Friday, March 25, 2011

Onboard GLORY - Backwaters of Kerala

I was bit sceptical about this in the beginning when S had this idea of spending couple of days in the back waters of Kerala @ Alleppey. Nevertheless, we made up our mind and decided to go ahead. It was really a memorable and a wonderful experience.

The House Boat

After getting the details from our family friend, who had been there last year we dialled to Mr Alex from Seasons Cruise. Nice gentleman he is... he took care of A-Z of our travel. As soon as we alighted from the train, a cab was waiting to pick us up and he dropped us to a homestay where in we could refresh ourselves. Houseboat -stand (If I may call so) was at the walking distance from homestay and we started our journey in the morning.

A Lone tree

As we moved away from Alleppey, nature started unfolding itself, from the coconut plantations, to picturesque paddyfields and the life near the banks of back waters. It's actually quite interesting to watch the surroudings as people get on with their daily lives. It was as if life is moving in slow motion relaxed manner. As Alleppey being the starting point, we had a lot of hosueboats making a beeline when we started, but as we chucked along, our driver made sure that we were lost in the serenity. Inside the Houseboat Steering Wheel and the Gear

As we camped for the night near a village, we had an opportunity to go around and see the life around. Local boat men offered us a small ride in along the "backwater gullies" of the village. As our chef prepared snacks for us, we bid farewell to sun for the day at far west muching crispy onion pakodas. As the night set in, cool wind started blowing along with mosquitos :-). Yes, during evenings, sitting around in lobby of the houseboat is quite trouble some as loads of mosquitos will attack you. You need to be well prepared for it or get used to :-)

A church and the station on the banks

Next day was great as we woke up with sun rays beaming across, we made our way back to Alleppey. We were dropped at the place where the famous Kerala Boating Race happens. This place looked like as if there was a sea of house boats and it was truly a "HouseBoat Stand". As we were alighting, we had to cross at least 3 house boats to reach the shore and Alex was there to make sure we reach our next destination.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bangalore to Agumbe – Road Trip

As we packed our bags post Xmas vacation, the choice was very clear and it was Agumbe. We had two choices for our road journey, Take NH 206 and reach Agumbe via Shimoga or Take NH 48 and reach Agumbe via Hassan and Chickmagalur. Having already travelled once via NH 206, we decided to choose the later one mainly because we would be traversing through Bharda Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Drive:
Although leaving Bangalore very early and reaching Aagumbe was one of the options, we preferred to leave Bangalore the previous evening and stay somewhere in between. We left Bangalore at around 5 PM and and stayed at Kamat Yatrinivas. Kamat Yatrinivas( near CR Patna) offers a decent stay with double occupancy bedrooms and dormitories at affordable rates. We left CR Patna at around 6 AM in the morning and headed towards Chickmagalur, it was a cold winter morning with a lot of mist around , needless to say it was one of memorable drives. Route from Chickmagalur till Agumbe is pretty scenic with almost entire stretch covered with Coffee and cardamom estates. We reached Agumbe @ around 11 AM in the morning and headed straight to Doddamane.

Drive Info:
Route : Bangalore- Kunigal – CR Patna– Hassan- Belur – Chickmagalur – Aldur – Balehonnur – Sringeri (Outskirts) – Agumbe
Distance: ~ 350 Kms
Time taken for Journey: ~ 8 Hours with couple of breaks in between.

Stay and Food:
Doddmane is world famous in Agumbe :-) . Just on the road side, this was home to "Swami and his friends” of Maludi days fame. Kasturakka and family were our hosts and I must say, this was home away from home for us. As Kasturakka was preparing delicacies day after day, I was in a no mood to venture outdoors. Stay and accommodation was pretty good, it was as if I was at my Grandama house.

Kasturakka hasn’t fixed any rate for all these, but accepts whatever comes out of the way! Dragging her to a conversation, she reveals how this was started, who were the esteemed guests at Doddamane , what is keeping here running this show etc. From the money that is generated, she also supports the poor and under privileged children in their education. In fact Doddamane is home to several of them.

Places Around:
ARRS: We had plans to visit Rainforest Research Station at Agumbe, we were infact very lucky to meet Gowri Shankar at Doddamane. It was very kind of Mr. Gowri Shankar for taking us around and explaining what they do.

Kundadri Hill: Another picturesque spot where we had a great experience of the rising cherry from the mist clad hills of Western Ghats. Along with Ravi (Kasturakka’s Son in Law) we started at around 5 AM in the morning and I was confident of driving up all way myself. As we started driving up, the hairpin bends were too sharp and it was full of mist with little or no visibility at times. I almost felt, I shouldn’t have ventured into this adventure with my Alto. Nevertheless, we made to the top in time and got simply lost in the nature after that!!!!

Sunset Point: Well.. Can you miss the wonderful sunset from Sunset point, I remember seeing this secluded place during my childhood. Sunset was great, except for the crowd around me! There is a beautiful lake nearby and offers paddle boat rides as well.

Jogi Gundi, Barkhana and Onake Abbi water falls are must! and a trek to Narasimha Parvatha can also be planned. Next plan is to visit Agumbe during the peak monsoon and just enjoy the rain, eating Kasturakka's delicacies.
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