Quick Bangalore Getaways- Conquering Makalidurga- Part II

Makalidurga is a great rail and hill trek, and can be classified as a quick 2 hour getaway from Bangalore for light trekkers, with an option to camp out at the top of the hill.

This article continues from Part-1 We walked along the track till the sign-board of 54/400. This is the point when you turn left and start climbing the mountain to start the actual ascent part of the trek. There is no best time as such to trek. We did this early i the morning at 6 am, after sleeping the night at a pyol of a house, next to the railway station. You could do this trek in a day.

Rail Trek to Makalidurga
Railway Tracks near Makalidurga

As we started the ascent, we were not quite able to find the exact route to the top of the hill. We were content with a little trek, and wanted to soak in the views of the this little hill just doing trainspottting. Waiting for the train seemed fun from the time, the twilight gave way to the morning sun.

Makalidurga Fort Trek
Trainspotting from a Hill!

Usually trains from Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam, and Hyderabad, find their way through this route before stopping at Yelahanka railway station.

Rail Trek from Makalidurga
Trainspotting!

The train seemed to be the only real attraction to look at from this height apart from the peace and calm one expects to find at this height and isolation. I was told that there would be views of Gudamagere lake nearby, but that is something we did not find during our trek. A blogger however recalls the views of the lake from the top. That’s something for our next trip, where we spend more time trying to find the right directions to go to the top.

 

Or maybe, it was summer, there were very little of green growth of leaves, or water bodies around.

View from Makalidurga Rail Trek
Dry Summer!

 

We found a dilapitated structure on a plateau, which was amok with monkeys. It almost felt like we were unwelcome visitors to their part of the kingdom. A monkey was nibbling around the remnants of a Nandini Curd packet

Monkeys of Makalidurga
Monkey’s breakfast!

 

And then the monkey discovered it has company but by that time, it has devoured the contents of the packet dry.

Monkeys of Makalidurga
Sorry Mate, No Breakfast for you!

There was even a nice pool we discovered. Maybe if we came in the monsoons, this place could be fun, if we camp for a couple of days here.

Makalidurga Hill Trek to a Pool
Private Pool, but where are the humans?

The pool over looked a little house, and a small shrine. I did not see any humans at that spot though. The place looked very serene and simple, and I thought, I should now trek back down and maybe savour the morning breeze for a little snooze.

Makalidurga Hill Trek
Peace by the Pool

 

On the way back, I found a good rock to peacefully take a 10 minute nap, and then we proceeded back to the place where we had parked the car.

Makalidurga Hill Trek by the Railway Trek
Extra Peace by the hill

 

After earmarking the place, and a resolve to come back better prepared, we decided to leave back to the city and the trip with some tea and coffee, at the nearest sign of civilization.

Rail Trek to Makalidurga
Morning Chai!

Quick Bangalore Getaways- Conquering Makalidurga- Part I

I have always dreamt of going to a fantasy world, and returning in time to the normal world. Usually dreams are the only way to do that, but leaving that to the probability of how well my day went previously makes it tough even for fantasy dreams. So I was researching, if I could get off from Bangalore at 10 pm, drive to some place within a 75 kilometre radius, and then get home by 10 am to live the usual routine life. Such a place existed. Welcome to MakaliDurga.

 

WikiPedia says  the following about this little village.

Makalidurga is a hill fort situated near the village of the same name. It is 60 km north of Bangalore and 10 km after Doddaballapura on the way to gauribidanur. The fort at the summit has an old temple of Shiva with Nandi and in legend Markandeya Rishi performed penance here.

Makalidurga Fort stands at the top of a huge granite hillock, huddled up amidst the chains of hills, formed like a valley close to Ghati Subramanya, a well-known pilgrimage center. It has a fort on top, at the height of 1,117mts.

It has become one of the trekking destination for adventurers. Many people go for night trek to this place

Our trip started from Hebbal, and we took the road to Makalidurga, after a stop at a CCD in between. The hills were no where in sight. We only saw the expanded Bangalore city, until Yelahanka and then all of a sudden civilisation ended. We saw pitch dark roads, and no 2G signals, which meant Google Maps on a dying iPhone would not show us where we were. We trusted our gut and took a road to go a little further, when we hit civilisation in the form of a railway crossing at Dodaballapur.

 

 

Rail Trek to Makalidurga
A national train whizzes past at a railway crossing!

By the time, we hit the next railway crossing, there was no civilization around. It was just us, the three of us. A goods train passed our way to relieve us from the loneliness of spending time by the railway track.

 

Railtrek to Makalidurga
Goods Train Whizzing Past

We decided to wait for some day light to go up on the trek, since none of us had done research to go on the trail to the fort. We went back to a house near the railway station and slept on the floor, and kept an alarm to be woken up 4 hours later. We woke up, and took the car and parked it on a open grassland, near the railway track, and decided we would trek from there. A couple of other cars present, indicated that maybe we had spotted the right place to begin the trek.

 

Rail Trek to MakaliDurga
Parking SPot

 

More coming- Read Part 2 of ‘Conquering Makalidurga’

 

 

 

 

 

The Bangalore Winter!

We have all heard raving reviews on social media, when our brethren living in the North of India talk about the winter. #DilliKiSardi is usually trending at work and your social circles, and me coming largely from Chennai, I had not quite understood the fuss over winter. I decided to travel to Bangalore for a week for some work, and found myself living on the outskirts, so it was easy to zip off on a borrowed bike to the highways on the east of town to Hoskote for my morning tea. The air was bone chilling. There’s a reason why we Chennai folks call Bangalore as a hill station, since we aren’t used to so much of Chill. I used to stop driving every 10 minutes, since I made the cardinal sin of travelling in my shorts on the highway. My body needed external warmth and it was only through hot tea, that my body felt a little satiated.

 

One of the many Tea shops that I stopped at. I would order about 3-4 tea cups at each store during a stoppage. The halogen lighting of the street lights would add to the drama of this scene, where I am waiting with a cup, aimlessly watching passerby’s smoke cigarette rings in the air.

Blowing Rings in the Bangalore Winter
Blowing Rings in the Bangalore Winter

One Cigarette Ring viewed, meant I went and got another tea cup. This went on for about 10 minutes within which I had 4 tea cups.

 

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I proceeded to walk a little further to see how the visibility was on the service lane. I could barely see anything for more than 200 metres. I must admit that the bright lamps on vehicles was the only way I would know that there was a moving leviathan coming my way on the service lane. I decided to keep left on the service lane for the proximity to a tea shop. The last thing I wanted to be doing is to go on a highway for miles and be stranded without access to hot tea. Yes, a reason as silly as that for not going on the highway.

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A few metres ahead at the next tea shop junction, near Budigere Cross, I walked near the men who lit a fire. It was so blissful trying to feel the warmth from the fire. At that moment only the warmth mattered. It didnt matter that Airtel 4G was not coming, or the fact that my bike had little fuel. Everything else could wait. I was having a primal moment connecting me to focus just on the basics. I needed the warmth badly.

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In about an hour from then, the mist cleared and the roads were clear to drive. Atleast on the highways which were elavated I did not see too much mist.

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The roads were clear, and I was heading home after a brief but enjoyable 90 minutes out in the winter. My winter initiation had begun. Maybe Kashmir and Leh would be the next stops.

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The Lankan Beach Cure-Part 2

This little series explores Sri Lanka through its beaches. A day out at the beach along the Dehivala-Galle line shows up some beautiful sights. Join in me in my experiences in Sri Lanka

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I observed the boys playing cricket and it was beautiful observing the kids playing by the sea.  Every now and them, their shots had an audience in a moving train full of passengers. This was the rail from Galle to Colombo, steaming in to the city, at the outskirts of Colombo (Dehiwala)

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I found some grass to rest myself and spare myself from the searing sun. Beyond the grasslands, I found a structure that was closed and had no one, so I went ahead and rested by the pillars watching the Lankan shirtless kids sweat it out by the sea.

 

 

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Behind me, there were a few boats on which the couples started to converge. Some on the boat, some behind it and they seemed to enjoy the anonymity of the Poya day. The whole city had shut down, and they were left to themselves to spend some intimate moments under the umbrella, while the cricket continued with little audience interest. Pretty much like how ‘Test Cricket’ at grounds, run in most parts of the world on week days!

Post  mid-day, I had grown bored of watching the kids play and miss at the cricket, watching couples explore each other and watching the sea that was threatening to come inland and disturb the 2 games going on at the beach. The cricket and the love continued unabated.

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I said good bye to the boys, the grasslands and from a distance, saw the another set of couples spending time with each other, before I retired to the main road of Mount Laviniya. I had travelled about 3 kilometres on beach since morning and had documented almost every thing that happened on the beach the whole day, after I had started out from my hostel(Adikaram Sea View Hostel)

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But the stray coconuts probably watch things unfolding on the beach better than me. The coconut probably knows all of the gossips happening between people and objects by the sea. There’s infact an interesting blog in French Polynesia by that name, called Coconut Radio which says that “In French Polynesia when gossip is passed along from person to person we call it the coconut radio”. I had just played the Coconut Radio for Sri Lanka on Poya Day. I enjoyed it in silence, when I reminisced the day that just happened.

Food from ‘The Hole in the Wall’- Jannal Kadai in Chennai

As I walking down the crowded North Mada Street, and proceeded to turn right at the Ponnambala Vaidhiyar Street, the fresh smell from the flowers vendor’s catch, warmed me up for the gastronomic fare that lay ahead. I had heard about the ‘Window Shop’ (Jannal Kadai )store, that serves delicious evening snacks and breakfast near the temple, but had never managed to go there, despite being a local in the city of Chennai now for 26 years.

Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore
The Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore

I was a 100 metres away from the ‘Jannal Kadai’, and I had to wade through the sea of people who were walking in and out of the majestic Kapaleeswarar Temple. The temple, was facing one of its less crowded days. I have been here during the Mahashivratri festival and have seen crowds swell here, so today was mildly pleasant, also helped by the fact that Chennai was going through a rainy spell, so the humidity was bearable.

Jannal Kadai in Mylapore-Chennai
Crowds thronging ‘Jannai Kadai’ in the evening.

I walked a bit further and tried to spot where this shop was. A little further down the road, I saw a bunch of people crowding near a window. Could it be a flower vendor shop, or was it ‘THE JANNAL KADAI’? I saw people holding plates and consuming food. Maybe this was the place. I moved a little closer to the window, and saw a man, at the counter sitting at the level of the window, cross legged and collecting cash into a box. Flanking him were a couple of his team mates who were making ‘Bajji’, ‘Bondas, ‘Idli, ‘Vadai’ and ‘Dosai’. A quick 5 course (you-could-call-it-that-way) menu of an evening snack, by the temple.

Jannal Kadai in Mylapore-Chennai
Crowds thronging ‘Jannai Kadai’ in the evening.

 

The window to the shop, was partially covered by dried lemons and the image of a demon occupying space. Usually this is a sign of warding off evil spirits, usually found in many parts of South India at estabilishments, and even on vehicles. The more colourful are found on national lorries that ply on highways. The Tamil comedian Vivekh, takes a pot shot at such beliefs against Colourful demons-on-Lorries’ in a yesteryear movie called Minnale. [Watch it here from 1:50 to 4:25]

Looking through the window of Jannal Kadai
Looking through the window(Jannal)

As we lounged inside, and spoke to the person at the cash counter, we are told that this place is about 10 years old. Maybe he meant it for the business, but this was operating out of an olden days house, and the house must be a lot older. We settled for 2 plates of Dosai’s and 1 plate of ‘Molaga Bajji’. Just as we ordered, a fresh batch of bondas was placed by the windows to help the consumers make their choices easily, in the absence of a menu card.

Appetizing crisp bondas on display at Jannal Kadai in Mylapore
Bonda Ready Saar

We chose to give the bonda a miss, since I needed to be home. The Dosai, was made wet by Sambhar and chutney on it. The plate finished in double quick time, and I was gastronimically ready for a few more, but since I had to be at the other end of the city, I chose to settle the bill, and come back to Mylapore for a more detailed date with my stomach at the various eat outs in Mylapore. The Hindu newspaper, has done a good job in listing the places in Mylapore that you should keep a look out for. Do view them here, and come back to this blog, for more detailed reviews of all of these eat outs.

 

Till then, if you plan to go to this place, use this Google Maps Link.

 

 

 

 

Travel Photo Stories- Episode 1

How often do you dream of seeing an azure blue sea, as you travel beside it? I loved the thrills of being on the Galle-Colombo railway line in Sri Lanka, right beside the Indian Ocean. It was surreal and scary at the same time. It looked like the train was travelling on the ocean, since the height of the train window above the sea, was not so high. In India, I have been to Rameswaram, where the drive into Mandapam over the Pamban rail bridge is equally surreal but the height gives it away. The feeling is not quite the same as the train in Sri Lanka.

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The closest, I have been to seeing something at a similar level, though with very little water was on the rail line from Madgaon to Vasco in India, as the train nestles through Majorda, there emerges a little patch of beach, by which the lower tides of the Arabian Sea surface up near the railway line.

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Is there any railway line that you have seen lately, that you would like to share? Do let me know.

The Lankan Beach Cure-Part 1

This little series explores Sri Lanka through its beaches. A day out at the beach along the Dehivala-Galle line shows up some beautiful sights. Join in me in my experiences in Sri Lanka

Seize The Day

I woke up very pleasantly, with the chill morning breeze which waded through my windows. It was a happy kind of a feeling, considering the fact that I was forced to remove my shirt a few hours back, on account of sweating in the night in my hostel room. The fact that sweating of the night had given way to a breezy day, felt nice. There were subliminal signals given to the brain to go and wake up and seize the day. ‘SEIZE THE DAY’- or so I thought, until my host at the Adikaram Sea View hostel told me that it was Poya day and I should not expect to find any shops open in Colombo. I quicky had the last pieces of milk bread in the fridge, by firing them up in the toaster. Some Bread, Butter and Jam later, I found myself running across the little lane from the hostel to the beach. It felt like a bolt of freedom crashing against the waves of the Indian Ocean, a welcome respite from the fan cooled 300 INR a night hostel room.

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The morning walk by the sea, showed me the beautiful Colombo skyline , which was near empty, as whole of the city was observing Poya day. One day of the month (Full Moon day). The locals visit temples, avoid meat and alcohol and businesses and banks are closed. So I decided to walk to the other side of the beach.

 

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I saw a bottle kept upside down right into the beach. I marked my spot and kept my spectacles near it, to go into the sea and feel the waves. After lounging for a while in the waters in my near myopic blinded state, I came out and saw a bunch of kids, using the bottle as a stump at the bowlers end. My spectacles lay buried in the footmarks that the bowlers had created.

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They had quite a bit of southpaws trying to clobber balls into the ocean. Deep Midwicket usually between 2 waves and more often than not could not quite go after balls that came his way. The stumps on both the ends were just objects put into the mud. The Lankans were playing Cricket the Carribean way. Shirtless and full tosses by the sea.

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Then I saw order restored. I finally saw a right hander coming into bat. Kalu and Sanath maybe! Or maybe I was old, trying to come with Kalu and Sanath, in the times of Mahela, Sanga and Dilshan. After a while, staying at the beach, between the oscillating rain and bright sun, made me search for a place I could sit and watch the beach cricket from.

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Given its a beach, the most natural protection from the weather was behind the bushes. I found one amidst the greens and settled there. The bushes were at the far end of the beach and were closer to the village that was separated by the railway track that led to Dehiwala station and Mount Lavinia. This is the same railway line that connects Colombo to Galle, with amazing vistas of the sea right by the railway track.

 

Dancing In The Isles

 

 

This article talks about Sri Lanka and cricketing memories. I capture elements of Sri Lanka, Travel and cricket in the island from the view of the 1990’s.

As I boarded the train from Dehivala to Bambilipitiya, a little station in Colombo, along the Colombo-Galle railway line by the sea, my mind went back to the summer of 96. The summer of annihilation, The summer that Prime Sports [Now Star Sports] advertised as Cricket’s greatest year with Brian Langley in the advert.

Summer of 96

The summer of 96, was strange because the Lankans were on fire. Tony Greig was all over them, calling them fondly as ‘These little Sri Lankans’ with a specific reference to “Little Kalu” who along with Sanath Jayasuriya, was causing grief to a lot of bowlers. The grief became internalised in Manoj Prabhakar’s last ODI, when Kalu and Sanath launched a blistering attach on a bowler forced to bow in front of his home ground, by bowling off spinner for half his quota of overs bowled in the match. The scar ran deep that day from what happened at the Kotla. A little under 2 weeks later, the scar had bigger ramifications when the Lankans spun India out at the Eden Gardens on a relaid track, but it somehow got assuaged when the Lankans beat Australia in the finals. That small little nation had grown bigger in my eyes, in a period of little over a couple of weeks. From Delhi to Lahore via Calcutta and Rawalpindi. I probably never knew what it meant to the island nation back then. I was to soon find out as I made my way to the Cricket Club Cafe, on a balmy sunday afternoon in September.

In search of the Cricket Club Cafe

 

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The station was similar to the suburban rail stations, I would use back home in Chennai. A little platform that had a track on either sides, without any hustle and bustle, all for about 10 Lankan Rupees. These are usually 3rd class unreserved tickets, but have the best views of the sea, as the train ambles into Bambilipitiya. The railway stations from outside resemble a colonial bungalow in a hill station, but the reality is this little homely building is a railway station.

 

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A zig zag walk of a kilometre later, I find myself still confused if I am at the right place. The place that i encounter is fresh with sunshine coming over, after 2 days of rains and inclement September weather. The white walls are shining well through the contrasts of the tropical combination of the azure skies and green trees

 

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At the crossroads where there’s an interesting signboard that talks about the distances and directions of cricket grounds from that spot. I look west to Newlands, east to the Basin Reserve, North West to the Queens Park Oval, and angularly across to Lords and the MCG in opposite directions. Cricket’s little relic, at Colombo has just sent the cricketing hormones racing. I walk in feeling charged.

At the Cricket Club Cafe

The cafe has a very homely and warm vibe, with travellers who come here across the world. The cafe’s main hall has memorabilia hanging all over the walls. Shane Warne’s bowling in 4 different frames on the left and Allan Border is hooking and flicking in the other frames on the right, which is interspersed with panoramic view of cricket grounds.

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A ‘Vivian Richards’ vegetarian menu item makes its way to the table, smelling of cheesy lasagne, while the travellers inside discuss Lara and his comeback in the summer of 1999 against the Aussies. The TV in the room, quietly shifts to the live cricket being played a few blocks away at the Premadasa.

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As I move into the other room, I see an Image of Don Anurasiri bending his back, and a T shirt that has autographs of the Sri Lankan team. The ‘Don’ played in an era when Sri Lanka was hardly at its best.

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Sri Lanka’s renaissance in my opinion started on that 1995 tour of Sharjah, where Kalu and Hashan Tilakratne almost chased down West Indies’s mammoth 333 (fuelled by 169 by Lara). WI were given their first shock then, which trickled to a little more as part of an Australian summer where SrI Lanka, made it to the tri-series final in 1996 with some inspired cricket. That set the tone for the summer in the sub continent, as Sri Lanka ambushed all other teams, on their way to the world cup victory

 

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As the below newspaper cutting shows, a little dwarfed nation, troubled by the incessant strife in the north, and the threat of an attack, had a reason to smile and celebrate. Cricket had its ‘David beats Goliath’ moment yet again with a Sub continental team emerging champions. Cricket’s mount everest had been conquered, and the government chose to award the winning side a holiday package to Maldives. Maybe that was the height of luxury back then, when cricket was not yet a full time sport, that had as much money flowing in. Picking leather balls and pieces of woods, were an option, instead of picking guns and bombs for children and maybe this set off more people to bring their blaring horns and music equipment at the grounds in Colombo, though its always been part of the cricket scene in Sri Lanka.

The Cricket Club Cafe, made me revisit the 90’s through the eyes of a Lankan supporter, and I paid my bill visualizing Tony Greig’s voice shrieking “They are dancing in the Isles’, while the clarinet’s go off. [Though that comment was meant for Sharjah, I could very well use it in this context since Tony Greig was one of Sri Lanka’s very own]

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