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Old 18th May 2011, 13:18   #16
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Beautiful narration and wonderful journey undertaken. Photographs are fantastic. Looking forward to the next posts.

Thanks for sharing with us.
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Old 20th May 2011, 11:26   #17
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Exploring Kanya Kumari - Day 4

First thing in the morning – after the breakfast, of course – we went to the post office, to enquire feasibility of sending conches to Pune. It is located on way to Kanyakumari, right in the central area. The helpful lady there informed us that it was possible, however the packing has to be a proper tailor made bag, and not just duct-taped box. This was bit surprising, because surely I had received usual box packs from Indian postal service in the past. But arguing was not going to help, so we decided to first check the packing mechanism by visiting the tailor.

The elusive tailor sits in a hidden lane, that can be hidden from your eye even if you are standing right at its nose. After a number of pacing of the road to and fro on bike, we traced the steps one at a time, and finally found the tailor sitting in his small shop. He seemed a regular in this sort of stuff, the way he handled matters. He gave us a large box to fill the conches in. The parcel had to be given to the parcel office before 2.00P.M., otherwise we would have to come back the next day. As we were leaving the next morning, 2.00 P.M. was a must-meet deadline for us.

We headed straight to the beach, to the sea-side vendors selling the conches and sea-stuff. The market is so magical, I never felt bored or ‘enough’ at any time. The rates are unbelievably low, and more so when bargained well. One could spend hours here without getting bored. Nandinee however differed on this opinion, and was seemed on a verge of a volcano blowing up when I suggest we take one more round of the market, now fourth time, the blazing sun not aiding her mood. I unsuccessfully tried to revenge this when she was buying sarees. The tale of my failure is a topic for a later chapter.

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We bought this shell with our names engraved, in hope that someday our grand children will see it, and remember what it is to roam free.

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We left the market with lighter pockets and heavy bags, and headed our room for packing the stuff well. It was already 12.45P.M. There was enough time to have the cover sewn for the box. Or so we thought. When we reached the tailor’s shop, it was wide open, with no sign of him. Fine, we’ll wait, we thought. Must’ve gone around to grab a bite of food. Let’s wait 5 minutes. 10…15…25 minutes, still no tailor. The clock slowly started ticking against us. A huge language barrier was standing between us and the neighboring shops to find his whereabouts. Finally after great theatrics, I managed to have the other shop owner ring his phone, and tell him two souls are waiting to be released upon his holiness’s blessings. Once he got to work, he was pretty fast.

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Did the packing nice and tight, and we finally booked the parcel at 1.55 P.M.

After lunch, we went to see the Kanyakumari rock temple, where Swami Vivekananda reportedly meditated for 3 days. The temple is situated on an island that can be visited by boat alone. There is one more similar island, with recently erected statue of Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar. However, we limited our visit to only the Vivekananda island.

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The boat ride was terrifying to say the least. We all were made to wear the life guards compulsorily, no elderly or non-willing spared. When the boat took off, it was more on the mercy of the sea than the power of the engines. Hardly a little distance in, we started rocking like crazy. Naturally, the kids and their moms started shouting in Unison. Had I myself not been shocked and scared, a film of that scene would easily sell as footage of some sad movie where poor immigrants are swallowed by the angry sea. Luckily our fate’s movie was not to end that day, and we reached the rock in a while. The journey is hardly 5-10 minutes, with more time spent in waiting for passengers than in commuting. But if the sea is in form, then those 5-10 minutes are nothing but a wild ride.

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April afternoon is not exactly the best time to visit the rock, as we realized quickly. Having had to part with our shoes at the entrance, we soon started to find cool places to lay our feet on while walking. Being on the rock though is a calming experience.

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There is a solar clock placed on the ground, with different markings. This was my second time seeing the clock, with five years spread between the two sightings. But yet, I had not become wiser about its working, and still am not. Maybe it will require one more visit with a knowledgeable person to understand it.

There is a small ‘Meditation hall’ on the rock. Last time I visited was in the heat of tourist season, and the meditation room was unbelievably noisy by people who had evidently confused it with chat room. However, this time it was very peaceful. The room itself is very dark, and an Om written in Devanagari is lit on the wall. Outside of that room, the sea may be roaring to glory, and children may be crying in full volume, but inside you don’t hear anything. All you hear is the speed of your thoughts, and wonder how you survive having such a fast restless train of thoughts.

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After roaming around the rock, we soon found ourselves in line for boat to take us back to the lands. There is nothing else to see on the rock, except the Vivekananda temple, and the Kanyakumari temple, which houses a pair of footprints said to belong to Devi Kanyakumari herself.

The return journey too was matching to the first journey, but this time, we were bit experienced, and tried to enjoy it. We sure were glad to put our feet back on land though. Sea is a wild creature, at one moment it may play with you, and at another it will turn to take a bite off your neck. It surely wasn’t in any mood to play that day, and we decided to leave it at that.

After a snacks break, the last stop for today was Suchindram temple. Suchindram is located about 7 kilometers from Kanyakumari, on the same way back to Kerala. It houses a temple famous mainly for its musical pillars. There are 2 sets of stone pillars that are carved hollow inside. If you bang the pillars right, and place your ears on any of them, you will hear musical tones. Not rock banging, but actually musical tones. We arrived at the temple in the evening. Just prior to the temple, there is a small lake that houses the carved structures.

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Goats were hanging out in cool evening on their usual spot above the lake.

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The temple allowed no shirts inside, similar to other temples in the area. It didn’t allow cameras too, which had to be deposited outside in a safe. There was a large amount of local crowd that had come to take darshan. I hardly spotted any tourists though. It is a huge campus, with many temples situated within. I couldn’t identify some of the gods though, despite being of the same religion. It is said Hindu religion has 33 crore Gods, and the Gods I identified were seemingly a small set out of the population.

We saw some beautiful brass lanterns in the temple. Shopping of brass items in Kerala was on our agenda anyway. Upon inquiry, we found out that there is a village named Kottar, 4 kms ahead of Suchindram, that is the origin of these lanterns and other similar brass artifacts. As we had nothing planned for the evening, Kottar became our next destination. This is the beauty of travelling as single couple, that you are the only decision maker regarding your itinerary. Had we been in a group, then we had to explain and coax others to accompany, and had we been in a tourist bus, then there would be no chance of such sudden visit.

Kottar is a passing village on the Kerala-Kanyakumari road, which is easy to miss. A non-descript town, but curiously famous for its brass items, that too sold in a handful of shops. We roamed on the inner roads, away from the main busy street. Asking a simple question ‘where do we get brass items’ took about 5 minutes, and attracted a sizeable group of people, before we were finally ushered that way.

‘Pital ke diye kahaan milte hain?’
‘Umm… Where do we get dipam? Diyaa?’
‘yanna $#@$#@$@?’

It took a session of dumb charades, where I displayed a lantern with hand, and poured oil in it and lit it and all. Finally it dawned.

‘Ohh…brass! There!’

Luckily, the one word answer to our five minute animated question was sufficient, and soon we found ourselves parking in front of a brass shop. The owner there knew some English, so the matters eased then on. Luckily, he was the only brass shop owner that could manage English. The rest shops we visited were not understanding a word we were saying, nor us them. It was fun to bargain in broken English. No matter where you are, money speaks a common language, and soon we arrived at an acceptable figure for both parties. The shop owner agreed to parcel the stuff back to Pune for some additional cost. Paid the amount, and started back to Kanyakumari. The roads in south, atleast to where I had been, seemed safe, and this road was no exception.

As the conches were packed and sent home, I didn’t have any to blow them at night. Nandinee seemed particularly happy about it. We hoped all our shopping done today, the conches and the brass items, would reach home safely.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 20th May 2011 at 13:07.
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Old 20th May 2011, 12:30   #18
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Wonderful travelogue and nice photos.

A small correction

There is one more similar island, with recently erected statue of Malyalam saint Thiruvalluvar. However, we limited our visit to only the Vivekananda island
Thiruvalluvar was a great Tamil poet who lived 2000 years ago and wrote the immortal Thirukural
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Old 20th May 2011, 12:44   #19
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

One of the finest Travelogues supplemented beautifully by Photos.

One experience a visitor to Alleppy should not miss is to simply sit on the banks of a canal for a few hours in the shade of a tree if possible.

With no road traffic around for miles one can experience stillness not possible elsewhere. And even the sound of a fish bubbling to the surface a few meters away can break the silence Loudly!!

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Old 20th May 2011, 12:55   #20
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Originally Posted by raju2512 View Post
Thiruvalluvar was a great Tamil poet who lived 2000 years ago and wrote the immortal Thirukural
Thanks a lot for correcting, Raju! Sorry I didn't know about that, and mistook him for Malyalam saint. The post is no more editabe, I hope mods can edit it.

Originally Posted by Ragul View Post
One experience a visitor to Alleppy should not miss is to simply sit on the banks of a canal for a few hours in the shade of a tree if possible.
Thanks for your comments Ragul! Aleppy is truly beautiful. though they seriously need to contain the infestation of water hysinth, and reduce the number of boats!.
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Old 23rd May 2011, 10:06   #21
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Heading for the capital - Day 5

In morning, I couldn’t resist to visit the beach market, and got some more conches. However, as we were going to carry them with us, I was bit resistant on myself, and bought those that could be taken on motorcycle only. Later, we visited Vivekanadapuram. I remembered they had a beach side to view sun rise. We went there at 10.00 A.M., by which time the road to beach was closed. I tried to sneak in from this way or another, and ended up landing in a school! It was surprising that the school was somehow operating on Sunday too. The atmosphere was very calm, with the children reciting some prayer inaudibly, the ground covered with sand, with Vesta sliding this way and that on the sand. Really envied the kids to learn in such beautiful atmosphere. It was not similar to those enviable Himalayan school, with the grand views of hills. But this school had a charm of its own. Something that is lost in urbanization. We visited the small shop there for buying of souvenirs. Later, to our dismay we found out that except for a few items, rest could be bought anywhere, including Pune!

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Cows resting in the school at Vivekanandapuram

We left Kanyakumari at 11.00, planning to reach Thiruanantpuram in a good time for lunch. But Kanyakumari loved us too much. After travelling about 20 odd kilometers towards Kerala, the little voice in Nandinee’s head started talking, and she sensed she had left the camera cell charger in the hotel. A quick search and a phone call to the hotel proved it to be true. The hotel being a government one, was not ready to send the charger by bus or anything to Thiruanantpuram. There was no choice but to go back and collect it ourselves. I had travelled the same road so many times now, it seemed as if I belonged there. In hot weather with sun’s love increasing in intensity with each passing hour, it was no fun either. The only respite was such Taadgola stands on road side. The quick break for a glass of flavoured Taadgola was very refreshing.

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After having the bitter experience of Manjalikulam at Thiruanantpuram, we still gave it one more chance this time, and it didn’t fail to disappoint us. All the self proclaimed culture protection hotels declined us, saying that they are full, magically so on an April Thursday. We consulted the guide book, and found a hotel named ‘Kukie’s Holiday Inn’ was nearby. That hotel did admit us without any fuss. It is a budget hotel. Let me rephrase that. It is a really truly absolutely a budget hotel. The room rent was lowest we paid on this trip, but so was the condition of the room. Kukie’s Holiday Inn is located at a nice place, very close to central area and yet very secluded. If the owners improve the hotel rooms, they can easily charge more, and would totally deserve it. The outer area is well maintained, with good private ground and all, but the rooms leave a lot to desire. As we had to spend just one night, we weren’t that picky about it, but if it were a 2 or more night’s stay, then we would not have selected it.

After refreshments, we went for local sightseeing. The Pazhavangadi Ganpati was nearby, and so was the Padmanabhaswamy temple. In Padmanabhaswamy temple, everything was chargeable. Vesthi, depositing your shirt and pant, depositing camera, everything had a price tag, and on a bit costlier side. More surprisingly and even shockingly, even ladies had to wear a veshti there! Didn’t understand the tradition, and don’t want to turn this log into a religious debate, but it was undoubtedly bit odd to see the rule, that ladies had to enter in Saris or Veshti. If a lady was wearing Salwar-kurta, still she had to wrap the dhoti around her in order to enter the temple. Curiously, girls with skirts were all right. Nandinee had a strong objection to this, and was even ready to stand outside while I take the darshan. I was not in any mood or with any energy to pacify her and make her mind to accompany me to the temple. I left the job for the next day, and we headed to Veli Tourist Park.

Veli Tourist Park is a specially developed tourist spot by Kerala government. It houses huge size murals and statues in abstract forms. We reached there at around 7, by the time it closes to visitors. There was not guard at the entrance, so we sneaked in anyway. Luckily, we happened to reach the shore line at the magical time, half hour after sunset. The photography opportunity that presented itself paid for the effort of coming this far.

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Later, we went to a cyber café for searching for some hotels in Kumarakom, our tomorrow's destination. We booked a room in ‘Tharavadu Heritage Home’ on phone, with good price, this being an off season. Dinner consisted of prawns, surprisingly our only good sea food in many days.

In night, we were strolling in the Kukie’s Holiday Inn ground for a long time, discussing the next plan. We were actually bit glad to get away from Thiruanantpuram. This was perhaps the only spot in the whole trip where we got bored, and wished to leave early.
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Old 24th May 2011, 15:45   #22
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Escape from the highway - Day 6

In morning, we visited the Padmanabhaswamy temple and the Ganpati temple. Nandinee finally agreed very reluctantly for wrapping a Veshti. Inside, the temple is huge, as is the norm in Kerala. There are many small temples in the compound, but the main attraction is the Vishnu idol. It is in a position of taking rest, and it is many meters long. There are three doors through which we can take the Darshanam in parts, first the head, then the belly and then the legs. There is no way anyone can click photo of a full idol without any photo editing. Not that one can anyways, as they take away your camera and your pants away at the entrance.

It is said to be made up of Shaligrams brought on elephants’ backs from Nepal, but I couldn’t spot any Shaligrams in the temple. Maybe after so many years, they are no more identifiable to untrained eyes.

There were four entrances to the temple, one in each direction. They are placed a great distance apart from each other. By the time we completed the Darshanam, we had forgotten which entrance we took. It took one more round of the huge temple, checking each entrance for familiar signs. Finally found it, got dressed and headed for Ganpati temple.

The Ganpati temple is located bang on the main road, and parking is in short supply. Not for two wheelers, as we can find a place easily. But for four wheelers, parking may be problematic. We took turns in taking the darshan, as there was no one guarding your shoes outside the temple. Nandinee was allowed to enter the main hall of the temple, nearest to the idol. When I tried the same, I was hushed away in angry voices. I enquired:

‘What? Is it the shirt? Should I remove it?’
‘No pants!’

He meant only veshti, but any ways I was in no mood to get undressed and re-dressed again. So satisfied myself by taking the darshan from far away. I thought - at least these guys allowed entry in the temple in any attire, unlike the Padmanabhaswamy temple.

After the breakfast, we checked out of the hotel, gladly so. Today onwards, our ride was no more on the irritatingly busy national highway, but on the MCR, Main Central Road. This road is what they show in Kerala advertisement. A non-crowded two lane road, passing through sleepy villages with big coconut plantations, I enjoyed each and every kilometer of it. Seriously, if someone wants to enjoy the ride, MCR is the road to be on. Well maintained, and yet beautifully covered by vegetation.

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Joining MCR from Thiruanantpuram involved in some U turns though. At one junction, when the signal was yellow, the car in front of me accelerated. I too followed him, hoping to cross the junction before signal turned red. We miscalculated, and it turned red a bit early. A policeman jumped in track, and I had my heart in mouth. I was riding without a license, and whether I would be able to convey the whole scene regarding the license was bit doubtful. Surprisingly, the punishment for jumping signal was not any fine, but a public scolding, where both I and the car were pushed to the left-hand road, when we wanted to go straight. I thanked God for helping me in this close encounter, and resumed my way soon.

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Saw an interesting cargo en route:

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The road to Kumarakom passes through Kottayam. Kottayam is a big town, and we saw lot of good hotels to eat on the way. Our past experiences had taught us, that if you skip what you have in hand in hope that a better one awaits, then finally you will end up with nothing. We stopped for lunch in an ‘acceptable’ hotel by Nandinee’s standards. Later we realized how lucky we were taking that decision, when we had to roam a lot in night for a hotel in Kumarakom.

The road from Kottayam to Kumarakom is in a banged up condition. The only such bad road we faced on this ride, the sand and stones road continued for some 10-12 kilometers, but troubled a lot. Hopefully this will be completed soon, and the inconvenience to the tourist vehicles be spared.

Our booked hotel, Tharavadu Heritage Home, is an ancient property. We had booked a room in its ‘annex’, a construction by the owners in the same compound, but at little budget rates. As there were hardly any tourists, the kind manager upgraded us to the Bamboo cottage room at the same price. The hotel itself is spread interestingly. The bamboo cottage is actually built up on an island, which is surrounded by canal of streams. There are bamboo bridges to cross over, and you reach your cottage after crossing a number of such islands connected by bridges. The room was bit small, but then they were limited by the size of the islands. Vehicle cannot come too much inside the hotel, not even the motorcycle.

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We found a workman in the hotel who could speak Marathi. He was originally from Kerala, but worked for a few years in Sangli, Maharashtra. After a while, he had had enough, and returned back to his land. It was good to meet a Marathi speaking person after almost a week.

There are no tourist boats from Kumarakom. You can book house boats here, and perhaps even float in them from here to Kottayam or Aleppy. If someone is planning for a house boat stay, it will be more beautiful here than Aleppy, due to lesser number of boats and lesser hyacinth infestation. But the rates for house boats are on the higher side as compared to other towns. Unlike Aleppy, where you have few hours long tourist routes, here are no such routes to travel by boat.

There is a ferry service from the village, to some place I can’t pronounce. When we reached the Jetty, the boat was just docking in there. We grabbed a few snacks and water, and jumped in the boat. The ferry service operates just like bus services in towns. The conductor confirmed that this same boat would be returning again, so we settled for a to and fro journey to unknown village.

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Water has a calming effect on you. Not the sea, which can sometimes scare you out of your pants, but the smooth lake water brings a calm to your mind and muscles. The Vembenad lake in Kerala is spread in unimaginable dimensions, stretching its legs from Cochin to Aleppy to Kumarakom. It is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. It is really commendable on the government’s and the locals’ part to keep it operating and clean. In Pune, the old Mula Mutha rivers have long lost their glory, and now serve as the sewage lines for countless companies sprung up on their shorelines. In Mumbai too, Mithi river is only remembered when it threatens to wash away the surrounding part, and succeeds sometimes. I dreamed when I would be able to travel in such ferries in Pune, catching a ferry from Kalyani Nagar and get down at Balgandharva bridge.

We returned after some 1.5 hours. Even though there is nothing to see on the other side, and the boat cruise consists of going from this end of the lake to that end, with nothing in between except water, the ride was no less interesting. There was hardly any water hyacinth infestation, hardly any tourist boats creeping in your view. The Kumarakom public ferry is enjoyable in its own special way, and is no less than other tourist ferries.

Kumarakom is famous for its bird sanctuary. When our boat was docked to the opposite side, I ventured to a group of people chatting in a shade, and asked:

‘Bird sanctuary yengane poum?’ (How to go to bird sanctuary?)

A Malyalam colleague had taught me few questions, should the need arise to communicate to non-English locals. This question triggered a sudden outburst from everyone of the group, and I had to communicate by acting that my Malyalam knowledge ended at the question itself. For bird sanctuary, they pronounced a big name for the village that housed the sanctuary, which I just could not get after many tries. Having learnt Sanskrit in high school, I used to be confident that unlike foreigners, I would not have any trouble pronouncing any word in India at least. I was proven wrong, when they too gave up their attempt of teaching me that name. They said that I’d better stick with ‘bird sanctuary’ and forget the name of the village, as they both were essentially the same thing.

When we returned, we decided to check on the sanctuary to see its timings, and see whether we could find any good hotels to eat. The sanctuary is too big to miss; it is about 2 kilometers away from the public boat jetty. Taj hotel is located almost in the sanctuary. If some rich guy is a bird watching hobbyist, then this may be his heaven. We were neither former nor latter, so Tharavadu Heritage Home was fit for us.

The road is narrow, but the traffic is thin. However, we didn’t want to take any chance of breaking the law, so were riding slow in town. Suddenly, a policeman popped up in the road, and asked us to get the bike to the side of road.

‘Damn it,’ I thought, ‘what is it with the Police today?!’

Some policemen were already there, and one of them asked my documents in Malyalam. I started fumbling with my pocket, and said:

‘Saar, Malyalam illa. Only English. We are tourists.’

He took a good hard look at us, where I could sense he was judging whether it was worth the effort of venturing in another language. After a while, he concluded we weren’t worth the trouble, and signaled us to get moving. We didn’t require a second sign, and rolled away at the first moment he allowed us to.

We started looking for hotel for some snacks, but the hotels on the roads are spectacularly shabby. Even while riding alone I wouldn’t go in them. While searching for hotels, we suddenly landed in front of a temple. Oil lanterns were lit on all its side, and it was looking very beautiful. We realized that it was a Holi Pournima that night, which must had been the occasion for lighting the lanterns. Our stomachs were still empty, but the boat ride and this temple filled up our minds.

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Later, the dinner was taken in hotel itself. I would recommend to other Kumarakom tourists, that limit your meals to your hotel only. This way you can be sure of the hygiene and quality of food. The food at our hotel was good too, and in a setting of dining hall where only we two were dining, the feeling was grand. We placed order for tomorrow’s breakfast then only, and returned to room for rest.
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Old 25th May 2011, 14:44   #23
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Kumarakom - Day 7

The morning was to be spent at the bird sanctuary. It was no point to visit it in afternoon, or even after 10.00, when sun would be shining brightly. We reached the sanctuary at 7.00 A.M., and started the walk.

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There is a marked walking path in the sanctuary. The path is about two kilometers long. The main birding attraction lies at the far end of the walk. I did not have any high expectation from this sanctuary, primarily because I do not have the eye to spot a green bird in a green branch on a green tree eating a green fruit. Some people are naturally gifted in such things. They’d say to the group:

‘Look! A elephant-leg-bull-butt-sparrow!’
‘Where? Where?!’
‘There! See, right in front my fingers’ and they would point a shaky finger in general forward direction.
‘Don’t you see it you great buffoon? Ohhh… damn your commotion made it fly! Did you see it now at least?’ Suddenly that bird watcher would get a permit to scold.
‘Oh yeah. Right. The name seems exaggeration though. Only sparrow would suffice.’ A small revenge.

After getting one too many experiences of similar kinds, I have now trained myself to bluff.

‘See that bird?’
‘Totally. That’s nothing, see that beak pointing out of the leaves?’

And while that bird watcher is stretching his vision and squeezing his binoculars, I would have some triumphant moments.

Given my position on bird watching, it was no wonder that my expectations from this walk were low. But the path is nice. It’s good to stroll with your loved one(s) in morning light, to see the jungle come alive in form of sounds of unrecognizable birds.

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The walk ends suddenly, and when one looks closely, the road is still remaining, but you have to cross a dicey looking small foot bridge. We were told many over sized specimen return from this point onwards. We crossed the bridge, and found the other side didn’t look as frequented as the first one. There are few watch towers, they say total 3, but we spotted two only. They towers were locked on the top, which was a bummer for us who had taken no guide. We satisfied ourselves by hanging out of the closed rooms on the top of watch towers.

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The walk is pleasant, and while there was hardly anyone for any emergency situation, we could not see the need for the same unless one decides to overrule the laws of common sense.

After having breakfast at hotel, we moved for Periyar. Again crossed that forsaken road, thoroughly dirtying ourselves and the bike. We had planned a detour for the route. The usual route from Kumarakom to Periyar is good, and passes on the ground without any ghaat section. But this tour was as much for sight seeing as it was for scenic riding. So we took a diversion at Vagamon, a tea-producing hill station.

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We were pronouncing the name as ‘Ve-ga-mon’, which no one could identify. When I spelled out the name to a person whom we were asking direction, he exclaimed ‘Vaag-man’! So much for English names in local language. The road to Vagamon is immensely enjoyable. It is a steep ghaat road, with each passing kilometer brings you shockingly high. Children sitting backward-facing in rickshaws were waving and cheering at us when we overtook them. Most of the passing vehicles were looking local ones, and not touristy.

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The town Vagamon can hardly be termed as tourist town though. Even if there is a board saying where to visit and what to do in Vagamon, in reality I doubt its possibility. No hotels for eating even, finding something for stay would be too hard. The ride is beautiful though. This was our first ride through the tea plantations, and we enjoyed it a lot.

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There was a tea factory on route. We stopped there, in hope to see tea making in progress. But some people flatly denied that there was any such factory, where some gave mysterious reasons about it being closed today and such. Thus had to get a move on, without any tea factory visit. The sight that could be the only attraction of the town denied to be so.

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We reached periyar at 4.00 P.M. Had it not been that detour at Vagamon, it would save us at least 50 kilometers and 1.5 hours. But the scenic ride was worth the extra efforts. In Periyar, as per the guide book, we went to a suggested hotel I wouldn’t write name of. It was made of laterite stone, and frankly looked surreal and perhaps suitable for hippies. The owner was charging unreasonably despite the low season, and hence a deal could not be made. On a short distance, we found another hotel, and this was the best hotel we stayed in our entire trip. It was the Anjuna Hotel, located on the Sanctuary road. It is a new building, and the owner was a good host. But the room was so welcoming, that in our two days of Periyar, we settled in that room like it was our home. For some reason, may be because of similar view as of our home in Pune or the feeling of the room itself, we were quickly at home in Anjuna hotel. I would highly recommend this hotel to a tourist in normal budget.

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There are few shops around the hotel. The sanctuary road is inside of the town, away from the main bazaar. While the main bazaar is crowded and noisy, this inner road is peaceful. Many foreigners were jay-walking and window shopping, and we joined them. It was a relaxed evening, and we walked to and fro the road many times. Finding good hotels for eating was tricky though, and we did not succeed in it on this night. This made us wiser, and next time onwards, we found good hotels.

The sanctuary’s main attraction was its 3 hour boat ride that goes crisscross in the protected lands, and they claim you can see the wild animals from the boat itself. Well, unless you have eyes of hawk and allure of an animal, there is absolutely no chance of seeing any interesting animal on shore. There are some regular useless animals that can be spotted like wild pigs and stuff. But nothing really of value. The ride gets boring pretty fast. I had done this ride on previous tour, and had it not been for Nandinee, I would have happily skipped it. The guide book suggested that the first boat at 7.30A.M. maximized your already dismal chance of spotting any animal. I had already given up on seeing any wild life, but in the hope of getting good photos of the lake, we decided to go for the morning boat tour next day.
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Old 25th May 2011, 18:00   #24
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Exploring Periyar - Day 8

While we live as one, we have many minds that exist inside us. Few of these work together, whereas others are staunch opponents. My two particular minds, the waking mind and sleeping mind, are ruthless enemies of each other. When one is in control, it does not let other to linger by. That’s the reason I keep staying up at night reading stuff when my brain knows I should sleep, but the waking mind doesn’t allow that. The same reason, when I can’t get out of my bed early even in case of fire, because the sleeping mind is equally possessive as its opponent.

Today, the sleeping mind was angry, and for rightful reasons. It had to let go of its control much earlier for two consecutive days. Yesterday it was the bird sanctuary, and today it would be the Periyar lake sanctuary. It struggled hard, but couldn’t win in front of the opposition. With god’s given alarm clock called wife, what husband can sleep for long? (Do I hear ‘Amen’ from the husbands?)

So we were up and running at 7.00 A.M., hoping to catch the boat. We had spotted very few tourists and a large number of unlit hotel windows yesterday night, so we thought there wouldn’t be any crowd, not for the early morning boat. It was surprising to see such a large crowd for boat ride at the ticket counter.

There are few nitty-gritty’s that make the boat ride interesting. Firstly, there is no parking near the jetty, and you have to park about 0.5-1 kilometer away from the jetty. Ordinarily this would have not created any problem, but we were already short on time. Seeing that the guard had not yet come to stop me going near the jetty, I ventured all the way in to the door of the ticket counter. However, the guard shooed me away telling to park the vehicle and come by foot. The clock was ticking, and it was not agreeing to what the guard was asking. But no way, he did not care if we miss the boat, but the bike has to be parked in allotted area only.

Alright, so back I rode to the parking lot, and forth I ran to the Jetty. By the time I got back, my heart threatened to jump out of the chest because of the sudden exercise of running. Nandinee was having another heavenly experience herself. The ticket counter needs all your details, make it ALL details about you that could possibly be fathomed. Your name, where do you stay, age, this and that, and all this form has to be filled in order to get a ticket. Then the person would verify it after a slow read (he wouldn’t want you to lie about your age). If at all it is correct, he will prepare a ticket – manually. With a surprising number of places to fill by pen. This takes its own sweet time, and restlessness among the tourists increase exponentially with each passing minute. Everyone had risen up early, and if someone’s ride would be missed because the ticket couldn’t be written in time, their frustration would be understandable. Luckily I didn’t have to experience this first hand, and was soon shoved two tickets in hand; one for us and one for camera.

Total 3 boats left the shore, the number may increase significantly in peak season. The boat ride had not changed its character in 6 years. It was same as I remembered, strutting along the waterlines, with kids stretching out dangerously out of the boat to spot any animals, and myself wondering how much more time was left. The morning boat ride has an interesting aspect though. As a photographer would know, the water is lying still at early hours. As the day progresses, your chances of clicking a still water reflection go to zero very fast. The sleepy water was reflecting the jungle well, and the photography was an enjoyable experience.

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This lasted for a while, before a boat with foreigners felt it should belong to the lead of the pack, and overtook our boat which was the leader previously.

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As this boat went ahead, the water was all disturbed, and no reflection photograph was possible. My only consolation too was gone, and I started counting minutes for the ride to end. We spotted a few useless animals that I gave up attempt to spot, after few strenuous tries. I think the Kerala government should train some elephants and other big animals to just loiter around the shorelines. This will not only increase the tourist satisfaction and the word by mouth publicity, but also would provide fixed government jobs for the mahouts.

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I was not the only one feeling dreadful on the ride. While returning back, many of the foreigners who had taken the prime seats in the boat that overtook us were seen to be drifting in sleep. We returned after about 2.5-3 hours, and were glad to put feet on land again.

Some photographs from the wild life sanctuary.

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The tickets from the entrance to the boat ride are on the costlier side, and frankly, one shouldn’t fret if he misses the ride. The only thing you will be able to say after the visit is not you saw or did something interesting, but yes, you did this tourist attraction. The silver lining to this tick-mark to visited-tourist-spots list was that we did it in morning, and had whole day to roam around and relax.

After the breakfast, we started roaming around for ‘spice garden tour’. Periyar has a lot of spice plantation around the town. Some of them have dimensions going into many acres. Thus Periyar has this specialty tour called ‘spice garden tour’, where for a fee, you get a guide to take you through the plantation and show you the various spices and herbs. Afterwards, you are led into a shop of that garden which sells products made up of those same plants. This being technically a advertisement tour, it should have been free. But as the label ‘suckers’ a.k.a. ‘tourists’ is applied, naturally a price tag is attached to the tour. This tag ranges in hundreds, which is quite hard to accept. The road that goes to these plantations goes beautifully through a ghaat, and you keep on passing such gardens on route. The same road goes to Munnar.

We stopped at each and every garden, asking for their quotes. Finally stopped at ‘Spice paradise’, the same one described in the guide book. He had a bit lower rate than others, so went in. The tour is enjoyable. You see the regularly used kitchen-spices in their natural and purest form. The tour lasts for about half an hour, goes up and down the hilly plantation, and is a learning experience. We got to see turmeric, vanilla, coffee, cocoa and cardamom, along with many other plants.

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Later we were led to the shop, and after a customary selling pitch, we were left to shop as per our liking. Being a fan of ‘comparison shopping’, we already had the rates of spices in Mumbai as on that day. It was surprising to see that the shops there were selling at higher rates! One would think that since they being the producer of the stuff, and cutting the middle men out, you would get a good price, but here you would pay higher! We did buy some stuff, but only the exquisite stuff which was more probably to be adulterated, like turmeric for facial packs and such. The common stuff like cloves, cumin and other spices were unacceptably costly.

In the afternoon, we took a lot of rest in the superb hotel, and then roamed around in town. There are a lot of shops selling wooden artifacts, and later in our tour we realized that Periyar had the best prices and largest variety. But don’t go for small stuff. If you are buying wooden items, go for a big kill, like a large statue or something. Else you will get the same small stuff at marginally high prices anywhere else.

We asked around for Kodaikanal route, and found that it was pretty straight forward. The evening was nothing but more strolling around, and an early bed awaited us.
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Old 27th May 2011, 09:48   #25
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Hi Anirudha,
I had enjoyed your Rajasthan travelogue immensely and am enjoying this one also very much. You have a very nice narration style and the pictures you have put up are also quite good. But one thing I wanted to correct you regarding Vagamon. It is an extremely beautiful place especially during/after the monsoons. You could have gone to Vagamon meadows and Pine forest if you had the time. I assure you they are places worth visiting. You can find mine, Laluks's and Maggies travelogues on Vagamon in T Bhp itself.
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Old 27th May 2011, 10:00   #26
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@Nutty Nair: I stand corrected about Vagamon then. I agree that some places have seasonal charms,and Vagamon would surely be one of them. The blog is not my conclusion, but rather views of things based on those circumstances. I wish I could have known about Vagamon meadows and Pine forest prior hand. Hope the next trip to Kerala would be in Oct-Nov-Dec month, and then I will definitely visit Vagamon in details.

Thanks for the readership!
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Old 27th May 2011, 10:21   #27
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Hi Anirudha,
Didn't want to sound as if I am trying to correct you, yaar. Sorry if it came out that way,. If you are planning to visit Kerala again, just PM me. I may be able to help you.
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Old 4th August 2011, 18:18   #28
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Sorry for not updating this thread for so long :( Actually uploading pictures separately on team-bhp is a time consuming job, and hence it was not updated. I will update this blog one day at a time now.
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Old 4th August 2011, 18:22   #29
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Crossing the state one more time - Day 9

The day’s destination was Kodai Kanal. This was added to the itinerary at the last moment, looking at Google maps. As Munnar was 100 kilometers from Periyar as well as from Kodaikanal, we thought of going to Kodaikanal and then take the route shown by Google map to go to Munnar. We learnt a valuable lesson by this: never trust technology blindly. The tale would appear in a later chapter, but for now, it should suffice to know that Kodaikanal is NOT a part of Periyar-Munnar circuit.

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So we left Periyar at 10.00 embarking towards our destination. We had to climb down a ghaat that had a terrible road going through, with a steep decline.

Waterfall en route.

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When you get down, the road quality improves significantly. Initially we passes through a lot of towns, but later the number of towns got sparse, and a good empty highway ensured that we took up good speed. We pass through Theni, and then left to Kodaikanal road. The road starts from far away from actual Kodai kanal. It might as well named as Kashmir road if it finally leads there.

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Lunch was a quick affair. Firstly the hotels were very rare, and luckily we saw a hotel with a tourist bus halted for lunch. So many people couldn’t be wrong, we thought, and went in.

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Then started the Kodaikanal ghaat. This is really a steep ghaat, where a beginner may turn to pro at the end. Roads are in fair condition, but the twists and turns are too many. On a bike though, we were enjoying each and every one of them. However I could sympathize with the poor souls in the tourist bus that was following us, who just had a spicy heavy lunch, and now were forced to play this roller coaster. I thanked God that I was not behind that bus, as overtaking a huge vehicle is trouble in ghaats, and accelerated away from them.

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Near Kodai kanal, about 8 kilometers prior, you see this Silver Cascade waterfall. The month being march, the waterfall was very thin, but yet, there it was.

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Here we saw that God too has fitted an HID!

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We landed in Kodai kanal at about 5.00 P.M.

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Our past experience of hotels told us to hunt for hotels ourselves, and not pay attention to agents shouting at us ‘Saar, hotel?’ But Kodaikanal proved to be an exception to this rule. Firstly the roads were confusing. We couldn’t judge where we were or how we ended up on a particular road at all. Though we had the map of Kodai, as the roads go in multiple levels in same direction, it was very hard for a first timer to find his way around. Another thing was, all the good hotels had only one day availability, and we were running out of hotel options real fast. Finally we decided to give chance to an agent. He took us to such a horrible hotel, I still ache thinking about it. The road to the hotel was 45 degrees, and this is absolutely no exaggeration. A loaded bike with luggage, and two tired individuals, the incline was not welcoming at all. Besides calling that thing a hotel would be a joke. Nandinee climbed down by foot from the ‘hotel’, as I rolled Vesta down in first gear with utmost caution.

Again we tried in vein for hotels, but no avail. The sun was beginning to bid us good bye, and yet we were searching frantically for a good place to stay. The situation was fast becoming tense, and I certainly did not wish to be roaming around for hotels in night. So we caught hold of another agent. Luckily he turned out to be one of the better ones. We checked a few hotels, and finalized on one named ‘Sun Rise hotel’. Value for money wise, this was the worst deal in hotel. The charges were of normal hotels, but the service sucked to the core. The towels were so dirty, I suspected their previous lives would involve role of a door rag. The lesser said about the bathroom, the better. We hoped for a cover on our head for the night, and the room barely qualified for that. After a hurried dinner, we were glad to throw ourselves on bed after the exhausting search for stay.

Kodaikanal was pretty cold. As we were moving up from the lands to the hills, we felt it was too cold for summer, and wondered the brevity of souls who come here in winters. At night, we felt this was a proper, textbook hill station. Not some pseudo hill station which is in reality a part of town converted for tourists, but a proper hill station that they show in movies, with happy faces of multi national tourists loitering around, and whole India’s shops, from Kashmir silks to Kerala saris, located on one street. We were eager to explore this place that we had heard so much of.
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Old 5th August 2011, 18:14   #30
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HI Ani,
You have penchant to become a great travel blogger. Narration is to the point with nice puns. Do paste a map of all the route you visited / recommend based on your experience. This would greatly help a lost soul in these amazing places.
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