Category: Travel

A visit to Pench National Park

I visited Pench National Park a couple of weekends ago along with a few friends. It was my first pure National Park trip after 10 years and something I was eagerly looking forward to.

My first impressions of Nagpur were positive – clean, peaceful airport, good roads, metro construction happening apace.

Pench straddles Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. And on the absolutely wonderful road from Nagpur, we were at our resort in about a couple of hours. The National Highway has regular elevated stretches so wildlife can cross underneath, avoiding unfortunate accidents. I wonder if any studies have been done to understand the impact of this on wildlife – do they use the tunnels or still attempt to cross the road?

The resort was small, with A/C tented accommodation. It is located a few minutes away from Kharsapar, the entrance to Pench National Park from the Maharashtra side. We left for our first safari immediately after lunch.

We quickly settled into a routine – wake up early (around 4:30), leave for the morning safari that starts at 6:15, end the safari by 10:30, come back to the resort to rest and refresh, have lunch, leave for the afternoon safari around 2 pm, come back around 7 pm, refresh, relax and have dinner.

We did 8 safaris in total, which in the end, proved one too many for me. The hectic itinerary, heat and cold, oily food meant that I fell ill by the last day and took a couple of days to recover after reaching home.

But it was a very fulfilling trip. I spotted over 75 species of birds (full list in the next post), a tigress, two one year old tiger cubs, a jungle cat, mongooses, sambar and chital deer, herds of gaur and some nilgai.

It was interesting to view the difference in landscape between the Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh sides of Pench. While the Maharashtra side is dryer and rockier, the Madhya Pradesh side is visibly greener. The wide open patches along the Pench river were especially scenic.

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The other interesting thing for me was to see that most of the guides were locals who were earlier living in or near the National Park. It was also heartening to see many women guides. I would definitely recommend Pench for anyone wanting to visit a typical Central Indian jungle – the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’

Wayanad

Wayanad is a hilly region in the north of Kerala, bordering Karnataka. It is about two hours from Kozhikode (Calicut) and six hours by road from Bangalore. It is here that we went for a end of year holiday with family.

We stayed at the wonderful Annapara Home Stay, a boutique home stay located amidst coffee plantations with fantastic views of the tall mountains all around. It was a wonderful experience, with amazing home cooked food and awesome service from Pravin and Shibu – the two caretakers.

In addition to spending time at the beautiful property, we also went on a hike to a couple of waterfalls nearby, visited the Banasura Sagar dam, ziplined over tea plantations, visited Pookode lake and the Muthanga or Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary. Except for the last, which we all felt was frankly not worth the effort, everything else was fun and relaxed.

Definitely a place worth visiting more than once!

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Train Travel – Sleeper Class

Of late, I have been traveling by train more often. We recently took the 24 hour train to Mumbai as a family, traveling in AC coaches. Recently, I took the overnight train to Kerala, traveling sleeper class after a very long time.

I have always enjoyed train travel, liking nothing more than sitting by the window watching the world go by. As a child, I used to look forward to the long (30+ hours) journey from Mumbai to Kerala as much, if not more than, actually visiting Kerala and meeting family. But as I grew older (and with a family), whatever occasional train travel we did was in AC coaches.

While these are very comfortable, they just do not provide the same fun as the Sleeper class where one can open the windows and feel the wind in your face. Which is why, when I had to go to Kerala by myself recently, I took the opportunity to travel by Sleeper class.

The journey to Kerala was in a new coach. It was clean and quite comfortable. The only aspect where I felt that the older coaches were better were in the design of the window bars. Regular train travelers would know that, in the older sleeper coaches, the window bars bend outwards slightly. This is just enough that, if one were to place your face flush against the bar and peer out, you could get a great view along the sides of the train and catch glimpses of the engine around bends. In the new coach, sadly, the bars are straight. Which means that one does not get the same pleasure of peering out the window. Nevertheless, it is still far more fun that the sealed windows of AC coaches.

The return journey was on an older coach. And it was less crowded than the outward journey. The other pleasure of train travel, though definitely not recommended, is to stand by the open door and get a widescreen view of the scenery. This is, as one can image, a popular pastime, so I was quite surprised to find that the doors of the train were vacant and I was able to enjoy the beautiful Kerala countryside.

Some photos from the journey below:

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Mumbai

Born and brought up in Mumbai, I must admit that I still have a fondness for the city, even though I have not lived there now for over 10 years. Having lived in many cities around the globe, I do genuinely believe that it’s a global / world city. Natural beauty, culture and heritage, food, mix of people from all walks of life, the city has it all.

I spent Diwali in Mumbai, the first time in a few years that I got the chance to spend about a week in the city. Yes, the city has changed and will continue to do so, but it felt like many things are for the better. There is massive construction work going on which is disrupting traffic, but at the end of it, Mumbai should have a world class metro system in place, even if many years late. Juhu Beach was the cleanest I have ever seen it, roads seemed in good condition (except for the construction work for the metro). Public transport was as good as ever. I am presently living in Bangalore, and one of the most fascinating things about Mumbai transport is the fact that you can hail an auto or taxi from the street and they will run on the meter and even give you back Rs. 1 in change!

The food as always, was fantastic, especially the street food. I am yet to find as delicious chaats such as Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, not to mention Vada Pav as the ones you will find at any roadside stall in Mumbai.

The only downside to Mumbai (other than the omnipresent crowds) is the weather. And yes, it was hot and humid even in early November. But for everything else that the city offers, I am willing to live with it!

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Have you spent time in Mumbai? What are your thoughts?

Nandi Hills

Nandi Hills is one of the more popular day trip destinations from Bangalore. Though I had visited this a couple of times during my first stint in Bangalore, we had never made it here in the two and a half year since we moved back to the garden city. So when we were discussing places for a day trip the other day, we decided to visit Nandi Hills.

We hired a car from Zoomcar and drove down the Devenahalli highway. After a stop for a late breakfast soon after the airport exit, we arrived at Nandi Hills around noon. It was an overcast day and quite cool atop the hill, which made for a pleasant afternoon.

We visited the standard tourist places – the lookouts, Yoga Nandishwara temple, Tipu’s Drop and the Amrith Sarovar. The last was a pleasant surprise – a stepped pond surrounded by thick greenery with a walkway around it. Tipu’s ‘Summer Palace’ is also located here.

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After a late lunch at the base of Nandi Hills, we went to pay respects to one of India’s greatest engineers – M Visvesaraya. Located at Muddenahalli village a few kilometres from Nandi Hills is the house where he was born and a neat, well maintained memorial. The house itself now contains a small museum dedicated to his life.

Finally, on the way back, we stopped at what I consider an absolute must-visit while in Bangalore – the Bhoga Nandishwara temple. I have written about it earlier and delighted to say that the second visit was as memorable as the first.