Thursday, November 13, 2014

My 15th visit to Mount Abu

This is my 15th time visit to Mount Abu, Rajasthan. This time I had some good memorable experiences in visiting new places. 

Shantivan Aerial View
Solar power Project

Mukdi Matha Temple
This year my long time wish came true as we visited the famous Gaumukh temple and Vashist Ashram. We have to take left from the toll plaza in Mount abu and usually people will not go regularly to this place. We have to hire a jeep / taxi to go to this place.

Steps to Gaumukh Temple 

The Gaumukh Temple was built in its location as a dedication to Saint Vashishth. It is believed that Saint Vashishth performed a yagna there that created the four major Rajput clans. There is also a tank that you should visit- the Agni Kund. The Agni Kund is believed to be the site of a sacrificial fire which Saint Vashishth used to perform the yagna from which the four clans were born.

Gaumukh Temple Pond
The cow is considered a sacred animal by those who make religious pilgrimages to the Gaumukh Temple and nearby the temple you will find a spring that is believed to have emerged from the mouth of a rock that is shaped similar to a cows head. A large marble statue of a cow has been built on the site. The bull is representative of Nandi, who was Shiva’s vehicle. There is a stream of water that flows from the mouth of the marble bull. Nearby you will find statues of Nandi, Saint Vashishth, Lord Ram and Lord Krishna.

If you are a visitor to the Mount Abu region and you wish to experience some of the local religious culture, you must visit the Gaumukh Temple. Once only popular for Ancient sages and saints to meditate at, the Gaumukh Temple is now a popular tourist destination. The Gaumukh Temple is located around 5 kilometers from the Hanuman Temple situated in a wild valley that is reached by climbing down over 700 steps. The area is covered with very think forest cover and visiting the place after dark & rainy season is not recommended without proper information and local guidance, you should plan for a full day trip to Gaumukh if you want to enjoy the beauty and nature of this place.

Gaumukh closeup

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trekking to Meesapulimalai

It was Emperor’s 100th trek !! I am so happy to be part of this trek as I met around 120 likeminded souls in a single trek. It was announced on Jan 30th and I immediately applied for a moderate trek. This time it was announced as easy, moderate and difficult treks plus cycle and Bike trips. In between the time I had some confusion has to go or not. Finally all my other programs are postponed and I joined with the team. The place for the trek was kept secret to everyone and they are created some hype for the places by posting some wonderful photos. Someone said it was Kodaikanal and some other told that it was Wayanad. On 7th February, I had reached the Park opposite to Koyambedu (Bus No.2) and I saw lot of known faces in that bus with some new faces. And the best part, not knowing the location where we were heading too, except for the Organisers.  But everybody was eager to wait for the place to come. After everyone reached, the bus started around 5.00 pm from CMBT. The other Bus started from Tidel Park (Bus No.1) has joined with us in Perungalathur.

The whole journey was indeed great with a whole lot of people getting bums (making fun out of that) and playing dumb charades, where most of the people joined in. In the midnight everybody fall asleep. By 6.00 am I woke up and saw bus has reached near Theni and I thought the place would not be Kodaikanal, so it will be Munnar. I’ve been there already so my excitement reduced a bit. We stopped in between somewhere near Theni to finish our morning duties and had tea in the local tea shop. The bus reached Kurangani base around 9.00am and the whole group was spilited as Easy, Moderate, Difficult and Cycle trek groups as decided earlier. Now my mind changed a bit and decided to go with easy trek peoples as I’ve been there already. Moreover I want to conquer the Meesapulimalai peak. If I go with moderate people I will be tired and cannot reach the Meesapulimalai peak. So my plan was first go with the easy trek people by car/Bus and from Kolukkumali I can trek to Meesapulimalai peak easily. I boarded a SUV (Vignesh’s car) and had a nice time with the people in that car. We reached near suryanelli and had our lunch and waited for the bus people to come.

Everyone reached there and boarded into jeep to reach Kolukkumalai. The road trail to Kollukumalai was a bumpy rock road and you will get a back pain sure, if you travel in the jeep. But we made the trip interesting by playing antakshari songs. We reached Kolukkumalai around 4.30pm and searching for my bag to wear the winter cloth. When we reached Kolukkumalai tea estate the sun’s influence on us slowly reduced and we started feeling the chill breeze hitting us gently. The Kolukkumalai tea estate was quite refreshing and the view from the camping site and adjoining areas were breathtaking. By the time some people are hiking towards Meesapulimalai before me, so I ran towards them to reach as already it was getting dark. In the middle of the trek, somebody before us told one elephant is there, so we stopped the trek for a while and taking photos by posing differently. We didn’t hear any confirmed news from our organizers about the elephant; we climbed down from that place with sad feelings. After that we heard it was not an elephant, some shadow of a tree. L While coming down we witnessed the exquisite sun set view from Kolukkumalai at the height of 7600 feet.
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We came back to the campsite and helped to prepare Dinner with others. The sun slowly started to rest for the day and almost all the trekkers reached the tea estate. It was emperor’s food preparation and also a 100th trek, so many varieties of food was prepared. Gulabjamun, Bajji (ripe Banana, onion, potato, Chilli, Brinjal varities), Veg pulav, Chicken gravy, soya bean chunks gravy and onion raitha etc., are prepared for the dinner. On the other side campfire was started and some peoples are taking rest with nice hot bujji/snacks. Mean time cycle and bike trip team also reached the camp site. Everyone had a stomach full dinner and had a nice chat with campfire. Raja Anna (Munnar Jeep Driver and CTC’s favorite driver) prepared tents for us to sleep in the cold night. We are at 7600feet and the weather is around 10-15 degrees, we enjoyed that place a lot. I didn’t have any sleeping bag and I got only bedspread, so I entered into one of the tents to escape from the cold sleepless night. Then also I felt chillness inside the tent and spent the whole night without sound sleeping.

Next day morning we were woken up to the early morning chillness and to the melody of the birds to witness the pristine and beautiful morning views of the Kolukkumalai valley. We took some great group photos and had some good tea in the Kolukkumalai base camp.

Finally by 10.00am we boarded in jeeps and travelled down in the bumpy road again to reach Suryaneeli was still a great experience as I hanging on backside of the Jeep. The place around Munnar was astounding and wonderful with sprawling tea gardens and estates everywhere. We had brunch in Suryanelli after had a bath in nearby small stream. We boarded again in the bus and the bus dropped us in the Top station point where we have to get down by walk to the Kurangani base station. Now the time was 5.00pm so we have to reach the base fast before it was getting dark. Few of the fellow trekkers are travelled in the bus and around 60 peoples are ready to take the top station to Kurangini trail to reach the base hill station.

First I was struggling little to move fast and Prem & Shyam are pushing me to move fast, sometime later my pace was picked up as my heart beat was synced with my moves. Now I was feeling comfortable to walk down. In between we stopped at a pit shop in Kothagudi village (middle station) to have a sharbath(lemon soda). I know the trial route well and my pace was good, I started to climb down without accompanying the organizers. Few more joined with me and I reached the base station within 2 hours time and it was my best time. (my previous time to reach the base station was 4 hours). I feel happy for this and waited for the other trekkers to come.

By the time everyone reached the Kurangani village, it was already dark. We had few snack items which people carried with them and sat around for relaxing ourselves on the village road. We had an intro session there (as our bus will take some more time to reach that place to pick us) and came to know about the unknown faces. Our buses reached there to pick us by 9.30pm and before boarding it, we had our supper together on the road like village style.

The bus started towards Chennai by 10.30 pm and everyone felt happy to be the part of this wonderful Emperor’s 100th trek. We thank the organizers for giving us a chance to be part of the great event. Finally the bus reached Chennai next day morning around 11.00am and everyone rushed to their work with cool memories. Hope to see everyone in the next trek soon!!


Friday, February 21, 2014

Pondy Coastal Bike Ride with CTC

I had done few moderate/easy treks and cycling trip organized by CTC, so I want to take a bike trip with CTC as they are arranging lot of bike trips. I am a travel lover and want to go everywhere in every medium of transports. First I want to test my ability to travel a small drive as a pillion (I drive only without gear bikes/scootersL). So I registered for a Pondy Coastal scenic bike trip organized by Praveen /Vibin.

I got selected for this trip as pillion and they mailed the list of participants. I have to accompany Azeem as pillion and I mailed him regarding the meeting point to join. But he said he was residing in Kodambakkam and I got a mail from Praveen that Hassan is residing in Ambathur so you can come along with him to reach Tidel. (the meeting /Starting Point), I called up Hassan and we fixed a point near Padi to meet around 2.00 pm on Saturday. Saturday was holiday for me, so I was bit relaxed and done my packing for the trip and reached little late around 2.15pm near Anna Nagar to meet Hassan. We reached Tidel around 3.00pm and there was already few peoples are waiting there for the Organizers. L

Everybody reached around 3.30pm and introduced with their bikers/pillions. Most of them are freshers, so Praveen gave instructions to everyone and said that Vibin will be taking over as lead and Sai as the sweep for the journey. Praveen had an unavoidable official work, so he handed over the organizer responsibility to Vibin and he had stepped in to lead the trip.

The ride started with 9 bikes (totally 17 souls including bikers/pillions) from tidel around 4.00pm and our Ist stop was near Injambakkam /Sholinganallur junction as some of the bikers as to join with us. Now 2 bikers with one pillion added and the team size increased to 21. The real scenic coastal ride was started after mayajaal. Everyone enjoyed the ride with safely. (Organizers instructed not to ride over 80kmph due to safety reasons). On the way after Mahabs we stopped few minutes for photo session near a lake /back water. It was really beautiful watching the sunset near a backdrop of the vast lake water. Then we headed to Pondy and reached there around 7.00pm. The meet up/assemble point near the Pondy entry was slightly confusion, so some of us was crossed that point. We waited for other peoples to come and the confusion was then sorted and we rode down to the beach.

The beach side buildings were beautifully decorated on the eve of Republic day and there was good amount of crowd along the beach.  Malan, Nikhil and Dr.Arun from Pondy came there to meet our CTC team. Actually we are supposed to stay in a farm over the night arranged by Malan but for some reasons it was changed. Malan and Vibin arranged campsite at the beach near Pondi University with the help of Vallan and Kannan (Pondy CTCians).  It was 9:00 pm and we all were hungry. After wasting a lot of time, we rode to a fast food shop near Kalapet for dinner.

Everyone filled their stomach with food and proceed to our campsite. In campsite we have 2 options; you could either sleep in a house or on the shore watching the stars. I had choosen option 1 in a house, as I don’t have a sleeping bag and I don’t want to freeze in the cold weather. But went to beach for a small night walk. Everyone was gathered near beach and arranging tarpaulin to sleep, suddenly Bala suggested we have a camp fire over there near beach. Immediately everyone gathered few sticks around there and the camp fire was made. It was really awesome sitting around the campfire and feels warm next to the beach watching the waves and stars. The intro session was started over there near camp fire and everyone known others well by their name and their profession.

The intro session and Vibin’s Organizer speech was finished by 12.00 am in the night, we finally decided to wind up for the day and went for sleeping. I and few of us went to the house arranged nearby the sea shore and taken rest and others having sleeping bags stayed there in the beach side for night. It was nice sleep for few hours for me and woke up by 6.00 am and finished my morning duties. Now I saw the house was full as all the team members are came to the house in the morning as some drizzling started. Few peoples went to a morning walk near the beach and took some photos. Everyone started around 8.30 am and had our breakfast and left to Quarry for taking bath on the Pondy-Tindivanam route.

Somebody said the quarry was 200 ft. deep and there was a scuba diving session in progress. Most of the swimmers dive in to the pool and taking diving pictures. Non-Swimmers like me just dipped in the water for taking bath. I had taken my swim tube along with me, so I floated with the help of tube; otherwise I have to be a spectator like few othersJ. After changing our wet cloths we took a group photo with bikes near the quarry. Then we started to Paradise Island near Sunnambukulam.  

With the help of Arun we made a good deal to enter into the Paradise Island for some fun water activities. We took a speed boat to the island and we had a mini lunch as there was not many varieties are available.

First we tried Banana ride and it was really awesome and adventurous. Though I had never taken the ride, I decided to go on that, but the caretakers said non-swimmers are not allowed. I boarded on that and had a very good experience. The banana shaped air bladder was dragged by a jet boat and they dropped us in the middle of the water. I was struggled little bit and somehow managed with the help of friends and returned back to shore safely. After that everyone went on that and few of us done kayaking in the meantime. We returned back to Pondy by 7.30 pm after had a so much of fun in the Island. Actually our plan was to leave Pondy by 4.00pm and reach Chennai by 7.00pm, but it was delayed due to, we wasted some time here and there.

So we had our dinner there itself and left Pondy by 8.30pm. Vibin instructed everyone that we have to ride safely and carefully as it was weekend and night time. So everyone ride the bike with the speed between 60-80kmph and followed Vibin one by one and it looks like, a straight line moving on the black road. The team finally dispersed at Kovalam/Tidel and everyone reached home safely with nice memories.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mumbai Lonavala Trip

Recently visited Mumbai and Lonavala for a short weekend trip. Visited Elephanta Caves in Mumbai and few places in Lonavala.

One of my friend wants to visit Shirdi and Mumbai and they asked me to accompany them for language problem. We first visited Shirdi Sai baba Temple and had a Darshan. Then we boarded a bus to Mumbai. In the evening we reached Mumbai and did some shopping. Overnight we stayed in a hotel near Bandra Railway station. Next day morning we boarded a local train to Churchgate and from there we boarded a taxi to reach Gateway of India. In Mumbai Taxi was very cheap compared to Chennai Auto (?). 

Our plan was to visit Elephanta caves by boat. We bought ticket for boat Rs.150 per person and boarded a boat. They charged extra Rs.10 for climbing upper deck of the boat, but it was worth to be there. We enjoyed our boat journey by taking pictures and viewing the sea and big ships on the sea. It took around 60 minutes to reach elephanta caves. From the boat dropping point, a mini train was running to reach near the elephanta caves and they charged Rs. 10 per person. It was a jolly ride. Again we have to climb some steps to reach the monument, there is tolly service also available for old and sick persons to carry to the top. 

The Elephanta Caves is located on island hills about 11 km north-east of the Apollo Bandar, Mumbai and 7 km from the shore of the mainland, approximately covering an area of 7 km in circumference. The island is named after a colossal elephant found in the island, which is popularly known as ‘Gharapuri’. At present, the statue of elephant is housed at Jijamata Garden in Mumbai.

The Elephanta Caves can be reached by Ferry (9 nautical miles across the sea)from the Gateway of India, Visit this green island for the wonders of the 7 th century, the painstakingly hewn rock-cut cave temple, dedicated to Shiva. The Maheshamurti panel in which Shiva is shown as a creator, protector and destroyer, is a sight that should be enjoyed at least once in a lifetime. Regular excursions to Elephanta start every day from the Gateway of India. 

The Caves will be closed on Monday.

There are seven cave excavations in the Elephanta group and these are datable from circa 6th – 7th centuries A.D. Among the cave excavations, the Cave 1 is the most impressive which represents the evolved Brahmanical rock-cut architecture. The cave is also famous for the exquisite and vibrant sculptures. On plan it almost resembles the Dumar Lena (Cave 29) of Ellora. The cave has a main entrance on the north with two other openings on the east and west respectively and a central hall with six rows of pillared columns, six in each row except on the western corner, where a shrine of lingam is provided.

On plan, there are three large square recesses divided off by pilasters each of them bearing a gigantic image of a dvarapala. The panel on the east has a figure of ardhanarisvara, a form of Siva with the combined energies of male and female; and on the west figures of Siva and Parvati playing chausar is carved. The central recess holds the most famous and remarkable sculpture of this period known as the Mahesa-murti. It is a colossal bust of the three forms of Siva, the aghora, turbulent and fearsome; tatpurusha, benign and meditative and vamadeva, mild pleasing and lovable. The other notable panels in the main cave are Andhakasuravada murti; cosmic dance of Nataraja; Kalyanasundara murti; Gangadhara murti; Ravana shaking Kailasa and Siva as Lakulisa. A panel depicting Saptamatrikas near the eastern opening is also remarkable.

Entry fee: Rs. 10 per head and children up to 15 years free. We spent some time there and returned to Gateway of India around 4.00 pm. 

The Gateway of India is a monument built during the British Raj in Mumbai. It is located on the waterfront in the Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai and overlooks the Arabian Sea. The structure is a basalt arch, 26 metres (85 feet) high. It lies at the end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Marg at the water's edge in Mumbai Harbour. It was a crude jetty used by the fishing community which was later renovated and used as a landing place for British governors and other prominent people. In earlier times, it would have been the first structure that visitors arriving by boat in Mumbai would have seen. The Gateway has also been referred to as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai, and is the city's top tourist attraction.

The structure was erected to commemorate the landing of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder, when they visited India in 1911. Built in Indo-Saracenic style, the foundation stone for the Gateway of India was laid on 31 March 1911. The final design of George Wittet was sanctioned in 1914 and the construction of the monument was completed in 1924. The Gateway was later the ceremonial entrance to India for Viceroys and the new Governors of Bombay. It served to allow entry and access to India.

The monument has faced three terror attacks from the beginning of the 21st century; twice in 2003 and it was also the disembarkation point in 2008 when four gunmen attacked the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower.

In the evening we went to Zaveri Bazaar for shopping, My friend bought imitation jewels for their business purpose. It took so much of time on shopping and in the night 11.00pm we returned to our hotel.

Next day morning we boarded a local train to dadar and boarded a express train to Lonavala. The train reached little late by 10.00 am and our cab was waiting there. We arranged a cab online from Chennai for sightseen in Lonawala and they Charged Rs.3100 for Mahaindra logan car for 1 day sightseen and drop us at Pune Airport. The driver not known certain places in Lonavala as he was a resident of Pune. He shown us some places in Lonawala and avoided some places as he said the dams was dry now and the hills / caves are too steep to climb. We seen some places and some places we missed are listed below.

Lonavala is a town and a hill station in Pune district. It is about 64 km away from the city of Pune and 96 km away from the city Mumbai. It is famous throughout India for the hard candy sweet known as chikki and is also a major stop on the rail line connecting Mumbai and Pune. Lonavala comes to life during the monsoon season as the countryside turns lush green with waterfalls and ponds.

Tiger's Leap
Tiger's Leap also known as Tiger's Point is a cliff-top with a sheer drop of over 650 m, giving an extensive view. Buses are available up to I.N.S. Shivaji and the remaining distance of about 1.6 km has to be covered on foot. Just around tiger's leap, there is a small waterfall active only during the monsoon. It serves the purpose of relaxing in the water better than Bushy dam, as the force of the fall is higher. Also, after the brief steep descent, the fall becomes a stream with a fair amount of force to go all the way down to the base of the Tiger's Leap. Adventurers can trek down the stream whilst intermittently stepping back on land where the water current is too strong and the fall is steep.

Rajmachi Point
Rajmachi Point is located about 6.5 km from Lonavla. This point commands a view of Shivaji's famous fort, Rajmachi (Royal terrakouioce) and the surrounding valley. Regular State Transport buses ply between Rajmachi Point and Lonavla from the State Transport Bus Stand. 

Valvan Dam
Valvan Dam has a garden at its foot, and is a popular evening spot 2 km from the town. The dam supplies water to the Khopoli power station at the foothills of the Sahyadris for generating electricity. The Kundali River feeds into the dam's reservoir.

Lonavla Lake
Lonavla Lake is surrounded by natural scenery, about 1.6 km from the town. The lake dries up during the winter months.

Duke's Nose

Duke's Nose stands 12 km from Lonavla, clearly visible from the highway while driving towards Mumbai. This landmark in Khandala is popular with hikers. The cliff owes its name to the Duke of Wellington, whose ample nose it resembles.

Karla Caves
Karla caves, located near Lonavla, is a complex of cave shrines built by Buddhist monks around 3rd to 2nd century B.C. A famous temple of Goddess Ekvira Devi is also present here. 

Bhushi Dam

A waterfall near the dam is a popular spot between Lonavla and I.N.S. Shivaji. Buses running on the I.N.S. Shivaji Road stop here.

There was some water here and there in the dams when we went there. So we skipped some points and went to Pune for shopping. By 9.00 pm the driver dropped us in airport and we boarded a flight to Chennai and reached Chennai around 12.50 in the midnight. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trekking to Thiruvannamalai in November 2013

This year also for Karthigai deepam season we went to Thiruvannamalai for Jothi Darisanam. On 23rd November Saturday as per our plan me, Venkatesh, Dhanajeyan, Deena and Baskar started by Venkatesh's Car from Guindy by 7.00am and reached Thiruvannamalai by 11.30am.

First we went for Siva Darshanam and had our lunch. By 2.45pm we started our trekking to the hill and reached 5.15pm. We had a Jothi Darisanam by 6.00pm and returned back to foot hill by 7.30pm.

It took 2.5 hours to climb up. First It was difficult to us to climb as the Sun was hot and we are not done any recent treks. We had taken enough water and glucose for hydration. Often we drank water and moved slowly. Compare to other mountains, Thiruvannamalai was little bit steep to climb. So it took time and so much of energy. We crossed half the distance by 4.15 pm, after that our speed was increased as we are comfortable to climb now.

One important thing I have to share here for freshers, when we are climbing up, our heart will pump the blood very fast and our breathing will be heavy, that time our mind will say take rest. But no need to stop there, but you have to move slowly. If you taken rest the heart pumping will  slow down and when you start again it will take time to pick up. So you have to move slowly with a steady pace. This will help you to reach the target easily.

Finally we reached the top around 5.15 pm and waited for the deepam to light up. Around 6.00pm a light signal from the Temple shown and on the Top the Mahadeepam was lighted. Everywhere the "Arohara, Annamalaikku Arohara" slogan was heard. It was a nice experience for everyone. God is in the light form has confirmed here. This is our second visit to this place and had a wonderful experience.

We started to descended immediately after the Deepa Darisanam as we have to reach the base before the light was going down. The place was empty after a few minutes of lighted the deepam. We have only one torch with me, others don't have a torch.  So we decided to move one behind the other. It took 90 minutes to to reach the base. In the base we had some refreshments and started our journey to reach Chennai with Spiritual memories.

Thiruvannamalai Temple Arial view

Tiruvannamalai Temple

Annamalai Deepam