Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A weekend in the windy city- Chicago

Plan: To make the most of the weekend. Starting with food(deep dish pizza, Italian sandwich), roaming around in the city: Boat ride, river walk, get a photo clicked in front of Ansh Kapoor`s design Cloud gate, skyscrapers in Chicago, see the night view of Chicago
What actually happened?
Well, here it goes...

Day 1:
We took a cheap flight from Trenton airport to OHaire airport, Chicago. Fortunately we have a friend(a colleague) who stays in Claredon, Chicago with whom we were planning to stay. Claredon is 40 minutes Metra journey away from downtown Chicago. We reached his place by 9AM. The colleagues(5 of us) got an Uber and went to downtown Chicago by  by 1. The plan was to have lunch by 2 at Giordanis. We were at millenium park and the Giordanis closeby was full with waiting times of nearly an hour. So, we got into another Giordani`s restaurant for a beverage first, chicken wings, deep dish pizza and Italian sandwich. The deep dish pizza is definitely a must try. Then there was the time for cloud gate in Millenium park. Millenium park is present in Grant park. Grant park is a pretty big lung space of Chicago downtown where one can have a leisurely stroll in the city, see the crown fountain where water comes from LED lit wall, also has a famous millenium park inside. The Grant park is also known for the Art institue of Chicago in the campus
This is one of the LED lit walls where a ladys face is being displayed in the wall

Cloud gate in millennium park shown above is one of the must visits of the city.

After all these adventures, we went to the Michigan late front sipping a evening coffee, juice and it was time to walk. We walked along Michigan lake front and take a deviation towards Chicago River to downtown exploring the happening places of Saturday nights.
We initially planned to see fireworks by Navy pier at 10:30 on Saturday but it looks like the fireworks on Saturday night stopped the earlier week. So, plan changed!
We were informed of some happening bars and restaurants of downtown Chicago but most of them were so damn crowded. We decided to finally do bar hopping. Hopping from bar to bar we did and finally settled at Theory bar where we managed to see American football college championship between Iowa hawkeyes and Iowa state university. Theory was filled with so many college-going crowd or maybe alumni of Iowa hawkeyes universities who were passionate. A different sport viewing in a different sort of environment and it was nice. We had to come back to the house and we walked for about 2 miles at about midnight to the union square station. We finally took the 12:40 AM train to Claredon by the Aurora bound train from Union square

Day 2:
Since we all were tired of walking and not sleeping since Friday, we slept very well the previous night and woke up by 9. Since the booking to Architecture tour was by 1:15PM and close to downtown Chicago, we did not want to waste time in Claredon. So,  we had a proper brunch by 11AM at Louis Mitchell diner and almost missed the architecture tour as we went just on time for the tour.  This 45 minute tour along the Chicago river was a very good one indeed and it is highly recommended. The tour tells the history of Chicago on how the city overcame the Great Chicago fire in 1890s to being one of the biggest US cities and a successful story on how the people developed the city after having most of their city wiped out. The planners of this city had envisioned how to make most use of the resources(Michigan lake, Chicago river) to their best use. River which flows at the centre of the city does not get polluted. Underground sewage water pipes are laid out 60 metres below ground level to push the sewage water to a harmless location.

Chicago is truly one the architectural marvels with its underground roads, over-bridge L train, restaurants by the river side, buildings connected at top floors. The guide told about how the Chicago which was initially called City of Onions transformed to the windy city/ skyscraper city. The city has Sears tower which is 110 floors high which was constructed as early as1973 which was the highest building in the world till 2000s. It is still the second tallest tower in Americas.
A view from the architectural boat tour

City looks world class but the city was designed for middle class people to stop the migration of middle class from city to the suburban areas. They have achieved it somewhat to an extent.
Surely the city knows how to build and portray their architectural might. One thing which can be observed and seen are most of the architects are immigrants who wanted to shape the city in their own unique way.
After the architecture tour, I had to meet a friend from college whom I was meeting after years. He was working in Chicago since the past two years. It was nice to catch-up with our guy and also learn a bit about the city.

We later went for another must visit in Chicago city which is the Skydeck which is on the 108th floor of Willis tower(Sears tower). The bird`s eye view of the City s scape, its design is a very good experience. We planned to go there by 7 o clock so that we can get sunset view as well as the nights view of the city
Michigan lake, Downtown Chicago and Chicago river picture

A view of the city in night

Being a guy scared of heights, I somehow mustered some courage to stand and sit at the glass balcony in Skydeck. My legs were initially shivering and wanted to take support of some holding structure in the glass balcony. I came out of it in a jiffy after getting a few pictures taken of me.

Finally, to round it off we hit a Polynesian style bar called 3 Dots and a dash for a round of cocktails and polynesian style chicken wings and went to Claredon from Union square station again. Next day morning was our return flight back to Trenton, NJ

The city offers different experiences related to art, architecture, relaxing, food. Somehow we were able to experience most of them in the city. We could not make it to the aquarium, planetarium and art museum among the must visits.

Best time to visit Chicago- July to September
City closes by 12AM usually. So, late plans/parties are not a good option.

Things to do while in Chicago:

  • Skydeck at Willis tower right about sunset
  • For the art enthusiasts - Cloud gate, Chicago jazz live performance, architecture tour of Chicago on Chicago river, museums and art galleries
  • For high end shopping enthusiasts - Magnificient mile(starts from the Wrigley building from the north of Chicago river)
  • For the food lovers- Chicago style hotdog(no ketchup), deep dish pizza of Giordanis, Italian beef sandwich
  • Saturday night pub visit to one of the downtown bars
  • Saturday night fireworks - Start on July 4th till labour day weekend
  • Estimated cost per head(Average) -$300 to $500 USD if on a weekend with to and fro cheap flight tickets from NYC

Darjeeling, Sept 2009

So, the not so tiring Kolkata trip had ended kind of abruptly one day in advance! We had overplanned the city trip. So, in house consultant Tonmoy Saha, alias Tony gave us the idea to go to Darjeeling :)
This was the new adventure/trip we had embarked on the midway. Darjeeling was one of the favourite hillstation getaways during the Britishers stay in pre-Independent India when Calcutta was the capital of East India Company. Railways and some such infrastucture has been developed by the East India company and can be seen easily.
Fortunately, we had booked a train back from Kolkata to Chennai before booking a bus to Bangalore. The Chennai bound train was starting from New Jalpoygudi and we just had to get a return ticket from Jalpoygudi to Kolkata and we were all good
Since we had our return train back from New Jalpoygudi and this town is on the foothills of Darjeeling, we were in good stead.
The only problem was ticket wasn't booked from Kolkata to New Jalpoygudi and that too in the peak Durga Pooja time!!
We tried to book a bus but it was too late. So, we went to the Kolkata railway station only to see that the general ticket queue had atleast 200 people ahead of us in the queue.
In some places of the queue, people had just reserved their place in the queue by keeping their luggage bag since they couldn't stand for that long in the queue.

The STRUGGLE of train travel:
We got the ticket 20-30 mins before the train departure. We were aware that the seat would be very difficult to get. We had a chance of not getting a seat as well. With some smart movement, all 4 of us got seat in same coach of the train. Generally in a side row, the number of people who can sit comfortably was 3 in the lower row and 2 in the upper row. And what we had to endure was 5 a row on both lower and upper and we had  a  560km distance to be travelled, a gruesome12 hour train journey to endure that too overnight.
We had a looong day in Kolkata and naturally we were all tired. And as soon as the train journey started, we were feeling sleepy and considering that the train was jam packed, sleep was a increasingly difficult proposition for us. I properly remember one of us went below the seat too in getting a good night`s sleep. That's when I thought one should be properly planned for a journey if not we have to face this kind of unpleasant experience.
Somehow we endured that journey assisted by the constant chatting by co-passengers, the cold night weather and probably cause we were young too.

Jalpaiguri and travel to Darjeeling:
We reached in the afternoon to Jalpaiguri. The end of October is supposedly pretty hot in West Bengal. But I had never ever seen heat and humid weather at the same time till then. It was difficult for us to endure it. We need a few hours to freshen up and have lunch. We then took a cab to Darjeeling. The road to Darjeeling is narrow where two cars going side by side can easily cover the entire road. So, cabs and small vehicles were the way to go to Darjeeling. The feeling of scorching heat came to rest once we were on our way to the top of Darjeeling from Siliguri. The cool air helped us forget the grueling and seething hot weather in the trip upto that moment. As soon as we landed in Darjeeling in the evening, me and Chopusey went for a walk. We ended up in a not so hip restaurant sipping lime tea. That's when I was introduced to the Darjeeling variety of black tea, the taste of which I may never forget.
Then we got a room in the nearby lodge, very much opposite to the restaurant where we had lemon tea. After getting ready, we took rest for a while in the room. Me went out in the evening, which was a nice stroll all along the radius of the darjeeling. Great experience indeed to see the sun-set alone. Roamed and finally had a fine dinner almost at 9 pm. We were the last ones to enter the restaurant. Then we realised that there s absolutely no night life in Darjeeling. Even the police are vigilant there and fortunately for us, tourists are given some leeway.
Then we enquired a few cab drivers on our way to the room when they told vehicles ll be moving towards the top of the mountain called Tiger hills to a spot to view the sunrise and a chance to see Mt. Kanchenjunga. And, so somehow we woke up at 4:30, took a shared cab to the viewpoint. We thought we would have been one the top of Tiger hills, but we were wrong. There were close to 200 people already there. Sunrise was as early as 5AM. The slightly pinkish colour glooming over the Himalyan landscape were not be forgotten. The scape`s pinkish to golden transition and then the actual sunrise was the best part of the experience. We were elated to see Mt Kanchenjunga during sunrise but when we also realized that we could also see the tip of Mt. Everest, we were absolutely thrilled. We visited few monasteries that afternoon and also got a taste of culture of Darjeeling at a park that evening. We enjoyed that evening`s cultural event.
We had heard of the legendary toy train while we were on our way to Kolkata. So, the next day we took the train in the morning. The track goes from Darjeeling to Ghoom railway station and back. That same evening we left for New Jalpoigudi. From there, we had to take a train to Chennai.

Personally, I  had never seen the Himalayas till then and having seen sunrise so beautiful near Mt Kanchenjunga , the tip of Mt EVEREST was a memorable experience. Getting to know a little bit about the lives of people in Darjeeling, their culture, their people s achievements in military and war, the land`s aspiration to be a separate state was also interesting. East India, whatever little we saw of till then is truly unique and definitely worthy of another visit with bigger plans and more places to see. Hopefully I get a chance to visit this place again.

Things to do while at Darjeeling:
  • Savour the famoussssss darjeeling black tea(Please try to have it with less sugar if possible and no milk) and local eats from North east India and around the town
  • Toy Train ride, few monasteries in the town
  • Must visit Tiger hills for sunrise(Sunrise point)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dandeli and Dharwad, Feb 2014

Initial plan: Attend Ravi Chandra`s marriage in Dharwad and go to Badami which was my place of interest to start off with
What actually transpired: 3rd century architecture of Badami appreciation took a backseat when plan was changed to go to Dandeli for river rafting by my schoolmate friends
Cast: Nishant Bogimane(Nishu), Prabhakaran(Tiger), Chetan Gowda(Doctor), Manu Ramaiah(Manu), Vikas Thimmappa(Vicky), Harsha Reddy(Appi), Mahesh and ofcourse yours truly me.
How exactly it happened?: Please be with me on this for a little while longer.

7th Feb 2014: I reached directly from office to catch up with Tiger near his house and pickup Doctor and Nishu. Meanwhile another group comprising of Manu, Vicky, Appi and Mahesh were already enjoying full 3 days in Goa. We were supposed to sync up with the Goa gang the next day. The journey started at 11pm and by 6:30 am the next day we were in Dandeli! If not for a detour we had to take owing to not choosing highways, we would have reached even earlier to Dandeli.
Our man Nishu`s cousin helped us in booking an Inspection Bungalow(IB) for us. Convenient but definitely not comfortable.
The IB was located facing the Kali river. So, the scenic beauty was captured by me while our boyz were conveniently taking nap after being awake most of the time during our night journey.

8th Feb 2014:
As soon as we reached the IB, we were all so tired that we took a nap till the boys from Goa arrived. Nap taking moments shown below :P
 Boyz from Goa were informed to reach Ganeshgudi where we had planned for river rafting. For most of us, rafting was a first time experience and I was super excited to do it for sure.
Most of us had never done rafting before and I was so skeptical about rafting more so because I didnt know swimming. So, boyz met in Ganeshgudi and headed towards rafting camps.
Since it was weekend, there were many groups who had come for rafting and many were evidently excited. We were informed that the rafting cost was Rs 500 per head for 800 metres rafting which included max of 3 rapids. There were also a package which costed Rs2000 for 8km rafting. We obviously opted for the earlier as most of us were skeptical. Most of the guys who guided us for rafting are from North India who have conducted Rafting in tougher places like Ganges and all. So, initially the life jacket fastening along with the basics of rafting were taught which included the way in which the oar has to be held( T-grip and all)
Mahesh was unlucky to miss out on our raft. He got into a different raft. Remaining of us got into a raft which started off with acclimitization and boom, we were off. The guide usually takes the end position in the raft who guides the raft in the flow of the raft. we had some awesome dips and maneuvoured some rapids to bring the rafting to an end. Then, lunch at some small place and started off with the plans for the rest of the day. Enthusiasts got booze and got into a place where the river was shallow where we could sit and have a gala time discussing topics.

OK, and for the evening, there were two options. Stay in IB or camp in one of the resorts. We opted for the later where the resort boasted of campfire, tents. We got the food cooked from a person whom we met at the IB and spent the night till 1am in the resort.  Camp fire and camping in tents setup in for us in the resort just next to the Kali river was a moment not to forget for us. 

9th Feb 2014:
On the D day of Ravi s marriage, somehow we managed to wake up at 6am and got ready to leave. The journey of 50kms from Dandeli to Dharwad was not a problem if you have Alonso(Manu) and Kimi(Tiger) as our drivers :)
Before leaving the resort, I managed to get the pic of kali river just next to the resort. It was so beautiful.
Later I came to know that the river next to the resort was infested by crocodiles :O

Finally we managed to go the marriage right on time and wish our good friend Ravi all the best for his future.
In company of our Trip boyz, no trip is boring and hope we go for many trips going forward.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Pondicherry Mar 2011

Sorry for the short hiatus folks. Here is a small trip travelogue to Pondicherry with our school mates.
Hmmmm........This was surely one of the most memorable trips from the recent past.
People in this trip: Feelings(Ravi Chandra), Appi/Kalinga(Harsha Reddy), Dr Pulley(L Chetan), Manu, Vicky Balboa n me.
The (hi)story behind this trip:
Planned for this trip 1 month ago saying we ll go to Pondicherry. Feelings had been to Pondicherry with his colleagues and he suggested this place to us. Since, all others including me had`nt gone to Pondi, the decision to go to Pondi wasnt that difficult.
Everyone met and left for Pondi on Mar 11th @ 10 30. Had chicken roll and pulpy grape juice near Kabab Magic in JP Nagar. Was a good feeling to have some food especially when we had starved from 8 pm that day.
Route: Electronic City-Hosur-Krishnagiri-Thiruvannamalai-Pondi.

Day 1:
After a small break near Hosur McDonalds, and so many pit stop breaks, we finally reached Pondicherry in the morning at 9 am. My gosh, there were so many cops en route to Pondicherry. Our car was checked two times! So, finally having reached Pondicherry, we were all excited for fun filled weekend :) Then, we planned to take a room which Feelings had taken when he came to Pondi last time around. So, we enquired bout the price for the room. That owner was such a lousy fellow when it comes to making a deal. We took a stroll in the same alley and found a better cottage house with balcony, and duplex room also :) Then, we ditched that former cottage for this cottage house. Got ready and went for breakfast. The breakfast menu:egg dosa, pongal which we ate with glee. Aah, rejuvenation post breakfast!!
Boyz were all set to go to the beach. Only problem, scorching heat :(

Beach fun episode: We had planned and had taken cricket bat and tennis ball to play beach cricket. Then, the game plan changed to catch-catch in the shore which included super stylish dive catches near the shore. Our game was so addictive that few locals and a Norwegian national also came to play along with us.

We had initially planned to wind up by 3pm that day and leave for beach party near Rock beach. But, this game went on till half past 4 and hence all plans went a bit off schedule cuz of this intense game ;) Added to that was the scorchin heat and we were tired. After 5 30, we went to French colony. French colony is such a nice place with with picturesque French style alley`s. The other decorators of this colony were Aurobindo Ashram, people preferring bicycles and trees lining the roads which were the other noteworthy features of French colony. If we crossed the french colony, we reached the Rock beach which is reminiscent of Marine drive in Mumbai with rocks lining the edge of the land providing a beautiful view of the sea. We did not step into one of those sea-side cafes but instead sat on the rocks lining the beach and sank in the moment. Our boys sat there having a good view of the sea.

Me and Feelings went alongside the rock beach and clicked a lot of pics. One could find people coming for their evening walk and some fitness enthusiasts running also :) Later I also came to understand that there is a Ayurvedic healing centre in Pondicherry. Post that, we took some food for watching the match. Incidentally, India were playing South Africa that day in one of the crucial match of the on-going ICC cricket World Cup. So, started having dinner near balcony and watching match. Unfortunately, India lost that day :(
Since we had played and travelled a lot, everyone slept very early that night.
A tiresome but beautifully spent day indeed!!

Day 2:
The next day, we woke up with severe body pains [manifestation of the aftereffects of the catch-catch game we played]
Even then, we were motivated enough to play a game of cricket as cricket was our passion(Every sunday we play bakery cup where the loser team is supposed to sponsor snacks and cold bevarages post cricket)
Got ready by 9 30 and checked out of the cottage house.
Final pic before leaving the cottage house:

Had a heavy breakfast and we left to reach Paradise island. Its almost 10km from the town, along Cuddalore Main Road, lies this stretch of tropical paradise. We were stuck in the traffic jam caused by a fight in Pondicherry. Later we came to know that it was a politically motivated fight and since assembly elections were round the corner, police had to take this measure. So, this 8 to 10 km ride supposedly became a 20-30 km cause we were forced to take a detour and we could not find the main road back. Finally at 1pm, we reached paradise island. Ticket per person for to and fro boat ride was 70 bucks. While going to the island, we observed that this island is flanked by a quiet-flowing creek on one side. You can sail downstream to the sands and pitch up a cozy seaside tent for yourself. Overnight within the tree-houses on the backwater banks provides a relishing experience of the great outdoors.
We had heard stories about being able to sight playful dolphins but all we managed to see were small fish horsing around.
Once we entered the island, it was such a nice experience that we forgot bout the heat and body pains. That white sands, the blue seas just blew us away. We started clicking pics and the hunger for better pics was getting even bigger. Enjoyed the photoshoot and also the sight and feel of paradise island
We had lunch and we managed to play cricket also post lunch :)
We had to go back early cuz we were said that the police were to coming for inspection. So, we left island @ 4 itself.
So, we went back a bit dejected but with a hope of coming back to the Paradise island to spend much more quality and fun time.
Coming back to pondicherry, we had small pizza for dinner before leaving for Bangalore.

This particular trip in Manu`s OMNI to Pondicherry offered a lot of moments, moments of fun, moments to cherish, moments which would stay in our minds for years to come.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kolkata Sep 2009.

The Night of Travel:
The train was to leave at 7 30 pm and me, Pakya(Sourabh N Nayak) and Baldya(Sandeep Vishwanath) reached Yeshwanthpur railway station at 7 15 or so to meet up with the fourth partner for the journey, Mr Srikanth Manikarnike later christened as Chopusey in the due course of the journey(considering his love for American Chopusey as the preferred dish whereever he goes).

Train left from Bangalore en-route to Kolkata. Then, by 9 or 10 pm, we were all hungry and hence I took out few chapathis which my sister had prepared. We had masala chapathis with tomato chutney. Super oota.

Then, we started getting aquainted to our neighbours in the train. Neighbours were trained army cadets. They had just finished their trainings and going home before they ll get posted in various parts of India. Found it interesting and inspiring to know about them.

Pakya was busy with his boob, eiks book on the Story of India. Sandy was busy reading his book on common-sense called Screenplay. Chopusey was busy reading his Jeffrey Archer novel. My scoop session had everyone engrossed on the night of journey. I planned to take a novel but could not. Then, Baldya gave me his notebook where he had written few of his ideas on direction, screenplay and other related ideas. Once I had finished reading that book, I was again without anything to do. Thats when Sandy gave me Mankuthimmana Kagga, a a great literary art in kannada literature by DVG. Started reading that and thats when some topic broke out and suddenly I found myself telling the scoops of South Indian film industry and related to some sportspersons in India. The situation which took which movie maker to make which movie and at the expense of what and what was the motive behind that was explained by me. Then Pakya gave me a comment saying that you know how to tell a story. I freaked out, literally. Dont know what I was saying. Some people take drugs and alchohol to get high. Take me out of bangalore or even my locality vijayanagar, and I ll get high. Donno what things I ll say.

So, this happened that whatever illogical statement we made was counted and obviously I leaded the charts. The count was incremented and maintained very religiously.

We reached the Howrah railway station Kolkata at 5 am, a solid 32 hours journey moving across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. A noteworthy observation was the acres and acres of paddy-fields in Andhra Pradesh. It was such a picturesque site.
So, we were banking on the SBI guest house which was meant for SBI employees taking Baldya`s father`s SBI employee ID as reference. But when we went to one of the SBI guest house in Jadunath dey road. The hotel guy said coolly that the rooms were full. Then, when we searched for room in nearby area where the hotel receptionist gave a surprised look and shock at the seemingly unprepared us. This made us think of the trouble we were in. A whammy of fear in an unknown place!!. We were trying to book a room when it was the peak Dusshera season. Finally, somehow got into Kakudgachi area SBI guest house getting after some circus.
Got ready and saw few pandals of Kali mata accompanied by Tonmoy(our college mate) who works there in Kolkata.
Then, full taxi ride. Went to Kolkata Park Street for lunch followed by a desert at Flury's one of the oldest teahouse which serves European style confectionaries(found in 1927).
After that, we began sight seeing. Saw the church St.Pauls Cathedral, then Victoria Memorial(an alternative to Taj Mahal a memorial dedicated to Mumtaz). Tony left us after getting us to Babughat, next to the great Eden Gardens cricket stadium where Kali idols were immersed. It was a sight never ever seen by me.After seeing the young and the old enjoy the immersion of Kali idols in zeal on the banks of river Hooghly, the sorrow of Bengal. Sandy was so interested in the Kali idol immersion that he said us to carry on and that he will come back to the hotel room after some time. We were also of the same mindset. We stayed there for a good 4 hours before it was dawn.
It was so exciting to know the craze of people of Bengal especially during the Dussehra season.
We next went to a mall near Salt Lake city late night when we even managed to go to a disco. I wanted to be a disco-dancer there but there was no company for me to dance with. Hence, Mithun da inside me is still to be unleashed, atleast in West Bengal :). The day ended with a not-so-good meal(fish fry and biryani)

The next day, Tonmoy was to go to office. So we were all alone in the unknown city, with a tour`s guide in hand though. We had taken help from Tony for the route to world famous Kali temple. We were supposed to get a metro from Girish park station which was 20 mins away from Kakudgachi, our place of staying.
So, we got up and got ready to embark on a journey that we planned for the day. We took a bus to Girish park. Took a metro to Kalighat, the place name where there s the Kali mandir. Still can recollect a few stops en-route to Kalighat(Esplanade, Park Street....)
Kali temple experience was good. A person offered to get us the darshan of Kali mata. Once we refused to take flowers to offer Kali, he ditched us. After that, somehow we got the darshan of Kali mata where it was filled with people to the limit of breathlessness.
After Kali temple visit, we went to a nearby saree shop. Me, Chopusey and Baldya got sarees for our mothers. The shop keeper didnt give us even 1% discount, dont know why.
Then, Chopusey was supposed to meet his friend from college, a localite in Kolkata who had also been to Kolkata for Durga pooja. He went to meet him and me, Pakya n Baldya planned to explore the city.
We took a bus, trams and roamed around North and Central Kolkata. The best part about the trams in Kolkata is, the maximum price of ticket to roam around per trip is Rs. 4(yeah baby, you heard it right). Such a nice feeling to be travelling in tram. We also happened to interact with the conductor of tram on our way back to the guest-house. He showed us the College Road, University and other areas of Central Kolkata along with the significance of the same. An enjoyable tram experience indeed!!
After this journey, Chopusey joined us by 7 pm. We did a quick logical analysis and came to a conclusion to leave for Darjeeling that night.
Please do await my equally exciting Darjeeing saga in my next blog entry.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bandajje trek-A reality check(August 8th, 9th 2009)

The Preface:The discussion to trek to Bandajje which is near Dharmasthala of Mangalore district happened the day of the trek over chat. Chota Chethan who was planning to go alone invited me and sourabh to join him for the trek that afternoon and we both accepted the offer with glee. Tickets got booked in the Rajahamsa bus in KSRTC.

The route of the trek:Dharmasthala->Ujire(9kms)->Mundaje(9 kms)->Bandaje Arbi->Ballala Rayana Durga Fort ->Sunkasale.

Things to carry and take care of:
  • Tent and torch if you are planning to camp near the arbi waterfalls.
  • Water owing to the humidity of the area.
  • First aid kit.
  • If in monsoon, beware of the slippery terrain and leeches.
  • Elephants and bisons are know to exist, so beware!
  • September till April is the best time to visit. But in March, April the humidity can take the toll on your body.
  • May to August is the monsoon season and the trek is strictly for adventurous folks.

The night before the trek:Our bus was scheduled to leave at 10 45 pm, finally left at 11 45 pm. Have to blame the badly managed money making KSRTC for the delay:(.

By 6:30 am, we arrived at the Dharmasthala bus stand and took the nearest lodge to get ready. The holy Dharmasthala was as usual bustling with people and the since it was the monsoon season, there was cloud cover as well.By 7 30 am, we had darshan of Lord Manjunatha at the picturesque dharmasthala manjuntha temple. By 9, we had taken a bus to Ujire where we had breakfast. I had idli and upma along with a cuppa coffee.

Then we took a jeep to the Mundaje, the place where we started the trek.
After an hour or so, we were already facing the difficulty in trekking and Chota chethan, being the professional trekker that he is was leading and raced far away from us. Me and Sourabh were panting and puffing then. The humidity added with the terrain was turning out to be too difficult for us. I had a custom of not drinking water in my previous treks but all those customs went down the drain here. Added to that, the leeches were already attacking at full force and moving on our shoes. We did not take any preventive measures for leeches. So pick up the leech and throw it was the policy followed there.

Arabbi falls trek which goes past Bandajje forest and then the picturesque Arabbi falls.
Trek to the top of Bandajje,the leechy affair, the lush green grasslands,
Arabbi falls: It was a seriously beautiful place. A spot from where the cloud clears and when we get a view of the falls is a sight which one ll never forget for a long time.
By 5 o clock, we had a campsite behind the falls for which one has to cross the stream. Beware of flash floods during rainy season.
at 7pm, we were having the food which we took from Bangalore.
The pear fruit, the MTR ready to eat rice sambhar, man they still make me drool ;)
Chit-chat about the past trek experiences and sleep by 8 30 or 9

We woke up at 6:45 am, got ready a bit lazily to leave the place by 7 30 am. If its Chethan, it will be a difficult day of trek. So, me and pakya got prepared for the same and started trekking. Incidentally, we happened to bump into one of my previous collegemate Hariram en route to the top. Bandajje trek expert chota chethan was to their rescue to help them with the route for descent and other details. We could hear Harry and gang taking bath in the stream and conversing was audible to us.

Then, we went past grasslands and after an hour of trekking we were able to see the fort of Ballalaraya which was visible from a distance. I still cant forget the great view en route to the fort which extends very far. Then a steep trek of about 1 hour took us to the fort of Ballalaraya. The fort extended to a long distance on either side. It s a treat to the eyes to watch the same. We had a bisi-bele-bath MTR packet to savour there. I got a bit dizzy there. Then we got ready and started the descent. I lead the trek on way down.

We descended from the fort towards the district of Honnavar via the forest. Chota had warned us about the blood suckers`(leeches) presence in the fort. Before that, we had to encounter a slippery terrain for some time. Moiself and Chota could have been the casualties if something had gone wrong. We were lucky to have maneuvered the terrain. What followed that was a leechy affair. The sun was scantly visible in the thick jungles. If ever we planned to take rest, the leeches would have a feasty leg to savour. So, walk walk walk was the mantra of movement then. This jungle reminded me of the forest which we go past when we had gone to see Meenmutty falls in God`s one gountry Gerala:) So, after an hour`s descent, we had come to a place where there was a water source from a tank where we cleaned the leech prone shoes and legs. Got ready in a few minutes and walked on the road to a place called Kottigehara which was nearly 4 kms from the place of descent(Sunkasale).

From kottigehara, we took a bus to a place called Mudigere. In Mudigere, I was still in the unsettled state with respect to dizziness. Chota and pakya had a plate set dosa to quench their hunger while I was content with a tender coconut. From there, we took a bus to Chickamangaluru. I cant forget the taste of Bindu jeera masala soda which chota got there. Bindu JMS rox!! Then we got a bus to namma Bengaluru at about 3 pm and we were back to Bang ;) by about 10 pm. I got down near Navrang. Chota and Pakya went to majestic. They also had the pleasure of going to KFC :(

P.S: This tough trek taught me a few things about my body which I had taken lightly(related to cramps and fitness). Working towards a fit me post that. Also, my overconfidence about the things which I said in trek is still ridiculed among my BMS pals. Finally, I would like to sign off by saying All`s well that ends well. Right?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shivagange, Tumkur on August 1, 2009- part 1

The plan initially started out as a 2 day trip before one of our friend Bhanuprakash leaves for his Masters to the US turned out to be a 1 day trip. And how memorable this trip was!! The initial plan was to go to Shivanasamudra and nearby places in Mysore in the mid of July. Then the destination got changed to Rottikallu, Sakleshpura which was planned for in the third week of July. And finally on Bhanu`s birthday night, after serious discussion about the places to visit and our knowledge on geography in and around Bangalore, we all agreed to go to Shivagange, Tumkur. Also in the itenary were Devarayanadurga and Namadachilume which are also pretty famous tourist spots in Tumkur.

Lemme introduce to you the characters of this travelogue:
  • Mony alias Bindass Mohan(as his orkut profile says) alias MMS(my latest nickname given to him).
  • Bhanusha alias Tagaru mari.
  • CC alias Dilip CC.
  • Bonda or Naveen Kumar B, my schoolie.
  • Lucky or Lakshman.
  • Govinda alias Venky, one of my closest schoolie.
The plan was to leave Bangalore by 5 am on saturday, August the 1st. I slept pretty late the last night at 2:30 am which has become a habit of mine. The lazy lord i.e "ME" kept moi mobile in the computer table draw and never ever bothered to keep it next to me before sleeping. Mony, CC and Venky called me nearly 10 times but to no avail. Hero was out dreaming ;) Then came a phone call at 5 20 am to my landline number which my mom picked up and woke me up :(. At the same time, Bonda also came to my place to wake me up. I told Bonda that I ll meet up with the other guys after 10 mins. Then, got ready within a flash which is one of my speciality:), sporting a tee-shirt, jeans, moi jacket and pair of sandals(sandals idea was cos the places we were about to visit had many temples). And then, I planned to leave for Mony`s place which was the starting point of our travel that day. I went there and sat next to their gate on a raised concrete structure. I was still in the hangover of having less sleep and thought over few things that came to my mind. Then came Govinda whose house happens to be down the street of Mony`s and asked me what I was doing there sittin alone. After few minutes, we went to Mony`s place, had a cuppa coffee and by 6 am, Mr Bhanusha had come with his Hyundai Santro. We all, moiself, Bonda, CC, Mony and Venky went to get into Bhanu`s car and thats when we came to know the first problem we were about to face, the space problem. 6 people in a car, 2 at the front(Bhanu and Bonda), myself, CC, Mony and Venky at the back(Are u kidding me??). Thats when the talks came of getting a two wheeler also along with the car for the trip. Also, we had to pick up Mr. Loocky from nearby Chandra Layout to make the magnificient seven who were about to summit Shivagange. So we left from Mony`s place to pick up Lucky boy and this is where the journey to Tumkur`s Shivagange istarts: