Friday, June 25, 2010

Shivanasamudram Falls to Chennai - The return trip

The trip to Shivanasamudram Falls was an awesome one. It something that'll stay with me forever and the 610km trip was worth its salt for all the effort involved in it. Okay, the journey to the falls was awesome. But would the return trip be as good as the trip to the falls? We were about to find out.

Me and Raghu started from the beautiful campus of SDMIMD. The memories of the campus is something we'll cherish a lot too. To be honest we did get a bit of admiration for taking the trip to Mysore on bike from Chennai. :) Thanks to the students there for those compliments. That made us fly! And so we started by 1200.

We took our first break at Mandya at 1300. Drank up on Gatorade and coke of course :) We somehow were quicker on the return trip than the 'to' trip. Probably we got a bit familiar with the lifebreakers. We reached chennapatna by 1500 which would mean we'd covered it at an average of 60 km/h. Chennapatna to Nice Road ramp took one more hour and we were on our way to Electronic City via the outer ring road by 1600.

We reached E.City by 1700 thanks to the Outer Ring Road. We were famished and decided to grab our so called lunch at Domino's in E.City. Our butts were hurting big time thanks to the backbreakers on the outer ring road and the arterial road that led to To rest them we took an extended break there and feasted on the pizzas like a bunch of hungry wolves. Plus we drank up all the coke we could to keep dreariness out.

Started from E.City by 1815 and covered the 40km stretch from E.City to Hosur in about 45 mins. By 1900 we were smoothly covering the vast expanse of the Golden Quadrilateral towards Krishnagiri. Crossed Krishnagiri by 2000. We took a break at Vaniyambadi at 2030 to tank up fuel. From there we decided on a long haul till Vellore. Our speed was pretty good considering it was pitch dark. We were doing close to 70(being safe here yes) and we reached Vellore by 2215. Time for a coke break again. Start time from Vellore:2230.

From Vellore to Chennai it was a real joyride, less traffic made us real fast. We covered the 130km journey in 2 hours taking two quick pit stops in between. Bid Raghu goodbye at the Kathipara Flyover and headed home with with a heavy heart. One of the best weekends had come to a close. But I cheered up knowing that many trips were yet to come and we'd still go on bigger and better rides in the future. My mind was already in full swing dreaming of the next trip when I fell asleep to one of the best night snoozes I've ever had.
Tips For Night Time Bike Rides (India Specific):

1. Make sure you have a clear visor, or a yellow tinted visor. Yellows work better than plain visors, scientifically proved. I won't go into the details here, google can give you that. NO Dark Visors, very, VERY dangerous. You can so easily lose sight of medians and jaywalkers.
2. Bikers, please stay left, there will be tons of vehicles faster than you, and trust me, pretty reckless. Higher chances of getting run-over or run-into. Safety reasons et-al.
3. Brakes, please double check them before rides. Very important in the nights, stray dogs run back and forth across. They don't deserve to die.
4. Night rides, if you can maintain optimal speeds, help you raise the overall mileage of the trip. Optimal speeds burn less petrol, and your steed will thank you for that.

Better enlightened souls, feel free to add to the knowledge I've gained.

P.S: Would like to thank PepsiCo and Coca-Cola India for keeping our alertness stable all over the 1220kms.

P.P.S: Learnt that having like minded company and close friends makes the trip all the more enjoyable, solitary ones come next :P

P.P.P.S: If you ask me I'd say everyone should go on a bike ride once in their lifetime. The open air thrills and chills are totally outa this worlds.

Hope you enjoyed the blog. Until the next trip, this is Harsha saying Sayonara & Happy Riding!! Be safe!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Bike Ride from Chennai to Shivanasamudram Falls

My bike rides have taken me to quite a few places. Starting from a trip from Chennai to Kanchipuram, then to Mahabs, a couple of trips from home to places in the western ghats, its been a thrilling and exhilarating experience. Trust me when I say that. Nothing gives you a bigger kick than controlling that tankslapper on your bike when you suddenly brake for something unforeseen. Me along with Raghu(the second biker in the pic below from the front, the first being me of course!) have been planning on a long trip for quite sometime and it took quite sometime to materialize. Cyclones, unpredicted rains, gales et al., have forced us to drop our best laid plans.

But this time it was going to be different. Pleasant weather all over from Chennai to Mysore, coupled with a well executed bunk of work helped us execute our plan. Destination, Mysore and Shivanasamudram falls, a waterfall of pristine beauty 65km away from Mysore. It was Me(on a XCD 125) and Raghu(on a Caliber 115) who were the riders. Our route was simple, the national highway till Bangalore via Krishnagiri, and from there the SH17 from Bangalore to Mysore. You can see the bikers below.

We started from Chennai at 1100 exactly on Friday(18th June, 2010). Halted for a bit at Motel Highway in Chembarambakkam to tank up on our fluids. We kept at a steady pace of 60kmph. We reached Vellore by 1500. We had our lunch there and started riding again by 1530. We reached Vaniyambadi, a town about 60km from Vellore by 1645 and took a break there. We upped our fluids and resumed riding. Parked up at the far outskirts of Krishnagiri for another fluid break at around 1800. We had made good time, covering the 162 km distance from Vellore to Krishnagiri in 3 hours. We resumed riding by 1815 and reached Electronic City by 2000.

The traffic in Bangalore was as horrible as usual, normal services back. It took an hour and a half to reach SH17 and we reached there only by 2130. The road apparently is known to the locals as the "Nice Road" and true to its name, it was real nice to ride on. We covered the 150 km distance in 3.5 hours taking 3-4 breaks to up our caffeine(read coca-cola) levels. :) don't ride without it when fatigue creeps in. Though the ride was super smooth, it was frequently marred by what we termed as backbreakers or lifebreakers at times. These are poorly designed and built speedbreakers and can catch you unawares. This is really a factor that affects your travel times. Be careful, especially at night and watch our for them. We reached Mysore at 0000 on Sat and put up at a Hotel called Abhishek. Decent rooms, pretty decent rent. Both of us switched off instantly to a real sound sleep.

The next morning was the ride to Shivanasamudram Falls and we had our dear sis joining us for the trip to the falls. We had a light breakfast and started off for the falls by 1000. The 'to' ride took 2.5 hours as we did ride pretty cautiously and thanks to the notorious lifebreakers which made ours and our ride's lives pretty miserable. We reached Shivanasamudram by 1230.

Shivanasamudram has two falls separated by a distance of 12km. The first one you'll encounter is the GaganChukki Falls, which is pretty inaccessible and can be viewed only from a safe distance. We spent quite sometime at Gaganchukki taking in the splendour and the scenery there, and chatting of course. A pic of the gaganchukki falls for the record.

We started from gaganchukki by 1430 and took the long and winding roads to the next waterfall, the bharachukki falls. The roads are really good save for the last couple of km. It took about half an hour to negotiate it. The bharachukki falls are much more accessible and we can actually get near it and take a bath in like the other falls. Its a half an hour trek from the top of the hill where we had to park our rides to the base of the falls.

The base of the falls threw up the biggest surprises of it all. We got an opportunity to ride in the coracles!!! The round boats made of bamboo were a real cool thing to ride on. The ride lasts for about half an hour and the boatman will spin the coracle for a couple of minutes in the midst of it, which'll leave your head in a tizzy. We spent sometime there, clicked our pics and made the trek up in 20 mins. A couple of our better clicks at the bharachukki below.

We started back to Mysore from Bharachukki at 1710 and covered the return distance in 1 hour and 25 mins and were back in the oh so serene campus of SDMIMD by 1835. The ride was awesome with the setting sun and the cool breeze.

Next entry would take you guys through our return journey.

Western Ghats Sojourn - Part 3

All those places covered and I returned back a weary traveller. Not to be satisfied with such a long trip, it was time to explore Udupi itself. Udupi has quite a few places to have a look at. Religious, if you look at it that way but pretty stupendous for the neutral eye which enjoys magnificence. Each and every temple is like that in its own way, but spare me of the cliche, the Udupi Krishna temple takes the cake for that.

Every stone carving in that temple cries out for your attention and gets it too. The sacred idol, of a young Krishna is out of this world in all its rich adornment. Again I run out of adjectives to describe this from a neutral point of view and I'll leave it to you people to visit it and describe it for yourselves. Having a picture of the entrance to the temple at night for your eyes to feast on, that is assuming you think this picture is good enough.

There are a number of other temples worth mentioning. There is the Mahakali temple at Ambalapady. The goddess is so imposing that you get the jitters on the first look. But a few moments in the temple and you feel as serene as you might have ever felt. Such is the spiritual influence here. Getting itself added to my list of must see temples is the Anantheshwara Temple, located just opposite to the Krishna Temple. The Shiva Linga is truly a sight to behold.

The best part of Udupi is the Malpe Beach. While the calm and serene beaches of the Arabian Sea are world famous, few have the silent and calming influence of Malpe. Its not so very famous, famous with the locals though. A very thin crowd. So if a silent and calm visit to the beach is what you desire for, Malpe is the place for you. The icing on the cake would be to watch the sun going down the Arabian Sea in the evening. You wont get more beautiful sunsets anywhere else, other than Goa of course. Posting one of my clicks here. Don't mind if the colors are not that very highlighted, these were taken from my mobile cam.

All good and bad things, especially the good things come to an end sooner than later. After 10 wonderful days at home, I had to head back to the city of Chennai where my daily bread and butter(read work :P) beckoned. Left with a heavy heart, bidding goodbye to everyone, promising myself, the next time I come back, I'd explore these picturesque Ghats all the more and fall in love with it over and over again. What wonderful places the Western Ghats have!! God surely was in his best of his moods creating this!!

P.S: Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing about them all.
P.P.S: Next trip coming up in July, so assure yourselves of more details and pics.
P.P.P.S: Brickbats and Bouquets always welcome :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Western Ghats Sojourn - Part 2

Next destination was Horanadu. Its the abode to the presiding deity, Shri Annapoorneshwari. "Anna" in Sanksrit means food and "poorna" means copious/full. She is the goddess of grains and the food we consume in Hindu mythology. True to the temple's name, every devotee who pays homage here is served a three course meal. The distance to Horanadu from Sringeri is about 75 Kilometers.

Here's a picture of the temple's Gopuram surrounded by the hills.

Heading to the next destination, Dharmasthala. Pretty near from here. All the ghat roads are interconnected and we can take the state highway(pretty well maintained!) to reach Dharmasthala. Home to the Shree Manjunatheshwara Temple. The temple is really ancient and locals claim the temple to me more than 1500 years old. The presiding deity looks every bit that old and exudes an aura that's characteristic of any Shiva temple.

The temple's trust is involved in many philanthropic activities, the most famed of them being the educational institutions they run at very low fees and high quality education. A mechanized kitchen provides free food for all pilgrims and there are guest houses with modern amenities. The average flow of pilgrims is about 10,000 people everyday.Every one of the thousands of pilgrims who daily visit shri Kshetra Dharmasthala is an honored guest irrespective of caste, creed, culture or status.The "Anna Daana"(free food) is perhaps one of the most impressive events that takes place at the holy temple.Free food is provided to devotees who come in thousands every day.The temple has modern machinery and makes quality food continuously throughout the day.Temple does not differentiate between the rich and the poor for the Anna Dhaana.The dining hall is known as "Annapoorna"

Here's a picture of the temple in its full glory

Next stop in my itenerary was Karkala. Its a famous Jain pilgrimage site and you can call it a miniature version of the Shravanabelagola Jain site. To mention about Shravanabelagola, its another of the famed Jain sites and it has the tallest statue in the world of Bahubali,  who was the second of the hundred sons of the first Tirthankara, Rishabha and king of Podanpur (ancient India).
When I mentioned Karkala being a miniature Shravanabelagola, this is what I meant.

The statue of Gomateshwara in Shravanabelagola is doubly big. :)

Next Stop of this now weary traveller was Kateel. This temple town (my! my! south canara sure has a lot of temples) is situated on the banks of the nandini river. Durga Parameshwari temple is the most famous here. Here the goddess is in a 'ugra' position, 'ugra' means 'angry' or in a state of agitation. A very look at the deity is supposed to purge your sins. You might have heard of people going into a trance state looking at gods and goddesses. You can see many doing that here. Not sure why it happens to many people here more than any other temple in Karnataka, barring the Mahakali temple in Udupi. The sight of the Nandini flowing by is a sight to behold.
A view of the Nandini river.


That concludes part 2 of my sojurn of Dakshina Kannada. Part 3 coming up next! Comments as always, welcome!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Western Ghats Sojourn - Part 1

It took quite a while to post this. But last Diwali I'd been to my parent's place at Udupi. Yours truly is in Chennai. Getting bored and restless sitting at home, decided to explore the pristine places of the Western Ghats nearby. Time to plan the route.

Came up with the following plan. A picturesque drive to Agumbe was first on the cards. To tell you about Agumbe, is one of the most scenic places on the Western Ghats and is about 60km east of Udupi. Added to the lush green view all around, the attractions for the visitors is the spectacular sunset and vast opportunities it offers to the trekkers.If you are looking for a peaceful break for a few days from the hectic city life, away from the crowded and commercialized attractions, then this is the place for you.

Agumbe is among the places here that receive very high rainfall and is rightly called the Cherrapunji of South India. Near to Agumbe is the relatively lesser known Hanumangundi falls. Agumbe now is a peak and the trek to the falls is a tricky one. Slippery and wild with snakes and leeches, its not for the faint hearted. A view of the Agumbe peak and the ever so beautiful Hanumangundi falls. One more place that is not known much and I could not visit is the Agumbe Forest Research Center, headed by the famous herpetologist Dr. Romulus Whitaker. It is an awesome place which researches on the flora and fauna of the Western Ghats, most notably the King Cobra. You can volunteer here if you're interested. Its on my bucket list, to become a volunteer here.

A click of the Hanumangundi falls.

The view from Agumbe.

The picturesque route.

From Agumbe I was off to Shringeri. It is home to the Shankara Mutt and the Sharadhamba temple. Not only its a religious spot, but its very pristine and scenic too. Its on top of a hill with a tributary of the Cauvery river flowing by the temple side. This only adds to the beauty of the place. The people are super friendly here. They'll go out of their way to help you around. Shringeri, as per legend was established by Shri Adi Shankara, the most famous of the gurus of the Advaita philosophy.

The Gopuram of the Sharadhamba Temple.

The old Shiva temple. Supposedly built by Shri Rama. There is a foot mark by the river that's apparently of Shri Rama washing his feet here by the river.

From here my route was Horanadu -> Subramanya -> Karkala and back to Udupi via Malpe.

That forms Part 2 of my journey. Update on that to follow. Hope you liked reading this as much as i enjoyed writing about. Comments as always appreciated. :)

Footplating in the WAP-7

As a Indian Railways fan, it was a privilege to ride in the cab of the WAP-7. Its the most modern of all electric broad gauge locomotives in India. If I'm right, it was desgined by the swiss loco company Alstom. The controls are in turn microprocessor controlled and it ensures that the operation is silky smooth and not wayward as we might have experienced in some normal trains. The WAP-7 is almost exclusively reserved for prestigious trains like the Rajdhani Express, the Shatabdi and the recently introduced Duronto. I was at H. Nizamuddin waiting for my train, the Chennai Rajdhani express. It pulled into the station at around 3:30 pm. My coach was very near to the engine, out of gut instinct I neared the cab of the engine and asked the loco pilot if i could get in and take some pics. He was very friendly and explained me how its operated and all. A much bigger event was to follow, which was totally not anticipated. I could take only 3-4 pics of that pretty dame, the engine of course!! The event I talked was this, i got to hold the throttle of the engine at around 130kph, literally drive the engine.!!! oh brilliant man!! one of a kind experience it was...absolutely thrilling. here are some pics..