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Weekend in Pondy : Day 2 : Mahabalipuram

Today would be the last day in pondy and having covered all the local places, I decided to go to Mahabalipuram  which is 100 kms from the resort.

Mahabalipuram comprises of ancient monuments and is ideal to spend half a day there. Checking out of the resort, we headed to pondicherry bus stand to see if we could get a place where we decided to dump our luggage in the locker stand before heading out. Unfortunately we got to know the locker facility has been closed and I had to look for alternatives. We found a guest house opp to the bus stand and I requested the owner to allow us to use the store room for a day so I can keep my lugagge which the owner agreed to.

Paying a nominal amount I dumped my luggage in the storeroom and went to the hotel for breakfast. Our next target was to figure out the bus to our destination. Upon inquiry we got to know all local buses which go to chennai stop at mahabalipuram. We got into one of those buses and a 2 hour ride took us to mahabalipuram with a break in between.

For local sightseeing we hired an auto for 3-4 hours and took our own sweet time to cover all the important monuments. The carvings in the caves and temples are amazing and one can spend half a day or more by looking at the various monuments.

Sights around Mahabalipuram

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Taking photos of all carvings etc we spend 4-5 hours there before heading back to pondicherry. We went to promande bouvelvard again for a final and spend another hour there before heading back to the bus stand.

Picking up our lugage from the guest houe we went to nearby hotel to finish our dinner. There was couple of hours to waste as the bus was scheduled to leave at 10.30. We spent the time in the bus stand itself waiting for the bus to come.

Boarding the bus at 10.30 we headed back to Bangalore thus concluding a long pending visit to the Union territory

 

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Weekend in Pondy : Day 1 : Around pondicherry

It had been quite a few years since i visited pondicherry and my last visit was when I was a kid. After a quite a long gap I decided to head back to pondi again for couple days. Along with pondi I included mahabalipuram as well as it would make a good spot to spend half a day.

My initial plan to travel on the first weekend of this month had to be postponed and I decided to travel on 15-16th july. Travel arrangements were made and resort booking was done in advance.

We boaded the bus on thursday night and reached pondy the next morning at 5.30. I booked the resort in auroville, taking an auto we reached the resort in auroville at 6. After finshing the check in we took rest for couple of hours.

My first order of business was to figure out how to get around the town. Auto’s were ruled out as its quite expensive. I checked in the resort I was told i could hire 2 wheelers for Rs 350 a day. This was quite economical and I contacted the person in charge and after completing the formalities I got a scooter which is ideal to cover all the places. With the transport sorted out , it was time to hit the pool and spending sometime in pool with my daughter after a bath and breakfast we headed to cover pondy’s local sight seeing.

We first headed to mata mandir which is global spiritual place located around 8 kms  from the resort.

MataMandir

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The main attraction is the globe structure which is used for meditation. Free passes are issued to visitors and one can view the building from afar. Prior booking is needed for anyone who wants to do meditation. Details of the same can be availed in the center. We clicked few photos and headed back to the parking lot.

With mata mandir done our next destination was pondicherry. Filling up the tank we first visited auro beach which is enroute to auroville. Spending some time there we went to pondy.

It was already 2 by the time we hit pondy. A quick stop for lunch and we went to Bharati govt park. The park is located in a central location very close to Pondicherry museum which also houses the jawahar toy museum as well. Spending close to an hour in the park while allowing my daughter I took a break before heading to the museum. We found the museum was unfortunately closed until further notice.

As we still had enough time , we went to chunnamber boathouse located 10 kms from pondicherry.

Chunnamber Boat House

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_MG_2290_resizeParadise Beach

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The boat house offers a variety of boat trips with the popular one being a pick up and drop trip to paradise beach. The paradise beach is basically an island with the sea on one side and the backwaters on the other. Boat rides are offered every half hour and we paid Rs 200 as the fee for a return trip. 15-20 min ride took us to the beach where we spent some time there playing and relaxing before heading back .

Statue of Francis Dupleix

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Our next stop was promande beach before heading back to auroville. The attraction of the place is one can walk the entire length of the road as vehicles are prohibited after 6 PM. With no vechiles one can easily enjoy and spend quality time there. Spending an hour there and dinner we headed back to auroville thus concluding an eventful visit

Cruise to Coast – Day 2 : Scenic drive to Bekal

Today was D-Day as we were driving on the route I was planning to cover for a long time. The route to Bekal starts from the entrance of bhagmandala arch where once needs to take a left. The road is a single lane and we are greeted with boards indicating we are in talacauvery wildlife reverse.

With lush greenery and no signs of traffic we were ambling very slowly soaking in the scenery. The route is predominantly downhill and with cloudy weather the drive was even more pleasant.

While cruising along we found couple of road side waterfalls whose photos were duly clicked. Proceeding further, we found another waterfall hidden a little distance away from the road. Parking the car nearby we went to click photos of the falls. We could not approach the falls but we could take photos from afar

Road side Falls

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We continued on and soon we were at panathur and then continued on tho odiiyanchal. The forest area was over and we could see civilization again.

Winding roads enroute bekal

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We continued on the bekal via kanhangad. There is a route to bekal from kanhangad, however we missed the turn and had to go to the highway and continue on to bekal. We reached bekal around 11-11.30 and the sun was already up. Paying the entry fee we went inside.

The place is quite different from what I had visited couple of years back. The authorities have made a garden inside and they have undertaken some renovation work as well. As bekal attracts quite a lot of visitors, the place is well maintained.

Bekal Fort

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We spent sometime roaming inside the fort and taking photos of the sea. Spending an half hour to 45 min, we went back to the car and headed towards mangalore which was our final destination for the day.

Bekal inside

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An hour of driving took us to mangalore. After a stumptuous lunch we checked into the hotel and called it a day, thus concluding a long pending drive.

Snaps can be found here

Cruise to Coast – Day 1: Drive to bhagmandala

Ever since CAM announced the Cruise to coast weekend cycling ride from bhagmandala to bekal fort via panathur I was itching to go. However various situations conspired and I was unable to cycle. With rising costs I was unable to pursue the cycle ride but this didnt mean I would abandon trying the route altogether.

CAM announces Coast to Coast as one of its popular rides and the route they take is given here

http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=wlcwyukypumsltrr

I had decided if i cannot cycle I would atleast drive down the route and enjoy the scenary and the route as the cyclists would. Finally all stars aligned and myself and srikanth set out to explore this wonderful route.

We knew it would be a long drive and 2 days would not be enough to cover the entire distance, hence we planned this as a 3 day drive. We left bangalore on friday morning after a heavy breakfast and snaking through mysore road which was choke a bloc as usual we reached mysore by 12-12.30 with a pitstop in between.

Finishing our work there and after a full course meals we headed to bhagmandala. The weather was cloudy with intermittent spell of light rain. As we reached madikeri the rain also increased.

The scenary was as usual amazing and with rains coming intermitently we were cruising along the downhill stretch. An hour of driving later we reached bhagmandala. We were initially sceptical of getting accomodation hence we had packed our sleeping bags as well just so we can have a nap in the car itself if we dont get any decent accomodation.

We were however suprised to see good no of lodges. We checked into kstdc’s hotel and dumped our luggage in our rooms and took a breather. Evening we went to visit the forest office which was couple of meters from the hotel to inquire about permissions for trekking. A light dinner and we hit the bed, thus concluding the long drive.

Kodikanal – Visit to mannavanur lake

Mannavanur lake a non descrepit lake 25 kms from kodaikanal. The drive through the jungles is fantastic and the one can enjoy boating and short treks around the lake. One can easily spend half a day here to escape the hustle-bustle of the tourists. One the way to the lake step farming can be seen.

Mannavanathur Lake

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Recee to Basavana Betta

Basavana Betta is one the major hills in the cauvery widlife range. The hill is an wildlife area and comes under the reserve forest division. I got to know about a trek which starts from mutati. The trek is considered to be a difficult one and as the hill comes under an active wildlife zone, prior permission is required.

One can also go to the top by vecihle as there is a road to the top. As I was interested in trekking, searching on the net for info about permission, few of the websites suggested the permission can be obtained from Range forest office in Kanakapura.

I decided to head to kanakapura and to the forest office to see I can obtain the permission. Upon inquiring about the procedure to obtain the permission I was directed to the wildlife office where I met the ACF. When I asked about the permission for the trek, I was given the address of the DCF kollegala and was asked to write a mail to him requesting for permission. The ACF then said it is very unlikely I would be given the permission as basavana betta is teaming with wildlife and as per the policy trekking is banned in all widlife reserves. I could still go to the top of the hill via road if I desired.

I was a little downbeat after hearing permission would not be given so easily, however I decided to drive to the top of the hill. Upon reaching the base, I met a forest watcher and upon interacting with him, I was told it depends on the mood of the DCF, if I am lucky I will get the permission for the trek. The watcher told me to shoot a mail and hope for the best. There is a temple at the top of the hill and anyone interested can pay a visit.

Views from Bsavana Betta

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_MG_1601_resizeWith nothing much to do there I headed back after taking couple of photos of the nearby mountains. A short stop for lunch and a drive back on mysore road saw me reach home by 5.

Snaps can be found here

The cave maze in Belum and Gandikota- Exploring the indian grand canyon

Belum caves the second longest cave system in India was on my must visit list since couple of years. Lack of time / Company and the distance prevented me from visiting this place. When checking for a two day visit which can be clubbed along with belum, I came across gandikota which has a stone gorge fort and view which resembles the grand canyon in US.

These two places were ideal to be clubbed as the distance between both was less and both could be covered in same day. Srikanth was ready to join me for the trip and we headed to belum on Independence Day,

An early morning start after a sumptuous breakfast saw ur cruising on the Hyderabad Highway till we reached gooty. One needs to take deviation at gooty and proceed towards tadipatri to reach belum. Belum is approx 40 kms from tadipatri.

A short break for snaps of the distance hills an we headed to tadipatri

Hills in the distance

_MG_1517_resizeThe temperature and humidity was soaring by the time we reached tadipatri. Inquring the route we continued to proceed towards the caves. Another hour of driving and we could see belum caves written on the hill. We reached the cave by lunch time and we could already find lot of people there. Parking our car, we collected the tickets and proceeded towards the entrance of the caves

Entrance to belum

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The caves are made up of limestone and run quite a long distance underground

Belum Caves

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The  cave network is like a maze which runs deep underground. The government has maintained the caves well by providing lighting and marking the route for the visitors.With entry and exit points marked, it is easy for people to explore the caves. Some parts of the caves are still off limits. With humidity in the caves being high we were sweating a lot while exploring.

Roaming around the entire caves took us about an hour or so and we finally reached the main entrance. There was an fan kept at the top and we spent some time underneath it to get some relief from the heat.

With the cave exploration complete we had ample amount of time in our hands. Our next place on the list was gandikota which was around 60 kms from belum. Getting the route from google maps, we headed towards gandikota. The roads were pretty decent and asking for directions we soon reached the gorge fort after couple of hours of driving.

Gandikota is also called the grand canyon of india as it contains a steep gorge. Standing near the edge of the gorge one can experience the view similar to that of the grand canyon in US.

About Gandikota

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The gorge also contains a fort built in 13th century. The fort contains ruins of temple and a mosque.

Fort Entrance

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Scenes Inside the Fort

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The gorge

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Couple of mandatory selfies at the gorge and spending close to an hour taking photos and enjoying the scenary we bid adeiu to the place and headed to the car.

Selfie @ India’s grand canyon

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Our initial target of reaching ananthpur took a serious hit as we left the gorge only by 5.30. Reworking our schedule we decided to halt at kadiri before heading back to bangalore the next day.

It was night by the time we reached kadiri which is famous for lakshmi narasimha swamy temple. After checking into a hotel we had our dinner and called it a day to give our aching muscles some rest.

It was an early start the next day and we were on our way to bangalore. A short stop for breakfast midway and we reached bangalore by noon after spending an hour in the newly opened decathlon sports store on airport road. I was home by lunch thus ending a long pending trip.

Snaps can be found here

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