Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Of the Birds of Nalaban and the stretches of Salt Waters of Chilika

This post is dedicated to the nomadic, long awaiting, a pastoral and a thoroughly adventurous bon voyage. Ever wondered how good or bad is it to travel alone. A friends wedding was more than a reason I could have had to plan a journey to a place I had been longing to go to. A two and a half hours flight from Bangalore to Bhubaneshwar and then a stretch of 60km from Bhubaneshwar to one of the 'Char dhams', Jagannath Puri that took about two and half hours. Char Dhams are the four holy abodes that are widely revered by most of the Hindus. The journey from Bhubaneshwar to Puri took such long primarily because of the single lane road. The main deity in Puri is Shri Krishna. The temple is humongous and we just need to be aware of the Sadhus who normally would catch you at the gate and talk about taking you to the shrine directly by passing the crowd. Just do not heed to their talks. I visited the temple and then there was a Maha Prasad being distributed at nominal rates. I had the special Khichadi served at this temple and was off to Puri beach. Puri beach is clean and beautiful but having seen a lot of beaches on the Konkan and Kerala, this did not come as a great enticement to me. I left Puri and reached Bhubaneshwar by 7.30 pm to attend my friend's wedding. Having attended the wedding the next day, I had planned to visit Chilika lake on the next day of the wedding. I was told by the people in hotel that I would get a bus from 'Barmunda' bus stand.

At 4.30 am I took an auto to Barmunda bus stand thinking I would catch the earliest bus. However, the first bus was only at 5.30 am and I had to wait for an hour. I sipped a cup of hot tea and some favorite Parle-G biscuits at one of the tea stall. The buses here are privately operated and they wait for the bus to get full to start off. So by the time the bus left Bhubaneshwar it was almost 6 am and the village I had to reach was called Balugaon which was about 100km form here. However, now the road was a four lane one and it took just about two and a half hours to reach this place. From Balugaon I took a tempo to a place called Barkul which is about 6 km from Balugaon. The auto guy dropped me till the Orissa Tourism office. I went to their service desk and inquired about the various options to visit the bird sanctuary. So there are primarily two attractions in Chilika lake, one is Kalijai temple and Nalaban Island which is the bird sanctuary. They operate individual as well as combined to and fro tours to both these places. Being a weekday, there were hardly any tourist and my motto of the trip was to visit the famour Chilika Bird Sanctuary. Chilika is the biggest salt water lake in Asia and it has these migratory birds start coming in from November and be here till about February. December and January are the best months to visit this place. So I decided to hire a motor boat alone and payed a discounted price of Rs 1350 for a marked price of Rs 1500. However, here is where I thought a bigger group would have helped share such a big amount. But having come all the way and not seeing this sanctuary was a big NO NO. The sanctuary tour is a round about 3.5 hours tour. It was slightly foggy even at 10 am and as I was travelling deeper towards the Nalaban Bird Sanctuary it was only water everywhere. I could hardly see a stretch of land. As we approached the sanctuary, we started getting a glimpse of a few birds who were perching on the trees that grew in the water with their branches protruding out of water. Till ambit of my vision could stretch I could hardly differentiate water and the skies. Such awe-inspiring was the sight. We reached the bird sanctuary. However, you cannot go too close to the birds as they tend to fly away. At this point I realized the importance of having a camera with high zoom, infact a DSLR and now I have decided to buy one before my next big trip. However, I did click a few snaps but to my misfortune they were not that great. I am not a photographer either so all the more bad :). Then we returned to the office. I had the yummy Orissa special prawns curry for lunch and then there were a group of people willing to go to Kalijai Temple. I too decided to go with them. That was like a 2 hour to and fro trip. We left the bank at 3.15 pm and were back by 5.15 pm. I had to catch a train for Howrah from Balugaon at 7 pm. I reached Balugaon and boarded the train. Penning down a verse for this experience
An expedition that stirred my kinesthesia
Omnipresence of dampness was an epitome of nirvana
Till the ambit of my vision could stretch
I could hardly differentiate the water and skies

Birds so unwary and unperturbed
Had traversed miles along to reach Nalabans
There were umpteen varieties
And only if you were an ornithologist would you be able to identify

Everytime I get closer to nature
I discover new things
And this time it was about coexistence of man and nature
God save the nature from the fury of man
Else it will be in no less time that we will stranded amidst a barren land...

I would recommend one and all to visit this very beautiful place and experience the bliss of solitude. Anywhere I go I only wish I had a day extra or a day had forty eight hours :)....

Till the ambit of my vision could stretch,I could hardly differentiate the water and skies...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Motorcycle Diaries - 2 - Mekedatu

A few phone calls, a quick but supposedly an organized plan made on Friday night. We were set for Bheemeshwari. I had read that Bheemeshwari is located between Mekedatu and Shivanasamudram. So the plan was to go to Bheemeshwari and then Shivanasamudram. Davu on his Bajaj Caliber and Jalan and me on my Unicorn. We started off at 7 in the morning, b
reakfast at Adigas on Bannerghatta Road we set off at about 8.15 am.

A dream drive on NICE road which is no less than the Mumbai Pune Express

highway lest the mountains through which the Mumbai Pune highway runs. A left on the NICE Road towards Kanakapura on NH209 and you are moving towards Bheemeshwari. We saw sign boards of Karnataka Tourism pointing to Mekedatu which seemed to be the closest point and took a decision to visit Mekedatu. At Kanakapura you get a small diversion to left. This is what you need to take to reach Mekedatu.
This was a thoroughly rustic drive, deep down the villages, narrow roads, mud houses with not so strong roofs, the smells of dung used for mopping the veranda floors in the villages, the villagers going around adorned in their traditional attires and the children waving to the by passers. The smiles on their faces are so animated that you cant but resist waving your hand back at them. Everything looks so adorable and I it simply feels good.

After about two and half hours drive we reached Mekedatu. 'Meke' in Telugu means Goat and 'Datu' means Cross. Literally this is a place where the river becomes so narrow that even a goat can cross over. This place you reach first is called Sangam. 'Sangam' means

a join of two or more rivers. At Sangam, Cauvery and Bhadravati are the two rivers that join to form just a single river, Cau

very. We need to cross this river at the Sangam in a 'coracle' to reach the other side. Once you reach the other side of the river, there is a bus awaiting you to take you to Mekedatu. This bus seems to be like the most antique collections of Karnataka
Tourism and I bet no other bus would be better suited for the kind of terrain it is from the river to Mekedatu. Its sturdy and easily driven on terrain. We missed on clicking the pic of this bus, but surely one of the best pieces to be produced by Tatas. Once you reach the spot, you need to go down the stairs and there is a pleasent surprise awaiting your senses. The very sight of watching water gushing at speeds through this narrow gorge makes leaves one stupefied. At this spot alone the water is gushes at a jet speed and then after about 200 metres it enters a slightly wider area where the speed reduces. We took a detour on the rocks to reach the area where the speed of water had slightly reduced. The rocks here were so different. Very smooth and I wonder how they were like that. It would be probably because of the erosion of the river water. Though they were smooth, they did not seem to be slippery. We spent some time around and then decided to push off. This was surely a wonderful place to be in.

Then we paced our vehicles towards Bheemeshwari which was about 25 km from this place. We had to reach a place
called Muthaati. We reached this place and wanted to have lunch and were told by the villagers that we would get it at a resort which was about 6 km from this place. We went about in search
of this resort. This was Jungle Resort which I had read about. However, you need to reserve a room in advance here without which there is no entry here. Moreover, this is the main attraction in Bheemeshwari as Jungle Resorts have a package which includes various activities like rafting, trekking, fishing etc. We had to resort to a roadside hotel for some food. It was rice and sambhar cooked on firewood. The taste was good and the waiter chacha more than happy to serve this delicacy. He asked me atleast thrice if I liked the food and I nodded a big 'Yesss'. That was the it. We started back on our way back to Bangalore. Bheemeshwari was kind of disappointing as we did not have much to see here. I would suggest one should do an advance booking and come to this place.

All in all this was another great trip I had. Mekedatu and Bheemeshwari are 2 destinations very close to Bangalore and make up for a good one day outing. Another one to add to my list of destinations and kudos to my friends who made this happen !!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Motorcycle Diaries - 1- Wayanad

The very title here is an indication of what this post is going to be about. Yes it was my first ever bike trip. Another enduring, animated, serene and blissful experience to the wish list.

60..65..70..engines stroking 3000 rpm...the bikes roaring on the dark roads; zooming past the wide paths me, Shreyas and Anuj set off on our bike trip to Wayanad. Dinner on the way on
Mysore road at Kamat's and a night halt at Hotel Mayura in Srirangapatinam, just enough to accomodate three of us in a room but at 450 bucks was worth, considering the time for which we had to halt. We freshned up in the morning, a cup of tea and we started off at 6 am to Wayanad, Via Nanjangud, Gundulpet, Bandipur. It took us no less than 3 hours to reach Wayanad that too with pit stops on the way to enjoy the drive.

Once we crossed Gundulpet, I felt like I have entered into a different world altogether. I saw stretches of pink, orange, white - the eye catching sight of marigold flowers was astonishing. After Gundulpet, the roads narrow, enough to accommodate just two heavy vehicles. On both the sides you would lose sight of the surroundings as the trees become denser at every passe. The Bandipur Tiger reserve is one of the biggest reserves in India. It has a good tiger density. It is surrounded by four other national parks, totaling a area of more than 8000 sqkm. Too much of facts..So here we were driving through this bio reserve, a sensation in the truest sense. We were lucky to sight peacocks, deers and monkeys. As we moved closer to the Kerala border, the bamboo trees on both sides of the road, made a gate like formation as though waiting to welcome us.

We touched the Kerala border with a board reading 'Kerala State Welcomes You -NH 212". We were now hardly about 30 km from Wayanad. We were still travelling through the dense forests but now a part of Kerala and it was called Muthunga Wildlife Sanctuary.We reached Wayanad, freshned up, planned our trip in consultation with the guys in the reception at the hotel. We had decided to cover three places for the day. After a good lunch, we started off for Suchipura Falls.

Suchipura Falls was about 40 km from the place where we had stayed. It
was again a joyous ride through the mountainous area and the enchanting tea estates sprinkled with the drizzling rains. The very sight of these tea estates leaves an indelible impression on the mind. I still feel the freshness of the place when I write this today. We reached Suchipura falls. The entrance to this place was so narrow that at a time only one bus could go. I still wonder how these buses managed to come here, 'Salaam' to the drivers who drive in such tough conditions. The whole place
was surrounded by mountains and the dense clouds were settling over these mountains. We climbed down to the falls and it was .....I am speechless. Awesomeness and indeed this was the sight which I had never ever witnessed in my life.It seemed as though the gravitational pull of the earth was not normal here. Water was gushing and the very force of it hitting the boulders around that area spilled the water on us. I just wanted to stay there for some more time but we had to finish other places too. From here we went to Pukada Lake. This was a small lake with boating. However, only 2 boats were operational because of the shortage of water jackets. We still enjoyed the place for the Kerala banana chips and some hot Bread Omlette. From there we went to the View Point. It is the tallest point in Wayanad and the end of Wayanad district and beginning of Kozhikode district. At this point we were 55 km off Kozhikode. Well as regards the View Point, this was again unique.
You could see caps all around, curves and bends and vehicles running on them, size no more than an ant. From there on we went to see a place called Chain tree. Legend has that there was a Britisher who tied up a Soul or Atma (as they call it in Hindi) to this tree with a chain so that it did not
trouble him. Wonder how true this is? When I was reading about this place, it was like a tale. From there on we grabbed a tea and then proceeded on our way back. We reached Wayanad and then decided to grab a drink at the nearby Prince hotel as our hotel did not serve drinks. We went to this place but it was shoddy and decided to stick to the stuff we had carried. 3 pegs of Blenders Pride and a deep sleep after a long and little tiring drive throughout the day. This was our day 1 in Wayanad.

Next day we decided to go to Kuruvu Island. There was a confusion whether this was open or not. After talking to people and nobody being certain about it, we decided to drive down to Kuruva Island. It was again a 40 km drive. We drove down and this time again the experience was different. I wonder sometimes how could things be so different within a stretch of a few kilometers.Well we reached Kuruvu Dweep to find out that the road to reach this place was under construction and this place was closed. We had to come back. But no regrets as we had thoroughly enjoyed our drive through the dense jungles of Wayanad.

We packed our bags, vacated the rooms and after a light lunch, started on our way back at 3 pm. Now was the actual tiresome part and boring too. Tiresome because we would have to drive continuously and boring because we were getting back to our routine. But we were determined. We drove with an hourly break. On our way back we had our dinner at Kamat. We had the traditional Kannadiga meals which was unique again. Jowar Roti with Baigan Sabji, a combination which I had after a long time. Rains played a spoilt sport at this moment when we left from Kamat. The visibility had come down and I drove with a great difficulty and managed to reach back Bangalore.

Truely Kerala is called Gods Country. You need to drive through the landscapes, see as far as your eyes can stretch, hear the sounds of the jungles and feel it in your nerves.... Here is a gist of the trip expressed by an amateur poet....

Engines stroking and the bikes roaring
With a feeling of gaiety we sparked off on our bon voyage
Driving on the wide roads away from the city traffic
Was a bliss of its sorts

The morning dawned turning off the dark night
The shades of colors becoming prominent with every kilometers drive
Orange, Pink and White were the shades of Marigold
Stretching a span till the eyes could see, they were all over

The roads narrowed and the jungles widened
The forests only became denser and colder
The sight of peacocks and deer at a point blank range was adorable
The silence of this place was very audible

The bamboo trees were umpteen in numbers
Their branches creating a labyrinth as though waiting just to welcome
The destination was beckoning
But felt like the journey should never come to an ultimatum

Every passe was a unique panorama
From thick dense forests to tea estates
To waterfalls to a valley
The vista of Gods Own Country was a mesmerizing story...

Friday, August 6, 2010

काश मैं लिख पता...

छोटी छोटी चित्रायी यादें
बिछी हुई है लम्हों की लौ पर
नंगे पैर उनपर चलते चलते
इतनी दूर चले आये
कि अब भूल गए है -
जूते कहाँ उतारे थे

एडी कोमल थी, जब आये थे
थोड़ी सी नाजुक है अभी भी
और नाजुक ही रहेगी
इन खट्टी-मीठी यादों कि शरारत
जब तक इनहे गुदगुदाती रहे

सच, भूल गए है
कि जूते कहाँ उतारे थे
पर लगता है,
अब उनकी ज़रुरत नहीं...

जो लहरों के आगे तुम देख पाते तो तुम जान लेते मैं क्या सोचता हूँ,
वो आवाज़ तुमको जो भिड जाती तो तुम जान लेते मैं क्या सोचता हूँ,
जिद का तुम्हारा जो पर्दा सरकता तो खिडकियों से आगे भी तुम देख पाते,
आँखों से आदतों की पलकें हटाते तोह तुम जान लेते मैं क्या सोचता हूँ.

मेरी तरह खुद पर होता जरा भरोसा तो कुछ दूर तुम भी साथ-साथ आते,
रंग मेरी आँखों का बनते थे जरा सा तो कुछ दूर तुम भी साथ-साथ आते,
नशा आसमान का जो चूमता तुम्हे भी, हसरतें तुम्हारी नया जनम पाती,
खुद दुसरे जनम में मेरी उड़ान छूने कुछ दूर तुम भी साथ-साथ आते.

Courtesy - Movie Udaan