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.

Notes
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.
Devpahri,Chhatisgarh,India.


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.