September 28, 2015

Kunti Betta- A Night Trek...!!

I woke up when the bus swerved off the highway onto an asphalted narrow village road. All that could be seen were silhouettes of trees and scattered houses as the cold breeze rushed in when I opened the window pane.  A short drive on the bumpy road and the bus stopped at a school ground. The little town of Pandavapura was wrapped in darkness and it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere at 2.30 AM. Blurry eyed and half asleep, we disembarked from the bus to pitch darkness to scale Kunti Betta. We were yet to get a grip of the the surroundings when the silence was broken by more vehicles and noisy visitors. Assembled quickly and patiently waited for the crowd to move ahead. The torch lights came out shortly as we made our way to Kunti Betta in the silence of the starry night. Not sure if it was a moonless night or a cloudy one.

Situated in Pandavapura, a detour off the Bangalore- Mysore highway, Kunti Betta is frequented by both night and day trekkers. With boulders all over, Kunti Betta is mentioned in Mahabaratha as the place where Kunti, the mother of Pandavas spent time during the exile. There is a large water body nearby known as Kunti kund, which also gets its name from Kunti. The trek is quite popular with trekkers from Bangalore and is frequented by hordes of adventure enthusiasts during the weekend.

The group followed the trek lead and a while later he stopped and shone the torch light to a huge monolithic rock to our right. The climb was to begin. Slowly, we pulled ourselves to the top of it, despite a few sliding steps. The decibel levels from the other group turned high and we let them pass as we soaked in the eerie silence of the cold night. The constant short breaks helped. It was not long before we had the first real challenge. The almost ninety degree rock stood before us with just a small crevice for a foothold. While a few managed to climb over, the others took a winding narrow route wedged between two rocks to come out on top. A short climb later, we were right below popular the croc- face rock, which we didn't notice in the dark until the trek lead shone the light. This rock which looks like the face of a crocodile is visible from a distance during a day trek.

We trod past boulders and rocks to hit the infinity point shortly. A popular place of rest, the infinity point is above one of the hills en-route to Kunti Betta, which offers nice views all around. Despite the darkness, we could make out the Kunti Kund, which lay way below. Kunti Betta, our final destination too made its presence felt. A few torch lights flashed from Kunti Betta as we made ourselves comfortable at Infinity point. It was past three in the morning and we had some time to while away before we got onto the trek trail to witness sunrise atop Kunti betta. It was cold, windy and a bit eerie with large silhouettes of boulders everywhere. What better way to make it eerier than some paranormal stories?

A hillock and Kunti kund
Many interesting stories later, we trudged forward, went down hill, waded through a narrow path covered with vegetation and peeled a few skins on the way. This was the longest stretch of the trek which ended when we hit a tall boulder which happily stood between us and the summit. This time there wasn't any alternate winding route like earlier and all had to climb over with the help of a few crevices on the rock. Though a much larger boulder than the previous hurdle, the climb was much easier. Until then, it was darkness with restricted views that prevailed all through the trail. However, after the climb, there was a lot of openness, fresh air, brilliant vistas and a tinge of light over the horizon. A hint that we were closer to our mission.

The final climb to the summit was an easy trail over more boulders. The trek culminated at the stone pillar which stands tall atop Kunti Betta. Cold wind blew hard and more light spread as the group scattered and went in search of their preferred vistas. Farm lands, paddy fields, coconut trees, tiny winding roads, distant shrines and houses, boulders, jutting rocks, water bodies- there was no dearth of vistas. The landscape looked breathtakingly beautiful. The only disappointments were the presence of a large crowd and the sun not showing up. It remained cloudy for long, but the vistas more than made up for it. While a few souls stared in oblivion at the landscapes way below, some attempted climbing the stone pillar and many headed to the vertical point for a photo shoot. Vertical point is a long jutting rock which seems like would break off and take you a few hundred feet down. Looks scary, but is definitely an adrenaline raiser and is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Kunti Betta trek.

Stone Pillar

Vertical Limit

All the action came to a halt suddenly as the clouds opened up. The lost souls and adventure junkies ran for cover. Though not for long, the short burst of rain curtailed our stay on top.The cold and wet morning greeted us with a hint of sunshine once the rain subsided, but it remained cloudy for long. The trek down was through another route, a bit slippery because of the rains but much easier than the climb. Waded, jumped and slid over boulders, and in a short-while we were in the plains. The stone pillar atop was visible at a distance and the huge boulders in various shapes looked unique and beautiful with patches of  green in between. The walk led us away from the boulders and we trespassed a few coconut groves before hitting the waters of Kunti Kund. A splash in the waters was followed by a sumptuous breakfast at a tiny hotel in Pandavapura and then the long languorous walk back to the bus. Content, happy and refreshed, we returned to the concrete jungle.


Kunti Betta- hillock on the right

Kunti kund

 Kunti Betta night trek is one of the easier, comfortable and enjoyable night treks from Bangalore. Check out Get Beyond Limits, who offers this trek quite frequently.

Route- Bangalore- Ramnagara- Maddur- Mandya- Pandavapura
Distance- 126 Kms

July 29, 2015

Allahabad- Places to Visit and Things to Do

Allahabad evokes a sense of sanctity and conjures up images of rivers, temples and Mughals. Also referred to as Parayag and Illahabad, it is well known for Sangam (the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswathi), which plays a significant role in Hinduism. Prayag is one the four spots where Kumbh mela, which is considered to be the largest religious gathering in the world is held. The city is well known for its numerous temples which are strewn across its various streets and corners. While it was under the rule of Akbar, the city was rechristened as Illahabad from Prayag and got its present name, Allahabad, when British took over. Allahabad is equally soaked in history as much as it is in mythical stories, and is well known for its cultural tourism, historical buildings and monuments. Mughals and the pre- independence era has brought the city a lot of limelight that it holds a very special place in the historical books. Long rule of the Mughals has made the city popular for its delectable mughalai cuisines as well.

Soak in the ambiance of Kumbh Mela 

The largest religious gathering in the world is held at four locations across the country and Allahabad happens to be the most prominent one. This is one huge festival spread over a few weeks and is held at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi. The mela area has hundreds of tea stalls, numerous pontoons to cross over to the other bank, confusing intersections, shops selling everything from blankets to temple paraphernalia, hundreds of camps, thousands of tents and lakhs of visitors. This magnanimous religious gathering is an electric synthesis of pilgrims from world over and is a must visit. Kumbh mela happens once in 12 years and Ardh kumbh mela takes place once in every 6 years. The last Kumbh mela at Allahabad was held in 2013. An annual Magh Mela is also held in Allahabad around the Sangam areas in the month of January.  

Attain salvation with a dip at Sangam 

The confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mystical Saraswathi is known as Sangam, where millions of pilgrims take a dip every year. The holy bath of pilgrims signifies their faith, belief and the quest for salvation. Though many take a dip near the bank, the actual confluence is away from the bank and  can be approached only by a boat. It is well recommended to take a dip at the exact confluence, rather than near the banks. 

Enjoy a boat ride on Yamuna

An early morning boat ride on Yamuna is an ideal way to begin the day in Allahabad. Wrapped in the early morning mist, Yamuna looks serene and the frames are delightful. Catch the morning rays as the boat wades past the fluttering gulls, the numerous ghats and the intimidating Allahabad fort. At the confluence one can easily discern the green Yamuna from the brown Ganga. Yamuna joins the Ganga and then they flow together eastward.

Soak in the essence of the city with a cycle rickshaw ride

Allahabd is best explored on a cycle rickshaw, as slow as you can. As you ride, take in a whiff of the city, capture frames from the streets and enjoy the local delicacies from food stalls. The best places for a ride are chowk area and old city. During Kumbh mela, it becomes quite vibrant with colours, people, stalls and much more. 

Get charmed by the Gothic Cathedral

This Gothic structure, popularly known as Pathar Girja in local circles is one of the oldest churches in India. All Saints` Cathedral was designed by William Emerson and construction of the same began in the year 1877. Intimidating as well as beautiful, it has exquisite stonework in both white stone and red sandstone stands. This magnificent structure which also has marble lavishly used, stands amidst a grass compound at a major cross road which makes it visible from all directions.

Gaze at the wonderful architectures of Khusro bagh

Named after Khusro, the elder son of the Mughal emperor, Jehangir, Khusro Bagh is well known for its gorgeous tombs in mughal architecture. There are four tombs here which are Khusro's, his mother's, his sister's and Bibi Tamolan's. Built in early 17th century, the walkways and tombs are wrapped in mughal inscriptions, artworks and paintings. With a well laid out garden and tombs adorning exquisite mughal architecture and frescoes, Khusro bagh is one of the most recommended places of visit in Allahabad for history and architecture lovers. 

Immerse in the historical Azad park

Chandrashekar Azad park  also known as company bagh is a huge serene park which houses the public library and Allahabad museum. The huge museum has numerous galleries with a plethora of displays which includes terracotta paintings, wood work, handicrafts, metal and armoury from pre-independence and medieval period. This is the park where freedom fighter Chandrashekar Azad shot himself before the British could capture him. The park is steeped in history and is an ideal place to soak in the stories from British era.

Visit the temples

Being a spiritual town, Allahabad is well known for its numerous temples. Mankmeshwar temple is situated by the ghats which lead to River Yamuna. Shankar vimana mandapam with 3 floors has a South Indian style architecture and a nice panoramic view of the mela area. This colourful temple has Kanchi Kamakshi, Tirupati Balaji ad Shivalingam on each of its floors. Bade Hanuman Mandir next to Shriram Janki mandir is another popular temple in the town. The  lete Hanuman (Lying down position) attracts quite a crowd during the day.

Explore Allahabad Fort

Built in the year 1583, by Akbar, Allahabad fort is situated near the confluence. It is one of the largest forts built by Akbar and has undergone numerous restorations over the years. At the entrance of the fort is a 35 feet high Ashoka Pillar made of stone. Akshay Vat or the undying Banyan tree is another point of interest inside the fort. Only a portion of the fort is open to public due to security reasons.

Visit Anand Bhawan and Swaraj Bhawan

This is where the inquisitive history lovers would want to head to while in Allahabad. An ideal place to learn and the struggles of independence. It also houses many galleries and personal belongings of the Nehru family. 

Relish the Mughalai cuisine

Allahabad is well known for its mouth watering Mughalai delicacies. Before you leave this historic town, explore the best of the cuisines in the crowded Loknath area.


Lucknow- 204 Kms
Varanasi- 122 Kms
Closest Airport- Allahabad airport (12 Kms from city)
Closest Railhead- Allahabad junction

Best time to visit- All through the year (Summers might be harsh).

June 10, 2015

Villas in Goa

 Goa is one of those places where going off beat or away from the maddening crowd is quite a tough decision. The lure of the beaches and shacks is very high. But after innumerable trips to Goa, the shacks might seem monotonous. Villas are a good way to break away from that.

There are numerous villas in Goa and the ideal place to hunt for them is at Goa Villa, a villa rental company which has numerous villas catering from budget to luxury villas across popular destinations in Goa. This does not by any means make the properties secluded and away from action. They are very much in proximity to the beaches, shacks and other activities. Many of the villas, like the ones in Anjuna (Astra Apartments), Palolem (Rose Cottage), Candolim (Maroon Age) and Cavelossim (Grand Boutique) are very close to the beaches and a short walk away.

Baga is one of the most frequented places in Goa with the ever popular Baga beach, nightclubs and flea markets. Goa Villa offers Johanna Garden, a wonderful villa in Baga with 4 bedrooms, a sitting area, dining area, kitchen, swimming pool, a lawn and a terrace. Away from the crowd but not short of action makes this an ideal place to make your stay in Baga a memorable one. 

Johanna Garden, Baga
Villa Hill Crest in Bambolim is an ultra luxury villa with five bedroom and modern facilities. An added feature is that the villa offers breathtaking vistas of the Arabian Sea. Grand Boutique in Cavelossim has a different attraction, and that is the uninterrupted views of the serene Sal River which flows beside the villa. If your concept of holidaying includes lying on huge verandas and reading your favourite travelogue on a lazy afternoon, Villa Oliva in Calangute is the place to head to. If travelling in groups or with large families, the luxurious Villa Lyon Age in Colva is a wonderful option to choose from. Beach Villa in Candolim is a unique villa amidst Old Portuguese villas. This secluded villa is built in Portuguese style with all modern facilities. The icing on the cake is that it has a direct access to the beach. Now, who would want to miss that? Villa Arabella in Morjim with just two bedrooms and all the basic amenities is an apt one for the budget travellers.

Villa Hill Crest, Bambolim
Goa Villa provides a host of services to their clients, which includes a shuttle from airport to the villa, local mobile SIM cards for foreign nationals, personal assistant for tours across Goa, all necessary facilities within the villa and much more. For families who are travelling with toddlers, a baby cot and baby stroller is also provided. In case the guests require more services such as a chef, a driver and internet, Goa Villa is more than willing to facilitate them.

With a wide range of options to choose across locations, budgets and facilities, rental agency Goa Villa is a wonderful service provider to check out your place of stay while holidaying in Goa.

 Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, however all opinions are my own.

May 13, 2015

Kabini- Serene Wilderness...!!

A few kilometers before the Kerala border, a sign board showed up with the direction to Kabini River Lodge. From the well paved asphalted road that made its way through villages and farmlands bordering the Nagarhole forest, the sudden detour led to an undulated mud road. Slowly, green vistas made its presence and in a while Kabini showed up. Blue, expansive and serene, Kabini reservoir looked like a humungous blue amoeba floating amidst brown hills and patches of greenery, albeit only a portion visible.

The first glimpse

Kabini reservoir has been carved out of the river by the same name, which originates in Wayanad. Being a part of the Nagarhole national park, which teems with wildlife, the shores of these backwaters offer numerous exciting sightings. Earlier well known as the hunting ground of Mysore King and British Viceroys, Kabini now has quite a few resorts offering breathtaking vistas of the gorgeous backwaters. Mesmerised at the first glimpse of Kabini, the car trudged forward to one of the best properties of Jungle lodges and resorts. This hunting lodge of the erstwhile Mysore maharajas has been creatively converted into a beautiful resort overlooking the serene Kabini reservoir. Kabini river lodge charms its visitors with its explicit woodwork and beautifully maintained interiors amidst the serene surrounding. The tall ceilings in the rooms and the plush wood furnishings in bar area which takes one back to the maharaja's era gives it the royal charm.

Jungle Lodges and Resorts
I strolled around the campus, captured the exquisite hunting lodge, the colourful tress and the encapsulating vistas of the Kabini reservoir from the pier. A hot cup of sweet coffee later, wrapped in orange life jackets, boarded the boat and it motored its way sending ripples in all directions. Kabini lay ahead like a femme fatale, spreading itself out along the boundaries of the forest reserve. Beyond the buoyant waters lay expansive stretches of greenery with withered trees and small open grasslands. Summers had just set in and the lush greenery had slowly given way to the brownness in patches.  Protruding wooden stumps emerged from the waters at many places, and quite a few black cormorants perched themselves on them to gaze at the expansiveness of Kabini in oblivion.

Kabini reservoir

Kabini is home to more than 200 species of birds. A wide range of avian fauna such as herons, storks, cormorants, ibis, lapwings, kingfisher and many more languorously strolled by the shores. Some waded along the shallow edges of the reservoir, while a few flew in different directions in search of another location to perch. Many lenses came out and the shutters clicked many a time to capture the avian fauna and the gorgeous landscape. There were numerous deer, both spotted and sambar which nonchalantly grazed along the fringes of the reservoir, not buoyed by the noise of the motorboat.

Kabini is well known for its elephants and leopard sightings, and though many wished to see a feline quenching its thirst, the frame remained elusive. A while later, the motorboat went silent and all spoke in hushed silence as a lone tusker rattled some bamboo by the bank to satiate its hunger. Never once did it turn around to stare at the boats, nor were the deer nearby perturbed by the presence of the pachyderm. A couple of mongooses made a quick dash amidst the many wooden stumps on the bank while a peacock languidly strolled past the deer to make up for an ideal wild setting. The boat stood still for long as the picturesque wild frame amidst absolute serenity was captured both by the lenses and the souls who stared in oblivion.

The tusker
Wild boar
The boat motored its way once again into the expansiveness of the enchanting reservoir which seemed more like a placid lake with its verdant green background. There were more deer, peacocks, cormorants, wild boars and a few langurs that loitered along its bank as the boat stopped again at the sight of another lone elephant which was semi hidden amidst bamboos. The sun had mellowed and the gleaming reservoir looked all the more gorgeous as the boat made its way back to the pier. As the boat moored, the setting red sun going down the horizon was indeed one of the best frames captured during the day. The day wound with a wildlife video which was an insight into the lives of the wild beings and their survival in a world encroached by humans.

Jeeps packed with visitors left the resort premises early next morning on a safari ride into the Nagarhole national park (presently known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park). Enthusiastic wildlife lovers with tucked in cameras and bleary eyes peered in search of anything wild as the jeeps lunged forward into the wilderness of Nagarhole. The forest was still wrapped in the morning mist, and the brown muddy road meandered its way through the tall withered trees. It looked more brown than green due to the onset on summer. A sambar was the first sighting which gave a glance before it sauntered away. Wild boars, spotted deer and langurs sprung up many a time as the jeep surged on the mud trail. Avian fauna was a delight to watch as numerous colourful birds fluttered all over. Indian roller was the frequently sighted one while others included hoopoes, kingfishers, parakeets, indian robins, emerald doves, jungle fowls and many more. A lone serpent eagle stay put on a tall branch lost in the amazing vistas from the top. Further high on a different branch was perched a brown owl which was only partially visible.

Indian Roller
Serpent eagle

Though there were a couple of alarm calls, all were false ones and despite the wait at a few junctures like waterholes, the felines remained elusive. I have always believed that sighting the wild is sheer luck and the only tiny factor other than that is having good guides who know the jungle well. Despite the guide's good effort and the constant information that passed on while the jeeps crossed paths,  I will have to come back to sight a wild cat in Nagarhole national park and Kabini. After a long wait at a waterhole, the jeep stopped at another, where a lone tusker quenched his thirst. The jeeps and human presence did not deter him from his act and he nonchalantly strolled along the edges of the waterhole to drink more water. This sighting did satiate the eagerness to spot a wild being to an extent and the jeep drove us out of the park, past more deer and peacocks en-route. 


A sumptuous breakfast awaited the wildlife enthusiasts at the resort, post which it was a drive back to Bangalore along the fringes of Nagarhole national park. Kabini is undoubtedly a wildlife lover's delight with the serene reservoir and the national park, which teems with wildlife. 

Signing Note- Lose yourself to the wilderness of Kabini...!!

Route- Bangalore- Mysore- Hampapura- HD Kote- Antarasanthe- Karapura
Distance-235 Kms

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