A weekend in Chikmagalur

We had our department's annual picnic last weekend. Last year we had been to Monarch Safari Lodge. This time it was Eagle Eye Holiday Home in Chikmagalur. We left Bangalore on Saturday morning in a private bus with no TV or radio in it. To keep everybody entertained, we resorted to singing Bollywood numbers, old and new, with great gusto. Not one to be left behind, the bus driver took a shorter route which only served to prolong the journey with rutted roads thrown in for good measure. Adding insult to injury, he also kept asking for directions when there was only one way to go up. As we neared our destination, we found out that the bus could only go up to a certain point beyond which we had to use jeeps to reach the resort. Finally we reached the place at around 4 P.M. by which time it had started drizzling.

Verdant fields on the way
Verdant fields on the way

After a late lunch, we were given cottages (with thin walls and thatched roofs). As plans were being made for boating the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour. Some remained undaunted by this natural obstacle and went ahead with their boating plan. Some people began playing an improvised form of football, albeit in a badminton court! There were no TVs in the cottages, presumably to keep us closer to nature which meant that we couldn't catch up with the India-Australia cricket match. So a few of us got down to playing carrom on a damp board in the recreation room. That was when we noticed a wooden box in a corner which turned out to be an ancient Optonica TV. We managed to switch it on somehow. The resort had DishTV but it hadn't been configured properly. Hence we could watch only one channel at a time! It didn't matter in the end anyway as the match turned out to be a damp squib (somewhat similar to our situation at that time). The rain continued unabated as we made ourselves comfortable in the gazebo. The incessant rain also poured cold water on the campfire & the activites planned around the same, except for a brief respite during which some kids sang nursery rhymes of which "Twinkle twinkle" was the only familiar one. The kindergarten syllabus has changed a lot since our days ;-).

For the night, six of us repaired to the tree house. We were given an electric lantern to find our way in the darkness as the tree house was some distance away from the centre of the resort. The tree house wasn't as cold as we expected it to be. And surprisingly there were no mosquitoes. Hurricane lamps and a lampshade-moderated bulb were the only sources of light. A different experience altogether.

A tree house
A tree house

The next morning some people went on a short trek (which I ditched). The rains had relented & we finally put the slippery badminton court to some good use. A group then left for seeing the Bhadra river. We went out to the pond where there were coracles and facilities for fishing. Then the rains decided to make an appearance & eventually ensured that we were delayed for lunch which meant that we couldn't leave the place till 3 P.M. The return journey was much faster and smoother as the driver took a different route this time.

A panoramic view of the pond
A panoramic view of the pond

Chikmagalur is a great place to visit, but the resort could do with some improvement. The food wasn't that great and the facilities didn't match up to the amount that was charged for them. Nevertheless, a well-deserved break for us.

Tags : Travel

Posted by Rajat @ 9:49 PM   |  Comments


[Continued from my last post]

We did manage to catch the first bus the next day, despite a drizzle being our steady companion on our walk from the hotel to the bus stand. Our return journey proved to be a much better visual treat. The curves and bends in the roads and the way the roads snaked up and down the hills had a soothing effect on us, which served to dispel much of the previous day's misery (which Seal preferred to refer to as "Kett(a) Kanas(u)" - Kannada for nightmare). At one point during our journey, a fellow seated in the same row as us, got up and gave me some change, leaving me nonplussed. Then he explained that a temple would be there on the roadside and I would have to throw the dakshina into it (I was occupying the window seat). There were other people who were doing the same and I managed to ensure that the coins landed safely inside the temple. We finally landed up in Pune at around 11.30 A.M.

The evening saw us at a mall called E-Square where Figure treated us to a show of X-Men : The Last Stand. Thusly I managed to maintain my long standing habit of watching the sequels before the prequels themselves. Nevertheless I enjoyed the movie (I had actually seen the preview on TV in Mahabaleshwar. What's more, I had TD beside me).

Later in the evening, we bade goodbye to dear Figya and set out for our pickup point near Swar Gate. Obtaining the bus tickets had been a challenge too. We had neglected to book them early on. On our return from Mahabaleshwar, we found them to be at a premium. Backup plans had been quickly made - bus to Mangalore for a visit to our alma mater, bus to Belgaum, bus to Hyderabad (TD's plan). In the end, thankfully, we didn't have to resort to these plans.

After a comfortable bus ride (saw the laugh riot, Hulchul and the predictable 'thriller' Aksar), we reached Bangalore in the afternoon. As we got down, wating auto drivers offered to get us lodging in the "cheap-n-best" hotels. I waved one away with a "no thanks" in Hindi, before remembering that I could get back to using Kannada for my quotidian transactions. I smiled at my absent-mindedness and as the camera zoomed out, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and began the long walk home, with the wind ruffling my hair and some vague instrumental music playing in the background. We proceeded to 'thumb' a passing auto for a ride back home.


Tags : Travel

Posted by Rajat @ 10:44 PM   |  Comments

Asses in Alibaug

[Continued from my last post]

The next morning we (Figya included) boarded the Sinhagad Express (Pune to Mumbai) at 6.30. Our plan (rather Seal's) was to reach Karjat, catch a local train to Neral and take the toy train from there to our ultimate destination, Matheran. Seal had also assured us that the journey from Pune to Karjat would be a feast for the eyes and that getting up early would be worth it and for that matter, even a night out would be justified. As luck would have it, ultimately, we were left searching for reasons to justify the jaunt itself.

Firstly, the Sinhagad Express turned out to be supremely crowded. We jostled for leg room with the coffee/tea vendors scurrying around dispensing their wares, not to mention other vendors selling vada pav and chikki. And the view or whatever we managed to glimpse over the heads of the crowd wasn't exactly picturesque.

At Karjat, we took a local to Neral. Aboard the train, we learnt that the toy train had been cancelled a year ago, after heavy rains had washed away the tracks. We got down at Neral & debated our next move, eventually deciding to proceed to Alibaug, for which we would need to catch a bus from Karjat. So another local back to Karjat. (Figya suggested not buying the tickets - luckily we didn't listen to him - at Karjat we were asked to produce the tickets to go out of the station).

Snap of Karjat Bus Stand
A panoramic view of the Karjat bus stand

Snap of the bus
The bus itself!

We boarded the bus to Alibaug only to find that it went only till a place called Pen (pronounced 'pane', with a hard 'n'). After having had our first 'meal' of the day in Pen, we managed to hire an auto to Alibaug. In Alibaug, a room at Hotel Shreyas left us 800 odd bucks poorer. Once we were settled, heavy cursing ensued, with the mantle of Chief Scapegoat being passed around.

In the evening we set out for the bus stand to enquire about the first bus to Pune the next morning. We found a bakery nearby which was run by some people from Hubli and we ended up contributing our mite to their day's collections. We went to the beach next. Whatever meagre hopes of redemption we had were promptly dashed on the rocks on the beach and buried under its dirty brown sands. There was a fort which was on an island by itself, making it more or less inaccessible. Perfectly safe from any kind of intruders!

Snap of the fort in Alibaug
The fort in Alibaug

Snap of the sunset in Alibaug
Sunset in Alibaug

As the sun set on a long day, we trudged back to the room to spend an equally long night. As we braved the bloodsuckers and creepy-crawlies in the room, our only prayer was for a safe passage away from "Ali's garden".

Next : Epilogue

Tags : Travel

Posted by Rajat @ 10:41 PM   |  Comments

Morons in Mahabaleshwar

[Continued from my last post]

We reached the Shivajinagar bus stand at around 8.30 A.M., only to find out that a bus had left for Mahabaleshwar at 7.45 A.M. and the next one would start out only at 10 o'clock. A private bus seemed to be the only recourse and so, we took an auto to the Swar Gate bus stand.

We boarded a private bus which would take us to Mahabaleshwar Phata. The fellow who sold us the tickets had assured us that we would find a constant stream of buses and jeeps waiting at the Phata to transport us to the hill station. Alas! At the Phata, the few buses which we saw didn't even stop for us. We ended up catching a shared rickshaw to a place called Vayi, 12 kms from the Phata and around 30 odd kms from our destination. TD found a fairly comfortable seat at the front. Seal and myself found seats at the back. Along with 9 other people. With one of them sitting on a battery. And another on a small stool. Next to me was an old man who kept nodding his head incessantly at nobody in particular. Resigned smiles were exchanged as the auto sped towards Vayi.

Subject to TD's persuasive arguments, we gave up the Vayi bus stand as a hopeless case and hailed a taxi to Mahabaleshwar. Our taxi driver, a loquacious Rajput gave us tips on what to do at the hill station and finally deposited us at an expensive hotel. He agreed to send his brother, also a taxi driver, the next day to take us around Mahabaleshwar. Starving as we were, we feasted at a place called Rasoi - The Family Restaurant at Hotel The Kalpana Excellency (sic).

In the afternoon, it started raining heavily - the first rains of May. In the evening, the rains subsided somewhat and we set out on foot to explore the tourist trap where we had landed. We managed to cajole TD to accompany us to the pièce de résistance of Mahabaleshwar, the Venna Lake.

Snap of Venna Lake
Venna Lake

Fortunately for us, we encountered the aforementioned taxi driver who obligingly took us to the lake. Along the way, he revealed that he had spent nine years in the docks of Mumbai, arguably, dangerous environs to reside in. He seemed to have moved here for a 'quieter life'. He also found it amusing that 3 singles had landed in a haven for families and honeymooning couples. As night settled in, the weather turned pretty cold with mists swirling about us. The whole of Mahabaleshwar doesn't receive TEN Sports - so we had to sleep without watching the India-West Indies one dayer.

The next day we took a taxi trip to most of the major tourist spots in Mahabaleshwar - Kate's point, Echo point, Lodwick's point, Elephant's Head and Sunset point.

Snap of Elephant's Head
Elephant's Head

After having had our fill of these spots, we hurried back to the bus stand to catch the earliest direct bus out of the place.

Next : Asses in Alibaug

Tags : Travel

Posted by Rajat @ 3:28 PM   |  Comments

Pinheads in Pune

Here's a quick question for you to answer :

If you checked out flights to Delhi, with your final destination being Shimla, googled for tourist spots in Kerala and considered the merits of a taxi trip through the Western Ghats in Karnataka, where would you finally end up?

  1. Shimla
  2. Some place in Kerala
  3. Some place in Karnataka
  4. None of the above

Well, this objective question seems to be a bit subjective. In our case (myself, TD and Seal), the correct answer turned out to be 4 - we ended up going to Pune in Maharashtra.

On our journey to Pune on a Sunday night in a KSRTC bus, we were treated to Run - a movie which I had already seen on TV (not exactly watchable, except for the cute Bhumika Chawla). The next day had No Entry (a "no brains necessary" comedy, and a huge hit at that), following which a trailer for Veer-Zaara flashed past the screen. TD had just about stopped cribbing about it when out came a familiar and ominous vrooming followed by, what else, but Dhoom. Thankfully the "cult classic" couldn't continue for long as we had reached the Pune bus stand by then. From there we hailed an autorickshaw and proceeded to meet our local benefactor, Ananth (popularly known as Figure). (In Pune, the autorickshaws display the distance you have travelled, which when multiplied by 6 and summed up with 2 yields the actual fare. I prefer the Bangalore method, a no-brainer - just dish out the amount displayed, provided it is within reasonable limits)

In the evening, we roamed around the "happening" areas of Pune - Fergusson College Road (FC Road) named after Fergusson College and the Junglee Maharaj Road. While we loafed around, we noticed one strange thing - a large number of people, especially females had scarves wound around their faces, presumably to counter the deleterious effects of the heavily polluted air of Pune. Hell, I even spotted some talking through their scarves!!!

The staple diet of Maharashtra seems to be Vada Pav. Seal, the erstwhile Mumbai cha Mulga (Marathi for "son of Mumbai") displayed a marked inclination to drool over the omnipresent "delicacy" and could hardly stop chanting its name. Naturally, we got fed up of this whole pav business.

We retired for the night with plans to proceed to Mahabaleshwar the next morning.

Next : Morons in Mahabaleshwar

Tags : Travel

Posted by Rajat @ 10:30 PM   |  Comments