had tonnes of fun and carried several memories of that trip too.


Btw, in case you are interested, here's some snaps of the scenery ...


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John Morrison

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