Sunday, 26 June 2016

Nagarhole with a hint of Wayanad

"Could you check the french window once again... I'm sure I locked it. Still, 3-4 days right. Need to be sure", I was telling Soma at around 5 AM in the morning of that Thursday. 

  Ya you guessed it right. We were headed out... well, somewhere. No plan, nothing. The driver was simple, "Damn! We neeeeeed one break now". Yups, we needed one badly. Eat, sleep, <code> and repeat was too much to take anymore. We just had to go out breath some fresh air.

  Ultimately, about 2 hours on the road and somewhere in the middle of Mysore Road, we fixed on Nagarhole. Why? Well, 2 reasons mainly. One, it's close, Two, we've been to Ooty very recently (so that's a no no for now) and Three, we've got known homestay what is very peaceful. Okay, so that was three... whatever, you get the idea.

  Has super awesome breakfast on Mysore road. Don't remember which Kamat, but the one that's before the McDonald's (not the attached one). Soon after we were crossing "King's Santuary", which is just yards away from the main gate of Nagarhole. We didn't stay there of course. IT'S TOO DAMN FAR FROM THE JUNGLE.

  Now we're inside. Yeeees! Good 'ol Nagarhole. Nothing beats Nagarhole. It's like, we find peace here. And not sure why, whenever we visit this jungle, the forest seems to get happier and comes back greeting us. No, really, I'm serious. You can feel it actually. The wind starts changing direction, the deer come close to your car and keep a smooth pace, a really big family of elephants with their young slowly and silently cross the road. All these things started to happen. 
   Ahhhh! Peace at last!

  So we slowly drove through the jungle cleansing our lungs and recharging our eyes. They say, see more green to make your eyes better. Ya... So true. 

  Reached the main office. So, before we talk about our interaction with the officials, you better know the goal. It's simple, to stay inside the jungle at government cottages. The ideal procedure is to book it from Mysore office (ya not Nagarhole, but Mysore) and then come with the bill and check in. But we tried to test our luck. If we had failed, our good old friend's home stay is there anyway.

  The officials in the forest office are typical grumpy folks. They don't talk much. And when they do, the usual answer is "NO". They did the same to us and handed us with a leaflet so that we can call Mysore office to check. An answering machine does better job I guess. Anyway. So we called up Mysore office. Oh wait, we had to get out of the jungle to get a tower; inside there's no mobile tower. So we went out, called up Mysore, and one gentleman told us that just go back to the office and tell them to call Mysore office from the office phone, and if there is availability, we can arrange.

  Isn't that wonderful. Those sloth like prehistoric mammals sitting in the forest office couldn't tell us this in the first time? Damn...

  Anyway, so we went back, and guess what, they are really prehistoric, the answer still was "NO". Well, the reason was different this time. More like " at this time, most folks in Mysore office must be having lunch, so cannot call and disturb them ". Ya right. Like you're calling the president of India.

  "Sit down, chill... Check out the herd of deer... feel the breeze", Soma told me as I was getting really fumed. Anyway, I did cool down. Relaxed. And then onto Mr. Narendra Pattu's homestay.

  His homestay is just a couple of Kilometers from the Kerala side gate of Nagarhole. Checked in. Some old hug and tea. Then quickly got refreshed and went out to drive to Iruppu falls.

  It was late afternoon and we knew that the gate of the falls would be closed anyway. But our target was not the falls, but just the drive. So we drove, stopped at some places on the road, took pictures and kept moving. When we were there, the gates were indeed closed. So took some snaps there; selfies, groupies etc. And then some local life. Then headed back.

  At night, we decided to extend the tour. We thought that we're close to Wayanad and we've never been there. Why don't we just check it out tomorrow and then return to Bangalore the day after. Just so you're clear, the idea was to spend the next day fully in Wayanad and come back to the homestay in the evening.

  Next Day Morning

  We left the homestay at around 6:30 AM. Already packed some cakes the previous night. So no early breakfast. It took us about 1.5 hours to reach Wayanad center. And we really didn't know what all to see. No plan remember. So we started seeing those markers that talk about travel destinations and tallied those google. So, top 3 were:
  1) Chembra Peak
  2) Edakkal Caves
  3) Pookot Lake

  Why top 3? Because it's a recharge trip and not a drain out one. Haha.

  Went straight to Chembra Peak. After you reach the ticket counter, you get two options:
  1) Trek to the top, for which you have to hire a guide and it would cost you Rs. 800 plus the entry fee for individuals. And in case you bit the killing Sun at noon, you get to see a heart shaped lake on the way. And of course, you come back.

  2) Just visit the trek starting point. Only entry fee is needed. I think somewhere around Rs. 30 per person. Don't recall exactly. But it ain't much. You don't need a guide for this one. There's a watch tower at the end of this short trek and you can relax a bit and come back.

  Again, recharge trip, so option 2 for us. :)

  From the ticket counter, till the parking, it's about 2 kilometer. Then you walk about 1 kilometer. We did too. It was really hot. But we relaxed our way to the watch tower. Something funny happened on our trek back. Some young kids (college goers I guess), were coming onward when we were going back. The funny thing is that they were having sweaters and woolen caps on in that blazing heat. Then we laughed lightly (well in our mind of course), but later we realized the fact. In that scorching heat, they lost their mind... ya that's the idea. They were probably expecting some cold place, and found boiling heat. So they went crazy and kept the sweaters, jackets and what not on. Makes sense.

  We saw may flowers and nice tea garden on the way. Here are some snaps.

  Next destinations were the cave and the lake. And guess what, when we reached, both of them were closed on that day. But no problem. We headed for some restaurant for lunch. Found one. And we took Malabari Biriyani. And it was damn good. Well, you cannot call that Biriyani. But it's a really good meat and rice preparation, with dry fruits etc. 

  No more places to see. It might just sound short, but it was good actually. In most of our trips we cover much more. But the idea was strictly not to stress ourselves. So, when we missed two of the destinations, we never looked for two replacement ones. Just relaxed.

  Back to homestay. The great thing about Mr. Pattu is that his homely nature. He and his family loves to talk to people. And we enjoy talking to them likewise. Took dinner at around 8:30 PM, awesome coorgi cuisine. Then off to bed at 9.

  Next day, we left early, at around 6:30 AM again. Wanted to make sure that we enjoy the 20 KM long drive within Nagarhole to get as much fresh air as we can. You might have noticed that we didn't do any jungle safari etc. Because we had done many safaries in this jungle. And the beauty of Nagarhole is that you get to see more wildlife while driving your own car that taking a safari.

   On the way back, we took lunch at a restaurant opposite to Coorg Cafe on Madikeri Mysore road. Coorg Cafe was filled up. So had to choose this one. This one was fine, but the service was like super duper slow. Post Dosa and Coffee, we headed straight for home.

    Bangalore traffic killed most of the fun on the way back. 

   A bunch of new pink lily bloomed in our balcony. We were enjoying the evening tea at the balcony, when my mobile popped up a notification. Office mail box, Sprint Planning on Monday. God, back to zombie mode. 

    Now enjoy the pics:
Elephant with young one

From the trekking start point at chembra peak

Folks walking down from the Chembra Peak (we took this from the start of the trekking point)

Flower on the way to chembra peak

Flower on the way to chembra peak

Starting path to chembra peak

Flower on the way to chembra peak

One young fellow was posing as his friend was taking his pic

Phoodkote lake

Next to lake. Relaxing over some icecream.

One gigantic mushroom at Nagarhole

Jungle Road

Iruppu falls entry

Soma Posing

Jungle road

Posing in front of Chembra peak

On the way to Chembra peak

A big family of elephants crossing the road.

How close we were

My turn on posing

On the way to iruppu falls

Mandir at irruppu falls

On the way to Wayanad

Soma Posing

Can you spot the deer?

Day end at Iruppu falls. Kids are playing around.

Some fun time.

Interesting post office name

On the way to Wayanad

Flowers on the way to Iruppu Falls

Fruit from the flower above

Mango all the way.

Towards Wayanad

Sculpture in front of a church

On the way to Wayanad

Wayanad City Center

Somewhere on the road

Somewhere on the road.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Ooty, Coonoor and Avalanche ~ The triplet beauties

With the Bangalore weather reaching new heights this year, we began our frantic search for some nature gifted air conditioned place. Nowadays we have exhausted almost all places in South India, so whenever there is a plan to travel we either need to rummage for less known destinations or just repeat.

Now Ooty is one such place we visited some 5 years back and sadly never wrote a blog post on it. I know its not fair because Ooty is such a popular destination that it should get its own post, but very rarely the inevitable happens and because of some reason or no reason we end up, not writing.

So this time we planned a little different Ooty trip, we mostly excluded the common sightseeing places in Ooty such as the pine forests, Pykara dam etc since we have already seen those places and rather opted for Coonoor and Avalanchi.We had been to Coonoor before and had taken the UNESCO heritage Nilgiri Express to travel from Ooty to Coonoor.It was such an amazing experience to embark on the mountain railway.

In case you want to read about that post,the blogpost is here

Since our first stop was at Bandipur where we stayed for a day,we started for Ooty the next day after having morning snacks. I prefer to call it snacks and not breakfast because we ate a few biscuits, chocolates and chips that we had parcelled with us. Our plan was to hit the roads before the Sun gets too strong. Its a short journey of around 50 kms, most of which is through the Mudumalai and Masinagudi forest region.Once we crossed Masinagudi, we came across a small town where we had our breakfast of dosa and filter coffee at a small roadside shop.

Hoopoe at Bandipur

We reached Ooty in time after an enjoyable two hour ride, but then things turned ugly.Since May is peak season in Ooty so all hotels were booked to the brink.After some good hours wasted for search and hunt, we found a hotel near the Ooty bus terminus. We booked the hotel for two days. On the first day we will be revisiting Coonoor and on the next day we planned for Avalanche.

The evening we went to Ooty lake. We took an auto and for a fixed fare of 100 bucks, the driver agreed to drop us to Ooty lake. The lake premises has been much better organized than what we saw last time. There are now a whole lot of entertainment things such as joyrides,7-D shows,food stalls,gift shops apart from the usual boating. There is also a nice elevated platform where people can get up and stand and watch the lake as long as they want. The temperature was slowly dropping and the cold winds were gradually getting stronger as the sun was preparing to rest for the day. The warm colours of the Sun, set a perfect back drop against the blanket of the coniferous trees that surrounds the lake. Since it was getting cold, we took two coffee from the food stalls and made our way towards the exit gate. The coffee tasted horrible.There are several shops all the way to the gate. We went into one shop that was selling flower seeds and bulbs. I bough two packets of seeds, one pansy and the other way fuchsia.Later when I showed my friend who is a botanist by profession and a gardener by hobby, the seeds, I understood that I have been duped! They have packed some weed seeds and have labelled them as exotic flower seeds. So please be aware....there is only one shop in that premises that sells seeds and bulbs, do not buy anything from that shop.


Beautiful Ooty Lake

joy rides

Again we hopped into a auto and headed for the mall road. The mall road is the mecca of woollen clothes in Ooty and you can get very good and stylist stuff at a really bargain price. Last time when we came to Ooty, we bought two really good jackets at amazing price. We wore those jackets in Dooars,Uttarkhand and also in Bangalore winters and never felt the bitter cold anywhere.So this time, how can I miss adding some more winter clothes to my winter wear collection. We got some good sweaters and pull overs at a good bargain from one of the shops. 

shops on Mall Road

Checking out a shop

Market place

Next day, we started for Coonoor at 6 am. We drove leisurely and halted at all the possible places that offer good landscapes. Since last time we experienced the Nilgiri mountain railway from Ooty to Coonoor, so this time we wanted to enjoy the roads.We took more than an hour to cover the 20 km stretch, so you can well understand how much slowly we drove and how many times we stopped.

stopping for pictures
Coonoor Railway Station

We first stopped by a tea plantation, it was the same tea plantation we stopped when we came last time also. That time there was a man, who took my photo in a tea leaf puckers costume and gave us the photo within 3 minutes.That time he was the only one man, now there are 3-4 in that same vicinity. However when we reached there it was too early, not a single tourist has arrived except us. So we could take some beautiful early morning tea plantation pictures in absolute solitary. And yeah we got lucky too...we saw a big family of nilgais feasting on tea leaves.

Nilgai in the tea plantations
tea plantation
Next we went to a tea factory. It must our 5th or 6th visit to a tea factory. But how can the tour of a tea garden be complete if you do not smell the freshly withered leaves.Again it was the same tea factory we visited last time also. The superintend took us around the tea factory and explained to us briefly the entire tea making making process from choosing the best leaves for plucking,followed by withering them on a air-bed to get rid of the excess moisture,then rolling and oxidising them before finally roasting,grading and packaging. Some of the factory workers also showed us how it is actually done. After talking with them we got to know that so many of them are from Bengal who previously used to work in the world famous Darjeeling tea estates, but sadly because of no regular work and poor pay, they had to come and work so far from their homes.

Tea Trail

Inside the factory

The various steps of processing tea leaves

We enjoyed tea under this shade

Dried tea flowers, each priced 100 bucks

The superintendent next took us to their factory shop and started showing us the various tea and honey products that they market with superb enthusiasm. They also offered us morning cups of tea as complimentary and we obliged them by buying some of their products.

Every day

We next headed for Dolphin's Nose from where one can see the Catherine Falls. At one bend on the way to Dolphin's Nose, we spotted the Catherine Falls. We enjoyed the drive till Dolphin's Nose, the road was so beautiful that it was beyond any words. Vibrant jacaranda flowers on the road, a clear blue sky, greenery on either sides and bursts of dandelion sticks floating in the air at times made us feel we were in some fairy land. We paused, felt nature and moved on. By the time we reached Dolphin's nose, it was full with tourists and also very hot. Again we had to park the car and walk some 800 mts to go to the view point. It made absolutely no sense for us, we have already seen the Catherine Falls on the way, so took a U turn and headed back.

Nature in blooms

colour blanket

The Nilgiris

Plantations and the mountains at the back

In the evening we again went to the Mall Road to do some shopping. We walked, went to a bistro, had some hot chocolate coffee which tasted delicious,bought some Ooty chocolates had our dinner and went back to hotel.

Next day plan was to see the Avalanche lake which is around 25 kms from Ooty, spend some time there and then head back to Bangalore. So we started at around 6:00 am and reached Avalanche by 7:00 am. A good part of the road is bad, and without any proper markers so reaching there took some time. On reaching we came to know that private vehicles are not allowed beyond the check post and you have to get permissions and separate jeep tickets from the forest department. Their office opens only after 9 am. Waiting for another 2 hours seems futile, since we have to head back to Bangalore the same day. So we returned back. On the way back we stopped at certain places from where we could get some clear views of the Avalanche and the Emerald Lake. We could get some nice clicks and had to be happy with them this time.Anyway some places can always be saved for later visits.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Dam

Avalanche Lake

Emerald lake

Happy me

On the way to Avalanche

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake

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