Monday, July 3, 2017

on the tiger trail...........


Hello people! How have you all been? Are you all interested to go with me on a chase along the tiger trail? I can assure you that this is going to be interesting, in fact very engrossing as we literally follow the muddy tracks to have a glimpse of the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger in Nagerhole. The drama unfolded beautifully over two days and we not only spotted the regal, striped four footed being of the jungle but also witnessed much more drama. A movie could be made of what we saw, our emotions all charged up, sometimes with wonder, ecstasy and sometimes with disbelief! And while I take you through our experiences, hold onto your seats well.
Patience is rewarding. I don't know who said this but it is my belief, and a tried and tested one. Today's post as I mentioned earlier, is all about our rewards, our experiences in the jungle, a place we keep going back to every now and then. Not for anything in particular but for our deep love towards the place and its inhabitants. 
We love to stay at The Bison ( a post on this place is long pending ), a rustic camp, that nestles beautifully along the fringes of the Nagerhole National Park also known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park. This sanctuary, along with the Bandipur National Park are home to the largest number of big cat population, I am told. Although Nagerhole is smaller of the two, we have found the jungles full of wildlife, be it herds of the mammoth elephants, the gigantic Indian Gaurs, flocks of deer with their intricate antlers, the huge sambar deer, the magnificent peacocks,   wild dogs, foxes,wild boars, the human-like and playful langurs, leopards and the black panthers to name a few. The river Kabini flows in this region and is replete with marine life. The fresh water otters and crocodiles making their presence felt at all times, regale the visitors throughout the year. The boat safari is an experience by itself. The soft purring of the engine as the boat cuts through the rippled waters of the Kabini, the outlines of the dense forest in the distance, the occasional faraway cry of some animal, a solitary elephant standing against the light thereby creating a silhouette, all so magical. One cannot help but fall in love with the jungles.


Well, sorry for the digression. Each of our experiences is so unique that once I start penning them down or even get talking about them, I lose track completely! Every little thing merges into one, that of love for the wilderness and wildlife. So let me try picking up from where I detoured. We sped towards the tiger tank, a man-made reservoir as news of sighting a big cat came in. It was a completely thrilling experience. As we reached the spot, we could see a few other vehicles waiting for a glimpse of the cat. And suddenly, someone whispered and pointed to something resting against a thick bamboo thicket. There it was, the first one. Then out came the second one, a cub, to have a drink of water. It posed for the hungry photographers, who lost no time to press the multiple shot button of their cameras. The second cub, then, made its appearance. I couldn't believe my eyes! Not one, but  four tigers in front of me! It was a big day for all of us, jungle lovers, the ultimate viewing. They all looked regal, their black and gold striped skin shone brilliantly against the golden sun. Their presence was electric. We gaped at them, some trying to capture their movements in their cameras, the others like me trying to absorb all of it and permanently store them in the memory boxes within our brain. 
Day two started with a morning safari. We had zero hopes of spotting a tiger as we went to a zone where the tiger population is known to be  very less. Little did we know that we were in for the biggest surprise of our safari life! A few hundreds of metres into the jungle trail and there she was, lying on the main pathway! I actually pinched myself hard to believe what I was seeing; a striped four legged creature! Yes, you heard me right! She was having a power nap, totally oblivious of her surroundings, oblivious of the fact that a dozen or more cameras kept flashing and she was under the astounded gaze of more than fifty onlookers. I loved the way she just took no note of anything or anyone, continued to nap, occasionally twitching her ears.

Well, this is HER territory and we must wait for her to make way for us!

While she decided to sit up and pose for us!

The haze, the camouflage, all so perfect!

a closer look ......

What! A leopard, too?

It was certainly a day of high drama in the wilderness.Two regal creatures in front of us; while one was striped, the other one was spotted. And were apparently not at loggerheads with each other. The tiger was clearly not happy about the leopard's presence in what she felt was her territory. She made it very obvious with a look upwards towards the leopard and a hissing low growl! And we were witnesses to all of this. 
Guess I must stop here as this could be lengthier with all of my descriptions and never-to-end stories. This post was meant to be published long back but got deferred for reasons I know not. Maybe I was too busy dreaming about those magical moments of spotting a tiger for the very first time. After this first time there has been many more such experiences and each time has been different from the previous. Leaving you all with a few photographs of our first experience. 
I would love to hear from you about your experience in the wild. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mango Mulch

 As pretty as the name sounds, Mango Mulch is a charming village home-stay in Talakkad. The town has its share of religious importance not just for the locals but also for the people of Karnataka, in general. It is home to the Pancha Lingeshwara or Shiva temples. Some of these old temples have been unearthed by the locals along with the ASI ( Archaeological Survey of India) and then restored. There are folklores associated as to how these temples were completely submerged under sand and why the village turned into a barren desert while the neighbouring areas had or still has no trace of that fine sand. The stories are really interesting. But that could be another post; this is about the charming place with about a fifty old mango trees.
We first heard about Mango Mulch from our friends who often visit this place. They gave us such good reviews of the place that we decided to spend a weekend in this farm. And we were not disappointed. The farm stood amidst these sprawling mango trees, some as old as a hundred years, canopied by the foliage. It was shady, cool and breezy even in the warm summer afternoon when we reached the place. The hammocks hanging from the sturdy branches of the mango trees were as inviting as the benches placed under the mango canopy.  A perfect place to get lost in your dreams while you took a short nap on the hammocks; or maybe enjoy a book while the breeze gently rocked you as you lay on them. For us, city dwellers, the cries of the peacocks, no matter how shrill they were, were like music. The twittering of the innumerable birds and the rustling of the leaves as the wind blew created an 'ensemble' that we loved! Our 'chambre' , one of the two rooms of a cottage,stood under the shade of the gigantic mango trees, had a simple yet lovely d├ęcor. Comfortable beds, a pretty bay window an interesting sewing-machine study table and built-in cupboards; what more is required! The thatched red oxide dining area, under the shady mango trees where we were served delicious meals was again a real treat. Well, while speaking of Mango Mulch I cannot forget the delicious meals we had there. Home cooked meals, simple yet delicious, aroused our taste buds to their maximum! We loved the spread of ragi rotis, the millet served in place of rice with the special sopu ( greens) sambar, to name a few.
Our idea of holidays and relaxation is this; delicious food, comfortable clean rooms, beautiful ambiance amidst nature, long walks through fields of paddy and sugar cane, gorgeous sunsets and the dusk setting in beautifully with families of peacocks and birds returning home. And that is how I summarize Mango Mulch.
While I describe the place, I must not forget to mention the very hospitable, much travelled hosts, Ashwini and Sudhakar, who live within the property in their gorgeous home. They regaled us with their storehouse of interesting travel stories, as enjoyable as our stay in their beautiful farm. 
I am sure many of you would love to spend a weekend in this beautifully green place and come back with pleasant experiences as we did. Leaving you with some photographs of Mango Mulch. Enjoy!

The first look of the place as we entered it...this is one of the two cottages in the farm.....

Nothing specific... I loved the water container. Insignificant it might be, but created a pretty picture amidst the greenery.

The second cottage that has two rooms with a common sit out; one of the rooms was occupied by yours truly!

a close-up of the first cottage...I loved the red oxide sit out!

Can you make out the size of the mango tree?

the dining area with its rustic look

So inviting! Perfect to get lost  in my dreams!

another view......

The hot and humid afternoon for us turned into a breezy one, thanks to the shady mango trees......

The dining area where we lingered on after a heavy delicious meal.

These gigantic mango trees impressed me with their size and bulk!




The spread was really good, well cooked, delicious and light on the stomach.
The special sweets our hosts made for us :-)
Doesn't this look delicious? Believe me, it tasted out of the world!
Catching the sun as it peeped in through the foliage.
As we took our evening walk to see the setting sun; it cast its golden hue on the waters of the Cauvery creating a magical pot of gold.


Loved the huge bay window, a perfect place to unwind with a book and a cup of strong filter coffee.....




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The home of colours, Dilli Haat

As a child, I would visit my paternal grandparents during my vacations, without fail. They used to live in a village that, in those days did not enjoy the benefits of a city. But this never made my trips to my ancestral home any less exciting. I looked forward to the long vacations, during summer and  October. Now, this is the base of the post I am about to pen down today as I take a trip down memory lane. Of all the exciting, at times crazy and enjoyable things I did there, the one that definitely needs a mention is my visits to the 'haat'. The bullock cart rides to the haat, those days were like a trip to some exotic place ( that was how I felt! ). As we all know, it is a local term, a regional word used to describe an open market place. These days we have the equivalents like potters' market, farmers' market and so many more. During those 'no mall and supermarket' days, people mainly depended upon these all important haats to buy and sell their wares and produce.
I loved the energy palpable in those haats. And though Dilli Haat does not exactly resemble our village haats, it has a certain rawness about it; resonates with positive vibes and energy. Several trips to Dilli Haat during my two years in the NCR, made me fall in love with the place. The more I visited it, the more I got drawn towards it. And this attraction starts from the entrance. The splashes of colour greet the visitors immediately as the eyes meet the first stall displaying gorgeous Madhubani paintings. The colourful discovery continues as one visits stall after stall, each one appearing to be better than the other, more colourful, more vibrant, the hues and tones falling short of names; the truly colourful journey making one so addictive that it is difficult to leave the place. At least this has been my state each time I visited Dilli Haat. It seems as if the rainbow of colours unfold themselves, one at a time, layer after layer, creating a beautiful tapestry. To top it all, there are the performances by the rural artists, charging up the ambiance. The aroma of food wafting in the air, makes the place even more inviting. After all, who would not want to settle down for a cup of  sweetened, strong masala chai laced with cardamoms after a enjoyable bout of shopping, a bit of bargaining with the shop-keepers or maybe stop midway through shopping to gain some energy. For accompaniments, the menu has a wide variety from the four corners of our country to choose from.
I shall not fill in too many words in this post. Let the photographs say it all. Enjoy the visuals as you walk through the haat. Choose from the pretty knick knacks, textiles, rugs and a lot more for your home. And now join me as I stroll through the stalls of Dilli Haat  soaking in the afternoon sun on a cold wintery day .......


That's the entrance.....come on in..........
The totally charged feel inside as these folk artists from Rajasthan perform live, entertainment, colours, energy, you have them all.....
 a slice of the beautiful state of Kashmir.........
I loved this stall. Kashmiri embroidered cushion covers, runners, durries, all vying for attention, one better than the other,,,,,,
I was completely in love with this particular stall. I stood glued in front of these beauties and wished I could carry a couple of them back home....
What a pretty tea-cozy! For a tea-lover like me, this is just perfect!  Pity we don't get to use these here in our city......
Some day, I must plan a trip to Kashmir ; for the sake of these gorgeous textiles ( This paradise needs to be explored! ).....


As if the rainbow has descended down.........
Totally in love with these earthen wares.......

Cushion covers are my weaknesses.........
Colour, colour, which colour do you choose?
There were many more stalls to cover. But lack of time did not permit me to take a look at all those beautiful ones. I hope you enjoyed the colourful trip through Dilli Haat. Maybe you could plan one and experience the beauty of the place. For all those decor lovers, this place is a shoppers' paradise and most certainly should feature in your list of places to visit.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The story of a quaint and charming railway station

Because of the beautiful old train station......
Saks Fifth Avenue
Quotehd.com
This is going to be an interesting post, at least that is how I feel as I start stringing in the words to give the post a good structure and content. The new year,at our end has started with a little bit of travel . And while we visited places on work coupled with pleasure, we realised how beautiful a country we live in. For the longest of time, I had been saving up photographs of the pretty Swiss countryside from several travel magazines. Switzerland is a place I have set my heart on. Visiting our very own Ooty and more recently parts of Himachal Pradesh, made me take note of our desi Swiss countryside.
We follow a strange philosophy while travelling; for us, it isn't the common, the more popular tourist destinations and spots. We prefer to chalk out our own list of places to visit. We have been following this for quite sometime now and our recent trip was no exception. Setting up base in the lesser known Kimughat, though the hotel read Kasauli, we decided to travel to not so well- known places like Barod and Solan rather than Shimla as probably most tourists would've done. And we were not disappointed with our choice ! The picturesque spots travelled along with us; they were at every nook and corner, the most mediocre looking dhabas served us steaming cups of masala chai along with some magnificent view of the snow clad mountains. Being mountain lovers, all along, we never missed an opportunity to travel to the mountains whenever possible. It is at such times I felt the need to be really rich money-wise :-))))))))))......so we could travel without having to think much! Thanks to these trips, we have learnt to discern the differences in the mountains, the vegetation, flora and fauna, the surroundings and much more. And that, the Himalayas are mighty.
Our itinerary did undergo some change as more snowfall was expected in the region. We finally zeroed down on Barog and Solan, Barog, as we wanted to see the quaint and pretty railway station. My post here is all about this charming little railway station. This little place serves as a stopover for refreshment between Kalka and Shimla and vice-versa. This train line has a speciality; it features in the list of the prestigious Unesco World Heritage. As a child I had heard about this as 'the toy train'...well, I would still call it a toy train ride as the trains looks pretty different from the regular ones. These trains having pretty names like Himalayan Queen ( one of the few trains running on this route) have about six to seven coaches. And to me, they looked like carriages straight out of Enid Blyton's Malory Towers!



The red roofed main building of the station looked very pretty!
There is an interesting story associated with Barog. It is the story of a Britisher,  Colonel Barog. He was in charge of constructing this tunnel that you see in the photograph. The entire stretch between Kalka and Shimla initially had about 107 tunnels. Out of this, 102 are operational at the moment. Barog tunnel is the longest of all these tunnels. It is also a straight tunnel.We could actually see light at the other end of the tunnel! Well, going back to the story of Colonel Barog, the British engineer, was fined as he made some errors while constructing this tunnel. This made him depressed and finally led to his suicide. The small town gets its name from the colonel. 
Going down to the station was quite a trek!

The tea stall where we had some fresh masala chai..........
It was our luck that we met the station super of Barog who shared with us a lot of history of this place. He, very enthusiastically clicked our photographs with the train in the background. He even showed us the old station buildings. I have shared some very old photographs of how Barog looked during the British era. These are photographs from the internet, that the station super has lovingly framed and hung up in his cabin. The station is now just a stop over for refreshment as I mentioned earlier. We cannot embark or disembark from the train in this station unless we are staying in the retiring rooms there. One look at this place will be enough for anyone to understand why we cannot make use of this station like all other stations. But at the same time, there are the old heritage rooms, the retiring rooms to be precise,that are reserved by the travellers mostly during summers to spend the night and proceed to Shimla the next day. Interesting concept, isn't it? I would love to experience this uncommon lodging in a station someday!
As goods are being unloaded to prepare refreshments...............

Barog as it was during the British time.......

Barog during the British era.........

The other end of the station...........

As the train goes into the tunnel..........

Did I not mention about the retiring rooms? The interesting concept of spending time in a station........

view of the station......

The old fireplace!
This was Barog through our lens and eyes. We loved what we saw; hope you ,too, enjoyed the post.