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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Blue Mountains of Kodaikanal and its charming sights!!

I have been to Kodaikanal many a time before. In fact a generation back, my family had their roots here.


Hence, Kodaikanal occupies a special place amongst my Western Ghats travel list.


I have visited this pretty hill station in almost all months of the year, but I find it most endearing when the skies are blue and the days are washed in bright sunshine.

 
Such sights seem to have a calming presence. The tall pine trees stand graceful and the sun just about manages to squeeze through their dense canopies.


Biting into a juicy orange carrot under these canopies acts a great relaxant for me.


My favourite way of exploring this hill town is on horse back. That way I get to trot about leisurely and am able to explore the extremely beautiful, yet not touristy places.


The views of the blue skies and the bluish white clouds on top of the Nilgiri Mountains makes this entire place so very special. The icing on the cake is provided by the dense green forests and its rich flora and fauna.


Having said the above, the view points and the tourist attractions of Kodaikanal are also amazing, but for the huge crowds, the loud noise levels and the litter trail that is left behind.

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Weekend Getaway to Honey Valley Estate in Coorg, Karnataka, India

Five of us left Bangalore one fine Friday morning to spend the weekend at Honey Valley Estate in exotic Coorg that is nestled in the Western Ghats of Karnataka.

 
It was smooth travel till we reached Hunsur. We had sumptuous breakfast of steaming hot idlis, maddur vada and filter coffee at Maddur Tiffanys’. But, just after Hunsur, we had a bad flat and the tyre itself had cracked open.


We fixed the spare tyre just outside Hunsur and then bore the brunt of the extremely bad roads till Virajpet.


At Virajpet, we had a brief stopover for chai (tea) and some snacks to go with it. Then, we took the small winding roads that took us to Kabbinakad. It was already night time by the time we reached Kabbinakad.


From here, a steep dirt track took us to Honey Valley. We lost our way once and then our SUV lost grip at a couple of places, but we overcame these small, yet eventful hurdles to make it to our destination.


At Honey Valley, we were taken to our cottage rooms by the hosts, the Chengappa family, where we freshened up before heading down to the common room for a great dinner.


Post dinner, most of us decided to explore the territory nearby under torch light. It was a great experience, though we could hardly see anything.


Next morning, was an early Coorgi breakfast. The homemade jam and honey are a real treat here. The hearty and healthy breakfast got us all charged up for our day’s trek.


We ditched the traditional trekking route to Thadiyandamol and instead opted for the more steep route to the top of a nearby waterfall.


The ascent was fairly easy as we climbed up with the support of the long grass blades, but when we looked down below us, we knew that we had to find an alternate route for our descent.


While we were searching for the alternate route, we came across a large group of gaurs and this freaked us out completely. We stood frozen till this large bovine group moved away from us.


Soon, we found our way down. Enroute our descent, we enjoyed a great dip in one of the many streams flowing down from the waterfall. Lunch, as with all the other meals, was sumptuous. All I can say is that the Chengappa family have a great cook.


We relaxed for a while after lunch, bought ourselves some original Coorgi coffee, honey and jam and then packed up to make our way back to Bangalore.

Honey Valley nestled deep in Coorg is a great weekend getaway from Bangalore!!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Vote for GiveIndia – Enable Education of underprivileged children of India

One of India’s most trusted and credible NGOs, GiveIndia is taking part in a competition on Facebook to win a US$1 million grant. The winner will be the NGO that gets the highest number of votes from Facebook users. The prize of $1 million will help put or keep 40,000 children across India in school for one year!


Let’s spread the word and help the underprivileged children of India. I have voted and hope that you will too.

Voting in the competition is for one week only, from Friday, January 15 – Friday, January 22, 2010. Let’s do our little bits for this call for help.

Click here to see more details of the competition.


 



P.S. The Give India website needs a lot of work before it comes up to the standard of Just Giving, which is such a great place to raise money for charity online. Let’s hope someone helps them out soon and thus allowing them to raise oodles of money for Indian charities.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Kemmangundi in the Monsoons!!

Four friends left Bangalore to spend the monsoon weekend at Shivgiri Trails, a lesser known exotic getaway nestled in the Baba Budangiri Hills. But, due to local violence at Shivgiri, we were forced to change our plans and instead headed towards Kemmangundi, the picturesque hill station nestled in the Western Ghats.

 
It was late in the evening as we started climbing the winding and rackety roads that led to Kemmangundi.


Such was the thick mist cover that we had to measure every single tread.


Upon reaching Kemmangundi, we found out to our dismay that all the rooms had been booked. We sulked for a while, then recovered to bribe the room boy, who provided us basic accommodation in a small room without any electricity.


As it had started raining and it was getting cold, we grabbed the offer of a cosy shelter. The rest of the evening was spent having dinner at the nearby restaurant and of candlelight conversations.


We woke up early next morning to find the entire place under thick mist cover. It was a heavenly feeling. The sights of large dew drops on the leaves were a great treat to the eyes. Even better was walking barefoot on the dew covered lawns.

 
Soon, we freshened up, had breakfast and proceeded to explore the so called tourist attractions.


As the mist let up, the views got better. The entire area was drenched in dew and the lively green was a pleasant experience.


We spent a couple of hours exploring nature’s beauty and getting intoxicated on the pure air before trekking through coffee plantations to Hebbe Falls.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Boat Cruise on Lake Washington

It was a bright summer afternoon and I was preparing myself for a boat cruise on Lake Washington.

 
It was a working day, but me and my colleagues were lucky enough to be offered a cruise with the CEO on his boat.


After spending a short while at the CEO’s residence, we proceeded to the lake side of the house where the boat was docked. The boat was a beauty and I felt privileged to board it.


Once all of us were on board, the boat slowly went into deep waters, before going close to full throttle. As we picked up speed, I could feel the nip in the air, but that nip felt wonderful on this bright sunny day.


During the cruise, we were provided with great views of the Bellevue downtown skyline. We stopped nearby for lunch at an Italian restaurant, before getting back on the lake.


It was during our return that I got a close look at the I-90 bridge from underneath. The view was totally different and hence appealing.


We turned around after crossing the I-90 bridge and proceeded towards Medina, the place the biggies of Seattle call home.


The idea was to check out the most expensive residential properties in Washington state.


As the boat slowed down, all of us started admiring the various houses that were built in different architectural styles. Each palatial home was surrounded by lush green cover, had lovely lawns, a small beach and a large dock where their private boats were docked.

 
And Bill Gates’ house was no different. Sadly, we couldn’t get a clear view due to the thick tree cover around his house.

Overall, a great afternoon touring Lake Washington on a beauty of a boat!!

Interested in a boat license in Washington State? Check out BOATERexam.com.

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Monsoon Trek to Hebbe Falls, Karnataka, India

It was a misty morning and me and my friends were at the quiet little hill station of Kemmangundi in West Karnataka. The agenda for the day was to trek to Hebbe Falls and back.

 
The round trip trek, through dense forests and coffee estates, across multiple streams and in the heart of leech territory would last a total of 16 kilometres.

 
After breakfast, we began the onward journey, which was pretty easy, as the trail was a steady descent. Some stretches were very steep and slippery, leading to a couple of falls that led to minor scratches.


As this was the monsoon season, the entire area was washed in fresh green. At some places, that had dense green cover and minimal light, the leeches caught up with us and we had to run into the sunlight and remove them off our legs.


The interesting parts of the descent were the extremely slippery trails through the coffee estates, wading in knee deep water in some of the streams and the Hebbe Falls playing hide and seek with us. At every turn with a clearing, we would get breathtaking views of the majestic waterfall amidst dense green jungles.


We had just crossed the second stream, when we spotted a wounded green snake. I had missed it completely, but my friends had spotted it. We studied it for a while, took some photographs and with the help of a stick put it on to a tree branch for safety from the trail.

 
After crossing four streams, we went through an extremely small trail to finally arrive at the Hebbe Falls. There spray from the waterfall could be felt even 40 feet away. Such was the force with which it was falling.

 
It was here that we took a much needed break. The dip in the cool waters was fabulous and the glucose biscuits we were carrying were the best lunch that could have served to us then. After satisfying our palate, we got down to removing the leeches that were busy sucking blood from our body. The exercise was tedious, but successful.


After spending close to two hours at the waterfall, we proceeded to make our way back. The ascent, as anticipated was a killer. The steep coffee estate slopes were the worst. Finally, puffing and panting, we made it back to the civilization of Kemmangundi.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Seattle Downtown – of high rises with classical appeal

As I was walking through Seattle downtown, I realized that underneath these high rises lay rich culture and a classic appeal.

 
Most of the buildings have stood there over a century and especially the ones closer to the waterfront.



When one speaks of Seattle downtown, the most famous words would be Columbia Towers and Space Needle, but there is more to this place than just that.


Most of the streets in Seattle downtown boast of classic restaurants serving inter-continental cuisine. Their aroma fills one’s nostrils even at a distance from the restaurant.


The small lanes, large sidewalks and buses powered by electric cables from above are how I would put the ground-scape.


Each building has its own unique architecture. The ones close to the waterfront being the most unique. Sloping roads and small alleys are the norm here.


The most famous landmark here is “Pike Place Market”, which puts up quite a show in the early morning hours when tons of fish (of all shapes and sizes) are thrown (but they slide) on huge slabs of ice. This is the place that led to the fish motivational principle in today’s corporate world!!

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