Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mancini for Hughes - Man City moving ahead

Well now you know that Manchester City have big plans, and hey my predictions about this club posted earlier is proving right. It was surprise to fire the manager with such a short notice, but such things are expected of clubs with big plans. I am not at all surprised; it was more like I was expecting it. Hughes I feel has done a good job, but then he was never the material they had in mind for the long run, I was sure they would be looking for a bigger manager who can help bring quality players to the team. I am surprised they actually compromised for Mancini, indicating the Clubs failure to sign bigger names like SAF, Mourinho, Hiddink etc.

Mancini is going to baptized by fire entering the reckoning in the most difficult of periods (End of December is arguably the toughest period for EPL, as they have a number matches around the Christmas which can be extremely distracting and hence unpredictable; unlike for example the Italian league which has a couple of weeks break during this period). I feel there two reasons Mancini has come in at this odd time, one is for the January transfer window, I feel Man city will again buy players and they want some one with experience to buy the right players. The second I feel is to make sure that the team finishes in the first four, automatically qualifying them for the next years Champions League. Mark my words if that does not happen, Mancini will follow Hughes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BR Hills and K-Gudi Jungle Lodge

This was one of the many trips we friends had with our families. There were four couples (Priya and Mahesh, Priyanka and Mohan, Nidhi and Deepak, My wife Bindu and I) with 2 very special people, one was Mark who took the challenge of traveling as the only bachelor along with married couples and the other my very active(one of the alternatives I use for the word naughty) 11/2 year old son, Johan Anthony. The more number of friends meant we had to forsake the luxury of the Innova (Our usual and desired mode of transport), for the more accommodating and not so comfortable Tempo Traveller. We soon realized the advantages of Traveller, it meant that all of us were together in the same vehicle and true to the quote ‘more the merrier’ we had our share of the fun with the usual stories, chit chatting and singing (especially the tour numbers like ‘In the morning...). We took the Kanakpura, Malavalli, kollegal route while going which is shorter, compromising the better roads of the Mysore highway.

The travel was comfortable (Apart from the bad roads) in the sense that we were only 10 including my son, in a vehicle which could easily accommodate atleast 13 people, ensuring we had enough space to stretch a leg or two if needed. It also helped the men to sit together in the backseats and peacefully have a few cans of beer with out causing inconvenience to the ladies. Priyanka was kind enough to prepare and bring cakes and muffins the delicious taste of which we savored while traveling.

The Biligiri Rangana Hills, commonly called B R Hills, is a hill range situated in the Chamarajanagar district in south-eastern Karnataka, sharing its border with Tamil Nadu. It is understood that the hills got its name from the famous temple in this place dedicated to Biligiri Rangaswamy. The area is actually a Wild life sanctuary sharing the name of the Temple, spread over 525 sq km, scattered with valleys, streams and scenic spots.

We usually plan our trips well, but for some reason we assumed that we might not have too many problems and hence had not booked the stay in advance. To our horror we realized, after checking a few places that this was one of the rare weekends when most the places were booked. We also took help of a young teenager from one of the resorts, in his Avatar as the local guide to look for possible options for us to stay, only to be disappointed. The only comforting fact was that we were able to visit the BR temple on route to one of the places in his very small list.

We discussed a few options like going to Madumalai and Bandipur, before deciding to try out the Jungle lodges. The Jungle Lodge resort at K-Gudi is located at the heart of the BR hills Sanctuary, surrounded by nature and woods. As luck would have it, the only remaining rooms available there was one single room and one 7 bed room, which actually suited us well and we decided the three couples will use the 7 bedroom with Mark getting the privilege of using the single room. At 2250 per person (18000 for 9 people, after waving of one persons charges) for a day including the Stay, Lunch, Dinner & Breakfast, Jeep safari into BRT Wildlife Sanctuary, Guided Nature Walk, Elephant Ride , Forest Entry Fees & Taxes, the price did feel moderate after the experiencing the comforts, suppressing the initial opinion that it was slightly expensive.

We had a good buffet lunch with one or two Non-Veg dishes at the ‘Gol Ghar’ probably named so because of its round shape and decided to spend some time exploring the outdoor activities at this place. We enjoyed the experience of getting on to the large rope Hammock supported by a few trees as much as we had fun rolling around in them. Some of the couples also effectively used the smaller individual rope hammocks for intimate moments, probably trying to compensate for sharing the common room, which was duly captured by my zoom camera, to become the priced photos for the jokes and fun we shared. Someone even mentioned the name of a Hindi movie starting with Jungle to aptly describe the happenings.

We had hardly set out for nature walk along the road to the resort with a guide, when we saw a ‘spotted deer’, who looked quite comfortable with the frequent visitors to this place and were not bothered even when we got very close, probably only a couple of meters from them. The guide explained that it was common to see Deer’s and Wild Boars inside the premises of the resort.

The walk was very nice, relaxing, with hardly anything on the road to disturb the peace, with only the sound of birds and the rustling leaves following us, reminding of the wilderness enclosing us, allowing us to share soft discussions and moments of collective solitude.

The men of the trip was feeling adventurous and requested the guide to take us on a trek through the forest, which he agreed after a little persuasion together with a slight hint of tips. So we left the women in the comfort of the room and after agreeing with their demand not to be over adventurous, set out to explore the forest with lot of expectations for some unique occurrences. It was definitely an experience with the narrow path, at times completely covered with trees and shrubs, providing visibility of only a few feet, and combination of the diminishing day light and stories of the guide explaining about the encounters with wild animals including tigers along the path, mixed our expectations with a slightest of hidden fear, to provide the much sought after different experience. I should admit that for our disappointment or comfort we did not encounter any wild animals, and we could only see the foot prints and droppings of few animals which were exaggeratingly described by our guide.

We returned to the rooms by twilight and had tea with light snacks. Some of us watched a wildlife movie at the audio-visual room, others choosing to play a quick game of table Tennis or Carrom or just relax. After changing to some comfortable clothes, we went to the Gol Ghar, which had a campfire on one side surrounded by people, having discussions, some over a glass of drink, munching the unlimited starters provided by the staff. The night was cold and it took a while for us to get a few comfortable seats next to the campfire, to enjoy a few drinks and starters along with the high level discussions. The ladies preferred a more quite place in the Gol Ghar, and looked very comfortable with their gossips without us, probably enjoying their freedom as much as we were. It was pleasant surprise to find our ladies asking us continue with our ‘discussions’ and retiring to the room looking seemingly happy after their dinner. When we went back to room we could still find them laughing and visibly enjoying their private discussions. Soon it was time for Mark’s Ghost stories, which usually has a bigger introduction then the story itself, it took a while for Mark to exhibit his remarkable narration skills, thanks to the well disguised intimidating questions in the name of genuine curiosity by Mahesh. I should say we slept well, despite the odd efforts from some to scare the others.

Surprisingly, we were up and ready early in the morning for the much awaited Forest Safari. We traveled on the common road before entering the narrow mud roads going deeper in to the forest, as usual we saw herds of spotted dears, few Monkeys and wild boars on the way. We were also lucky to see Bisons, Barking Deer and some elephants.

To our pleasant surprise we saw couple of Elephants at very close range peacefully eating, not in the least bothered by our presence. My son has special fondness for elephants and was thrilled, Shouting ‘Ana Ana’ and pointing to the Elephants making sure none of us missed the great spectacle, only to be calmed by my apprehensive wife, as we were too close to the elephants for her comfort.
The thrill of watching wild elephants in their natural habitat from close quarters is an experience in itself, their unmatched majestic presence skillfully hiding their incredible power and potent threat. We stayed for while watching and admiring them, till my wife felt they had noticed us and had taken the smallest of the steps towards us, urging us to move on.

We returned from the Safari and had delicious breakfast at the resort. There is a beautiful lake right in front of the Jungle lodges, to our joy we realized that the elephant ride was along the path circling the lake. We spent sometime sitting and relaxing, admiring the beautiful lake and pleasant surroundings.
It was really surprising to see my son so excited at seeing the Elephant and at the prospect of riding it, I was thinking probably he will get a little intimidated by the real size of the animal, in reality we had to hold on to him to make sure he did not fall from the high platform built to climb on to the Elephant, in his effort to jump on to its back even before it reached.
The Elephant ride was real pleasure, 5 of us sitting comfortably and enjoying the slow and steady swaying motion, occasionally waving at the rest of our friends below. It was sheer joy to see the happiness on my son’s face, resting my initial doubts whether he may get a little scared on top of the Elephant, the satisfaction of seeing my son enjoying so much was beyond comparison.

We left the jungle lodges by 12:00 noon had a simple lunch (which is the only option in these regions) at Kollegal. We reached Barachukki falls by 3:00 pm and made the one kilometer steep climb down to the foot of the falls. To our disappointment the place was very crowded, and most of my friends decided not to take bath under the falls, but the temptation of the chilling fresh waters was too much for me. I jumped into the waters, swam a little, reached under the falls and enjoyed a quick refreshing shower, my son also joining me for a very short while. The climb up from the falls was little tiring as usual and we ensured we did it well before dusk.

We reached by around 9 PM feeling that we saw and did a lot of things in just the two days and one night, and also relaxing as much a possible. This trip will have fond memories because all the odds (like traveling in Tempo Traveler, Difficulty in getting the rooms, Sharing a common room, Mark the only bachelor, my young son) all becoming positive sources for collective joy and fun. It is amazing to know that a group of like minded and fun loving friends can overcome any odds. I would like to appreciate all the friends, who made this trip so enjoyable and meaningful.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chelsea geared up for the testing times?

Chelsea is one of the teams doing extremely well these days. They are leading the EPL and have already qualified as group leaders in the Champions league. More importantly they are getting close to the invincibility associated with Chelsea team, during their prime under Jose Mourinho. They are definitely looking like the favorites for EPL, so what do I mean by testing times. Last year this time Chelsea was almost in the same position, leading the table with Liverpool when they played the critical (proved later) match with Arsenal on 30th November which they lost 1-2 thanks to the 2 goals by Van Persie.

This was critical because it started their decline, ultimately getting the manager Scholari dismissed. If history can be given any merit Chelsea will be aware of this fact at the back of their minds. So this weekend’s match with Arsenal can be testing times for the character of the Chelsea players, one which I believe will crucial to their hopes of winning the EPL this year, considering also the fact that they will be playing much of January with out some of their key players, unavailable due to the African Cup.

I do not believe in history too much, and feel Chelsea will not crumble like last time, even if they lose the match this weekend, but then Foot ball is a strange game with unpredictable results and anything is possible. So lets wait and watch one of the much awaited matches of this season with our fingers crossed, as this might be more crucial then it seems.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mumbai, Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar

This was an unplanned trip, my dear friend Ashwith had to collect his ‘Captains’ certificate from Mumbai and I thought of accompanying him and plan a trip to Lonavala, Khandala, Mahabaleshwar and Pune from there, instead of going to Lakshadweep as decided earlier. Ashish, Ashwith’s younger brother also decided to join us to make it the awesome threesome.

The trip started on high note, we took the jet airways flight at 7:00 AM from Bangalore to Mumbai. Reached by 9:30 and checked into the hotel “Dream Land” which we had booked through phone after seeing the ad in the internet. The room here surprised all of us, it had just enough space for the 3 people and considering the size of my two friends it would be technically correct to say that we just fit into the room. We were fine with room though, as we had no intention of staying in the room for too long anyway. We went in search of MMD (Mercantile Marine Department) and after a couple of rounds in the two square kilometer area we finally found the place in the Nav Bhavan building.

After confirming the availability of the certificate we were asked to come back to this place by 3:00 PM. We took a taxi to ‘Gateway of India’, the concrete gate erected to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. This place is quite beautiful with the sea on one side and the very famous Taj hotel on the other. We took a few pictures, notably some with the pigeons, which are abundant here.

All the windows of Taj had pigeons perched on them, adding to the beauty of Taj. The place does not have any evidences left behind to indicate that this was the same hotel which was attacked by infamous terrorists, except may be for the extra policemen stationed here. We started walking and soon found a simple and good looking B&R and decided to have our lunch, Ashwith and I shared a bottle of beer and couple of glasses of Breezer. The close by street had a lot of roadside vendors selling ‘branded watches’ among other articles, they had all the major watches, most of them having slightly different spellings from the originals, I settled for a Tommy Hilfiger watch, spelt correctly, for 275 rupees mostly because of the interesting conversation we had with the Malayali vendor.

We went to collect the certificate by 3 and we were all seated in the common waiting room (actually an examination hall), most of the people there was formally dressed including Ashwith in contrast to the T-shirt and 3/4th shorts that I had worn, I sat a few seats behind to make sure that my appearance do not hinder his chances of getting the certificate sooner and probably because I could effectively utilize the waiting time by taking a small nap, luckily he got the certificate by 3:45 PM. We were deciding what to do next when Ashwith found that there very few things to see close to where we were staying, near the Victoria Terminus. He came up with the names of a fountain, Chowpati beach and necklace road or marine drive as the possible places to see. We took a taxi to the Chowpati beach, by now it had started drizzling, and the beach had very few visitors, we had Pav Bhaji and Pani Puri from one of the many shops here.

We covered almost the entire stretch of necklace road by foot over the neatly constructed stone pavement, lined with stone seats providing convenient options visitors to sit and talk freely. We went to the fountain next, and could not find anything of tourist importance there; we had dinner close to our hotel along with a drink each (except Ashish) before returning to our room.

We decided to take a train to Lonavala and got into the Bangalore bound Udyan express which left at 8:00, this was considered to be one of the faster trains, unfortunately we reached lonavala by 12:15 a good 90 minutes behind schedule, because of some unavoidable blockages. The scenery on the way to Lonavala was superb; it was wonderful to see the mountains covered in greenery and mist, its beauty enhanced by the soft drizzle providing it a fresh and clean look.

We had one of the most interesting discussions in the train, ranging from marriage and love to family and spiritualism. On the funny side it was great to know some people actually loved to make girls sit on their lap and pinch their cheeks. I could not avoid but let my imagination run wild, and laugh away thinking about this beautiful young bride sitting next to her husband, her cheeks swollen red with the constant pinching she was receiving, and involuntarily moving her cheeks away as soon her husband approaches her.

We took an auto and checked few hotels, including the MTDC hotel which we thought was a good place from the photos provided in the internet, in reality though this place was quite ordinary; finally we decided to take a room in a centrally located hotel with good looking room and even better looking restaurant with super ambience. We had a delicious lunch from this place along with our, now usual, two drinks.

The hotel also arranged a site seeing taxi to take us to Karla Caves, Khandala, Munshi dam and few other view points. The Karla caves looked ordinary for me after having seen the caves at Ellora and Ajantha, except the main entrance cave which was actually a prayer hall, with uncharacteristic columns of wood on the ceiling.

It was splendid with sculptures of faces on the huge stone pillars and huge central dome (dome like structure) with a provision for seating on top of it.
It is believed that if you pray and throw a coin to top of the dome and if it does not fall down then your prayers will be fulfilled. I tried and was successful in the third attempt, I am not sure what I prayed though as I was concentrating more on making sure the coin stays there. This place is not very well maintained and paths to some of the smaller caves, was literally not usable because of the stench of urine among other things and also the slippery state because of the rains.

The rain played spoilsport to what could have been a wonderful outing; most of the places we went to see were covered with mist, with very less visibility, the soft cold breeze also adding to our misery. We could not make out how different one view point was from the other, including the view from Khandala park.

The experience was quite unusual, the mist and cool breeze was providing a beautiful setting for the much sought after different experience, for which we actually were not prepared. All along the cab driver was happy it had started raining as it attracts more tourists to this place. Surprisingly what we had witnessed was the specialty of this place, which the visitors come to experience and enjoy, it was certainly was an experience, which we could not enjoy much, probably we were not equipped like some of the tourists we saw on our way.

We were back in our rooms by around 6:00 PM and after some rest went to buy the real specialty of this place, Chikkis. The streets were filled with huge shops selling Chikki’s, we also brought a lot of them from a shop called Maganlal’s, which looked like the most renowned vendor there with more than 3 shops in around 200 meter area.

Next morning we took a taxi to Pune, primarily to ensure that we travel on the famous express highway. The expressway was a good experience especially the scenery, the long dark tunnels and the fact that our taxi, an Indica was doing 140 Kms/hour with out much snag, a clear testimony to the supreme condition of the roads and safety precautions considered. I also noticed that apart from the Expressway the parallel main road between Mumbai and Pune was also in a very good condition.

We took the Asiad bus (I have no clue why it is named so) from Swargate bus stand in the outskirts of the town to our next destination Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, which Nestles in the curvaceous mountain ranges of the Western ghats. Overlooking the Krishna and Koyna valleys, Mahabaleshwar, at an altitude of 1372 meters opens up a whole world of picturesque delight.
The 2 odd hour’s journey to Mahabaleshwar was beautiful, with mesmerizing view of the magnificent mountains, mist and small streams. We checked a couple of hotels recommended by the local guides near the bus stand and selected one at the center of the city, the hotel also arranged a cab for site seeing, which we started soon at about 3:30 PM.

The first destination was Old Mahabaleshwar to see a few old temples, which looked like the ones from China or atleast from the North East India with the mist adding a very unique touch to its looks, these were nice even though they were not too big and looked pretty ordinary if not for the mist.

The main temple was called Panchganga and water from five different rivers that is the Koyna, Krishna, Venna, Savitri and Gayatri join in this place, flowing to a small pond in the temple, giving it its name. We had a late and light lunch at about 4 PM at local place, although I do not remember what exactly we ate, I certainly remember it being very tasty.

We moved to Kates Point, Echo Point and Needles Hole (I am not 100% sure of the names) located in close proximity to each other, basically different views from the same hill in a kilometers radius.

The views were magnificent, with the mountains wrapped in the mist, guiding a cool breeze towards you sending a wave of freshness caressing your face and enriching you with unique sensations. I must admit that views were quite similar, thanks to the mist and drizzle.

The most interesting aspect of this place is the shops selling Strawberry and Ice creams, these shops take pride in exhibiting the photos of film stars who have visited them, and they had a great collection. It was like most of the Bollywood stars have visited this place one time or the other. The Ice cream with fresh strawberries, specialty of the place, was excellent, their taste embedding pleasant memories which will flood your mouth with water at the slightest recollection.

The next place we visited was the Lamington Plateau (again I am not sure of the name) which is good 2 kilometers trek from the road, through a remote and narrow path. There are guides in this place who will guide you to the plateau and other destination called Wilson’s Point, unfortunately no guide was interested to come with us because of the drizzle, so we traveled alone, with a not a soul in sight for long periods.

The plateau was beautiful right on top of the hill, providing you almost a 360 degree view of the surroundings, which unluckily for us was fully covered with mist, providing visibility of just a few meters. I must admit that although it deprived us some beautiful scenery it did provide us with unique opportunity to be covered in the thick mist enveloping us with the chillness, on a plateau on top of, one of the biggest hills of the area.

In the evening we had a long walk in the narrow streets of Mahabaleshwar town, which is lined with shops selling all kinds of things, we though did not buy anything of importance apart from the elephant train which I picked up for my son. Fortunately or should I say unfortunately all the wine shops in this place was closed for the day because of some local festival and we had to make ourselves comfortable in the cold and beautiful weather with out the good ‘spirits’.

Morning we took the bus to Pune, enjoying the beautiful scenery on the way. We reached Pune and settled ourlselves in the comfort of the hotel which was again recommended by an auto rickshaw driver. We were a feeling a little lazy and also a little confused as to what to do in Pune, One of the places we did not want to miss is a Mosque called Hazrat Quamer Ali Durvesh which was suggested by Ashwiths Dad. This place is famous because of a unique stone which can be lifted by finger tips of 11 people with relative ease. We took an auto to this place only to realize that it was almost on the way to Pune from Mahabaleshwar, with hardly a kilometer diversion inside to reach the Mosque. We had the luck to see the actual sight of the stone being lifted using only the index fingerstips of 11 faithful men. Believe it or not but it looked like miracle when the stone was lifted in a smooth motion and I did not feel anyone actually straining to lift the quite a large stone.

We did nothing in the morning and wasted time till we left to the railway station. The train journey was a nightmare as only one of our three seats/berths was confirmed, the train was full and we were desperately trying to get a couple more berths before the night.

Luckily for us the train had 3 births on the side, and the bookings were only for two berths as the railways had cancelled bookings for side middle berths because of the obvious complaints from the uncomfortable passengers. This was first time and probably the only time I thanked Lalu for introducing the stupid idea of side middle births, which actually is a real pain in the wrong place. We were allocated two of these middle births for a sum of 200 rupees which we paid to the ticket collector, and slept well to reach Bangalore in the morning. My sincere advice is to never travel on a waiting list ticket even if it is WL1 and 2, as it spoilt the experience of the train travel, the uncertainty of getting a birth and lack of dedicated seats for all of us, did not allow us to relax and enjoy the journey.

On the whole it was a wonderful trip with lots of beautiful moments and cherished memories, the hill stations in Maharashtra I felt is very different to the ones in South India, to which I have traveled extensively, the mist, the slight drizzle, the markets and the surroundings are different and is an unusual experience quite unlike the South. Incase you traveling to these places be prepared for the rain, as they say ‘chance favors the prepared mind’.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Wayanad Experience

Unpredictability is not the most comfortable word to use for starting of a trip, but this was one of those rare occasions where we could not avoid it. This trip was actually planned for 7 of us, one of the friends Jithu dropped out initially, another friend Mahesh dropped out on the previous day. There were also concerns for two of us, Nagu had his brother admitted in Hospital and my Son was down with fever. So we were not sure till the morning of the journey whether we will actually make it, to our credit though we had decided we will go even if we have 4 people and I had decided by the previous evening that I will be making the journey. We had already booked the Innova to pick us from Ejipura at 6:00 AM, and Nagu was supposed to come in the vehicle.

It was with apprehension that Ben waited near the pickup point at 6:00 AM, he was soon joined by Mark and me, by around 6:15 Nagu arrived in the Innova for our pleasant surprise and soon we had picked up Deepak, and the 5 of us were on our way. It was around 8:30 that we reached Maddur and all of us were excited that we were finally on our way, we had a light breakfast and was tempted by the ‘other shop’ near by, we thought we will be prepared and brought a couple of bottles of well refined spirit, and could not help opening one of them and having couple drinks each. This put to rest all the unpredictability and got us to the ‘enjoy maadi’ feeling which we are so used to in our travel. The events which unfolded in the course of the next two days was nothing short of amazing, making us all agree that this one of the best trips we had.

We reached Gundlupet 11:00 AM and had Chapathi and chicken curry from the Mallu hotel called ‘Hotel New Calicut’. We crossed Gundlupet and as we approached the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary about 16 kms from Sulthan Bathery, we saw the most admirable sight, a large herd of Elephants, around 30 of them, were crossing the road and we forced to stop and admire the elegance and grandeur of this majestic creatures at close quarters.

One huge Bull ( corrected as Matriarch Aka Alpha Female, courtesy Mark's comments)who looked liked the leader of the gang, waited patiently at one side of the road waiting for the rest of his herd to cross the road at their own pace. Some of us even ventured out of the vehicle and stood about 12-15 meters from them, appreciating their dignified supremacy. We had also clicked a few photos as testimony to our great experience.

We were so lost in our admiration that we failed to notice a single bull approaching our vehicle from one of the sides; we were informed of the same by the thoughtful driver of a Kerala RTC bus. We just had enough time to get into the vehicle and start moving, before noticing that, the Elephant chasing us with a slow run, had reached within a few meters of our vehicle, to our relief the animal did not continue the chase. It looked like his intention was just to make us move from an arguably critical position on the road, where we were stationed for a long time, unintentionally hindering the peaceful movement of the herd across the road. It would be fair to say the experience ‘shook’ us a little as none of us even thought of taking the picture of the charging Elephant in the thick of the moment.

We reached the Muthanga WLS at distance of about 16 kms from Sulthan Bathery and went for the Jeep ride hoping to see more Elephants, only to be disappointed, and had to be satisfied with occasional sights of Deer’s and other common animals. We were frustrated enough to get down from the Jeep and walk around completely unaware of potential threat as this was the same place where a infamous elephant called Mozha in Malayalam (which was neither male or female as told by the guide, corrected as a Male Bull with a recessive gene), questionably the most dangerous of all the Elephants, had charged the jeeps on more than one occasion (Ben and family also experienced it after a few months). The experiences made us realize that we should be little more careful, and give the wild animals their due respect and not to blindly trust the drivers/guides to be supermen. We had a late lunch of fish and rice from a quite little hotel, which had no objection to us even having a couple drinks inside there, probably because it was too late and there was hardly any customers apart from us.

We booked our stay in Sulthan Bathery at a small but beautiful and comfortable lodge, at a very reasonable rate. After a small debate we decided to go to Meenmutty falls, only to realize that the falls was a good 2 odd kilometers trek through the wilderness which was supposedly frequented by wild animals in the night, and it was compulsory to take guide with us as it was easy to get lost in this place (we were really thankful we did as we realized later it would have been a nightmare to reach back before dark with out his help) The trek was really strenuous as we were literally climbing down a hill with a small narrow treacherous path formed by the steps of the frequent travelers as the only visible route, after a few meters Mark decided to stay back because of the unfriendly trail, a great decision that we realised later as we all found it really difficult to make it back to the top.

The falls though is worth every bit of the ordeal, it is the most imposing falls in the Wayanad district with an impressive height of 300 meters, the falls as I understand has three tiers with three diverse trekking routes, equally dangerous to the different tiers.

What a site it was to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wilderness, under the beautiful falls, enjoying the water of the falls hitting you hard creating a unique bliss. We played and swam in the small pond formed under the waterfalls to forget our tiredness, and also utilized the astounding surrounding to have drink or two, appreciating the true sense of being there.

The climb back from the falls was really a mystery, our fitness and stamina put to a challenging test, we, atleast most of us was found wanting, 3 out of 4 of us had to sit down at different occasions from a strange feeling of exhaustion, almost making us dizzy enough to think whether we will be able to continue the journey. It was weird to note that this always happened to the person who was carrying the only backpack bag which was quite heavy with the wet clothes. We needed the help of the guide who carried the bag for about one third of the journey, to make it safely to the top, and need I say, it was a relief to make it. This was a good eye opener for us about our fitness, which prompted some of us to be more active with occasional morning walks, and also Cricket and Football games. (We would not like to give the excuse of the slightly heavy backpack for our unpleasant experiences as it will spoil our occasional enjoyable attempt to improve our fitness). We were all filled with a unique feeling, of physical and mental exhaustion, and gentle satisfaction of success, quite unlike any other going back to the room.

The next morning we went to the Pookot Lake, a beautiful and peaceful place at distance of about 13 kms from Kalpetta. The Lake is equipped with boating options of a few different types. Deepak and I took a self rowing boat and the others a peddle boat, and enjoyed sensation of being lost in the waters on our own and also the attempt at learning the art of rowing.
There is small path around the lake and it is nestled amid tall trees and dense wilderness, adding to the beauty of the place. One can also ride a Horse on this path, for a very nominal fee. There is also a small aquarium here and few shops selling honey and spices apart from usual tea shop, like most places in Kerala.

Our next destination Banasura Dam, the largest earth dam in India 20 kilometers from Kalpetta was a memorable experience. The main attraction of this place is the speed boating, in the dam’s reservoir having small islands which were formed when the dam was constructed, submerging the surrounding areas.

The access to speed boats is a few kilometers from the main entrance of this tourist place, and we need to travel in their vehicle to reach there as no private vehicles are permitted. We befriended a very nice Malayalee gentle man who works there, whose name I would not like to mention, and we were given a royal treatment.

He ensured that we got a speedboat (the drivers are not always available) and even allowed to have a few drinks in the isolated shelter which was the waiting area for the boats. His recommendation also came in handy for us to convince the driver and have a few cans of beer while traveling in the boat.

The experience was out of the world, to speed past the small islands, with the water splashing on our faces, sipping on chilled beer and feasting our eyes on the beautiful waters in back drop of the charming hills and beautiful islands. We were so thrilled that we took extra ride, and spent more than 30 minutes boating, made possible by the generous tip given to the driver. I suggest that if you come here do not miss the speed boat ride at any cost; it is really special in this place. There is also a government guest house available in this place which extremely reasonable to stay, but has to be booked in advance.

It was our second day in God’s own country and it was only fair that we have the taste of the very famous traditional local drink called Toddy. We selected a Toddy shop close to Mananthavady for the unique ‘spiritual’ experience. The toddy shops are very famous for their excellent cuisine, with the a little bit of extra spice forming an unmatched mouth watering combination with the lingering taste of Toddy, and this place was no exception.

It would be fair to say that by the time we reached our friend, Deepak’s native home to visit his grand mom we were really high, both in spirit and remarkable experiences. We left Mananthavady at around 6:00 PM reached Bangalore at 10:30 PM, stopping only for a brief dinner near Chennapatna. The trip although short was rich with incomparable experiences, making it revered among one of the best we have had.