What a week

It started on last saturday and is still continuing. Shyam, his wife Hamsa, Carly & myself met up for lunch at Sparkys in Chennai. Later we proceeded to Jacobs house where Carly impressed everyone by singing the song “Udal Mannuku Uyir Thamizhuku” from the movie “Iruvar“. This was followed by the movie Baasha, of course thalaivar Rajinikanth.
Night was real pain at Dominos Pizza outlet on Taramani Road in Chennai. The guy across the counter was real smart to take more than 2 customers order at the same time and screwed up my order.
Back to Bangalore on Sunday 3 days in the week was filled by cycling 35kms a total of 105kms. And on Wednesday it rained so hard that I was cycling all the way home from office in heavy rains and flooded roads. It was fun and scary too.
Not just cycling I managed to run 5kms thrice and each time clocked 28mins. I should improve further and extend my run soon.
It wasnt complete without reading the adventure of Vishwanath Anand to reach Sofia on time. I wish him all the best in his championship games against Topalov.
And Chennai Super Kings won the tense semi-finals match in IPL to set final clash against Mumbai Indians. Chennai Super Kings uku whistle podu and I want them to lift the IP cup.
Now am packing my bags for the next travel. Destination this time is Calicut and I hope to do some running practise on the beach. So, my shoes are coming along.

Royal Knights Celebration Ride 4

Ooty the destination for CR4 ride of Royal Knights Motorcyle Club. Saturday 10th April 2010, 4:00am Debraj calls me by when am already awake and setting things in order. 4:30am we meet sharp @ Raheja Arcade and ride to Metro on Kanakapura Road. Unlike other rides that I have been with this time 5:15am start did not mean 6:15am start.
IndraDhanush @ Maddur was the breakfast point. Idlli’s + vada’s the usual breakfast. When we reached Mysore it was 9:45am and that was a pleasant surprise. But it did not last for long. Few bikes ran into problems. We rode we waited, we rode we waited. And managed to reach Pug Marks restaurant @ Bandipur quite late. Not very late to see empty plates. The cost of a buffet meal is quite high. (I never understand why if there are lot of customers, restaurants charge exorbitantly)
Through the forest we enter TamilNadu state border and Mudumalai forest. Mudumalai (TamilNadu), Bandipur (Karnataka) and Muthunga (Kerala) form a big forest area. We climb up and reach Masinagudi. After few kms starts the real ride. 36 hair-pin bends, steeper than 40 hair-pin bends (maximum in South India) to Valparai. At some bends the view was real amazing. Unfortunately being in a group I did not want to stop time and again to click photos. When solo I would have stopped at many places, clicked photo and left and at some sat for some time.
In these bends its difficult to get the vehicle up at 3rd gear and many times its required to be in 1st gear. And that leads to heating up. Some bikes had clutch plate issues, some brake.
Finally when we reached Hill Country Resort @ Lovedale it was 6:00pm. What a ride. Hill Country resort is a property of two brothers. Its high priced but a very good place for relaxation. 5kms away from Ooty towards Conoor is on a small village Lovedale.

It was time to freshen up after welcome tea and biscuits. 4 of us went to town to buy some stuff while others were getting ready. Then the party started with introduction of knights, cake cutting and bonfire with music and dance. Some of us continued having fun till midnight. It was time to feast on ice-cream. All dispersed and 4 of us sat through the entire night chatting and laughing. At 5:00 in the morning two of us decided to take a walk. Re-kindled the remains of bonfire to start it again with some left over papers. The heat helped in the chillness and watched the sunrise before we went to take some rest. Thanks to the 3 for giving me company thru the night.
When I woke up it was around 9:00am and after some lazing around managed to get up and head for breakfast. Not before a good shower. Breakfast was elaborate with idlli’s, vada’s. Two went to fix their bike while another bike had some other problems. With no solution in sight we left few and rest of the group headed back. With few stoppages I reached Bangalore at 10:15pm.

Was very different from past rides. More groupism was noticed which is good for the club. The best part about this club as compared to other clubs is that everyone waits even if one has some issues with the motorbike. The motto is quite simple, we ride together and we be together. There were lot of times that someones bike had an issue and everyone waited.
Not upto 100% in terms of group riding formation as there are new guys in every ride and its quite new for them. But group riding in this club has evolved over time. Somethings which I would always suggest is to use hand signals, look into rear-view mirror, never overtake from left. Am not perfect to comment a lot on this. One strong thing I would suggest is to do a proper service before a long ride especially when it is up the ghats. Riding on plains would not have impacted many bikes.

Kanha National Park

The money that we spent at Kanha National Park for spotting a tiger overshot not only our budget but also the expense of the entire trip combined. From Jabalpur there is a direct bus to Kanha at 11:00am. With bad roads at specific places and stops included the journey is about 5hrs. We found our accommodation at Panther Resort for Rs.400/- a night. 1/2km from the resort and towards the national park was where we had our dinner. It was more of “On Demand Service”. You order what you want then he would cook. But very tasty.
We booked for the jeep in the evening itself at the resort. The cost for the jeep was Rs.1500/-. This is standard.
What I find as crazy is the high charge for foreigners to visit the park while it is less for Indians. What do foreigners have or bring with them that we Indians dont? When the goverment itself fixes special price for foreigners how can one expect auto drivers to charge less for foreigners?
The entrance fees to the park was Rs.2180/- for 3 of us. And the jeep would take us around the park from 5:15am till 11:00am. Sandeep Yadav our jeep driver was waiting for us. About 945sq. kms of area and an evergreen park, saal trees are common. There are 89 tigers was what our guide Chandrakanth told.

4hours later we were yet to spot a tiger! We saw birds, soft deer, spotted deers, indian gaur, monkeys, wild dogs, peacock. All but no tiger. Time and again our guide and other guides in other jeeps would stand up to listen to sounds of birds but they could never hear a tiger.
With no point in wasting time we decided to go out of the national park. Our driver was very sad to be taking us out with showing us a tiger. When we reach the gate of the park, the staff told tiger was spotted and we could head back inside. This is called tiger show. They charge Rs.100/- for Indians and Rs.600/- for foreigners. You would have to climb on top of elephant and they will take you near the tiger for a glimpse of it. If luck is not on your side tiger might run away and your money will be refunded. Dont worry though. They ensure that they dont scare away the tigers.
Getting the tickets off we went and climbed on top of elephant and into the bushes. Not far away was this lazy tiger. 6 elephants surrounding it still the tiger did not budge. How many tigers did we see? ONE (1).

With summer there is more probability of spotting a tiger but keep your fingers crossed. You might never see one also.

For all photos @ the park from my camera click here.

Omkareshwar

A holy island on Narmada river, Omkareshwar is more of pilgrimage place than a tourist place.

From Indore when we reached here and went up to Manu Guest House our minds changed to spend two nights at this place. It was calm, serene, soft breeze, Narmada river below, land on other side. Manu Guest House charges Rs.100/- per person and they also serve dinner for Rs.50/- which is to be told in advance. Manu has a tailor shop near the bridge before entering the island.
Gola was the favorite eat of Gapp. And we three always went to the same dhaba for food.

The dhaba guys were very happy on seeing us that he would serve us more all the time. Even if we say enough rotis, he would give us one more. Jalebis also came special with food.
In the evening we walked towards Sangam. The river flows around the island and meets at this point. Our search was for peace and we did find it in the end. “HARI OM”. Enroute we cant forget the sarcastic smile on the face of girl at tea shop.

The next two days we went around the island in the morning. Rest of the time was spent just sitting on the balcony of guest house.

For photos of Omkareshwar from my camera, click here.

Gunaga, Village Tour

Curiousity, shyness, non-stop talking, excitement all was seen in the eyes of villagers when we got down the bus from Bhopal. A small village Gunaga, 25kms from Bhopal off the highway.
Why is there a foreigner. Whats Indians doing with her. Why stop here. What is there to see for tourists in a village.

Surrounded by villagers was no way frightening compared to drunk taxi driver at Bhopal railway station. When they take you to their house it is a moment of pride for them. It is also a mark of their hospitality towards visitors.

Especially when you are there to talk to people and understand them.
We visited Prem BanshiLal and Nazeem Khans house. Father of Nazeem Khan said “I have driven trucks all over India but this place is where I find peace. We live together and there is nothing more I want.”
Prem & his kids Nazeem Khan family
Agriculture is the main profession here and everything revolves around cultivation. After chatting at their house we started playing marbles and the kids found a connect.

They became more closer. Kids were very excited. Everyone gathered to say goodbye to us when it was time to leave.

Click here for all photos from my camera.

Madhya Pradesh Tour

March 26th 2010 night 10:00pm we three Carly, GAPP & myself got on to train (Yeshwantpur – Nizamudin expres) to Bhopal.
3 Idiots
Our ticket had moved to RAC. And we had to share the berth. A tiring journey sitting together in the morning in small space on the side lower berth. I managed to kill time by reading a book.

We reached Bhopal at 11:00pm and a taxi driver harassed us on seeing an American girl with us. All slangs and threatening to go to police when we did not agree to get on to his taxi. We just kept walking went out of station and with Lonely Planet book checked the hotels nearby and settled at Hotel Manjeet. Very close to railway station and bus stand. Bhopal looks very much under-developed for a capital city. Harassment at bus stand & at train station & by auto/taxi drivers does not leave a good mark about the city. A few people give a wrong impression about the city.

Next day morning we took a bus to Gunaga.

Click here for experience at Gunaga.

After our wonderful experience in the vilage we returned to Bhopal and took evening bus to Indore. A journey of 5hrs. We were harassed here also at the bus stand by auto drivers but not much as at Bhopal. When we said “NO” they left. There were cops on the roads. The city is beautiful in night time and is far more developed than Bhopal. We found accomodation in Hotel Neelam.
Next day morning we took bus to Omkareshwar. A journey of 2hrs. The bus conductor was very friendly and we had good laughs with him. Rs. 50/- per person.
Click here to read on the relaxed stay at Omkareshwar.

Omkareshwar to Indore by a 2:30pm bus. At Indore, we booked our tickets through Ambey Travels for a 14hr journey to Jabalpur. The sleeper bus is at 7:30pm. With sufficient time we decide to check out Celebrations Bakery. This bakery has a token system and is a self service bakery. Well maintained and good ambience.
The 14hrs journey was a tiring and a tough one. With bumpy roads and well deserved breaks. The bus was clean though. Once we reached Jabalpur again harassment by auto drivers. Evading them out we went to Indian Coffee House. A nice coffee and sometime for refreshing ourselves. We were back to the bus stand for the 11:00am bus to Kanha.

Click here to read more on spotting tigers @ Kanha National Park.

1:00pm is the last direct bus from Kanha to Jabalpur. Otherwise one should break the journey from Kanha – Mandla, Mandla – Jabalpur. Once we reached Jabalpur the same situation again with auto drivers. Hotel Vijan Place which is supposedly the biggest hotel around refused to accommodate us. Opposite this is Hotel Sardha and we found accommodation there without any issues. Of course they were hospitable also. The cyber cafe where we went was a surprise with an old dot-matrix printer and the lady was an IAS officer at Central Excise Department. A tamilian settled over there it was a welcome change from all the straing eyes and harassing auto drivers. Hotel Anand was where we had dinner and Gulmohar for ice-cream.
Next day morning we boarded train to Yeshwantpur. Dont try the 24hrs Food Plaza at the station in the morning. The food is stale and probably yesterday’s.

The worst part of the train journey (Lucknow – Yeshwantpur express) back home was on Sunday morning when the train did not stop for almost 7hrs. It slowed down in Gudur junction to facilitate food vendors to hop on. Rest of the journey was peaceful.

At Bangalore Yeshwantpur station an innocent auto driver asked for Rs.280/- to drop us at Malleswaram 6th Cross. Imagine the shocker I got.

Click here to view all photos from my camera.