Wednesday, June 16, 2010

[ Travel] Wayanad_Trek_Chembra Peak

As mentioned in the previous post i was waiting for opportunities for more adventure travel . Chance came very quick this time , jus the next week. This time a group of 5 people from Citrix Adventurers and 2 from Bosch decided to trek the chembra peak.Its the highest peak in Wayanad @ 2100 mts above sea level .

We booked a Qualis at the cost of Rs 6.5 /Km with minimal distance of 700Kms for two days. Our plan was to trek to the peak and stay there for a night in our tents and down come the next day. Rama was the first pickup and he collected RackSacks and Sleeping bags for 5 of us (Vishal & Varun had their own) from the rental agency and reached my home at around 10:30 on 11 June 2010. We went to Vishal's home picked up Vishal,Sekar & Prabhu there and on the way picked Varun @ BTM Watertank and Raghu at JP Nagar. It was already 12 when we started finally and itwas drizzling. Its a pleasure to drive in Bangalore in nights (actually only in nights ).

High way from Bangalore from Mysore though good was not free from speed breakers (unlike the Bangalore - Chennai highway which is free from any signals /speed breakers). Cab travel is not that comfortable during nights and i couldn't sleep as i was in the last row. We stopped for tea after some 120 Km travel at 3 AM and here i moved to front seat. Please note the person sitting in the front is not supposed to sleep and is expected to have a watch on the driver. Ironically this seat is the most comfortable one and theoretically we could sleep better here than in any seat. But safety came first and i kept myself awake by pinching myself and keep thinking of something....... Statistics shows that 3-5 AM is the worst for any drivers and they tend to loose concentration here. I did realize it at a instance when our driver was speeding towards a truck which was slow moving . We would have crashed into the truck if he had continued it for 10 secs or so. Luckily when i realized the danger and was about to warn him , he himself woke up and made quick turn. There after i tried to talk something to him to keep both of us awake.Remember lot of accidents where vehicles crash on to the ones parked on the side of the road. They all happen in this fashion. One advice here , whenever you are in this crucial seat think of something you dont like , say a manger who didn't give you proper hike etc , definitely it will spoil your mood and sleep. Good isn't it ?

We drove non stop and reached the Bandipur wildlife sanctuary at 4:30 AM .This stretch of road is blocked from 8 PM - 6 AM for all traffic and we joined a looong queue .We rested for about 1 hr 30 mins . Travel continued after 6 and it was the worst stretch of travel ,though it was the road through the thick jungle, due to long queue of trucks queued up either side and unruliness of our drivers .One thing is for sure , crazy driving can cause traffic jams not only in Bangalore but also in thick jungles.

We reached Sulthan Bathery a town just after the forest in Kerala and we decided to refresh and have our breakfast here .We used the public toilets in bus stand and had breakfast in a small hotel there. Food was good here .I had dosa and kappa.

From waynad-chembra-trek


One thing which caught us unaware was the frenzy soccer mania in Kerala. Every little junction had a vinyl board supporting any of the top teams .Most prominent being the bluish Argentina , Yellowish green Brazil ,Netherlands ,Switzerland etc.Whole state was almost decorated as if they are hosting the world cup. To bring the real situation before your eyes- in TamilNadu , replace posters/banners of Kalaignar with Brazil team, Jayalalitha with that of Argentina , Stalin with Netherlands , Alzhagiri with Switzerland . Contrastingly there were no political banner/flags except for very very few Red Flags.

From waynad-chembra-trek


From waynad-chembra-trek

Then we continued our travel through Kalpetta and Meppadi. From Meppadi take a diversion towards Chembra estate. There is a VSS officie (some thing similar to forest dept) where you have to take permission.They were in a dilemma whether to allow us or not as it has raining continuously .Guard there made many phone calls and finally decided to allow us with a guard after 30 minutes ..We took ticket for trekking ( RS 500 for 1-10 persons ) and for a camera (Rs 25). Our proposal for camping was turned down and we were given a option to camp at the watch tower which is starting point of trek paying a fee of Rs2500. We were not amused by this proposal and rejected it . From here it was travel of around 2-3 KM by cab to the point from where we could only walk .

From waynad-chembra-trek


We changed our dress here to trekking suits and walked towards the Watch Tower( 1 Km). Though we had racksacks and sleeping bags , we had to leave it in the cab as we dropped the plan to lay tents in the hills and carried only one bag with snacks/lunch/medical kit. View from the watchtower was good but depth of view was minimal due to heavy rains and mist. At last we started our trek at around 12 PM .

From waynad-chembra-trek


First stretch was through the dense forest which was infested with leaches. It took around 20 minutes to cross this section and after that it was complete grass over the mountains which was very beautiful.

From waynad-chembra-trek


From waynad-chembra-trek


Throughout we were exposed to rains and winds whose velocity keeps on increasing as we moved up. Apart from us there was another gang with few girls too ( hmm courageous). After some 45 minutes of continuous trekking we reached the heart shaped Lake.

From waynad-chembra-trek



What a awesome natural creation. Guard accompanying us mentioned that its the last point till which he could accompany and above this spot the winds are off high speed and path is steep and its extremely dangerous. By the time he warned me , first batch were already out of sight. I asked him to stay there and that i will check with others and bring them back.

From here there were a series of peaks arranged in a fashion that at anytime only one peak is visible and when you scale that peak ,you could see yet another and so on. Wind was fierce and path was slippery.The other gang stopped by the lake. We decided to leave the bag which we where carrying along the path and continue empty handed. I left the my camera bag here just on the side of the path and covered it with a polythene and continued my journey. It was quite burden to carry it in such treks. After about 2-3 more short hills , 4 of us decided to stop at 2 PM and 3 unrelenting people (Vishal,Varun and Rama) continued. Four of us planned initially to wait for the rest ,but sooner we understood that standing there is very difficult due to rains and havey winds and so we decided to climb down . By this time i could sense pain in my left knee and it was more pronounced during climb down. 3 fellows who have reached the peak returned and joined us shared the success stories of reaching the peak.We had a short lunch of bread with peanut cheese & Jam , nearby the heart shaped lake.By this time i found out that my camera was affected by mist/ rain and it failed to start off. After lunch we continued our down trek and i was carrying the common bag. It was almost 4:15 when reached the cab.

There was a small shed where we changed our wet clothes and made some Maggie. Vishal had stoves (very little one of the size of a geometry box) which was fueled by camphor tablets . We made 8 maggies in 2 stoves .It was delicious to have hot maggie in such a climate. Guards offered their room at a cost of Rs100 per person. But it was not that good and we rode back to Meppadi. Vishal and Varun were ones left with energy and they found a dormitory with 8 beds costing Rs 850 and we checked in there in few minutes.

From waynad-chembra-trek


I had developed a severe knee pain by now and was completely limping. So i didnt go to restaurant and stayed back with Vishal and had MTR ready made rasam rice,pongal & sambar rice.Here too we used to camphor stove to heat it .

Next day we had breakfast in a nearby hotel and started towards Soochipara falls ( some 13 Km) .This stretch is completely within tea estates and journey was a treat for eyes.It was still raining.We changed dress and rented some caps and started walking. The path was more or less downwards measuring around 1 KM. My Knee pain has reached its peak now and i cannot bend my knees.It was painful walk. Sekar got me a bamboo stick and patiently walked along with me.

From waynad-chembra-trek


He had a knee injury in the past and had done a surgery sometime back.He gave some critical tips to minimize the pain. Falls was roaring and guards didn't allow us to get near to it. It seems till 2 days back water level was suitable for taking bath.Spent around 30 minutes there and then returned to our cab.Found a nearby shed and changed back to dry clothes and started of our journey back to Bangalore.

Group was divided on where to have the lunch , Kerala meals in Sulthan Bathery or meals at Mysore. We had a vote and Kerala meals team won by narrow margin of 4-3.Food was very nice there and even better was the courteous attendants. Unlimited meals with fish curry was Rs30.
Return travel through Bandipur was quite eventful . We could get the glimpse of lot of deers on this road.

From waynad-chembra-trek


Non Stop travel after that. Had tea at Kamath restaurant on Mysore-Bangalore road and finally reached Bangalore at 8:30 PM. Took couple of pegs of wine to kill my knee pain and push myself to sleep.

Total Cost : Rs 1900

Breakup
Travel : 1000
Food /snacks : 400
Stay : 125
Tickets : 100
Rental for
RackSack/Sleeping bags : 250

Full Album:
waynad-chembra-trek

Saturday, June 5, 2010

[Travel] Trek @ Bilikal Rangaswamy Betta

Prologue
This is the my first encounter with trekking. One my my friend did a trek last week and portrayal of that experience aroused me to try something in that line. Luckily came to know that Vishal was planning for this trek and i too joined them.

The Trek
Our plan was to start at 6 AM from BTM water tank and it was slightly delayed by 15-20 mins. We were 6 people traveling in 3 bikes. Being early morning all the petrol bunks were only partially open. Hence in future its wise to fill petrol and check air pressure the previous day. It was heavily raining the previous night and hence the weather was chill & slight drizzle even during our travel. Since we had jackets we were saved.

From Trek Rangasamy betta


Had breakfast at a restaurant on the way. We traveled almost 36 KM on Kanakapura road to a town called Harohalli. You'll see Syndicate Bank with this right hand side after which you need to take a left. From here we need to take left towards a town called Maralawadi (11 KM) . There is large bustand and a small market around it . Finish all your last minute purchases as after this we didn't find large shops. After Maralawadi bus stand two roads leave left and straight . Take a straight one and proceed towards Koonala Doddi (8 KM) .

From Trek Rangasamy betta

In this stretch we could see lot of silk worm cultivation being done. Finally road ends in a temple. Take a left before the temple and you will see a small stretch of houses . This is last point to which your vehicles can carry you. Through out the path road was good with lot of vegetation on either sides, thinly populated and had 3-4 lakes.

From Trek Rangasamy betta

Parked the vehicles and started off towards the mountain base at 9:20 AM.Its some 2 Kms from the last home.

From Trek Rangasamy betta


Pretty much from the base the path was steep , at least i perceived that way ,might be i was new to trekking. I expected some steep climbs and some walk on plateau intermixed in a trek. But here it was mostly a continuous steep path. Path has good amount of rocks providing friction for moving on , but there were patches with black soil which was slippery due to recent rain. Overall its was safe path.


From Trek Rangasamy betta


Due to steepness i got tired very quickly we need to rest every 15-20 mins. Rest of the group except myself & Hari were doing regular trekking and it was quite easy for them. Vishal has brought Tang orange juice powder , chocolates , rice balls to recharge ourself. At every stop we would make a 1 lt of juice and share it. This drinks and the chocolates provides instant energy. At a point we were tired and a long a long path still was ahead of us , Devesh mentioned the following lines "miles to go before I sleep" from a Robert Frost's poem. When we were discussing about it we thought it was from Road Not taken . But now on searching i found that both were different. During the upward journey i was too tired and didn't even open up the camera , even though there were awesome view points all through the path . At last we reached the hit top at 11:30. View from the top was breathtaking .

From Trek Rangasamy betta

It was here i took up my camera and started taking some snaps.

From Trek Rangasamy betta

Spent an hour here by taking some snaps and finishing off the the snacks. It was quite solemn there . Apart from us there were one more family who have reached through the road from the other side of the mountain.There was a temple beneath a monolithic rock.

From Trek Rangasamy betta

There is a rock near that temple which was painted as a elephant . nice one.

From Trek Rangasamy betta
we took lots of photos ....

From Trek Rangasamy betta

Down trek was not that tiresome. But we need to be careful to avoid slippage as the path was steep as mentioned earlier . There were fresh elephant dung all through the path , which confirms that elephants are frequent trekkers here . But we didn't notice any of them (perhaps luckily) in our trek nor any other wild animal . I still could understand how could elephants pass through such steep paths .

From Trek Rangasamy betta

It took 1 hour to reach the base.Took snaps of the views which i have missed during the up trek.We haven't taken our lunch so started of immediately towards Bangalore. It would have been a good idea to pack the lunch and spend a couple of hours in the base the mountain .

Epilogue:
I am loving it. Will make a point to attend more trek.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

[Travel]Ooty-Mudumalai-coonoor-21-24May2010

Preparations for this trip dates back to early April.Initially 8 people were also planning to join - Myself ,Angu,Mushi,Venkat ,GP ,Bharathi,Balu & Arul. We booked a 3 bedroom cottage in Fortune Retreat at outskirts of Ooty at the cost of Rs6000 per day for 2 days. Bharathi , Balu & Arul dropped out due to various reasons.So we kicked off the trip as a group of 5 people on 21 May.Onward journey was booked in KSRTC Volvo. Majestic bus stand seems to be consistantly chaotic during 6-11 PM. There are so much scarcity for space that the buses cant reach their platform and driver comes calling for passengers from the platform to the place where he has managed to park the bus.Though the bus was scheduled at 10:15, it started well after 11o'clock.We had good sleep in the bus that we didn't realize that we were traveling through a mountain path and reached ooty exactly at 6o clock in the morning.

We called up the cottage several times for pickup vehicle and after 1 hour we were mentioned that our checkin time is at 12 PM. Its only 7 in the morning and we had 5 more hours to kill. Its too early for ooty and there were very few passengers roaming in that tiny busstand. There were hardly any buses either.We noticed a local bus destined for gudalur and pykara falls/dam was on its route. Angu checked logistics with the conductor and we decided to travel to pykara .It was almost 30 mins journey and when we reached there road side eateries were getting ready for the day. We took bajjis & bread omlette as breakfast. It was here i switched on my camera and tried some snaps but to some reasons ( not known until now it) didn't work properly .Images were blurred / distorted. I tried changing settings and eventually tried all possible permutation and combination of settings after which it started to work.



Still i am not sure if it was due to some settings or some hardware fault in this camera. After a prolooonged breakfast we decide wall down the path to pykara falls.It was some 2 km walk and on reaching the spot we were shocked to find a thin stream which falls down at a height of not more than 3-5 mts . Please don't call it falls hereafter.We cant even dip our legs there.



Until then we had one thing which we missed after that completely - Privacy . We whiled of some time there and then started walking toward the bus stand.By this time tourists have started trickling in and hereafter wherever we went it was too crowded as if a kumbamelah is scheduled in ooty. After a 30 mins travel by bus we reached ooty bus stand .It was 12 pm now. There was no pickup vehicle from the cottage and we hired a auto to reach the cottage.It was located in the outskirts towards coonoor road on a hilly terrain and we paid Rs200 for 5-6 km strech.
Location of the cottage was good with valley on one side.It had a hall and bedroom on ground floor and 2 more bed rooms underground. Balcony overlooking the valley was awesome.We were too tired by now and decided to take lunch and rest out that afternoon. This location is isolated from the main business district and there was complete privacy here.




Restaurant attached to the resort was the only one reachable by walk and we were forced to eat here.We have to order in advance as very few people using it.But the quality of food was good and price was reasonable.That day we had a grand meal with chicken curry , fish fry. We choose the section of restaurent facing the valley where cool breeze blows even in 2 PM in the afternoon.


Then had a good sleep till 6 in the evening. Spent time in the night by watching TV & gossiping .Missed to take the playing cards :(.It was on this day the Indian Airlines flight crashed in mangalore and we were hooked to the news channels. Booked the cab for next day for Dodabetta & Mudumalai Santuary.

Next day had a yet another looong breakfast (idly ,dosas,puri,tea) and boarded the Cab. 5 people to be accommodated in a Tavera is quite spacious. First we reached Dodabetta - highest peak in south India.View is good from there. We skipped the telescope.Too much rush of vehicles.Last time when i visited here, i dont remember more than 4/5 vehicles ,but now it should be atleast 30-40 in all sizes. Leason learnt : Never visit a tourist spot in India in summers months however free you are.

Next stop was Botanical Garden.Pretty much the same every time you visit here. Jam packed here too.Spent some time to take snaps. Flower show has ended recently (the previous week) and there were remains of the flowers kept for show.

After roaming here for about an hour we left for Mudumalai .It as 1 hour journey with a 36 hairpin bend in the initial part of the track. Enroute we had lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the reserved forest area. There are lot of resorts deep inside the jungle on this road.Have to try it in future.
We reached Mudumalai at 3 PM and tokens were distributed for trip inside the forest area .Our number was 114 and current token no was around 50 and our expected start time was 5:15.So had to spend 2 hours.There was a small museum where we could spend 30 mins max if you read each and every line of the descriptions on the display.Our turn came exactly at 5:15 and we boarded the van and set off into the jungle.Path was bumpy.What else can we expect in a jungle when most of the city roads are inferior to that.We got seats at the last row of the van ,which magnified each bumps.This also made usage of camera extremely difficult.We were able to see few elephants , bizons , peacock and lot of deer.



It got over around 6 and we started back to ooty and reached at 7 or so.Hire charges were Rs2000 for the cab. Driver was friendly and gave us the idea of going for a trek the next day.
Next day 4 of us (expect angu) started of for the trek.It was on the highway to coonoor. A walk of almost 3 kms on this road to a Hanuman temple and we need to climb up the hill from there.
After trekking almost 2-3 km on the steep path we reached our destination , a bigger temple in between the caves. We had breakfast ( bread,jam,pickle) which we had carried with us. There was path to go up even higher but due to time constraints we returned. Checked out of the cottage at 12:30 and started towards ooty busstand.
We had 2 waiting listed tickets ( first class & ordinary ) in the monumental train to metupalayam but neither got confirmed. So we stood in the queue for unreserved tickets and that too was finished off before our turn. All that we could get is a first class ticket till conoor . Trip to ooty is not complete without this train trip and so we decided to take it. First Class compartment was lot better than when i traveled last time.
We reached coonoor around 4 PM and our initial plan was to continue the travel towards Coimbatore. A cab driver offered a trip of coonoor for Rs500. Since we had lot of time ( train was at 11 pm ) , we decided to take that trip. We saw tea gardens , sleeping lady view , dolphine nose , sims park and reached the bustand at around 6:15.

We got into a govt bus and stood all through the travel for 2 hours to Metupalayam. From there a bus ride to coimbatore (1 hour).Had dinner at Coimbatore and then took a bus/auto ride to pothanur. Train was atleast 45 mins late but reached bangalore on scheduled time on the next day.