Saturday, August 25, 2012

Indian To-Do List: A very short blog this!

Ok, so this one's gonna be pretty short. It is all about a 100 things that you probably must do, especially if you're an Indian to be even able to remotely appreciate what India is all about. Its not my list, its a list I've flicked from the wall post (yeah, facebook) of a close friend. So here it goes:

Its pretty comprehensive in all aspects and covers major regions, states, cultures and every other features associated with it. Read through, plan, execute and get enlightened! ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wayanad with friends: An encore

Its been ages since I blogged. One main reason, I got a chance to go home. Back to India! Boy did that feel good from the moment I booked my tickets. As soon as I booked them, next step, wanderlust in India. This time it was going to be with some of my besties, not the usual lonewolf trip logs. Oh wait, has the concept of lonewolf taken a battering in my posts? Maybe yes. Anyways, destination Wayanad it was to be. You guys might have seen a previous post in which I describe a trip to Wayanad. Well, it did look like god's own country had taken me in as its own and made me come back. Away from the usual theme of the blog, this time its a succinct description of the whole experiences than just about the travel and lesser known facts.

June 8-11, all of the weekend, dedicated to a reunion after 9 months. Unlike last time, the route was Chennai-Calicut and then Wayanad. A different home-stay too; Wayanad Blooms it was. Mangalore Mail took us from Madras (yes, no matter what, it'll always be Madras to me and not Chennai) to Calicut. From there we took a cab to Wayanad Blooms. A major lot of the 16 hour journey from Madras to Calicut was covered by UNO and "vetti mokkais". Its never the same away from close friends, wherever you live. Things never feel the same without them around. You can always be the mental and childish you around them and no one will give a penny about it. You love being around them, and vice-versa. 

The cab journey passed in no time too, aided by breathtaking landscapes and just catching up with each other. No matter how many whatsapp messages you send, its never like a face to face chat. We reached WB at around 3pm. Arrival was 3pm thanks to a visit to the Soochipara Waterfalls. What a beauty that falls is. No matter how many times I visit it, I simply love being there. Unlike last time, it was not gushing like crazy and that allowed us to jump from rock to rock and reach close to the base of the falls. It was a truly wonderful experience.
Soochipara Waterfalls, Wayanad

A quick freshen up and it was time for grub. The menu was simple, but super delicious and homely. As famished as we were, we gobbled it all up and it was time to scout around the place. Its a picturesque setting. A stream flows nearby and there's a lot of green cover all around. Myriad sounds and sights of birds, a small animal shelter and if lucky a couple of reptiles along with the place itself resting in the pristine lap of nature make the place ideal for a short holiday and relaxation. I am sure that even the most stressed out minds will find solace here, or any of the homestays that are away from the main hustle and bustle of Kalpeta, or the main commercial hub in Wayanad district. WB also offers holistic ayurveda massages and all ayurvedic stuff, charged extra of course.
Your friends at Wayanad Blooms

So, well fed and rested, it was time for some badminton. Initially we thought of playing a couple of games and then retiring to the comfort of our rooms. But, 2 hours became 3 and we were bathed in sweat. Back to rooms, refresh and head out to eat. Again, a simple but delicious meal. Restless souls we were, it was table tennis and carroms this time. Repeat a bath in sweat. Go back to room, relax and refresh. More UNO and vetti mokkai. Bliss it was, no, seriously we wished the break to go longer than planned. We needed a bit of sleep at least and that compelled us to crash for a couple of hours at least. It was a long day ahead was it not?

Next day, head to Edakkal caves. This time I was better prepared with a tripod for a long exposure shot to capture the ancient cave art. But more than the photography opportunities, and I repeat myself, it was the quality time I got to spend with pals that made it super awesome. Lots of pictures here. It was not too sunny, a bit of cloud cover, and probably ideal light for a noob like me to get some decent enough pictures.
Cave Art at Edakkal Caves, Wayanad

After the fun at Edakkal, we headed to Banasura Sagar Dam, impounding the Kabini River. This dam is 21km away from Kalpeta and is the largest earthern dam in India. Legends say that the Asura king Banasura, (the son of King Mahabali, who is believed to visit Kerala during every Onam festival) undertook a severe penance on the top of these hills and thus it was named after him. The surrounding areas of Banasura Sagar dam are ideal for trekking and probably an amateur trekker's delight. I would surely like to come back here and explore the trails sometime.
Backdrop of the Banasura Sagar Dam, Wayanad

We headed to our final destination of this trip, the Pookote Lake. Interestingly, the Kabini River originates from Pookote Lake. Pookote lake has tons of Blue Lily Flowers in the lake. They make great subjects for macro photography. Tourists can rent pedal boats for themselves to explore the lake. The charges are INR 50 for a 20 min ride. Make sure you have decent calf muscles to survive the 20 mins. The roots of the lillies do impede your progress and make pedalling more strenuous. 
Pookote Lake, Wayanad

After Pookote lake, it was time to head to Calicut and back home. It was a very reluctant parting to be honest. 2-3 days of togetherness and bonding does make you sad at the end of the trip. But again, we look forward to much more trips like this. In the next trips we'll have Vasisht too. I am so looking forward to his first trip with all of us. Arch, Deva, SRG and Vini, this trip would not have been possible without you guys. As always, it was super memorable, and like I said, looking forward to many more trips. Oh yeah, did I mention this blog entry is dedicated to you guys?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kodachadri Trek - A Photo-Blog

A trek to Kodachadri, has been one of my most memorable treks till date. As a small follow up to all the wonderful memories, here's a small photo-blog.

The Start to the arduous trek, it's moderate-difficult in scale based on how fit you are

The Peak itself

The two peaks mark the Kodachadri Peak and the Sarvajna Peetha

View of the Western Ghats, 3.4ths into the trek

One more view

Sunset at Kodachadri

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Trip to the City of Dreams: New York City

NYC, New York City, City of Dreams, The Big Apple and what not. You can never describe this city with any vocabulary, not with the broken one I have at least. 8 Months in Rochester, NY was not even closely enough to prepare me for what I was going to experience in NYC. Rochester, well is a city in itself, but not even remotely close to what NYC is. Rochester's way of life is laidback, relaxed and well pretty rustic as far as I have seen. NYC is a complete contrast.

To say that i was all agape during my walk/MTA tour is an extreme understatement. To analogize in a very Tamilian way, its like a person from one of the remotest villages of TamilNadu coming to visit Chennai. And yet, I am not sure if it would scale up well with a comparison to NYC. I could rant on about how I saw cloud kissing skyscrapers, the ever busy times square and all that, but it would not even come close to the essence of New York. Its never one factor that makes NYC tick, its a jugaad, if you let me use that word of various factors like the people, the ever busy MTA, the roadside eateries, and of course the in-awe of NYC tourists like me (maybe).

After all the thought I gave to writing about NYC, I gave up. NYC is a unique experience to each tourist in my opinion and each one would have a different set of memories from his visits. As for me, I'd rather lead you into some facts of NYC I observed in the signage(s) and some of my own than try talking about it to no end. So here goes,

- Brooklyn Bridge apparently is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA

- New York was initially named New Amsterdam by the Dutch until the British took over the city, who named it to New York.

- The Manhattan Bridge has has three lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bike-way (may not be significant, but I was amazed enough to mention it here).

- The best way to commute in NYC is a combination of the MTA subway and foot.

- The Grand Central Terminal with a total of 75 tracks and 48 platforms was actually the house of an Oil Baron family named the Vanderbilts!

- The Staten Island Ferry is the cheapest way to have a look at the statue of Liberty (from a distance of course! if you don't mind). It costs you nothing! It operates from the Manhattan Borough to Staten Island.

- DO NOT miss the NYC skyline and Times Square by the night. You'll be grateful you did not and be in complete awe!

My visit did not cover quite a few areas or tourist hotspots. But from the ones I did, here are some clicks:

The Manhattan Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge

New York, Grand Central Terminal

Times Square

The building in Times Square where the Famed New Year Ball Drop happens

Manhattan Skyline

Sunset at Manhattan

Brooklyn Skyline


Brooklyn Bridge

Wall Street, NYC Stock Exchange

The wall street bull

Rockefeller Center, Hollywood Studios

Statue of Liberty, needless to say!

All this would not have been possible without Srinath guiding us and patiently taking us to all these places, even though he'd been to it umpteen number of times. It was an awesome trip man, and eagerly awaiting for the next one.

Nature's Pin-up Poster: The Niagara Falls

As an avid Traveller, its always been a dream to visit the Niagara Falls. When my fate for the next couple of years was sealed at Rochester, NY (80 miles from Niagara), it was an exciting prospect as I could visit her frequently, a far cry from just a dream eh!. My first visit to Niagara was arranged by RIT for the new students. It is still vivid in my mind, the climate was sunny in Rochester and I was naive enough to assumed that it'd be the same at Niagara, owing to the proximity. How terribly wrong I was, read on.
Judging the weather, I dressed light. When I reached Niagara, I got the shock of my life. It was 2 degrees Centigrade! And there i was in my light jeans and tee attire. Steaming breath, teeth chattering in the cold, I attempted the bravado of taking it as it came. 
Coming to Niagara itself, nothing new here, but just for starters, it is shared by both the USA and Canada. So, there is an American side and a Canadian side. Unfortunately, the Canadian side is insanely more attractive than the American Side. It'd be a good idea to try and visit the Canadian Side.But that I will set aside for now.  The word "Niagara" is derived from the Iroquois Indian word "Onguiaahra" meaning "the strait". It is literally a strait, with the Niagara river being the prime water source. 3 waterfalls make up whats called the Niagara Falls and they are: The American Falls, The Bridal Veil falls and the Horseshoe Falls which is in the Canadian Side. 
Our first stop was the "Cave of the Winds" which was a natural cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls. But due to nature's fury (cliche) it was deemed too dangerous and now there is an alternate path which takes you to the front of the falls. When you reach the base of the "Cave of the Winds", you'll literally feel like you're in the midst of a Tropical Rainstorm. Here is a click of what you can experience there (this was taken at 1 deg C, so quality of the pic is naturally affected):

Bridal Veil Falls, Niagara

At that temperature, all of us literally froze, but still was excited enough to feel the force of the falls, which we did. It could have been a stupid decision as I still had to trek a bit to go to the "Maid of the Mist". But Adrenaline kept me going. Wet and literally frostbitten, I limped my way up to the observation tower, where I could click the rainbow bridge. Here's the shot:

Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls

Thought there is not a bluish tinge in the clouds formation to add variety, this was the best I could get that day. Next up was the "Maid of the Mist". Its actually a boat ride that takes you past the Bridal Veil Falls (Cave of the Winds ring a bell?) and the American Falls. Though not as exciting as the cave of the winds (purely personal opinion) it is still the best thing to get in proximity to the American Falls. Here are some pictures:

American Falls from the Maid of the Mist

The American Falls

The Maid of the Mist Boat, Canadian Side

 Niagara By the Night

In the evenings, intense spotlights bathe the falls with different shades of color. I was lucky enough to go back there a second time (this time I drove, Yay! :) ) in the night to witness the beauty of the Niagara Falls by night. Nothing much to add here but some of my best clicks out of the lot:

Sunset at Niagara Falls

Canadian Skyline

Falls Lit up in the night

Canadian Skyline

Canadian Skyline

And here's my few cents for a wonderful trip to Niagara:

- Do stay back for the night to enjoy the Falls being Lit up

- Niagara Nature Trails are something very beautiful and not to be missed. I haven't trekked them yet, but will do it soon.

- Take the walkaway near the American Falls, you won't regret it.

- DO get to know the local weather a Niagara and don't get shocked like me.

Hope you enjoyed reading it. Do leave your feedback.