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Wednesday Roads to Work

I have been travelling these roads 5 days a week for the last 3 years going back and forth between office and home.

Waiting at a signal, I though, why not try showing you guys the boring and long never ending roads we travel on .

So here goes –

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The journey to office had already begun when the idea got struck – so here is the ‘Half – way to work’ pic
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The roads get wider and narrower with each passing kilometer

The bridges, the metros & the roads – the battlefields of all travelers

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Then there is a road and a sub-road with a footpath that is never used
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All the many crossroads!

The signal and the cop

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The last turn in – – > Office!
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Blooming travelers? Just a few suggestions. . .

We love to travel. Period.

I wont say that I am a hard-core traveler and that I know what it takes and that I’ve been there and done that. But, over the past few years, I have done quite a few trial and errors and found that carrying the smallest things makes quite a difference and a trip worry free.

To start with, here are a few pointers –

  1. Medic-kit – Create your own medicine box or pouch with just the things that you may need. To add to that, try and carry an insect repellent, antiseptic, castor oil, loads of band-aids, scissors, tweezers, lots of toilet paper, nail-cutter etc. These will save you from a lot of irritable occasions. For all the women out there, make sure you carry extra sanitary napkins – you never know when you are going to get attacked!
  2. Quick fixers – Sewing kit, that can consist just a needle and one spool of thread, Fevi-quick or super glue. Rubber-bands, sellotape, safety-pins etc. These are really small things that take no space and will be most of help when you suddenly rip a shirt, break something and the sole of your shoe comes off.
  3. Cotton towel / napkin – I know that whenever I land at a new destination, the first thing that I want to do is wash my face and hands. Not always have I had a chance to stay at a proper place with all the needed facilities. If you feel cold, bigger towels can help add another layer of warmth. Towels are handy.
  4. Location wise Apps – Your phone can be your guide no matter where you are. Study the popular food and travel related apps. Like TripAdvisor, Uber and Airbnb, there are many apps that cater to similar features and are more location oriented.
  5. Kitchen Kit – Again, this does not need to be too big but there are some things in your kitchen that are multi-purposed. When I was a kid and used to go for treks, my mom would always make me carry these few things of which now I know the importance of.
    • Salt – Not only will this help in adding more taste to food that you are not used to eating but also aids digestion, treats insect bites and keeps leeches away among-st various other reasons.
    • Pepper / chili powder – Also helps in adding flavor and have the best anti-bacterial and pain relief elements. The powder can also serve as a self defense weapon in case of a suspicious person on wild animal.
    • Turmeric – is known to be one of the best disinfectant’s that you can ever find.Turmeric contains a substance known as lipopolysaccharide, which helps stimulate the body’s immune system. In case you catch a cold, a cough or the flu, mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of warm milk and drink it daily.
    • Sugar – Again, apart from adding taste,  sugar is well known to give you an immunity boost and prevents dehydration.
    • small knife – to cut fruits and veggies that you may want to eat off-hand plus as a safety tool in unknown lands
  6. Torch, lighter and match-box – because you need light!
  7. Extra plastic bags – store things, carry dirty clothes in, as a binder, to keep things from getting wet etc

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All these things are apart from all the stuff that you NEED to carry such as clothes, camera, passport and legal papers, money, insurance, licence, shoes, water, snacks, phones and chargers, toiletries etc

What else have I left out?

 

Hypnotized by Anaikatti

Anaikatti in their local language means ‘a group of elephants’ is a small village placed in Coimbatore Forest Reserve Block of Coimbatore district that is on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. As the name suggests, the place is famous for the majestic elephants of India and also leads to the famous Silent Valley.

We started our journey from Chennai to Coimbatore via my favorite mode of transport – the train! Sadly as the journey was through the night, we weren’t able to see the fluttering view the rail had to offer.

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On reaching Coimbatore and after a heavy breakfast, we started on our road journey to Sterling Holidays – Anaikatti by the Siruvani on rented bikes.

Sterling Holidays – Anaikatti by the Siruvani

What a place! What a view! Located literally half a kilometer in Kerala from the border, we were happy just to say that we went to Kerala. The property was located right on the banks of the Siruvani river and we were lucky enough to get a room with a spectacular view.

Where the rivers meet

A few kilometers further along the Siruvani we were able to find a spot where it met a small rivulet of the Bhavani river.Becoming one of our favorite and most visited spot, the area had just about enough spaces for us to spread our legs and take naps.

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Silent Valley

The gates to the Silent Valley were about 50 kms from where we were staying and believe me when I say that the road is worth every second you spend on the ride. Pictorial!

We had to pay for the ride inside the Silent Valley that started at 8 in the morning and got over by 2pm.

True to its name, the valley was really silent and you had to stay really alert with your eyes and ears trying to focus on the directions from where various small sounds came from. The road inside was bumpy and through the thick flora. We were hypnotized with the tall trees, the wild bamboo, thriving little waterfalls and a few wild animals that we saw on the way. A few to name – the Malabar flying squirrel, tree snakes, monkeys, animal poop, various birds and the tribe of the jungle in their settlement.

We were taken to this view spot which must have been at least 4 floors up giving us the entire look of Nilgiris. As said earlier, we were absolutely hypnotized.

From there, we took a 3 km trek down to the river that passes through the Nilgiri – to the old dam site at Sairandhiri where the dam plan got canceled in respect to keeping the forest just the way it is. Now, there is just a small lanky wooden bridge that helps to cross the river. Else, all intact.

Random river dip!

On our way back from the Silent Valley and the big biryani lunch that followed it, we took our time on the road. Not missing any of the picture-perfect points on the way, we came across this beautiful glimmering river which was just like a painting that had come to life. A river – a bridge over it – forest on the sides – mountain ranges and the start of the river – clear blue skies – clear clean waters – cool climate – and us – taking a dip in it without a care in the world.

As we lay in the waters, the feeling was absolutely – at peace!

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As we left the hotel with our bags packed, the only missing piece of the journey was fulfilled on the twisting and turning mountain roads – the sight of a wild elephant!

It seemed that he had wandered out of the forest and on the road to munch on the wild grass on the other side. He was huge and this was my first time looking at a wild elephant from just about 20 feet away. What magnificence!

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And now this journey came and went as complete.

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Reticence of the Bhaga Caves

These beautiful and strong standing 29 excavations still stand strong and are a powerful  marker of history and the art and architectural wonders that the era had to offer.

After a very long and overdue family get-together, we all decided to pay these caves a visit. Being a weekday as well as a sticky monsoon one, we were quite sure that there won’t be a lot of people wandering around helping us get a much needed companionless look of the design.

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Located in the Maval Taluka in district Pune, these caves echo the lives of the people that lived hundreds of years ago. With limited ways t build and rebuild, the caves are all carved out of one huge stone and  belonged to the Hinayana Buddhism sect.

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The so-called ‘rooms’ were quite small but had everything that a lone person would need. A bed, a place to set his lamp, a window for the view and ventilation, and, most important – silence!

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In some of the rooms, the design was quite advanced. There were shelves made either in the wall or below the resting places. There was a common toilet made and used by all staying there.

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Imagine waking up and retiring to this view every day. Only, that I’m sure that in them days, the lands must have been covered in thick forests with vibrant colours and life.

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One of the larger caves belonged to an enormous, ornate horseshoe arched  shrine, the chaitya. The Stupa in this chaityagriha is one of the unique wonders that I have seen and felt.

The moment you enter the cave and stand in nothing but stillness, you can hear your heartbeat echo and the aura simply starts filling you up in complete secrecy.

At one point, entrance to this cave was blocked but was soon opened for visitors. Quite a few pillars and the arch had carvings of human figures in them. Now a few are quite faded but if you see closely with proper light around, it makes you realise that people back then were quite artistic and true to their kind.

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The Bhaja caves have a total of 14 stupas – five inside and nine outside. Ancient scripts show that these stupas are relics of resident monks, who died at Bhaja.  An inscription with the names of three monks, Ampinika, Dhammagiri and Sanghdina can be interpreted.

The other group of Stupa’s were built behind the structure which was led by a narrow path.

There were quite a few of these built in between the pillars and deep inside smaller caves as well.

 

Being  protected as a National Monument, by the Archaeological Survey of India, it was nice to see the place plastic free and clean. All the pillars and stones were washed and made free from all the writings and love gala’s of today’s idiots.

 

At the entrance of the caves, a bit of history has been shared for those who are interested.

 

 

Mysore city and it’s Palace

We were on our way to Coorg, and had to leave our train at Mysore. From Mysore to Coorg, we hopped on a bus and started on our journey.

Mysore – What a beautiful, green and amazingly clean city. It was a  rare pleasure to find a city that has well maintained, clean and large roads where people actually do follow traffic rules.

So then, we weren’t able to spend a lot of time here while we were on our way to Coorg but decided to see a few places on our way back to Chennai.

The minute we got off that bus heading back from Coorg, we hired an auto for a few hours (since that was all the time we had ) and asked him to take us to an authentic place to eat.

Cafe Aramane

We stopped here for an extremely late lunch – the food was great and the service was fast. The cafe or the restaurant per say was not all that fancy and, the area could have been utilized much much better but the food made up for everything. They serve a different and special type of dosa and rice every day. Belly full!

Jayachamarahendra Art Gallery

This place is simply explicit. Every little artifact and painting seemed to amaze me here. The ivory artifacts, all the painting made by the famous Raja Ravi Varna,  sandalwood sculptures, war and Kingdom crafts and the list can go on. The ‘glow of hope’ painting I felt was at-par with every other painting that made history and became famous. If you love history, art and architecture, this is the perfect place to be.
No photography allowed inside – for good reasons I guess.
The only sad part was that people had scribbled on the inside walls.

Mysore Palace – also known as Amba Vilas Palace

Of all the palace’s in India, this has to be on your ‘must-see’ list. I cannot begin to describe how rich, grand and marvelous this place is. It practically oozes of heritage from every inch and corner.

Located in the heart of the city, the palace has a blend of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic style of architecture. It is a three-storied stone structure, with marble domes and a 145 ft five-storied tower that is now made public as a museum. Apart is still kept private where the current royal family still stays. To get the best view of this place, you have to visit it on a Sunday evening – when they light the whole place making it shimmer even more.

Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is – and of course – kept super clean. Again, no photography allowed inside – they are quite strict about it too.

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Saint Philomena Church

Being on of the oldest church’s, Saint Philomana church is entirely built in the Gothic style is one of the largest Cathedrals in South Asia.

With a translucent aura, the twin towers of the church stand majestically at 175 feet and the beautifully carved marble altar contains the statue of Saint Philomena, which was brought from France. You can see many stained glass images depicting biblical events like birth of Jesus Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

When we went there, a mass was just getting over and I remember my body being filled with vibrations as I walked through the rooms inside and underground.

 

Coorg-y Summer

After a shaky train ride from Chennai to Mysore and a beautiful & scenic 3 hour bus ride from Mysore to Virajpeth – Coorg, we were finally happy to unload ourselves in a small yet fully functioning cottage stay called Yedamakky Cottages.

After settling down and putting some fuel in our stomachs, we started our way towards the 2nd largest Tibetan  settlement in India – the Golden Temple – Nyingmapa  Monastery!

Let me just say that the travel from Virajpeth to Khushalnagar ( the name of the area where the Monastery is located) was simply horrendous – we had to travel for about 48 kms in a cramped up slow- moving bus with people stinking of sweat and cheap booz, stepping and falling on each other every other minute that took 2 hours in total to reach destination.

But the minute we saw the majestic Monastery and felt the sparkling aura of the same, all the rest was forgotten. . .

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Highlights – there was no ban on photography, it started to rain midday, we were lucky to hear a prayer and feast on the best momo’s we have had in a long time.

By the time we were done, it was almost 7 and the last bus had left an hour before :/
So, we took an auto. . . The longest and darkest auto ride we have ever had. . . We went through dark and lonely jungle roads, small villages, the ghat, hair-pin bends and what not. To top it all, it was a foggy cold creepy moonless night. Right out of a haunted movie scene! Plus it started to thunder and rain . . The night will not be forgotten. . (0_0)

Day 2 – we always tend to travel on a super tight budget, but, after yesterday’s bus horror, we decided to loosen our pockets a little and hired a car that took us to a few view points.

The car ride itself was a beautiful one as it was a little cloudy, the weather was breezy and soothing and the roads were clear. Not to mention, the greenery around was fantastic.

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First stop, Raja’s Seat.
I guess we went here in the wrong season. The view was nice but I’m sure we would have enjoyed it much more had it been raining or during the winters. Views like these always remind us that we are such small creatures – don’t they?

To thrill our childish side, we took a toy train ride that didn’t even last for 3 straight minutes.

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View from the Raja’s Seat.

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Next, we went to Abbey falls, where again, I guess we went in the wrong season. But, since it had rained quite heavily the earlier night, we were able to enjoy the sparkling waters.

 

Driving on, we stopped at the Madekeri fort and the exhibition of stone artifacts that was next to it. Post that, we were lucky to find a handicraft exhibition on our way and took a quick sneak peek of it.

 

After a heavy traditional Coorg lunch, we got back to our cottage just before it started to rain joined by a quick passing  hailstorm. Since the cottage is located amidst forest area, we had quite a nice view surrounding us.

 

When it cleared out a bit and while we still had light for some time, we headed out for a lazy stroll on the off beaten jungle paths. To our surprise, the view was even better than what we had imagined. The birds were singing, the insects were making some crazy noises and we were ready to run the minute we thought the dark clouds would head our way.

Back to pavilion, we made ourselves comfortable with cane chairs facing the far off view, fruit wine joined by scrumptious cottage made dinner.

 

 

Starry getaway to Mahabalipuram

Whenever Nakul and I want to run away from Chennai, have a low budget and want to eat some excellent Seafood, Mahabalipuram is our go to place. It’s the perfect one day trip that’s about a 65 km ride from home and the minute you leave the city limits, the entire road is along the coast. The shimmering waters, beautiful dancing trees and a straight road with our usual tea stops.

This trip was somewhat different as for the first time in 2 years, we decided to leave the city late evening and hit the road for this random getaway. With the help of Makemytrip.Com, we were able to find this great B&B called Green Wood beach resort which as the name suggests was full of greens and extremely homely and budget friendly. Nominated as one of our cheapest stays (Rs. 290 :D) this was exactly our kind of a day.

After we kept our tiny bag in the room, we headed straight to the beach front shack, put our feet up, stared at the Arabian Sea and complimented the view and mood with chilled beer and amazing calamari and tava masala fish. . . Need I say anymore?

As we strolled on the beach and took a nice spot to laze in, after a very very long time I was drowned in the tunes of the waves and the millions of sparkling stars. A clear view. The clouds moving around like a swaying thin cloth curtain and the moon shining with all its might. I don’t know how long we stayed there paralysed in that moment but all I could think of was nothing. It was perfect. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many stars in the sky.

Thankfully we woke up early in the morning. . which is a task for us every Sunday; we hit the waves. More than us having fun in the water, the sea was having fun with us. It yanked us in and without a warning threw us out, bashed us with strong waves and by the time we could recover, yanked us back in. What we thought went on for hours and hours, actually took place for about just one. Refreshing in a whacked way. Now I know why my surfer friend keeps coming back to office with bruises all over every Monday morning.

The rest of the day we just sat in one of those lil sea facing shacks chatting and hogging fish, talking and then not talking until it was time for us to pick up our bag go ride back to our routine weekdays.

 

 

 

Dreaming in Yercaud

I can never get over this visit for this one spectacular view that absolutely swept me off my feet.

I often imagine myself sitting on the steps of that house or on the front porch, with a nice hot ginger tea in one hand and one of my favorite books in the other till the day still has light. A nice tune of some track of world music playing at the back like enigma, pahadi music or African beats.

And as the sun sets and the day becomes cooler, sitting in front a bon fire with roast potato and barbecued fish and my better half – Nakul to chat and snuggle with. Catching the glimpses of small lights that flicker on neighboring mountains as the moon shines on.

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Given an option, what would you do in a place like this?

 

 

 

 

Women Of The General Class

Have you ever seen 50 odd women of all ages, shapes and sizes, classy – shabby and all those adjuncts fight?? And when I mean fight I mean verbal abuse that will make any man go shy and give the listener the ear time of his or her life, bitch, slap, steal, punch, pull hair and everything else that will humanly cause pain. Well I have – – on all my epic journeys from Pune to Mumbai and back. And let me remind you – these are no ordinary women . . . these are the WOMEN OF THE GENERAL CLASS on the trains.

If I had planned well, I would have been able to get a better seat where I could stretch my legs, look at the stunning passing by scenery and take sips of good chai – -now lemme se – – I did that once or twice but why give up on all the entertainment the ladies have to offer. So then, I would make it a point to hurl myself into that labyrinth of tired, hungry and oddly energetic WOMEN OF THE GENERAL CLASS and squeeze on the upper berth for a nice view.

At times, due to some unfortunate events, I too was thrown in that ring. The funniest incident that I can remember was when I mistakenly stepped on a lady’s foot – hey in my defence, there was no room and the train halted with a jerk. Post that, I had to go through all the yelling and the screaming and the threats – and just when I thought she would stop, there she would rattle on again. After apologizing for the like the tenth time, I had had enough along with the others and decided to get back. I told her that if she didn’t stop, I’d put her hair on fire. Obviously she didn’t believe me until I took out a lighter from my bag (don’t ask me how it got there) and gave her the dirtiest and evilest Ursula look that I could manage. In a split second she slithered to some other coach and disappeared. Right when I was beaming with my victory, I looked around just to find that everyone else thought – -> I was a freak. Sigh!

These prodigious women could fight on anything. Name it and kaboom the war begins. I’ve heard brawls that start from ‘Why is your hair tied up like that?’ to ‘Tie your damn hair up woman!’ or ‘Did you just step on me?’ to ‘Get off my spot dammit’. These are the typical warm-ups where they are just trying to get comfortable in that little spot that they have concurred and will dwell in for the next 3 hours or so. It’s the mid-time that gets interesting when they all start to chat and gossip because there is nothing better to do. I mean if you put 50 different people together, there are bound to be 50 different opinions and stories. But NNOOOOOOO…..’you HAVE to listen to me’ and ‘ I am the only one who is right’ while ‘you all are idiots’ and ‘don’t understand anything’ (-_-)… These fights start right from how Shahrukh Khan should or should not have done what he did or did not do, why onions should be used in that recipe but how they will ruin the taste and texture, how every other woman is growing old the wrong way to which button should go where and where not. They can talk about absolutely ANYTHING and start a fight on EVERYTHING. In that fighting ring, once the verbal battle is over, the somatic one begins – – then in a short while they all get tired and move back to the verbal abuse. It’s easier.

Then again, through it all they manage to help each other out with the name callings, listen to each other’s fatigued stories – share the burden, become an unconscious shoulder to cry on, eat and laugh together in-between the unnecessary talks, slander men and basically learn about everybody’s interesting and yet pointless lives that may – may not ever cross paths again – Just these women travelling in the General Class…

 

 

 

Enthralling Kodaikanal

Kodai Kodaikanaaaaalll…

So then we (Nakul & me) started our journey by my favorite mode of transport – the train… weren’t able to see much of our traveled path as we were travelling at night.

Day 1

IMG_20160122_074930.jpgWe reached our stop – Kodaikanal Road early in the morning and took a bus towards Kodaikanal City. It was a beautiful 3 hour journey through the mountain roads, paddy fields, waterfall views, cute little villages and a front row view to the sunrise of the day.

Once we reached Kodaikanal, the first thing that we did was to hog on delicious egg dosa – the first I’ve ever had.

Our stay had been booked in this amazing place – Sterling Resorts – Kodai by the lake.

Don’t get me wrong…we are budget travelers but who is going to give up free stay in this lavish place?

After a good lazy sleep, we decided to rent out cycles and make head way to the city center. We took a nice long route around the Kodaikanal Lake. With the mist still hanging above the perfectly still green waters, we kept gazing over a view that was too vast for us to take in in one glare.

Being a city that is high on tourist ventures, the best thing that it has adopted is the ban on plastic bags and other such which has helped in keeping it clean.

Day 2

Today we decided to go trekking with a local group and see a few things around Kodaikanal.

Vatakanal Falls through it downward flow- Clean, calm and shimmering. Even the trek was a beautiful one through the forest. If lucky, one would be able to see a 5 ton huge bison.

 

Echo Rock and Dolphins Nose through the eucalyptus forest.

The path was a little bumpy and believe me when I say that after every 5 minutes of our walk, there would be only one thing going through my mind – loud and clear ‘YOU NEED TO EXERCISE FATSO!’

Due to the heavy fog, anything beyond 5 feet looked white and non – existing.

Post evening as the day closed early, we (all aching from the 20+ km walk and hike) decided to take as early retreat as well winding up our a day by sitting on a huge wooded swing with a nice bottle of coconut rum, mild songs and a mountain view of the lake –blisssssssss…

Day 3

Through our journey, we kept meeting up with a lot of people from all over the globe and to our surprise, we became friends with this crazy and full of life solo traveler- Purva. Thanks to her, we were introduced to this absolutely gorgeous an breathtaking place – Karuna Farms. The owner or the person who built this place must have been a magician to keep this place hidden from the public eye for so long and to build guesthouses on the mountain slopes with a view to die for. Imagine waking up to that every morning?!?!

The Vastness…The Silence in-between the Rustle…Nature’s Grand…Never-ending View…That Feeling – Breathless!