November 23, 2011

November 12, 2011

Mad - Rush...!!

I would love to rename Chennai as Mad-Rush for the sheer fun, excitement and adventures that I experienced during my 18 hours stay in this wonderful metropolitan city. My previous two visits did not give any opportunity to explore the city and neither did this one. However I was made to explore the city even though I had no intention of doing it.

On a rainy Saturday morning as I drove from Bangalore to Chennai, the weather gods were kind enough to turn the rain drops into sun rays. However as soon as I entered the city, the fun began as I missed out on many sign boards and happily took all possible wrong flyovers. After manoeuvring through the traffic and taking U -turn in the belief that I have got on to the right track, I happily went in the opposite direction towards Anna Nagar. That was indeed an achievement. After inquiring with a couple of  people on the road, I got back on the right road only to take the wrong turn on top of another flyover. More traffic, more U-turns, more signals and with a lot of difficulty I end up at my destination, Chromepet after one and half hours of struggle in Chennai city. I had to travel in the evening to Kilpauk and with the north-east rains taking over the city, I didnt want to experiment further with a drive through Chennai.The next best option available was the local train from Chromepet to Chetpet. My only previous experience of travelling in local train was in Mumbai, 3 years back. Having booked a first class ticket, I had to run and search for the compartment. As soon as i figured it out, the train left. I even had a second thought of jumping and clinging on to the rods, but decided against it. It would have been fatal had I done it. Another train arrived within a few minutes and this time I hopped on with a perfect timing. The compartment was half empty being a weekend and also due to the fact that it was a first class one (I really couldn't make out the difference between a first class and general compartment). The train also stopped a few times as the tracks were submerged in rain water. It was raining heavily as I got down at Chetpet. To my misery there was no power in the station. Staring at darkness and brushing past strangers on the platform I headed towards the exit, drenched in the rain. Heavy rains had flooded many roads in Chennai and the road that the exit led to was not spared. I had to wade through the muddy waters in the rain to get an auto-rickshaw. Then it was a 15 minute ride through the water logged streets of Chennai. That was fun. I dindnt want to take a risk of going back by local train as it was still raining heavily and chances were that the services might be stopped in between. So got back to Chromepet in a call-taxi after waiting for more than an hour. Even though it had rained the whole night, I never thought that my drive next day from Chennai to Cochin in the early hours of morning would be a tough affair. With the roads still flooded and traffic jams adding to the chaos at 6 a.m., it definitely wasn't a smooth drive through the city. It felt as though I was sitting inside a boat and travelling in knots. The only song on my lips at that point was- Row row row your car gently down the streets...!! :). Without knowing where the ditches and gutters were I slowly drove the vehicle only to see another vehicle go down into one of the ditches. The last that I saw of it was its back wheels spinning and splashing water all over. Felt really sorry for that guy. To add more misery, one of the transport buses had broke down right in front of Coyembedu bus stand craeting more confusion and more traffic jams. After an hour of sailing through the waters I got back on to tarmac and the frustration of having stuck in traffic for long had after effects. One more wrong road taken and the only expression that I had was- "What the hell?". However that was the last of my adventures in Chennai as I got back on the right road to Cochin very soon.

That was indeed one of the exceptional travels I have had in my life. Even though it was devoid of destinations, sight seeings and arrivals, I did experience Chennai in a very unusual way. Sometimes its these kind of journeys that remain etched in memories for ever. 

Signing Note- It is the  journey and not the destination that matters...!!

November 4, 2011

BR Hills- Wet and Wild...!!

What looks more attractive than a wet and wild woman...?? Any wild guesses?

My ride to BR Hills made me realise that it is the Jungle. Wet, Wild, Green, Dark and Deep. The closest that I got to wilderness was during my bike ride to Biligiri Rangana hills (BR Hills) with my cousin. We had been planning this ride for the past six months and this long cherished desire got executed recently.

The roads were good all the way and that made the ride all the more enjoyable. The early morning ride took us past the small towns of Kanakapura, Malavalli and Kollegal on NH-209 into Chamrajnagar district. A deviation from Kollegal took us off the highway onto the narrow village roads with picturesque landscape. The green paddy fields, the muddy brown waters, the fresh air and the curious villagers made the ride blissful.

As the vistas changed, the the green fields gave way to thick shrubs and further into dark deep jungles. The narrow village roads paved way for the winding roads. Though it was devoid of hairpin bends and ghat sections, the the roads with dark forests on both sides made it adventurous. With hardly any civilization in the vicinity except for the odd vehicle that passed by, the 32 km ride through the jungle became all the more wild with just the trees, shrubs, the long road ahead and a few monkeys for companionship. The only sound that we could hear was the roar of the engine. My cousin being a fond lover of elephants, so badly wanted to see a wild one. I however was quite apprehensive about the same and didn't want to face any big wild creature. I was quite happy with the monkeys, wild boars, turtles and peacocks that we spotted en route to the top and he had to be content with a few elephant dungs on the road. Though I have been through many jungle roads and sanctuaries before, this wild route seemed quite different from the rest as it was less inhabited and free of tourists/ travellers.

The winding road led us to Biligiri Ranganaswamy temple (The hill gets its name from the same). The mindblowing vistas from the temple blew me away. The panoramic view of the stunning valley, the thick jungle, the meandering roads and the dark clouds made for a mesmerising topography. A closer look made me realise that it was heavy rains over the jungles (the same route that i had to take back) at a distance. That was indeed a beautiful sight that will remain in my mind for a very long time. Nature at its best.

Other than the wildlife and the temple, BR Hills is also known for Soliga tribes, who have been living in the region for ages. We however were not lucky enough to spot any tribal. These forests were also home to the dreaded forest brigand, Veerappan during his prime.

After a quick visit to the temple we decided to explore a bit more and headed further ahead to K.Gudi which is a small settlement where Jungle Lodges and Resorts have their resort. A package with them includes a jungle safari which might be interesting for wildlife enthusiasts as that would give a better chance of spotting a wild one. K.Gudi is 20Kms further from the temple and it drizzled all the way. A wet and wild ride through the jungle was definitely memorable. After reaching K.Gudi, the drizzle became stronger and we had the option of either returning back to BR Hills or heading deeper into the woods of Chamrajnagar and Sathyamangalam. With the rain gods showing no mercy we had a wet ride back to BR Hills.

With not much options available for the grumbling stomach, we stopped at the only hotel near the temple for a late lunch. By then the the heavy rains had taken over the small hamlet and the surrounding forests. Standing under a cover, seeing the forest getting drenched and smelling the scent of wet earth was an enthralling experience.

As the heavy rains became drizzles, we started our return journey through the wet and wild BR Hills. After a couple of stops for photo shoots, we headed back from the green jungles to the concrete jungles of Bengaluru. As I meandered through the lovely wet forests, the famous phrase by Robert Frost came to my mind:

Woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep 
And miles to go before I sleep.

BR Hills is one of the beautiful wildlife destinations in Karnataka which remains unexplored. It is also supposedly the point where the Western Ghats and the Eastern ghats meet. With tourism yet to catch up on a large scale, this tiny temple hamlet is definitely a great option to spend a weekend.

Signing Note: BR Hills is definitely Lovely, Dark and Deep...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Kanakapura- Malavalli- Kollegal- BR Hills
Distance- 200Kms
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