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 ...












Saturday Mar 29, 2008

Life and times ...



I realize its been ages since i last posted anything here ... i did travel a bit ... some interesting trips to Wayanad (yes, again! with the super team that i'm part of), Chennai (to attend to a good friend's wedding) and Singapore (generally on a sudden trip!) ... hopefully i can now keep adding more content here in the days ahead.

For this post, i thought i'd write a few words about an interesting experience I had while coming back from Singapore. So, here goes ... Would you ever have imagined that a single stray dog can bring an entire airport to its knees, preventing all international and domestic flights from either landing or taking off ... the airport was virtually closed for couple of hours and incoming flights were diverted to another city ! Well, i'd never have thought such a thing could happen until i had the luck to be part of this event. Here're the details ...

I was aboard a Singapore Airlines flight traveling from Singapore to Bangalore. The flight was due to land in Bangalore Airport at ~ 9:30 - 9:45 PM. Just as we were hovering above the city, the pilot announced that our flight was being diverted to another city (Chennai) due to some problem at the Bangalore Airport. We did not then have much other information on happenings. After having landed in Chennai airport all we could do was stay in the plane and were not allowed to come out of it. Again, i did'nt have much to complain about, as a matter of fact i'm glad i got to go through this experience. I got to know the cabin crew much better, very nice folks working extremely hard to make sure the needs of the passengers were met. Since the plane wasn't too full, many of the passengers chose to occupy multiple adjacent seats and lie down for a nap. Also, none knew when we would reach Bangalore - so sleep seemed to be a good option with nothing much else possible. To me, sleep did'nt seem like the best thing to do especially when I was in such an interesting situation. As the saying goes ... When life gives you lemons ... make lemonade !

Decided to stroll around the plane and doing so, got to sit & chat with some of the cabin crew. We talked about the nature of their work, Indian and Singaporean cultures, etc. and shared some soft drinks and small eats. We were soon joined by a few other interesting passengers. Before we realized it, all of us were talking like old friends, joking, laughing (in the process waking up a few passengers who did'nt seem too amused with the boisterous proceedings) and generally having a great time ! After what seemed like a short while, the captain announced that the Bangalore airport was now open and we would be leaving to Bangalore. I did a quick time check .. it was 2 AM on a bright beautiful new day ... we'd spent nearly four hours on the plane at the Chennai airport ... having a nice time !

We returned to the now crowded Bangalore airport and after landing we had to wait a while to disembark. Finally, got out of the airport by ~ 4 AM. Looking back, it really seemed like a nice ending to a good trip. During that short stop at Chennai, made friends with an industrialist from Indonesia with a good knack for communicating & connecting with people, a friendly and cheerful Equity Researcher from HSBC and an IT professional from Infosys who along with his wife were returning from Hong Kong via Singapore. On hind sight I would'nt have minded a little more delay in returning to Bangalore, especially if I could meet with and connect with a few more such wonderful people !

Oh ! lest I forget, the reason for the delays at the Bangalore airport was - apparently a domestic flight hit a stray dog that wandered onto the run way just when the plane was about to take off.  This resulted in the plane's landing gear getting damaged and the entire airport had to be closed for domestic and international operations until the runway was cleared. Whoever said that every dog has its day, was right. This one's had its day and what a day its been !

Anyways, that to me was an interesting experience, but not an isolated one though ... i've been through similar interesting experiences. The last time i had a similar kind of an experience was during January this year, when I & my colleague Kalyan landed at London's Heathrow airport. At that time a British Airways plane crash landed just minutes before our flight reached there. Fortunately for us, this did not affect our onward journey out of London. We did however hear a lot about it on the news & from fellow passengers.


Anyways, looking forward to more interesting experiences in the days ahead !


Signing off this post with a quote by Alexander Woollcott, "There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day."



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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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