Thursday, December 19, 2013

Indian Roadtrip - Traditional to Modern

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Just returned from a fabulous road trip to Vittal, Madikeri and Bengaluru, back home to Mumbai. This road trip was memorable because of various reasons. The journey was all the more fascinating as on our outbound journey from Mumbai, we had taken the weather beaten traditional coastal route of NH17 with a lot of twisties and beautiful scenery while on our return from Bengaluru we took the state of the art highway NH4 which is part of the Golden Quadrilateral. It took us two days to cover 967kms to reach Vittal, and just a day to cover 981kms from Bengaluru to Mumbai.
And the marvellous car that transported us silently and efficiently was the wonderful Hyundai i20 Sportz!

We set out at six in the morning on our first leg to Goa on our onward journey to Vittal, Coorg and Bengaluru. The NH17 did not disappoint. The route was as scenic as ever and the roads well tarred but single laned. We had plenty of twisties too in the ghats enroute that added to the thrill.
We had packed our breakfast and lunch that we had on the way finding suitable spots to eat, stretch and refresh. There were plenty of restaurants with clean washrooms on the way that we could and did use as and when we felt the need to.
We reached Goa in the evening and checked in ‘Green Park’ Hotel that is at Guirim along the highway hence

no detour to a Hotel and searching for the way back to the highway. It is a decent place with clean rooms and toilets but the food could have been better though they claim that theirs is the ultimate restaurant serving sea food.
We checked out at seven in the morning, early by Goan standards as the staff had to be woken up so that we could settle our bill!
We then coasted (literally and figuratively) along the coast past the famous Maravanthe that has the sea on one side and a river on the other! Was a beautiful drive all along till we reached Vittal where we parked in 

our ancestral home for a week to celebrate ‘Shashti’ the local Shrimath Ananteshwar Temple festival.
After all the celebrations we left for Madikeri at eight in the morning. The minute we reached Sulya we 

encountered the worst stretch of ‘roads’ right upto Sampaje – a total of around twenty five kms but fortunately for us the suspension of the car was good enough not to trouble our backs. Despite the bad roads we could negotiate all the bad patches without bottoming out even once and that was a relief. Just when we were about ten kms from Madikeri we saw a board directing towards Talacauvery and Bhagamandala, a diversion of 42kms. We could not resist it and turned and drove on towards the birthplace of river Cauvery – Talacauvery. The road is patchy but nothing to worry about. Talacauvery offers sights to savour and relish 

meditation. The serenity experienced here is worth every kilometre that one covers to reach there. 

Plenty of different parking slots available for two wheelers, buses and cars – no charges.
On the way back we stopped over a Bhagamandala which is the confluence of three rivers – Cauvery, 

Kannike and Sujyothi. This place too is worth a stopover. It is beautifully peaceful.
Finally we reached Madikeri at two in the afternoon and checked in at Daisy Bank Heritage Inn which is on 

the Madikeri – Mysore highway and a very convenient place to halt. Plenty of eateries at walking distance too along with the popular Raja’s seat (sunset point) and the Omkareshwar temple, both just a couple of kilometres away. The Daisy Bank Heritage Inn is an old colonial type of bungalow with huge rooms costing between 1250 to 1750. Worth every rupee you pay for the feeling of staying in a mansion! The toilets are as big as the rooms too!
Next morning we left for Bengaluru around eleven in the morning and the transition from the traditional to the

modern began. The highway was smooth enough to glide on. We reached Bengaluru at four in the evening. Spent a ‘catching up’ evening with my in-laws and after a restful sleep left for Mumbai next morning at six.

Once we were on the NH4 it was a breeze. The Hyundai i20 Sportz just flew and before we could say ‘shall we stopover for the night somewhere’, we were back home in Mumbai at nine thirty in the night covering a distance of 981kms! No fatigue for us nor for the car! Loved this incredible journey that took us from the traditional to the modern life and road with ease! 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kaas plateau

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If Uttarakhand has its Valley of Flowers, Maharashtra has a plateau of flowers in Kaas, Satara. The Kaas Plateau also known as "Kaas Pathar" is situated in the Western Ghats’ Sahyadri range, around twenty six kilometres from Satara city. The name Kaas originates from Kaasa tree (Elaeocarpus glandulosus). The leaves of this tree turn from green to red as they mature and the tree gets white flowers only for 15 days in the month of March. The area of the plateau is approximately a thousand hectares. This falls under the Sahyadri sub cluster of Western Ghats which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In June 2012 UNESCO has announced this location as a Biodiversity World Heritage Site.  Kaas plateau is classified under VOLCANIC PLATEAUS which are produced by volcanic activities. These plateaus are mainly formed by two types of rocks namely basalt rock and porous lateritic rock which is a red coloured stone rich in iron and aluminium allowing most of the water to seep through or drain off. There is only a thin layer of soil which supports vegetation only during the rainy season which makes Kaas a unique ecosystem. Kaas is one of the hotspots of biodiversity.

At the fag end of the monsoons from mid-August to October for a short period of time, the Kaas plateau blooms with a variety of flowers in a beautiful display of colour carpets. You will find different coloured flowers during every morning and evening.

According to Dr.Sandeep Shrotri, there are over 1,500 types of plants in Kaas – 156 botanical families, 680 genera, 1452 species, 400 medicinal plants, and about 33 endangered varieties in Kaas and the neighbouring Koyna area.
Having heard about the carnival atmosphere that prevails on weekends, we visited Kaas on Sunday and 

Monday. We were distressed to see the hordes of tourists trampling over the flowers, setting out carpets to have their snacks on the beautiful floral carpet of nature. On weekends the authorities do not allow car parking on the plateau and you have to park a couple of kilometres away where parking space is provided. From there you have an option of taking a State Transport bus for a reasonable fare to go to the plateau or you can walk since it is not a very long walk. It took us about an hour to cover a distance of about 5kms and reach the parking spot. Such was the traffic! Since we had planned to visit it on Monday too, we decided to 

drive through and visit the Kaas lake on the other side. This is indeed a beautiful, serene place. Among the locals, Kaasa means a lake and there is a beautiful serene lake as you get down from the plateau and this could be another reason for the place being named “Kaas”. The Kaas Lake is a perennial source of water supply to the western part of Satara city.  It also has a tapri (roadside kiosk) selling ‘dabeli’, ‘bhelpuri’ and chai. Nothing, fortunately is available on the plateau itself.
After spending a restful night in a hotel in Satara, we had a sumptuous breakfast of ‘kandey pohey’ and checked out and were on our way yet again to revel in the colours of Kaas plateau.

On the way my birder friend Nandan who blogs at Timenplace, showed me plenty of birds all along the way and on the plateau too. 
It was such a pleasant sight when we reached the plateau and saw that there were barely five to six people.

We parked and went along the paths on the plateau, clicking the beautiful colourful flowers and the awe inspiring landscape.
This plateau is a must visit for all nature lovers, birders and photography enthusiasts.

Getting there:

By Road: From Mumbai it is 280kms and 107kms from Pune

By Train: Satara is the nearest Railway Station and is well connected by Indian Railways. The Kaas plateau is around 30kms from the Satara Railway Station.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Perfect Road Trip - A pan India trip on bikes

Ambi Pur Perfect Road Trip - Runner-up

It was 1982 and India was to host the 9th Asian Games in Delhi from 19Nov82 to 04Dec82. 

Five of us close friends were sitting together on a fine October evening and suddenly there was a bright spark that got us going. I suggested an All India Road trip on our Yezdis (the motorcycle of the 80’s). True to all our actions or reactions those days all responded positively and decided to go for it and attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Delhi. But we would reach Delhi via a circuitous route.

So 3 Yezdis and five friends, all (except the Yezdis) in late 20s started to prepare ourselves and the bikes for the Perfect Road Trip. Those days there was no Internet, no Google maps, no Mobile phones, no Ladakhi carriers. So as part of our preparation we went ahead and bought paper maps of India, backpacks, sleeping bags and some spares for the bikes. The bikes were serviced and we were ready. We had a rough route planned out and had not decided on which places to stay. None of us wished to ride in the dark so it was decided that whichever place we reach at dusk, we would look for a motel and spend the night. This again brought to fore of our motto of the Journey being as important as the destination. Our pattern for the ride was to set out early and ride a hundred kilometres without a major break and then have our breakfast. Let me remind you that there were no six lane highways. Most of the roads were single lane or two laned and our bikes would cruise on 60kms per hour. Our top speed would be in the range of 80-85kms per hour. Anything more would have the bikes vibrating that would leave our shoulders and backs shaken up. Post breakfast we would get back on the road and ride leisurely till we found a decent dhaba for lunch. Have our lunch sitting on the cots laid out and then lie down till the day temperature dropped to a comfortable level as we all know how terrible the October heat is. Then ride till dusk, find a motel and check in.

 Once we checked into the Motel we would inquire about places worth visiting with the locals (receptionist, waiters and others) and then decide how long to stay there. If there was nothing worth our while, we would start riding early next morning.

Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures of the ride as those days there were no digital cameras and had taken photographs on film and printed on paper. The infamous 2005 July deluge in Mumbai due to a cloudburst swept away all these beautiful memories. However, it being a Perfect Road Trip, we do remember all the beautiful moments of the trip very vividly and don’t need any photographs to remind us. Will try to describe those moments as vividly as possible for you to visualise and be part of our journey.

We had an amazing start to the first day of our epic ride.

One of the motorcycles developed a snag and our departure was delayed by a couple of hours. We did not particularly mind it though and consoled ourselves saying ‘Panvati nikal gayi’ (Bad luck has had its day) and we will have a great ride ahead. At dusk we realised we were in the middle of nowhere and would have to ride at least for an hour more till we encounter civilisation. All of a sudden the headlight of one of the bikes blew and so we placed him in the centre of our formation so he could follow and use the light from the bike behind. In another 10 minutes my headlight blew and I was the rear guard. No we did not have spare bulbs, only cables. As if on cue the leading bike too rode into the dark without lights! Trust our luck. We were wondering what to do when we saw an Ambassador car coming in from a distance. We decided to follow it, till some place where we could find some place to crash out for the night, and off we charged behind the Ambassador. The car driver must have got scared seeing 3 bikes without lights chasing him in the dark and started speeding. We too kept up the speed as we did not wish to lose him. After a few kilometres of the chase we saw him turn into a petrol pump and we too followed him so we could thank him for leading us. The look on his face was priceless as we told him what the chase was all about and thanked him. He smiled sheepishly, wiped the sweat off as we bid him goodbye. Hardly a hundred metres away was a dhaba. We thanked our stars (plenty of them on a dark night), had our dinner and crashed out on the cots.

Then there was this afternoon when we were riding through a forested area in Kerala and one of the bikes had a flat tyre. So we got the wheel off and 2 riders went off in search of a puncture repair shop. By the time they got back an ex Indian Army soldier befriended us and took us home which was nearby and treated us to a delicious meal! He said he was proud to see youngsters riding around the country to learn about its people. This was just the beginning of a series of events which proved the hospitable nature of our countrymen.

This road trip was an eye-opener for us that revealed to us not only the beauty of our country but also the wonderful nature of our people and the term ‘Athithi Deva Bhavo’ (Guest is God).

This was The Perfect Road Trip for me and my friends.

This travelogue has been written as part of a contest hosted by Indiblogger and  Ambi Pur India

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ride the Konkan coast

Just as summer was coming to an end I embarked on a solo ride on my Royal Enfield 500Classic ‘Desert Storm’ for a ride along the 500kms long Konkan coast in Maharashtra.
Kicked off my ride at 6am on a Tuesday morning to ensure that I do not have any problems for accommodation enroute as inevitably weekends bring on the hordes of tourists out to have a beach time!
As always my 1st stop was at Sai Snacks near Panvel for a hearty breakfast of ‘Kandey Pohey’ followed by 
a refreshing cup of hot chai to lead me on to NH17 onward to Alibaug.

Took a short break of around minutes just before Alibaug, and checked the route details as given by     

Mr.Kumar H.V. and rode on to Kashid and Janjira Murud to the Rajapuri wharf to get across to Dhighi on a 

motor boat. This point is common for boats that take you to the mid sea Janjira fort and also to Dhighi.

Once our boat docked in, we were told to get on and wait while they lifted the bike into the boat. Once in 

the boat the bikes were lashed on to each other and a pole in the boat. It took us about 20 minutes to get across after which the bikes were offloaded after we had got off. The process of loading and offloading the

bike into the boat was scary and was enough for me to promise myself not to do it ever again.
From Dhighi it was a beautiful ride all the way to Harihareshwar via Diveagar and Shrivardhan. Checked in 

at a homestay ‘Om Shree’ in Harihareshwar and was fortunate that they could cook up a decent lunch thali for me. The staff is very courteous and helpful. The room was clean air-conditioned and did have a tiny toilet but no wash basin. Had to pay Rs.1600/- for the room. All along the route there was no provision in any of the hotels/motels/homestays for single bedded rooms. I had to pay for a double bedded room with a miniscule reduction in tariff.

After resting for a couple of hours walked to the Harihareshwar temple and then on to the beach for a 

session of sun set photography.
Set off for Bhagamandala jetty (5kms away from the homestay) next morning at 9am as the ferry to take me

across to Bankot was at 0930hrs. This ferry was the type where I could ride my bike on and off the ferry so 

was a beautiful experience. Had 2 more ferry crossings before reaching Ganapatipule, Dabhol to Dhopave and Tasval to Jaigarh.
The route to Ganapatipule was very scenic as we passed through Dapoli and Guhaghar. The amazing part of 

this entire route is that from one village to another you either are crossing a ferry or going over a hill! And there is hardly any traffic all along. You own the road!

I checked in at ‘Atharva’ homestay in Ganapatipule. Paid Rs.800/- for a non-air-conditioned room. Clean room and toilet. Only tea/coffee/bottled water available. For meals you have to go out.

Spent the evening visiting the temple and the beach. Due to the popularity of this temple the beach just 

outside the temple is a litter bin. It is unfortunate that responsible tourism is not inculcated in our tourists.

Left for Tarkarli next morning at 7.30am and reached at 1.30pm. Checked in at ‘Leesha’ homestay for 

Rs.1500/- for an air-conditioned cottage. Had an excellent home cooked fish thali and as usual went to the 

beach in the evening for a cloudy sunset.
From Mumbai to Tarkarli had covered a distance of 650kms over a period of 3 days all along the coastal route. It was a delightful ride.
Rode back to Mumbai from Tarkarli on NH17, a distance of 543kms in 11 hours of sedate riding with breaks enroute for breakfast and lunch.
Overall an amazing ride!

Friday, April 19, 2013


As we drove into Bhedaghat, near Jabalpur we were stopped at the barrier for an entrance fee and were advised that there are no liquor shops beyond the barrier in Bhedaghat. This information was given to us maybe due to the fact that it was Holi eve and we were expected to drink all night!
We had chosen this auspicious day to ensure that we get a beautiful boat ride on Narmada on a full moon night with the rocks on either side of the river shimmering in the moonlight. But as they say man proposes and God disposes. You will soon see why.

We drove into town and checked in the beautiful MPTDC property and asked for reservation in a boat for the night. The receptionist smiled, shook his head and said, ‘Sorry Sir, it is Holi night and it would be a miracle if any boatmen would be on the job. However, I shall send someone to the jetty and let you know.’
So we went to our rooms and were freshening up for the evening when the receptionist called, ‘Sorry Sir, no boatmen have reported for duty today and none are expected to do so for a couple of days 

now.’ Our dreams of the boatride down Narmada river crashed and burnt in the Holi celebrations that were going on in town.

Early next morning we went to visit the amazing Dhuandhar waterfalls. The Narmada is flanked by 

towering cliffs as it flows gently, till a little distance away, where it becomes turbulent as it plunges in a mighty water fall known as Dhuandhar. It is called Dhuandhar (smoky) because of the water vapour that rises as it falls with a deafening force. It is indeed a beautiful sight.
We spent quite some time there and once we had our fill we turned back to return yet another  moonlit night to see the marble rocks glitter in the soft full moon light.

How to get there:

Jabalpur is the nearest city, just 23km from Bhedaghat, which is very well connected from the other parts of the country. Tourists can take a bus or taxi to reach Bhedaghat.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh

Amarkantak also know as Teertharaj or King of pilgrimages is situated in Madhya Pradesh.It is the birthplace of the Narmada and Son rivers.
Situated at a height of 3500 feet it is a natural hill station with wonderful weather.
We went on a guided tour of Amarkantak.
Our 1st stop was at the under construction ‘Shree Yantra Temple’. The Acharya 

Mandaleshwar of the Attal Akhada Sri Swami Shukdevanadji is constructing a Temple in the form of the Maha Meru Shri Yantra in Amarkantak for many years now. In the field of Tantra, the worship of Sri Vidya is considered to be an evolved, sophisticated, elite and mysterious system of worship of the supreme power in the form of the Divine Mother as the beautiful goddess, Tripura Sundari or Empress Beauty of the three Worlds. Sri Yantra is the instrument of this worship. In Sri Vidya worship, the system involves focusing of the entire energies of the universe. The Bindu or point in the Sri Yantra in one aspect signifies this process. This is the zenith of all methods of worship. Through this system of worship one may achieve almost anything that is desired.

Then we visited the source of the Son river. It was on a beautiful isolated spot on top of a hill.

A beautiful place to meditate.

Next was the source of the Narmada river. The history of this area goes back to the 8th 

century when Sankaracharya built a Surya Kund to specify the origin of Narmada river.He also installed the idol of Shiva at Pataleshwar in Amarkantak. All these temples are in the Nagara style of architecture.

A little distance from Gaumukh, the source of the Narmada, is Kapildhara, where the 

Narmada leaves Anuppur District and enters Dindori District by cascading more than 20 metres down a sheer basalt rock.

Amarkantak is a lovely peaceful hill station and a beautiful place to unwind. There are no luxury hotels there but reasonably priced clean decent accomodation apart from a few dharamshalas.

Getting there:

By Air: The nearest airport is 245 km away to Amarkantak at Jabalpur. Pre-paid taxi services are available from airport to Amarkantak.

By Train: The nearest railhead to Amarkantak is Pendra Road at a distance of 17 km from the heart of the city. Anuppur at distance of 48 km from Amarkantak is also convenient for the tourists. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh

“If you don’t spot a tiger, it is your fault. You must have sinned badly for sure!” is what we were told by the forest guard. It was just before 3pm, we had just had a wonderful lunch and were out on our first safari in Bandhavagarh.

Wild boar


Our first sighting of wild life was a wild boar followed by a variety of birds and animals but the tiger eluded 

Indian roller



us. We did see fresh paw marks of the elusive animal though and returned wondering who amongst us was the great sinner!
 Fortunately we had kept one more day for  more forays into the forest hence were not totally disappointed and kept our hopes alive for the next safari in the morning scheduled for the next day. We had barely entered the forest when our guide raised his hand and the jeep stopped. He had spotted some frenetic activity in the jungle which indicated the presence of the elusive one. The jeep then inched forward and voila, round the 

next turning we saw some jeeps parked and people with their cameras ready to shoot. We joined the gang and waited, with our cameras ready and holding our breaths in excitement of what we were to witness.

And there he strode in from the right! From the thick forest onto the road. Glanced at us nonchalantly  and proceeded without another glance to the pond on the left. Wow! Then there was a scramble to get into position to shoot him in the pond but he just drank some water, looked around and started back!

There must have been at least 8 jeeps with 5 tourists in each. Yet, there was pin drop silence and respectful awe at the sight of this magnificent beast!
Was my first sighting of this regal animal. Felt blessed.

Getting there:

By Air:
Fly from any major city in India to reach Jabalpur which is the nearest airport (173kms) and take a taxi from there to Bandhavgarh.

By Train:
Umaria is the nearest railhead (68kms) to Bandhavgarh and well connected to all major cities in India.

By Road:
Bandhavagarh is well connected by State Road Transport buses and plenty of private buses ply too. Private tour service operators arrange deluxe AC and Non AC buses to Bandhavgarh from various cities including Jabalpur (177 km) and Nagpur (370 km).