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A Travel Blog from India: August 2014

Friday, 29 August 2014

Skywatch Friday - World's Tallest Ganesh Idol!

Best wishes to everyone on the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi! 

We had seen it from far while driving around Kolhapur. But we never knew that it was the tallest Ganesh idol in the world!

The 66-feet Chinmaya Ganadhish idol in Kolhapur is at present considered to be the tallest Ganesha idol in the world. The idol sits on 24-feet Dhyana Nilayam (Meditation room). Thus the statue is 90 feet from the ground level. This tall Ganapati is a permanent statue unlike the idols created during Ganesh Chaturthi.

Sculptured as mentioned in the Shastras (scriptures), the Ganesh idol is made up of concrete (cement) and weighs around 800 metric tonnes. The idol was completed in 18 months and nearly 50 skilled workers were involved in the construction along with scores of Chinmaya volunteers and Ganesha devotees. The statue was erected in November 2001 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee year of the Chinmaya Mission. It is located at the Chinmaya Sandeepany Ashram, Toap –Sambhapur, Kolhapur, Maharashtra.

The idol as seen from a distance.

A close up shot
When you travel to Kolhapur next time, don't miss to visit this place.

Ganapathi Bappa Moriya!

Photo Courtesy - Google Images

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday Medley - Postcards from Ladakh!

We returned from a lovely trip to Ladakh this evening.

Ten days in the region kindled nostalgic memories of our visit four years back. This time around, we did a six day spectacular trek in the Markha valley to Kongmaru La at 5100 Metres.

Here are few pics from the trip. Please click on the pictures to see them in original size.

Markha Valley
Markha valley.....and quiet flows river Markha!
Kongmaru La
Panoramic view of Kang Yatse ranges from Kongmaru La @ 5100 Metres
Kang Yatze
Spectacular view of Kang Yatse peak on the way to Nimaling
Markha Valley
Markha valley after Hunkar Village - Spectacular!
Ladakh Ranges
Ladakh ranges from the windows of aircraft.......on our way back.
Do you want to live here!
Nubra Valley
.........Or here?
Siachen glacier
Siachen glacier as seen from Base camp
Leh Srinagar Highway
Doesn't this remind you of Petra in Jordan?? Landscape near Budha Korbu on Srinagar - Leh highway
Moonscape ladakh
Moonscape on the way to Nimaling from Tochungtse
Stay tuned for more stories from our trip to Ladakh.

If you want to know more about Ladakh you may check out "Ladakh Diaries" in this blog. Please click the link below. 

Ladakh Diaries

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Skywatch Friday - Dal Lake, Kashmir

We landed in Srinagar in the afternoon today on our way to Ladakh. Srinagar was uncharateristcally warm. It was warmer than Bangalore. No rains in the valley meant that the mountains were still brown.

Mushtaq, our driver was to drive us to Sonamarg direct from airport. We asked him to drive on Dal lake boulevard. We were sceptical of tourist rush being long weekend but surprised to see less crowd around the lake.

This must rank as most beautiful city roads in the country. We stopped at the far end and Brinda took this lovely picture. We loved the reflection of mountains and those ducks!

We call Dal lake as the" Jewel in the crown" of Kashmir!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

12 Road Trips to Experience Monsoon in Western Ghats!

Road trips to explore monsoon? Yes, Monsoon in Western Ghats in India is mesmerising and if you love driving like we do and are a road tripper, then there is nothing more pleasurable than driving during Monsoon in Western ghats. The rains in the Western Ghats creates magic all around. It turns the hills green. Cascades tumble down beautifully from nowhere in the mountains. Streams hitherto dry get back their life. It is green and beautiful all around.

Here are few drives we have listed for experiencing the Monsoon in Western ghats at its best. We have done some and some have been suggested by our friends. We bet that these drives will bring smile to your faces.

All the drives are worked as a loop from a prominent destination. Click on the route link to take you to Google map link. Typically these drives need two days of travel with a night halt. Of course, there are opportunities to extend the trip and explore around the places. If you want to explore more, then you need to provide for additional days.

We have provided related links to posts in this blog in each section.

Go ahead and explore. Enjoy the drive this monsoon.

Thanks to H V Kumar - a legend among Indian road trippers - for his valuable help and guidance in helping me compile this list. 

Monsoon Drive 1 - Malnad Magic

Nameless waterfall near Balehole

Distance - 465 KMs

Road conditions - Excellent

Tips - This is a quintessential monsoon drive.
  • You can savour charms of Charmadi ghat with its numerous waterfalls.
  • Drive on winding mountain roads with water falls every few kilometres.
  • Visit the famous Shankaracharya math and Sharada devi temple in Sringeri.
  • Enjoy lovely valley views from sunset point in Agumbe.
  • Get mesmerised with green landscape in the valley from Kundadri hill.
Recommended night halt - Tirthahalli

Check this post in this BlogMonsoon drive in Malnad - Countless Waterfalls & Visual Bliss!

Monsoon Drive 2 - Malnad Heritage trail

monsoon drive in western ghats
Beautiful landscape in Kudremukh National park
RouteHassan - Mudigere - Charmadi - Ujire - Moodabidri - Karkala - Sringeri - Chikmagalur - Hassan

Distance - 400 KMs

Road conditions - Very Good

Travel Tips - Another lovely drive through Malnad region of Karnataka.
  • Enjoy the experience of myriad waterfalls on Charmadi ghat. 
  • Visit the famous Manjunatha temple at Dharmasthala.
  • Visit Jain shrines and 1000 pillared temple in Moodabidri. 
  • Check out 35 feet Bahubali statue in Karkala. 
  • Drive through pristine forests of Kudremukh. 
  • Visit Shankaracharya mutt and temple at Sringeri.
Recommended stay for night - Karkala

Check out this post on this blogDriving Holidays from Bangalore - Karavali and Koffee combo

3. Monsoon Drive 3 - Malnad Coffee Trail

monsoon drive in western ghats
Rolling meadows of Sakleshpur
Route -  Hassan - Sakleshpur - Madikeri - Sullia - Subramanya - Hassan

Distance - 331 KMs

Road Conditions - Very Good with some broken patches.

Travel tips - Here is an opportunity to drive through the beautiful landscape of meadows and rolling hills.....
  • Experience the rolling meadows of Sakleshpur.
  • Visit Manjarabad fort built by Tipu Sultan
  • Enjoy the glorious sight of Mallalli falls
  • Drive amidst Rolling hills and cascades in Coorg,
  • Visit the famous temple town of Subramanya.
Recommended Night halt - Madikeri

Check this post in this Blog - Sakleshpur - Mesmerised in Monsoon!

Monsoon Drive 4 - Trails in Tea Country

Munnar Chinnakanal Waterfalls
Chinnakanal Waterfalls, Munnar
RouteCoimbatore - Munnar - Athirapally Falls - Valparai - Coimbatore

Distance - 550 KMs

Road conditions - Very Good

Travel Tips - An experience to cherish for! Driving on a winding road amidst green cape entails you to
  • Visit a paradise called Munnar
  • Check out Mini Niagara at Athirapally falls, 
  • Drive on one of most beautiful hill roads in the country between Athirapally and Valparai, 
  • Experience the serenity of Valparai and its wildlife.
Recommended Night halt - Athirapally falls

Check out this post on this blog -     Valparai - Unexplored wonder

                                                         Munnar in Monsoon - Going gaga over ghats!

Monsoon drive 5 - Enchanting Uttara Kannada

Beautiful temple at Banavasi built by Kadambas
RouteHubli - Sirsi - Gokarna - Karwar - Dandeli - Hubli

Distance - 427 KMs

Road condition - Very Good

Travel tips - Another great malnad and coastal drive. Unexplored region. Excellent roads and unspoilt forest roads make this drive memorable.
  • Drive through pristine forests of Uttara Kannada and experience numerous cascades on the way. 
  • Explore numerous waterfalls around Sirsi and lovely temple at Banavasi.
  • Visit one of the nine jyotirlingas and lovely beaches at Gokarna. 
  • Experience river rafting in Dandeli. 
  • Go for bird watching in Dandeli including Hornbills.
Recommended night Halt - Gokarna

Check out this post on this blog - Driving Holidays from Bangalore - Exploring Uttara Kannada

Monsoon Drive 6 - Malnad and Karavali combo

Jog Falls
Jog Falls
Route Shimoga - Gudavi - Jog Falls - Honavar - Udupi - Agumbe - Tirthahalli - Shimoga

Distance - 507 KMs

Road condition - Very good

Travel tips - This is again a lovely drive through pristine forests of Western ghats and along the coast.
  • Visit Jog falls in its full glory.
  • Drive through bio diversity hot spot of Sharavathi valley.
  • Pay obeisance to the second tallest shiva statue in the world at Murudeshwar.
  • Enjoy the vistas at Maravanthe.
  • Pray at centuries old Krishna temple in Udupi.
  • Experience gorgeous valley views at Agumbe and Kundadri.
  • Watch birds at Mandagadde bird sanctuary.
Recommended night halt - Udupi

Check out the following post on this blogMonsoon in Western Ghats - An itinerary to experience it!

Monsoon drive 7 - Drive through Hill Country

monsoon drive in western ghats
Lovely landscape between Gudalur - Kalpetta
RouteMysore - Gudalur - Meppadi - Kalpetta - Mananthavady - Kutta - Hunsur - Mysore

Distance - 350 KMs

Road conditions - Very Good

Travel tips - We stumbled upon Gudalur - Meppadi road on one of our trips to Wayanad. It turned out to be a fabulous drive.
  • Do a quick safari in Bandipur.
  • Drive through forest of Mudumalai.
  • Drive on winding roads through lovely tea gardens after Gudalur
  • Enjoy boat ride in Pookot lake.
  • Experience the beauty of meenmutty water falls.
  • Visit centuries old Thirunelly temple in the middle of forest.
  • Drive through Nagarahole national park.
Recommended night halt - Kalpetta (Wayanad)

Check out this post on this blogMonsoon experience @ Mango range

Monsoon drive 8 - Drive through Unexplored Kerala

Valley view from Calvery Mount in Kattappana hills
Route Kumily - Gavi reservoir - Sabarigiri Hydro project - Angamoozhy - Elappara - Vagamon - Arakulam - idukki - Kattappana - Kumily

Distance - 287 KMs

Road conditions - Very good

Travel tips - An unexplored circuit. Driving through some of the best preserved forests in the country. If you want to visit the reservoirs, you may have permission.
  • Go for a quick safari in Gavi forest. 
  • Enjoy the meadows of Vagamon.
  • Enjoy the views from Calvery mount in Kattappana
  • Get awestruck at the sight of Idukki dam.
Recommended Night halt - Vagamon

Monsoon Drive 9 - Magic of myriad cascades!

Amboli ghat in Monsoon
RouteBelgaum - Amboli - Sawantwadi - Chorla ghat - Belgaum

Distance - 230 KMs

Road conditions - Very Good.

Travel tips - What else can one expect expect to get amazed at nature beauty when you drive on this circuit? It is pristine and it is beautiful. You will also get a chance to eat Malvan cuisine in Sawantwadi.

Recommended night halt - Sawantwadi

Check out this post in this blogMonsoon Drive in western ghats - Awestruck in Amboli!

Monsoon drive 10 - Konkan Odyssey

View from Ratnagiri Fort
RouteKolhapur - Ratnagiri - Chiplun - Khed - Mahabaleshwar - Satara - Kolhapur

Distance - 517 KMs

Road Conditions - Very Good with some rough patches

Travel Tips - This is driving odyssey through green Konkan.
  • Visit the mighty citadels on the Konkan sea coast at Ratnagiri.
  • Enjoy the landscape of Konkan in monsoon.
  • Explore the famous hill station of Mahabaleshwar.
Recommended night halt - Mahabaleshwar

Monsoon Drive 11 - Scenic Sahyadri

On Tamhini ghats
Route -  Pune - Tamhini ghat - Kolad - Pali - Khopoli - Pune

Distance - 260 KMs

Travel tips - This is a day trip. This is a sheer bliss of driving in monsoon. The landscape is awesome. Myriad waterfalls greet you on the way.

Monsoon drive 12 - Sahyadri Splendour

Malshej Ghat
 Route Mumbai - Kalyan - Malshej Ghat - Akole - Bhandardara - Igatpuri - Mumbai

Distance - 410 KMs

Road Conditions - Very Good

Travel Tips - This is for pleasure of driving in Monsoon in Sahyadri. It is a bliss to drive amidst green forests with waterfalls all around - check the picture above.

Recommended night halt - Igatpuri

The monsoon is still on and it is raining in Western Ghats. Time to go out into the rain and experience the bliss of nature!

Have you drive in Monsoon in Western ghats? Please share your experience.

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Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday Medley - A drive in an eerie tunnel!

Pluses of a road trip is the freedom it gives to enjoy the journey at your own pace. Many times we have noticed that journeys are more interesting than the actual destination itself. When these vignettes are captured on the lens, they remain cherished memories forever. We will share some of these in our blog and hope you like it.

When did you last drive in a eerie tunnel or sort of?

We did it last year in December.

On our way back from road trip to Sikkim, we stopped over at Konark and Puri. It was around 8 PM when we left Puri for Bhubaneswar. The road to Bhubaneshwar runs parallel to the sea for first few Kms. We could not catch the beauty of the marine drive as it was night.

We deviated away from the sea and were greeted by lovely roadside trees. It was virtually a green tunnel through which we were driving at night.

Suddenly, Brinda clicked these pictures from her iphone even as i drove on.

On checking out the pictures, it looked as if we were driving through a eerie tunnel. The road side trees with their branches gave a different perspective at night. The lone vehicle going in front looked like an object unfamiliar.

For a moment, it was an eerie experience!

Have you had such experience during your road trips? We would love to hear them.

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Friday, 8 August 2014

Skywatch Friday - World's tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava

It was pleasant drive from Gangtok. We drove on the winding roads through the tea gardens of Sikkim to Namchi town. We were on our mission to see the world's tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Buddhists in Sikkim.

At 118 feet tall on Samdruptse hill on the outskirts of the town, this is the tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava in the world. It virtually soars into the sky as you can see in this picture. ( click on the picture to see it in original size) On a clear day, you can see lovely Kanchenjunga in the horizon from the hill .

 World's third largest statue of Shiva is on the opposite hill known as Siddheshwar Dhaam.

If you are visiting Sikkim, don't miss this small but interesting town. It can be easily covered on the way to Siliguri from Gangtok.

You may also look at this post which has details on Shiva statue in Siddheshwar dhaam

Skywatch Friday - Two tallest Shiva statues in the world!

While in Sikkim, we went for a spectacular drive to Nathula the border post on India - China border. The details of our experience is captured in this post. Please click on the link below.

You may also look at other interesting posts in Skywatch Friday series here.

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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Munnar in Monsoon 1 - Going gaga over Ghats!

We told you that Munnar is mindblowingly beautiful. We also told you last week that we will come back with details of our recent trip to Munnar. Here we go.....

We are not sure when we visited Munnar last time. If  our memory is correct, it must be 18 years back when we had been just married. Our plans to visit Munnar was always falling through though we had planned it many times. This time we did not want to miss the opportunity to drive in monsoon and experience the paradise ourselves. The other motivation was to drive to magnificent Athirapally falls in monsoon. There we were. Burning the rubber and on the way to Munnar during Eid weekend.

Having driven on the National Highway 47 umpteen times, it has become too familiar an exercise. We left early to avoid the chaos in Hosur, stopping over on the road side for a cup of boiler tea - how we hate the tea prepared elsewhere boiled over and over again, then customary breakfast at Karur opposite bus stand and we reached Theni by 11AM. The roads are excellent.

We were disappointed with Theni and its surroundings which are generally green. The rains were absent and the fields were still brown. We could now see the mountains in the horizon.

Munnar in Monsoon
Kannan Devan Hill ranges in the horizon as we drive through Theni
From Theni, we now deviated towards Bodinayakanur from where we started climbing to Munnar on Bodi ghat.

As we moved closer to the ghat road, we were excited as we had heard about lovely vistas when we climb it. We were not disappointed. The road was fantastic to start with. Winding road but not too many hairpin bends like you find in Valparai. Once we left behind the plains and started climbing, the landscape turned out beautiful. What surprised us was the height of these mountains. They are big and beautiful - obviously when you have tallest mountain of South India amongst them. The scenery started turning greener and stunning as we climbed to Munnar. At the border check post in the village of Bodi Mettu, you will get the first feel of what is in store in Munnar. It was a wow experience as you enter the paradise!

Let the pictures take over now. This is just like a trailer..... Click on them to see in original size.

We start the climb now.....beyond those peaks!
Munnar in monsoon
The ghat road......winding all the way up!
Munnar in monsoon
As you climb, you will have magnificent landscape to enjoy
Munnar in monsoon
The mountains are huge
Munnar in monsoon
The first look of the the valley. Munnar is still few miles away.
Munnar in monsoon
The peaks - reaching the sky!
Munnar in monsoon
Meadows on the hills
Munnar in monsoon
It became foggy and we could see glimpses of the greenery on the hills. Notice the tapering peak....
Munnar in Monsoon
The first view of Munnar valley from Bodimettu. Stunning indeed!
Let us stop here.

Munnar can also be reached via Tiruppur - Udumalpet ghat road. This route is very picturesque. Especially in monsoon. You will be passing through Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary and Marayoor sandal wood forests. We thought we will do this on the way back. But since we were going to Athirapally falls and returning via Valparai, we missed this. Look at these pictures of the ghat road from Udumalpet from Jaseem Hamza. (Check out his pictures in this link Jaseem Hamza in Panoramio and his facebook page Jaseem Hamza on Facebook )

Amazing vistas! 

Munnar in monsoon
Rain drenched ghat road
Munnar in monsoon
A river gently flowing down the hills
Munnar in monsoon
Downstream sight of Thoovanam waterfalls in Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary 
Munnar in monsoon
Thoovanam waterfalls in Chinnar wildlife sanctuary
Munnar in monsoon
A waterfall on the ghat
Munnar in monsoon
Cloud covered hills with cascades  as seen from the road!
Munnar in monsoon
A stream flowing.....
Different hues of green!!
Another excuse for us to drive Munnar next time!

Travel Tips

Route from Bangalore

Bangalore - Salem - Dindigul - Theni - Bodinayakanur - Munnar (520 KMs and 10 hours with breaks)
Bangalore - Salem - Tirupur - Udumalpet - Munnar (475 KMs and 9.30 Hours with breaks)

Our suggestion - Go by one route and return through the other.

Road conditions

Excellent throughout. On the ghat road, you will find some bad patches and narrow roads. Nothing to worry as such.

Eating joints

Bangalore - Dindigul has many restaurants on the road for Breakfast and Lunch. If you happen to reach Dindiual at lunch time, then you should savour the famous Dindigul biryani at Thalappakatti (http://www.thalappakatti.com/)

Coming up next - First vistas of Munnar - Mindblowingly beautiful!

Do you want to experience Indian monsoon at its glorious best? Here is a list for you to do. Click on this post in this blog below.

Celebrating Indian Monsoon - A List!

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Monday, 4 August 2014

Monday Medley - "Niti Village and Pandava legend" by Girija

We are naming our Monday posts as "Monday Medley. Yes, this will be a potpourri of interesting articles, posts from fellow bloggers which we liked, interesting images of fellow travellers or images from our own portfolio. We hope it will be a good start to the week. 

This was  an interesting post we came across few weeks back. 

We had trekked to "Valley of Flowers" two years back. The back breaking trek to Ghangaria for 12 hours was a fascinating experience. We walked along Laxman Ganga river all the way from Govindghat to Ghangaria. On the way we crossed a small village named Niti on the banks of the river. We remember stopping for few minutes to drink a cup of tea. We never knew there was an interesting story attached to this village. 

It was only when we saw the post by Girija that we came to know about the fascinating legend of Pandavas attached to this village. We are not sure how this has come about. No one does. 

A quintessential traveller, Girija meets a group of Niti villagers on her way to Ghangaria - incidentally she trekked to Valley of flowers few weeks before us - and she is surprised at the Pandava legend linked to this obscure a village in the himalayas. She chats with them to know more about it. What comes out is the interesting linkage between the Pandavas and Niti. We enjoyed reading it.

Now it is your turn to take a look at it and read. Please click on the link below to read Girija's story in her blog.....

People from Niti village - Descendants of Pandavas

Postscript - The village was washed out in last year's flood. No one died as all villagers were evacuated in time. Since then it has been rebuilt and the legend continues.

Here is our trek experience to Valley of Flowers - A Paradise on earth. Please click on the link below.

Paradise on Earth - Trek from Ghangaria to Valley of Flowers

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Skywatch Friday - A view from the Top Station, Munnar

We were in Munnar last week.

Munnar in monsoon is mindblowingly beautiful.

One of the "Must see' places in Munnar is the "Top Station" on the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border in South India.

As the same suggests, it is one of the highest points of Kannan Devan Hill ranges @ 6170 feet. It used to be the highest station on the Kundala valley railway - now defunct - built by British to transport tea chest from hills to railway station in Bodinayakanur.  It overlooks a breathtakingly beautiful valley giving you a 180 degree view.

We went there in the afternoon. The fog was rising up. The sun was still shining. The shadow play on the hills was already on.

We clicked this picture. We liked the contrast of red roof of a building - a church - with surrounding green.

The blue sky with white clouds completed the frame. Click on the picture to see it in original size.

We urge you to go to Munnar now when it is raining. It is green everywhere disturbed only by the white cascades flowing from the mountains.

We will come back with detailed posts on our experience in Munnar. Stay tuned.

If you are interested to experience Indian monsoon in all its glory, here is the list for you. Please click on the link below.

Celebrating Indian Monsoon - A List!

For other posts in Skywatch Friday series, please click here.

Skywatch Friday

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