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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kunti Betta....Oops No Bheemana Betta

Idea of going on a night trek is always exhilarating. It has it’s own adventures and charm involved. When the trek plan to Brahmagiri did not work, my colleagues settled in for a night trek to Kunti Betta, near Pandavpura town of Mandya district, Karnataka. On the 10th of Jan 2014, a Friday night, in four cars, 19 of us drove to Mandya at about 8:00 PM. We stopped for dinner at one of the dhabas on Mysore road, after which we drove non-stop till Mandya. I enjoyed the night drive for the first time. There was occasional racing between our cars that followed with loud cheers.

Few kilometres after Mandya, is a right deviation to Melkotte. The village route that took us to Pandavapura had a peacefulness in it's haunted appearance. It appeared as if we, with music playing in the car and with our talks were about to spoil the serenity of this place. After the town, there is a signboard that directs you right towards « Kunti Betta ». Ofcourse we got there only after one wrong right turn and an enquiry at the only house that seemed awake to send off a member of their family who had just passed away.

We parked our cars next to a residential school and walked up the steps to a temple. By the time we started the trek it was 1:00 AM. Two amongst our group had already trekked the place once and so we just decided to follow them. But once we were at the base of the hill, we realised that there is not route. The trail that circled the hill just disappeared and then we were on our own. It was fun though to discover our way up the hill. While finding the route, I stopped at a cave. It was beautiful but looked haunted; haunted by beasts and ghosts. 

The hill was filled with tall grasses that left back thorns in our body. After about an hour and a half long trek we reached the top. Well actually the highest point of the hill would be over the two gigantic rocks that stood tall from where we camped. Climbing that in daylight would be a challenge, hence to do the same during the night could have meant foolishness. So we settled beneath the rocks and relaxed. 

The night looked pretty from above- Tannur lake spread on one side, street lamps from the villages glittering and a few stars surrounding the moon that was getting close to full.

A few buns packed along the way turned handy. While some of us captured star trails, others chatted. One of our colleagues played a few melodies on his Mandolin. The music filled the air and our minds with a sweetness and blended so well with the environment that it made our presence seem belonged. 

                                   


With a short nap between 4:00 to 5:30 AM, I was up and ready to carry on with a fresh day without hindrance to drive. 

With clouds covering the sky, there was nothing much to stay back at the summit for. So after a few clicks we began our journey back; that happened in 45 minutes.




On our drive back, we stopped tat a local tea stall. While striking a conversation with the shopkeeper, I was exposed to the irony -  We had climbed Bhemmana betta instead of Kunti Betta. The route to Kunti betta is just in front of the kalyani  pond at the temple. The route to the summit of Kunit beta begins with a rock that is cut soft to resemble a slide (Jara Bandi). But knowing this truth was comforting as we now knew what hill we have climbed.

We stopped at Madur for breakfast. Madur vada  was definitely in the menu at Madur tiffins. By the time I returned home, it was 11.

One of the added advantages of a night out is that, you get to sleep soundly next day. And when you wake up after that peaceful sleep, the previous night seems like a beautiful dream.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nelliyampathy & Coimbatore

After returning from Mumbai, I was in Bangalore for 3 days which involved office and joining colleagues and French class friends for parties. During one of them, i realised that we could find food up to 2:00AM in Bangalore at restaurants like - Empire, Imperial and Paramount. That to me was a news that made me feel good as I was considering Bangalore to shutdown at 11:00 PM. 

On Sunday (29th Dec), 6:00 AM in the morning, I left Bangalore on my i10 towards Coimbatore. I love this road - Bangalore - Salem-Coimbatore. All four lane and thankfully this time the construction was almost complete. It took me 6 hours excluding one stop for breakfast at Krishnagiri. By lunch I was at my in-laws place. 

With a high temperature, i did nothing more but sleep that afternoon. 

Next morning (30th) we drove to Nelliyampathy a hill station in palakkad district of Kerala. It felt good to drive along the paddy fields. Palakkad is called the rice bowl of Kerala for its cultivation of the crop. The driving route is through Palakkad - Nemara- Nelliyampathy. At the base is a dam and then you drive up the hill. There are several view points along the way and some hair pin bends.







At Nelliyampathy you could take a jeep route to the hills. We instead drove through a coffee cum tea estate to a scenic view point called "Suicide point." It’s a small trek along the cliff to the end from where you could see a waterfall. 







We returned back to Nemara and had lunch. It is always hard to find a pure Vegetarian restaurant in Kerala. From there we went to Palakkad fort which is in the town. It is a well maintained fort from the time of Hyder Ali.




Next stop - Preethi’s grandmother's house in Palakkad town. We met her uncles, aunts and cousins; had good dinner and drove back to coimbatore. In spite of slight temperature, I enjoyed the drive.

Next morning (Dec 31st), Preethi and I went to nearby temples as it was her birthday. In the evening we visited a hill temple called Marudamallai.


On our way back we stopped at the famous Annapoorna hotel to try some vada sambhar and Gobi roast dosa. I like the dosa variety available in Tamil nadu. We stopped at Preethi’s aunt's house before returning home.

On Jan 1st, we left Coimbatore at around 11:40 AM after an early lunch. I enjoyed the four lane tollway all the way back and in 6.5 hours I was in Bangalore. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lavasa

After descending the Lohgad fort and feasting on some rice bhakri’s we drove to Pune and then a deviation of 37 kms to Lavasa. Lavasa is a planned city being constructed in phases. At the moment one town has been established with its set of apartments, hotels, restaurants, hill top villas all facing a artificially created lake by diverting a river. Since Ganesh Bhai’s friend had an apartment there we decided to crash in there for the night. 

A musical fountain entertained the visitors during the night.



The streets resemble some of those perhaps in the european countries with cosy restaurant, street stalls, lake side pathway all in one place. After a nice walk along the main street we settled in at a Gujarati restaurant for dinner.



After returning to the apartment, we had some chat, some singing and some old photographs and video viewing. By midnight all retired to bed.

Next morning (Dec 24th) at 6:00 AM, as usual; like I do in any new place, I took a walk to observe the town wake up. Ganesh Bhai joined me. After some good walk and my morning tea on a lazy tuesday morning in this town which appeared like sunday, we returned back and relaxed at the apartment.




By the time all of us were up and fresh, it was 12:30 PM. We walked around to see some water sports at the lake. There are some options for adventure sports like speed boat, canoeing,  dirt bikes etc. But they are a little too expensive than usual. 



Seeing not much interest in those we choose a nature trail in the woods. It was a fun walk and we enjoyed a small play area in the centre of the nature trail. Most of the forest here is said to be created using hydro seeding.

At 3:00 PM we stopped at a local hotel to try some real tasty Maharastrian cuisine - Johar bahkri, Junkha, egg plant dish and spicy Butter milk. It was one of the best meals I have had. 

After that I drove the Honda city back with the boys playing really loud music. I enjoyed the drive along Pune-Mumbai express. After Lonavala, we stopped at a rest area for some snacks like - Cothambri vada and thali pet. Amazing food!

We reached home by 8:00 PM. It was a great trip and I truly enjoyed this getaway. 

Next day (Dec-25th) Varun left at 6:00 AM to Kanpur; At 1:30 PM I took a taxi back to airport and by 8:00 PM was at home in Bangalore. 

This trip was truly amazing and I had real good time out from my routine. I spent some quality time with my sister and her family along with some friends. A change like this from routine is truly a bliss and seems so wanted. I enjoyed the activeness of a trek and the laziness in a lavasa after. Both has its own beauty; like one has to follow the other for equilibrium.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Lohgad Trek

Mumbai trip was almost suddenly decided. While speaking to my sister, she mentioned that my nephew was back from IIT Kanpur after his first semester. I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet them all. On Sunday the 22nd of December 2013, I took a 6:10AM flight to Mumbai. From the airport I took a taxi to Panvel. As my taxi drove through the city, I felt the cool winter breeze brush over my face and I noticed Mumbai slowly moving on with a Sunday morning. By 10:00 AM, I was in Panvel. A tasty Khanda poha for breakfast, Lot of family talk, A fun film - Phata poster nikla hero and an evening walk to eat some Kaandvi made up this first day. 

Next morning, we left Panvel at around 9:15AM in two cars. Ganesh Bhai, his son Shivam and his two classmates joined us on the trip. In a Swift and a Honda city we drove towards Lonawala on Mumbai-Pune express. We could either take the exit to lonawala or drive further and take a small exit after that which would be a road with lesser traffic. Google map shows all the options to get to the fort. But we missed a turn and hence had to take a longer route. Otherwise lohgad is little over an hours drive from Panvel.


By the time we reached the base of the fort, it was around 11:00 AM. The trek is simple. There are steps and neat trails that lead you to the top in not more than an hour. At the summit are some tombs and a pond. 






On the other side of the summit one can find the famous scorpion’s tail. It looked wonderful and I bet monsoon would make it look differently beautiful. 




We stopped at a pond and treated ourselves with some lunch - Chapati curry and sandwiches that my sister quickly prepared right there. 


The view from the top was brilliant. After relaxing there for a while we returned back. 



On the way we called a hotel at the base and ordered some rice Bhakri. Rice Bhakri was a little too much for us after our lunch but yet the Junka and Tesa were very tasty.



It was a nice day trek; Not too long, nor too tiring. It was ideal and I would highly recommend this trek during Monsoon.