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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Bird watching at Hebbal Lake

It’s been a while since I have indulged in my hobby for bird watching. So it was with some excitement that I made my way to Hebbal Lake on Sunday to join the bird watching session organised by Bngbirds every first Sunday of the month at Hebbal Lake, to the north of Bangalore.

Hebbal Lake is a fair distance away from where I live in Bangalore, but thanks to the reasonable efficient bus transport, I was able to reach it comfortably and inexpensively.

It was a cold, quiet morning with surprisingly few people around, even at 7:30 am. We were a diverse group of 10 and observed birds from the periphery of the lake for about a couple of hours.

The list of birds seen:

  1. Great Cormorant
  2. Little Cormorant
  3. Darter
  4. Purple Heron
  5. Indian Pond Heron
  6. Cattle Egret
  7. Median Egret
  8. Little Egret
  9. Oriental White Ibis or Black Headed Ibis
  10. Northern Pintail
  11. Spot-billed Duck
  12. Black Kite
  13. Brahminy Kite
  14. Shikra
  15. Booted Eagle
  16. White-breasted Waterhen
  17. Purple Moorhen
  18. Common Sandpiper
  19. Asian Koel
  20. White-breasted Kingfisher
  21. House Crow
  22. Jungle Crow
  23. Red-throated (Taiga?) Flycatcher
  24. Blyth’s Reed-Warbler
  25. Great Tit
  26. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
  27. Purple-rumped Sunbird
Hebbal Lake
Hebbal Lake
Hebbal Lake 2
Flowering tree – Hebbal Lake

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.