July 29, 2013

The Plains...!!

Expansive plains of Tamil Nadu as seen from the hills of Yelagiri. July 2013.

July 12, 2013

Floating Boats...!!

Tales of a Nomad...!! celebrates 4 years of blogging with this frame from coastal Maharashtra. Thank you all for your visits, encouragements, criticisms and comments.

Rajapuri jetty, Murud, Maharashtra. May2013.

July 10, 2013

Chitradurga- A Bygone Era...!!

The cool morning breeze kissed our faces as we rode on NH-4 and a break for a cup of tea somewhere in the middle of nowhere refreshed us like nothing else. It was a cold morning and the ride was to the seven walled fort of Chitradurga. The ride was smooth with beautiful vistas all along the highway, but turned dusty as we entered the town of Chitradurga. The fort is quite famous and any layman on the road would direct you easily. Chitradurga fort is on a hillock which was once occupied by the demon siblings Hidimba and Hidimbi during the Mahabharata days. The fort built between the 10th and 18th century changed hands from various rulers till it was majorly expanded by the Nayaka family druing the ruling of Vijayanagara empire in the 16th century. It was later captured by Hyder Ali in the 18th century. The fort whose actual name was Chitrakaldurga is also locally known as Yelusuttina Kotte (seven walled fort) and Kallina Kotte(stone fort).

 As we entered its premises all I could see were tall fort ramparts and the walk inside lead us to the first ninety degree ('L' shaped) pathway. That was the first instance where I had seen such an entrance and that caught my attention. We crossed the first entry gate and walked up to meet a man who approached us saying he is a licensed guide and could help us show around the fort. After a glance at his details we trudged further as our guide explained the history of the fort, its importance during the times of various rulers and about the important marks and points inside the fort. Though the guide explained in a mix of Kannada and English, I was glad that we took him along. Walking around the fort without a guide might have been a rueful decision as staring at those wonderfully carved structures would have left us with brilliant visuals and absolutely nil knowledge.

The 'L' shaped entry
The main entry door

The sprawling citadel which is strewn over many hills is famous for its seven fortified walls and beautiful landscape speckled with boulders. The fort was so smartly built with seven fortifications to protect the inner areas and the pathways in 'L' shapes were to make sure the enemy was forced to reduce its speed and advances during attacks. The lower most fortification has four major entrances. The fort walls have been beautifully maintained in most areas and each of the entrances have well chiseled doorways and stone carvings. As we ascended past each fortification getting closer to the insides of the fort, the landscape turned from beautiful to mesmerising with magnificent vistas, scenic valleys, wonderfully carved stone structures, beautiful temples, tanks filled with green waters and distant houses which seemed miniature amidst the massive boulders.

An entry door at one of the fortifications

The fort which changed hands from Mauryas to Rashtrakutas to Chalukyas to Hoysalas to Nayakas to Hyder Ali has seen a lot of up-gradations, inscriptions, additions and architectures from various eras. As we walked we were shown the various important points inside the fort by the guide. These included Bombe mantapa, oil storage tanks, akka-thanki kola (ponds named after two sisters who were princesses), ancient gymnasium, a high swing frame which is more than 30 feet tall, a monolithic pillar, a jail, peculiar rock formations (rocks which resemble an elephant, a frog and a rhinoceros), drawings on rocks from pre-historic era, treasuries, a stepped tank used during holi, rain water harvesting structures, a mill to grind gun powder, exquisitely carved temples, a mosque built by Hyder Ali and the elaborate pavilions. The guide also mentioned that whole fort area was never short of water due to the exceptional water storage system.

The swing frame and pillar

One of the ponds
One of the many temples

An important and famous point inside the fort in Onake Obbava. Legend says that through a small crevice inside the fort, enemy soldiers were trying to make their way into this impregnable fort. Obbava, the wife of one of the soldiers of Nayaka's saw this and killed each of those intruders with an onake (pestle). The place was then named after her for her bravery and valour.

Onake Obbava
At the third fortification entrance we were enchanted by the acrobatics of Jyothi Raj (a.k.a Kothi Raj). There was a small crowd which was stunned by this wall climbing man. He is no normal wall climber as he crawls up the high fort walls with bare hands in a few seconds. You blink an eye and he is n top of the wall. Kothi in Kannada means monkey and he truly does acrobatics like one. He is quite famous and can be easily found inside the fort during weekends to entertain the visitors.

Kothi Raj 
We covered more steps, passed many brilliant architectures, went between boulders, crossed the many doorways and fortifications of the 1500 acre fort and found ourselves perspiring more than ever under the blazing sun. However the ever changing views of the fort kept us amazed and made us cover a large part of it. The landscape of the fort reminded me a lot of the ruins of Hampi. It is also a great place for rock climbing. There is a small shop inside the fort which serves refreshments. After gulping down a couple of glasses of cold butter milk we bade good bye to our guide, walked back through the fort walls, exited the citadel and rode towards Chandravalli caves.

Situated 4 kms away from the fort, Chandravalli caves is near a beautiful lake and is situated between two monolithic rocks. There is a small temple next to these underground caves. Here too we had to hire a guide or else we would not have come out of the cave which goes down upto 80 feet below the ground. Darkness, dampness and bats welcomed us as we stepped down into the cave with our guide who led the way with a torch. The cave was supposedly occupied by saints and monks for a long period and does have paintings and carvings on its wall. It also has seatings, cots, bath tubs etc which shows presence of human living. Excavations have proved that Chandravalli caves have been inhibited from the days of iron age and archaeologists have found coins, pottery and vessels from those ages. We crawled, sneaked and pushed ourselves through that darkness, smelling the pungent rocks and staring at the dangling bats from the roofs to experience life inside a cave. As I came out of the cave in search of fresh air, what made me curious was the reason behind people confining themselves to such harsh living.

Inside the cave

Bats on the roof
Going down the cave

From the historic and pre- historic era we decided to visit Vani Vilas dam, a modern era creation. It is a detour from Hiriyur (On Bangalore- Chitradurga road, 32 Kms from Hiriyur) that took us past the country roads and then on to the top of a hill. We were stunned as we rode up the hill when the magnificent Vani Vilas dam spread out before us. Surrounded by massive hills, the placid waters of the dam shimmered as the evening sun was about to set. There is a wonderful walkway which provides stunning views of the waters. After capturing the setting sun, the calm waters, the green hills and a lonely coracle rider we had a long tiring ride back to Bangalore.

Vani vilas dam

Signing Note- Transport yourself to historic and pre- historic times and get lost amidst those boulders, architectures and caves of Chitradurga...!!

Route- Bangalore- Tumkur- Hiriyur- Chitradurga
Distance- 200 Kms

July 5, 2013

Responsible Tourism and Mature Actions...!!

The natural calamity that has swept away the state of Uttarkhand is not the first instance where mankind has taken the wrath of nature. There are many such natural calamities which has been a result of irresponsible actions. Nature gives back to you what you give her. Hills are drilled to make roads, the flow of rivers are either diverted or stopped to build dams and trees are cut to construct new buildings. What comes later in the form a natural calamity is definitely a result of these senseless actions. All this over a period of time only leads to soil erosion, landslides, floods, cloud bursts and much more. Without taking into consideration the aftermaths of excessive tourism and developments, authorities have been senselessly coming out with new resorts and infrastructures. As in the case of Uttarkhand and similar other stories, it is not that the calamity washes the place and all is back to normalcy soon. Lives are lost, homes are washed away, animals get buried, ecosystem is dislodged and whatever infrastructure was built flows away with nature. Undoubtedly these need at least a couple of years to get back on track. Hopefully the relief work would get its act done soon and slowly but steadily Uttarkhand would be back to its old self.

Tourism, infrastructure and civilization must be stopped where it has to be. Excessive tourism is one area that the authorities need to take a stern stand on. Places with varied biodiversity needs special attention. It is the duty of every visitor to make sure that tourist and pilgrimage  destinations are kept clean by not dumping waste and plastics at their arm's stretch. If there is a hill that must not be accessed or a lake that must not be waded into or a nomadic tribe which must not be interacted with, so be it. Let those locations and people remain unexplored and unknown because that is what the nature expects from mankind. To all those tourists, travellers, organizers, authorities, geologists and everyone who is in one way or the other related to mother earth- 'Please make an effort to cut down all those excessive developments which are absolutely unnecessary and let us spread the seeds of mature actions/ decisions and responsible tourism to make the world a better and a safer place to live in'.

July 1, 2013

Mekedatu and Sangam...!!

Grey clouds loomed ahead as we began our ride towards Sangam and further ahead to Mekedatu. Except for a light drizzle the ride was smooth and the sky got clear by the time we reached Sangam. Sangam is the confluence of River Cauvery and River Arkavati and a frequented picnic spot. The place was quite crowded being a weekend and the shallow waters at Sangam prompted many to have a splash. The clear blue sky, the flowing waters and the green hills in the background made for a wonderful landscape.

Coracles were available in plenty and we had a ride on one to get over to the other side of Sangam. From there it was a short bus ride along the Cauvery to Mekedatu. We were in for a shock on seeing the bus that was to commute us. Colourful, rusty and rickety are the three best words to describe it. With apprehensive minds we sat inside the bus and then began the roller coaster ride. Everything inside the bus from the nuts to the passengers jolted as it pulled itself along the mud road. I was quite sure that I would see one of its tyres rolling down into the Cauvery. Thankfully the exciting ride came to an end safely at Mekedatu.

From Sangam, Cauvery flows down further and meanders itself through a deep gorge of hard rocks at Mekedatu. Mekedatu literally translates to 'goat's leap' in Kannada. Legend has it that a goat leapt from one side of the gorge to the other and hence the place got its name. However the gorge is quite a wide one for a goat to reach the other side. The gorge is at its furious best during the monsoons and immediately after that. Since we visited during neither times, all we could see was Cauvery flowing away beautifully through those ravines with small splashes at certain points. During the rains the water level rises up making it all the more beautiful and dangerous. 


Years of water gushing through them have made the rocks very smooth and seems as if they have been chiseled to look beautiful. There are numerous holes and pits on the rocks which have been formed as a result of the river's fury. The rocks are quite slippery during all times and it is advised not to get down into the waters. The landscape also looked beautiful from the top of the rocks with the flowing Cauvery and verdant greenery in the background. 

After spending a considerable time gazing at the wonderful natural creation and Cauvery's swift flow we got down to the sand bank and headed back to Sangam on the same rickety bus. Mekedatu and Sangam is an exciting day trip from Bangalore if you intend to spend some wonderful time beside the Cauvery.

Signing Note- The gorgeous gorges and the furious Cauvery are a delightful watch...!!

Route- Bangalore- Kanakapura- Mahimenahalli- Sangam- Mekedatu
Distance- 95Kms

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