Tag Archives: Karnataka

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. 

 

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 4

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

After our time at Honeymoon beach in Part-3, where we did not get down, we proceeded to the next beach called Butterfly beach. Enroute was a small slowdown of the boat at a couple of rocks. Our Boatman suddenly got quizzical and asked me what that shape looked like, since I had a camera on my neck. I did not see any pattern emerging, and no amount of trigonometry or geometry could help me at that instant. I was torn between spotting dolphins on either sides, and his question kind off caught me off guard.

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And then when he went around the next rock, that looked like a turtle, and it turns out that when he asked me the question, he could see the second rock, while we could not based on our positions in the boat. A bird was perched on a spot where it wont be disturbed.

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Some of my friends on the boat were waiting for the ‘promised land’ to arrive. Kaustav was already relaxed and still looking out for dolphins that cared to say ‘hi’. None did. We met Kaustuv( A solo traveller from Pune), during a dinner at a restaurant in Agonda. Shyam, is a known friend, who lives in Bangalore, so it was easy to hop in for him, while Veeranna was holidaying with some known friends on the Hampi-Gokarna-Goa circuit, when I asked him to come over using a night train. He nearly got off at Loliem ( A station before Cancona), but could not find any trace of humans to ferry him, so he came 15 hours later, after having to go to Madgaon and then find his way to our cottage.

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And then we saw ButterFly Beach from the distance. It seemed to have deep tow, with a huge slope. It is not easy for non-swimmers to spend time in the water, purely because of the way the water swells, near the coast. The beach looked pristine though being surrounded by mountains. The only way to reach here is the boat, and that’s what Google will tell you. What Google may not tell you is that, there is a secret path from Agonda Village right into this beach. The locals were reluctant to talk about it, since it endangers their livelihood, but an auto-driver agreed that there was a path, but it was laden with cheetahs. Whether the Cheetah part was true, I am not sure, but it makes for a fascinating trek and discovery to Butterfly Beach.

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We spent time looking at the high cliffs surrounding the beach, and marvelling at the isolated patch of sand in the wilderness. Collecting Shells, watching the sky above, climbing the rocks to pose- ‘These are a few of our favourite things’, that we ended up doing in the 20 minutes that were there.

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While clicking photos for everyone, as is the rite of passage on any trip, I managed to click a decent one of myself, thanks to Veeranna. I thought the rocks in the background, with the coast being a level above made for a good frame.

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Kaustuv and Shyam, managed to find some peace up in the cliffs, but the boatman was’nt quite at peace with himself. He had another boat trip in 15 minutes, and we were about to mess with his next slot. So, I had to coordinate it and get the 4 of us back to the boat. A couple of more hours of lazing around, would have seemed the best thing to do on a beach like this. This beach is remote and there is nothing to eat, so its advisable to come were with food (and please bring a dustbin bag to put the waste inside and dispose at the right places on the mainland)

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It was 10 minutes to go, and Dinesh took off, seeing calls on his mobile.

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We just managed enough time for a quick selfie with all of us, while Dinesh was still speaking on the phone assuring his customer, that he was just around the curve of the beach. We were done! We were to go back and chill on the beach, have breakfast and start back home, with memories of a paradise called Agonda!

 

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For the Love of the Konkan!

I got off the bus, after a rather loud and unpleasant shriek by the conductor. I was in the Konkan railway heartland and “Udipi, Udipi, Udipi” was repeating right in my ear. I got up like the bus was on fire, and quickly swooped down, with my bag and slippers to get out of the bus. The conductor smiled and goaded the driver to move on, while I stood visibly shocked from his way of waking passengers on a sleeper bus. I was lucky that I had my bag all sorted, so I did not leave behind anything in the bus. I stretched my body and looked around the junction. It was morning already. I still had an hour before I boarded the morning passenger train from Mangalore that would stop at Udupi. I proceeded to walk over to the nearby Sri Krishna Temple, and take a walk around the temple town.

Kartik Kannan starting his trip at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple
Kartik Kannan starting his trip at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple

The temple had quite a stream of visitors, and the flower sellers were out in full numbers. I was taken in by the old-school throwback to the way place was. I looked around for some small eateries and found none near the temple complex, so walked a bit further back to the bus stand to find some ‘Udupi Restaurant’ that I have seen all along in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. I found one, but it was quite costly to find ‘Udupi Food’ in Udupi. After taking a quick parcel, and charging my phone, I took an auto to the Udupi Railway station which was about a couple of kilometres but since there is no real meter system, the auto person charges surge pricing always. 80 rs from the Udupi Bus stand to the Udupi Railway station, which is 60% more than the overall train ticket, I was about to buy that would traverse 200 kilometres across the Konkan Coast. Drat, That’s the thing with local transport in a tourist town!

Flower Seller at Udupi's Sri Krishna Temple
Flower Seller at Udupi’s Sri Krishna Temple

Once I reached Udupi’s Railway station, I proceeded to wait for the train, that never seemed to come. Then there is always this confusion on which direction I had to go, if the wrong direction train shows up at the right time. I had a train going to Kerala show up on the other platform, and then I realised that its not going towards Mumbai/Goa. I was on a ticket from Udupi to Madgaon, with the freedom of getting off anywhere I chose before Madgaon. That’s the carefree freedom a 50 Rupees ticket buys you.

Waiting at Udupi Railway Station
Waiting at Udupi Railway Station

One thing I noted at Udupi and with other stations on the Konkan Railway was that most stations seem to have a ramp that goes up on both sides, instead of steps. This is inclusive for old people as well as disabled people. I am not sure, if it was designed that way, but I could see these similarities in these small and scenic railway stations on the Konkan coastline.

Sloped walk way all over Konkan Railway Stations- Udupi Railway Station
Sloped walk way all over Konkan Railway Stations- Udupi Railway Station

All of the small stations on this stretch have shelters like the one below. It has a structure that means that each one sits facing each other, and the benches are pretty old school. I find this quite cool over the waiting rooms with power supply. There’s a sense of feeling special in these roofed shelters. Udupi is one of the bigger stations after Mangalore, and is a stop for the Rajdhani express. So planning your holiday works better if you are boarding your train at Mangalore Central/Mangalore Junction/Udipi. For the religiously inclined, the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple and the Kollur Moogambika Temple are your point of calls in this area.

The simplicity of railway shelters at Barkur Railway Station
The simplicity of railway shelters at Barkur Railway Station

 

The passenger trains find my fancy, as it slowly cuts across the length of Karnataka, transitioning into Goa amidst the scenic vistas outside the window. This train, that I board is called the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640) and is usually very slow between Mangalore and Udupi, lazing its way around the first 70 kilometres. So if you miss the train at Mangalore(6:10 am), you can still catch a fast bus to Udupi and hope to catch the train there, which usually comes at 8:15 am(scheduled at 7:30 though). The train fills up between Udupi and Kundapura, so if you board at any point after Kundapura, your chances of getting a seat is usually dependent on someone getting off in a nearby village. In Udupi, you just have enough time to barge in and find the vacant location. If you do get a window seat, latch on to it like your life depends on it, since that is your passport to fantasy in immersing yourself in this rugged and serene landscape.

 

All aboard on the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640)
All aboard on the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640)

This is a relatively new route, and is not frequented much by people, except those travelling from these villages or from Mangalore to go towarsds Goa/Mumbai. The rail track was opened for general public from the 26th of January, 1998 as part of the then newly formed Konkan Railways headquartered at Navi Mumbai, with 738 kilometres of rail connecting Mangalore and Mumbai through Goa. Pre 1998, People n Mangalore had to find a bus to Bangalore, and a train from there connecting to Davenegere-Hubli-Belgaum(Belagavi now)-Pune-Mumbai. Go down to the bottom of the post to see some links/resources talking about the history of the Konkan Railways and some early travellogues maintained.

The train slowly stops at Kundapura. I chuckle knowing that Hyderabad has a place called Kondapur, which is similar in pronunciation but world’s apart when it comes to beauty and peace. The train stops for a couple of minutes, and I walk down to check if there is something I can munch on. I am done with morning Idlis, and its well past 9 am now, and my stomach has its urges every now and then. I only find Lays and aerated drinks, which I dont drink. I would love to have tender coconut available, but I manage with a mango drink for the journey.

The railway stations are small, and have a a sense of memories. With 1 book shop,  1 waiting room, 1 food stall,  there are limited places to walk to and you register elements of the railway station better.

Minimalistic Railway stations on the Konkan Line- Stoppage at Kundapura
Minimalistic Railway stations on the Konkan Line- Stoppage at Kundapura

Once you are in the train, the greens around the railway track will consume you. The greens in the paddy fields, the greens in the palm trees lining the rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea, the greens of the little hills that the train cuts through. The greens basically talk to you, drawing you to think that keeping your face to the rail window was a full time activity. The real value of the rail ticket is the window seat, from which you will see how similar landscapes are in a place where eating customs and languages change.

The Konkan Greens outside the window!
The Konkan Greens outside the window!

If you have not got the window seat, another alternative could be the seat on the door of the compartment, which opens up a wider range of vision. Attempt this only when the train slows down or is going slowly. It is dangerous to sit near the door.

Footboard Seat on the Konkan Railways
Footboard Seat on the Konkan Railways

The villages by the Konkan, make you sitback and take notice as the palm trees, besides the greens mesmerize you into wanting to be part of the landscape. You keep building so many postcards in the mind, that at one point, you just want to keep coming back to visit this stretch. A camera helps you recconect to frames of what you saw while on the move, and helps you in planning the next trip. Imagine lagoons, tunnels, mountains, farms, paddy fields, quaint villages just keeping on repeating as the train chugs its way through the rugged landscape.

When the sun colours the green golden!
When the sun colours the green golden!

 

As the train passes through beautiful lagoons, you look at those little patches of green amidst the blue and marvel at the colour contrast. What if you could own on of these? Would you retire peacefully? I almost feel like saying yes, but my home loan EMI pops up like satan with a spear, and I get back to dreamily looking at the scenes outside the window. There are roads that cut through greenery, there are people walking on stretches where the morning rays of the sun merge with the green of the paddy and give it a golden glow and I wonder should I pull the chain and just wander into these villages and see them.

Lovely Lagoons by the Konkan Railway
Lovely Lagoons by the Konkan Railway

 

I am stuck to these blue horizontal bars, with my eyes looking at the villages outside. I keep taking my ‘commercial breaks’ by having conversations with passengers on the train. One thing about these second class compartments, and especially the ones where long distance train tickets cost less than a hundred rupees is that people are bound to speak to you, share their lives, their thoughts and even their food. In my case, after learning that I am a photographer, a couple of people asked me to take the window seats. I am indebted to them, as they parted with their window seats. They were middle aged men from a factory in Erode in Tamil Nadu, and were on a bachelor trip to Goa, and were excited about their first trip to Goa. The added fact that I speak Tamil in an unfamilar terrain across the Konkan, also gave me brownie points.

Grab that windows seat!
Grab that windows seat!

 

Every time a lagoon came, I’d freeze. I’d freeze since the frame was stunning. When you encounter a huge waterbody after seeing dense trees all around, all of a sudden your space in front of your eyes increases to take in the enormity of a tiny train trudging through the Konkan railway. The senses freeze and allow you to ‘screenshot’ the image into your mind, in the limited time that the trees get back into the frame. This was like your energy booster in the middle of a long journey. Every now and then, you manage to get back to the window, even though you see nondescript villages pass by, just for the fear of missing out scenery like this.

Freeze Please! Konkan Railway gem on display
Freeze Please! Konkan Railway gem on display

Villages pass by with orangish Paths, covering whatever is left of the road, being garlanded by tall palm trees. It looks like the tree is the parents and they are chaperoning the village from getting urbanized. They are doing a good job at it. Reddish brown tiles, and Green cover all around makes you feel like stress, urgency and a fast pace don’t really have a standing here. An old man walks along the mud path, like he must have for all these years, with a smile. Somebody in the train is playing ‘Malare’ on their bluetooth speaker, as the train ambles through Kundapura and Senapura.  The world seems more beautiful, with a mellifluos song, sung in sync with scenery that is shouting at you to look at it with its wares.

Scenic Rural Roads by the railway track in Karnataka
Scenic Rural Roads by the railway track in Karnataka

 

Seeing Trucks piggy bank on Rail wagons, made me google a bit to understand what this was. I found out that this was part of an Indian Railways scheme called ‘Roll-On-Roll-Off’, which was introduced in January 1999, a year after the Konkan Railways was open commercially.  This scheme helps decongest roads, as the trucks now travel on the rail network, resulting in a savings of 750 lakh litres of diesel fuel. The RO-RO concept was flagged off earlier this year in Bihar

Rail On Rail Off Scheme on the Konkan Railway
Rail On Rail Off Scheme on the Konkan Railway

 

Soon after crossing the mighty Sharavati river, Honnavar shows up. Its one of the bigger stations on this rail network, but a look at the local villages doesnt suggest that anything is any different. I wonder if the local economies and entertainment revolve around the arrival and departure of the infrequent trains at these stations. Bombay,but not quite Bombay, as latter has people’s life revolving around more frequent trains that is a maddening rush, but these stations along the Konkan, have a pretty laidback approach to life. I spot a little school near the railway track, and each time the train hoots through the treacherous terrain, the kids quite love the attention, and wave out to us. Simple joys and pleasures of life that have been numbed by living in an insecure city life. I question, why the damn life in a city, and why not a life earning enough to be peaceful and be grounded and connected to nature. The Home Loan EMI devil stares at me. I regret even posting the question and get back to engaging my senses with nature.

Serene views of a waterbody on the Konkan Railway route
Serene views of a waterbody on the Konkan Railway route

The names of the stations are in a shade of yellow, against the dusted white walls. It’s like the stations had a uniform.  The Konkan railways have numbered portions of the stations, with a white board showing the coach number. Since they have limited trains passing through, the vendors and the TT know exactly which coach stops. Maybe ‘Google Now’ can next tell me, to walk a 127 steps to the general compartment. Maybe in a few years on the Konkan Railway! The picket fences are the identity of the Konkan Railway, in the midst of the little greenery that surrounds it on the station. When I approached Murdeshwar, I could spot the giant Shiva statue right on the beach, from the railway track. This little village also has some Scuba Diving options near the temple complex.

Konkan's own style picket fences
Konkan’s own style picket fences

As the train moves on, the paddy fields are swathed over large expanses. There is so much open space, and it mildly manages to open up my constipated mind. Cattle has places to graze, children have places to play, the animals have a localized water body to quench their thirst and this is the normal world, we urban citizens seem to have moved away from. There are workers in the field waving at us, the children are playing cricket by a dilapidated wall for a pavilion, and the train keeps passing through vistas of endless greenery, lagoons and tunnels. Harwada shows up, out of the blue. I thought it was a stop for a signal, it turned out to be a railway station with no sign of a platform or maybe I didnt look harder.

Stopping by Harwada Railway Station in Karnataka. Wait is there even a platform here?
Stopping by Harwada Railway Station in Karnataka. Wait is there even a platform here?

The train passes through Harwada, and goes towards Loliem. Yes, a railway station that starts with LOL, which basically has a beautiful view of the Arabian sea meeting the Talpona River, near Xandrem beach. Once the beach names end with a ‘drem’ you know that the Konkan Railways has stepped into the wonderland called Goa. Loliem is the first station from the southern side.

Where the Arabian Sea meets the Talpona River in Goa
Where the Arabian Sea meets the Talpona River in Goa

The train ambles its way to the Cancon district, housing a railway station called Cancona. This railway station is where you get off to see the curvy palm linings of Palolem and the peaceful Agonda, Khola and Gajlibaga beaches in Goa. The railway station is scenic and is surrounded by hills. The station has autos and taxis that schedule their movement based on incoming/outgoing trains.

August-2008, my friend and I vacated our shack at Palolem during the monsoons, as it was dull, and a friend of ours called us to Candolim, so we went to Cancona station at 10 in the night to catch a train to Thivim. As soon as the autorikshaw left us, it started raining cats and dogs, and there was no one at the station, except the person manning the ticket counter. There was no way we could go back even if we wanted, since the station was in the midst of a mini forest amidst the hills. Since we were to only buy an unreserved ticket, my friend and I started to postpone buying our ticket for the midnight train. When we walked up to the ticket counter, we found out to our dismay that the train coming now was going in the opposite direction and our train was scheduled only early in the morning at 7 am. We had nothing to do at the station. We had a couple of hours of laptop battery, so we were watching a movie, sitting uncomfortably on the rocky chairs, while the mosquitoes sucked all the blood from two vegetarian tee-totallers, for a difference given the usual alcohol laced blood it must be used to stocking up on. We woke up groggy eyed, to see patriotic songs being played. It was India’s 61’st Independence day, and the station master was busy with preparations for the Independence day function. We got up, and feltwe had missed that 7 am train, and then we realised that the train was late, owing to the monsoon. We waved to the station master and went back to boarding our train, with memories of spending an independence day at a quaint railway station

An autorikshaw ferries passengers from Canacona Railway station in Goa
An autorikshaw ferries passengers from Canacona Railway station in Goa

The Kadamba bus stand as seen as from the Cancona railway station. Its about a brisk 15 minute walk to get to civilisation to Chaudi market. I liked what I saw, and felt that this was a good time to get off and explore something in these parts of the woods. So as all good things come to an end, my Konkan rail experience ends here.

The view of the Kadamba Bus station at Chaudi near Canacona Railway Station in Goa
The view of the Kadamba Bus station at Chaudi near Canacona Railway Station in Goa

 

Important Notes and External Links



Getting on this train

From Chennai– Board the Lalbagh express at 1535 hours and reach Krishnarajapuram in Bangalore by 9 pm. Uber your way to Hebbal to board the 22:00 Udupi bound bus, which goes through Mangalore. The train at Mangalore starts at 6:10 am, and arrives in Udupi at 7:30 am. So get off accordingly to go and board the train.

From Bangalore– If possible get on the 2015 KSRTC bus from Majestic Bus stand, and get down in Udupi at 5 in the morning. You would have enough time to refresh and board the train at 7:30 am.

From Hyderabad– Your only real chance is to board the bus from Hyderabad to Gokarna and then catch the train from Gokarna Road railway station, where a significant part of the journey is missed on the Konkan Railway route. Its easier to reach Goa than Gokarna, so that stat is a bummer, but you really dont want to miss this train journey.


Konkan Railway Reference Map- Use this map for planning where to get off in between or just planning your journey. Original Image here, but a short portion of it is shown below for consumption

Konkan Railway Map
Konkan Railway Map

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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