post

[Travel] Hiking around Lake Chabot

Last Sunday, we hiked the 10-mile (15-16 km) Lake Chabot Loop with friends. It was amazing fun because of some new people we met, a beautiful lake and trail and it had been a long time since I had walked so much! (My legs informed me about that the next day ;-)

Start of the hike

Start of the hike

[Read more…]

Advertisements
post

Doing the Flying-Fox at Vihi-Kasara

I came to know there was a water rappelling event organized by VRangers this weekend via the Mumbai Hikers blog. We booked it and only realized later that it was 220+ km away and we’ll have to be there by 10am. Ouch. We inquired for stays in Igatpuri so that we can reach there on Saturday afternoon and head back on Sunday afternoon. No luck – every single hotel we could reach out to was fully booked. Yikes, what is so special about this place Igatpuri that the whole area is full? We were going to find out later since we decided to head out anyway, and started driving at 5:30am on a Sunday morning.

We headed out on the Maharashtra State Highway 50 which is a 2-lane no-divider highway which made it difficult and slow to drive because of the slow heavy trucks. An hour later, we stopped at this beautiful spot to have packed healthy sandwiches for breakfast:

View from our breakfast spot

View from our breakfast spot

 

View of breakfast point

View of breakfast point

 

View from our breakfast spot

View from our breakfast spot

 

Breakfast spot

Breakfast spot

 

Less than an hour later, Google Maps showed a possible route other than going through Nashik and we wanted to avoid going to Nashik. So even though the locals also discouraged us, we decided to take the shorter SH51 route that Google Maps showed us, and boy are we glad that we did!

SH21 to Igatpuri

SH21 to Igatpuri

 

The Road

 

The Road

 

Flower field

Flower field

 

Waterfalls by the road

Waterfalls by the road

 

The road

 

Lush green hillocks

Lush green hillocks

 

The road

 

Field, where we stopped to eat apples

Field, where we stopped to eat apples

 

Raining while driving in the beautiful scenic road

Raining while driving in the beautiful scenic road

 

Clouds into the hills

Clouds into the hills

 

The road

 

Big waterfalls seen at a distance

Big waterfalls seen at a distance

 

Waterfalls, by the road

Waterfalls, by the road

 

The road

After feasting our eyes on lush green hills, beautiful waterfalls far and near (by the road side) and green fields with grazing animals, we reached our final destination – Vihi gaon, near Manas Resort, Igatpuri, after 5.5 hours of driving through countless bends and turns.

We were both excited to do waterfall rappelling but when we reached, they said that due to heavy rainfall and strong water flowing, the number of safe spots that rappelling can be done from is only one and another group had already taken it up, so we were going to do another activity. We were disappointed at first but safety concerns are important, so we were happy there was another activity – the flying fox  (also called a zip-line).

Although there were too many people in queue (nearly a hundred!), the organizers VRangers handled things very well and ensured everyone’s safety as well as fun.

Crossing the water to the flying fox start point

Crossing the water to the flying fox start point

 

Small waterfall level above and before the big waterfall

Small waterfall level above and before the big waterfall

 

Queue waiting for their turn

Queue waiting for their turn

 

Flying Fox start point

Flying Fox start point

 

Flying Fox start point, my wife

Flying Fox start point, my wife

 

A video of the view from the start of the flying fox rope : this is my wife who is going down the rope, it hard to get a good shot because, due to safety reasons, the waiting folks were at a distance from the crew and the cliff:

A view from the other side, the end of the flying fox rope : this is a random person coming down the rope:

Experiencing the water splashes:

View of the pouring waterfall, from the end point

View of the pouring waterfall, from the end point

 

Waterfall full view

Waterfall full view

 

Waterfall rapelling by another group

Waterfall rapelling by another group

 

Waterfall rappelling by another group

Waterfall rappelling by another group

 

We enjoyed being at the waterfalls for quite some time, then went to a nearby Greelands hotel, changed to dry clothes in the surprisingly clean bathrooms, had lunch and finally headed back to Pune around 4:30pm in the same route.

Waterfalls view, from the road

Waterfalls view, from the road

 

River, by the road

River, by the road

 

Small waterfalls, by the road

Small waterfalls, by the road

 

The road, all rained out

The road, all rained out

 

The highlight on the way back was a beautiful rainbow:

A rainbow

A rainbow!

 

We had dinner around 8 at Chaitrali restaurant – their Veg. Kasuri is a must-try. Then headed out again doing the sometimes-scary highway overtaking and the even-more-scary overtaking from left because of slow-moving moron drivers who insists on being on the right side of the lane. We finally reached home at 10:30pm, I washed up and crashed for the night with a smile on my face and aches everywhere.

post

Holiday at The Machan

My wife and myself recently had a great time at The Machan in Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. It’s perfect for nature lovers who want a weekend (or in our case, weekday) getaway and be amidst greenery and silence. It is certainly not the place if you’re looking for “activities to do in a resort”.

The word “machan” means “a platform erected in a tree, used originally for hunting large animals and now for watching animals in wildlife reserves.”

To reach the place, you need to first book online. Couples and small families go into the Canopy Machan, big families or groups can go into the Heritage Machan. Then, you follow their directions or use their location in Google Maps, because you won’t find any signage anywhere. In fact, even after reaching the place, their name is not mentioned anywhere. They really want to be as natural as possible, I guess.

 The Machan is a little less than 90 km from Pune, so we had a pleasant drive and reached in under two hours. As soon as we entered, we were greeted by this beautiful wooden reception area. It reminded me of the woodhouse in Gharshana movie.
The Machan claim they are completely  “off grid” because they depend on solar and wind power for their electricity. I found that claim a little disingenuous because they have LPG cylinders for heating the water in each machan. But in the larger picture, they are as eco friendly as possible.
We were eager to see our machan for the day and were enthralled by it.

Climbing the stairs to our “canopy” machan

View from the deck of our machan for the day

View down from the deck of the “canopy” machan, you’re literally looking down on a big tree

You could say that the bathroom was luxurious. You could.

We were equally fascinated by the furniture and the british era style interiors.

Old-style switches

Deck chair

Collapsible hanger

After we were done admiring the place and the view, we had a scrumptious simple lunch served by the courteous and helpful staff in the open dining area.

A negative at first is that there is no phone connectivity but it quickly turns into a positive because you end up reading a book or enjoying the calmness.

We met another nice family and had a great time chatting with them. It is one of those chance encounters that leaves a lasting positive impression in your mind.

Immediately after lunch, we set out to explore the estate.
One of the first things we saw near the machans is that there is an upcoming “conference hall” which devastated my image of the place and I was glad that we came to see the estate now before it becomes fully commercial, say, next year.
We had picked up a “trail map” on the desk in the machan room and religiously followed it and were well rewarded.

Crossing the stream with carefully laid stones

Bench in the jungle

Out of the trees, into the field

The trail is visible for any experienced trekker. I realized it’s not so visible for others.

View of our canopy machan, from the bench by the water – observe the top of the photo closely

Bench by the water

Once we played around in the water and relaxed a bit at the “bench by the water”, we set out on the rest of the trail, and suddenly found ourselves back at the bench by the water. We had ended up in a loop which happened to be a different trail than the one we were pursuing. The wrong turn we took was because there was a brook on the left side and we went right. We checked it out again and realized there is a trail after we jump across the water. And we kept walking until we came at this beautiful “sunset point”. The lovely breeze, silence, privacy, and sprinkles of drizzle made us linger here for a long time.
The sunset point is close the entrance of the Machan estate, so we walked outside for nearly a kilometre towards the main road so that we get phone connectivity. Every girl wants to talk to her mom once a day.
We walked back to the room, ordered for masala tea which was perfect after a trek and perfect for the weather.
We started reading a book and a magazine respectively, listening to the birds in the trees below us and around us.
Once it got dark, we fell into a deep conversation about life, dreams, and everything.
After dinner in the lit-up dining area, we slept warmly in the cold weather and woke up to see the mist in the hills.
After omelettes and poha for breakfast, we relaxed by the pond. We didn’t get to see rain on the day we were there even though they told us it has been pouring for a while.
Then, we jumped into the car and headed back towards the concrete jungle.

P.S. Special thanks to BG for telling me about this place.

post

Yelagiri Hills

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Yelagiri Hills (in Tamil Nadu) on a one day road trip.

It’s a great little hill station which has not yet been commercialized (relatively speaking) and has a neat trekking trail.

IMG_0153
IMG_0161

DSC00019
DSC00021

[Read more…]

post

Tadiyandamol Again

Eleven of us went trekking to Tadiyandamol. We ended up trekking more than 25 km on day 1, literally walking in the clouds, pitching our own tents, and braving the winds during the night. All in all, a beautiful place, awesome company and a memorable sunrise made it a great weekend.

img_0071
img_0081

[Read more…]

post

Mullainagiri, third time lucky as well

This weekend, we climbed Mullainagiri and Bababudanagiri. Even though this is my third visit, it never fails to delight me on its beauty. Mullainagiri and Tadiyandamol are my favorite trekking spots in terms of scenery.

In the 3-4 days before the trek, we didn’t spend enough time on the preparation and hence we were worried. So I wrote a “Trekking Howto a.k.a. “The Checklist” which we can read before a trek so that we won’t have to rethink every time about whether we have taken care of all aspects.

It was a perfect trek in terms of weather and company. We had the most fun in looking back after every few hours and seeing how far we have come, since we could actually see the Mullainagiri temple while trekking towards Bababudanagiri.

Mullainagiri III 05
Mullainagiri III 11
Mullainagiri III 27

How to do the Mullainagiri trek : Arrive at Chikmagalur. Hire a jeep to take you to the starting point of the trek, cost Rs.250. The starting point is a small iron gate that will lead you directly into the hill. Follow the path. After 1-2 hours, you’ll reach the topmost point – the temple. You can request the purohit here to stay for the night and they’ll even prepare dinner if you ask them. Wrap yourself up in your sleeping bag for the night because it is going to get really cold.

The next day morning, start early or late depending on whether you want to face the cold weather, but leave at least by 8 or 9. Make sure you donate a good amount to the purohit for being a good host. Follow the path downhill towards the right from the temple. After a few hours, you’ll reach the road. Cross the road towards the right and start trekking downwards. This is the start of a good long up-and-down route towards Bababudanagiri. Once you reach the destination, have some tea and pakodas at the stalls. Then either hire a jeep (Rs.10-20 per head) or walk down to the Bababudanagiri temple. Make sure you catch the 3.30pm bus which will take you back to Chikmagalur.

Mullainagiri III 24
Mullainagiri III 44
Mullainagiri III 50
Mullainagiri III 55

The photos are of low quality because they are taken using my mobile phone. Regardless, the rest of the photos are in my Flickr set.

Update: Photos by Vikram and photos by Varun.

post

Trekking in Kodachadri

This weekend, one of my long-pending wishes came true: I finally trekked Kodachadri.

Kodachadri is a mountain in the Western Ghats, in Karnataka. It is a famous trekking spot.

On Saturday morning, we reached Nittur, grabbed some breakfast and then proceeded towards Kumble, the starting point of the trek. Right there, I could see clouds playing hide-and-seek among the mountains and I knew it was going to be a good trek.

Kodachadri 07

What I didn’t know was how awesome the 14 km of terrain was going to be. At one moment we would be trudging in the mountain avoiding branches and forcing through thick vegetation, the next moment we would be crossing a stream of water…

Kodachadri 09
Kodachadri 15
Kodachadri 18
Kodachadri 27

… Some time later we would be climbing up very slippery stones right next to flowing water, then suddenly in an open area and then walking along the edge of a cliff while it is raining and then walking in the clouds, literally. This was easily one of the best trekking spots I’ve ever been to, and I was so happy that I finally got to be there. We even got to drench ourselves in a freezing cold waterfall.

Kodachadri 36
Kodachadri 37
Kodachadri 41

[Read more…]

post

Sharavathy Valley Day 2

I thought I would get a damn good sleep in the night because I was so
tired. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Not with the snorers
around. On top of that, it was so cold and I didn’t have a jacket.
I kept tossing and turning all night.

At 4.30 am of Day 2 (June 01 Sunday), I was jolted by a shrill
cock-a-doodle-doo sound. Soon enough, our leader Narayan woke us all
up. I was surprised to see everybody get up immediately. At around
5.30 am, we all went out in search of sighting some animals.
Unfortunately, we were too loud to get to see any animals. Even our
footsteps, especially when crushing leaves, were loud enough to alert
the sensitive-eared animals. Our guide who was in front saw some
bisons but they ran away in lightning speed. I didn’t know they could
do that.

We were soon enough on top of another hill and got to see another
beautiful view. Heh, I’m such a landscape-voyeur.

Sharavathy Valley 142
Sharavathy Valley 126
Sharavathy Valley 127
Sharavathy Valley 138

And it was funny to see the things we do for poses in photographs.

Sharavathy Valley 122
Sharavathy Valley 139

What was amazing though was we could see islands in the Arabian Sea.

Sharavathy Valley 141

And then Narayana found viper snakes! These are poisonous snakes and
one bite could have been fatal for any of us.

Sharavathy Valley 143

[Read more…]

post

Sharavathy Valley Day 1

For a while now, I was annoyed by the fact that it has been more than
a year and a half since my last
trek
. So when I saw a call
for people who want to join a trek in Shimoga in the [Orkut Bangalore

Trekkers
group](http://www.orkut.com/CommMsgs.aspx?cmm=63252&tid=5202222619863645450&start=1),
I jumped at the chance.

A few days later on May 30 night (i.e. last weekend as of this
writing), I was on a bus to Sagar in Shimoga district with 13 other
strangers I had never met before. Thankfully, all it took was a few
smiles and laughs and we got along very well. There were people from
varying age groups – 18 to
55 although majority were the young IT crowd.

Then the inevitable happened. Bangalore traffic jam. It took 2-2.5
hours just to get out of the city! There are so many bottlenecks
especially near the Jalahalli cross. No wonder the bus drivers are so
stressed out. God save us all, I wonder how much worse it can
get
. Because of all this hungama, we
reached Sagar more than a couple of hours late which threw our
trekking plans haywire. We had to ditch the idea of trekking till the
Belli Gundi waterfall and do a shorter exploration of the area.

To start the day (May 31 Saturday), we got into an open jeep to
transport us to Kattinakaru. We had a fun ride through the scenic
locale. We even saw the Linganmakki dam from far.

Sharavathy Valley 003
Sharavathy Valley 004
Sharavathy Valley 028
Sharavathy Valley 032
Sharavathy Valley 035
Sharavathy Valley 039

[Read more…]

post

Brahmagiri

A couple of weekends ago, most of the trekware gang met up for a weekend trek. This time we headed to Brahmagiri.

To reach Brahmagiri, take the bus to kuTTa (Madikeri district) but get down in Srimangala. Meet the forest officer (they come in at around 10 am) and it is better if you have called them up in advance and notified them. Enquire shops for guest house to freshen up and also for a jeep to take you to Iruppu Falls.

At Iruppu Falls, we met the forest guard who would accompany us during the trek.

Brahmagiri 025
Brahmagiri 037

The guest house that we stayed at was in the middle of a field where pepper and coffee was abundant. We plucked a pepper corn and ate it – it was deliciously spicy.

Brahmagiri 044</
Brahmagiri 049
Brahmagiri 023

We then started the trek from Iruppu Falls and came across many interesting flora and fauna.

The good …

Brahmagiri 053

[Read more…]