Sunday, June 11, 2017

Yercaud,Tamil Nadu.

Temperature 43 Deg.Chennai.I was waiting in the Koyembedu Bus Stand for my Bus to Salem.As usual I had my Quechua Rucksack with me which was quite heavy.By the time I completed my search for the correct platform my shirt was wet with sweat.I reached there 15mins before the departure time and after showing my ticket to the Driver I made by way to my seat which was in the last row.The heat was making the inside of the bus suffocating.After an unbearable 10 minutes, the bus started and finally I could breathe easy with the air blowing in from the windows.An hour later I slowly drifted into sleep.

Next day morning I woke up to cool air caressing my face.As I opened my weary eyes and looked out I noticed that the bus was cruising along the roads of Salem. It had rained the previous night and the temperature was cool.The roads were still wet and the air was fresh.This change in climate from the last evenings atrocious conditions livened up my spirits.

After reaching the bus stand I quickly started searching for a local bus to Yercaud and found one just opposite to where I alighted.After a quick confirmation about the destination I boarded the bus and sat snugly near a window seat with my bag on my lap. The local bus had the typical mix of passengers.There were some villagers clad in dhoti kurta.A couple of tourists like myself.Then a few students with bags maybe going home for the weekend.The person who sat beside me tried to initiate small talk in tamil. In reply I said only two words 'tamil illa'. He smiled and kept quiet.The bus departed on time and after a brief run through the streets the climb started.At the base the elevation is around 200MSL.The bus wound its way through the numerous hair pin bends as it gained elevation. The views were excellent. The weather was refreshingly cool and after the previous day's torture in the Chennai heat this was heaven.

After an hour the the bus reached Yercaud.The altitude in my watch was reading 1300MSL which for me is quite exciting.Yercaud is a pretty little town.Our bus made its way past little dwellings beside the road and a beautiful lake which is a staple of all hill stations in India.Far away on the hill sides I could spot hotels perched right on the edge of cliffs. I reached Yercaud Bus Stand around 8am an hour after I boarded the bus from Salem. The bus stand offers beautiful view of the town.It stands on a slope with one side fenced off. I walked over to this fence to have a look at the view. Before I could even take in the views a faint stench of urine hit me. From what I could gather this point had become an unofficial toilet. I was dismayed by this. Here was an excellent viewpoint and you make it a place to piss. Nevertheless I made my way over to the railing and had a good look around.From here the whole town was visible and right on the opposite side on the hill were some resorts.

From the bus stand I made my way to Hotel Shoba which I had booked just a day before.It is located very near, on the right side once you exit the bus stand. I checked in, put my stuff in and went out for breakfast. I had steaming hot dosa in a small nondescript hotel nearby. The taste was heavenly.They have only two dishes. Dosa and Idly. I recommend a visit to this hotel if you are anywhere nearby the bus stand.

After this hearty breakfast I made my way back to my room. It was a simple affair with a neat bed, a teapoy and a chair. A window offered views of an abandoned bungalow nearby. I quickly took a refreshing bath and tucked in for a nap.

I woke up in the afternoon thoroughly refreshed. The temperature was still around 25 and I just wanted to have my lunch and go back to sleep. But somehow I got up and went out. I decided to  skip all the touristy spots and just go for a big long walk around town. I started off from my hotel crossed the bus stand to my right and continued to walk towards the lake that I had see earlier while coming on the bus. The lake was swarmed by tourists everywhere. All the roads beside it were filled by them. Even then the lake looked mesmerizing.There were a lot of paddle boats moving around in the lake and the sight was quite pretty. I looked around for a place to eat and found one.It was nothing to write about.Poor service and poor food. Next I went round the lake and took a stroll inside a park there. Again it was swamped with tourists and I was not feeling enthusiastic about spending any time here so I took a few pics and went out. I continued on the same street and gradually the number of people began to dwindle. The crowd was limited to the lake. Far away now I could see I was in the quieter part of the town.

I looked around and found out that I was on the opposite side of the hill on which the Bus stand and my hotel is situated. So basically its like the town is divided into two parts on two hills.Typical small town dwellings lined both sides of the road. Nothing remarkable here. From this part I slowly made my way to the opposite side. I took many random turns going where my heart told me go at that instant. I was in no hurry. Soon I fond myself in a street with a dead end. Just near on the end to the right in between two small houses, a bit down below I saw a pretty tower jutting out from a branches of a tree.It reminded me of the watchtowers in the videogame 'Age of Empires'.I kept staring at the tower trying to figure out what it was when a passerby asked me something in Tamil. I had no idea what she said. I simply pointed at the tower and said 'just looking'. She indicated that I can go down on a path and said its a church.I thanked her and I started making my way down to the church on the rough mud path. I met a person going in the opposite direction. I asked for the proper path and he guided me to the church and to the exit which went around the church. After  a minutes walk I emerged behind the exquisite church. It was a sight to behold. I was spellbound by the architecture. I love heritage buildings and this was one beautiful building.

From here I joined the streets again. Other highlights of my walk were walking past the Monfort School with its stunning location and excellent grounds. Then the Notre Dame Estate which lies on a small hill of its own.Again stunning location. The building also looked magnificent and reminded me of the grand manors of the Victorian Era.There were many small pretty cottages which which all the English look about them. I made a mental note to look for an accommodation in these kind of cottages the next time I come to Yercaud.

After this lovely walk I made my way back to my hotel room. The sun was about to set and I didn't want to be out in the lonely streets after dark.(The bus stand area was pretty crowded even after dark but the streets out in the far away hills were lonely.) After a dinner of dosas in one of the small restaurants nearby I called it a day and tucked in for the night.
The Library and Sports Club Building

The next morning I went for a stroll again and this time I went to a different part. The winding streets and the pretty cottages again made my morning refreshing. After breakfast in the same hotel I checked out form my hotel and went to the bus stand. A bus was ready to depart for Salem and I boarded it.I reached Salem at around 11am. I finally reached my home in Nellore at 1am in the night.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chandragiri Fort, Andhra Pradesh.

Chandragiri is a small village 15kms away from Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.This small nondescript village doesn't attract many serious travelers and is frequented mainly by the local populace.But there was a time in History when this place and its fort held much significance.After the defeat of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire in the Battle of Talikota, the Vijayanagara Kings shifted their capital from Hampi to first Penukonda and then again to Chandragiri. Built in the 11th century its years of prominence were from 1367,when it came under the Vijayanagar Empire till 1792 when it slowly faded into obscurity.   

Now it lies silently amidst the barren lands surrounding it, coming alive only on weekends when throngs of people swarm its corridors oblivious of its history and only interested in the park surrounding it.

A few days back I visited this place from Nellore. I took a RTC bus from the RTC Bus stand in the city to reach  Tirupati.It took 3 hours for this part. From Tirupati I boarded another bus which dropped me in the small nondescript village of Chandragiri after a brief journey of 30 mins.

From the village one has to walk a few hundred metres to the fort complex. It was a Sunday and just a few metres away the road was lined up with cars on both the sides which was a bit unexpected. I don't like crowds and on top of that this was a crowd here not for the fort but for the park. Anyway I resigned to my fate and walked in.There is a ticket counter for entry. The fort complex has two palaces and a park near the point of entry but sadly access to the actual fort on the top of the hill is restricted, I have no idea why.Of the two palaces the first is called the Raja Mahal and the other is called, you guessed it, the Rani Mahal.

Raja Mahal
The Raja Mahal is a beautiful structure with three floors of arched windows on the front and a gopuram like structure on the top.It now houses a museum.The museum has nothing much to look at except a couple of sections. The first section which I liked was the Document section. There were a few documents from the 1810s detailing the correspondence between the then king and a British officer. It was fascinating to look at.Then there was the Coins section which had many Vijaynagara coins on display. Apart from these, other interesting displays were a full chain mail and a model of the Chandragiri Fort complex. After looking at the objects with interest and looking at the people with disgust I made my way out of the museum and headed over to the Rani Mahal.

Rani Mahal
The Rani Mahal looked as if the builder of the complex put his all efforts in the Raja Mahal and when the time came to build the Rani Mahal, lost all his interest. The front of the structure is plain and bland. I walked towards it hoping that maybe the inside will be better but I was disappointed. The moment I entered I found myself at the end. Thats how small that is. Reminded me of Munnabhai's Circuit's famous dailogue 'ye to shuru hote hi khatam hogaya'. I sat here on the grass on the other side of the building and took some much needed rest. The sun was shining relentlessly on the whole time and I was soaked wet with sweat.I saw a lot of couples here looking for privacy. I left soon not wanting to spoil these couples' 'quality' time and wandered over to the quiet canteen at the corner of the complex.

I had some snacks here and a bottle of Fanta. After spending some nice quiet time here I left when some noisy uncles and aunties entered. After spending some 3 hours in the complex I left .

Boating facility for the visitors
Chandragiri was a part of my 7 day trip I had planned during my Engineering Days which couldn't materialize due to lack of availability friends. Since those days a lot of things have changed and I have took to Solo traveling. I was glad I could visit one of the places from that unfinished trip. Still have many places to cover.

Where- Chandragiri Village near Tirupati,India
How to Reach - A lot of RTC buses pass by this small village.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In Review 2016

In Review-2016
2016 was an okay year for me.Not bad but not too good either.The best part was the trip to Bhutan.It was my first trip out of India.Then there were a couple of trips to remote villages of Chhattisgarh. And there was the Scuba Diving experience in Pondicherry.Totally out of the world experience.
Finally on a trip to Bangalore I visited the Bangalore Palace and the HAL Aerospace Museum.

On a side note this year Bongyatra interviewed me and I got to write an article for Thomas Cook.

So here goes the Recap in Pics

First trip was to Bhutan.

Taktsang Monastery in Paro
 Here are the posts
Everything you need to know about the Bhutan's Druk Path trek
Prologue.Trekking Trip to Bhutan
Hike to Taktsang Monastery,Bhutan
Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 1 
 Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 2
Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 3
Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 4
Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 5

One of our Campsites during the Druk Path trek
 Then we visited what was till recently one of the most remote places in India, Devpahri in Chhattisgarh.

In September I did Scuba Diving in Pondicherry.
Scuba Diving in Pondicherry,India. Part 1: The Training Day.
Scuba Diving in Pondicherry, India. Part 2: Sea Dive Day

Next month on a trip to Bangalore I visited the HAL Aerospace Museum and the Bangalore Palace.
HAL Aerospace Museum.Bangalore,India.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

District Archeological Museum, Nellore.

Nellore has a Museum.Yes it does. Nobody, to whom I asked about this knew there was a museum in Nellore.Not the shopkeepers nearby my home, not the colleagues at office and not even the autowallahs. Everybody drew a blank at the mention of a Museum.Nevertheless I searched for it and made two attempts to visit it and on last Wednesday I got lucky. It was open.

Nellore District Museum is located in Saraswati Nagar on the Magunta under bridge road. It is a small red colored nondescript building. It houses some 7 sections. The first one has displays of tools of neolithic and paleolithic age which were found around Nellore. Second section has some terracotta and Bidri works.Then there is one where a number of swords and firearms are kept. For me only one section stood out. That was the one displaying coins. There were many coins of different eras and kings. The best were 6 coins of Roman period which were found near the coasts of Andhra Pradesh signifying the trade relations the people of Satavahana period enjoyed with the Romans. There are some Gold coins too on display.

The only other area of interest were a few pieces of Ming era vases and dishes.

This museum is only good for the local school kids for an introduction to archeology and History.  


Quick Facts:
Location - Left side on the Magunta under bridge road leading to KVR petrol pump.
Timings- 10 30am to 5 00 pm.
Entry Fee - Rs3
Fee for Camera - Rs20

Monday, December 12, 2016

HAL Aerospace Museum.Bangalore,India.

Museum. A lot of people drop their plans to come along with me on a trip as soon as I mention the word 'museum'. Boring is what they label it.Which is a shame.Museums, like libraries are portals of time travel. They take you on journeys of the mind. I personally love museums and the very first thing I check out when I visit a new city is the museums there.So a few weeks back when I found myself in Bangalore to meet my friend Bhanu I decided to check out the HAL Aerospace museum. My friend thankfully accompanied me with no complaints.

The HAL Aerospace museum is situated on the Old Airport Road at the HAL premises. The parking is limited but we found a space nearby and comfortably parked our bike.We reached the place at around 10am.Our plan was to take in the exhibits slowly and spend an hour looking at everything.We were wrong. By the time we ended our tour we had spent close to 2 hours inside. 

The whole museum is divided into 6 Halls as this map displayed at the entrance shows. Hall 1 is a circular building which has 7 galleries around its circumference, which have photographs of major events of HALs journey from its inception to the present.Each gallery covers a decade. I was surprised to know that HAL was engaged in servicing of fighter jets of the allies during World war 2.There were pictures of Vultee vengeance bombers, Gnats, Maruts ,Vampires and many other planes.Also there are pictures of various dignitaries who have visited the HAL site.There are photographs of Kings of Iran,Iraq, Afghanistan and a lot of other countries.

Hall 2 has many models of Aero engines. This is a very informative area as one can see the cross sections of the engines.Also there is a Basant aircraft and a parachute ejection system model.The most interesting part for me was the Pratt & Whitney engine on display. The upper floor has two flight simulators.The on the left is for kids but from I heard even kids will be disappointed with it.  The one on the right was a bit enjoyable. The only thing that makes it different from the normal video games of aircraft is that you have a joystick in your hands and the seat tilts to the left and right as you make turns.

Pratt & Whitney Engine
The rest of the halls have many Aeroplane exhibits out of which only a MIG 21, a GKN Westland Helicopter and an Advanced Light Helicopter interested me. We wandered around all exhibits at our leisure and took our own sweet time in checking out each and every exhibit.

It was nice to see a crowd.
After this stroll of 2 hours we headed towards the well maintained cafe and had some snacks. There is a good shady place to sit and we enjoyed our break. Nearby was a small pond which had many small fishes darting around. Amusingly I found a larger crowd here than in front of any of the exhibits. That was a clear indication of the kind of interest we have towards Museum.

Quick Facts:-
HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum
Location - Varthur Main Rd, HAL GB Quaters, Marathahalli
Timings - 9am to 5pm.
Entry Fees - From HAL's website-

Entrance Fees(Adult)
Rs 50/-  per head
Entrance Fee(Students and Children upto 18 yrs)     
Rs 30/- per head(with ID card )
Entrance Fee(Children upto 3 years)  
Physically Handicapped   
Still Camera    
Rs 50/- per each
Video Camera  
Rs 75/- per each
Basic Simulator Game 
Rs 50/- per head
Motion simulator      
Rs 100/- per head

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Chhattisgarh has a many lesser known places hidden behind its vast jungles and industrial complexes.
Devpahri is one such place near the Power city of Korba.Situated around 80km from Korba lies a picturesque waterfall on a small river.This place is so remote that one of my colleagues informed that the villagers around here saw electricity only a few years back.I mean they had no idea of the outside world.No idea of electricity and power.But things have changed quite dramatically now. There are good roads there.Hospitals and schools are working and in fine order.

A few weeks before I left chhattigarh and moved to nellore myself along with my friends visited these waterfalls.The place is quaint and remote.If solitude is what you are looking for,this place is excellent.
There comes a huge reservoir on the way to Devpahri.We spent some time here clicking pics and for some fun

Downstream of the Devpahri falls

A spot of calm 
Right near the falls

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Scuba Diving in Pondicherry,India. Part 2: Sea Dive Day

This is in continuation of my Scuba Dive experience in Pondicherry,India.
Here is the first Part. Part 1.

The next morning we were at the office of temple adventures by 7am. It was hard,waking up at 5 30 am on a weekend vacation where our original plan was to just chill. The thought of diving in the sea is what kept us motivated and excited. Though we were there at the office by 7 am it was around 8 am that we actually departed for the dive site. We had to keep our clothes and stuff in the office itself.Stuff meaning mobile phones and wallet. So I sent a text message to my family informing that I
wont be in contact till noon that day. So we set off wearing only the dive suit given to us and reached the point from where our boat was to start off after a ride of 30 mins. On the way one of the staff asked us if we took ay motion sickness tablet. I confidently said no as I thought having trekked and visited places in the Himalayas many times I would be okay.I was wrong.

At the site we helped out the staff in loading the stuff on the boat and we looked like a group of Navy SEALs embarking on a secret operation. We started off soon on the boat and the feeling of being on a secret mission only increased as we sat on the floor of the boat on opposite sides,looking at each other. The boat bobbed up and down as it hit the gentle waves. It made its way out of the small creek out into the vast open sea and made it to the dive site in around 30 mins. As I no longer had my watch I lost track of time. The boat crew expertly anchored the boat and we were ready to dive. The staff asked us who amongst us would like to go first. All three of us did not hesitate in raising our hands.It was decided we would be going first with a fourth person joining in. The rule was like this. Only 4 persons would be going down in the waters with the others remaining on the boat. Each person going down will have a instructor with them.So the client to instructor ratio was 1:1 which was an excellent thing and made us feel completely at ease.

I was the first one to go.The crew on the boat helped me with the equipment and in a classic James bond style I flipped over the side of the boat into the choppy waters. Everything went upside down.A hand grabbed me out and pulled me above water. Leon was there holding me. He gave me some time to relax and then gave me some pointers including a quick rerun of the basic signs.He asked me if I was ready to which I replied I was and we went in.I got out almost immediately. The same thing which happened in the pool happened here also. Instinctively as soon as I was going underwater I was holding my breath and not breathing through the regulator. Again I told myself to forget everything and concentrate on only one thing.Breathe.Which I did pretty good the second time. Soon Leon and myself descended slowly into the depths of the sea.Leon indicated to me to hold a rope,which I rightly assumed to be the anchor.We descended slowly taking stops now and then.At every stop Leon turned around and asked me if I was OK.Of course 'asked' here means asked in sign language.I replied I was 'Ok' by showing the 'ok' sign. The visibility in the water was somewhat poor.I knew it wouldn't be like the crystal clear waters they show in ads and at any rate I was here for the experience of a scuba dive and I was okay if I couldn't spot any fishes. But slowly the fishes started appearing.At first I spotted some lone fishes darting from left right in front of me. Leon had to indicate vigorously now and then pointing towards the fishes. I missed many at first but slowly I turned my attention from the 'breath' 'breath' mantra I kept repeating to myself to spotting the fishes.I spotted many.Then slowly shoals of fish started appearing.I was wonder stuck.It was a beautiful site. The fishes in the group gently swayed and moved in a graceful manner as they appeared in front of me and disappeared away into the murky depths of the sea.Now and then I put my hand near them. The group disbanded immediately and the fishes split in all directions only to regroup later some distance away.The scene was mesmerizing.

Soon we reached a depth of 12 mtrs. I knew this because we had two gauges attached to our gear.One was a pressure gauge showing the pressure in the oxygen cylinder.It was showing a pressure of 100 kg/cm2 if I remember correctly. The other gauge was showing the depth. It read 12 mtrs, the deepest we were going. We stayed around here for a some time just looking around. The whole experience was surreal. A human isn't designed to survive underwater.He cannot breathe there.He is surrounded by everywhere by something that has no breathable oxygen that we need to survive.Add to that there is the issue of pressure.For every 10 mtrs one goes downwards a pressure of 1kg/cm2 acts on the skin.That means double the atmospheric pressure every 10 mtrs you go down.So in these unfavorable conditions humans aren't designed to survive long term.But like in all field humans have come up with ways to survive for longs periods of time giving us the ability to explore the vast seas. So there I was wearing these human designed equipment in those unfavorable conditions trying to have some fun exploring the sea.I experienced first hand there an impressive resolve of humans to go beyond the normal in their quest to know the unknown.

Soon the time came to surface and Leon indicated so with the 'thumps up' sign.I replied 'ok' and slowly we started ascending.We stopped every now and then because failing to do so would cause 'bends'. 'Bends' were caused if a diver ascended too quickly.When I was a kid I had read about bends in a issue of tinkle comics. It has to do with the difference in pressures inside the body and outside in the water.Even though Leon didn't tell me why we were stopping now and then I knew the reason. So it took us a while till we reached the surface. Since there were 4 pairs of divers underwater I ran into Bhanu and we took a pic together. We looked around for Abhishek but he was not around. It would have been wonderful if we had gotten a pic with the three of us together.Anyway we had no way to search for him so we carried on and moved on to the top.I was the first to surface. Before they took off the oxygen tank I looked at the pressure gauge and it showed 60kg/cm2.
Bhanu and myself
After they removed the equipment I slowly climbed up the ladder and sat down still reeling under that out of the world experience. The others asked me how it was to which I happily replied it was awesome! Soon Bhanu and Abhishek surfaced. They both had broad smiles on their faces and as they climbed on the boat we looked at each other and nodded acknowledging the superb experience.The three of us had many wonderful trips and adventures and this was one more.We sat down and waited while two more batches of 4 people each did the dive. All the while we waited on the boat as it bobbed up and down gently on the sea. Many of us puked because of the boat's motion including myself. While returning there was a count to determine the number of persons who puked and it stood at 8 out of 13. Bhanu and Abhishek did not.

After everyone was back we started off on our return.Somebody suggested they play a scene from the popular bollywood movie 'Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara' where Hrithik comes out from the sea after his dive and theres a beautiful score playing in the background.Its a great scene really. We joked around a bit about it as our boat rode away in the afternoon sun making its way for the land.

We were back at the office soon and as we were in a hurry to catch our afternoon bus we wanted to be done with the formalities as quickly as possible.This is the part where I was thoroughly disappointed with Temple Adventures.Up till that point everything was excellent.I was impressed by their work. But as soon as we reached all of the crew and instructors got busy for their next dive I believe. There was no proper closure of our trip and for our group. I ran from person to person to get the signature on our certificates. I felt like being in a govt office as I was directed from one instructor to another. Meanwhile Bhanu tried getting the pics taken underwater. Here also we had to crowd around the reception to get our pics.And it took a long time. Abhishek left for the hotel to get ready. After a long frustrating wait at the office we finally left at 1230 pm.Temple Adventures if you are reading this please note that like you had a class when the whole package starts, have a session at the end also asking about our experience and feedback and sign our certificates without having us to ask you.

After a very uncomfortable meal in a small,congested and hot restaurant near the bus stand we left Pondicherry at around 2pm. Bhanu went his way to Bangalore while Abhishek and myself left for Chennai from where I was to take a train to Nellore and Abhishek for Ramagundam. We managed to catch our train and there ended our wonderful trip to Pondicherry.