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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monsoon Trek to Thadiyendamol Peak, Coorg, Karnataka, India

The trek to Thadiyendamol peak is one of the best treks in the state of Karnataka. It is a pleasure to trek this range of the Western Ghats all year round. But, the biggest thrill comes during the peak of the monsoons when everything here is at its liveliest best.


At 5,730 feet above MSL, Thadiyendamol is the highest peak in Coorg (Kodagu) and the second highest in Karnataka. The highest being Mulaiyangiri, which is located in the Chickmagalur district of Karnataka.


There are two popular trekking trails that lead to the Thadiyendamol peak. The shorter trail starts from the Palace Estate in Kakkabe, while the longer trail originates at the Honey Valley Resort.


Personally, I have always preferred to start the trek from Honey valley as the trail passes through dense tropical rainforests that are infested with leeches and provides splendid vistas enroute.


The trail from Honey Valley is much longer and will take at least ten hours for a comfortable trek. In terms of distance, it should be about 27 kilometres for the return journey.


I have trekked to Thadiyendamol many times and have taken various routes. I would start at Honey Valley, take the longer route to the peak and come back from the shorter route through Nalnad Palace in Kakkabe. Sometimes, I would go and come back via the same long route.


There are no trekking permits required for going to Thadiyendamol peak, but please do ensure that you carry all your trash back to civilization.


The trails to Thadiyendamol from Honey Valley go through dense bushes, umpteen number of hills and lush green rainforests. Hence, there is a great chance that you can get lost. Hence, taking a local guide is highly recommended. Honey Valley Resort helps in arranging a local guide for a very reasonable cost.


If you are climbing from the Palace Estate side, then you don’t need a guide as the trail is large and cannot be missed. But, you can always get a local guide if you want to.


While trekking here, do ensure that you trek during daylight hours as wildlife is known to pass through this terrain during night times and the slippery terrain and the mist factor can contribute to slips and falls during night time.


A couple of weeks back is when I trekked to the peak yet again. And since I was planning to climb to Thadiyendamol from the Honey Valley trail, me and my friends made Honey Valley as a base.


We had booked a nice 5 person ethnic style dormitory for the four of us. An overnight Volvo bus from Bangalore brought us to Virajpet in the wee hours of the morning and a local bus brought us to Kabinakkad bus stop at 8 AM.


From here, we trekked the steep ascent of three kilometres to Honey Valley, checked into our room, freshened up, had breakfast and started our trek to Thadiyendamol.  To give us company, 2 mutts belonging to Honey Valley joined us.


One of the younger mutts wore a shiny black coat and was called ‘Gundu’. The other older mutt seemed to be limping and returned a short while into the trek. Gundu kept us company throughout. In fact, he was instrumental in chasing away the cows and buffalos which seemed be grazing in large numbers on our trekking trail.


About an hour into the trek, we were joined by our local trekking guide, Mani, who cuts grass and does a little of farming to earn his two square meals.


The initial part of the trek was a steady climb. We ascended rapidly and arrived at an elevation of 4,800 feet. By this time, most of us had a lot of leeches in our boots and we could feel it, but instead of taking them out, we preferred to soak in the natural vistas and breathe in the fresh air.


During this initial climb, we saw a couple of waterfalls that looked milky white against the dense greenery. Soon, the rains began. What started initially as a persistent drizzle, turned into a heavy downpour in an hour.


This reduced our speed as the terrain became slippery, the cliff edges became threatening, visibility became weak and the ground turned slushy. And the best part is that the rains brought out the best in the leeches.


But, ain’t this the best part about a monsoon trek? Most of us were soaked to the bone, were tired and were getting bitten by leeches, but, we were truly lost in the fresh green views that were being presented to us in the rains.


During all this, we somehow managed to get our cameras out and capture these images in our lens. It was during lunch time I guess, we were all hungry, but we had to cross a dense slushy tropical rainforest to cross the fence to the Thadiyendamol range.


This slushy zone, in my mind was the highlight of the trek. The entire slushy trail was covered in thick bushes and small pink flowers were in full bloom on all these bushes. This was a very spectacular sight. Our guide Mani told us that these Pink flowers bloom only during the monsoons.


The bushes were so dense that we had to cut our way through to the other side, which led to a small rain pond, where we cleaned ourselves of the hundreds of leeches that had stuck onto us and proceeded to have a much required snack break.


During our entire trek, we followed a simple philosophy. It was to take it easily, but steadily on the grasslands, but rush through the leech infested dense tropical rainforests. And to enable this, we took short breathers before all the rainforest stretches.


It would be like we walk over a hill through grasslands, descend into the heart of the rainforests and then ascend from the other side of the rainforest to the other hill. We did this many a time during our entire trek. In fact, if I remember right, we crossed seven different hills.


This according to me is what makes the Thadiyendamol trek so enticing, memorable and challenging. I know a lot of people who have got freaked out in these rainforest stretches.


Finally, after about seven gruelling hours of trekking, we made it to the Thadiyendamol peak to have our lunch. We couldn’t do anything else as the entire place was covered in clouds and mist. Thankfully, the rains had taken a break.


Post our late lunch, we descended back through the rainforests to join a different trail, which was much larger and heads towards the Palace Estate in Kakkabe. This trail was much easier and safer than the one we had just come on. But, it did not provide picturesque views either. Instead it was a fast and steep descent through forests on either side, thus blocking all views.


Upon reaching the Palace Estate, one can stop by and explore the 18th century Nalnad Palace, which is quite popular in Coorg. Even we stopped by and explored this palace before heading back to Honey Valley making this day a very memorable day in Coorg for us.

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The Red Soil of Kodagu

Kodagu or Coorg as it is popularly known is very famous for its tropical forests. The rich soil and the heavy rainfall that Coorg receives make this place a blanket of greenery.
 
 
This rich reddish soil has other uses too. In fact, the Kodavas (native people of Coorg) use this red soil for most of their construction work.

 
The staircase and the tiled floor above are testaments to that fact. If you look closer at a Coorgi house, then you will figure more such uses.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coffee in Coorg

Coorg, one of the hottest bio-diversity hotspots of India is known the world over for its aromatic coffee. In fact, the entire Indian nation swears by the Coffee from Coorg, the area which produces most of Indian Coffee.


It is a surreal experience to holiday in this mocha paradise. The sloping coffee estates and the spice plantations add to the charm. And if you are in Coorg (Kodagu) during the Coffee picking season, then you can savour the sweet aroma of coffee in the air and be totally captivated.

 
The authentic cup of coffee here has no added chicory in it, which makes it 100% coffee and even without any sugar, it tastes a little bit sweet. But, the aroma, the fragrance, the colour, the taste and the caffeine powers make this brand of Coffee a very potent combination.

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Tiled Roof from Kodagu Land

The mud tiled roofs of Kodagu land have somehow captured my imagination. All the houses in this tropical paradise, whether big or small, have an unique aura about them and I guess it is these mud tiled roofs that contribute to that aura.

 
There are quite a few specialities of these mud tiles. First, they are environment friendly. Second, they are the most efficient form of roofing in this high rainfall terrain. And third, they are fairly inexpensive and are easily available.

 
And they are extremely appealing to the eye either when they are shiny and new or when they are covered with bright green moss.

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Portraits

These are some portraits that I took of my friends during our recent trekking and nature trip to Coorg (Kodagu) in Karnataka, India.


These pictures were shot inside Nalnad Palace, a 18th century historic monument that is of great importance to the Kodavas, the natives of Coorg.

 
While a couple of photos were shot against the colourful and beautifully carved entrance gates of the palace, the other photo was shot against the old walls of the inside.


The photos here are of my friends Vishwadeep Anshu and Amith Kishore.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honey Valley Resort: A Peaceful Homestay in Coorg

Honey Valley, in my personal opinion is a great place to spend your holiday in Coorg (Kodagu). It is situated in the heart of tropical paradise and is your perfect hill station destination. Right from the time you climb the three kilometre 4x4 steep cobbled path to reach this homestay, it is just peaceful bliss all the way.


Honey Valley is a 56 acre property that belongs to the Chengappa family. What started a long while back as a small homestay has morphed into a full fledged homestay with lots of accommodation options. But, at the same time, this development has hardly changed the ecology of this place.


It still remains laced with coffee estates and spice plantations. Tropical rainforests are situated in its boundary and a lot of colourful flowers and plants spring pleasant surprises right through this homestay.

 
Honey Valley is situated close to the Kabinakkad bus stand that lies on the Virajpet – Madikeri road. Virajpet is about 26 kilometres from Honey Valley and about 15 kilometres from Kakkabe.


The accommodation options here suits every kind of traveller right from the backpacker, trekker, birdwatcher, family to honeymooners. The cost is also very reasonable. Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks and Dinner come for an additional nominal price and is served at a common dining hall.


The kitchen here is known to cull out some mouth watering Kodagu food. Don’t miss out on the Pandi (Pork) curry and the coffee grown from their own coffee estate. Both these are specialities of Coorg.

 
Honey Valley is also a birdwatcher’s paradise. A lot of terrestrial species can be spotted here throughout the year, though winter is considered the best time for birdwatching. A lot of tropical trekking trails also originate from Honey valley. The most popular one being the trek to Thadiyendamol peak. Mr. Chengappa has documented more than 25 odd trails from his estate to exotic locations.


If you are interested in spending your holiday at the Honey Valley Resort, then you can contact Mr. Suresh Chengappa at 0827-2238339. I have personally visited this place five times from 2003 through 2010 and have come out mightily pleased every single time. In fact, this is one of my most favourite places in Coorg.

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Travel with great company to great places, Tenerife and Barcelona for this summer

Travel with groups this summer and enjoy the company and the places you’ll see like never before. If you are organizing a holiday with your class, your friends, or a family vacation, the choice of a destination is among the most important factors for a successful trip. The Mediterranean Sea has been, is, and will continue to be one of the most attractive places in Europe for dream holidays of different kinds. Each city or village on the coast has their own charm, and keeps a little bit of the Mediterranean appeal and something distinctive that makes them unique and remarkable.

Barcelona and Tenerife are two outstanding destinations, both blessed with fabulous scenery and beauty, an impressive appearance and a very interesting culture that offer perfect conditions for a brilliant holiday at the seaside.

The biggest island of the Canaries, Tenerife, is one of the most fabulous Spanish resorts that will blow you away. This little piece of heaven is endowed with incredible nature sceneries, from the stunning beaches with shiny sand and clear sky blue waters, to the mountain landscapes and a breathtaking volcano crater and much more. Tenerife has a lot to offer you. The island is the perfect place to rejuvenate your energy and spend wonderful moments with your loved ones. When you travel in groups to this magnificent resort, hotel in Tenerife, it is advisable to book well in advance as interest in this holiday destination is growing. This way you can book all the rooms at once and have no worries about the accommodation.

There are no words to describe the atmosphere of Barcelona. The modern meets the traditional in this vibrant Spanish city. Barcelona keeps the traditions alive, as well as the language and folklore of Catalonia which makes the atmosphere in the city even more interesting and unforgettable. It is a brilliant destination for this summer for everyone who loves the hot sun, dynamic and eventful life in the city and amazing tourist attractions and eye-catching architecture. Barcelona is a marvellous place for children and family vacations. The Mediterranean Sea gives a special appeal to the city, which, blended with the stunning landscapes, lovely people and the exciting lifestyle of Barcelona, assures the perfect conditions for a truly enjoyable time. When travelling in groups, the cost of lodging, airfare, food and even attractions should be very well balanced, to make the most of your holiday. Staying in a youth hostel in Barcelona is great for vacations on a limited budget, and prices can be arranged for groups. Hostels are a good alternative to hotels and often provide just as good conditions as hotel rooms.

This guest post has been written by Teodora.

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Portraits in different moods

During my recent trip to Coorg (Kodagu), a tropical hotspot in Karnataka, India, I took a lot of portrait shots. And some of them came out with very interesting results.


Take this case as an example. Here, I took the portrait of Mani, who is a local Kodagu farmer and who dovetailed as our trekking guide during our treks here.

 
I took these photos both in continuous and single shot modes and the results totally surprised me. Each photo of Mani conveys a different emotion or should I say mood.

 
And all this in spite of him knowing very well that I was taking his photograph and him being warm and welcoming to the cause.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Fabulous Ibiza for this Season

Everyone who has ever been to Ibiza is truly fascinated by the stunning beauty of the island and the unforgettable appeal that just gets under your skin. So, what is Ibiza like and why do tourists just fall in love with this tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea?

Imagine a little piece of land bathing in sunshine and endowed with stunning natural landscapes and diversity of flora and fauna, “embraced” by the marvellous Mediterranean Sea. This is a little part of the charisma of Ibiza, one of the smallest islands of the Balearic archipelago endowed with divine beauty and a rich cultural heritage. Everything on the island, from the wonderful weather to the picturesque beaches and the abundance of attractions and amenities assure the perfect conditions for unforgettable vacations, including family holidays Ibiza, active holidays with sports and extreme experiences, sightseeing excursions, and even trips for learning languages. Among the most remarkable sites and treasures of Ibiza is the ancient Ibiza Town, a centuries old fortress city.

The resorts on the island have their own charm and advantages to satisfy even the most pretentious visitors. Santa Eularia is a magnificent part of Ibiza, which is especially appropriate for family holidays with children, because of its calm and stunning beaches and a variety of amenities for the little ones. San Antonio de Portmany has vibrant nightlife and promises fully enjoyable time for those who fancy the active social life and the restless fiestas and beach parties. Tourists who wish to have a fulfilling experience of Ibiza should without doubt try some of the traditional local meals in the restaurants along the beaches, where they can enjoy delicious dishes with the breathtaking surroundings of the Mediterranean.

The Hippy markets and the festivals are a constant part of life in Ibiza. In hippy markets you will find anything from clothing and food to jewellery and local souvenirs. Whenever you decide to visit the island, there will be a festival, either religious or the famous traditional Balearic parties that will shake you to your core. Ibiza is so irresistible and compelling that you shouldn’t be surprised if the thought of moving here crosses your mind. The island is a great place for living and for rejuvenation. A holiday to Ibiza can do miracles with your physical and emotional condition and really make you love living. It is especially the favourite place for Expats who wish to get away from their stressful lifestyles, daily routine and boredom.

This guest post has been written by Teodora.

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Moss on Tropical Tree Branch

You would have noticed by now that I have a fascination for Moss and my tropical travails helps me indulge in this fascination regularly.


In this instance, I was trekking through the tropical rainforests of Coorg when I kept noticing tropical tree branches that had been usurped by Moss.


And since all these trees were getting drenched in the steady monsoon rain, the Moss on them seemed to be in its most vibrant form, which is fresh light shiny green. And it is such a treat to watch them up close.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Monsoon Trek to Nilakandi Falls, Coorg, Karnataka, India

The Nilakandi Falls is set amidst the dense tropical forests of Coorg and starts somewhere in the Thadiyendamol range. A three kilometre trek from the Honey Valley Resort takes one to the stream that flows down from the Nilakandi Falls. And another four kilometres from there takes you to the source of the waterfall, which is a small lake.

  
Honey Valley is a 56 acre resort and private property owned and run by Mr. Suresh Chengappa and is situated 4 kilometres from the Kabinnakad bus stop, that is close to Kakkabe.

 
A forty five minute easy walk through more or less level ground takes one to Nilakandi Falls from Honey Valley. Me and my friends did just this earlier this month on what was a rainy monsoon day.

 
We finished our breakfast and started climbing towards the dry pond from where the trail splits into a small one that passes through grasslands and dense evergreen forests.

 
Since it was raining and the ground was slushy, we found a lot of leeches, but somehow managed to get bit by only a few. Guess we had got used to them after our series of monsoon treks.

 
One can get a grand view of the Nilakandi Falls in just about twenty minutes into the trek. The view is that of a milky white waterfall amidst dense greenery. It is here that one can take a good long break to admire this stunning waterfall view. Though, you should watch out for the leeches as they cling on to you easily.

 
Another 25 minute trek from this location takes you to the stream that tumbles down from the Nilakandi Falls. This is a great place for a shower in the 15 foot waterfall and/or a dip in the small pool. The water is completely clean here, though a bit chilly when we went there last. But, a dip in the waters takes care of the chill factor.

 
You can climb further to reach the top of the waterfall, which is a small pond, else return to Honey Valley via the same route to make this a short and sweet tropical trek from Honey Valley and a refreshing experience overall.

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