Barbara Lake And Irvine Spectrum

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30-Dec-2016: I was on long leave and we were going around places. Some time back we had got his tickets for rides in Irvine Spectrum which we had not completely exhausted and so wanted to use that. But we also wanted to go out some place to have lunch. So we decided to go to some park/beach etc for lunch and then head towards Irvine Spectrum. Considering how late we were and time on our hand we decided to drop beach etc and through of going to this lake called Barbara lake which is en-route to our final destination. So G got the lunch ready ,which was parathas and we packed up and left.

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Barbara lake is one of the natural lakes here (many are artificial) and in the Laguna area. It is on Laguna Canyon road as is tucked in between the hills. There is an entry gate close to a mile before the lake, where you have to park and rest you have to hike. After parking we started the hike, which at the beginning did not sound very exciting. It was after noon and was fairly hot and also most of the area was dry wilderness. There are many rolling hills through which you hike to reach the lake. Ar was not interested and wanted to go home. Seeing the lake and may be ducks! kept her going. The route is pretty straight forward and well marked. There were only few people around but the place was not quite as the hike is parallel to the highway (CA 133) and you continuously here the vehicles passing by.

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On the way there were hardly any trees and so no shade, but suddenly the area started turning green with lots of trees and we knew we are close to the lake. Finally we reached the lake which at that time was quite small, though in good rainy season it would be quite big.  What we liked the most the natural setup of the lake and the forest surrounding it as we were quite bored by the many artificial man made lakes with perfectly curated park and tress around it. Another natural thing about it was there were no benches to sit and unfortunately thinking that there would be ones we had not picked the sheet in our cars trunk. We used some paper and even the back pack to sit along the shore. It was so quite there and bit cool due to water. There were few ducks in the lake, some swimming close to us. We had nice lunch alongside such a nice and serene place. After the lunch we would have very much liked to have a nice siesta alongside such a nice place, but we had other engagements and so we had to leave.

The way back as the way in was not much exiting. We just drugged along the trial to reach the parking. We were quite tired and thought of going back home crossed our mind, but Ar was excited to go do the rides and so we jumped in the car and headed north towards Irvine. We were going to the Irvine Spectrum complex, which is large and nice complex of shops and entertainment zone. It is strategically located in between I-5 and I-405. The parking is huge and is located close to the complex. The Complex is a sky open boulevard flanked by shops. The architecture is Mediterranean and is really nice place to shop and unwind oneself. We like to come here once a while and it has an added attraction of rides and other activities.

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They have rides like Merry go round, Giant wheel, train along with some seasonal attractions. You can but individual ride ticket ($5) or you could buy a ride book which include 4 tickets for each ride ($51).  We had got the book last time and had enjoyed the rides but there some tickets left (2 of train, 2 Carousal and 1 Giant wheel).

So this was a good time to exhaust the remaining tickets. So G ad Ar went to the train ride, then Ar did the Carousal which by the way is her favorite and G and Ar did the Giant wheel (we bought one more). I was mainly the photo and videographer 🙂 There was also the ice rink, but we did not do it. The Giant ride especially is really good, it being one the tallest in US and you get a nice view from the top. Especially in the night the view is spectacular, with the whole wheel lit in multi colored led lights and you get the city lights view from the top. Today luckily there was no rush as usual and so we were done in 1 – 1/2 hours and ready to head home.

We did couple of thing today but enjoyed a lot, especially Ar who was looking forward to rides for some time.

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Last day of 2016!

31-DEC-2016: Normally we don’t have any special plans for 31st. Typically we just spend some time with family, may be cook something together, watch a movie or so and then take to bed. This time around I was on long leave and we have been thinking about going for a cruise, so booking a cruise for the night of 31st sounded an interesting idea. We booked the cruise in advance as normally the sits fill up quickly. This was from Davy’s Locker called the Boat light parade cruise, which takes off from the Balboa pier of Newport beach. We were on the 8:10 pm slot and it was going to be 2 hours long. The cruise goes around the Newport harbor passing by many houses located on the water front, close enough for you to see their Holiday decoration and lighting’s.

We were going to have home cooked dinner. So G got the dinner packed along with few snack items and juice. We got there bit early, it was around 6:00 pm as we thought we may not get parking later and also we could go around a bit. We had decided to park in the Balboa pier parking lot, same place we had parked when I had been to Catalina island. But as we pulled in, the person on duty informed us that they have closed for the day and so you would have to do street parking. So bit sad we got on the road again, thinking when and where we would get the parking, but luckily just opposite to this parking lot on the other side of the street there was a slot available on the street. We parked there and paid for the parking for next 4 hours.

Now we had long time to kill and though normally there are lot of activities to do on the pier, but due to it being 31st everything was closed. Also it was very cold outside, kind of chilling, so we deiced to stay put in the car only. We even turned on the heater in the car, it was that cold! After a while we got bored and decided to walk the shoreline and explore the place a bit. So we moved along the shore, passing by many houses. It was dark by then, but the lights had lit up the harbor. Many of the houses we saw had some cool Christmas decorations, some having moving decos and were really nice. The reflection of lights in the harbor water was sight to see. We would have walked more, but it was quite chilly and we decided to head back to the comforts of our car.

We were hungry by then and so had our dinner. For dinner we had home made pattice, which though cold by now tasted yummy! Again the actual plan was to have it sitting along the harbor, but it was just not possible in this weather. It was a memorable experience to have dinner in the Car and we had nice songs playing in the background for company. Once done there was still some time in our hand and so we had a quick nap 🙂 Now it was close to 7:30 pm and we decided to head to the cruise office. First off we got in the wrong line, it was for the one slot before us, which we realized just before boarding the ship :). So we got back and stood underneath the shade of the office. It was not as comforting as inside the office itself, but we wanted to be close to the front of the line to get better seats :). Then it started raining, thankfully we had had our umbrellas, but we were worried about this whole plan being washed away. Thankfully the rains stopped in a bit, but made it even more chilling! We weathered on and finally our cruise came and they started boarding.

The cruise was nice and quite big than we had anticipated. There were 2 decks and we straight away headed to the top one to get a better view and experiences, hoping and praying it does not start raining again. The lower deck was enclosed and cozy and though the upper deck also had seating arrangements they were open to sky and it was very cold and became even more when the ship started moving 🙂 . The boarding was done quickly and the ship started and we were on our way. We were now cruising in the harbor and getting some nice views of the bay. There are many houses on the shoreline and many of them have there personal boats or yachts, which were also artistically decorated.

There were not many boats moving in the harbor itself, which is normally the case except for few like us, some of them had a full blow party going on their decks. Ours was more sober, with light music and cruising along slowly.  Many of the houses had nice decos, some which I remember well were showcasing events from Christs life, one who had created a big clock with multiple color lights and then reindeer, snowman, snowing effect etc.

At first we were quite excited to stand on the deck along the railings watching the spectre, but then as the night advanced it became really chilly. Now we would have liked to head to the lower deck, but off course it was all packed :). Somehow we managed to get under some shelter on our deck only, which protected us from the breeze at least. I and Ar got bored eventually and then decided to head to the tail of the Ship. Not only you get good views from here, but the the thrust from the exhaust creates nice waves and shapes in the water. It was so peaceful being on water. Year 2016 was passing us by and we were ushering into the new year, though we were few hours away.

We had already taken the U turn and now were seeing the other side from close quarters. One lesson for us was to get hand gloves and add more layers of clothes. The return trip was bit uneventful except that we were almost frozen! We finally landed and rushed towards the parking lot. After turning the heater on full blast, we became bit normal and then pulled the car and headed south along the pacific coast highway. Its always nice to drive on PCH, nights are even better, but the 31st made it memorable. Earlier we had thought that we could go someplace else after the cruise, but the cold got into us and we decided to just head home. We were back by 11:00 pm and thus ended an eventful year 2016 and welcome to year 2017!

Eaton Waterfalls Trail

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06-Nov-2016: There were no specific plans for today but we wanted to go somewhere hiking. We have been doing hiking since some time and so decided to keep the momentum. One thing which had been missing from our sojourns here has been waterfalls (leave aside the Niagara!) as there aren’t many. Also we were passing through one of the longest drought’s in California’s history and even the reservoirs were empty, so waterfalls was long shot. But in our research on the places to go around we found this location called Eaton waterfalls which is located in the Angeles forest north east of LA. Per the latest blogs we read on the net it had water at that point in time and so even if the place was bit far away we decided to head there.

We had to leave really early considering the early sunsets during this time of the year, but as usual we got bit late and started only around 9:30 am. G had plans to have sandwiches there for lunch and so she packed veggies, bread, etc along with other snacks items and juice. Eaton falls is located close to Altadena and which was over 70 miles from our place and took us well over 2 hours to reach. The route you take is I-405 N and then onto I-605 N and take exit at Altadena Dr. The weather was quite cold and it was going to be an interesting day. The traffic was light and we enjoyed the drive.

As we exited the Altadena Dr, from here to the destination was small road passing through few towns. I was not happy with the direction GPS was showing as in the map I could see a better route so I changed to Google maps on my mobile. Its quite intriguing that each app show different paths and one is better than the other on its day! So we thought we were now on the right path and had now entered the foothills which had winding roads. This part was even colder due to hills and good forest cover. It felt nice being there.

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We somehow missed the entrance, blame the GPS ;). But I think it was G who had spotted the entrance on the way and so we rerouted and after some winding turns and reached the entrance. There is a big entry gate for the Eton Canyon Natural Area Park and they have nice gardens, a museum about the local habitat and people, a small picnic area and big parking lot. It was almost 12:00 pm and we were running bit late. We were hungry too! So we first got a table, cleaned it up a bit and opened our bag to prepare some yummy sandwiches. Sitting under a big tree and in the middle of a jungle we had nice lunch. It was already 2:00 pm and we had to get going as we had to start back and pass LA before dark, though we were bit lazy after nice lunch and won’t have minded for a nice nap 🙂

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We filled our backpacks, had juice and started the hike. There are many small hills around here and many marked trails. So initially it appeared to be a plain hike and we were not sure if coming all the way down here was worth it. One another thing which I remember was using Google maps a lot to find the falls as there are many forks to the trail and sometimes it can be bit confusing. After continuing the walk we all were pretty bored and decided that lets turn back after walking for 5 more mins. Our map was showing the fall around 2 miles from here, but the hike looked so plain and vegetation mostly dry, we were not excited to continue. But in some time the hike completely transformed as we entered a dense forest, it was colder here, but was nice to hike. We then passed under a bridge, which was one of the oldest in the area and is called bridge to nowhere and is quite famous. It used to connect Altadena to some hamlet I think, but is no longer in active use.

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And then we heard something.. a sweet sound.. off course it was unmistakably a stream. From here on it becomes real fun, kind of adventure, bit difficult to put down in words. There was small gorge formed here, stream traversing through it and all around us was thick forest cover. We rested here a bit to enjoy the scenery which was looked as if it had come out of a painting. There were couple of logs fallen on the stream path and we all sat on one, water flowing past and below us. Now was the real hike was starting.

From here on you just keep following the stream, which is fairly wide in size and under drought condition still had lots of water. Upstream from here is the waterfall and this stream would have it sources in the Angeles mountain. The stream was following a serpentine path and there are few places where you keep crisscrossing it. At the points where you have to cross it, the stream is like a small river, they have placed big stones or wood log etc and its so fun to step on them to cross, I think the most happy here was Ar.  There were fair number of people around and at these points there used to be a small jam as only 1-2 people could cross at a time. We could just imagine what this place would be like once it rains nicely!

As you start approaching the fall, the small stones, rocks on the path turn into big boulders and the water flows underneath or through the gaps. The boulders are pretty big some over a meter in height and give you nice calf and joint exercise. No doubt Ar was doing nice through out, but in this section with only little help she was at ease and was negotiating the trail nicely and enjoying it. Finally we could hear the fall and though we were bit tired, we rushed though the last few rocks.

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The water falls from fair height and there are in fact 2 falls here. The upper falls which is closed for public access and the lower falls where we were. We all love the sound of the falls and all our hard work and persistence was worth it. The water slides down the stones and it has created a small pool or pond at the base. There were so many people around but it still felt so quite. We were in middle of jungle on the foothills along the falls. The water was cold though, so I and G stayed away, but as Ar got going, she even would have dived in it 🙂 She was not ready to come out of it and was enjoying the splash, but finally what brought her out may have been the juice bottle which G pulled from the backpack. Sitting on the rocks we ate and had juice.

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It was such a nice place that our feet were not turning back. But it was around 3:30 pm and was getting dark and so we had to start back. We had planned to be part of or follow some group as on the way we had encountered multiple paths and we were bit concerned about getting lost (yeah!) amid my mobile also having low battery. But as no one seemed ready to move on (neither were we!), we got going. We kept following the stream and on the intersections we were trying to remember which was the right path. We did fairly well; though at couple of points we were having second thoughts, but G showed the way.  There was one point where there is this small cave, which looked quite old, may have been used by early settlers here! We could now see the sun going down the horizon which was such an amazing sight. On the way we talked a lot and also clicked many pics which we had avoided doing earlier (to conserve the mobile battery). Ar was in full speed and was racing with us. In the end we all were quite tired, but we enjoyed every bit of it.

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We reached the base around 4:30 pm. We refreshed and also had a look at the museum which was quite nice. We had a long ride back and left around 5:00 pm. Not surprisingly we encountered heavy traffic en route and reached home around 8:00 pm. It had been a tiring day, but I can say that this was a gem of a place and one of the best hikes we had and we have had many!

PS:We would definitely return 🙂 . We also have to find more about the bridge to nowhere 🙂

Jyotiba Temple & Panhala Fort – Day 3

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02-Oct-2017: Woke up early today as there was so much to do. We got ready and did the checkout formalities. We decided to even have tea later on. The hotel was next to railway line and we saw few of them passing by which was a nice sight. We left the hotel at 8:00 am and went straight to Gokul restaurant. We had misal and batate vada sambar. We also had tea. Refreshed we moved towards Jyotiba temple. Jyotiba temple is located around 20 km from here and located on Jyotiba hill. It took us around half an hour to reach there. There are multiple entrances to the temple, one at the top of the hill where you arrive after you ascend the ghat, the actual temple being bit downhill from here. Another entrance is close to the temple and now a days they have a road which descents to the parking spot near it. But on that day due to some reason it was closed and we had to park at the top and descend many steps to the temple which was bit of excursion for Aai.

We had nice darshan at the temple and then after spending some time there and then ascended the steps back to the parking spot. It was around 10:30 am and we were thinking of what next. In the three days of our trip we had not really done some sightseeing or went to see some place and so we wanted to do something to that affect. So we decided to head towards Panhala fort which is around 12 km from here and takes around 20 mins to reach. As we descended the Jyotiba hill and touched the main road, from where we took right turn we could see the majestic fort from a distance on our left hand side. But as we continued on this road, we saw it going away from us. Off-course we were heading towards wrong direction :). So after checking with locals we realized we were headed in opposite side, so we took the u turn and were now on the right path. In some time we started ascending the ghat towards the fort.

The roads here are really nice and well maintained. This fort is the Taluka headquarter and has a living population of 5000+. The ghat section is beautiful and down below we could see lush green valley and fields. We reached at the top in 7-8 mins and were at the chowk there which has statue of Baji Parbhu Deshapande, wielding 2 swords in his each hand reminiscent of the famous battle of Pavan khind. Now we have been to this fort few times in childhood, but this was our visit after long time and so we wanted to explore the fort in detail. There are few guides who offered to show us around, but as our car was full there was no much space to accommodate them.  So we decided to explore it on our own.

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We went around for some time but were not sure if we were heading anywhere. On the way we spotted Tabak udyan, so we parked there and were thinking of exploring it. Luckily at that time a guy came on bike and offered to be our guide to take us around the fort. As he had his own vehicle it was perfect for us and his fees was if I remember correctly Rs 300 was reasonable. We were glad we found him, rather he found us else we wont have been able to see much. So he first gave some info on the fort and then took us to our first spot which was Sajja. This was a palace from the day of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and this is where the plan to break out of Siddi Johar’s vedha (encirclement) was made and from here only on that historic night Maharaj left in palki with 600 bandals towards Vishalgadh. This was also the place where Maharaj last met with Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.

This palace was of 2 levels and had multiple rooms. We explored the ground floor and then through stairs went to 1st floor. This room had good arches and some nice features. It also had big windows with nice views. It always feel so great being at the places where historic events had taken place. We were also interested to know the place from where on that historic day Maharaj descended the fort and crossed the vedha, which he told is at some distance from here and we would be visiting that too. We then descended and went to see some tatbandi (fortification) around this place. The next stop was one of the buruj which had a steep climb of 25-30 steps, The view from top was breath taking and has a good vantage point. From here on one could also see the bunglows of dyons of marathi film industry, Bhalji pendharkar, V Shantaram and all.

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Our next stop was to see the spot we wanted to see earlier, the place from where Maharaj descended the fort and it passed through thick jungle. If I would have come with our group or would have had more time, would have liked to go and explore it more. For next time, maybe!  We then moved to see a very interesting place, called Andhar Bawdi (Hidden well). It is a three storied structure having two levels located underground. At the base is a hidden step well. This structure would help protect the well from the enemies whose first act would be to poison the water in it.  The upper level is road facing and so as the enemy storms the fort, they don’t see the underground structures nor the guards stationed at the basement, who then could surprise them. This well was the drinking water source for the inhabitants of the Fort. The back side of Andhar Bawdi is also well fortified by two layers of thick stone wall and it also has escape routes in case of emergency.  From the fortification one gets excellent views of the fort and the valley.

Our next stop was Teen Darwaza (Three doors) which are at walk able distance from Andhar Bawdi. It is one of the gateways to the Fort from Konkan side. The doors have been constructed in such a way that the enemy entering from the main door from Konkan side cannot see another two doors until they are fully in by which time the guards stationed there can surprise them. The doors would have been huge and strong to withstand even the charge by the elephant. The doors have beautiful arches having nice carvings.

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Our next visit was to visit the Bale Killa (Citadel), which also houses the Ambarkhana (Warehouse) and is located at the center of the Fort. There are three granaries in this structure, having names Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati to store rice, varai and nachni and are huge, having capacity of around 25OOO quintals of rice. The rice collected from country would be poured from holes on the top of the high ceiling. The structure itself has huge pillars and they connected by arches which look imposing and beautiful.The Ambarkhana used to be fortified by 15 meter deep trenches to prevent attacks. This whole area is encircled by fortification and was part of the Citadel.

There were few more places to visit like Tararani’s palace, Shiva Kashid’s statue and memorial, but due to that day being election day some parts were closed and we could not visit them. So we were at the end of our tour and decided to have lunch on the fort itself. We were thirsty as well and chaas just outside the fortification of Bale Killa was perfect drink! From there we saw a hotel just opposite to it. We decided to try it out. They had freshly prepared bhakari, zhunka with thecha and chaas as menu. The food was really nice and the ambiance of we sitting in front of Bale Killa of Panhala was just perfect! We relaxed there for some time and would have liked to spend the whole day on the fort itself. But home was also calling and with our tummies filled, we decide to head back. We didn’t had to go back to Kolhapur as there was bypass connecting to the highway at some distance from Panahala and in some time we were on our way.

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The weather was just perfect, cloudy with cool breeze. I think most of us took some nap and we didn’t stop until just before the Khambatki ghat at Aaram hotel. This is a new hotel and last time we had missed coming here. Its very large and has many sections for different cuisines. We had some south indian snacks, batata vada and tea. Just as we were having our snacks it started raining heavily, really heavily and I got one more chance of enjoying the monsoon after many years. We had to wait for more than an hour for the rains to stop and then we headed home. As we entered Pune from Katraj we got some traffic till we reached home at around 6:00 pm. Thus came to conclusion a nice, spiritual and relaxing trip.

PS: With Panhala fort covered (though had been here few times in childhood) and my earlier coverage of Vishalgadh fort and Pavankhind the historic circuit was complete.

Kolhapur Trip – Day 2

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01-Oct-2017:  Woke up in the morning feeling fresh. One of the things I enjoy being here at Satara is the great views we get from our house of Ajinkyatara fort and Yevteshwar hill. We had our tea and then M also dropped by so we had a nice chat. We then got ready and packed our stuff. We were leaving Satara today and going to Kolhapur. We first headed out to have breakfast at one of our fav eating joint; Supnekar. We had their famous pattice, dahi misal and then tea. Before leaving we also had to drop in at few of our acquaintance places, where we filled our tummies even more :).

We were not really hungry, but decided to have some light food before leaving. So we headed onto the Yevteshwar hill to one of our regular hotel Prakruti ayurvdedic restaurant. Our plan was also to see if we can go to valley of flowers if possible which was not far from this place and would be in full boom this time of the year. But as we reached closer to the tunnel, we saw some chaos and vehicles turning around. We learned that there had been a landslide on the Yevteshwar hill and authorities had closed down the road, which was quite sad ;(. Not good start to the day!

So we decided to go to our good old Ajinkya hotel. We had quick lunch their and then were on en route to Kolhapur. Kolhapur is around 125 kms and 2 hours away. The highway from Satara to Kolhapur narrows down a bit here to 4 lanes but as traffic is light and the roads really nice its pleasant to drive/pass on this section. We did not stop on the way and reached the city around 5:00 pm. After some deliberations we booked a hotel which was bit farther from the city center, but was nice.  We unloaded our stuff there, freshened up and took some rest. We then left to take darshan at Shree Mahalakshmi temple around 6:15 pm.

Kolhapur is city which I really like. It has an old world charm and also has a unique culture and identity. The famous misal, the chappal, dialect, Shree Mahalakshmi temple, rankala lake etc makes you come back to this city again and again. I have so many memories of this wonderful city from my childhood day, when we used to visit this place every other year. In those days we used to have few relatives staying here and we spent some nice time with them, eating at many nice hotels here and calling the day at Rankala lake. In those days Shree Mahalakshmi temple used to have less crowd and you could get darshan immediately.

As these thoughts were running in my head, we reached the temple and we parked in the near by parking lot and entered the complex through the big gate. This complex is really nice and one is awestruck after seeing the architecture of the temple. The temple stands on many big pillars, which have been elaborately sculpted with many motifs and scenes. The temple is very old and you are transported back in time. The crowd was thin that day and so we had a quick and nice darshan. After taking the prasad laddu, we were to go for dinner, but before that we deiced to shop around a bit.

Baba wanted to buy some books at an exhibition center which was just outside the gate from where we had entered and we wanted to buy the famous Kolhapuri chappal and all which was at other end of the temple, just opposite the Vidyapeeth school. There were many small shops around there and I found a nice pair of chappal for Ar. As we were about to leave it started raining. So we decided to remain there under the shade of the shop for it to clear. But then in 5 mins it stared raining cats and dogs and we were really stuck. The distance from where we were was not very far from where Baba was, but we would have got completely drenched if we would have venture outside, such was the heavy pounding. We tried contacting Baba, to check if he can ask the driver to pick him up and then do a the outer loop of the complex and come pick us up. The road in front of us was quite wide and there was enough parking space as well. We waited with anticipation, but time passed by, they were nowhere to be seen. They finally arrived after more than 40 -45 mins, clearing the maze of one way roads and the heavy pounding of water. We quickly got in and headed out.

We were not sure where to go for dinner. Baba had seen this ad of Khavayya Dinning hall somewhere, so we decided to at least check out the place. This place was in a residential section of the city and so when we reached there we were not sure what to make of it, though it looked quite nice from outside. The restaurant has a nice ambiance and the food was also quite good. It has Gujrati/Rajesthani type of thali and the chaas was really nice. It was fairly crowded and we had some nice time there. We would have been one of the last customers to leave, it was quite late and we headed back to our hotel. It was still raining, though it was more of a drizzle now. We were back at the hotel room at around 10:30 pm. I was quite tired, but had to do one more thing, which was to book my tickets back to US. Once done, I had some TV time and went to bed.

 

India Trip – Satara & our village – Day 1

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30-Sep-2017: I was in India for few weeks and was quite busy with some personal stuff. But we wanted to go for a couple of days of outing. Earlier plan was to go out for 2 days, i.e. 30th September and 1st October, but at the last moment we added Kolhapur to make it 3 day outing. Baba booked the car for 3 days and as we were travelling light, the bags were packed in no time. On 30th morning we started at 7:30 am, which was within the time range we had decided. Today’s plan was to first go to Satara, drop Aai at M’s place and then head towards our village, then go to Gondavale, be back to Satara, pick Aai and head towards Kolhapur for layover. It was an ambitious plan, which was workable though, but things took turns and we flowed with it.

The route was our familiar and dear Satara super highway. But the road condition is pretty bad especially from Pune till start of Khambatki ghat section. The expansion of this highway has been going on for long time and so the roads keep winding from wide to narrow to wide again. Also some flyovers are under construction and so there are many diversions en route. In short the driving or passing through this section is no longer a pleasant experience. Due to road conditions we were making slow progress and our first stop over was Sri Ram vadewale to have our favorite vada. But as we parked and got in, the place was overflowing with people and there was no place to sit or even stand. There was a long queue at the token counter. Looking at all this I suggested to skip this and to go to someplace else. Another eating joint which we try sometimes on this route is a misal joint, just after old Khambatki toll naka (I keep forgetting the name), so we headed there.

As we pulled up near the entrance, observed that this was also fairly crowded (should be avoiding the weekends 😦 ), but we were able to get a seat and so we decided to have breakfast here only. We had nice misal, I and Aai trying the dahi one. We had tea also which was OK and with our tummies full we headed out. One thing I remember from our stopover there was seeing some kittens playing by the roadside just outside the joint and  Arya coming to my thoughts immediately, how she would have liked being there. I think I sent here couple of pics or videos of those young feline playing 🙂

Next we started ascending the Khambatki ghat section which has become 3 lane now and the roads are also nice. I remember getting holed up here many times due to narrow roads and limited turning space causing traffic snarls. The expansion seems to have eased that a bit. From here on the our journey was nice and fast. We reached our first stop over at 9:30 am, which was Udtar. We straightway went to the Shankar temple and took darshan and then left for Satara City. We reached Satara by around 10:00 am and went to M’s place. We dropped Aai there, had only water and left immediately. Our next stop was our village.

Our village is on Pandharpur road, around 10-12 kms from Satara city. Its a nice place and I have many sweet memories of it since my childhood days. I always consider it to be one of the ideal village to spend some time in as it is quite close to town/city still removed from it and which in its expanse has a river, hills, train station and tracks not to forget farms and nice houses. Also the approach road to the village, especially the last few kms are really beautiful, with road lined with old big Banyan trees! We reached our village at around 11:00 am and took darshan and then went to visit few of our acquaintance, who drowned us in Sarbat 😉 .

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River Vasana passes through our village and over eternity it has created a small beda ghat like section at our village. Basically the river water over lakhs of years has been cutting through the hills/rocks and has created a impressive gorge, which is a sight to behold. We spent some time there and also went to the other side of the river which has a hillock and on its top there’s a temple. We used to visit this place once in a while during our childhood vacations though in those days there was no bridge to reach there and you had to spiral up the small slippery pathway holding on to cliff end and other side being the valley and the river, all the time holding on to our breath. It was an adventure in itself!

It was almost 1:00 pm when we left and we were running bit late were bit tired as well. But as we had so much more to do for today we kept going. We decided to have lunch at our next stop Gondavale which around 50- 60 kms from here and would take us around 1.5 hour to reach. Meanwhile we decided to postpone going to Kolhapur for next day as it was getting quite hectic and we were literally running behind time.

I had been to place long long time ago that I hardly have any memory of it. The roads are nice and as you go further away from urban jungle to country side it is really refreshing. We reached Gondavale around 2:15 pm and took darshan. The place is really nice and serene. After spending some time inside the complex, we decided to scout for Hotel to have lunch. We were highly recommended to go to Hotel V, so we headed there which was near by only. We ordered meduvada and dosa. First the dosa came which was half burnt and then the meduvada which looked at least 2 days old. When we told the waiter about the dosa he said that’s the way it needs to be 😡 . We were so angry and left without eating much. There was no other place to have lunch and so we decided to go to hotel once we reach Satara. We were quite hungry, but didn’t had much option.

We reached Satara around 5:00 pm and had lunch 😉 at one of our commonly visited place of Ajinkayatara Hotel. We had some south Indian fare and some refreshments. We were fairly tired by the time we reached home around 6:00 pm. Aai had already arrived there and had it setup. We just decided to take rest. Finally after couple of hours somehow we managed to move and went out for dinner at one of our other regular joint Amrapali. This is a nice place near moti chowk. We had soup, paneer and one mix veg which was nice. Once back we were too tired and just picked the bed and went to sleep.

 

Bay Area Trip – Day 4

20-Mar-2016:  Today we were heading back home. We had some morning engagements and also were planning to reach before sunset to LA, so we woke up early. Had quick break fast and decided to move. We had already packed out luggage yesterday night and so we loaded the car and were ready to go to our next stop which was in bay area only, but before that we had someplace to go. Where else, but to Apple’s office :).

Coming to Cupertino and not visiting the iconic place would be a shame! P was kind enough to take us there, which was close to her place. In no time we were on the iconic Infinity loop road and I was so excited to be here. There were hardly anyone around so early on Sunday morning. We parked and had a walk around. The place was closed and so we did not get much to see, but we were just as happy being next to the iconic Apple logo and being able to drive and be on the Infinity loop!

As there was nothing much to do, we left in some time. We dropped P at her home, bade here good bye and were on our way to Pr’s place, which was in some new neighborhood up north. We reached in 20- 25 mins and were pleased to meet Pr and his family. One thing which caught our attention and we liked was this new apartment complex which had a different design with lot of colors, basically it had a character of its own. Otherwise most places here have quite monotonous designs. We spent some time, had another round of breakfast 😉 which was more of a brunch and went around the community. Ar had some nice time playing with their little one. We also went on the terrace, which had some nice views. We were running bit late and decided to leave. It was already close to 11:00 am.

As we were about to leave the GPS developed a snag and my phone was also not working properly, so basically we were stuck. You get so used to GPS here that you loose the knack of finding your way out on your own. Also as the traffic rules are strict and due to minimum speed limits and all it is quite easy to loose your way without help. But thankfully the GPS cranked up again, asked us where to go, Home being our response, we were on our way.

The weather was nice, traffic light and we were cruising along. Then GPS took us on a detour, which was a a single lane road and so we were kind of cursing it for having brought us here, but later we were glad it did. We were moving through the country side and it was so nice; with rolling hills, nice farms and quite and slow life. This place in a way reminded us of Indian country side. On the way there were many farms having setup counters selling fresh farm produce and eventually we couldn’t resists and took a stop over. We bought some strawberries and other stuff. We were getting late now and we decided to not take any more stop overs for few hours at least. In some time we finally hit the I-5 freeway and this was the road which was going to be with us till our home.

It was a long drive home and I-5 can be boringly long as the drive down this freeway is quite monotonous. Ar was already asleep and G was dozing once a while. Till we were in bay area we had nice time listening to couple of Hindi radio stations, but as we moved ahead, those were not available and we were back listening to same repeat songs on USB or the English hits on the radio which by this time of the trip we had grown bored off.

But no worries, we were cruising along, traffic being thin, even though the I-5 section here is narrow, with only 4 lanes. We would have driven for 2-3 hours and then decided to take a break at a Taco Bell joint. We and car both needed rest! We still had enough gas so that was not a priority for now. We refreshed, had our lunch and strolled a bit. It was bit hot here and so we moved back into the car and were again on our way. We hoped to go all the way now or max take one stop for gas. We were on the same old road, with same old songs, Ar and G dozing, but I still enjoying the drive.

We were making nice progress. But as we closed on LA, the traffic began to increase. The gas level looked fine, but I had not wanted to take a chance, so before LA got it filled. Then as we were close to Santa Ana, hoping we would be back home safe and fine in half an hour, we were hit by a car from behind. Thankfully everyone were fine, but there were some damage to the car. Still can’t come up to remember and describe the event more, but we reached home late than expected and a nice and eventful trip came to an end, but not as we would have liked!