ANDHRA PRADESH

ANDHRA PRADESH

Gandikota

Famously known as grand canyon of India,it is a gorge situated in PENNA river.Night camping under an open sky within the premises of Gandikota fort is a famous activity for the tourists coming from Bangalore.The drive to this place from bangalore is  is only 270 kms through excellent road meandering through the scenic deccan plateau and eastern ghats.The best time to visit is during monsoons as some of the waterfalls on the way adds destinations to this road trip from bangalore. Gandikota fort in an amusing way has both temples and masjids which proves the equality of religion and unity of human beings in the 16 th century.A 16 km diversion from the kurnool highway towards Hyderabad takes us to this amazing destination and natural wonder through a narrow road intersecting the river banks.The road is a wonderous drive for any enthusiast as it is elevated and curvy with walls of plateaus on both sides.The government of Andhra pradesh is trying hard to get it recognised in UNESCO world heritage site which it surely deserves due to its uniqueness of a combination of both history and geographic wonder.

Belum caves

Just 60 kms from gandikota towards hyderabad,this is the second longest cave in india. A marvelous geological wonder that houses an array of stalactites and stalagmites ,one should save 2 hours for walking through the cave as it offers plenty of adventure and natural formations of rocks to the tourists.one can stay near the belum caves in APTDC  guesthouse that has mostly dormitories.The APTDC accomodation is situated near to the cave so an early morning visit after 9 P.M which is the opening time for the visitors,is an easy task for all the tourists residing in the guesthouse.The cave is nicely illuminated with ventilation facilities due to the immnese heat inside the premises.There are numerous locations to see geological wonders inside the cave which is adventurous in its own way due to the narrow paths and rock formations.Sometimes The cave is two storeyed in some places where ladders are provided to have a glimpse of natural shapes of rocks due to calcium deposits.Sometimes the path through the carve out passages in the cave provide an ideal photogenic picture of the caves of Arizona in America.In some places the tourists gets delighted with led lights showing the path that acts as a catalyst to ones imaginative illuminating path.Visit this natural wonder with a nominal entry fee that is still under much more exploration.

 

 

Horsely hills

This is a small hamlet in andhra pradesh which is famously known as ooty of india. The  hill station  offers terrific view of the Eastern Ghat valley and a superb 25 km road trip from the main highway to bangalore.It is a small town with very few hotels to offer ,so prebook Haritha hill resort early to have a pleasant night stay.A single day is enough for this small hill station as a five km circumferential drive along the hill station is enough to explore this much sought out place in Andhra Pradesh. The drive to this hill station brings to us amazing views of the valley thorugh the steep Ghat roads. There is a view point at the edge of the road circumnavigating the hill station  that gives us a complete view of the series of Eastern Ghat Hills.

Paradise Along the Kinnaur Shimla highway

“Let us venture to the abode of Lord Shiva ,If not then The Nature….”

 

My dream for standing inside a garden of apples came true in the month of September 2016 when I visited the enigmatic Kinnaur valley in Himachal Pradesh. So immediately I decided of writing a travel blog on this trip.We were a group of four friends ,three NTPC engineers and one from Indian Bureau.We arrived at Kinnaur Shimla in early morning hours and after having our breakfast we quickly went to fetch our bikes from the rental agencies.Arriving in Shimla was a relief for all of us in the months of September so we were energised to push our adrenaline for an epic bike trip.My friend Jaykrishna and his brother Unnikrishnan who was working in Indian Bureau ,were travelling in a bike trip in elevations of more than 12000 feet for the first time.They carried their personal Royal Enfield all the way from Odisha to Shimla. It was Jaykrishna’s passion for adventure road trip in himalayas and my dream to witness apple avenues that drove us to Queen of hill stations ,Shimla. We already knew Shimla would be a crowdy place due to its immense popularity as tourist destinations.So we decided to leave that day for Sarahan which is a somewhat a quieter hill station 165 kms from Shimla. Since it will be six long hectic days of muscle power of the Royal Enfield in the tough roads of most parts of Himachal Pradesh we did a pre servicing and complete checkup of all the three royal enfields. The essential items we took were two carriers and elastic ropes for carrying the luggages,extra tubes in case of punctures,one hand pump,two cans for carrying petrol of capacity 5 litres each.We did a complete checkup of the battery and chokes ,and finally servicing of the chains attached to the pulley.They charged a rent of Rs1300 per bike so paying in advance the full payment we started of for our journey.We intended to leave the city as fast as we could because we decided to avoid the crowds of the hill stations in the whole trip.We refuelled our petrol tanks before leaving the outskirts of Shimla at 12:00 p.m .We arrived at Narkanda after an hour and the signs of apple farms began to show as we saw local people packing apples in boxes which will go down to plains.This was the introduction I planned for my tarvel blog.

I asked a local if we can go inside any farm and to my amazement he gestured us and cracked us a joke “ye puura jagaah aapke liye hain”(the whole place is all yours).It was like the costly apples means nothing to the himachal people but like guavas in the plains.Me and Jaykrishna hiked up a small hill and jumped over to the bushes to reach our dream garden.It was like red apples all around.The trees were short but they were hanging with numerous apples.No local people objected us so we packed up as much apples we can in our bags.This were the fresh apples directly plucked from trees.It was not packed and it tasted a whole lot sweeter.The apples gave me the perfect introdcution to kindle my enthusiasm for writing a travel log on kinnaur shimla.

The apples were more like dark brown red in colour.I was so happy and jumping ,as if like a kid won his medal for a treasure hunt.With the sweet taste of the apples we drove down further along the Sutlej plains towards Rampur. We decided to have our evening snacks and next refuel our bikes  in Rampur which was 50 kms before our destination Sarahan. The roads turned into Avenues of Pine trees with the sunrays playing hide and seek in between the branches.There were hardly any traffic and we lazily drove down to the Sutlej Plains clicking as much snaps as we could.We arrived at a village from where The Sutlej river was visible like green snake.From the view point we traced down the road and to our excitement the road was just along the length of the river running parallel.

Sutlej river along the Shimla Rampur Highway.

We couldn’t control our excitement to reach that place and so we drove down further in high gears.After an hour drive finally we arrived our view point destination and the place transformed into a whole new earth.It was like a village of the fertile plains with a broader version of Sutlej replacing the fertile plains.The trees were shorter in height and mountains were rich in vegetation.We faced a different side of Himachal pradesh on our way to Rampur. Such scenic highways definitely invoked in me writing skills for my travel blog.

Driving along the Sutlej river basin.

 

We reached Rampur by sunset and had our evening snacks in a local dhaba by the roadside. Rampur is an important town in the kinnaur district so it gave us numerous food options .Rampur Dhabas are situated amidst excellent view points looking down over the free flowing Sutlej river.So after refueling the tanks we did’nt wasted time and proceeded our trip towards Sarahan. Next 2 hours of drive was chilling and adventurous as it was completely dark and with ghat roads all along the way.So a simple advice for travellers is to take your exit from the outskirts of Shimla by 10 o clock in the morning.We arrived at Sarahan at eight o clock in the night.It was simply easy to find the hotels as Sarahan is a quiet hill station famous for Bheemkali Temple.The hotels are cheap and comfortable to live in .The hotels will charge you within Rs 1000 and provide you with delectable vegeterian dishes.We were tired after a 10 hour long bike ride so we had our dinner and went to sleep with the mountain rides and river valleys in our dreams. For accomodation in sarahan refer to the following link below:-



Booking.com

Sarahan village.

Hindustan Tibet Highway.

 

Next day our kinnaur story starts with the legendary Hindustan Tibet Highway which runs from Sarahan and ends in the last village of India to Tibet,Chitkul. My inspiration to engage more into road trips is highly motivated from this adventure in Himalayas in this beautiful valley of Himachal Pradesh. The hanging mountains over the roads,the green himalayas,snow capped peaks in the background,snow melted fast flowing rivers,apple avenues,beautiful villages and the  sweet hospitable people were always accompanying us in the mesmerising land of Himachal Pradesh.

Mountains being manually drilled by BRO

 

As the road curved its way through the edges of the mountains we crossed numerous suicide points which are extended rock cliffs from the highways.I was astonished to see the world’s most treacherous highway being established in such a precarious way by the Border Road Organisation.We are grateful that such organisations take such heroic steps that helps us to visit The Himalayas as humble tourists.

The mountains were rich in vegetation and fortunately we were greeted with terrific landforms. Sometimes there were wild asses grazing on the mountains carelessly.We passed through numerous power stations built over the Sutlej river basin.Due to the rapid flow of the river in this region the state government has set up numerous hydro power plants in this valley. Karcham being a famous industrial town where the state has few important power stations .

Sutlej river basin near the power plants

Karcham Hydro power plant and its reservoir.

 

What more a traveller can ask from nature when he is gifted with such adjectives of this beautiful places.Visit Kinnaur in September to see the apples in full bloom and the weather all clear with blue sky.Grab an enfield and meander around this valley to experience Kinnaur in a perfect road trip.This combination of the ruthless machine with the most beautiful mountains on this planet will surely be the most scintillating journey.The road to Kalpa as we go towards the upstream of Sutlej river made us spell bound as it unleashed its scenic painting.

Few kms before Kalpa

 

Kinnaur offers some real breathtaking views one of which we found it in the Hindusthan Tibet Highway near Kalpa. Though the road was tough to ride on but such breathtaking views motivated us for long exposures to nature and build our strength to fight the tough roads.Bike trip never becomes so significant in life until we venture to the Himalayas.

The most astonishing scenic place that I have ever been was this unnamed village which was few kms before Chitkul in the Kinnaur valley.I was stunned by so many apple trees on both sides of the roads that seemed like greeting the tourists with the symbols of kinnaur.

Apple Trees before Chitkul

 

We felt lucky that we arrived on the month of september as the apples were full grown by that time.We were behaving like kids ,jumping over the fences and climbing walls to pluck those delicious apples.It was a memorable moment of my life when I could pluck those wild apples directly from the tree,which otherwise are so costly down into the plains.I will always crave more for such road trips in bikes as it provides an ideal platform to explore our beautiful country in a more detailed way.

Colourful farmlands in Chitkul valley.

 

After crossing the huge Apple farmlands we proceeded towards Chitkul. The road became worse with symbols of landslide .We arrived at small river crossings made by narrow bridges which were made pit stops for photo sessions due the waterfalls in the background. The water was coming down from melted snow that formed a gushing river in the downstream.

The roads were getting tough but the natural scenery was getting equally more picturesque.

What arrived 5 kms beore the village made us spellbound.There were a series of colourful farmlands of red and yellow plantations equally garlanded with pine trees.The mountains were like transforming into a wall of collage with colours of green and grey.The rocks were shining its grey dust while the green vegetation were soothing our vision.There is a military checkpoint before entering the village since Chitkul being a border village to Tibet.

At the millitary checkpoint before entering Chitkul

 

After the checkpoint the road unleashed itself into a whole new paradise world.It was like a painting done by God ,being recently coloured for the new passionate travellers like us.The view became panoramic with a wide angle vision.We were at a height of more than 3500 metres above sea level.In our vision there was this distant village surrounded by the mighty Himalayas in its most colourful form.

After a 9 hour bike ride through the toughest terrain in the Himalayas we arrived in a paradise village of the Himalayas.The village is situated on the banks of one of the tributaries of Sutlej river,The Baspa river.Earlier we had planned to come down to Kalpa and stay in a camp.But after watching the entrance view of this heavenly village we decided to have our night stop in this village to have a surreal experience in the lapse of nature.Indeed the splendid scenery of Chitkul will trap a traveller’s mind for atleast a whole day in this most beautiful village.

Chitkul village along the Baspa river.

The village is the last vilage to Tibet so the people living here has culture and living styles similar to Buddhism.The Kinnaur Kailash peak is clearly visible from this beautiful village which makes it more important for hindu pilgrims.We witnessed a memorable sunset on the banks of the Baspa river with the snow capped peak of the Kinnaur kailash glazing like a fireball in the last rays of the sun.The memory of Chitkul will remain in my blood deep enough for a lifelong impact whenever I will visit  Kinnaur Shimla.For accomodation in Chitkul refer to the link below:-



Booking.com

Tourists can also stay at kalpa near to Chitkul and the link is given below:-



Booking.com

On the banks of the baspa river with the last rays of the sun on the Kailash peak.

 

The hotel Alpine view is situated just at the starting of the village amidst stunning scenery surrounded by lofty colourful mountains.The hotel is run by bengalis who will provide the tourists with delectable vegetarian dishes.The caretaker even surprised us with a local Apple drink for just rs 250 for half a bottle.He told us that it will keep us warm under the shivering cold at night.Indeed it was .It acted like super Rum.The rooms are cheap but the power is out for most of the time,which actually is a pleasure to experience the wilderness of the surroundings.The location turns even more heavenly at night when the galactic sky gets lightened up with the stars and the sound of the flowing Baspa river in the vicinity of the hotel.Due to less pollution and free air the visibility of sky at such high altitudes is totally mesmerising and I experienced my best view of Planetorium on that day.

Having an early morning breakfast we bid goodbye to this dreamland and proceeded for Spiti valley.In this trip I missed many small towns of Kinnaur valley like Kalpa,Rakhcham and Rekong peo which can be explored in another two days.We were short of time so we proceeded towards the tougher and drier part of our country.

The mountains hanging over the roads never stopped.

 

Spiti is a cold desert lying on the leeward side of the mountains.The scenery changes from green fertile landscape to a tougher and rusty atmosphere as we approach to Spiti valley from the Kinnaur valley ,Himachal Pradesh.Now the roads were turning into dusty .The Hindustan Tibet highway transformed itself to the most treacherous highway as the hair pin bends increased and roads were filled with numerous potholes and shooting stones.The roads now become even more worse and mountain colour changed to shining gold.There were mostly long wooden bridges with prayer flags with settlements of Indian army base camps.

The tougher terrain of the Himalayas.

 

Sutlej river turned into grey colour as it dried down accumulating the eroded mountain rocks from the surface.Our journey slowed down at this point as after few kms from Chitkul the roads were in terrible condition.As we moved on to Pooh which is the last village in Kinnaur Shimla,Himachal Pradesh ,the terrain changes drastically.The Sutlej river changes to a muddy form into Spiti river which then guides us to explore the greater remote part of Himachal Pradesh.

Muddy form of the Sutlej river.

 

We had our lunch in one of the few highway dhabas in Pooh.The dhabas provide excellent homemade potato stuffed parathas with curd made from local cow milk.The temperature is high enough in the morning so a curd provided us with a healthy diet.Now our journey was headed to the least populated region of our country -The Spiti valley,the introduction of which we felt in the change in geography.The natural scenery ,adventurous roads and pollution free air of Himachal Pradesh always fascinated me which is why this travel blog on Kinnaur Shimla is one of my favourites among all the articles that I have  written so far.

Story of Big cat rescue in Simlipal Odisha


Before proceeding into the detailed story I want to thank my juniour collegue Syam Sunder Rao in assisting me with the camera and in providing some mindblowing images.Follow i_syam7926 for more delightful images in Instagram.

Few people know about a big cat rescue in a tiger sanctuary in simlipal odisha.let me explain that. Simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary presently has 35 tigers officially and 100 leopards.Several big cat rescue operation is carried out but one story stands apart.

Man machine and forest combine together to give a cycle of relief and stress for some people in our society.I am one of them.My work life is heavily oriented in maintaining huge machines but at the same time my working schedule provides me ample oppurtunity to explore my surroundings.Machines cannot dominate our emotions until we have our beautiful nature to explore.I live in odisha which provides the best oppurtunity to explore forest wildlife in our country.According to my shift rota I get three holidays in every month which I believe I have not wasted a single time since I got my job.

 

Fortunately the last week of December 2017 I availed that three holidays to spend my new year night in the second largest reserve forest in our country in Simlipal. Sometimes I feel so lucky working in shifts which gives me that oppurtunity to avail the rest days in exploring this beautiful state. Odisha is the soul of our country in terms of tourist attractions.The tiger sanctuary of simlipal odisha is one of the largest of its kind in this country and big cat rescue operations team are very efficent here. is It has a long coastline with the bay of bengal,the largest brackish water lake which is chilka,Eastern ghats with highly dense forests and numerous unexplored waterfalls.This state is also an important supplier of rich minerals that contributes in the economic development of our country.Hats off to the government in odisha in preserving such pristine destinations amidst heavy industrialization.Visit odisha and you will get to know about the versatality of our country’s terrain.

After two days of strenous night shift we started our trip in the early morning hours of 30 th December from our NTPC township in Talcher kaniha. Talcher boasts of a heavily power capital of the state with the largest reserves of coal in India.Many tourist destinations of north western odisha is well connected by roads from Talcher .So we booked an Innova for a road trip to Jashipur. Well Jashipur is a major town in Mayurbhanj district which acts as an entry point to the Simlipal National sanctuary.

We crossed the Samal barrage which is a hydro power plant built over Brahmini river.Within an hour we were travelling ont he highway surrounded by fertile plains and coconut trees.The countryside of odisha is beautiful and it still holds the purest form of rural India.There is a definite difference in the colours of the villages in monsoon than in other seasons.While now we were watching golden crops in paddy fields but in the monsoon the whole of Odisha turns delightfully green.Still the scenery offered much green forests ,thanks to the plantation initiatives which has been taken up by the head of the companies engaged in doing business in the state.

We had our pit stop in a dhaba after passing through numerous avenues of teak trees for lunch.After lunch due to our strenous schedule on the previous days we went back to sleep inside the car while our skillful driver reached Jashipur by evening .Jashipur is the base point to enter simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary and if lucky discuss with the big cat rescue operation team.On the way we crossed another famous destination of Odisha i.e Keonjhar which also boasts of three famous waterfalls and ancient archaeological site.

LOCAL TEA JUNCTIONS BY THE HIGHWAY.

After reaching Jashipur our only task was to find a hotel for our night stay since we planned to explore Simlipal on the next day in the early morning hours.We found out that in this small town there were only two decent hotels  which was obvious for this small town in this district.Hotel Shivam Palace is a good option for staying here .The hotel is run by an old man who is very cooperating and simple .He also arranged for us the contacts for jeep safari and a guide to explore the Simlipal forest.

The only food options we found out in this small town were dhabas by the highways.The dhabas cook excellent delicious foods with many options for the menu.So we too had our dinner in one of the many dhabas. One additional advantage to to eat in these dhabas is that for chicken they dont provide the poultry meat.They provide the rural hens of the villages which are rare to find and even more tasty than the poultry chicken.After a delicious dinner with the countryside chicken we went off to sleep as we were tired due to the full day journey.

Next day we woke up in the early morning hours to avail an early morning safari.We gave our documents to our guide necessary for the entry to the Simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary.The big cat rescue was done here efficently.

Here comes the first drawback and frustrating moment in our tour.The total formalities took over for three hours to take permission for the forest check gates.The documents required for permission from the forest department are the print out of the ticket for staying inside the Eco tourism Guest house inside the simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary,with the original Identity card mentioned when booking the Guest house and the driving licence of the car drivers who will go for safari.They charge Rs 600 for a guide which they provide to each and every tourist vehicle going inside and Rs 200 each for the vehicle to enter.We took two cars inside the simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary so we need Rs 400 in total for entry pass inside the simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary.Unfortunately the people in the tourist office were into some confusion to relate to our printout of our bookings inside Eco tourism.They gave us two papers to fill in the details of the passenger and the car.Since we were also going inside with our Innova so we had to submit the driving licence of our driver.

FOREST OFFICE WHERE PERMIT IS TO BE TAKEN.

To our surprise we saw the office was devoid any computers.So all the entry forms were being handled by a single aged man .All these process took a healthy time from us.I think when tourists are carrying the printout format of their bookings in the government Eco tourism guest house then it is not necessary to again fill up a form mentioning the details of the passengers since the printout carries the details.To avoid the heavy rush of the tourists ,staffs in the office must be increased with computers which will reduce the waiting time. Infact after the formalities of the office there were even more two checking points for a throughout check up of the vehicles.They check for any alcoholic drinks since any type of alcoholic drinks are not allowed inside the forest.

FOREST ENTRY GATE.

After such strict security checkup we proceeded to move along the Khairi river inside the dense forest.Now this river has some historical significance.It was on the banks of this river that in the year 1974 the then field officer Saroj Raj Choudhury found a tigress cub on the banks of river Khairi. He took care of the cub as a foster father and that was how Simlipal National sanctuary came to limelight all over the world due to the tiger and human relationship.The muddy road will pass by the river amidst dense forest of sal and teakwood trees.

HOUSES OF KHADIA TRIBALS AS WE ENTER THE FOREST.

There will be rocks scattered on the free flowing river bed with tribal people taking a bath on the water.I knew I was totally inside a rural village of our country.Shortly after few kms we were completely driving on the red soil into the deep forest cover.We arrived in a spot which described about a 300 years old Sal tree.Instead of seeing an old tree I preferred to see the different types of flora and fauna inside the forest.

Simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary is famous for orchid plants and has been already declared as a biosphere by the UNESCO world heritage site.It has a core area of more than 300 square kilometres making it the second largest national park of our country.There were different variety of money plants of various shapes which astonished me completely.The smell of the fresh forest cover with the red soil transported me into a whole different ambience away from the daily smokes of the chimney.

FAUNA AS WE PROCEEDED INTO THE FOREST.

At intervals we came across small villages consisting of local tribes known as khadia with their typical mud thatched roof houses.There were open valleys plenty with rice plantation ,surrounded by the dense forests of the Eastern Ghats.Sometimes we crossed river khairi meandering its way into the simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary below the wooden bridges. Sometimes we came across small shops with roofs made of straw making tea and omlettes for the tourists.

KHADIA TRIBAL SETTLEMENTS IN THE VILLAGES INSIDE THE FOREST.

The first village that we arrived inside Simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary was Gudgudia.It is similar to like one of many tribal villages in Odisha with Government Eco Tourism Guesthouse making the centre stage with two baby elephants.Tourists can touch and feed the two elephants at their will.

Meandering down the quaint roads with the smell of red laterite soil we proceeded our picturesque journey to Uski waterfall. Uski waterfall is situated deep into the forest with excellent flow of water gushing down from the cliffs inside the forest.Next we proceeded our journey to Barehipani waterfall.

USKI WATERFALL

ON THE WAY TO BAREHIPANI FROM USKI.

Barehipani waterfall is one of the highest plunge waterfall in India covering a height of more than 400 metres .The splendid form of the waterfall falling in steps like a white ribbon will mesmerise the tourist to  praise the subtle things of nature.The shape of this waterfall is so unique than many other waterfalls in India .

The view point is made of cliffs so tourists should be careful of taking the photographs carefully. Barehipani waterfall gushes down with huge volumes of water to form a part of Budhabalanga river.So one can imagine the mineral content in the sweet water of the river due to the water eroding the rocks while its journey to the river.The origin of the river is Balanga compartment which is 25 kms south of Barehipani.The minimum temperature of the water is 7 deg celsius in winter and 35 deg celsius in the summer. Dont forget to take a wallpaper picture of this marvelous waterfall in odisha.

It was already 5 o clock in the evening and the sun was seting down .We had some snacks in of the local shops of the Khadia tribals and quicky proceeded for the safari to the core of the forest.Chahala is a village 35 kms inside the forest where animal sighting is possible.

The forest officials have put up a watchtower for animal sighting inside the forest.In front of the watchtower there is a huge field into which the forest officials spread salt over the grasses for the herbivorous animals.The animals need iodine for the proper functioning of their digestive system so The come to graze on the field to taste the iodine rich grasses.One can spot the barking deer,spotted deers,elephants and wild boars here.It was already sunset so we only saw the glowing eyes of numerous deers in the dark.

FULL MOON IN CHAHALA.

The forest officials discussed with us his experiences during animal survey when they go deep inside the simlipal odisha tiger sanctuary for big cat rescue operations.According to him there are 35 Royal bengal tigers and 100 leopards inside the forest.He gave us a detailed knowledge of the behavioral skills of various animals in the forest which enlightened our evening discussion with lemon tea.We spent an hour there and then quickly proceeded to our Eco tour guest house in Kumari village.

ECO TOUR GUEST HOUSE COTTAGES.

When we reached our homestays it was 8 o clock in the night time and it was pitch dark.We refreshed ourselves with some cold water and prepared ouselve for the overnight party inside this remarkable moonlight of 31st december.It was my best new year celebration under an open sky with no mobile tower thus no notifications to disturb me.We arranged bornfires and enjoyed every bit of the marvelous campus which the Government of Eco tourism has set up in kumari.

In the morning we were amazed to see the views from our rooms.There were huge farmlands blooming with golden crops all around us.The khadia tribals were ploughing their field with the cows and sometimes the kids were running around in freedom.

This intense rural natural ambience will always pull me again to visit the village kumari. The garden inside the campus was blooming with flowers with fresh colours of nature.We took every oppurtunity to take photos in detail for the lovely memories of our first day of 2018.After breakfast we packed our bags to return back to our homes bidding goodbye to the khadia tribals of kumari.

On our return journey we took a single pit stop on the beautiful banks of the river khairi.

Now this is the river where in 1974 The khadia tribals found a tigress cub and they immediately brought it to the then forest field officer Mr Saroj Raj Choudhury. This is the original story of khairi, a big cat rescue operation done in the british era. Immediately the forest officer took care of the baby cub like a foster father.The tigress ate from his hands and cuddled into the saree of her foster mother.The incident became famous all over India.A tiger that ate and slept with the human beings.The tigress grew up into a healthy one and died in 1981 due to rabies.Mr Saroj Raj Chodhury died soon after.He was forever known as the person who lived and died for a tiger. A unique feet in big cat rescue operation.
On the banks of the river khairi we tasted the sweet water of the river and played with the rifts formed due to the rocky bed on the river.The temperature and taste of the clean mineral rich river water was out of this world.I felt like the soul of the forest officer,the khadia tribals and that of the numerous tigress cubs reaching out to us to help and preserve the subtle geography of our mother Earth.Tourist visiting this second largest national sanctuary must take care of not polluting inside the forest and spread the message to save the tiger which is a pride of our country. Simlipal is rich in flora and fauna so tourists must take enough time to explore this beautiful part of odisha.

 

Year’s First Sunrise from a Heritage Hotel at Kalimpong…

A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee

(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)

 

This New Year, we planned to visit the hilly terrains of Northern Bengal to treat our eyes with a cloudless glimpse of the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga range. Since my childhood, I remember my grandma’s description of the mesmerizing views of Mt. Kanchenjunga on a January morning. She had spent her juvenile days at the queen of hills, and so it was through her eyes, I visualized the mountains till the time I experienced it myself.

Kalimpong is a beautiful hill station of North Bengal, situated at an average altitude of 4100 feet, around 80 kilometres (three hours’ drive) from the Bagdogra airport. It was not my first visit to Kalimpong though, but yes the first winter visit for sure.

31st December 2017 – we took an afternoon flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra and landed by 2pm. It’s an Indian Air Force maintained airport and hence photography is strictly prohibited within the premises. It did not take much time to collect our luggage as the airport had only two conveyor belts with very limited civilian passengers.

We hired a pre-paid taxi (Kalimpong drop for Rs. 1400) from the airport counter but soon realized being trapped when the driver loaded our luggage onto a car with different number than the one mentioned in the prepaid booking slip. He tried his level best to convince us that both the cabs belonged to him and it did not make much of a difference whichever we get in. Somehow, we managed to free ourselves from his suspicious clutches and reported straight to the prepaid booth, finally ending up in cancelling our booking at the end. Luckily, we noticed the discrepancy, but it could be damn risky for elderly people to anticipate such hazards.

Time was hitting hard on us as from our previous experiences we knew that after 3pm, no taxis tend to agree driving up the hills. On top, since it was winter time so the risk was mounting up faster. We gave ourselves some time at the adjacent coffee shop when an old gentleman (supposedly a broker) approached us to offer a ride to Kalimpong at the same prepaid booking price. Initially we did not pay much attention, but when he said that the driver was a local resident of Kalimpong and was waiting for a return trip, we agreed to talk to the driver directly. He looked trusted and we geared off without wasting much time. But honestly speaking, where so many foreigners visit round the year, the transport authorities must work towards strengthening the governance, in interest of the tourists.

TEA BREAK ENROUTE

 

We continued on NH10 for major part of our journey, crossing a rail bridge near Sevoke. All the while the superfluous turquoise waters of Teesta River were on our right till the time we crossed it near Rambi bazaar. We met a Y-shaped bifurcation near Chitrey Waterfalls where we took a right turn towards the Rishi Road leading to Kalimpong. The road we left headed straight to Melli in Sikkim.

TURQUOISE WATER OF TEESTA RIVER.

RAMBI BAZAAR

Kalimpong was just twelve kilometres from Chitrey Khola but the remaining road was the toughest part of the route. Here lies the famous two-and-half turn of Rishi Road which was like a series of sharp hairpin bends, ascending steeply over three thousand feet at one go. A chilly wind pierced our skin as we kept climbing up the hill for next thousand feet. We avoided the overcrowded downtown area by taking the Kalimpong Bypass route. Fortunately, the driver knew the roads well and we faced no issues reaching our hotel.

We had done a prior booking at the Kalimpong Park Hotel (Superior Deluxe DBR at Rs. 3900 + applicable taxes) and it took us around two hours forty five minutes to reach there from Bagdogra airport. Ample parking space was available in front of the hotel, no parking hazards at all where today most of the Kalimpong hotels fall short of. Darkness had totally engulfed the place by the time we reached the hill station.

The hotel entrance was beautifully lit and decorated with flowering plants to add a celebration touch. Our check-in was hassle free. We were given a front side room at the third floor. The wood works of the hotel lobby and reception area were noteworthy. However, the room quality and cleanliness must be improved compared to the tariff. No tea coffee kits were provided, wall to wall carpets were not available, no slippers in room, toiletries provided were of very poor quality, bathroom was very clumsy, drinking water was not purified and so on. These are some basic amenities which any boarder would expect from a star hotel.

Keeping aside the hotel amenities, the building has a very attractive fact attached to its existence. It was earlier known as ‘Dinajpur House’ when it was inhabited by the Maharaja of Dinajpur as a summer retreat. It is positioned around a kilometre above the Kalimpong town, facing north-east, with a panoramic view of the landscape from the entrance podium. It still belongs to the Dinajpur royal estate, however some portion of it has been recently renovated and leased out to the luxurious Park Hotel group for tourist accommodation.

I would like to highlight an important point here – location of the hotel is splendid only for tourists who want to avoid the crowded Kalimpong market area, otherwise one might feel very isolated. That also implies that there was not a single shop in and around the hotel within a kilometre’s range. Since we were in an utterly relaxing mood, we loved the seclusion.

VALLEY VIEW FROM THE ROOM

It was 31st December night and the prevailing weather was just complementing the calendar dates. The outside temperature was way below ten degrees with a frosty breeze blowing all the while. Being there on the year end night, a small bonfire was arranged by the hotel staff and we were warmly invited to attend it while completing our check-in formalities.

BONFIRE AT HOTEL IN NIGHT.

 

We quickly freshened up as we had midnight plans for the day. The beautiful aroma of hot Darjeeling tea refreshed our weariness in a jiffy. And we decided to take a walk within the hotel premises. The heritage aspect of the hotel was the most attractive part of our stay and it was quite evident from the well maintained trophy room and outhouse turned to bar. There were wonderful antique collections of furniture, utensils, grandpa’s clock, a Victorian wall clock, a magnificent fireplace, stuffed animals etc to add up to our grand experience. From one of the hotel boys we came to know that the building has been often portrayed in old and new Bengali films including some recent releases like Bastu Saap, Chhaya o Chhobi etc.

 

Bonfire had already started by the time we came back to the reception area. We planned to have our dinner at the adjoining restaurant. Food taste was good and of sufficient quantity but they did not have water purifiers at all. Only option was bottled mineral waters being sold at elevated prices. They serve natural spring waters without being cautioned. People planning to stay with kids, beware.

The receptionist told us that on a cloudless morning, Mt. Kanchenjunga peaks are best visible from its top floor observatory (fourth floor) and the ornate garden adjoining reception area. But we must wake up early to experience that. It would be the first sunrise of the New Year and so we were extremely excited to enthral the first glimpse of the regal snow peaks.

Alarms rang sharp at 4.30am and we rushed to the top floor observatory. It was still dark outside. After an hour’s wait, morning sun’s first glows started appearing and slowly the hilly outlines became visible. Luckily it was a truly cloudless morning. It was right at 6.15am when the Mt. Kanchenjunga main peaks could be seen.

 

By 6.30am, the entire snow clad Kanchenjunga range was grandly visible on our left while the sun rose from our right. The view of the changing colours on the snow was not just great, but grand. We also went to the garden to experience the view and it was worth the efforts. We came back to our room ordering a pot of steaming Darjeeling tea. Nevertheless, most of the hotel rooms did not face the snow peaks.

 

11 am and it was time for us to check out. Unfortunately, our end note was not that sweet. The hotel had arranged a private taxi (car with white number plate) for dropping to our onward destination. Upon asking the driver, he said in front of hotel staffs that “in Kalimpong white board cars are allowed to do commercial trips.” Whatever be the fact, take our words, do confirm the rates with the driver before starting your journey from hotel.

We faced serious concerns with the driver booked through hotel reception regarding the trip cost at the end of the day. The amount told to us by hotel receptionist was way less than the driver actually charged us at the dropping point. The overall taxi experience during the entire trip was horrible which reinstates the need of governance by transport authorities in the region. Till the time that happens, at least the hotels must take care of these subtle issues in the long run because when tourists books a taxi through the hotel, they will not expect such discrepancies and impolite driver behaviour.

Whatever be the ups and downs, our winter tour to Kalimpong was a memorable one, heartened by a lifetime stay at the heritage hotel. We thoroughly enjoyed the grand view of the mountains, ultimate solitude, lovely bonfire, tasty food, aromatic Darjeeling tea and the prevailing chilling climate – exactly what we had planned as part our New Year celebrations.

Tomb of India’s First Chinese Forefather at Chinamantala

A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee.

(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)

 

Chinamantala is a small village near Budge Budge, about 50 kilometres from Kolkata Airport via Diamond Harbour Road. There are no direct bus or train routes to reach the place, but can be easily accessed by private vehicle.

 

Today you will hardly find any Chinese families residing there, but the name of the place is still dedicated to them. Remnants of only two ancient Chinese settlements have survived the ravages of time – a traditional Chinese temple and the grave of India’s first Chinese forefather Tong Acheew. The silent hamlet gets back its life during the Chinese New Year week when plenty of Indian Chinese inhabitants visit the place, pay tribute to the great man, tune to the beats of ethnic drums and perform dragon dancing in typical Chinese carnival style.

 

Though the distance from Kolkata is very less, yet due to extreme conditions of Diamond Harbour Road and then Budge Budge Trunk Road, it took us almost two and half hours to reach the place. GPS guided quite well till Budge Budge but thereafter asking locales served as the easiest pathfinder.

 

Crossing Budge Budge BDO Office, we drove straight till Pujali (around 5 kilometres). Took a tea break at Shivtala which looked more like a local marketplace. We asked the directions for Chinamantala from the old Muslim tea vendor who guided us with confidence to our destination. He asked to take left from the next Y-junction popularly known as Boro Battala. From there, the Chinese temple was on right within a kilometre’s drive through the village road.

Road to ChinamantalaWAY TO CHINAMANTALA

We were very disappointed to find the temple closed after reaching there. The massive green painted entry porch seemed to have been built in recent times and appeared quite well maintained. There were some Chinese inscriptions on the marble plaque along with English engravings. The temple belongs to the God and Goddess of Earth and is maintained by Kolkata’s Gee Hing Church and Club.

The Chinese Temple EntryTHE CHINESE TEMPLE ENTRY PORCH.

Our watch showed, it was 12.30pm. Unfortunately, we could not locate a single person around to ask about the temple timings. Little hesitantly, we parked our car opposite to the main gate and peeped in through the grills. Nothing much could be seen except a green lawn and a red coloured insignificant construction at the right-hand corner of the ground.

Gate of Chinese TemplePEEPING THROUGH THE GRILL GATE OF THE CHINESE TEMPLE.

There was a rustic shop just beside the temple, which too was closed. Highly disappointed, as we were about to leave the place, a mid-aged lady smiled at us. From her attire, she looked like a local villager. With lots of courage, we too smiled back. This created an immediate air of confidence on both the sides and sparked a conversation. She was a primary school teacher and by our luck came out to be a very learned lady. She took us back to the rich history of the place through her narrative.

 

1718 AD, a young courageous Chinese tea trader named Tong Acheew had landed at the shores of Bay of Bengal, near Budge Budge with the hope of conducting trade with English East India Company. It took him years of struggle to establish a trading relationship with the Company. During late 1770s, after being successful in persuading Warren Hastings, the then Governor General of British India, Tong Acheew was permitted to start the first Chinese owned sugar mill of the country. That opened doors to the influx of hordes of Chinese workers from the Hakka and Cantonese communities, who settled in the villages in and around the sugar mill.

 

Since the locality was just beside the mighty Hooghly River (an indigenous name of Ganga), the land was very fertile here which flickered another bizarre idea in the trader’s mind. Within a year, Tong Acheew took on lease a huge agricultural land from the Britishers for cultivating sugarcane, which in turn would serve the purpose of sugar supply for his mill.

 

To support the entire supply chain, there was huge demand of cheap labour. Soon, the workers’ families too were immigrated from China and the small village flourished to a full-grown Chinese community. The native hamlet was renamed to Acheewpur in his honour and the exact location of the sugar mill got its name changed to Chinamantala. With the passage of time, Acheewpur has become modified to Achipur, the name by which it is known today.

 

Thrilled by the golden past of the place, we also asked her about the history of this Chinese temple. She said, as popularly known amongst the locales, Tong Acheew was a religious man and deeply worshipped aboriginal tutelary Chinese divinities named Tudi-Gong (God & Goddess of Earth). During his first visit to Calcutta in 1718, he carried two small idols of these deities which he established in the form of a small shrine. Later, the sugar mill was constructed just beside it. Natives, majority of whom were Hindus & Muslims, when revolted against the institutionalization of foreign deities in their homeland, Tong Acheew renamed the deities with an Indianized appeal – Khoda and Khodi. He also exhibited extreme liberality by creating a temple for Lord Shiva beside the Chinese shrine. However, no Shivalinga was allowed to be held within the premises. With time, it came to be known as Chinese temple, unlike by the name of the deities housed inside. Even today, a single priest offers daily prayers to both the deities with equal esteem and belief, making it a one of its kind. Hardly in the world there would be a second instance of such generous religiosity.

 

From the lady’s emotional attachment with the place, it was clear that the temple does hold a very special corner in the hearts of all the villagers. She felt very happy to see our curiosity about Acheewpur and thus guided us to the shrines through a backside exit gate. That gate was mostly used by the priest and strictly restricted for visitors. Nevertheless, standing at the gate itself, we could see the temple woodworks, Chinese pillar calligraphy, the shrines and the offerings. The red coloured insignificant construction at the right-hand corner of the ground which we saw from the main entrance was actually the original temple shrine. The ceiling height was so low that we had to literally crawl inside. It was such an unusual experience indeed. Regrettably, photography was restricted inside.

Backside Exit side of the Chinese TempleBACKSIDE EXIT TEMPLE OF THE CHINESE GATE.

 

Chinese Temple HousingCHINESE TEMPLE HOUSING SHIVA TEMPLE IN SAME COMPOUND.

Upon asking about the tomb of Tong Acheew, she advised us to park our car near the temple and walk half a kilometre along the tapering muddy road towards the river. Then, giving a second’s pause, she herself offered to accompany us to the place as it would be difficult for us to locate it as outsiders. Such an open helping attitude from a native touched our heart with contentment.

Tong Acheews TombMUDDY ROAD TOWARDS TONG ACHEEW’S TOMB.

For the next fifteen minutes, she kept narrating Tong Acheew’s life story and his sad demise. Within few years of the settlement, the sugar plantations and factory both were running with heavy returns. Even the Britishers were happy with the huge profits. But luck was not his side. Tong Acheew was fatally diagnosed with an ailment and he succumbed to death very fast. Soon after he passed away, the Britishers took control of his sugar mill and started cultivating indigo on the same land, ushering nightmare for the Chinese labourers. The poor workers started worshipping Tong Acheew as a divine self. They also constructed a grave in his memory just beside the Hooghly River with the hope of protection from the clutches of inhumane indigo planters of East India Company.

Graveyard through the brick kilnsWAY TO GRAVE THROUGH THE BRICK KILNS

 

Hooghly River TombAN AFTERNOON WALK ALONG THE HOOGLY RIVER TOWARDS THE TOMB

Within a span of just two years, thousands of Chinese nationals who had settled along the banks of Budge Budge, started migrating towards the mainland of Calcutta in search of peaceful work environment. Most of them landed near Tiretta Bazar, now popularly known as China Town and Acheewpur looks deserted since then. On a different note, if we flip through the pages of history, Acheewpur marked the beginning of Chinese settlements in India.

 

After walking for a while, she pointed us to take a shorter route through a brick factory as it was about to dusk. As time sailed through 250 years, the Hooghly River changed its courses several times. Years ago, the original graveyard constructed by the Chinese residents got engulfed into the depths of the river. However, to commemorate the memory of Tong Acheew, a U-shaped red coloured grave has been newly constructed near the present-day Budge Budge Ferry Ghat and is often used as a Hindu cremation ground.

Way to the Brick kilnsWAY TO GRAVE THROUGH BRICK KILNS

 

Tong Acheew’s GraveTONG ACHEEW’S GRAVE OVERLOOKING HOOGLY RIVER

 

Red Tong Acheew’s tombNEWLY CONSTRUCTED U-SHAPED RED COLOURED TONG ACHEEW’S GRAVE

 

Chinese Inscriptions in the TombCHINESE INSCRIPTIONS ON THE TOMB.

The view of the setting sun on Hooghly River from the holy site was a mesmerizing treat to our tired eyes. We thanked the lady for her time and valuable insights about the rich past of Chinamantala. If we did not happen to come across her, our trip would have been certainly incomplete. With the Chinese New Year knocking the door this weekend, why don’t you plan a day trip to this awesome getaway?

Sunset at Hooghly RiverSUNSET ON HOOGLY RIVER IN CHINAMANTALA

Channapatna Bangalore – The Wooden Toy Capital of India

A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee

Connect with her on Facebook @: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee

 

It was a summer Sunday. Bored of sitting lazily at home, we decided to drive to a 200-year-old rural toy-making handicraft industry of Karnataka, around 65 kilometers south of Bangalore along the Mysore Road. Located in the Rama Nagara district, Channapatna Bangalore is known for its indigenous wooden toys for centuries.

 

There is also a very noteworthy ancient temple nearby – Sri Aprameya Swamy (or Navaneetha Krishna) temple at Doddamallur. The significance of the place is that it is perhaps the only temple in southern India where Lord Sri Krishna is worshiped in the form of a crawling baby with a lump of butter in hand.

 

It was going to be a day trip of entirely different flavour this time. 7.30 in the morning. We zipped our backpack for the day with some light snacks, couple of mineral water bottles and a digicam to shoot our journey. We decided to take the exit to Mysore Road at the outskirts of the state capital to avoid city traffic.

 

Mysore Road – Way to Channapatna  Bangalore in Ram Nagara district of Karnataka

 



Within hardly half an hour we reached Kumbalgoduthe first prominent halt on the Bangalore-Mysore state highway. Since the driving distance was not significant, we took a quick smoking break, changed hands and started anew.

 

After driving for another 12 odd kilometers, we reached a very chaotic place called Bidadi with increasing number of road traffic and pedestrians around. It seemed as though we were approaching a village fair ground. From highest, we immediately geared down our car and started looking for a safe way out through the mob. All of a sudden, a young lumbering fellow came in front of our car with a wooden club in his hand – startled, we braked immediately. Initially thought he must be a local traffic controller or so. As we intended to slide down our front windows, he directed us to take left onto a huge muddy ground with numerous cars already parked informally. Highly astonished, we just followed his hand directions and found a suitable corner slot to park our car. Once we jumped off the car in utter curiosity, we saw hundreds of people were running around – most of them appeared more like tourists than traffic violators. It did take us few minutes to understand what had actually happened.

 

Thatte Idli shops at Bidadi

 

There was an array of rustic food joints in front of us and all the name plates read “Bidadi Special Thatte Idli”. We were at the Idli Capital of India – Bidadi. Oh! never ever imagined it to be such a happening place though. Just like Bengal’s Shaktigarh stretch is famous for fried sweets (langcha), Bidadi also holds a great importance to the natives for their special form of idlis called Thatte Idli. They are much bigger in size and softer in taste – that’s what we knew from our bookish knowledge, yet to be validated today.

 

We entered one of the bigger shops and waited in a long queue to just place our order. After about a twenty minutes’ wait, we got our coupons. Another fifteen minutes went in placing the order at the counter. Prices were mostly reasonable. In a while, a little boy served us plates of steaming Thatte Idli with filter coffee. Looking at the size of the idlis, we were left dumbfounded – almost triple the size of normal idlis and the taste had such a heavenly tenderness! It seemed to have coriander and mint leaves mixed in the batter, enhancing the taste to newer heights. With no choice of instant coffee or leaf tea in the list of hot beverages, we had to order South Indian filter coffee only. Honestly, the raw taste of coffee powder did not go well with the idlis. Nevertheless, we just had it more as a habit to include hot drinks in our daily breakfast.

 

After about an hour’s halt we resumed our original drive to Channapatna Bangalore. The next 20 kilometers to Channapatna Bangalore went in a whiff with almost no speed breakers to break us off in between. On way we crossed the rocky terrains of Rama Nagara – famous for Ramesh Sippy’s all-time superhit movie ‘Sholay’. The movie was shot here for more than two months. ‘Ramgarh’ village of the movie was inspired from the original name of the place. The small hillock visible from the highway was portrayed as legendary villain Gabbar’s den. Even today, legends say there are instances of dacoit attacks on tourists and villagers after sunset.

 

Gabbar’s Den – Sets of Sholay film at Rama Nagara, Channapatna Bangalore

 

In another 15 kilometers we reached the toy city of Channapatna Bangalore – a big welcome gate greeted us to the historic town. Soon after we crossed the gate of the Channapatna Bangalore innumerable toy sale shops overwhelmed us on both the sides of the road. Some of them were so colorful that it engrossed immediate attention of even adults like us.

 

Wooden Toy Shops of Channapatna Bangalore

 

We stopped at one of the shops in Channapatna Bangalore which had a relatively open space for parking our car. Initial thirty minutes just went in scanning their enormous stock of wooden toys which were up for toy sale. Seeing our involvement with the exquisite craftsmanship of toy sale, an old lady came out from the shop’s cash counter and explained us how do they prepare such wonderfully carved toy for toy sale.

 

 

There is a very special kind of aboriginal wood in Channapatna called ‘Ivory wood’ which is traditionally being used by them to make the toys. After procuring the raw logs, they season them under the sun for over a month, cut into pieces of different shapes as per requirements, paint with natural dyes and then lacquer it using special polishing techniques and finally dry them again under blazing sun. Drying is very essential as even a drop of humidity could be enough to grow microbes and termites inside.

 

However, nowadays with the commercialization of their business, the artisans have started using other varieties of wood like cedar, pine, teak, rubber etc. as well which are less prone to humidity in order to increase the toy sale. But one thing they did not compromise – even today they strictly use natural vegetable dyes for painting the toys so that they are safe for use by children of all ages. We really appreciated their concern for young customers and went on to buy a heap of toys, dolls, show pieces, wind chimes, hand exercisers, acupressure items, car seat decors and other household items of our choice. Someone rightly said Channapatna should be tagged as the ‘Wooden Toy Capital of India’.

 

Ivory Wood Made Toys of Channapatna Bangalorw

 

The origin of Channapatna Bangalore’s wooden works dates back to the time of Tipu Sultan who had invited Persian skilled workers to train the local artisans on wood crafting. Later Bavas Miyan heavily aided the local workers in improving the overall quality of their products by educating them on a state-of-the art Japanese technology. As per a recent news, this 200-year-old traditional Indian art form has been brought under the protection of Geographical Indication by World Trade Organization and during U.S. President Barrack Obama’s last visit to India, he was presented a pack of Channapatna made wooden toys as a token of traditional Indian crafts.

 

Array of Wooden Handicraft Items of Channapatna Bangalore

 

It was close to twelve noon. Spending splendid moments in the toy shops we headed towards Sri Aprameya Swamy (or Navaneetha Krishna) temple at Doddamallur. The temple arch is located just at a stone throwing distance of 3 kilometers from Channapatna bus stop. Entering through the arch for another 100 meters was the parking lot of the temple with the main building at a walking distance.

 

Way to Sri Aprameya Swami Temple

 

The overall architecture resembles that of any common south Indian temple but the main deity was the most eye-catching of all aspects. Also there was a gigantic Garuda statue right at the entrance. I had never seen such an idol before. It was amazing. Many religious Carnatic tunes have been composed in gratitude of the shrine’s eternity. From the architecture of temple’s black stone walls, it is likely to be a prehistoric one. Local communities faithfully believe that Lord Rama had spent several months of his exile inside this temple. It also houses smaller shrines of other deities outside the main temple.

 

Temple Complex

 

Temple Architecture

 

Ancient Black Stone Walls Inside the Temple

 

It was Arati (main prayer) time. The gorgeously decorated deity was being offered musical prayers in an ethnic style. We waited till it was over. A life changing moment must say. As we were walking out, an old lady politely requested us to stay back for some more time, directing us to take seats on the temple floor near the Garuda statue, as the holy prasadam was about to be served soon.

 

Prasadam Distribution in front of Garuda Statue

 

It made our day absolutely special. We were so lucky to have reached the temple during the prasadam distribution time. The freshly served holy food filled our mind, soul and stomach with an everlasting impact.

 

We also visited the souvenir shops in the temple in Channaputrcomplex selling wooden dolls, temple deity idols made of ivory wood, packaged snacks, local sweets etc. Enjoying an hour in the temple premises, by quarter past one in the afternoon, we slowly started walking back to the parking ground commencing our return drive.

 

 

Mumbai to Goa Road Trip Part 1

Every road trip should not be about reaching some pre-fixed destinations.Instead road trips are made of journeys through an anxious traveller’s eyes.The mind of a true traveller seeks every byte of information from the surroundings and nature in a road trip.Sometimes some road trips should be unplanned with enough emotions of zeal because our nature is always a “Treasure Island”.So a traveller should go out without any limits of exploration ,into the road for road trips that fetches them the ultimate pleasure of enlightenment.Road trips are most ideal for a passionate traveller as it is benevolent in bestowing eager tourists with surprises that a traveller expects from nature.

I have always been an eager traveller and due to my past experiences in travelling I am always keen to do as many road trips as possible and traverse the versatile geography of my country.In that regard I always dreamt of flying above an ocean guarded by mountains ,where the roaring waves of the sea splashes on the foothills of the mountains.The dream inspired me to do a coastal road trip along the Western Ghats in India ,because that is where the state highway of Maharashtra intersects the slanting mountains that fall into the Arabian Sea.

The journey to discover the golden coastal highway inspired me to go on an unplanned road trip on the second week of February .It was unplanned since I did not book any hotel along the western coastal highway nor did I fix any destinations to travel.So I set off from Panvel in Navi Mumbai with a portrait of mountains and sea in my mind.

Alibaug was the first beach that I encountered when I started my western coastal road trip from Mumbai to Goa.A famous weekend destination from the financial hub,it offers adventure sports and a muddy trail to the Alibaug fort.The beach is crowdy with a large trail of shallow sands guiding the tourists to the fort.The landscape was normal like other sea beaches except that one can walk deep into the sea to visit the fort when the water retreats from the shore.It was a good introduction for me to start my Mumbai to Goa route to the most famous tourist destination in India as my journey proceeded towards less explored sea beaches. For accomodation in Alibaug beach refer to the link below:-



Booking.com

Empty vast Revdanda beach with a rocky shore.

A half an hour road trip from the famous Alibaug beach took me to this serene lonely beach which is known as Revdanda beach.We were proceeding towards the Karshid beach from Mumbai to Goa when suddenly from nowhere we reached a vast stretch of rocky shore with a magnificent clear sky enhancing the panoramic sea view.The Western ghats were visible by this time ,surrounding on the other side with a series of mountains of yellow dry grasslands.As we proceeded with our road trip towards the south the bridges over the backwaters mesmerised me with the backdrop of standing and moving waters in a single frame.Sometimes I could see a small settlement of dilapidated port and ships making an equally different vision with huge constructing machines on the beach.I was stunned and anxious like a humble amateur child ,so I stopped on every bridge till I could capture the finest moments of landscape in my camera throughout my road trip. The changing scenery kept me preoccupied as the road meandered along the Ghats from Mumbai to Goa and showed me a distant picture of an empty beach  full of coconut trees and a sea that was reflecting the colours of sky.

Since the beach was devoid of any crowd,tourists could get a wide angle view of the three horizons meeting in its most purest form.The state highway from Mumbai to Goa gave me the feeling of a parallel coastal road within a couple of hours in my journey to Goa by a road trip. I became more anxious to travel further and explore the beautiful untouched Konkan.

A dilapidated port under construction that we encountered while we were on our road trip from Mumbai to Goa.

Bride over the backwaters on the state highway on our way from Mumbai to Goa.

Mumbai to Goa road trip through the Maharashtra state state highway unleashes itself after Karshid beach.The Konkan highway meanders all along the vicinity of the Arabian Sea coastline with the Western Ghats and its valleys adding to the pristine beauty which you’ll miss if you ain’t on a road trip.

This road trip travels from Mumbai to Goa offers in between the valleys and mountains with a panoramic view of the backwaters and the crystal blue sea.The beaches are clean with very less crowd that adds to a clear serene view of the landscape.What more does a traveller needs for a memorable road trip when the nature is providing them with mountains and sea together in a single view.True respect for all the labours who have devoted themselves in building such a scenic highway for making road trips like this possible from Mumbai to Goa. This again proves that if we believe in our nation’s geography,it proves to be a continent covering the versatile geography and terrain.

Janjira Beach On our way from Mumbai to Goa by a road trip.

My anxious moments of visiting a landscape of mountains and sea together came to reality when I arrived few kms after Rajapuri in Janjira beach.The place was windy but the ambience was peaceful for a travel freak to capture the stunning views of the Janjira beach and the fort.

After a hectic road trip from Mumbai to Goa and encountering numerous clean beaches of Western Maharashtra, I arrived at MTDC Harihareshwar in the evening.I was totally unaware of the trail to the beach in the evening but I could hear the roaring sound of the waves from the MTDC campus.I woke up early  in the morning in the hope of finding my way to the beach  to capture the sunrise. Delightfully I was impartially awarded with an awesome view of the sunrise. For accomodation in harihareshwar resort ,refer to the following link below:-



Booking.com

MTDC Harihareshwar on our way from Mumbai to Goa.

The beach was reflecting hues of gold and the water looked like waves of the blue sky.The beach was Rocky with black sands that surprised me even more.The locals told me about another clean beach in Harihareshwar but after arriving into this splendid beach I was sure enough to take my colourful memories in this black sand beach.People go to Greece to watch the black sands in Perissa but most of us are unaware of this sparkling beach of the MTDC Harihareshwar resort.

I felt fortunate enough to get an accommodation on a weekend in this beautiful campus made by Maharashtra tourism.Undoubtedly this beach ranks first on my list of the numerous  beaches in the Konkan trip.

After a surreal sunrise from MTDC Harihareshwar we took a ferry boat service from  Bagmandale to catch the National highway to Ganapatipule. Ferry rides are frequent to avail the shortest route along the coastal state highway in Maharashtra .On our way to Ratnagiri the first ferry we took was in Agardanda to Dighi and the second ferry was from Bagmandale to Bankot. The ferry also takes the car on to other side of the sea for Rs 150.The cars have to park  themselves in the reverse gear into the ferry so that when the ferry arrives on the other side ,the cars can directly face the road.Ferry services are available from 9 o clock in the morning till 10 o clock at night.

Agardande ferry station.

Availing the ferry clearly saves half an hour drive around the coastal highway.People may drive back along the backwaters on to the state highway but that will be a much longer route.After Bankot avail the NH66 highway for a faster route to Ganapatipule.

NH66 Highway.

Bagmandale ferry station provides a scenic landscape with a mangrove forest in the backwaters of the Arabian sea.That attracts a tourist for capturing numerous memories until the ferry arrives to board the passengers.

Mangrove trees and fishing boats in Bagmandale ferry station.

Bagmandale ferry station.

I was surprised to see such a decent waiting hall in Agardande ferry station that proves the efforts put down by the government for public welfare.Avail the two ferry rides before Bankot to enjoy a new adventure in the coastal highway drive to Goa. The ferry ride will show you a different geography of the Konkan along with the meandering roads in the Western Ghats.

The view of the landscape as the highway curved away from the sea and moved towards the mountains.

The famous NH66 highway to Goa was covered in 6 hours as we reached Ganapatipule by the sunset to watch the majestic last ray’s of the sun in the Arrey ware beach road to Ratnagiri. Instead of going directly to the beach we came across a panoramic sea  view of the beach from a cliff .The view was more than expected as the late afternoon sun rays camouflaged the crystal clear water of the sea with the blue sky.

The western ghats were bordering the road on the left hand side while on the other side there were sharp reflections of the Arabian sea.The beach was devoid of any heavy crowd and sometimes there were glimpses of a lonely fishermen walking over the yellow sands.It is said that Ganapatipule beach resembles that of a crystal clear long stretches of beaches like those in the Maldives. Well I havn’t been to the Maldives but I am sure enough that this beach is one of the cleanest beach in Maharashtra with pastel colours of the sea.

The view provided a visual treat to the tourist.The reflective colours of nature along with the top view from the cliff helped us in capturing the scenic Konkan terrain as it merged with the Arabian sea.Undoubtedly the trip was fetching me numerous coastal landscapes with the mountains that I was dreaming of long before I started my journey.

After taking my best snaps of the surrounding landscape from the cliff ,I proceeded my journey towards Ratnagiri , the mango town of India.The elevated coastal road was like that in Rajapuri with Western Ghats cliffs on the left side of the road, bordering the clear blue water of the Arabian sea.

As I drove down the curved path of the highway I saw a sign board mentioning Aare Waare beach road.Prior to my trip I have heard a lot about this beach nestling in the foothills of the Western Ghats situated just on the Ganapatipule and Ratnagiri highway.In few minutes I reached down to the plains of the sea shore and arrived at the beach.The beach was less populated with white sands glowing due to the last rays of the sunlight.I did not waste anytime in capturing the beautiful sunset over the sea.

The landscape was new to me as I had never seen a beach at the foothill of a mountain.The Western Ghats and the sea were merging together in the same place.The beach gave me numerous moments of photography as I tried to sketch the kaleidoscopic moments with my shutter and lens.

As I commenced my road trip from Mumbai to Goa, eventually I came across a bridge over the backwaters of the sea.On my right side the shallow sands were reflecting hues of sunset while on the left side the calm blue water of the backwater reflected images of the mangrove trees.I decided to stay in this heavenly place till sunset to capture this illustrious moments of photography in this road trip.

The backwater near Aare ware beach on our road trip from Mumbai to Goa.

Our second day Konkan journey by our road trip concluded with a sunset hue in Ratnasagar beach resort.Spectrum of clouds lingered in the sky creating rolling waves of hues ,glowing along the vast sky.The distant hill was dark and looked like a giant whale with numerous neon lights of the city, establishing the modern civilization. The magical view of the sky seemed to me like an illusion but the hot sands and the cool land breeze assured me of the vibrant sky on the beach. For accomodation in ratnasagar beach resort refer to the following link below:-



Booking.com

The resort offers excellent cottages on the Bhatye beach with free breakfast for Rs. 3500.With respect to the location, I would say that it is quite cheap in Ratnagiri, the mango town of India.I didn’t prebook any accommodation in my Konkan trip except that in Goa.For Harihareshwar ,MTDC provided me with an excellent black beach while Ratnasagar proved to be equally mesmerising with a vast private clean beach.

My sudden encounter with this beach was due to this magical view of the sky creating astronomical colours in the evening.After my eyes caught the spectrum in the sky,I rushed out to this lonely beach with my camera and discovered this marvelous property on the beach.One can locate this property on the main highway towards  Goa from Ratnagiri. The property is covered with plenty of coconut trees and well decorated gardens of flowers.I felt fortunate enough to find such beautiful locations without any prior booking.

Ratnasagar Beach Resort our accomodation for the road trip 

A road trip from Mumbai to Goa always brings us stress but at the same time it fetches us with such unaccounted stunning landscapes and new ventures that stays in our memories forever.

Bhatye Beach just infront of the resort on our road trip from Mumbai to Goa.

With pristine memories of Ratnagiri I proceeded towards the beach capital of India with more zeal to explore the beaches and forts ,further along the Golden coast of India.I hope the readers have found a divine picture of Maharashtra and the towering Western ghats making its way to some clean beaches in our country.Keeping in mind the anxious moments of my journey towards Goa,I am concluding the coastal dream in Ratnagiri to give way to a different geography of the Konkan in my next blog.

Forts of maharashtra -Mumbai to goa

Road trips have always enchanted me with new destinations and geography of our incredible country.The versatile scenery with different forms of landforms always keeps me anxious to continue further and explore my beautiful country.After a marvelous road trip till Ratnagiri I was eager now to set off in discovering the history associated with the Konkan .I wanted to visit the forts along the pictorial beaches. Konkan boasts of the best sea forts in Maharashtra.

After bidding goodbye to the elegant Ratnasagar beach resort I commenced my third day of the road trip towards Goa in the late morning hours.With lots of spectographs through my lens I prepared myself for more adventures towards Vijaydurg Fort, which is also one of the famous fort inmaharashtra. I imagined this day trip as visiting the sea forts in Maharashtra before reaching the vibrant beaches of Goa .It was only after a few kms drive from our resort, when suddenly my eyes caught a glimpse of Casuarina forest and eucalyptus trees on a lonely beach.Immediately I stopped the car and rushed with my camera towards this unknown beach.

Waves were splashing on the sea shore which was filled with shrubs of mangrove leaves all along the entire stretch of the beach.On the two longitudinal ends of the beach, hills were standing high creating a rocky periphery around the foothills on the shore.To my surprise what I could see was a vast space of empty sand drenched by the crystal clear blue colours of the Arabian sea and fenced by a forest and two hills on its other sides.The beach was devoid of a single person which was the most fascinating experience for me to start off my journey towards forts and beaches.As a traveller I was overjoyed to see myself as the only tourist in the vast stretch of this scenic beach.The beach had every geographical feature of my entire trip till that date.Yellow clean sands, mangrove shrubs, forest and hills painted the shore as the waves were being dispersed due to cosmological efects from the clear blue sky, onto the shore. But I had to leave this beautiful spot to visit the sea forts in Maharashtra; which was next on my list of best fort in Maharashtra.


As my car traversed the coastal villages further towards south , we took a diversion from the state highway towards Vijaydurg fort.I had never seen a seaside fort before ,so my mind was stimulated to know the history about this historical 12th century fort. It was also locally acknowledged as the best fort in Goa. Amidst the cool sea breeze with the paintily fishermen boats floating in the Arabian Creek, I took help of a native villager to get some useful facts about the fort.Although later I found out that the required information was already present in Wikipedia.

Vijaydurg fort is the oldest sea fort in Maharashtra in Sindhudurg ,constructed by Raja Bhoje 2, which was later extended by Shivaji. This is the only sea fort in Maharashtra other than Torna where Shivaji hoisted the saffron flag.This sea fort in Maharashtra got its name after Shivaji won it from Adil Shah in the Hindu Solar month called “Vijay“(Victory).The original name of this sea fort in Maharashtra was Gheria. In pre-Independance era the fort was known as the “Eastern Gibralter” since this sea fort in Maharashtra was unconquerable.The large enemy vessels couldn’t enter the shallow water of the creek while Maratha ships would be anchored there, always ready for the onslaught.According to some data there also lies an under water tunnel in this fort in Maharastra which if proven can also serve as an important part in the tourist and historical significance.Though most of the structures inside this sea fort in Maharashtra are in ruins now but the remains still serve as classic examples of the Maratha culture. The beauty of this sea fort in Maharashtra is exceptionally wonderful.

During the British rule it was also believed that English astronomer Normal Lockyer observed helium for the first time on the surface of the sun from the observatory which was set up in the fort.Thus , every year on 18th August , since 2009 the world helium day is celebrated in this fort in Maharashtra.The famous fort in Maharashtra is now under the protection of Archaelogical Survey of India and they have undertaken the restoration work.

We commenced our journey further towards the sea food delicacy town in the konkan known as Malvan.As the road deviated from the shore line the journey again meandered through the plateaus of the Western Ghats.The vast highlands with strectes of yellow long grasses mesmerised me to imagine like a free  bird.The roads were empty ,intersecting the arid landscape along the centre to lead us towards the sea shore.

Malvan is a famous tourist destination in the konkan coast that boasts of some picturesque clean beaches , offering kaleidoscopic sunsets to the tourists. Chivla beach is one such pristine clean beach, which is a must visit to experience a romantic stroll by the seaside .It took me 2.5 hours to reach Malvan from Vijaydurg fort.On the way the Konkan coast kept me engaged with numerous beaches over the backwaters of the Arabian sea and plenty of plantations in the countryside.When the road was not along the seashore , it was intersecting huge plantations of mango and coconut trees.

After arriving in Malvan we decided to have our lunch since the coastal town is famous for seafood in the konkan.I took help of one of the locals from the area and he adviced me to visit Chivala beach.It was already late afternoon and since I wanted to spend more time in visiting Sindhudurg fort, I decided to appease myself with only one beach in Malvan.

Like all the Konkan beaches it offers some breathtaking view of the weekend coastal landscape with absolutely clean sand by the seashore.The beach had huge lines of coconut plantations on its right side .The right side of the beach was rocky while the left side had vast stretches of clean unpolluted sands that enhances romantic walk by the seashore .

Tourists can also try out scuba diving activities here ,which is organised mainly by the local fishermen.In the era of trawllers and motorboats people can still see numerous fishermen boats on this beach with which the fishermen catch fish manually in the early morning or evening.The fishermen still follow traditional methods in catching fish manually through fish nets in this beach.The huge contour of coconut trees, the pristine yellow sands and the delectable Malvani sea food were relevant enough to give me the jovial feeling of my presence in the konkan coast.

When I was planning my golden coastal route in konkan,I was ever so anxious to visit the Sindhudurg Fort in Malvan, which is another sea fort in Maharashtra. Sindhudurg Fort was built by the great Maratha warrior Shivaji in the 17 th century on an island away from the Malvan shore.Tourists need to avail a motorboat ride for 10 minutes in order to reach the island. Sindhudurg Fort is also regarded as a famous fort in Maharashtra.It has a significant place in the history of the Maratha warriors as it was build to stop the advancement of the foreign forces and the Siddhis of Janjira. This sea fort in Maharashtra is now a protected monument where some inhabitants still live.


The landscape around this sea fort in Maharashtra consists of a rocky shore occupied by numerous sea gulls.The geography around the shore consists of numerous shapes of rocks creating rhythmic ripples,as the waves of The Arabian sea splashes on the surface of the rocks.A distant beach with numerous coconut trees is visible from the fort that adds to the delight of a photographer.

Learn history and enjoy the pristine blue Arabian sea with the splendid geography around by availing an adventurous bumpy ride in a long Trawler boat to this enigmatic sea fort in Maharashtra.

Last but not the least before the sunset and entering the vibrant city of Goa, I went to Tarkarli beach,my last pit stop in this coastal route. Tarkarli beach like any other Konkan beach is well guarded by a picturesque wall of casuarina and coconut trees along the length of the beach.The locals here charge Rs 50 for parking cars near the beach.The sand is clean and yellow and the beach is very less crowded.

Perhaps Tarkarli offers a secluded vacation in the MTDC resort on the beach.As we move towards Goa the beaches become crowded with numerous shacks and resorts.The sunset on this beach has relevantly concluded the golden coastal trip with the golden hues of the magical refractions in the sky.Similar to the many konkan beaches a lonely standing wooden fishermen boat can be seen on this beach waiting for the high tides to sail it away.Capturing numerous photos of this scenic beach I commenced my journey with a fresh jovial feeling to spend my valentine vacation in Goa. These are the few famous forts in Maharashtra that you can surely visit while traveling here. For accomodations in tarkarli beach resort refer to the following link below:-



Booking.com