Travel Blog by Prashanth M

Monsoon Magic: A Monologue

August 6, 2014 by Prashanth | 5 Comments

PAYANIGA - Monsoon Magic: A MonologueIt was still dark when I woke up early in the morning. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t the alarm that woke me up, but the constant pitter-patter of the rain outside. I got up, finished the morning chores, went out the main door into the portico, pulled a chair and settled in. The vast canvas of greenery along with clouds and rain was in front of me, a cool breeze and few rain drops falling on my face as I looked on. Everything looked like a dream. Especially for someone who is not a morning person & who needs multiple alarms to wake up it certainly appeared to be a beautiful dream. I was woken up from the dreamy state when a friend came out the door and joined me in the portico. It was certainly not a dream, but the monsoon weaving its magic all around us. Few minutes passed, some more friends joined us on the portico. After few minutes of talking, one by one became silent soaking in the magic around us yearning for a hot cup of coffee/tea.

PAYANIGA - Monsoon Magic: A MonologueWhile we waited for a hot cup of coffee, my mind wandered back in time to previous day’s journey. Our first day’s ride started from the outskirts of Mandya after gulping down idlies with some super spicy chutney. A perfect weather to be on the saddle – overcast sky, wonderful breeze and not so crowded roads. While the speed demons sped ahead in full speed, I settled into my usual slow pace along with few more slow riders like me. It wasn’t long and the regular questions started from the people on the road – ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Where are you coming from?’, ‘Is it a race?’, ‘You are number 18. Why are you slow?’ and so on. While the questions never seemed to slow down, the constant cheering & waving from the kids got added too. Couple of school going kids on their cycles saw me and started to race along. I did a mock chase and let them win till they stopped at their school. They had the widest grin on their faces with a sense of achievement. As I moved on, it was time for the bullock carts loaded with sugarcane to share the road with us – a common sight in Mandya region. After a bit of hesitation and passing few bullock carts, I slowed down near one of them and asked for a small piece of sugarcane. The guy was happy that I asked, he dug in and handed me a full sugarcane – I settled for half a length. After the usual talks I bid him good-bye and continued with the sugarcane in one hand. The next half an hour was much slower thanks to one-handed riding & chomping on the sugarcane.

PAYANIGA - Monsoon Magic: A MonologueThough there were short breaks the first longer break was at Jakkanahalli cross, few kilometers short of Melukote. While at 30KMs mark (and another 50 to call it day 1), we started getting information that the leading pack was already at Shravanabelugola (almost 80% of distance covered by them). After gulping down few bananas, dry fruits and another long break at Melukote cross, the journey resumed. Post Melkote, the terrain changed drastically. Roads got narrower, traffic became almost nil, temperature reduced and soon it was plenty of trees & greenery all around. To top it off, the much awaited rain welcomed us. The light drizzle though intermittent was more than enough to refuel the energy levels. It was rolling terrain all along – after multiple short breaks, I was finally caught up by the support vehicle on the outskirts of Shravanabelugola as we were running short of time. A short drive to the lunch point – Kamath on NH48 and after heavy lunch I settled cozily in the bus and drifted off to a dreamland. When I came out of the stupor, heavy rain welcomed us & there we were at our place of stay for the night. With a sumptuous dinner and a bit of rain watching, it was time to call it a day.

PAYANIGA - Monsoon Magic: A MonologueThe rain that we missed the first day decided to keep us company for the rest of our stay at the home stay. As it dawned, the magic began to unwind around us. Sipping hot cups of coffee one after the other, we waited for the rain to slow down so that we could start our ride for day 2. Two more hours of waiting and gulping down local cuisine breakfast, the rain slowed down a bit. The day’s journey was a bumpy ride on the jeeps back to the main road for us to start on our steeds. While we were about to start the ride on the bridge across the fully flowing Hemavathi river, it started to rain as if to  wish us safe journey. From the outskirts of Hanabalu near Sakaleshpur we zoomed towards Belur via Jannapura. Compared to previous day, the road condition was better and were relatively empty. Last night’s rain plus the greenery of western ghats made the ride very enjoyable. Except for one long climb, the route was pretty easy. Just after Belur, I had to stop thanks to slight pain in the left knee. I got into the bus while most of the riders rode all the way to the end point – outskirts of Hassan. Two days of fun riding in monsoon was aptly ended with a joyful journey comprising playing antakshari all the way to Bangalore.

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Palace Estate Homestay, Coorg

April 16, 2014 by Prashanth | 4 Comments

With most of my errands being unplanned and with friends, there was no much importance given to booking hotel rooms. Treks were spent looking up the sky, counting the stars and other biking or backpacking trips, it was crashing into a decent enough available hotel room. Last April when I planned to take my family to Coorg, I was lost in deciding on accommodation. Many web pages were viewed, reviews read; but of no help. Finally a good friend and an avid traveller Arun recommended Palace Estate Home stay near Kakkabbe in Coorg.

Though we started morning from Bangalore, it was close to four in the evening by the time we reached the homestay. Cool breeze welcomed us as we drove up the small hill to the portico. The beautiful view of the mountains and forests made us forget our tiredness. Palace Estate, a 50 acre farm, is run by Aparanda family where they grow coffee, orange, banana, cardamom, pepper and many other crops. The next two and half days were spent in the home stay with some lazy walks in the huge farm and short visits around Coorg.

Palace Estate Homestay, Coorg

An early morning view form the balcony of our room

Palace Estate homestay is located in such a way that it’s so near but seems so far from the noises of civilization. A quiet, remote place which is perfect for a quiet holiday. Situated on top of a hill, standing in the balcony gives almost 270 degree view of the rolling hills & the forests. And you get to listen to only chirping of the birds all around. The place is about 25 KMs from Virajpet and 35 KMs from Madikeri (Coorg).

If you are someone who want to leave the blaring city life behind for a day or two and enjoy the peaceful moments, this is the place for you. If you wish to explore the vicinity, you can trek to Thadiyandamol which is just 6 KMs from the homestay. Or go on walk within the farm, visit Nalnad Palace, Padi Igguthappa temple. Or browse through the books available in the small library.

Rooms & Food:
Rooms are spacious with attached toilets. Most of the rooms are on the first floor which are wooden constructions. Open verandah on the first floor gives a beautiful view of the forest range. The kitchen offers home cooked vegetarian & non vegetarian food, clean spring water & coffee.

How to get there:
Located a bit far off from the Virajapete and Madikeri main road, it is advised to go on your own vehicle or taxi to reach this place. Here is the route –

Bangalore – Srirangapattana – Mysore – Hunsur – Thithimathi – Gonikoppa – Virajpet – Kadnoor – Cheyandane – Palace Estate

Near by places of interests:
Dubare Elephant camp, Bailukuppe, Nisargadhama, Abbi falls, Irpu falls, Nagarahole national park, Rajah seat in Madikeri.

Cross posted from my other blog ‘Avalokana‘. I stayed at this home stay in April 2010.

Memories of Mahabalipuram

March 27, 2014 by Prashanth | 9 Comments

First of my many visits to Mahabalipuram was ten years ago. Those were the days when I was not yet bitten by the travel bug. It was a hot sunny day in the month of May 2004 when I got down from the bus – definitely not an ideal time to visit the coastal heritage town. With no fixed agenda, the day was spent roaming around the town visiting the heritage sites – the shore temple, stone chariots, cave temple. I stumbled on these photos after a long time and had me going back in time reliving those days and my visits to Mahabs.
Memories of MahabalipuramMemories of Mahabalipuram

The first visit was followed by quite a bit of short visits – main goal of the visits being to break the monotony. Get ready to office a bit early in the morning, then drive down to Mahabalipuram – either to catch sun rise at the beach or enjoy the it while on the way. Spend an hour or so at the beach looking at the waves & sun and then head back directly to office with a coffee break in between.
Memories of MahabalipuramMemories of MahabalipuramMemories of MahabalipuramMemories of Mahabalipuram

When the wild elephants chased us

January 20, 2014 by Prashanth | 4 Comments

This article first appeared in CLAY – Club Mahindra blog in April 2009 titled ‘A tryst with the pachyderms’.
payaniga_wild_elephants_2Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad.

The sun was setting down. My eyes were looking out of the jeep mechanically while the mind was still at Kuruvadweep thinking about the missed chance in visiting the place. It was my third jeep safari in two days, the first two were in Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. With Shashank settled in co-driver’s seat, I was all alone in the back. Except for some deer and bison sightings it was getting more like a jeep drive in a remote village. Blame it on the weekend crowd. We had completed almost three fourth of the safari and had to stop because of a traffic jam. It took us few seconds to understand what was happening. There was a herd of wild elephants which were crossing our path. Or to put it in a correct way, we were crossing their path and had to wait for our turn. There were 11 elephants in the group including couple of calves and the leader was standing in the middle of the jeep track while rest of the gang crossed the path. There were two jeeps between our vehicle & the pachyderms looked as tensed as us. We were third in the queue waiting for the way to be cleared while there was another vehicle, a Toyota Qualis behind us (yes, private vehicles are allowed in Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary as long as it’s a four-wheeler).

The elephants took their own sweet time to cross the road while the leader kept an eye on us. The leader was not too happy with our intrusion & noise (engine & hush voices). As if this was not enough, a jeep came from the opposite direction, which meant we – the two jeeps in front of us & our jeep – were sandwiched between a not-so-happy-looking elephant & a vehicle some 15-20 meters behind us. The driver of the jeep who joined the party late understood the situation and slowly backed off. And our wait game continued.

After what seemed like eternity (it was just a couple of minutes )the captain slowly gave way and started moving into the woods. The driver of the first jeep mustered up the courage and slowly moved ahead. Then the one in front of our vehicle started moving and we followed them. It was not all over but it was time for more drama. It started with the vehicle in front of us. We could not fathom what got into the driver of the jeep for all of a sudden he started honking while he sped away. We were then moving almost parallel to the leader elephant which was some 15-20 meters away and the pachyderm turned towards and started chasing us. I was looking out of the jeep to see the big mammal running towards us. It was the moment, the mind went blank. No thoughts, just void. It was a mock charge to shoo us away from its territory.

Today, the experience is etched in my mind. I’ve had similar experiences of getting blank few times, but this stands first in the list. Whenever I see a photo of an elephant or a video, I go back to my seat on the back of the jeep in Tholpetty.