Photo Challenge: Elemental

via Photo Challenge: Elemental

It was the first week of June.

The  southwest monsoons had set in, everyone was talking about the rains, the news channels, family from different parts of the countries.

However, Chennai remained the same. I knew that monsoon in Chennai was usually during October  to November, yet a small part of me kept glancing at the skies for the slightest sign of rainfall.

I finished work very early that day and walked home in the sweltering heat, the afternoon sun shone on me mercilessly my colorful umbrella provided little comfort as I trudged on steadily.

I reached home and watched astonished as the skies darkened and cold winds tossed everything in their path to a side.

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I ran up to my terrace and reached just in time to catch the first droplets that made their way to meet the scorched cement.

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It all happened at once, as I looked up I caught sight of five white pelicans flying towards me and watched in awe as they flew so close by with the dark skies as their backdrop.

I had the best time ever dancing in the rain and watching the different reactions it evoked around me.In the distance I saw a woman hurrying to get the clothes off the washing line,  children from the nearby school chased each other in the rain,  the puppies next door barked in confusion and the coconut trees swayed gently with their arms outstretched to the skies.

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Hyderabad an old world charm

via Daily Prompt: Spicy

The city of Hyderabad is famous for irani chai, Charminar, spicy biriyani and pearls.

I love this quaint city with its old world charm and slow paced lifestyle which makes visitors feel at home.  So when I was given the task of showing K around ,I decided to take him to these places that I felt captured the essence of this city so well.

1. Charminar :

All tourism posters of Hyderabad show this lovely monument located in the old city. Interestingly it was erected as a token of gratitude to the gods after the plague affecting the city had come to an end in 1591.

Surrounded by bazaars and thronged by people on almost all days I thought K deserved to see this place when it was quieter in the wee hours of the morning. So the two of us woke up early and admired the Charminar as It stood  like a sentinel watching the residents stir awake as the sun rose. Visitors are allowed in between : 9am -5:30 pm and can climb up to 1 floor to be able to Get a panoramic view of the surrounding marketplace, the mecca masjid a few feet away and the hustle bustle below.

Source:wikipedia

2. Govind bhai’s dosa:

Come Sunday my friends and I would head out for  breakfast to Govind bhai’s food stall.  It was located in ghanzi bazaar opposite Agra sweets just around the corner to Charminar. Since K and I were already in the area and were famished we went over and we patted ourselves on the back for the good decision. His tawa idlis and butter dosas were to die for. The stall opens at 6:30 am and closes at 1 pm. He has an outlet in Banjara hills as well on  road no 14.  Off late other dosa places around Hyderabad have started emulating his style of cooking, however I personally felt that his dosas are unparalleled.

3. Laad bazaar:

A trip to Charminar and Hyderabad is considered incomplete if you don’t venture into Laad bazaar. The bazaar stretches across..  And K surprisingly insisted that he wanted to go shopping in Laad bazaar . The sheer variety of wares being sold there took me by surprise.  Semi precious stones, dress materials, sarees, bangles, bindis, jewellery, kolhapuri chappals, decorations, dry fruits, pearls and all kind of food. The best way of exploring the bazaar is ofcourse on foot so you can take a look at all the stores, just make sure you strike a good bargain.

4. Birla mandir :

This temple of marble has been built by the birlas and is located on hill fort road.  The best time to visit is early morning  to catch the sunrise or just before The sun sets.  The main shrine is dedicated to lord venkateshwara and goddess padmavati,however there are shrines for the Buddha, lakshmi,ganesha,shakti ,shiva.

Source:wikipedia

5.Bhongiri fort :

Tribhuvanagiri as it was originally called, was built in the 11th century by the chalukhyan ruler Tribhuvanamalla vikramaditya the sixth.  The fort is built on  a monolith rock which was recently discovered to be a batholith(which is a large igneous rock formed beneath the surface of the earth due to the intrusion and cooling of magma). Apart from being steeped in history this monument also offers adventure lovers an opportunity to try activities such as rock climbing and rapelling thanks to the rock climbing school located at the base.

Source:wikipedia

6.Tank bund :

Hussain sagar or tank bund as its locally referred to, is a huge man made lake in the center of the city.  There is a statue of the Buddha in the middle of tank bund and government boats  ferry visitors  across to the statue. The Buddha statue is said to be the largest monolith in Asia.   There are 33 bronze statues of famous people who have played instrumental roles in their respective fields on the tank bund road. In the evenings the entire road around tank bund is lit up in lights and appears like a necklace, lending it the name necklace road.

 

Source:wikipedia

7.Taramati baradari:

Located near Golconda fort this place  was built especially for Taramati who was the favorite courtesan of Abdullah qutub shah. The hall has been designed in such a way that her voice could be heard clearly while she sang all the way to Golconda fort Located 2 km away. The pavilion has 12 doorways that allowed for cross ventilation and also kept the hall cool during the summers. Present day it has been converted into an auditorium.

source:wikipedia

8.Salarjung museum:

Located on the southern bank of the Musi river,this is a lovely museum to visit especially on a hot day when you would rather be indoors. The  salar jung museum is believed to be the largest one man collection to be known and had many notable artifacts from all over the world. My all time favorites are the veiled Rebecca, the double statue of Mephistopheles and Margareta and the cuckoo clock at the center. The museum is the perfect place to spend hours marveling at the elegance and the creativity of the human mind and is sure to take the fancy of  many a dreamer.

Source :wikipedia
Source:wikipedia

 

Have you been to Hyderabad? I would love to hear about which place you hold close to your heart,do write in.

Yercaud- A tryst in the Shervarayan range

The itch to travel started a little too soon this time.

Eyebrows were raised when we announced we were going away for the weekend ,yet again.

Anyway, this time we were joined by my dear sis. We boarded a train at Chennai and five hours later we were at Salem. From Salem to Yercaud you can either travel by a bus or a car.The skies darkened as we ascended the Shervaroy hills and Salem city twinkled merrily in the distance.

We were shivering by the time we reached our room at TGI star holiday resort.The resort was situated down slope from the main road and about ten minutes away from the Yercaud lake.

We checked in and dragged our trolleys up slope to our rooms,we passed by a campfire and an open air theater they had in the common area of the resort.People huddled around the fire and watched keenly as they played Bahubali 2 .We spent some time at the campfire,walked around a bit and fell asleep exhausted from all the travel.

We were up by 5:30 am the next day and walked to the lake which was also called the Emerald lake owing to its green color.Since it was so early we were the only ones around the lake and we watched the sun rise from the mountains behind the lake.The tea shops and tiffin centres started opening serving hot food which beckoned to us invitingly.

We made arrangements to go sightseeing that day with a cab driver we had met when we arrived in Yercaud.

1.Shervarayan temple:

Our first stop he informed us,was the Shervarayan temple; the locals placed idols of their god Shervarayan and goddess Kaveri in this cave temple and people from all the 67 villages surrounding the hill, came to worship here. The cave was rumored to extend all the way to Coorg. We arrived at the temple before anyone else did and had to stoop to be able to enter.once inside there was enough room to stand up.There were two small idols adorned with flowers and a small lamp and incense stick burned next to them. The mouth of the cave is enclosed in a frame and adorned with bells. A  few feet away from the temple is a raised viewing platform from where you can see the mist rising up from the valley below.IMG20170626094442

Along the same road is Bear’s cave which we couldn’t see since it requires special permission to visit as it is located in  Norton’s estate.The cave is said to have been used by Tipu Sultan during war time as a hideout.

2.Sri Chakra Maha Meru temple:

Next we stopped at the Sri Chakra Maha Meru temple which had been built recently.  This temple has the largest Sri chakra in the world. The presiding deity in this temple is  Sri Lalitha Thripoora Sundari. The temple is serene yet vibrant, sitting amidst coffee plantations and pepper plants.

Read in detail about this temple here: Sri chakra maha meru temple

3.Sri Rajarajeswari temple: The Rajarajeswari temple was dedicated to a beautiful powerful goddess as well.

4.Karidiyur viewpoint:

Karadiyur literally means bear town,since it used to be the home to many sloth bears.However now it is a hamlet and We had to walk through a dirt road to reach this viewpoint. It is actually a short walk of maybe 10-15 minutes, however the three of us kept stopping to look at butterflies ,at jamun trees, at centipedes and so it took us a while to get there. Since it was a public  holiday,it looked like most of the people from Salem had ventured out for a picnic. We can see Salem, and Mettur dam from this viewpoint. However the most memorable thing about this place was seeing an entire tree filled with butterflies ,whenever a breeze shook the tree they flitted out and hovered around the branches it was mesmerising to watch.IMG20170626113109IMG20170626113022IMG20170626110321IMG20170626110047IMG20170626110248

5. Pagoda point:

I was curious when the guide told us we would be visiting pakoda point next.We laughed when we realized that he was referring to the pagoda and not the indian snack pakoda!  The pagoda point got its name because of the piles of stones placed there which look like pagodas;the British people used the pagodas as landmarks to identify the route from the plains to the hill top. Ayothiapattinum and Attur are visible from this viewpoint.The atmosphere there was similar to a fair/carnival with lots of rides,stalls and games to entertain tourists.

6. Retreat point:

The Retreat  was founded in 1945 by the brothers of Don Bosco.  The main building is a place for students of the religious order to stay and study.  The public had access only to the football field.It was by far my favorite place  since we were the only people there and we sat down and took in the beauty of the hills from the end of the world bench there. The sun suddenly shone on us and we were able to have a look and figure out how to work the sun dial on the grounds.

7. Ladies,Gent’s and childrens seat:

We visited lady’s , gents and children’s seat, I know the names are a bit strange! We were caught in the rain and they were overcrowded so I just couldn’t wait to get away from there.

Children’s seat had three different viewpoints located far enough from each other so everyone had their space. The rain stopped and we walked down from children’s seat through the horticultural farm to the rose garden. The horticultural farm was beautifully maintained and we came across some women warming themselves by a small bonfire they had started. We chatted with them for a while they told us about the local fruit that grew in abundance like the jack fruit, fig trees, avocado, pepper and aatu kaal kalangu loosely translated as goat hoof tuber since it looks like a goats hoof. Rose garden was full of rose trees as the name suggests.IMG20170626152324

Day 2

8.Emerald lake:

The Yercaud lake  is one of the main attractions of this small hill station.The boathouse opens only at 9 am. There are rowboats,peddle boats and motor boats available for rent for varying prices and time duration’s.The motorboat and rowboats are manned by people from the boathouse.So we opted for a peddleboat.

The ride around the lake itself was fun, and we even spotted a man line fishing we tried to get a closer look but backed off when it dawned on us that we might scare the fish away. Once we got off the back we went to where he was fishing and he showed us his catch and told us he used jamun as bait.

Since we had time to spare we checked out the deer park adjacent to the lake.

9. Handicraft/perfumery: We loved the handicraft store right opposite the lake.They had a delightful collection of wooden toys, pens, utensils, combs,agarbathi stands, wall hangings and every variety of tea and coffee imaginable. They had a lot of spices, perfumes and even sherbets. Always one to try new things K bought a hibiscus sherbet which ended up being really delicious when we added a dash of lime and ginger.

10. Explore the town on foot:

We enjoyed exploring the town on foot ans were lucky enough to come across a house where wedding celebrations were afoot.What struck me were the Eco friendly decorations that were used to adorn the doorways. They were all biodegradable and natural,so they were prettier than anything human hands could have designed.

 

 

 

 

 

Glamping in Valparai -India

 

My phone beeped with an update, “the bus leaves in ten minutes”.

Are we going to make it? I wondered as I got into the cab.

Yes! We made it. Thanks to the customary chai break .

It was mid May, I was dreading this trip to be honest. To travel in May especially in Tamilnadu was no ordinary feat.
Surprisingly I slept really well and woke up to a surreal sight of massive windmills and coconut plantations,We were passing through Palladum.
In thirty minutes we were greeted by amazing weather at Pollachi and while having breakfast and inquiring about how to reach valparai we realized there was a bus strike.
We headed to the bus stop and spoke to a couple of locals who were going in a private vehicle. For a reasonable price we were allowed to tag along.

41 hairpin bends later we arrived at valparai town. And  in another fifteen minutes  we reached Monica tea bungalow /estate.
A king size bed, a dressing table, a pedestal fan and the cutest lamp awaited us in the spacious tent. This was surely glamping at its best i thought ,as i stepped out of the tent and a kettle of hot tea was set down on our table.

We were sitting outside and sipping on hot tea, when we heard a loud rattling call, we soon spotted a giant Malabar squirrel calling out to its mate from the jack fruit tree overhead. It was fascinating to watch them hang upside down and artfully prise open the jack fruit while chattering away intermittently. Soon, they were gracefully swinging from one tree to another while making their way into the shola forest.
As the sun started setting ,the orchestra of the jungle came to life ,lead by the cicadas, the crickets and the tree frogs soon joined in, playing one symphony after another.
The stars begin emerging shyly one after another and soon filled the night sky and left us awestruck. After stargazing for a while we were lulled to sleep by the low rhythmical hum of the crickets.
The next day at 4:45 am I was woken up by someone whistling a merry tune. We looked around trying to figure out who the early riser was. Wouldn’t you know it! It was a Malabar whistling thrush Serenading his mate who happened to be sitting on our tent roof. Soon the entire forest woke up and  they were competing to see who was the loudest.
We walked around the tea estate and stood still admiring the rising sun, the entire forest seemed to have fallen silent and we became still as well, soon two brown mongoose  ventured out gingerly to look for food.IMG20170518064841

It seemed almost like nature was sharing her secrets with us if we paid attention to her.

We continued walking and in the distance noticed a solitary Gaur or Indian bison making his way into the forest.He let out a low call, but it wasn’t returned ,we just stood there and watched him take his time, to slowly disappear into the trees.

Our next acquaintance was with a lion tailed macaque also  endemic to the western ghats and now an endagered species. He was swinging from the trees with his family and when K tried to get a better picture, he came charging towards us.

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This picture was taken from a safe distance

 

We walked back ,enjoying the silence,  dwelling on the peace that seemed to envelop this place and the  wonderful people who lived here. I understood the importance of just letting things “be”  ,which has been so beautifully phrased by Lao Tzu “Nature does not hurry ,yet everything is accomplished”.

I would love to hear of your travels and your thoughts dear reader, please do share them here. Thank you.