Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Big Break

It happened that my friend Anu asked me to get some information from this blog and that's when I remembered this blog exists, it's been so long that I had forgotten even the page address. Life has been quite busy for some time now that I couldn't make any interesting travels or write down anything lately. Though I had one or two trips after the Coorg expedition which I really wanted to write about, primarily about the one to Kudajadiri and Murudeshwar and another, a real wild one to Parambikulam. I had started writing about both but couldn't complete them and left those at that. After that I got too busy with chasing an aspiration and now I don't think I'll be able to make any trips soon or to jot down anything for another year. So if anyone really followed my blog, sorry to you guys but I'll promise to be back with a bang!! May be by around mid 2013 you will get to see more travelogues from me. I'm desperately waiting for those trips to happen. See you then....

Friday, April 30, 2010

Team outing to Dhoni

Ever since I joined my company I used to hear about a team outing in our team meetings. But it never went off, there have been a few attempts before to do it but mostly it ended up in few discussions over office breaks or coffee. But this time around we got in to the final step and decided to go for a one day tour. Santhosh took the initiative to discuss the plan with the management and got approval for the budget and a day off. So now we were into the planning stage, the only constraints were that the trip should be one day and we need to get back to Cochin by 7.p.m. So after discussing many options in the team we decide to go to Dhoni near Palakkad. Dhoni is a reserved forest area, around 3 to 4 hrs drive from Cochin and about 15 kms from Palakkad. There is a small water fall 4kms inside the forest area, unless you are a forest officer or some prominent forest guest you need to walk all the way to the falls so that place was ideal for a small trek. I was very happy to go to Dhoni for few personal reasons also, it was very close to my college, and we will be going through some of the areas where I had broke loose on my college days.

On the day of travel, very unusual of him, Gopan arrived at chalakkudi at around 6.30 a.m and called me. I joined him in about 10 mins and waited for the Cab. We had booked a cab for the trip and rest of the team except us and Nishant were already in the cab. We were picked up by 7.30 and the only person remaining was Nishant. He also joined us from Ollur. It was close to 8 a.m and everyone wanted to have breakfast, especially the ladies who were off for a day from kitchen and we stopped at a small hotel at Pattikad. The hotel wasn’t open completely even at 8, and they were only getting ready for the business, so the menu was very minimal. We subsided our hunger with some poori and dosas. After breakfast everyone got into the spirit of the trip and wanted to do something to keep us engaged. Suman suggested starting anthakshari, though I was not an Anthakshari fan, I joined with the team and we split into 2 teams according to our seats and started the game. I should say we enjoyed it and I got a chance to clear my throats and my colleagues got a rare chance to hear my “sweet voice”. After a few cat fights over the songs and points we reached palakkad just after 9. Since Dhoni was in a remote area and there were no shops to get food or any other supplies, we were planning to take lunch with us. It was too early to get lunch to take away from any hotels so I proposed ordering lunch at a hotel near my college. All others agreed to the idea and I called up mash at Xanadu. Xanadu is small hotel cum department store cum snack bar cum and so many other things you see in front of all colleges and mash was the in charge there. I don’t know why everyone calls him mash, which means teacher. All our seniors used to call him mash and we continued that. I was even happier with the new plan that I can visit my college too. Mash said the lunch is not ready yet but he can arrange it and pack it in 30 mins. So we decided to spend that time at Palakkad fort and got down there. So that was a new destination out of our planned itinerary.

It was called Tipu’s fort and was located at heart of the city. There were a hanuman temple and Palakkad sub jail functioning inside the fort. Even after studying in Palakkad for 4 years that was the first time I saw many parts of the fort. At about 10 in the morning, the sun was not too hot and with a good palakakdan breeze it was a pleasant weather to explore the fort. Some guys went to the hanuman temple and others took some snaps and roamed inside the fort. After about 20 mins I got call from mash informing the food is ready so we cut short over Fort tour and continued our journey. The Xanadu and it’s annexe were almost same as it was four years back. It was one of the places where we used to prey upon the girls of nearby women’s hostel and since it was some holiday the hostel was empty and I was dissapointed. By the time we reached Xanadu mash had packed 20 steamy biriyanis for us. We had few snacks from annexe and continued our journey to Dhoni. Since I wanted to go to my college, I convinced my colleagues and took them to show around the college and we had a round inside the campus in our cab. After cherishing a lot of memories we left the place and headed to Dhoni. Reaching there we saw a forest check post.Though I had been to dhoni a few times before, we never took the straight route. We always go by some short cuts and escaping from the eyes of guards to save the entry fees. Since now we are the so called professionals and we needed to keep our etiquette, we took tickets from check post and embarked on our hike. Dhoni had a stone paved road from the forest gate till the water falls. The guards had advised us to keep the road, and the path will split few kilometers down the road. So as law abiding citizens we followed the road,

after moving from the guards eye sights few of us decided to go adventurous and took the short cuts directly crossing the paths through the woods. This new route was a physically demanding one and very soon after we got to it the fatigue took it's toll on us. One by one many of us started to take breaks and after climbing for few more meters the breaks became longer than the hikes. We started as a group of 15, now we got split into 3 to 4 smaller groups and each group taking its place to rest in route.

Our group took short but difficult routes and more prolonged breaks. Some others took the road and shorter breaks. Our group was taking all possible shortcuts and we used to intersect the motor way occasionally. But after taking a specific shortcut we were intersected by another road which was not motor able. This road was not a much travelled one and it was covered with dry leaves and fallen trees. We understood we lost the way and we should go back but by that time Santhosh had scuttled ahead of us and he had gone into forests. Chackochi went after him to get him back but returned very soon. Then he took Nishant as a companion and went searching for Santhosh again. When they came back with Santhosh and Nishant told the story only we realized why Chackochi had returned so fast first time, there was a abandoned house in the ruins on the way and he got scared of passing it.

By that time Anu and Gopan had found the right path. Though we had only missed a turn by few meters, we had to spend more than an hour to get back to the right track. And this detour took all others to the falls ahead of us. By the time we reached the falls, ladies had started to devour their share of biriyanies. The fall had nothing special about it, It was a small one may be a 20 feet high and the water flaw was also flimsy.

We decided to fresh up and take a bath in pure crystal like water. We were advised not to take bath in the falls as it was dangerous and it had taken a few lives before. The guard at the forest camp had informed us there is a safe place upstream to take bath so we moved there and had a very nourishing and rejuvenating bath in the fresh and clear water. The water was so cold that we had a difficult time getting adjusted to it. I remember once when we were in college, we came here with few bottles of beers and we chilled the beer by keeping it in this running water. We spent some time bathing and playing in water and then returned to have our biriyanies. It was almost 3 p.m and we had to head back. So we started our journey back without wasting much time. The descent was a bit easy than ascent and we could come down in half the time we took to climb up. When we got down it was difficult for most of us to keep our legs straight. By 5 pm everyone got the base and we left Dhoni and on our way back to cochin. On way we had some tea and snacks from Palakkad. The return journey was without any specific incident as everyone were too tired to move around and most of us fell asleep and others silently watched the movie played in the bus. Then the bus dropped everyone at their locations starting from Nishant at ollur, and myself at chalakkudi. That was the end of the much awaited team outing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Coorg Travelogue

I don’t remember for how long I wanted to write my travelogues; now, finally I’m starting off with one after 1 month from a journey. This trip was materialized from an anniversary celebration plan to go somewhere all by me and my wife. Usually whenever we go for some tour, we will have a team with us. After thinking of many places we finally decided on Coorg/Madikeri. We planned the trip for the first available long weekend and it was during the x’mas holidays. We started planning with looking for the best possible route from Chalakkudi to Madikeri and we used Google maps and mapmyindia for that. There were a few routes, but we settled on the one through Malappuram, Areekode, Mananthavadi, Kutta, Gonikoppal and Madikeri. We took this route as my native, Malappuram was on way, and we can have a stopover @ home and proceed next day. Madikeri was around 250 kms from home so I expected a 4-5 hrs journey. For accommodation, I read a few good reviews about Mayura Valley View managed by KSTDC. When I called them up for a reservation for 2 days, even almost a month before; they said they are full for 25th and I had to get satisfied with reservation on 24th alone. I thought I can stay @ this hotel for a day and move out to somewhere else on next day. We didn’t plan anything much and that covered most of our planning.

On 23rd Dec, after office we left for my hometown, Malappuram which is 150 kms into our intended route. Since I was expecting only a 5 Hr journey from home and my check-in time was at noon I decided to start late so we had a good sleep and started our journey by 8 a.m. Though I was familiar with some of the roads around, I decided to follow my google maps which I had a print out; but that gave a good reason for my wife to laugh at me for a few weeks. I don't know how google predicts the route but in my case it took me in a 16 kms road instead of 12kms. I don’t know how many more kms I had run in the entire journey because of google. Anyway even after that we followed the google maps and then come the next shocker from google. It took us through some route even the locals were not aware of. We followed some country roads instead of the nearby NH available. And these country roads were pathetic for most of the route but little did I knew, this was just starting of a long stretch of bad roads in my trip. So after about 20 kms of google invented road we joined into the highway at Puduppadi. For most of the part, roads in Wayanad are good and so we had a nice journey till Kattikulam. In between we had a short break at Pookote Lake. From Kattikulam, we entered into the forests and a few kms into the forest just before reaching Kutta we saw a herd of elephants only a few meters away from the road. I kept the car idle for few minutes and observed them. From a past experience I was aware that we may get company from other side too so I was constantly anticipating some sound around us and after some time the look on the face of the leader also scared me a bit. So we quietly left the place.

The happiness of wildlife sight was short lived, a few kms before Kutta, literally there was no road and it gave me a tough time maneuvering through that supposed to be road. Though condition got a little better after few kms it wasn’t that good for another 30+ kms. After that, the road till Madikeri was better; but narrow with enough pot holes to keep me active. In between we had an average lunch at Gonikkopal. Finally by 4 in the evening we reached Madikeri, after 8 hrs compared to the expected 5.

After reaching Madikeri, we headed to our hotel, Mayurya Valley View. We had booked the hotel according to some the reviews we saw so were keen to know the condition of hotel. The hotel was newly renovated and looked good from outside and the location was magnificent.

The check in was an easy process and we got room allotted in the new block. They were just finishing off the work on the new block for the x'mas season and we got a newly furnished and freshly appointed room. When we opened the window curtains we were in for a surprise. The valley view from hotel was splendid. Situated very close to Raja’s seat, this definitely was one of the hotels with best valley view in Madikeri. If u plan to stay there try to get a room on the upper floors, it will provide an even better view. Tired from the long travel, we took a shower and some rest and got ready to explore Madikeri. First, we proceeded to Raja's seat. It was hardly 5 minutes walk from the hotel. We spent some time munching some masala snacks at the benches overlooking the valley. It’s so refreshing to sit and talk lazy in such a beautiful weather. We waited there to see the musical fountain, it was an average show with some heavy music and for all rhythms the water jets were similar. But it had some good lighting and overall it was average. After that, we went back and had some hot soup from the restaurant. It's great to have a good hot soup in a cold weather. After soup we went for some night drive, nothing much happened except we had our dinner from some restaurant. But our hotel restaurant was better. Then we came back to hotel and went to sleep......

We slept leisurely till past 9 in the morning and as both of us had been there before we were not in any hurry to go for the sightseeing. In fact, we hadn't even thought about going to any place at all so we decided to take a walk and have a coffee. After breakfast, since we didn't have reservation for that day, we checked out from the hotel by 11. Then we were thinking of what to do next and where to go. Since the road was very bad we thought of an alternate route for return trip and decided to go back via Mysore. Then for the day, we decided to go to Talakaveri and Dubare forest for some river rafting and to have night stay in Mysore. Dubare was en route to Mysore but Talakaveri was 30 kms in the opposite direction. So now we got concerned about time and straight away started off to Talacauvry. Baring first few kms from Madikeri the road to Talacauvery was manageable. On our way up we saw a small house with a board saying 'homely coorg food' and immediately decided to have food from there on our way back. Apart that we went straight to Talacauvery, saw a small pond which is said as the starting point of Cauvery river and after that we decide to take a trudge and go to top. It wasn't as easy as we thought, especially under hot noon sun. Finally we managed to get on top of it and it had some magnificent views.

We were ravenous after the hike and had some snacks and baji’s from the nearby teashops before heading to “homely” coorg food. It was a small home turned eatery with a table in veranda for guests. We were eager to try the original coorg homely food but when it arrived we were disappointed, neither of us liked it much. The host provided us with some leftovers of breakfast and a thin diluted chicken curry with some side dish and rice. Only thing which we liked was good thick curd provided. And it cost 100 per plate. After that we headed straight to Kushalnagar in search of river rafting.

Contradictory to road to Talacauvery, barring only a few kms ahead of Kushalnagar, the road was wretched. But the good news is; construction is undergoing in this route and we can expect a fantastic highway in few years. We didn't recognize turn to Dubare forest and went to Kushalnagar. There we had some coffee and got a detailed route from a hotel. We had to travel back a few kms and take a turn to go to Dubare. When we reached there we were let down to know it was an off season for white river rafting and the peak season is June through august. i.e. the rainy seasons. So we had to satisfy with a not so adventurous rafting. But even that turned out to be a heavy task for us. Our boatman was a nice guy and he did most of the rowing and took some snaps for us.

After a short rowing of few kms we were dropped off at the elephant training centre to see elephant feeding. I was not much interested in it; I like to see them in forests. The elephant camp was in an island and we had to cross a river to get back to mainland. There was a boat taking visitors to and forth and it had a long queue and there was an alternate pathway crossing over rocks so we took the rocks and walked. Few others were also taking this path and looked easy to cross but the rocks were very slippery and I had fell down twice in river. Luckily my camera was with my wife and she managed to cross without falling even once. So we crossed the river without much physical damage and had some hot coffee and snacks from the nearby cafeteria. Now we were tired and close to finish off the day. We headed to Mysore to look for hotel and night’s stay. On way just before reaching Mysore we had dinner from a dhaba, I don’t remember its name but the food was fabulous. It was the best food we had on our entire trip. The tandoori kabab was so delicious that we ordered one more plate before finishing off the dinner. We had a heavy dinner and couldn’t take more and proceeded to Mysore. I was expecting a lot of accommodation options in Mysore. But since it was a long weekend, all hotels were fully booked. I was running from one hotel to another checking for room and saw a few more groups doing the same. From one hotel I heard one of their partners had a vacant room, but they were asking a huge price and since I didn’t had any other option I took that room. But when I reached there I was shaken; for a mediocre room, which on any other day can cost around 500; I had to shell out 2000+taxes. The only good thing about the room was the location. It was in middle of the city. So we had to live with that and went to sleep.

Next day, we didn’t want to do anything and headed straight back to home. We woke up by 9 am, got ready and went around the Mysore palace and left the place by 11 a.m. We had a real bad experience from a petrol pump in Mysore. I asked them to fill diesel for Rs.500. One guy was filling the tank and then another one came to us and gave a map of Mysore and distracted our attention; in mean time the other guy filled diesel for Rs.20 and then suddenly our guy said it’s 500 not 200. Suddenly the other guy reset the meter and filled diesel for 300. Since we didn’t have any proof and didn’t want to pick up a fight, we left the place. Everyone please beware of such frauds in future. After that the journey back home was eventless and good. We passed through Gudallur and Nilambur. We took a short break in the Gudallur forest and another for lunch. After all these we reached home at Malappuram by 4.p.m. And that was the end of a 3 day tour.

What I liked: Climate and magnificent valley views

What I didn't like: Roads leading to Madikeri


Hotel:Mayura Valley View

Food: Mayura Valley view had a good restaurant.