Tag Archives: India

The Surf Trail- A Sneek Peak

Earlier this year, I had travelled to the Covelong Surf, Music and Yoga festival to Covelong(A small town between Chennai and Mahabalipuram), to cover the festival. I have covered the festival previously writing on this blog and on Cafe Chennai of the 2016 festival. I thought travelling to the 2017 festival, I should experiment with video for my story telling. I leave you with some images and a small trailer on what to expect

Here is a trailer of the documentary that is about to release in November 2017.

Wet Weather and Swelling Surfs
Wet Weather and Swelling Surfs
Water, Water, Not Me
Water, Water, Not Me
Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu
Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu
Surfing has its hits and misses
Surfing has its hits and misses
Yoga, Music and discussions by the Yogashala at Covelong
Yoga, Music and discussions by the Yogashala at Covelong

 

KatchuTravels Featured in Media

This little post talks about each of my articles being featured in various media, where they talk about me, and where I get to write on their media.

Surfer cuts through the waves at the Covelong Surf Festival 2016
Surfer cuts through the waves at the Covelong Surf Festival 2016

 

 

 

 

Exploring Andamans-Part 4-On the High Sea to Havelock Island

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 and Part-3 here

 

I had booked myself on the 0645 am ‘Green Ocean’ Ferry, which I knew was from the Phoenix Bay Jetty. Our hotel, was also in the Phoenix Bay area, so I figured out that a quick auto ride would help us get to the Jetty to find our cruise ferry. I woke up at 4:20 am, and it felt completely normal to wake up at this time, since that is the time the light starts seeping in, and that’s when you realize that your body has a connection with the outside environment. Our hotel serves free breakfast, and they got some nice dosas packed for us with chutney [They usually order for cheap from the army canteen nearby for which they have access].

Nandu was woken up again earlier than his usual time, and he was surprised that it was 5:30 am and really bright. This was his first brush with how the world and timezones work (though the Andaman Islands is wrongly tagged as part of Indian Standard Time as it seems to be ahead of when the light comes and goes). He was waiting to get into the ship and see how a ship moves in water. I had told him that we will do dolphin spotting possibly later today from the ship.

Nandu on his first ship journey
Nandu on his first ship journey

One of his first lessons at day break, was that places where we start our journeys are always loaded with muck and waste [Rail, Bus, Ships]. He saw that the jetty’s calm waters had many water bottles and plastic floating. It’s as if no one cared about places outside their home. People had thrown wrappers and plastic bottles into the sea, since it was not in their interest to keep any place outside their home clean. A lot of us humans are intrinsically selfish and false people. Our sense of cleanliness can reach fashionably reach OCD Levels when it comes to our home, but the same sense of cleanliness is found wanting when we go out of our home. We are completely okay to throw wrappers or waste on the road, all because we did not make efforts to find a bin.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- The definition of home, extends beyond the walls where we live in and the whole earth is our home. We cannot pollute the very place where others/we sit and live. Always carry a spare bag to put all used plastic contents, so that you can put it in a bin as soon as you find one.

Muck floating around in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Islands [Phoenix Bay Jetty]
Muck floating around in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Islands [Phoenix Bay Jetty]
Kishore Da and Magic on the Ferry

We set off our journey, by quickly finishing our breakfast as the ferry started to leave. One of the pitfalls of these private ferry providers is that they don’t allow you on the deck, when the ferry starts from the port or nears a port. The ‘Green Ocean’ nevertherless allows you on the deck in all of the time in between, saving the first and last 10 minutes when you need to be inside your cabin. At one point mid-sea they also play popular music which includes Hindi, Tamil and Bengali songs on the deck. It was beautiful when they played Kishore da’s ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’ and ‘Chalo Jaata Hun Kisi Ki Dhun Me’, as the ferry slowly made its way across the vast expanse of the sea. That moment has magic in the air all around. Magic in Kishore Da’s voice and magic with views of random islands popping out of Bluish-Green sea.

The ‘Green Ocean’ is the best bet if you need the comforts of air-conditioned travel and the pleasure of an open deck. If you are someone like me, who is here for vitamin-sea and staring outside at the sceneries, get a local/agent and book the government ferry. It’s not as clean as the private ferries, but it more than compensates with the views and no rules as the private ferries. The ‘Makruzz’ is the other private provider, with very comfortable seating and lighting, but it allows no time on the deck and it can be quite the bummer. My recommendation is to land up at the ‘Directorate of Shipping Services’ early in the morning or the previous day to enquire about tickets. The locals have a quota, and as a result outsiders have very few tickets on the government ferry.  The ‘Green Ocean’ ferry play a documentary on Andamans, featuring Tom Alter. This can be found on Youtube here

The Air-Conditioned cabin of the Green Ocean ferry from Portbair to Havelock Islands [Andaman Islands-India]
The Air-Conditioned cabin of the Green Ocean ferry from Portbair to Havelock Islands [Andaman Islands-India]
Jetty Blues

Usually it is said that, being on sea causes some kind of nausea or sickness. The only blues that were getting to us on the sea, were the colours on the sea. It was various shades of blue on a paint card. Looking at the sea, as you lean in against the railing, and look at, is when you get an appointment with yourself. Nature manages to do that every time you are following a sunrise, sunset or the vast expanse of the sea.

Resting on the Rails of the Ferry, looking at the vast expanse of the sea
Resting on the Rails of the Ferry, looking at the vast expanse of the sea

There are islands in the horizon, and I wonder how these islands were formed, and whether people can drift off their for picnics there. If I had a genie, I’d ask for a boat or a helicopter that can take me to my island of choice and whims. Nandu was like a cop, coming by my side every few minutes to ask where the dolphins were. I waited for the dolphins to show up, but they did not. He soon found his entertainment in the deck, where people played music and some of the popular music included Nandu’s favourite songs. I meanwhile saw a moment there, out at sea, that reminded me of ‘I am the King of the World’ moment from the movie Titanic, where its only you and the sea, and there is nothing between the both of you. That moment where you feel connected in all vibes to the huge canvas that plays out in front of you. That moment when you are the sea, and the sea is you. It’s a fleeting moment and the moment fades away after a minute as a loud bollywood track on the deck, cuts through my moment.

'I am the King of the World' at sea- Between Port Blair and Havelock Island
‘I am the King of the World’ at sea- Between Port Blair and Havelock Island

In about a hour and a half, we were receiving instructions from the staff on the ferry to get back inside. Our brush with the sea was ending. Havelock Islands were approaching and one part of the island started showing up as a forest lined up against the calm azure waters of the sea.

Havelock Island Approaching [Andaman Islands-India]
Havelock Island Approaching [Andaman Islands-India]

Arriving at Havelock

The ship slowed down near the jetty, and it looked like a dream like sequence, even in a place like the jetty. We slowly got out, waited for our luggage to be pulled out. Airtel’s telephone signals were non-existent. I was given a number by Kumar to call for our taxi needs in Havelock, but due to poor signals, I could not call. Since our hotel at the Flying Elephants Resort was on the side with least populated traffic, we had very few buses directly heading that side, relative to Radhanagar Beach (which is a more populated area).

Arrival at Havelock Jetty [Andaman Islands-India]
Arrival at Havelock Jetty [Andaman Islands-India]
I fixed a taxi, and while the taxi driver was loading the luggage, I noticed that there was a water re-filling station near the Havelock Jetty. I asked Nandu to take our water-bottle and head to the water filling station to re-fill our bottles. This was part of the lessons for him on the island to make sure we never buy plastic water in bottles, and to also drive home the message to others seeing this to avoid plastic and bottled water. The Andaman islands, especially Havelock, encourages travelers to come and refill water at either the water refilling station or at their resort, instead of buying bottled water. It basically means lesser plastic to deal with on an island’s fragile eco system that is already threatened by burgeoning population.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- Always Refill water at re-filling station or the resort in Andamans. Never buy bottled water in the Andamans. Lesser plastic means helping the environment and eco-system survive.

Nandu about to go to the water-refilling station in Havelock Jetty
Nandu about to go to the water-refilling station in Havelock Jetty

Our resort too had a water re-filler at the reception area, which Nandu would frequent to fill water for us. It was convenient and hassle-free instead of being snooty about 2 plastic bottles at your disposal. We were part of the outdoors and nature, and were thrilled that we are privileged enough to be able to explore the world outside our home, which we were also calling home!

Water Refiller at our Resort-Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village-Havelock Island) [Andaman Islands-India]
Water Refiller at our Resort-Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village-Havelock Island) [Andaman Islands-India]
Check out the previous part OR the next part

 

 

Exploring Andamans-Part 3-Sunset at Munda Pahar

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 , Part-1and Part-2 here

As we left the Loha Barrack Sanctuary, we took with us some fond memories of the place, and realised we have more reasons to come back here the next time we are in the Andamans. We wanted to see the crocodile park, the Mahatma Gandhi National Park and Jolly Buoy Island (which needs a tour operator to book, or you need to go to the tourist office in Port Blair to get a permit a day in advance) and probably do a local bus journey here.

Loha Barrack Sanctuary in Wandoor [Andaman Islands-India]
Loha Barrack Sanctuary in Wandoor [Andaman Islands-India]
On our way back to Port Blair, the beautiful and green Andamans got my attention. We used to stop every few metres on the Grand Andaman trunk road and observe the scenery. With some help of previous research, I was able to tell Nandu that the Andamans is famous for some of the thin trees, which are basically Betel trees. Betel trade is one of the reasons that people cut trees but plant it back since its essential to plant trees to run it as a business. I also showed him some of the other trees and asked him to point out really big trees on our way to Port Blair. The Andamans has a state tree called the Andman Padauk, which usually means its ‘4-6 daddies tall’ [My way of saying 25-40 metres tall]

We sat by a little stream, to pick another biscuit packet that lay like a treasure inside the reams of clothes that we had packed. Nandu also was starting to fall asleep in the front seat, so I thought he would be better off sleeping in the back seat, but when we stopped and he woke up to this, he was up and awake. He asked me, why dont we have so many trees near where we live. I thought a bit and told him that most of the homes today are built on lakes or lake beds, and as a result, a lot of trees have been felled to make way for houses and apartments. As a result when the rains pour longer, nature has its revenge by flooding quicker, increased temperature in the city and more pollution. The Andamans was like a breath of fresh air for even him.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- Nature is peaceful, and beautiful. As long as we preserve this, it will protect us

Green Andamans at Garacharma (Near Port Blair)
Green Andamans at Garacharma (Near Port Blair)

We saw a very viscous and thick layer of green on a lake. It took me a minute to figure out that this was a lake and not seem green solid bed.

Green and Viscous Stream near Port Blair
Green and Viscous Stream near Port Blair

After a rather expensive lunch at ‘Anna Purna’, we realised that the food on the island can be really expensive. Annapurna was a normal hotel with slightly below par service. In the Andamans, you pay a premium for a hotel that just looks clean, as the cost of bringing raw-food materials/vegetables from the mainland spikes up eating costs. So for a very basic thali (plate) at a non-airconditioned place, we ended up with an overpriced menu. What irked me even further was my driver, had forewarned me that while Annapurna was a well known vegetarian restaurant, their pricing is high and food is nothing to write home about. Lesson learnt, and we then went ahead to the next part of our trip in Port-Blair after picking my dad up from the Veer Savarkar airport. We were off to Munda-Pahar beach, which is a beautiful place for spending a sunset as per my driver/guide-Kumar

Approaching Munda Pahar Beach near Port Blair-Andamans(India)
Approaching Munda Pahar Beach near Port Blair-Andamans(India)

To Munda Pahar

On our way to Munda Pahar Beach in the Chidiya Tapu region, I fell asleep. We had a pretty long day with intermittent sleep. Waking up at 3 am for a 6:30 am flight and having a delayed breakfast and lunch certainly had affected my body cycle. When I woke up, I found myself amidst the hills as the car swerved its way. Kumar wanted to show me the path to Chidiya Tapu, which is a trek route to get to the top of the hill, but I was too tired to walk over. I earmarked the trek for a subsequent trip, where I would spend a day trekking with  Nandu to show him the beauty around a moderate trek. For now, the only place we were heading was Munda Pahar the beach.

There seemed to be some development of the beach for tourists, as one could see a pathway built, name boards on trees, wooden seat rests made out of tree logs, amidst the tall trees for people to sit. There was sand on either sides of the pathway, but there was not much of a beach here, owing to the low tide when we had gone. Kumar tells me that some scenes from the Tamil movie “Kaakha Kaakha” were shot in this area. Now when I look back at the video, after arriving home, I can see the connect clearly.

Also if you look into the sit out made out of the tree logs, the deciduous tree is made of a dark coloured bark and is supposedly a cousin of the domesticated Jackfruit tree. This is commonly found in all communities in the Andaman Islands. The tourism ministry of Andamans have done a good job in making sit outs and shelters for the travelers in the little parts of the Andaman Islands that I have seen (Kalapathar, Radhanagar, Wandoor and Munda Pahar)

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Uprooted Trees at Munda Pahar-Andaman Islands(India)
Uprooted Trees at Munda Pahar-Andaman Islands(India)

The sun set is an event that is treasured in this part of the world. The process of fading light starts from 1630 IST, and by about 5:15 pm, the place is steeped in darkness. By about 6 pm, it feels a little later into the night like 8 pm on the mainland. I was telling Nandu that in Bombay/Goa which is on the west coast, the sunset would stretch into 7 pm and it would be dark only by about 7:30 pm. I wish I had a little globe to talk through the phenomenen.

As the sun made its way behind the mountains, it created this surreal moment as it decided to shine on a selected area of the sea. I told Nandu that this is exactly life. Providence and nature decides to make you shine based on the good vibes that you generate for the world. Just because an area is shining and other areas are not shining, it doesnt mean that one area is better than the other, it just means nature decided to focus on that area for that time. Everyone gets their time and appointment with nature. I am not quite sure, how much he understood, but the moot point for that little lesson was to see if we can help the world to help us.

 

Beautiful Sunset at Munda Pahar Beach (Andaman Islands-India)
Beautiful Sunset at Munda Pahar Beach (Andaman Islands-India)

Nandu was constantly changing, getting into the sea to play with his swimming trunks and was quite enjoying the vast canvas that he had to run around. He had taken a love for the sea and the outdoors. I gave him a little lesson that I had learnt, and that was to be able to see sunsets, and meditate during a sunset by staying quiet. The sunset is so beautiful, that it has a way for your mind and your heart to talk. They seem to be at loggerheads as you grow up, and you need external tools to make them see the same things.

Nandu’s lesson #2- Trust the sunset, and consider yourself lucky if you can see sunsets and do deep breathing to soak in the moment. It has a calming influence.

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As we walked further on the sea bed, we noticed a couple taking selfies of the sunset. They probably wont be able to send it till they get back to their hotel. The Andamans has very little connectivity and 2G is very slow, but nevertherless that allows the travellers to soak in the moment at the place they are, and doesn’t make them seek the virtual world of likes and comments on Facebook. Andamans that way makes you discover that part of yourself which is pre-facebook. It’s a different version of you. I stayed without 4G for 108 hours. It never felt bad. My son stayed without Chota Bheem for much longer. We both felt better. You should try this!

 

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Check out the previous part and the next part

Exploring Andamans-Part 1-PortBlair to Wandoor

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 and Part-2 here

 

Once we landed in Port Blair, I waited for our luggage at the conveyor belt. The airport was small, and I spent some time at the Andamans Tourism desk, while waiting for the bags to arrive. The trip, as among other trips, despite the fact that I was with family, was only partially planned. For now, I had told the folks at Flying Elephants, that I was coming to Havelock the next day, but the whole of day-1 had to be spent in Port Blair, since my father was coming by a different flight in the afternoon, meaning that I had to wait in Port Blair, and I could not be on the afternoon ferry to Havelock that day.

 

Bandwith Bummer

I thought I’d wait to check for rooms on a travel app, and I strangely found that the internet was virtually non existent in Port Blair. First bummer on the trip. Andamans has very slow 2G, and the only 3G signals are that of BSNL, which again is sporadic. Reliance Jio was yet to come here as of April-May 2017. I went out and decided to take a taxi to find a hotel and also be able to book tickets on the ferry between Port Blair and Havelock, since the online ticket booking websites of Green Ocean and Makruzz did not work at the time, I was traveling. I met a taxi driver called Kumar (who can be reached at +91-9933283384) from the pre-paid taxi centre. I told him in Hindi to help me find an air-conditioned room for a family of 4, and also help me with booking tickets for the ferry to Havelock. I reccomend using Kumar’s services, as he is aware of each place that can be reached by car on the island, and can tell you stories of places. Andamans does not have self-drive car rentals, since there are very few service centres on the island.

Ferry Blues

Port Blair has 3 ferries to Havelock Island, up from the single Goverment ferry it had, when I had been there in 2008 April. The other 2 ferries added were Green Ocean and Makruzz. Kumar helped me to go each of these centres and help me book tickets. Green Ocean accepted only cash, while Makruzz accepted Credit Card payments. If I were to reccomend these ferries, here are my observations.

I go on a ferry to feel the wind on my face and hair, and stare at the sea and the mountains by the sea. I would not really look beyond this. I hate to have restrictions of any kind on my strolling on the ship to photograph. The Government ferry works the best for such travel. The ticket window usually opens 3-4 days before, and is not online for non-islanders to book. So you need to either have a local go and spend time in a queue and book it, or come here with enough time in hand to go and book it. That’s what makes it tough. Most of us city dwellers, love predictability and our air-conditioning, and there are 2 private services to cater for it. The Makruzz is very comfortable and comes with 3 levels of seats, with the highest costing about 1500 Rs per seat. You cant get on the deck, as the Makruzz is small, and has a rule that makes all people, be inside the air-conditioned area. The Green Ocean combines best of both the worlds. While ‘take off’ and ‘landing’ you are not supposed to be on the deck, but you can be on the deck in the time between that, apart from enjoying the air-conditioning inside the ship’s closed seat areas. There is a little documentary that plays from the TV’s inside the seating area where Tom Alter takes you through the beauty of the Andaman. This is also found in Youtube here.

I signed up with Kumar on 2 driving assignments. He would first drive us to Wandoor, we would spend some time on the beach, and then come back to the airport, pick up my dad, have lunch at Annapurna and then head out to catch the sunset at Munda Pahad Beach (Chidiya Tapu). 1300 Rs, each way for each of the trips. Nandu’s lessons were ripe and ready to be learnt. As a first, we quickly settled on a basic air-conditioned room in Phoenix Bay Jetty near the Tamil and Malayalam association at a place called the Ritz Hotel. Not a great place to stay, but very functional. Small pathways, but reasonably okay rooms with air conditioning, heater and television, if you are looking to stay just to board the next day’s ferry.

Missing Mainland

Wandoor is a little beach town around 25 kilometres from Port Blair in a South West Direction. As we were on the drive to Wandoor, Kumar pointed out on my left to little pools of water, which were actually created during the 2004 Tsunami and the water has since then stayed on these fields. We passed via scores of betel nut plantations which seemed to stretch across the length of the journey even as the music that played on the car shifted from Kumar Sanu to Illayaraja. The island seems to have 2 major languages (Bengali and Tamil) spoken, representative of the migrants who have shifted here from the mainland, and has little communities with a similar name as in the mainland. We passed Ranchi Basti and Mallapuram, as we made our way into Wandoor (also a name inspired from a town in Kerala).

Nandu’s Lessons

Cat by the beach at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Cat by the beach at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Nandu spotted a little cat by the beach, which came around us as we sat there to drink some water from our water bottle. We sensed that cat was thirsty and offered it some water. Nandu was sitting next to the cat and was playing with it. He also offered it water to drink and then let some of his bread on the floor for the cat to eat. The summer was about to end. The lesson here was to let Nandu know that, if the cat stayed there for longer than usual, we should not do anything to drive it away, since this is a forest and these are the homes of animals, and we are here to visit and then go away. I asked him to look at whether the cat had the food offered, and if it left the bread an hour later, we should throw the food into the litter bin. One of the biggest problems with virgin places are that people bring food and plastic, and then throw them away, asking “who’s watching?”. Nature is always watching, and knows the problems such behaviour entails.

 

Birds welcoming us at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Birds welcoming us at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Nandu saw very tall trees around, and loved the whole sense of space around him. He was happy and started to loudly exclaim with excitement and run around. I looked at him, and asked him to be joyful, but not shout so loudly so as to disturb the environment. He had a look at the birds and observed the surroundings for a whole 15 seconds (a sense of achievment to make kids observe silence), listening to the chirping of birds and the leaves covering the sun’s light coming inside the forest.

Nandu wonderstruck by the tall trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Nandu wonderstruck by the tall trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Since it was our first day of our holiday, and we were spending the day on the road, I was worried if Nandu would get tired and sleep off or he would start to ask for Cartoons on TV. So far so good. I had not brought his colouring books

 

 

Clear Sky between the Trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Clear Sky between the Trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Postcards from Wandoor

As the first part of this series ends, I leave you with a few postcards from the serene beach of Wandoor, which is the alighting point for trips to the Mahatma Gandhi National Park and Jolly Buoy Island (snorkelling). One needs to go to the tourism office, a day prior to get permission slips to visit Jolly Buoy Island or find a travel agent to do all the paper work for you. Since our trip was just planned on the go, we were not able to find our way to either of the places, where a little ferry leaves at fixed timings. If I had more time on the island, I would have probably taken a bus which would have cost less than 20 Rs from Port Blair to Wandoor. Maybe that’s for later this year. There are a couple of small restaurants near the beach, which we did not go to. We were getting ready for our lunch at Annapurna which was very expensive for a simple Thali meal. Most meals are expensive in the Andamans, because the food is brought from the mainland.

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Made for quiet afternoon siesta
Made for quiet afternoon siesta-Wandoor in Andaman Islands

 

Silhouttes at Wandoor
Silhouttes at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

 

Our Host-Kumar resting by the woods at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Our Host-Kumar resting by the woods at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

 

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Exploring Andamans- Part 0

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series.

Summer Holidays-The 90’s– Back when I was in school, it was that time when I used to sit at home and watch Prime Sports for its live cricket feed of the ending New Zealand season from 3 am to 10 am, the matches in Sharjah from 11 am to 7 pm, and the beginning of the Carribean Cricket season from 7 pm to late night. Whenever possible, I used to find my sleep in between, because the privilege of watching cricket live and very clearly (as DD’s coverage back then in the early 90’s was poor), was too much to resist. I did this from 1994 to 1996, where the English county season also got added to the mix with Shaun Pollock taking a hat trick on debut.  I was completely addicted to watching Cricket on TV. Those were my luxuries. My world was the little room in our house in Adyar in Chennai, adorned on the 4 walls with posters of cricketers, pulled and cut out from the Sportstar Magazines.

It changed from 1997. On February 18th 1997, my school’s travel/nature club announced that they were having a nature camp trek in the summer holidays in Himachal Pradesh for about a little over 2 weeks in the Bara Bangal range, and it was priced at Rs 3800. My parents felt, I am better off going away on travelling rather than gorging on cricket in front of the television. I was also interested, since it involved going to New Delhi after 7 years. I used to previously live in New Delhi, and it felt like a trip back home, and I knew I had a love affair with staring out of the train windows looking at the scenery changing slowly. On that trip in May, I realised how important practical knowledge of first aid is since I injured myself when I fell off a mountain. I also realised that you need to respect nature and understood the importance of responsible travel where you dont throw plastic wrappers into the wild and dont play loud music in the woods. It got me interested about travel, and about the importance of maintaining our environment around us. That was the clear focus, as the cricket clearly went to the background. I still would borrow transistors from the camp’s cooks to listen to bits of hindi commentary of the on going Independence Cup back then. But Nathan Astle, Saeed Anwar, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya remained figments of imagination when the transistor would boom to life, as my primary points of interest were the tall trees and the flowing Uhl river, in the lap of nature, disconnected for most parts from the world.

Cut back to 2016

I was with my son on a beach in Goa for New Year. My 4 year old son was happy staying inside the air-conditioned place, and was asking for POGO channel to entertain himself. He would not feel like walking on the beaches, and stayed away from the sun, and would shy away from enjoying nature or even observing it. I decided that I needed to take him to a place which was cut away from telephone networks, television, air-conditioning and the usual things he would find at home. A place that would shake his senses up about what his definition of the world was. After a bit of search and deciding between Lakshadweep and Andamans, I decided on the latter based on the costs of flying to and staying there. After a couple of friends reccomended a place, I looked up the Flying Elephants resort tucked away in the woods of arguably the most beautiful, but under-rated beach of Kalapathar

It’s often the easier path taken, when you take a 5 year old to a world of luxury and holidays. Watching cartoons on TV, staying in air con rooms all day guzzling the hotel’s wifi. There is a whole generation at risk that could just miss the beauty of nature because as parents we choose the easier path. I decided to take my son to parts of India to mingle socially with people on holiday, and understand responsible travel. 

We had an early morning flight from Chennai which strangely got pre-poned from 8:30 am to 6:30 am. I had chosen the 8:30 am flight purely because it becomes very tough to wake a 5 year old at 4 am to get him ready for such an early flight. There was no way I could cancel the air plane due to very limited flights between Chennai and Port Blair. We chose Go-Air and Jet Airways for our flights which ideally be flights landing in Port Blair before noon and leaving Port Blair as the last flight out in the afternoon. That works best if you plan to head over to the islands of Neil and Havelock right after/before your flights.

Flying across the Indian Ocean
Flying across the Indian Ocean

We chose to spend a day in Port-Blair and just go walking around, since our tickets to Havelock Island (Kalapathar Beach) were for the next morning. More on that coming up in the subsequent posts.

Monsoon Weather in Port Blair
Monsoon Weather in Port Blair

Do stay tuned to the upcoming parts all through July. If you have a young kid, you should come back for more on how you can entertain a kid and teach them early lessons on sustainable and responsible travel. Here are the themes I agreed upon for Nandu to be learnt

When you go into the forest, you are going into the homes of animals. We should respect them and peacefully-co exist without harming or driving them away. Be a traveller and not a tourist who thinks he/she is the ‘privileged one’.

 

Re-fill your water in a water bottle, and do not buy plastic bottled water. Helps any place do away with the problem of waste and helps kid develop immunity by drinking water the way the locals of a place drink it.

 

 Throw plastic out of the sea, when you see it, and collect them and put them in a dust bin

 

Nature can be the best way to entertain yourself. Observe the trees and plants around and ask questions on why things are the way they are

 

Go stay with the locals who cook for you, or who run shops to get an idea of their lives. It helps you appreciate what they have in their world, and what you have in your world.

 

Develop patience, by sitting a full day out at the beach, and knowing that the mind can be entertained by just reading a book by the sea, making castles,playing in the sea and just resting on the sand.

Here’s a sneak preview on what to expect in 3 images in the next few parts!

Nandu enjoying with glee abandon at Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island.
Nandu enjoying with glee abandon at Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island.

 

Paradise at Flying Elephant Resort in Kalapathar-Havelock Islands
Paradise at Flying Elephant Resort in Kalapathar-Havelock Islands

 

 

Reading books by the beach can be fun!
Reading books by the beach can be fun!

Check out the next part

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-Part 1-Settling in Koh Phangan

This episode talks about settling into our comfort zone at Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the first post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-2Part-3 and Part-4

Once you are on sea, there is a sense of calm in your body. Your blood doesn’t run haywire, as it does back in the city. The kind of calm, that you have not felt or seen. The mountains and the sea seem constant, they dont move. There’s nothing that’s vying for your attention. Your mind is not having to be at many places and act like its at one place. Your mind is still, your body is still, you are still (despite the fact that you are moving on a constantly moving sea) and that takes some getting used to, and if you are like me, most of that emotion ends in being transported to you to a world where you dream, despite being amidst paradise in reality.

Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand
Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand

A journey on a little ferry/ship in the afternoon sun, was about testing 2 contrasting feelings on our skin. We wanted the soft warmth of the afternoon sun on an alternating overcast and sunny day, and the winds on our face. We got both, while we were perched in our seat. The only bummer really was, you could not quite move on the top deck of the ferry, once it picked speed. You would shake and lose balance while trying to move, and if you did find balance the strong wind would knock you down. The whole afternoon was spent either sitting on one of the seats, or sitting on the floor. We did have some inventive travellers who started to create a party of their own, by drinking against the direction of the wind, protecting their plastic cups with their hats. It was fun trying to see if they would spill the ‘Songserm’ whisky on themselves. They fought with the wind, and with every plastic cup downed, they would be inebriated to repeat the act more. One of my friends on the trip, joined in and did this until his hat flew right into the sea.

 

Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan
Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan

The wind hitting everyone’s faces and hair brought a beautiful sense of everyone being disheveled by the time we reached our first island stop. Wind is again like rain, it looks beautiful when seen for a fleeting second, but it can get irritating when the wind/rain bring their kin/kith along for a prolonged session. I was grateful to providence to be feeling such sensations, and to know that the a full week lay ahead before my flight descends into Chennai’s sweaty air.

 

Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan
Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan

We reached Koh Phangan, and were forewarned about the expensive taxis. We attempted to bargain with the ‘Songthaew’ [Shared Taxi Vans with an open back] and decided that with our luggage, we were better off to just pick a proper shared taxi that allowed us to reach our hostel. We decided that we will anyway be spending our time on the road, exploring places. It was better we stayed at some place closer to the vibe and energy of the island in the evenings, while we spend the day exploring. We were to get to Haad-Rin area to our hostel, which shared a small lane, across a small lake and had a grassy outback path to the sun-rise beach (Haad Rin Noi).

 

Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan
Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan

One of the things with landing in a place, is to walk around and observe what the place has. We also had some research planned on what would be the things we would explore on the island, since we had booked our return flights and booked accommodation for about 4 of the 8 nights, thinking we will figure the rest based on what we discover. We calmed our excited nerves by walking down the road that led to the beach, reminding ourselves that we were on a budget, and we stick to our fruit diet for the trip to minimise costs and stay hydrated in Tropical Koh Phangan.

Fruits at Haad-Rin
Fruits at Haad-Rin

We walked over to the beach, ambling about the Westernization of what used to be a quiet little Thai Town. Haad-Rin is pretty much like Calangute today, which we knew, but we were able to get cheaper hostels only in this part of the town, after a search on Hostel booking sites. As we made our way to the beach, we noticed people playing there trying to get under a rope of fire. Some of them sane, and some of them inebriated with a Chang beer in hand. As people get through below, the level gets tougher and from them only the fittest survive it. What was interesting was the camaraderie that was building up between strangers at the fire place, and that was very heart warming. I ended up knowing some of my to-be-hostel mates from the evening. We had just warmed up to the vibes of Koh Phangan

Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan
Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan

We have made a documentary on our adventures till we reached Koh Phangan. Watch Part-1 of our documentary below.

 

Of Protecting Landscapes in a Forest

Have you ever thought about protecting and conserving nature, while you peer through your train window? Every new route unearthed means more green cover sacrificed and more animals displaced from their natural homes.

While Indian Railways help mankind transcend time and distances, it often comes at the cost of slicing through the heartland of where animals live in sync with nature. Add to it the railway hooter that rings while the train chugs through. How would it feel if your neighbor made a path through your house and made noise every time he used that path. It must be tough on the animals to find new homes constantly and having their environments being tampered with by mankind. Also the beauty of a landscape suffers, with an industrial flavour to the place, with the original landscape and green covers being affected.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2

Or so they that technology is making the world flat. That’s what Friedman and Nandan Nilekani say of Technology. It probably applies to the mountains that are made plateaus through railway line work, cutting through the homes of animals and landscapes. Seeing Industrial infrastructure is good, but we should try our best to preserve the beauty of landscapes and make the focus on increasing green cover for every edit we make to nature. Sounds like a deal?

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1

Every time a tunnel is dug in India, it also uproots much of our animals and green cover. I wish we are able to help re create more green cover in a creative way so as to not displace landscapes through industrial infrastructure. This is about preserving existing nature and environment by having trains run only at specific times so that animals/environment is minimally affected, and we impose heavy fines on passengers from a train throwing plastic/waste in the fragile ecosystem that we have built trains and tunnels through

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3

It just occurred to me, that as a traveller, I usually wonder why do people throw stuff when they know that this may never get cleaned. Would they do the same to their garden and pretend that plastics don’t exist? Why are trails littered with waste, tissues, plastic and food items. All it takes while hiking in these woods is to carry a huge plastic bag, and place your dump inside it and wait till you reach civilisation to put this in a garbage bin.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4

All of these photos are from a trip done in the monsoons at Goa’s Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, which is home to the beautiful trek in the woods to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls.

Observations from The Tea Festival-Part 1

I had an opportunity to update my ‘operating system’ to learn more about tea.  I keep wondering, how I started drinking tea. Despite growing in Southern India, where there is a strong habit of Coffee and Tea, I chose to avoid both till I joined work 13 years back. The tea machines, and on Indian Railways were my first blushes with tea. Till date, I used to visualise tea as a neccesary evil in the mornings, which I never paid attention to the taste, unless it deviated off the basic taste scale that I had.

The tea festival held in JW Marriot in Bengaluru was an eye opener for me, on the various varieties of flavours of tea that is available. The various aromas that are there, quite pleasantly had me listening in to learn more about this. As I soaked in the aromas, I could sense the depth in some of them. I saw some strong tea varieties, and some very different ones from Turkey, and was blissfully observing people talk about Tea and thoughts.

There is a more detailed series of posts coming up, but for now, do have a glimpse of how the event went on.

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There were workshops for Tea tasting and Tea appreciation. There was quite a crowd for these events. This was a session hosted by Anamika Singh who runs her own tea business called the ‘Anandini Himalaya Tea Company’. When she was running her session, I saw her passion and knowledge in letting people know about the subtelities in the art of certain tea brews.

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One of the brews she had for us for a tea-chocolate pairing workshop. She neatly poured out the tea, initially half cup for everyone and then filled the cups, to make sure that the brew was consistent for all people. It looked like the sunset had chosen to rest in the glass, with that shade of golden brown.

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We had 3 varieties of chocalates to put in our mouth after taking a sip of the tea. I quite enjoyed the chocolate melting in my mouth since it had warm tea waiting to attack the chocolate and create a blend. I was not quite able to spot the blend with my taste buds, since I was distracted by the sweet feeling of chocolate melting in my mouth with the tea brew.

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Susmita, the main organiser is seen conducting a session, where she is talking about the ‘First Flush’ variety of tea from Darjeeling which is about Rs 16,000 for a kilogram of tea powder. This is from one of the companies that were present called ‘Tea Philosophy’.

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Some of the first few workshops were interesting that they took us to the history behind how Tea originated in India presented by a couple of people who work as Tea Scientists. My whole perception was that the Brits invented tea when they were in India, but the history of tea dates back to around 2000 years in China. That ends my first update on the festival. Look forward to 2 more parts of exploring a few varieties of tea and some history behind it. Do know more about the festival through the website or by checking some of the tweets around with the festival with the #TFI or #TeaFestivalIndia

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On How India Plays Holi

Growing up in the southern confines of Chennai, I was walled from how the rest of India celebrated a festival called Holi. The Chennai I knew started in Thiruvanmiyur and ended in Mylapore, with my catchment area being Adayar and Besant Nagar. Since growing over 30, I have had the opportunity to attend the Holi function outside Chennai, to witness what a fun festival it is. I thought I shall document some of my shots of how India plays Holi. If you have an opinion on Holi as a function, do head to the comments box, and lets get a conversation going. Tell me places that I can go to cover holi!

 

Holi Party in India- Bengaluru
Love the way the girl is surrounded in a pool of Holi Colours and is not done yet!

 

Holi Party in India- Bengaluru
I quite love the way different colours come into the frame. Pretty much like how different people co-exist in a single space!

 

Indian Holi Party
Like the energy in the frame, with all that Holi Powder visible as particles.

 

India Holi Celebration Party
The mad scramble for Holi Powder on the Cart

 

India Holi Celebration Party
Like the way the guy is emptying all his holi powder, before he heads home!
India Holi Celebration Party
View from the change rooms! Holi party never stops!

 

India Holi Celebration Party
The Blue clouds of powder look surreal. Or is it just Surf Washing Powder 🙂 ?

 

India Holi Celebration Party
Lord Krishna is on Earth. Coming soon to a Holi Party near you!

 

India Holi Celebration Party
When the blues get over, Pink Power takes over!

 

India Holi Celebration Party
When Pink Power needs a makeover!

 

India Holi Celebration Party
From the blue Zone to the Pink Zone!

 

India Holi Celebration Party
The kids shaking a leg to some music and targeting innocent bystanders!
India Holi Celebration Party
Kids enjoying at the holi celebrations!

 

Indian Holi Party Celebration
Kids are Killing it! My son playing Holi, and loving being dirty in green!

 

Indian Holi Party Celebration
Me with my son at the Holi Celebration!

What’s Your Poison…err…Tea?

What?

There is a Tea Festival, happening at JW Marriot Hotel on the 18th and 19th of March 2017. The festival is to make people aware of the beauty and aroma around Tea and to discuss the possibilities of Tea based Tourism. Maybe I will have a few more places to visit over a cuppa tea

Who?

This is being hosted by Susmita Das Gupta, Entreprenuer of ‘The Smart Ideas’ and a passionate Tea enthusiast, who has conducted many tea tasting and tea meet up sessions.

When?

18th and 19th March. From 11 am to 8 pm on the weekend.

Why?

Katchutravels is interested in understanding the possibilities around tea tourism. Also the next time, I travel to a hill station, I’d love to know more about the leaves and the various varieties of tea, which is right now limited to the ‘dip-tea’ that I have.  I will be covering the event in its entirety. Do look out for regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter Handles.

But the raison-d’etre of the festival is that India is actually the largest exporters of the various varieties of tea, which has been commercially produced in India since 1820 (and being around from 750 BC), so we have a reason to celebrate

‘Katchutravels’, is happy to be displaying travel images at a Photo Exhibition [running as part of the Tea Festival] scheduled at 11 am on the 18th and it runs till 8 pm on Sunday.

Photography Exhibition at the Tea Festival-JW MarriotPhotography Exhibition at the Tea Festival-JW Marriot

How?

There are interesting tea workshops through which people, would be able to understand the intricacies of Tea and its impact on health. Here are some of the ones I plan to attend. Though you should know that these are priced moderately between Rs 650-850 which can be booked on Eventshigh hosted by Celebri-Tea folks!

  • 18th March- 12 pm- Know your Tea Workshop
  • 18th March- 2 pm- A Journey to Rediscover Tea
  • 18th March- 3:30 pm- Tea and Health
  • 19th March- 112 pm – Tea Appreciation Workshop
  • 19th March- 2 pm- Tea and Chocolate Pairing.

PS

Interesting to note that 3 artists whom I admire a lot, were also Tea Lovers! Kishore Da, Sachin Tendulkar and Bob Marley

Tea Festival India
Tea Festival India

#TravellerStories-07- Of Free House-Boat Stays and Other Tales

This edition of the #TravellerStories features Athmanathan , who once took a one way ticket from Singapore to Nepal to take out 4 months to discover himself. Athma is a Banker who lives in Mumbai.

Why the need for such a series like TravellerStories? We hear so many travel stories, but we’d be able to appreciate the travel stories at a relative level, only when these same questions are put to people at different place, we’d probably have a sense of awe towards how geography and history places a bias on our thinking. So these are nice postcards that you want to quickly rummage through, over an evening snack. Yes, just meant over tea and biscuits.

A) Where are you from and what do you do for a living?

I am from a lot of places! I normally use Y = random (‘Pune’,’Trivandrum’,’Pondicherry’) to answer the question of where I am from. I work in a Bank. I know that seems old school in the world of startups and digital/tech companies. I convince myself to believe that ‘I build forward looking numbers for the most important banking institution in the world, the US FED’

B) What’s the most cliched thing that outsiders say or feel about your city/country?

‘India is curry country’. While I don’t disagree in total, I believe that people should travel once to form their own opinions . I never travel to any country with a bias.

C) What’s that one dish travellers should try out at your city and where?

Any South Indian dish at either ‘Madras Cafe’ or ‘Ram Ashray’ in Matunga in Bombay (Now called Mumbai).

D) Reg exploring places outside your city, which is your favourite place (and why)?

The Canadian Arctic. Solitude like nowhere else in the world (‘world’ refers to my limited understanding of the places where normal travelers can venture into). I have spent 2-3 days without meeting another human being – that has never happened anywhere else on my travels.

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E) Of all your travels on work, which city charmed you the most and why?

Montreal. Beautiful city, Warm hearted French Canadians who enjoy life to the fullest.

F) What is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling?

Landed in Srinagar at 10PM with no accommodation, no plan and absolutely no research. I was chased by a few travel agents when I got down from the bus. I started walking randomly in some direction. After 15-20 mins, the road got dark. One of the travel agents was persistent – he chased me for almost a km despite my refusals all along. He caught my bluff – I was walking in a direction where there were no hotels. As it turns out, I ended up bunking in a spare bed in his house – a house boat ! I couldnt afford any of his house boat options – so, he just lent me a spare bed in his room. Ashfaq, a nice warm hearted guy, was once of the nicest people I have met in Kashmir.

Travel Postcards #7

This edition of the Travel Postcard features Cola Beach in Goa.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

Kola Beach(Goa) from above
Kola Beach(Goa) from above

Travel is about exploring and finding vistas. Sometimes you dont get a cookie, and at times you get a great surge of blood running through your veins, when you see a picturesque background. This was on the 1st of January 2017, when I decided to cross a little lagoon, holding my camera bag above my head, and hoping I dont drown. A little hill trek, a barren mud track trek with no directions and then to find this view from the hill! I was exploring Cola Beach on a trek from Agonda Beach, and this view totally made the hike worth it. I had put my son to sleep in the afternoon, and got a couple of hours to trek to a nearby place. Cola seemed like fun to do, and I ended up on the trek with some great visuals. That is the next series of articles coming up on KatchuTravels this February.

You can check earlier editions of the Travel Postcards right here

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 4

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family.  Read on to know how a trip to the nearby Nagarhole National Reserve went during our stay at Jagale Home Stay. in Part 4 of this series. Read the earlier parts here (Part-3Part-2 and Part-1)

After dinner, I sat at the newly created porch to read a couple of my magazines on my Jio Phone. I was full after having more desserts than my actual dinner. My stomach was still smarting from an invasion of Apple Walnut dessert cake and Papaya Halwa. I was listening to stories on how each of we inmates spent our day. My son was still running around like an energiser bunny all around the house, with his new friends (kids from our adjacent room). He had not quite gone out of the estate, so I made some plans on where to go the next morning. My neighbour Vaibhav and I decided to take our families to Nagarhole in the morning, and then we would leave. It was our last day in Coorg, so I thought I’d go out and have something nearby and easier to go. Nagarhole and Balele were not more than 20 minutes of drive from our estate, so they were easier to plan. We agreed to wake up at 5:15 am and drive to the national park so as to be there at the entrance by 6 am.

We were there by 5:45 am. The skies were still undecided on turning orange. The twilight skies were paused on blue for a while with a silhouhette view of the under-exposed trees.

The entrance to the Nagarhole National Park in Coorg
The entrance to the Nagarhole National Park in Coorg

With still some time to go, I get inside the national park, and sign the register and enter the car name and registration number, and I go and sit back in the car. I spot some tall trees in the distance and wonder how beautiful it would be to have a house in the foothills, adjacent to a national park. The morning twilight was now starting to fold up.

A home near Nagarhole National Reserve. Quite a place to have a house
A home near Nagarhole National Reserve. Quite a place to have a house

We drove through the national park, and it was damp and chill, as we drove through the forest with trees on both sides. It was in a way surreal since there was an organised road bisecting the wilderness that was present on both sides. We saw some spotted deers inside the forest as we drove on. By the time, we reached the ticket counter, there was quite a crowd early in the morning lining up to buy tickets for the morning safari. We were priveleged to watch the morning sun, light up the damp greens, through the vertical trees that boxed with the sun’s rays to prevent its entry.

Sunrise in Nagarhole National Park
Sunrise in Nagarhole National Park

Once we bought the tickets, there was some clamour for tickets and window seats. Having an SLR on your neck dangling ensured that I had some respect and when people had to chose between sitting at the window seat and offering me one, they gave me the benefit of the doubt. I was happy and chose a good seat on the left.

On the Nagarhole National Park Safari
On the Nagarhole National Park Safari

The bus would veer off the road path and get into the mud path. They seemed to have a trail which they would follow and would stop when an animal came by. There was something in the way the driver drove or the vibes I got from the forest that morning, that told me, I was not going to see any tiger today. And, boy was I right or what!

On the Nagarhole Safari Trail
On the Nagarhole Safari Trail

I just some buffalos and some more spotted deers. Oh yes a Peacock also. Not quite what I really wanted to see on a forest Safari after waking up at 5 am.

Bulffalo in NagarHole
Buffalo in NagarHole

 

Peacock with Spotted Deer
Peacock with Spotted Deer

It got to a point where we saw so many spotted deer in the forest, that it stopped being funny anymore. Tigers probably needed more patience, and would not probably show up so easily. I noticed that there were smaller vehicles that took a different route, and were charged more. Had I known that there’s a surge pricing for spotting tigers, I might have signed up.

 

Spotted Deers in Nagarhole
Spotted Deers in Nagarhole

After a disappointing morning, I came back to the homestay, and decided to rest a bit. A sumptuous breakfast happened, where I developed a special love for the idlis that were cooked that morning. Goodbyes were a bit tough to say to Pavita and Ramesh, and too the special set of inmates who were extended family for the last 3 days. Each of us proceeded one after another away from Jagale, and we were the last to leave. We soaked in a bit more of the place, and slowly drove out of our ‘home’ to find our home back in the urban jungle. Maybe this trip was what I needed to plan for a house in the jungle or by the beach. Paying EMI’s for similar looking ugly houses in the city, wasn’t my idea of a great life, but sometimes you need to get into the gutter to clean up stuff. I had a life to sort out back in the city, and as you guessed it the return journey always doesnt carry the same air of expectation as your onward journey. You wish you could be home in just a jiffy, but you need to brave a long journey. That’s life! When we passed by the gates of Pavita’s estate and briefly paused, it looked like the gates were open, and we would soon be back. I proceed on my return trip with a smile. The mood wasn’t that bad afterall!

And We were Back!
And We were Back!

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband Ramesh. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com. She usually charges around INR 2000 per adult per day. Kids usually come in free. Go here for the great food, the family like atmosphere and the amazing greenery around the place.

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 3

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family.  Read on to know how to get “Relaxomorphins” at Jagale Home Stay. in Part 3 of this series. Read the earlier parts here (Part-2 and Part-1)

I woke up at 5:15 am, but I kept postponing getting up, and finally when the clock was closer to 6, I woke up with a start, with the real fear of missing the sunrise. There was little time to take my camera, measure the light, check the frame and tripod. I took out my S7 edge and quickly captured the rising sun, which was lighting up the mist in the air around the estate. It was surreal for that fleeting instant, where a silhouette of the plantations was starting to look beautiful on the phone than in front of me. I walked on the chill mud barefoot, recovering from the moist mist attack, from the light of the morning sun. The sun’s rays just had enough warmth that made you enjoy the warmth amidst the winter chill. Coming from Chennai, I had never professed a love for the sun, beating down on my face, but Coorg made me see reason in the sun. No Sun cream, No Slippers, No sweaters. Primal heat amidst the tropical greens was how I spent my morning.

Wake up to a Coorgi Morning
Wake up to a Coorgi Morning

I walked around with music in my ears, pockets in my hand, wanting to explore what lay on either sides of the house entrance gate. I decided to veer right and found myself amidst tall trees. The orangish mud and the dark green coffee leaves seemed to present enough contrast to not notice the mist that still lingered in the distance. There was something imposing about these tall trees, that made you wonder what a tiny speck you are. I saw some birds flying in the distance, and wondered what a view they would have of the estate, and maybe thought its worthwhile to think about buying a drone to capture better views and shots.

 

Pathways adjacent to Jagale Homestay
Pathways adjacent to Jagale Homestay

I walked a little more and saw webs spun by spiders along the route. If I had my son on this walk, I am sure, he would have added that Spiderman must be just around the corner and he would have asked me to help him search for Spiderman.

Spiders Web at Coorg
Spiders Web at Coorg

The morning was fresh and tender and the growing sun was slowly warming up the place, and the spider’s web were around plants and flowers. It was like the spiders were making a statement, that they own this place. They had earmarked their territories through their concentric patterns, and were carefully looking at human intruders who were coming in to their territory.

I just followed the trail and walked where the forest took me. Ramesh had told me that a couple of times, there were animal attacks, so that played like a repeating track slowing me down with every step I took. The workers on the farm were yet to start work, so I did not want to get too lost in the woods, but I loved the feeling of being alone in the woods early in the morning. There is an affinity that early mornings and I have developed over the years. A sleeping and dark world gets illuminated into a fresh new start, and its never too late to make a fresh start. The sun and nature do this every 24 hours. Maybe these are the cues we need to take from nature.

Just as I was walking and thinking that I was alone, I saw a bunch of workers walk past me. They seemed from India’s eastern corners by dialect, and were walking with a need to get somewhere. I could not imagine walking fast with targets to reach in these woods. The green and red contrast already had so many ‘relaxomorphins’ in the estate, that I was busy collecting ‘Pokemon Go type Relaxomorphins’ with every step that I took.

Workers walking through Coorg's Jagale HomeStay
Workers walking through Coorg’s Jagale HomeStay

I went back and went towards the gates, to go and explore the other side of the coffee estate. I found a cute little school, which was probably the school for the village, though I hear from Pavita that there are residential schools in Gonikoppal, the nearest town to Jagale village. The school had a rusted and discolored iron gate in predictable state of dis repair, while the school had a beautiful old world simple charm that I had not seen in a while.

School in Jagale Estate-Coorg
School in Jagale Estate-Coorg

I had not seen tiled roofs in a while, and seeing it in a school made me wonder about the modern day schools housed in spaces that are claustrophobic. I liked the space that the school had for children to play. Walls with an India flag, paintings on walls, and very different non-corporate feel to a school certainly did all it could to rewind back a few years when simplicity was more a part of our DNA. It was a bit like Jagale’s school never really aged after the 80’s. With more facilities like a Reliance Jio SIM card that provides fast internet access and information to everyone living in rural areas, I am really interested in how schools in smaller towns disseminate information from a mobile phone connected to fast internet. Jio’s signals had not made it yet to this village at the time of travelling, but it probably should change a bunch of things in how people get information about their world. Right now, the revolution is probably limited to having a DTH dish in each house to stay connected to what the world is doing.

School in Jagale Estate-Coorg
School in Jagale Estate-Coorg

 

A little further down the school is a narrow road with more mud and less traces of tar, that just about fits a 4 wheeler. That road leads to a little lake and paddy fields, and on that path stay the local helps who are employed by Pavita.

View of the Paddy Fields
View of the Paddy Fields

 

One of the local help ladies is about 70, but she doesn’t quite look her age, as she seemed younger with black hair and a few shades of grey, and seemed physically a little stronger than most women I decide not to take her portrait, but observe her. Her face looks a lot different from the local Kodavas community here. Pavita, informed me that she was from Assam, and had moved here some 50 years back.The previous night, she came inside the compound and was washing dishes, while she was blabbering and wavering about, and then she was helped to her house by Pavita in her car. Pavita tells me that locals who stay in these houses take their wages weekly, and the day they get their money, they go out to the wine shop about 5 kilometres away in Nittur and drink till they roll over. They live a care free life and don’t worry on savings and planning. I also hear that these locals are so connected to their surroundings that they trust nature more than doctors. Once this old lady had a cut in the head and came to work bleeding and even did work. On asking what happened, the lady replied that she had a small fight in her neighborhood and some other lady attacked her. Aggression and brawn rule, and if some injury happens, they let it stay like that. Interesting titbits from the local lives of people in this village, that I got to hear thanks to Pavita.

 

I came back to the house and sat by the other side of the house, which opens into a sitting area that has glass sheets above and some magazines on the table are laid out, which are mostly Readers Digest and Good Housekeeping. It’s a beautiful place to sit by the cushioned chairs and sip your tea/coffee as you let the morning transition into afternoon, with little signs accompanying because of the salubrious weather in Coorg. The only alarm you get for lunch is when your stomach suddenly feels it needs more nourishment. But your lunch here is mostly delayed because of all that lovely food that goes into your stomach during breakfast. Akki Rotis, Idlis, Dosas, Uthappam with the sambhar and chutneys to boot. Lunch was still a light year away, since my stomach was still processing the morning eating riot. This holiday was about relaxing, eating and taking walks at your own pace.

Jagale Home Stay in Coorg
Jagale Home Stay in Coorg

After another round of a heavy lunch, Its time for decisions. Should I go to Pavita’s mezzanine floor to read magazines with the backdrop of a Buddha on a yellow colorful wall, or should I go to sleep in my room? I chose the former, because it has a variety of rare magazines and books from the 70’s and 80’s. I settle against the wall and ask my son to pick a book to read, but he gives up after a while and makes me close my reading session.

The Library of Sorts-Mezzanine Floor-Jagale Home Stay, Coorg
The Library of Sorts-Mezzanine Floor

He takes me down to the foosball table below to engage in some games attempting to score goals, and post that spots a trampoline lying in the corner. He jumps on that in joy and also decides that he will play badminton that way jumping on the trampoline.

Trampoline Fun
Trampoline Fun

Jumping badminton is a new variant that I learn today. My son does this till its tea time, and all his energy levels are expended and promptly goes off to sleep.

Jumping Badminton or Readying for a Smash
Jumping Badminton or Readying for a Smash

 

The house in-mates chose to spend their time going to nearby places. The Indigo flight captain’s family chose to travel on both the days to the Golden Temple Monastery and to Thala Kaveri. The other set of people have gone to Nagarhole for the afternoon safari. I along with another family chose to spend our holiday doing nothing except for a few walks around the estate. We save Nagarhole for our last day, by going on a morning safari and then we’d leave back to our homes by 11 am. But that’s for tomorrow.

 

Pavita comes around and asks us if we are ready for some snacks and tea, and I say yes. So I went over to the chairs near the foosball table and sat with Pavita and Ramesh. I feel that it must be tough to have guests at your place, but Pavita and Ramesh both manage their time well by having time to themselves and at the same time, managing to spend time with people who stay at their place. It almost felt like we were staying at a relatives place away from the city, who were allowing us our space and at the same time cared about us. Pavita’s rooms are tastefully done up with her choice of wood, bedspreads, curtains and bathroom accessories, without giving a feel of a luxury place that’s disconnected from nature. I spend a couple of hours with Ramesh talking about cricket, parenting and ask him about Kodava festivals, of which they seem to have 3 main festivals in the year, the most important one being where they chase wild boars, re-emphasising their identity as the warrior clan. Its dinner time already and I am expecting a lavish feast to belch burps into the clear night sky as all the folks gather for another long discussion. I could get used to this pace of life!

 

To be continued in Part-4

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband Ramesh. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com.

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 2

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family. This is the second in the series, continued from Part-1

The Greens of Jagale Estate
The Greens of Jagale Estate

We reached Jagale at 5 in the evening, driving through Hunsur and Nittur. The presence of the greens of the crops, has such a soothing effect on your holiday. No Horns, No vehicles in the distance, and I was already loving the quietness of the place. This little estate was called Jagale, and the only problem was that all houses had the name of Jagale by their gates, and this time I trusted Google maps to help me find the place. I saw Pavita’s husband, Ramesh walking in the distance with his dogs and I waved out to him, as we slowly ambled along the lane going in to their house to see the familiar place.

Entrance of Jagale HomeStay
Entrance of Jagale HomeStay

As soon as I saw the view of her house, I knew I was in familiar territory. My son loved the open space, and my family loved the idea of taking a break. There are about 3 rooms in the main house, and a couple of other rooms in the adjacent block. I had last time stayed in the terrace of the main block, but this time, I was given the rooms in the adjacent block. The food however was served in the main block, and that was our window to get to know all the guests who had come over, and that is the secret sauce of a place like this, which we would get to know over the course of the next 3 days.

Main Block of Jagale Homestay
Main Block of Jagale Homestay

The main block house has outer borders on two sides, filled with chairs, hammock, books, a foosball table and an area with chairs covered by glass sheets. Both these sides are accompanied by flowers and a mini garden of sorts, though there is a bigger garden around the house. The first border is where you go to relax and do nothing. I loved the hammock while my son loved the foosball table, which was just enough for his smaller frame. In no time, the sun set and it was already 8 pm, which was time for dinner at the main table.

At the dinner table at Jagale Homestay
At the dinner table at Jagale Homestay

I had a couple from Bangalore with their kids, an Indigo pilot, a lawyer from Bangalore over the table, and that’s when we started exchanging stories on our lives. This is the best part of the homestay experience, where you meet new people and they become a part of your lives over a weekend, apart from the hosting couple. Pavita’s speciality at her house is the pork she makes, which gets her loyal repeat guests. Given we are vegetarian, we  are satiated every time we come to the table to eat, with delectable fare spread consisting of the usual Sambhar, rasam, stew and spinach curry for the first evening. She used the vegetables available in her own garden and every meal was a 3 course meal at her place, which left us feeling full and relaxed. Pavita has a couple of full time cooks, who help her with the round-the-clock cooking, and keeping the guests fall in love with the primal instincts of nature and food. Your body discovers “RelaxoMorphins” out of nowhere, thanks to bland city life that you lead!

The Homestay Family at Jagale
The Homestay Family at Jagale

The kids curled up on the sofa while we were having dinner to watch television, and it was so nice watching them at ease, while we went about our dinner. Pavita’s place has a Tata Sky connection, but no wired internet connection at the time of the writer going there, partly because BSNL provides very patchy service. Reliance Jio signals don’t come anywhere within a 10 kilometre range, and Airtel has a meek 2G signal which is just enough to send Whatsapp messages slightly delayed. So, if you have any plans of working from Jagale Estate, please focus only on offline work that may not require an internet connection. I was looking forward to connecting with nature and not so much with the world-wide-web, and in a while I went to sleep with the evening chill and the warmth inside the room, having a plan to wake up before sunrise for the next day.

 

 

To Be continued in Part-3

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com.

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations.

On a Road Trip to Coorg with Family-Part 1

This series features a road trip in Karnataka to Coorg with my family. A year back, I had made the drive to Pavita’s place, after getting fried in the Tamil Nadu sun, as my car’s AC unit collapsed 3 hours into the trip from Chennai. 16 hours after we started from Chennai, I reached Pavita’s place at midnight and I had Bing Maps for directions, and it required Pavita to drive down to where we were to finally go and reach her estate. This time it was far more relaxed. Read on to know how to get “Relaxomorphins” at Jagale Home Stay.

The purpose of a road trip is to amble and see sights on both sides of the road, and to reach the destination feeling relaxed, so that you could unwind even more. This time, I decided to break my journey and stop the night over in Sravanabelagola (around 200kms from Bangalore and about 90 kms from Coorg), and then proceed at my own pace to reach Pavita’s place [Jagale Home Stay] The good thing about a drive is one gets to see beautiful views of the real rustic India. I  end up stop over at places that don’t probably make it to a map, unless you zoom in on the map. I was even more ecstatic stopping every now and then, since my son soaked all the sights and said “Appa, I love tripping”!

Driving to Coorg (Karnataka)
Driving to Coorg (Karnataka)

The road was alluring as the left and right seemed to converged upon a patch of tar that was not visible as the trees came in the way. Cars on either side meant, that we were competing with the long weekend crowd that was there. I still did not succumb to the thought of rushing through the roads, before I have more cars sharing space on the road. That’s the half the stress on a road trip reduced.

I decided to test Google Map’s skills, by not selecting the path that it suggested. I took a long winding route, and was amply rewarded with pot holes, mud roads and extremely slow speeds. That trio you need to endure before you find picture postcard worthy places staring out of the car window. Yes, one more stop, but this was worth it. A beautiful little railway station, behind a canopy of palm trees and paddy fields. The sun was out and the greens and the blues had a brilliant contrast which made the scene even more beautiful.

The scenic village of Hampapura
The scenic village of Hampapura

Any Road trip requires some change of weather, for you to be suddenly take notice of the smell of the monsoon or the fact that the sun has taken a break. This time the weather cooled a bit, and it became overcast. I thought the monsoons were done in Karnataka for this time of the year, but it showed up. I thought it was a good time for a break to wake up my son, who had fallen asleep to the swings of the air conditioner. This was closer to some settlement and there was a tea shop around. Cooler monsoon weather and Indian Chai have a bond that lightens up any driver on the road to take a break.

Srirangapatna’s cloudy hues of grey and green!
Srirangapatna’s cloudy hues of grey and green!

My son spotted some marigold’s on the other side, and I said, lets go and explore. The yellow marigold flowers were planted in a disciplined manner which had patterns of planting, and between them were wet patches which my son duly went and jumped on. I know the detergent ads say “Daag Ache Hain” but as a parent on a road trip with family, my heart skips a beat after seeing my son playing around in the wet mud, dirtying his shoes and clothes.

Marigolds in Srirangapatna
Marigolds in Srirangapatna
Getting Naughty in Mud
Getting Naughty in Mud

 

The long winding roads, and a confused sun, means we have a very different light staring down at us, as we try and find our way to the little town of Nittur which is like the mathematical concept of limits. The more you drive, you still think its nearby and a couple of turns away, but it still has not been reached. The view of the road from the top of the curve makes it exciting to look at. I go and stop my car, and wait for another car to drive into my frame. A few more cares fit in, while I go back and chew some gum. They say it makes you stay awake on such drives. But with a lens dangling around my neck, and such beautiful sights en route, I am always alert and ready to capture a slice of nature to take back as memoirs that will lighten up Facebook’s servers and the ‘J’ meters of those who decided to stay back home for the long weekend.

The Long Sloping Road to Coorg
The Long Sloping Road to Coorg

To be continued in Part-2

Contacting Jagale Home Stay

You can reach Pavita, who runs this along with her husband. She is reachable on email at pavita (dot) ramesh (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Reaching Jagale Home Stay

Jagale Home Stay (Geo Coordinates)about 90-100 kilometres from Mysore, 250 kms from Bangalore, and around 600 kms from Chennai. This is just behind Wayanad, so Wayanad is about 30 minutes split across by the Nagarhole National Reserve, which starts just behind the home stay. Go here for great food and relaxation in the plantations. 

 

#TravellerStories-06-Of Bare Hands in Snowfall and Other Stories.

This edition of the #TravellerStories features Pamit Anand , who heads Marketing for an estabilished dot com company, for a living.

Why the need for such a series like TravellerStories? We hear so many travel stories, but we’d be able to appreciate the travel stories at a relative level, only when these same questions are put to people at different place, we’d probably have a sense of awe towards how geography and history places a bias on our thinking. So these are nice postcards that you want to quickly rummage through, over an evening snack. Yes, just meant over tea and biscuits.

A) Where are you from and what do you do for a living?

I’m from Mumbai. and I work in Marketing.

Edinburgh CastleEdinburgh Castle

B) What’s the most cliched thing that outsiders say or feel about your city/country?

  • You are from Mumbai, you must have met Salman Khan
  • You are from India, and yet you speak fluent English

C) What’s that one dish travellers should try out at your city and where?

  • Keema Pav @ Stadium, Churchgate
  • NALLI Nihari @ Noor Mohammadi, Byculla
  • Butter Chicken/Dal Makhani @ SHIMLA DHABA, NH48  ( the place mainly caters to Truckers/Lorry Drivers. But should be checked out if you have the will)

D) Reg exploring places outside your city, which is your favourite place (and why)

  • Alibaug is a nice Beach area.
  • I also like hanging out near Colaba Causeway, Marine Drive and Chowpatty @ Night. Its full of life

E) Of all your travels on work, which city charmed you the most and why?

  • London –> Multiculturalism, Human values, and most importantly – its preservation of history/tradition while retaining modernity

Snowing and Braving it Snowing and Braving it

F) What is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling.

  • Craziest thing I’ve done while travelling to Europe’s second largest peak was to go there without gloves and jumpers. I actually forgot them in the hotel. Just had 2 layers of clothing on me and the team had to go to Mt. Titlis at the very top. Was lucky not to get away with no frost-bites, thanks to my body-fat (for once)

In search of Moksha-The MahaKumbha Mela Experience-Part 1

I realized its been 4 years, since I had been to the Maha Kumbha Mela. I thought I’d share a little interview that a popular english Radio Channel called Chennai Live 104.8 FM. I have modified the interview by mixing the audio with my images to visually keep the viewer engaged. The next post coming up tells the story in text and images. So keep your eyes open, while you spend your Sunday watching this!

Naga Babas blessing people at the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad
Naga Babas blessing people at the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad

Travel Post Cards- Series #6

Its interesting to see how a city’s looks and roads can change in the monsoon season. The Konkan coast has a raging sea of brown and is green all around on land, while the east coast of India is more susceptible to cyclones coming its way and changing the way the city looks. Trees are uprooted, roads are swallowed by stagnant water, the land is enroached by the sea, electricity takes a break and the city starts to look a little different. Here are a few clicks from the savage Chennai rains of the 2015. So this series of the postcards is about how different cities can look due to a changing season!

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

Traffic Jams during rains in Chennai
Traffic Jams during rains in Chennai
Whatever remains of the Marina Beach in Chennai
Whatever remains of the Marina Beach in Chennai

Do you have any thoughts on how different your living space looks? Do let us know.