A slice of Horanadu

I have been doing a sort of intense travel since December. Despite being a travelaholic, these travel came unexpectedly and not pre-planned. I did a bit of beaches and religious places.

Last week, I happened to visit Horanadu in Karnataka (never heard of this place before until I decided to travel few days ago). The only way to access the place was via road. Contrary to most other times where I do scribble about the place, things around home kept me held up for this activity, being rest assured of some sought of adventure and I was not disappointed.

It’s was only on my return through the curvy ghats, which houses coffee and tea plantation, spaciously private houses engulfed by herbs and flowering plants, creeping black peppers and laid back locals; I realized it was heaven tucked away amidst mountains. It seemed like spring but not even a single feel of summer in air for 40 odd kilometers.

Travelling by the state bus was real adventure as the driver did all he could to sway the passengers from one corner to other, while speeding through bends of the mountain. Not wanting to miss on hidden beauty, I pulled out my instant camera and captured few shots whilst on the move.

**Just before Sun was up

 

**River Bhadra

** Tall standing trees playing hide and seek with the Sun

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My Godavari Experience

Hello folks,

My post this year delayed by over a month. Last couple of years, I stuck to self made resolution for at least a quarter before breaking it. I credit myself for having done this despite my stories from Bali, Goa and Bangkok trip was hovering in head waiting to find a quick spot on my blog. There is no pride in procrastinating, yet shamefully admit the fact.

Scouting the Southeast region of the country in Andhra Pradesh came easily and unanticipated, as part of a project assigned at Vizag(Vishakapatnam) . I took advantage of this trip and became accustomed with localities around whilst using public transport.

With a couple of days at my leisure, best use was self mandate. This because I don’t see a reason to return for work purpose in near future. Despite the fact that Araku Valley was firmly fixed on my head with Greener pastures surfacing often. I was adamant about a bike ride through the valley, which can’t be the case for now. Options of rail and road were convenient to nearby attractions yet, for some reason the usual me did not decide as quickly as I did.

Amidst the discussion, Badrachalam, famous for Shri Rama Temple caught my attention. I had an ardent desire to visit the shrine ever since a Telugu movie introduced this place to me. Without wasting much time, I did my homework and decided to see Lord Shri Rama. A periodical spiritual awakening is mandate for self realization.

Upon my research, I learnt that the first leg of my travel was to Rajamahendravaram (popularly known as Rajamundry), via bus followed by boat service to Badrachalam. Alternatively, one can take a bus without being ferried. I was excited about the boat trip, for I did day dream of me waving to the villagers on the banks, to the passing boats. Getting a confirmed train ticket is out of question, hence unwillingly chose bus service. Now that I nearly perfected the art of packing light, the burden of packing was never felt arduous and I was all set to leave Vizag for a\n solo adventure.

My bus from City complex was at 11:00 and supposed to drop me off at 4 am at Rajamundry. However, on duty enquiry officer confirmed that OSRTC bus going to Vijayawada via Rajamundry, usually is an hour late. My expectation from OSRTC was similar to that of APSRTC, because of my past experience. On the contrary, it turned out to be a real nightmare, at midnight waiting endlessly…phew. You see Aries don’t like waiting nor do keep others waiting, unless there have been unusual occurrence of situation out of ones control.

Nevertheless, to my surprise I was dropped off by 4:30 am at the bus station and had another 2 hours to kill before the vehicle that would transport me to the boat arrived.

Drowsy and tired, I decided to stay half awake guarding my mini luggage, specially after repeated warning of theft. Then came the pick up van near Kothipalli bus station, to drop all of us waiting to a larger bus. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for a bumpy road trip. Yet this was the only way to reach Singanapally to board the boat.

My first naked eye view of Godavari in the morning was magnificent. The town was slightly covered with mist, traditional boats parked waiting for the owner to begin the day, the bridge over the river almost disappeared at the other with vehicles plying over it…….The driver was kind enough offer to photograph me with the bridge at the background. Soon we started the journey to Singanapally, which as the journey began I knew was via the famous Polavaram Irrigation Project. The bus ride through out uneven roads reminded me of first offroading with IBC to Penukonda. For an hour in the journey river Godavari was alongside us with a clear view before entering the dam site, that is expected take at least over 5 years to complete. The ride to Singanapally was a real bumpy one. As the destination approached, contrary to my imagination, there is no harbor or proper place where the boats anchor. Rather, a parking space nowhere the mountain side.

My first sight as I stepped off the bus was this boy around 12 years, who had a live traditional cooking in the open. Flame was on, supplemented by the scorching Sun, the boy seemed to be an expert in cooking chicken in bamboo and targeting potential buyers who are set for the boat ride. Since the package included breakfast, lunch and evening tea; I decided not to spend on any additional stuff but enjoy the view of unfolding stretch of mountains.

The host, who is a young man around 24 years kept all of us entertained. Idly & vada was served for breakfast and typical Andhra meals for lunch. The speakers were too loud and I chose to escape and moved to the air conditioned lower deck. Yet the noise managed to follow me though the intensity lowered. Families were merrily dancing and singing to the local numbers. I knew a few of them, not a movie buff you see……

My OnePlus 6 did a good job for the surroundings were simply stunning. The stretch reminded me the drawing I did as a kid, those of mountains and rivers with Sun peeping from behind. From about 10:30 am until 4:00 pm, I was amidst mountain and our boat Jalasri was sailing in straight line equidistant from the banks. I spotted tiny villages that lived on solar system completely, with a mere population of approximately 25. Eco living was permitted to tourist upon early reservation, as there were only about 6-7 tents/huts. The demand was huge for this rustic experience.

The route via Papikondalu was breath taking as the boat swiftly pushed clear waters. Such landscape is for sure a one-time experience, unsure of its life owing to climate change caused by human intervention. On the other hand, it was devastating to see people littering with plastic covers and beer bottles. Furthermore, there was no awareness signboards from AP tourism. Before alighting, lecture to boatman was not missed and I had my peace of mind.

 

At around 4:00pm, we were dropped at Pocharam, the last point. A Tata vehicle, that was poorly maintained but with an entertaining driver, who apparently identified me being a “Hyderabadi”,(probably with the accent) dropped us off to Badrachalam which was 2 hours if driving.

Nainital in Winter 2016-Last Part

After a long and beautiful day at Naini lake surroundings, the evening was spent at peace, in the biting cold, by the fire place sipping a couple of cups of tea. Not to forget that the resort staff kept Neel busy as much as they can. Thanks to the chilling climate that invited fewer guests. Next day’s agenda was Sattal or Seven Lakes. But first decided to visit the Golu Devta Temple at Bhowali, famous far-off, for the belief of people’s wish being granted. Many like me, go with petitions that are tied to the trees or pillars. Once the wish is accomplished, a bell is tied acknowledging the accomplishment.

 

 

 

 

Alighting from the cab, I walked towards the shop to pick a pooja thali for offering. I was cautioned by the shop keeper to keep coconuts or any other eatables hidden to save it from being pulled by monkey’s who generously welcome every visitor with their naughty acts. I am the kind, who carry a bag usually and this helped me tuck the entire offering in it with a little push. As expected, w were welcomed by lots of monkeys who were observing the on goers hand luggage. As we quietly walked, trying to save from being harmed from them, we saw a couple right in front of us being looted by the warriors…oops..they lost the pooja offerings to a clever monkey. Since the floor was pretty cold, we started running for shelter to warm the feet. The big bells from the very first step of the temple was very welcoming to us. Guess what, we are followed and surrounded by monkeys everywhere at the shrine. Secretly, taking out my offerings, we completed our prayers. Now, it was time for our petition. Neel pulled out the little bell that we got and made a secret wish and tied one along with many others. I then came out to the patio near the exit that was overlooking the hills to relax for a while. The sun rays coupled with gentle breeze hit my face passing on the warmth all over while I witnessed a para-glider circling over the hills right in front of us.

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Hunger Strikes-In general breakfast ensues temple visits.  Since, this place was way up in the hill, we did not expect any options. There were hardly 2-3 shops selling tea, maggi and packed chips. Sun was now a little closer than before trying to get to me beating the cold wind. Rubbing my palms as often as I can, order for tea and maggi was placed. There were hardly 4 customers seated on the shaky wooden bench. We chose the one that supported the wall, which also gave shelter to a dog that curled in a corner. Here comes our order, steaming tea and maggi. I was in no mood for the same old maggi and in no time changed my opinion, while wondering how the same maggi that I have been hogging for literally for 10+ years turns out to be different and so tasty. Perfectly spiced, not a bit less and not a bit more. Tea was equally good, rather better than the ones I usually have. I gulp 3 cups in the less than 1 hour.

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Now that I have had enough to keep my body warm, it was time for the next spot. A tea plantation in less than 15 mins drive. The road sloping down was a sight amidst tall trees leading us to the plantation. With less then 25 visitors early morning,  it was a good opportunity to walk freely and click nice photographs…… peacefully. The tall trees that let the sun light seep in bits and pieces allowing light in the shade was the hightlight. The view was mesmerizing, for the mountains were standing right opposite the tea garden. Spending about 30 mins was good time. I did not plan to shop so hopped on the cab ready for the next point. But yes, there is shop for good variety of tea leaves should anyone be interested.

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Finally, the last point of our holiday. Yes, we are at Sattal. What a view of the interconnected rivers. The driver stopped at point to show the birds eye view and it was breath taking. The clear waters amidst trees that fenced them by the hills was a view I couldn’t have missed. By the time we reached the spot, a good number of tourist were already gathered at the zip line and river crossing adventure activities. One can pass through food joints and Kashmiri stalls before reaching the lake. A whole lot of acitvity for kids was evident. Though I was keen on doing the zip line, Neel was reluctant, So I dropped the whole idea. I saw ducks lazing by the banks. We decided to visit these shops to check out some embroidery work, shawl and quilts. These sales men will literally pull you to their shop. It took a while for me zero in on what I wanted. But what attracted me was the quilt, which I almost picked.

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The Calm Lake

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Its was mid-noon and I decided to laze in the chair to try our luck at whats available. I ordered rajma chawal and rice kheer. The best rajma chawal ever I had with a generous portion of butter floating. The bsasmati rice was perfectly cooked separating each granule beautifully sending nice aroma around. The kheer was an icing on the cake, simple but damn tasty. After the light wonderful meal, I happily dozed in the cab that passed through twists and turns of the valley. For me, it was a journey of a life time and hoping to return soon.

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The adventure spot

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Sun rays on a lake

Have bless day!!! Loads of love!!!

Vannie.

Nainital in Winter 2016-Part 2

Our first morning in Nainital, more aptly to say was in Bhimtal, a subset of Nainital. By 8.00, the cabbie arrived. As I boarded the cab, first task was to find an ATM, for this was post demonetization period and cash withdrawal was limited. We were driven to the closest ATM, only to find that it was closed. Nevertheless, the driver assured to find one for us on the way. This time I determined to carry extra cash, which usually is not my practice as a matter of safety.

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The silent lake

Our first point was to the Bheemeshwar Mahadev Temple, right by the lake. The early morning mist took my joy to a new level, making it more spiritually inclined. As I walked past a small path way by the lake, that could easily have geared and non-geared pass by; I saw very few visitors returning from temple and this was an indication that I could have peaceful visit. It’s only because of the breeze from the lake and hills that sent chill air and kept fewer people around. I did not regret choosing off-season for travel. Once in the temple, I had to remove the socks only to step on the floor that was real cold and then I kept skipping to the shrine, that was relatively warmer inside the temple premises. What attracted me was a big tree right in the center where one can see number of bells tied.

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A misty walk

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The temple

The temple was nearly empty with not more than 5-6 people, including us. The “Shivlinga” was beautiful and decorated with locally available flowers. This is the second time, I found lucky to witness very close darshan, after Triambak a couple of years back. Those few moments instilled abundant energy in me. After satisfying my soul, it was the turn for my stomach. In search for local delicacies, I walked past few shops to see what they had to offer. To my surprise , there were eateries that served egg, which is not a common sight at least near any holy shrine. We hopped on to a small hotel and ordered for paranthas (aloo & gobi). I made no mistake, for it was one of the best paranthas I ever had.

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Entrance to the temple

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Tree with bells

After a delicious breakfast, our next point was to Nainital lake. On our way the driver told us many stories and kept Neel busy and inquisitive. One such story was about local dogs that guarded the sheep from Tigers and Leopards. We  were told that these dogs are gigantic and many times resembled Lion, due to the presence of fur that is not common among dogs but those in hilly region. Between, the driver pulled by a point where one could see far off view points with the help of telescope for a mere Rs.20. Some of these view points included, Indo-Chinese border, famous temple, Indian Airforce base( that had no access to civilians), Wild life sanctuary, movie shooting point etc. At this place was a small vendor selling Oranges. I learnt that this fruit was not an Orange but Malta, which is more sour than an Orange. The driver promised to deliver few at the hotel by dawn, since Neel tasted them and preferred to have them with salt. We reached Naini lake by noon and spent rest of the day……

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Yummy paranthas

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View of villages

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One of the view points

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Malta

 

Rest of day at Naini lake to be covered in next part……