Jyotiba Temple & Panhala Fort – Day 3

UntitledIMG_2224
.side-by-side { float: left; margin-right: 5px }

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.

IMG_2287

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.

IMG_2267

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.

IMG_2254IMG_2258

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.

IMG_2219

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.

Advertisements

Bay Area Trip – Day 1

12888701_10154959950683521_2991334542298983485_o

17-Mar-2016: Few of our friends call Bay area their home and we had wanted to visit them and also G and Ar had not been to that area. So this had been in planning for some time, but it kept getting moved forward, one due to we not having the car and also it being a long trip we were not ready yet. This trip got finalized in Feb and we decided to go in March We were thinking of taking couple of days off before the weekend and make it a 4 days trip. The distance from our place to it is around 400 miles and it takes around 7:00 hours to reach if you go non stop 🙂 . We started planning the itinerary as the day approached. The plan was as below:

  • Day 1: Head towards Bay area, via Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and enjoy the scenic route. Reach our friends place.
  • Day 2: Do a SFO sightseeing and spend some time with friends.
  • Day 3: Do some local sightseeing, like silicon valley etc, mainly a relax day.
  • Day 4: Before heading back visit one more of our friend and be home by evening.

We packed our stuff, we ended up carrying lot of luggage ;), mainly food stuff, clothes , gifts etc. I had loaded the car tank preceding night as we were to start early. Woke up at 5:00 am. We had planned to leave by 6:30 am as we wanted to cross LA before peak time traffic. Though as always we got delayed and could start only around 7:30 am. We were cruising along I-5 and traffic was light, but as we entered 101, the traffic slowed us down. It took us more than a quarter hour to cross LA. We took diversion at CA-58 to head towards Moro bay where we got on to the Pacific coast highway (PCH), which was going to accompany us for next 200+ miles. This route is one of the most beautiful and scenic route in the world. The whole road passes right next to the Pacific coast on one side and cliffs on other. There are many beautiful beaches, vista points and arched bridges on the way.

We were making nice progress as traffic was light. We took a stop at San Simon which is a nice town and has great beach front. We had our lunch their which we had brought with us (parathas etc). It was such a nice experience to have it alongside the San Simon coastline. We would have liked to explore this town more as we have heard it has some nice old European architecture style buildings. For some other time ! We also fueled up here and moved ahead. It is important to keep refueling on PCH at regular intervals as you might not spot any gas station for a long stretch.

12719192_10154959951023521_265894510266918026_o

Our next stop was going to be Big Sur. This is a resort town on the way and its very scenic. The main attraction is the cove and waterfall descending into it. We parked on PCH and then you have to descend and you get to a bridge. From here you get view of pristine blue waters and the water falling from cliff into the cove. I have not seen such a sight. Its mesmerizing. We spent some good amount of time there and did not want to leave. Just a short distance from here is Bixby creek bridge, which you might have seen on numerous postcards. There are couple of vista points before the bridge, from where you can see the arched bridge on the cliff flanked by Pacific coastline with blue waters. We then crossed the bridge and took break on the vista point on other side of the bridge. You get a different view of the bridge from here which is equally jaw dropping. Big Sur is a destination in itself and you can spend few days here to explore it, which we did not had unfortunately 😦 . We wanted to see one more point (a beach), which is quite popular but couldn’t find the spot and as we were getting late so we continued further.

Around 30 miles from Big Sur is the famous 17 mile drive. This is a private drive and there is $10 fee. Its a small peninsula and you go round the loop which is around 17 mile and so the name. At the beginning there is forested area and the jungle is heavily wooded. We took couple of breaks there, it was cool and peaceful. From here you drive down and you start feeling the ocean breeze. There are many scenic spots here like the iconic Lone Cyprus tree which is timeless, then there is Pebble beach and many golf coarse on the coast line. We took a break at the Pebble beach and had some snacks on the benches overlooking it. It gave us  much needed break. It was around 5:30 pm and I had been driving for close to 10 hours. Ar was started getting bit restive, with her constant question being “Are we there yet?”. We then completed the loop which was quite scenic and then headed out.

There is an exit for Sunnyvale before you enter Santa Cruz. This is the point you leave the coast behind. It was a mesmerizing PCH ride, which we would remember for ever. Yeah, its just like as they show in movies 🙂 . We stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and then we headed for our destination. We reached out friends home at Cupertino by 8:00 pm. We were quite tired, but had completed the 1st leg. We had driven for almost 12.5 hours and covered a distance of over 400 miles. We parked our vehicle, pulled out all our stuff and headed to their home. After freshening up and some chit chat had dinner and then it was time to go to bed.

PS:  I had done the PCH ride before, but it was as a passenger and I always wanted to drive myself on this stretch. I cant explain enough in words how scenic and wonderful this route is..

Trip to Julian – CA

27-Dec-2016 : We had heard about Julian from few people, about it being a small and tony place to visit. We also had heard it being a historic town, which has maintained its historic legacy and so were looking forward to visiting it. I was on year end leave and today we were tossing between going here or San Diego downtown. Unfortunately we didn’t get up and get ready early, so we decided to go to Julian as the other place would require more time to explore and early sunset during this time of the year doesn’t leave much time. I did some analysis on the area and discovered that is more to this place than it being a historic town. In second part of 1800’s, during gold rush days, gold was discovered in Julian and the town developed along gold mines. Today there are still few mines which are open for guided tours along with few museums. This town is also famous for apple orchards and apple pie’s. There is also a nice lake nearby, all this made for a perfect place for a day trip.

We left home by 10:30 am and were on our way to south via I-5. Julian is towards San Diego. You take I-5, then you take exit for CA-78 and then at the end of this freeway you continue through 2 lane road passing through towns and villages. The weather was perfect, light clouds and we were enjoying the ride. We have been on this route many times and now there is a sense of nostalgia associated with it. The traffic was light and we were cruising along.Once CA-78 end, you pass through a town and then hit single lane highway reminiscent of many Indian roads, which I enjoy. These roads have there own character and are not monotonous as Interstate highways. We were passing along countryside and it was beautiful. Many orange and grapes orchards, farms, cows, horses, few scattered farm houses. A timeless setting! We kept the thought of plucking the overflowing orange trees with fruits at bay 🙂

Then we entered ghat section and you need to cross few hills before you reach the destination. Far away we could see snow clad hills and mountains and G wondered when we would be going to place like that. As we move along these hills appear come closer and so we though we may pass or reach near them. It was only when we were close to 3 miles of Julian I saw snow on side of road we realized, we might be passing through or to them and not just close ;). We even pulled near a hillock clad with snow, though Ar was fast sleep.

From that point the traffic was moving at ants pace and it took us more than half an hour to cover the remaining distance. As we moved closer to the destination we could see many snow covered hills and on the other side of road we saw a parking lot. Having fed up with long queue, we decided to pull over and cover the remaining half a km on foot. After parking the car, we crossed the road and went to one of snow covered hill and had some fun in snow. Ar was too excited to see and play in snow. Unfortunately we hadn’t anticipated snow and so were not prepared and got cold in no time. So we decided to move on and we were already quite late , it was 1:30 pm and lot to cover.

We straightaway decided to head for mines, which is located on C street uphill. On the way we saw great views of the old charm of town clad in snow. After reaching the mines, we found the tour guide and started the tour. It costs $10 for adult and for Ar it was free. The guide explained about the whole history about the place and showed us tool, techniques of gold mining in old days. He also demonstrated gold panning and panned gold from gravel. We were already struck with gold fever 🙂 Ar by now was feeling cold and so G and her waited for some time inside the cabin having old style coal heater. Then he took us inside the mine and showed us the quartz view and explained many areas inside the mine. The mine was bit more comfort from the chilly windy outside.  Ar was now enjoying the tour from midway and she was crying maybe from cold or darkness or may be mineophobia!  The tour lasted for over 2 hours and we covered many internal mines, the mine being quite extensive, per guide it had eleven vertical levels. Finally we started feeling cold air and we knew we were close to the exit and withing 2 mins were out of the mine.

The time was already 4:00 pm and we all were cold as numb and Ar we could see was clearly uncomfortable. So we had to cancel all our plans and decided to head home. Some how we managed to reach the car parking as fast as we could off course after some customary confusion 😉 . We were bit worried if the car will start and after initial grumpy sound it started and we turned on the heater to get to normal. My hand were quite numb and it was some time I was ready to drive. It was already 4:30 pm and we were bit worried if we would be able to hit the highway before dark, I didn’t want to enjoy driving in dark in those small serpentine roads. The evening sights in those hills were really beautiful and the sight of light cars driving through the winding roads was enchanting. We were also quite hungry but decided to stop only after reaching I-5, which we eventually postponed to once we reach in our locality. We made by eating fruits and biscuits.

We finally reached to Oso parkway around 6:30 and decided  to have pizza. It looked like ages before the pizza was ready and we ate the it warm in car only. We were back home by 8:00 pm which and ended a day which did not went as per plan, but was quite and adventurous and memorable no less 🙂

PS: We didn’t cover the gold company, museum, lake, not even taking about apple plucking and discovering the Julian.So we need to be bacckkk 🙂

Ooty – Coonoor – Mysore – Day 5

18-Aug-2014: Again woke up early and got ready. Today’s plan was to cover Zoo and then head for Bangalore airport as early as possible. Our flight was at 8:30 pm. We wanted to take no chances and were willing to reach early and wait there rather than later rushing through to catch the flight. We packed everything and went down for breakfast. It was ok. We had wanted to leave hotel by 8:45 am as we had heard that the zoo opens by 9:00 am, but driver called and told us that it opens by 10:00 am, so we took it easy. We left for the zoo by 9:30 am. On the way we had decided to buy Mysore pak for family, which we bought on the main road at Mahalakshmi store.

We reached the zoo just in time at 10:15 am and bought tickets and went in. We were thinking of covering as much as possible on foot, before heading back. But we saw electric bus inside, which takes you through the complete zoo and drops you back at the entrance gate. The whole ride is for 1 hour, this is a very good option. The bus was almost full and there was one group in front of us. So it seemed we might not get it and we will have to walk instead. But that group had more members than available seats and so we got lucky and got the 2 seats for us.

The zoo is very good and there are so many animals in it. Ar liked it very much, especially tiger and hippo. When we were near the hippo’s place, he was being fed and he was opening its big mouth, seeing that Ar also started doing the same and every time I use to say what does hippo do and she would show me her stretched open mouth :). You can see many animals while sitting in the bus only which moves along slowly. For the zones, which are bit off road, the bus stops close by and then you cover that zone by foot. The zoo is very well maintained and many of the animals are kept in open, with only ditches separating the visitors, not barbed fences or steel cage etc. We enjoyed it a lot and were back to entrance. We then started for Bangalore airport by 12:00 pm. Before leaving I bought naral pani, which G was waiting to have since last 4 days.

On the way we took break for lunch at a food mall. We ordered South Indian thali and it had very good rasam and other delicacies. I bought a counting and reading toy for Ar and we left. When we entered the village of toys (don’t know the name of the village, but it is famous for wooden and other kinds of toys) G bought few toys there. We reached near Bangalore by 3:45 pm and were welcomed by heavy traffic . We reached the airport by 6:00 pm. We settled the cab fare (he had added an extra day, which I got cleared from agency and paid accordingly).

We decided to have dinner at airport itself. From the point we entered the airport gates lobby, we saw a food chain called Malgudi Days, which was serving Kerala food and liking the name we thought that it would have good food, so ordered, podi idli, medur vada and coffee etc. The food was very bad and I am never going to have those items again :(. Medur vada was as hard as steel . The flight was on time and we headed back to Pune. Ar again enjoyed the plane ride, though at the flag end of flight journey, she cried a bit. We reached Pune by 10:15 pm. Our cab was waiting for us and we started back towards home and reached by 11:00 pm.

It was such a great 5 days trip and we covered so much in this time. Ar also enjoyed a lot and it was her first plane and railway ride. Memories for lifetime 🙂

Ooty – Coonoor – Mysore – Day 4

17-Aug-2014: We had decided to start early today as we had to reach Mysore and do some sightseeing there, plus we had to do checkout formalities in the morning. We woke up early, got ready quickly. I had packed most of things yesterday evening itself. Remaining things we packed up and were ready to go for breakfast. The breakfast was regular only, but what was different was over courteousness of head chef. He personally served us many items and even served us his signature Dosa . It was Ok. Once we were done, we went to complete the checkout formalities and then we started for our next destination: Mysore, it was around 9:45 am. We had had great 3 days here in Ooty and were taking back sweet memories.

While coming to Ooty, we were not able to see the true beauty of Nilgiris. Now we were able to. The ghat section is quite big and we were passing through dense forests having many Nilgiri trees. The trees are very tall and they lend a unique dimension to the surroundings. The air was cool and we were enjoying the drive. On the way we took a stopover at a place which is called Shooting Point. This is a very scenic place and is called shooting point as many movie scenes have been shot here. The place is bit up hill and you have to climb to the top. From there you see hills all over with lush green forests. Great view indeed. We didn’t stop much as we had to reach Mysore early. The plan was to reach there by 2:00 pm, so that we can have lunch, take some rest and move for sightseeing.

On the way we again passed through Bandipura/Mudumalai forest reserve. In the day the jungle looked less creepy and this time we had morning jungle safari. We spotted a bear and also herd of deer’s. There may have been 50+ deer’s there and it was a great sight. We reached Mysore city by 2:30 pm and due to misadventures of driver we could reach to hotel by 3:00 pm only. He was not much well versed with the place, but he was not willing to admit it. So he went round and round and then finally we had to ask for directions to reach our destination. Our itinerary in Mysore had Palace, Brindavan gardens and Zoo, to be covered today and tomorrow. But as we had reached late, it looked like Palace would have to be skipped. We had pre ordered food as we had done in course of our journey to Ooty. We had food in our room itself, punjabi dishes for us and khichadi for Ar.. again.

We finally left by 4:15 pm for sightseeing. The plan was to go to Brindavan gardens. But I thought why not give Palace a try. The closing time was 5:30 pm, so there was some room there and also we would not wait there much and rush to Brindavan gardens. We were not sure about the timings for musical fountain there, but reaching there by max 6:30 pm was a good bet, but we wanted to reach bit early to see the garden and other fountains in day light. The garden was around 1 hour drive from our hotel. So I told our driver about the change in plan and we headed towards the Palace, which was around 10 minutes drive from our place. We got the ticket and entered the palace. The Palace is very large and intimidating. Its architecture is combination of Gothic and Indian. It’s very beautiful. Our plan was to see it from outside only and leave, but the urge to see it from inside was too much to control and so we decided to allocate 15 mins and have a peek inside. It’s spell bounding to say the list, large portraits, paintings, sculptures, the grand central dome, everything reminded us of the glory gone by. It would take hours to give justice to this palace, but we had only 15 minutes. So we moved on quickly and covered most of it. We then realized we had been there for more than half an hour:) Then we headed back, with heavy heart. We really wanted to explore it more. For some other trip 😉 .

Then we left for Brindavan. The road to it is good in patches. While going there we saw a lot of Mysore and I really liked the city. I would even think of settling there some day :), don’t know what G would think of this 😉 . The weather and city is quite like Pune, but its more planned and it’s more like Pune of 90’s. It took us around an hour to reach the garden. After crossing the bridge over river Kavery, we reached the garden. This was set up by British after the construction of the dam there. On the other side of dam, the garden has been sculpted and many fountains have been created all throughout, using the waters of the canal from the dam. The garden was instant hit with Ar. Sonmuch gar gar pa pa, she could have been there all day. We covered most of the garden and water fountains. There are many type of them, some small, some big, they have crafted few waterfalls also on the way. Indeed beautiful and refreshing. We all enjoyed that a lot. Then we headed for the musical fountain, which is on the other side. We had to cross the bridge over Kavery backwaters to reach the other side. Here Ar threw over the mau we had purchased on Dodabetta peak. Then she started crying .

By the time we reached near the musical fountain she was alright again. There is a big fountain at the center surrounded by amphi theatre like seating arrangements. By the time we reached there the stands were full. So we took a seat on the ground, near to the fountain. It was a perfect timing. We would have been there only 5 minutes and the show started at 7:00 pm. The fountain is set on local and Bollywood songs. It was getting dark now and the musical fountain was great place to sit and enjoy the show. They have synchronized the music to the fountain very well, water; rising, falling, spinning, shooting out as per the beats. Ar liked it very much. We were there for 4-5 songs and then we decided to leave. On the way back, we took break for coffee. We were expecting very good South Indian style coffee, but it was not great. Still in the cold night we enjoyed it. Then we started back. Our trip was almost coming to an end, tomorrow we were heading back home. As always, feeling crossed our mind, if we could have few more days .. 🙂

On the way I booked the cab for tomorrow from Pune airport to our home. We decided on our plans for tomorrow as well. On the way back, we asked the driver to pass by the Palace to see it illuminated. It was raining that evening and due to that power was shut off in Mysore and so no lighting :(. But we had already watched the illuminated Palace on our way to Mysore on the first day. So no issues. We reached the hotel by 8:30 pm. We were quite tired, so ordered the food in room only. It was ok and we packed the bags and went to sleep.

Ooty – Coonoor – Mysore – Day 3

20140815_141458

16-Aug-2014: We woke up late in the morning. It was very cold. We got ready quickly and went for breakfast. It was usual and we took our time as we were not in hurry. Today’s plan was to cover Coonoor . It is another famous hill station in Nilgiris, around 18 km from Ooty. It is bit lower in altitude, but is equally beautiful. One of the main reasons for selecting Coonoor for our trip was to travel on the world famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which we were going to take from Ooty to Coonoor. It is part of World heritage site and it runs from the plains to its last destination Ooty, but were only going to board the Ooty-Coonoor route. The day before, I had inquired at the resorts reception about the timings and all and came to know the first train starts at 9:00 am, which was too early for us and the next scheduled time was 12:15 pm. The Ooty station was around 1.5 km from the resort. The plan was to go to Coonoor from Ooty by train, in the meantime our driver would reach Coonoor station by road and then pick us at the station, then we would do sightseeing in Coonoor and will return to Ooty by cab only.

So we had enough time on our hand. We went around the resort a bit to have a look. Also took many pics with Ar. Just outside our room, there was a small garden. Ar played there a lot. Then we decided to move on. There was still lot of time for the train departure, so we had decided to use the time for quick shopping. We wanted to buy few things for family and relatives and so asked the driver to take us to some good shopping place. He took us to a super market for the tourists and there we got most of things we wanted. I even bought a good picture book of Ooty and surroundings, which while leaving the resort, forgot in the room only 😦 .

It was almost 11:20 am now and we decided to go to the station to book the tickets. I had thought that we were reaching well in advance for the booking. But when we reached there we saw a very long queue. This was due to the long weekend crowd, which had descended on Ooty. There we came to know that the tickets are almost sold out. We were not aware that these tickets are also available for booking online, else we would have booked them well in advance. The counter was still closed as it opens just half an hour before the scheduled time of train and looking at the queue it seemed almost impossible that we would get tickets. There was a guy hanging out there, telling people that just opposite the station you can get the tickets from some agent. So I asked G to have a look, while I stood in the queue, but by the time she went the 12:15 pm tickets were sold out. By this time the counter had opened and within few minutes, the tickets got sold out here too 😦 . We cursed our luck and felt very bad. This was the last train for us, the next one would be very late, also it looked difficult to get the return train from Coonoor, due to low availability of tickets and also we would hardly have any time to see Coonoor. The last train from Coonoor to Ooty was at 4:30 pm.

As we had no other option but to travel to Coonoor by cab, we called up the driver and he picked us up. We were still feeling sad about missing the train journey, which incidentally would have been Ar’s first train travel, but the road route is still very good, the ghat section passes through jungles of Nilgiri trees. The weather was great, it was raining a bit. Ar had gone to sleep, but we enjoyed the ride. We did lot of video shooting of the route. We reached Coonoor in 30 minutes and first went to look out for hotel, to get something for Ar’s lunch. We packed Dosa for Ar and then decided to go to Coonoor station to check for availability of tickets for train going to Ooty at 4:30 pm. Actually it was already 1:00 pm when we reached Coonoor and it would have given us very little time to see Coonoor if we have to catch 4:30 pm train, but my mind was not resting to know that we would be missing one of the main attractions of the trip. At the station we came to know that we might get the tickets, but the counter opens only 30 mins before the train schedule. So we decided to leave this to luck and went ahead to see Coonoor .

Our first point was Kim’s park , which was established during British times. The park is a botanical garden and has many different species of trees. It’s a great experience to move around the park with so much to see. One thing I liked about this park is that it has been developed on the natural slope of the mountain. Then we went to see another tea garden and estate. After we reached top of the hill, where the garden was, we could see many tea gardens far across, overlooking the mountains. What a sight. There is a small , but very good garden on the top, but it was closed the time we were there. But we were able to have glimpses of it from outside. Then we decided to visit other attractions like Dolphin point etc. By this time thought of taking the train was out of our mind. Now we were on the road to reach these points and we saw some traffic there on route. We had been in traffic at many places at Ooty and Coonoor due to narrow roads and ever increasing vehicles cause the bottle necks. But usually it got cleared in some time. It had been 15 minutes and we were still on the same spot. Then few guys who were coming from the other side told that there is heavy traffic jam and you may take 2+ hours to reach the points. We thought this is the day, nothing is going to go right for us :(. Reluctantly we decided to take U turn.

We were thinking of returning to Ooty, but decided to just have a look at the Coonoor station to see if we can get the train. We were not hopeful, but decided to give it a shot anyway. When we reached the station, there was already a medium sized queue on ticket counter. G was not very hopeful, but I thought that anyways this day is almost a washout, so why not just wait in the queue and see what happens. The counter was still closed, so G and Ar were still sitting in the cab. At 4:00 pm the counter opened and I called G to check if someone ahead in the queue can buy 2 tickets for us, in case by the time I reach the counter they are sold out. After much persuasion, G was able to convince one girl ,who was in a group to buy tickets for us. They were mid-way in the queue , from where I was standing. She got the tickets for us and I left the queue. Finally luck shined on us that day and we were all set for the ride 🙂 . The tickets which we had got were for general compartment and that too for standing. But we didn’t mind much as at least we go the tickets and we were on our way on this historic train.

We then boarded the train and were standing in the aisle of the compartment. The girl who had got tickets for us had got a seat somehow, but then she offered it to G seeing that she was carrying Ar. It was really a nice gesture. The train was yet to start and people were still boarding it. There was hardly any place now in train, still people kept coming. As G was seating next to door, the place near the door soon got crowded. People standing like me had hardly any place to keep our foot. Then the train started, first it goes back few meters and then it moves forward. The train passes through middle of the mountain, along narrow ridges, over many bridges, through various tunnels and stops at few small stations mid-way. The route is scenic and the ride is great. The ride is quite comfortable. G and Ar were not much comfortable due to crowd, I though while standing enjoyed the ride very much. I shot almost the whole journey. We reached Ooty station at around 5:45 pm. Train ride to remember forever.

Our driver was waiting outside the station for us. We started back to resort and were there by 6:00 pm. Today was a mix day for us, we had few misses, but we also got what we wanted. We were also bit tired, so didn’t dwell out much. We had early dinner and went to sleep. After yesterday’s experience, even though I wanted to lite the fire place, I avoided that urge :).

Ooty – Coonor – Mysore – Day 2

20140815_131119

15-Aug-2014: I woke up at 8:30 am. I was still feeling sleepy, but we were here on trip and not for sleeping :). Got ready quickly and then woke up G and then Ar as well. It was quite cold in the morning as was in the night. Heater was our savior, without which we would have been frozen, at least I if not G and Ar .

We all got ready and then went to dinner room for breakfast at 10:20 am. The breakfast was served till 10:30 am only, so we were just in time. If I hadn’t pushed everyone so much, we would have missed it :). For Ar there were fewer options,she had idli and some South Indian dishes. For us it was quite good.

Before leaving for sightseeing, I went to the reception to check on the booking status. Actually for 3 days we had bookings for 3 separate rooms, that’s the reason we had got the bookings. We were not getting 3 days continuous bookings online. I went over to check if we can keep the same room for all the 3 days, but he informed me that 2 bookings were for executive rooms and one which was for that day was for standard room, so I will have to switch rooms and requested me to keep my luggage packed, before going out, so that they can shift us to the other room. I again requested him to give us the same room and I am willing to pay the upgrade. He told me he would try and I went back to room to get everything packed up. That took time for us and so we were able to head outside by 11:00 am only.

Our driver was already ready and we started immediately. Today’s plan was to cover Ooty sights. We first went to the botanical garden. It’s the garden set up by British and then expanded and maintained by the local government now. It’s very beautiful, with lots of species of trees. The garden has kept the natural contour of the hills, so looks very good. There are few water bodies which Ar as always wanted to get into, which I was able to stop her with much efforts. They have also created various murals using plants; like geographical map of India, Mickey mouse, Mermaid etc. It was such pleasant site to roam around. Ar liked it a lot. On the entrance gate, there were many monkeys and Ar was shooing them. She was being too brave 🙂

Once done, we started for our next point Dodabetta peak. This is the highest point of Nilgiris and 3rd highest in western ghats at the height of 8500 feet above MSI. It’s up hill from Ooty and the route to this place is also very scenic. When we reached closer to the peak, we got stuck in traffic. It seemed that this would be jammed for a long time, so we got off there only and decided to cover the remaining distance on foot. The whole area was covered in mist and we were walking in it. After walking around 15-20 minutes we reached the top. Such a great sight. You can see far across all the hills, greenery all covered in mist. It was quite cold and it was raining a bit and then it started drizzling. We took shelter and got hot coffee. It was a memorable moment, just like few years back I and G sipping coffee on snow clad mountain of Kufri. After some time the rain subsided a bit and we started the descent. On the way G got mau for Ar, which is her favorite toy, which she lost also in few days, the events which led to that would follow in 4th blog of this series.

By the time we started descending, we saw the traffic was now smooth and asked the driver to pick us uphill only. We then moved on. On the way we saw Tea garden and estate, where we took break. We bought some tea and coffee, which frankly didn’t turned out to be good enough, which we realized after the first cup of tea back home. The tea was quite pale in taste. On the estate counter we came to know that we could have a walk in the tea garden and ticket charge was Rs 40. As we hadn’t been to any tea garden before and wanted to see one we booked the ticket and went into the gardens. It feels good, we took many pics, but the tea leaves don’t smell like tea as was my assumptions. Seems that they get there aroma after they are dried and processed.

It was almost 12:30 pm now and we decided to have lunch. We asked the driver to take us to some good South Indian place to eat. The place he took us, some tiffin house, I don’t recollect the exact name. We orderd the South Indian meal and it was not good at all. Dal Khicahdi to Ar, which I believe was fine. We then packed Dosa for driver, Uthapa for Ar for afterwards and moved towards our next destination which was the Rose garden.

Rose garden in Ooty is spread across large area and it had hundreds of varieties of Roses. All colors, sizes, shades. It was such a pleasant sight to watch. Ar was running all across it. Aai would have liked to see this place. We took many pics and really liked this place. We also saw Green rose here, which looked quite unique. When we got back, came to know that driver had eaten Ar’s lunch as well . So on the way,  went to same place again to order for her.

It was now almost 4:00 pm and we decided to head for the last stop for today, the Ooty boat house. Its located across the Ooty lake and they have developed it as a garden, amusement park and food court. Various types of boats are available here. We chose the rowing boat and went boating. We thought the rates were quite reasonable. The lake is awesome and we had a great 45 minutes ride. Ar enjoyed the water. After that we decided to go for some rides for Ar. We went to the Dragon train ride, which runs across an oval shaped track and at very fast speed. Ar enjoyed the ride. I had read about the mini train ride in this garden and thought may be this was it :(. Once we were done with the ride, we started back. On the way I saw the board for Mini train pointing towards left of us. I quickly went over to the mini station they had built, to inquire if there is any train still running. He replied in affirmative and I booked the tickets. After a wait of 20 minutes the train arrived and we got in. The train was good and the compartments were nice and cozy. The train passes through tunnels, hooting once a while, it takes a semicircular round of the Ooty lake and then starts backwards. It was fun ride, reminiscent of our mini train rides in Satara garden during my childhood. Ar enjoyed a lot and we took good video of the ride.

After having great time, we headed back. On the way there were couple of food stalls. We decided to have mirchi bhaji and tea. They were ok. We were back to resort by 6:30 pm. The resort had fireplace in the room and I always wanted to sit in front of one. Impact of movies I believe :). So I enquired to the hotel staff, they told me you just let us know once you are back from dinner as they don’t start the fireplace without someone being around. We then went to lunch at 8:00 pm, The diner was good. Once we were back, I called the room service to lit the fire place. He came with rockel and matches to lit the fire place. What an experience it was, something which I wanted to have one day or night rather. I lay in the chair in front of it for long time. Actually I wanted to a read a book besides it, but that didn’t happen . Then we all were feeling sleepy, so decided to hit the bed. After very good start to the Ooty trip, Coonoor was our next stop for tomorrow. So after a tiring day we were hoping for a good night sleep, but then there was …

Fire….

No, no fire to the room, but fire in fireplace. Now that’s obvious you may say, but tell that to G . The fireplace was still burning and we were still hearing the cracking sounds. But I was too tired to bother about this and had gone to sleep. But G was not getting sleep due to the thought that the fireplace is still active and even waked me up. I put in water on the fire, pulled out woods which had still not cached fire and it seemed that it’s over now and went to sleep. G woke me up again that fireplace has again started. It had now become bigger than before :(. I gain put in lot of water, but it again started in some time . Finally went to bed. It finally extinguished when it had consumed all the wood and our sleep 😉