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Travel Point…. Experience Corner….. down the lane of Memories


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Chikmagalur : A Perfect Weekend Getaway

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“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  -Robert Louis Stevenson

Chikmagalur is one of the top weekend destinations from Bangalore, though it is still away from the lime light. The hill station is famous for coffee plantation, greenery and a number of waterfalls. On one weekend we, a group of five friends: Abinash, Ritesh, Britto, Prabina and I decided to explore this beautiful place. Abinash has a Grand i10 and Britto is a self-proclaimed F1 racer :p So ‘how to reach’ wasn’t a hassle at all this time 😀

How to Reach Chikmagalur:

It is around 250 km away from Bangalore and is a 4-hour journey. The road is pretty good for most of the part. A number of state-run and private buses ply to the place. The nearest railway station is Kadur which is 40 km away. The best option is to hire a cab. Now a lot of options are there: Ola Outstation, Goibibo Cab, MMT Cab service etc. If you have  a car, you can even hire only a driver and go. DriveU, Hire4Drive, ezidrive, Zuber are a few driver hiring sites. We decided to make it a self-drive road trip to reap the most out of it. We started from Bangalore around 4:30 AM.

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A dam we came across on the way

Where to Stay:

A lot of options are available depending of budget, luxury and experience. Zostel Chikmagalur is one of the top choices in terms of budget and experience. But we decided to  go beyond that and to choose the best in terms of experience. We had booked our stay at Forest Homestay – Maradi(Aldur). It is 27km away from the main city Chikmagalur, and exists among dense forest and coffee plantation. A few of my friends had been here last year and had shared their experience with me. If you want a serene and out of the world experience, then this is the place. Apart from Airtel, you hardly will get any network here. So like literally out of the hustle bustle of busy life.

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For booking, you can check online on Goibibo or you can contact directly at below mentioned no. (Nuthan: 9449175960, Omar Homestay Advisor : 9538280008. This is just for reference purpose only.) They charge by person basis which includes Stay(Cottage or Tent), Food(Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks & Dinner : Both Veg and Non-Veg), welcome drink, one morning trek, night campfire and a few other engaging activities. Additionally, you can inform them for additional snacks: Chicken(400 per KG), Fish(500 per KG), Mutton (600 per KG). This includes making and service charge. Even home made wine is available on chargeable basis(Figwine: INR 500 per bottle, rest: INR 250 per bottle). They have made provisions to play badminton, cricket, carom, rifle-shooting and Bow & Arrow. Visit their official site for details.

Mulyangiri:

It is around 23 km away from Chikmagalur. We reached Chikmagalur around 9:30 AM and our check-in time at hotel was 12 noon. So though we had planned to go here the next day, we went the same day after having some breakfast at Chikmagalur.

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On the way to Mulyangiri

The last stretch of the road was bit bumpy and narrow; but we had Captain Britto at our side. We never hesitated to stop n click on the way. We reached around 11 AM at Mulyangiri peak. The weather was pleasing, neither cloudy nor sunny. There is a temple on the Mulyangiri peak which is a 15-20 mins climb. The route is smooth and there are stairs till the top. The view from up there was magnificent. There was greenery everywhere, till the eyes could see. We enjoyed the beauty for sometime and started our journey to the home-stay around 12 noon.

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We had to again comeback to Chikmagalur and to take a different route for the Homestay. The last 4km of the road to the homestay was really in bad shape. But they were repairing that. Hopefully, in a few months, that will be fine. The Homestay was at the remotest corner of the forest and the road ends there only. We reached the homestay around 1:15 PM. We were taken to our cottage which was 100m away from the parking area. We were greeted with welcome drinks: Mango and Lemon drinks. After a long travel, it was the best one could get in that dense forest. The location of the homestay was just perfect like a single cottage in the middle of the forest and coffee garden. As it was Friday, there was no one apart from us. So the entire place was ours to enjoy.

Though everyone was damn tired, two had directly come from Chennai and almost everyone had 1 to 2 hrs of sleep last night; still everyone could have been found at the badminton ground.

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And the irony was I had fever the previous day, but it all vanished once we reached Chikmagalur 🙂 We played for around half an hour and then asked for the lunch. After getting refreshed, we came to dining table. Thank god, they had  a geyser there. The lunch was delicious, as we were all non-vegetarians; they had made two chicken dishes. All the dish was cooked in local malada style with a flavour of their speciality. After a sumptuous lunch, we were supposed to go to Shankar falls which was  nearby only. But due to some reasons, it was closed those days. So we decided to pay a visit to a nearby pond(they call it lake :p) after a short break.

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Coffee

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Spiders were ruling the spot!

Around 3:30 PM, we started for the pond. They provided life jackets to everyone for the safety. It was just a 5 min walk from the cottage. But when we reached the pond, we were disappointed. The water wasn’t that clean and it was a small one. Noone was ready to take a plunge in that. Then the staff members jumped in and cleaned the water a bit. Prabina and Britto finally took a plunge. I didn’t risk it as I was out of fever just a few hrs back 😀 And it wasn’t that tempting also.

Then we came back to the cottage and played some games. Some were busy with badminton and a few other with the rifle and bow n arrow.

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Around 5PM ,we started for the sunset point. It was a 15 mins walk from the cottage. The place was awesome. Peace and calmness was in the air. The forest was surround us and a huge mountain at our back. And the sun in its golden glory descending below the horizon. We sat there for quite sometime and enjoyed the golden touch of nature to the fullest. We clicked some awesome sunset pics and made our way to the homestay. It was pitch dark by the time we were returning.

We took a short break and then had snacks: pakoda and fresh filter coffee. After  a while, we lighted up the campfire and started the forest party. We had ordered for pepper-chicken, chicken kabab, chilly chicken and fish fries. They kept bringing one by one and under that almost full-moon night, beside the campfire ; we continued our party. It wasn’t that cold that evening, but it was pleasant weather. The babbling sound of the nearby waterstream was overpowering the powerful of bass of our Bluetooth speaker. It was dense forest around us, but there were two dogs with us all the time. They were just lying beside us and were enjoying the chicken bones. The party went on till late night, then we had our dinner and went back to bed.

Next morning, we had to wake up at 6 am to go on a nearby trek. Britto literally dragged me down out of the bed to wake me up. By 6:30 AM, everyone was all set for the trek. It was 7 km up and down. Though I had done a couple of treks earlier, this was different. Though this was short, but was full of surprises. The route went through the dense forest and to the top of a mountain. There was a butterball there and one could see the surrounding area clearly from up above. The place was a bliss.

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After a tiring, but refreshing trek

We clicked some pics and came back.

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Breakfast was ready by the time we reached the cottage. We packed our bags and did some more shooting before we checked out. The staff member Uday was very courteous. The stay was extremely pleasant.

Jhari Falls:

We then drove to Jhari Falls.which is 48 km away from the homestay and in the same Mulyangiri route. But what we didn’t know that there was a walking distance of around 3km before you reach the waterfall. As it was a Saturday, the waterfall was heavily crowded. This is also called the milky waterfall as the splash of water almost looks white as milk.

Baba Budangiri:

It was just 8 km from Jhari Falls. The weather was cloudy and chilly that day. There is a temple of Baba Budangiri there. There is also a waterfall 3km away and a lake around 4km away from the temple. But as we had less time, we stopped at a nice location, enjoyed the weather a bit and started our return journey.

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A few other points of interest are : Kudremukh, Hebbe Falls etc

It was  a perfect road trip and  a must try with friends if you are nearby Bangalore.

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The Ride, The Riders and the Clicker (Behind the Lense)

Tips:

  • Make sure you don’t have any booze with you when you are going to Mulyangiri. There is a check post before that.
  • On the way to homestay, you’ll find one booze shop at Aldur market and one at Chikmagalur.
  • Take a Bluetooth woofer with you.
  • Take a pair of shoes if you are going for trekking.

 

Reference: Forest Homestay

 


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Mahabalipuram : An Archaeological Brilliance !

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“For me archaeology is not a source of illustrations for written texts, but an independent source of historical information, with no less value and importance, sometimes more importance, that the written sources.” ― Michael Rostovtzeff

Mahabalipuram is one of the best weekend getaways from Chennai, of course after Pondicherry. But it is perfect for a single day outing. It is situated just around 60km away from Chennai and is famous for its archaeological brilliance. It’s also known as Mamallapuram, so don’t get confused.

How to Reach:

Bike:

If you have got a bike, then you shouldn’t worry about the transport part at all. If not, you can rent one. There are plenty of options available at Chennai (Chennaibikerental, Rentrip, Wheelonstreet etc.) . An Avenger will cost you around INR 750 per day and a RE around INR 1000. The road is best for a bike trip spread alongside the Bay of Bengal (East Coast Road). The road runs parallel to the coast of Bay of Bengal making it a scenic driveway, although you will not see the sea until the last few miles.

Car:

If you have access to a car, that’s ice on cake. This route is part of the road to Pondicherry which is listed as Top 10 road trips to take in India. Car rentals (Zoomcar/Myles) are also available at Chennai. You can also go for a cab or Ola/Uber outstation.

Bus:

The cheapest way to travel is by bus. A lot of private buses or MTC buses ply to Mahabalipuram(Mamallapuram). You can catch one from CMBT bus stop(Z568C route) or from Adyar(Bus no 599, 588, 589). I took the MTC Bus-599 and it took my around one and half hour to reach there, but the cost was just INR 30 🙂

There are a few options on the way to Mahabalipuram; like Crocodile Park, off-road riding, Tiger cave. If you are taking the bus option, you might have to miss this. If you’re boarding the bus at Adyar and planning to have lunch, then Top See Restaurant is a good budget hotel.

Things to Do:

Shore Temple:

(Entry fee INR 30 for Indians)

The temple is located just a stone’s throw away from the bus stop and just by the side of the coromandel coast. A pile of rocks has been put to protect the temple against the waves of the Bay of Bengal. The place is full of archaeological marvelous and lush greenery. One could just sit on that lush green grass and behold the architectural beauty for hours.  It is an excellent spot to try out some photography skills.

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The Shore Temple

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Beach:

The beach area though is not huge, but always adds flavor to the trip. A lot of handicraft and other small shops can be found on the way to the beach. The part of the beach near those rocks is somewhat clean, the further you go, the dirtier it gets. A lot of beach resorts are also there. If you’re planning for a night stay, then there are plenty of options.

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Pancha Rathas:

(Entry fee INR 30 for Indians, INR 25 for Videocam)

This is the 2nd best archaeological marvelous at Mahaballipuram or may be the best. There are five(Pancha) stone chariots(Rathas); each of different size and architectural magnificence. Again a heaven for a photographer.  It is just 1km away from the Shore temple.

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Light House:

(Entry fee INR 10 for Indians, INR 30 for Camera)

There are two light houses: one that used to be, one that is. The view from the light house is breathtaking, but you’ll have to climb all those narrow stairs to the top. If anyone likes rock climbing, then it is a heaven for him/her. There are so many climbable rocks here that you just can jump n hop around.  There are a lot of options to hang out here, you just need to explore.

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Towards the end of the day, dark clouds started hovering across the blue sky and it started raining. That just made the trip splendidly beautiful when the dust on greenery washed away.

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Krishna’s Butterball:

It is a gigantic rock stock to the hill. It seems as if just one push will make it roll. An awesome spot for some creative photography.

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Arjuna’s penance and Tiger cave are a few other interest points.

People here are great with stone carving and making stone sculptures. By the side of the road from Pancha Rathas to Lighthouse, you’ll see a number of sculptures and show-pieces.

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Four to five hours is enough to explore the surroundings. The entry to lighthouse closes around 5:30 PM, so plan accordingly. I embarked upon the same bus at around 6 PM for my journey back to Chennai and reached Adyar in 2 hrs.


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Pondicherry: A refreshing weekend getaway

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“Live in the sunshine, Swim in the sea, Drink the wild air !” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My recent relocation to Chennai might give me the opportunity to explore the south, in a thorough manner. What better place can there be to start the journey than Pondicherry (Puducherry). Earlier I had been to south just once covering Cochin – Munnar – Alleppy – Kanyakumari – Rameswaram. There is a lot more to explore here. This was a short trip to the colorful city of beach, booze and bread !

How to reach Pondicherry (from Chennai):

There are various ways available to reach this lively destination. Some significant ways are cab or rented bikes. This is one of the top routes in India for road trip as the highway just runs by the side of the east coast(ECR). We were a group of six friends : Arpit, Prabina, Abhishek, Britto, Navya and myself. Britto being a localite took the charge and planned it. Here as language is a little barrier, so having a localite by your side can save much hassle. A lot of govt/private AC/Non-AC buses ply to Pondicherry. We had to catch a bus from Koyembeddu bus stop, but by mistake we(Arpit & Me) entered a wrong bus-stop in Uber that left us around 3km away from the actual bus-stop. And the bus was just about to leave. As a result, we could have been found running in and out Koyembeddu bus stop with a pic of bus’s number(TN01-AN1539 – see I still remember :p) in our hand. Finally, we boarded the AC govt. bus (fare INR 170 per head) from CMBT bus stop around 7 AM and reached Pondicherry around 10AM.

Bikes : best way to explore Pondicherry

We then directly moved to a bike rental provider(Vijat Arya 2 wheeler rental service) nearby. The owner briefed us on the sightseeing options there at Pondicherry, famous food joints to try out and basic traffic rules. We were reminded to be careful of the one-way routes there. The charge was around INR 400 per day per bike(Activa/Vespa) with min 2 days hire. We moved to our hotel(Hotel Corbelli, located around central market) and after a short refreshment , the journey started.

Paradise Beach:

Paradise beach was our first destination which is the top tourist spot at Puducherry. The last mile to Paradise is to be travelled by boat (to-fro ticket price INR 200 pax).

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One can travel there between 9AM – 5PM as the last boat leaves at 5PM. We reached Paradise beach around noon and the sun was at its peak.

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The sands on the beach had absorbed enough heat by then to roast our foot. Without any further delay, we jumped into the waving water of Bay of Bengal. The beach was extremely clean and well-maintained, but there was nothing available except coconut water 😦 After some 2 hours of gruesome face-to-face with the salty tides, we decided to return. The pointed shells on the beach had injured all of us by then in some way or other.

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After this salty bath, there is a rain-dance facility also available to refresh at a cost of INR 50. Then we returned by boat to the entry point.

At this point, there was just one thing in everyone’s mind : Food. We went to ‘Hot Breads’which was just beside our hotel and had a sumptuous meal of Pizza & Pasta. The food was good and cheap (as tax levied).

Rock Beach:

After a short rest at our room, we moved to Rock beach through the French colony which was just 1km away. The place is well-structured and maintained. This was an Indianized version of Dubai’s famous JBR(Jumeirah beach walk). The road was broad and only walkers were allowed after 5PM. One can sit there on those rocks and watch the sea splashing onto those black rocks leaving a few droplets on your face. The atmosphere there was just serene. There is a small fast-food market there just near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. We tried some Masala Pani Poori, Chat and some fruit salad out of the vast options available there. There is a café (Le Café) just by the sea-side which remains open(not in reality) for 24 hours. A nice place to try some french drinks, coffees or shakes. After chilling there for some more time, we returned to the hotel. The dinner party went on till 2AM at our room and everyone except two went to bed shortly. Prabina and I decided to pay a visit to the Rock beach.

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The beach was deserted, a but a few group were there; some sitting & gossiping, some lying just in wait of the sunrise and a few other in their deep sleep on the benches. The atmosphere couldn’t be explained in words, but can only be experienced: the tune of gushing sea water doing away with the quietness of the surrounding. After enjoying the soft breeze to the core of our heart, we returned to hotel with a hope of getting a glimpse of the sunrise next morning.

Auroville:

I guess that was some high hope :p We woke up around 9AM in the morning. We moved to Shri Aurobindo Ashram first. Then we moved to Auroville. It is a whole world in itself. After watching the short video, we walked till Auroville view point and clicked some pics.

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Shri Aurobindo Ashram

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Auroville

There was a lake around 8km away. We had planned to cover that too. The last 2km was a real pain. With road work under progress, there were only boulder s on the road. But after this when we reached the lake, it was disappointing. It was like a left-out lake due to lack of maintenance.

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We rode back to main city. After enquiring, we got to know there was just one AC bus yet to leave, but all the seats were already booked. The cab was too costly for a one way ride. There were some private AC buses in the evening, but the price was nearly 3 times. Luckily, we came across a bus which had come from Dingul and was on its way to Chennai. Three went to book the seats and the rest went to return the bikes. To utter dismay, the lock of the bikes was found stuck and couldn’t be opened. There were a wallet and some luggage in that. As it was a Sunday, so the repairing shops were also closed. We were running out of time. The bus was about to leave in 10 mins(at 3PM) and there we were, stuck with a lock. Then in desperation, we pulled the seat up and Britto slipped his hands into it and dragged the wallet and other stuffs out. The rental operator was kind enough not to charge for that. We literally run to the bus stop where the bus was on the verge of leaving. Some were even limping with their injured legs. With the grace of Almighty, We boarded the bus at the eleventh hour and that was the end of this awesome and happening journey.

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The Group

Some Other Sightseeing Options:

  • Basilica Church
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Arikmedu
  • Museum
  • French War Memorial

Some food joints to try:

  • Café Xtecy – for wood fired Pizza
  • Le café- for some soft drinks
  • Hot Breads- for authenticate French bread, Pizza & Pasta

PS: And there is one thing very cheap at Pondicherry, need I mention: p

Tips:

  • Protect your foot at Paradise beach from the sharp shells. If possible, take some band-aid’s with you.
  • Booze is not available at Paradise beach anymore, neither you are allowed to take any. Plan accordingly.
  • Be careful of the one-way routes and don’t park your vehicle near Rock beach side after 5PM.
  • Take a soap/Shampoo to paradise beach if you are planning to take a dip in the water.
  • For rented bikes, go to Vijay Arya if you haven’t researched properly.
  • To visit the inner sanctum of Auroville, apply for pass prior to 2-3 days of the visiting day.