We decided to break our journey to the Tiger Reserve at a friend’s farm-house, located near Mettupalayam. We were informed that the more scenic route would be via the mountain road running through Hasanur and Bannari, connecting the town of Chamarajanagar in Karnataka with Sathyamangalam in Tamil Nadu.
We decided to take the Kanakapura Road towards Chamarajanagar as it is the more direct route. We left Bangalore at 7 am and halted for breakfast at Nasa’s Food Court at Nettigere. This is a recent and very welcome addition on this road, providing delicious South Indian breakfast in a clean, family and wallet friendly setting.
After a filling breakfast of dosas washed down with excellent filter coffee, we hit the road again. Our next stop was at the stunning Hoysala era temple at Somanathapura.
By the time we finished seeing the temple, it was past 11:30 am. We reached Chamarajanagar by 12:45 pm and decided to halt for lunch there. The drive, almost immediately after we crossed Chamarajanagar, took us into the forests that form the boundary between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The road, which was very good till then, started deteriorating significantly. But thankfully, traffic was quite minimal and we were able to make steady progress.
No sooner did we cross the border into Tamil Nadu than the condition of the road improved significantly. It was silky smooth, as good as any road I have been on! The scenery was also stunning, though the dense fog at the top of the mountain pass reduced visibility to just a few metres. It made for an exciting drive, but we could not appreciate the beauty of the lushly forested hills and valleys.
But this disappointment was more than made up for by our encounter with a lone tusker. The male elephant appeared out of the forest to our left, a few metres in front of our car and proceeded to cross the road and walk towards us, but thankfully on the opposite side of the road. It then passed our vehicle, not more than 5 metres away from our car. It is the closest I have ever got to a wild elephant and was a memorable encounter.
The rest of the journey was sedate and we reached the farmhouse by around 5:45 pm.
As we begin a new year (and possibly a new decade!), here’s a brief look back at what 2019 had to offer:
Visit places, new and old – While we did not do as much traveling as I would have liked (:-)), I still managed to see quite a few new places – Pench, Shivanasamudram, Talakadu and Annamalai Tiger Reserve – while revisiting some places I had last been over a decade ago – B.R. Hills and Ahmedabad. Most of all, I enjoyed spending a couple of weeks in my hometown, Mumbai, showing my kids some of the landmarks of this unique city.
Bird-watching – I have been watching birds for well over 35 years now, and this year was a good one. Highlights include observing over 90 species over 4 days at Pench, spotting ‘lifers’ at Ahmedabad and Attakatty, and reconnecting with my old bird-watching group in Bangalore. I ended the year with my e-bird checklist showing 163 (with 149 in 2019 alone).
Healthy lifestyle – While my journey to a healthier lifestyle started in 2018, I managed to stay focused on this in 2019. I have tried to make healthy eating, exercise and yoga a part of my daily life and do feel that it’s been beneficial.
Teaching – Again, while 2018 was the year I started teaching, I was lucky to have more opportunities to teach in 2019. This also enabled me to revisit Ahmedabad and the IIM-A campus.
Consulting – 2019 was the year when I expanded my consulting business. I was lucky to work with some exciting brands and great founders.
Writing – I started consciously focusing on writing in the second half of the year. It is something that I have been wanting to do for a while now, so I am glad I finally gave it serious attention.
Reconnecting with friends – I was fortunate to meet and reconnect with a lot of friends in 2019, from my student to working days. This will definitely be one of the highlights of the year.
Spending time with my kids – My kids are growing up fast, and I have been extremely fortunate to have spent some good quality time with them this year. And I am very grateful for that.
So as I look forward, on this first day of the new year, I hope to be able to do more of each of the above.
The Chennakesava temple at Somnathpur was built by rulers of the Hoysala dynasty in the 13th Century. It is located on the banks of the river Kaveri, about 20 kilometres to the South East of Mysore. Along with the more famous temples at Belur and Halebid, this temple forms part of the magnificent Hoysala temples of Karnataka.
I recently revisited this temple (more a monument as active worship does not take place here anymore) while on a visit to Annamalai Tiger Reserve. The intricacy and profusion of carvings is simply stupendous. I know it’s a cliche, but words really cannot do justice to the beauty of this monument.
As we head into the holidays, this week’s selection of articles are focused on Travel in 2020.
Top 100 City Destinations – Euromonitor has come with a detailed analysis of the Top City Destinations in 2019 based on International Arrivals. Asia dominates the list, largely due to the impact of outbound travelers from China. Indian cities, led by Delhi, have seen some of the highest growth rates in 2019. In fact, it is likely that in a few months time, Delhi will break into the Top 10 at Number 8. Mumbai is also likely to be in the Top 15. This is a stunning growth in just a few years time. I hope that these (and other Indian) cities are well placed in terms of infrastructure to handle this influx.
The Travel Trends to Know in 2020 – Conde Nast Traveller’s 15 Trends for 2020 covers a wide range of trends from Vegan Hotels to Spartan Holidays. I am not sure that all of these might see traction next year, but it is a good list of all the key topics that will influence the way we travel in 2020 and beyond.
Best in Travel 2020 – Ready to make your travel plans for the first year of the new decade? Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 might prove to be a great place to start. The Top 10 Countries list is especially fascinating as it throws up some small countries that might not feature of many people’s list.
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