Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hampi Guest House

While in Hampi we stayed at the Padma Guest House which is located right behind the main market in Hampi. Very near to the bus stop and restaurants that line the way to the Virupaksha temple.

The rooms are clean, spacious and with attached bathroom/toilet.

Address:

Padma Guest House
Behind Main Market Street
Hampi 583239

Phone: 91-08394-241331,241330

Technorati Profile

Colmar - Beach Resort

The Colmar Beach Resort at Colva is situated right on the beach shore and offers a good view. There are rooms to suit all budgets. The resort also has a restuarant and bar called - Pasta Hut. They also arrange sight-seeing trips.

Address:

Colmar Beach Resort
Colva Beach
Salcete
Goa 403708

Phone: 0832 - 2788053, 2788043

CheapOair.com

Goa - Beach Guest House

This is one of the places we stayed at while in Goa. It was a home stay at Calangute beach. The rooms were well maintained and the family was friendly and helpful. All rooms have attached bath/toilet and 24 hours water.

The Address:

Francisco DSourza Beach Guest House
H No 527 D
Madda Vaddo
CAlangute
Bardez - Goa

Phone: 0832-2281221

They also let out bikes on rent.

CheapOair.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sunkishala

The Sunkishala Devalayam is located in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. It is about 80 kms from Hyderabad.

The Sunkishala Temple complex has temples dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, Lord Shiva, Lord Rama, and SaiBaba. Each temple is constructed in the distinct style of the presiding deity.

The temple opens daily at 6 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m.



How to reach

Sunkishala is about 26 kms from the Bhongir Railway station and 5kms from the Voligonda Railway station. Trains from Hyderabad going towards Warangal stop at these stations.

Address

Sunkishala Devalayam
Sunkishala Village,
Valigonda Mandal,
Nalgonda - 508112
Andhra Pradesh
Phone: 91-8694-254433

Kulpakji - Kolanpak

Kulpakji is a Jain Shrine at the Kolanpak village in Nalgonda district. The temple is said to be more than 2000 years old and is still being worked upon. It is said that the renovations in a Jain temple never cease. They are always working on polishing the existing structure or making new additions. The temple houses three idols - one each of Lord Adinath, Lord Neminath and Lord Mahaveer.

There are eight idols of the other Tirthankars on both the sides of the main temple. The statue of Lord Mahaveera is 52" inches tall and said to be of single piece of sapphire. Idols of Lord Simandar Swami and Mata Padmavati are installed on either side of the main temple.

Kulpakji is an important pilgrimage centre of Swetamber Jains in South India.

How to reach

Kulpakji is about 80 Kms from Hyderabad on the Hyderabad-Warangal Highway (NH 202). The roads have been newly laid and as such the drive is not tiring. Alternately you can board a train or bus from Hyderabad. These halt at the Aler station which is around 6-7 kms from the temple. Tongas and Autorickshaws are available to go to the temple from the Aler station.



Food & Accomodation

There are Choultries/Dharamsalas for the visiting pilgrims to rest and stay. The old ones are free to stay in while a minimal amount is charged for the newly constructed rooms.

There is dinning hall for the pilgrims where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served between sunrise and sunset. The food is delicious.

Contact

Shree Swetamber Jain Teerth
Kulpakji
P.O. Aler
Nalgonda District
Andhra Pradesh
Phone: 91-8685-281696/281959

The Secretary
Shree Swetamber Jain Teerth-Kulpakji
Singhvee Bhavan, Tilak Road
Hyderabad
Phone: (O)91-40-24758146
(R)91-40-24753642

Medak Church - Pocharam Reservoir

Medak at a distance of around 80 kms from Hyderabad is a quick weekend getaway.
It is famous for the Medak Cathedral which was built in 1914. The Cathedral is built in Gothic style and is considered to be the largest in Asia. The main tower of the church is 175 ft high and the cathedral can accomodate 5000 people at a time. There are 3 maginificient stained glass windows depicting the life of Jesus Christ.

While in Medak one can also visit the ruins of the Medak fort. Not much is left of the fort to see, but as it is on a hillock it offers a good view of the city. Do not forget to carry food and water as you climb the fort because nothing is available on the hilltop.

Pocharam which is 20 odd kms away from Medak can also be clubbed into the day trip. Pocharam boasts of a small animal sanctuary and a reservoir. The reservoir is built on the Aler river and is favourite picnic spot. Fishing is a favourite activity at this reservoir.



How to Reach:

The NH7 highway from Hyderabad (via Medchal) will take you to Medak in less than two hours.

Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal



Valley of Flowers is situated high in the Himalayas in the Uttaranchal region, at an altitude of 3,600 meters above the sea-level, flanked by mighty mountains on both sides. During the colder months, the valley remains frozen. But with the advent of summer, the snow begins to melt and is replaced by a myriad range of colorful blooms. It is said that every 15 days a different set of flowers bloom. In 1982, the valley was declared a national park and is now a World Heritage Site.

Our journey began from Hyderabad. We boarded the AP Express for Delhi on the morning of 9th Aug. The journey was uneventful and we landed at the NDLS on the morning of 10th Aug. We put up at the restroom at NDLS as our train to Haridwar was at 3 pm. It was around 9.00 pm when we reached Haridwar. Our hotel reservations were made so we just had to reach the hotel, grab a bite and hit the sack.

Haridwar – Joshimath

The next day we got up early and after a hot cup of tea, packed our stuff into the Qualis that was to take us to Govindghat. It was the time of the Kavad Yatra. Saffron clad kavadias collect holy water from the Ganges (in Haridwar) and carry it back to their local temples to perform pooja. The roads were filled with numerous kavadias who come from different parts of the country carrying a brightly decorated kavad (a wooden stick with pots or cans at each end). We started early and by 7 am we had left the plains of Rishikesh behind. We had a long journey ahead and the advantage of starting early was soon obvious. We managed to not get caught in the Kavadia traffic and we soon hit the ghat roads. The distance between Rishikesh and Joshimath is around 260 kms and all along the serpentine roads wind around the mighty mountains. Each bend offered a breath taking view. At times the roads were so dangerous that a slight deviation from the path would have meant a plummet into the mighty Alaknanda flowing below.



Our journey took us through Dev Prayag, Srinagar, Rudra Prayag, Karna Prayag and Chamoli. The prayags are basically a confluence of two or more rivers. It is a wonderful sight to see two rivers converging and becoming a single entity. We had lunch en route to Joshimath at one of the dhabhas. We reached Joshimath by tea-time and were put up at the GMVN guest house.



Joshimath – Ghangria

Early next morning, after a quick breakfast, we drove to Govindghat. Govindghat looks like a mini Punjab. There are Sikh pilgrims all around. We hired a porter (Pitthu) to carry our luggage and start the 14 km trek to Ghangria along the Bhuyandar River. The initial few kilometers were difficult as the climb was steep. Occasionally the path leveled out. The landscape all along the path was rich – majestic mountains, numerous waterfalls and coniferous forests on the higher altitudes. The surging, roaring river was a reminder of the power and fury of nature. After climbing around 4 kms, I developed stomach cramps and was not able to walk further. We hired mules and with my husband accompanying me, we completed the remaining journey relatively quickly and easily. The rest of the gang braved it out and completed the uphill trek and reached Ghangria. Ghangria is a small village that serves as a base camp for all those interested in visiting the Valley of Flowers or The Hemkund Sahib. We had a sumptuous lunch at the GMVN guest house where we were put up for the night.



To the Valley

The next morning after a quick breakfast, we started for the Valley of Flowers. We hired a pitthu. He was to carry me on the steep paths and otherwise he was there to carry our luggage. The Valley of Flowers is around 3 kms from Ghangria. We head out of Ghangria, cross a small bridge and reach a point where the path bifurcates into two. The right one leads to the holy Hemkund Sahib and we see loads of pilgrims going that way. The left one leads to our destination and is less crowded. No mules are allowed into the valley and as such the path is not littered with mule dung which was the case all along the way from Govindghat to Ghangria. We paid the entrance fees at the check post and entered the valley.



The Valley of Flowers is a breathtakingly beautiful valley filled with delicate alpine flowers which complement the might rugged mountains on either side. Many streams, large and small, fed by the melting snow formed enchanting waterfalls at almost every bend. The misty clouds floating among the mountains added a lovely halo. The whole atmosphere looks so pristine. The petals and leaves were covered with dew drops and looked like jewels scattered over the mountains. The slender plants and flowers swayed in the gentle breeze. It felt as though the mountain was singing a lullaby for the vast array of plant life found in the valley. The sweet smell of numerous varieties of flowers filled the air. It was amazing to see an alpine glacier in the valley. The valley is undoubtedly a “Paradise on Earth”.

The flower of the moment seemed to be the Himalayan Balsam as it was seen in abundance. It looked as though a pink blanket was spread on the mountains. The other flowers that we spotted included – the Cobra Lily, the Himalayan Cinquefoil, Campanula Latifolia (the Great Bell Flower), the Blue Poppy, the Himalayan Fleabane, the Himalayan Geranium (Geranium Wallichianum), the Himalayan Rose, Selinum Tenuifolium, the Himalayan Knotweed, Morning Glory, Cacti, the Jacquemont's Senecio, the Himalayan Whorlflower, Codonopsis Viridis, Heracleum Pinnatum, Anaphalis Triplinervis and the Rose Carpet Knotweed. There were many others that we spotted but could not identify.



The mountains have their own ways. One moment the sky is clear and the next moment misty clouds appear out of nowhere and it starts drizzling. We wore the light-weight disposable raincoats that we purchased for Rs 20 at Ghangria. After spending some time in the valley we head back to Ghangria. The mountains were covered with misty clouds and it was beginning to rain. We reached the hotel in Ghangria and had a late lunch.

Back Home

The next day we began the downhill trek to Govindghat. It took around 5 hours to climb down and this time I did it too, with my husband encouraging me at every bend. You should have seen me walk for the next couple of days. It was a weird kind of walk – the after effects of the trek down. Trekking down puts pressure on one’s knees and calves.

We then hit the road to Haridwar in the Qualis which was waiting for us. The journey back to Haridwar turned out to be the most adventurous one so far. There was a major landslide and we had to spend the night on the mountain roads. The next morning the bull-dozers arrived to clear the path. After being stranded for almost a day we started for Haridwar in the evening. All along the road to Haridwar we saw fallen rocks, uprooted trees and sludgy mud. We reached Haridwar late in the night and after a sumptuous dinner headed for Delhi.

Now we are back home. Back to the crowded roads, the pollution and the noise. And my heart longs for the fresh air and the calm surroundings of the valley. We will surely go back there as the call of the mountains cannot be ignored.



Where we stayed:

The Garwahal Mandal Vikas Nigam Guest Houses
Check http://www.gmvnl.com/newgmvn/ for more details on accomodation and packages.

Ajanta Ellora

We were looking for a quick weekend getaway and the place we zeroed-in on was Ajanta-Ellora. Having decided the place to visit, we booked train tickets to Aurangabad and landed there in the wee hours of a rather uncool Oct morning. It was 4.30 am and the sun was not yet out. We booked a room very near to the station and by 8.00 we were at the MTDC Office. This is the starting point for the tours to Ajanta and Ellora.

Our first tour was to the Ajanta Caves. A two hour’s drive brought us to Ajanta.
The Ajanta Caves are beautifully set on the inner curve of a mountain cliff overlooking a river. It resembles a horse shoe. The river wasn’t in its full glory but yet the setting was perfect. These caves were chiseled out by the Buddhist monks between 200 BC and 650 AD. The caves were hidden behind dense undergrowth and John Smith of the British Madras Regiment chanced upon them in 1819 during a hunting expedition.

Ajanta Caves number 30 in all and include “Viharas” and “Chaitya Gruhas”. The Viharas are flat roofed caves which were essentially the residences of the monks. They are of different sizes but all of them have a central hall and many small chambers. These chambers have stone beds and pillows and were the resting place of the monks. The Chaitya Gruhas on the other hand are “Stupas” i.e. they have a dome shaped roof. These are the prayer halls and house an image of the Buddha, most often seated in the “Dharmachakra Pravartana Mudra” (the teaching pose).

Since it was a guided tour, we were briefed by the guide on the history of each cave. Some of the caves were interesting one of them being Cave 1. It has elaborate carvings of scenes from the life of Gautam Buddha on the walls. Our guide explained to us the process of making of the murals. Right from the method of chiseling the rocky surface to the ingredients of the colors used for painting was described by the guide. He was quite good at his job.

After a look around at the caves, we headed for lunch at the MTDC Restaurant. It was time to get back to Aurangabad.

The guided tour to Ellora also included a visit to the Grishneshwar Temple, Daulatabad Fort, Bibi Ka Maqbara, and Panchaki. The first stop was the Grishneshwar Temple. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva in India.

The Daulatabad Fort is a majestic fortress built atop a rocky hillock. The fortress dates back to the 9th century when it was called as Devgiri. It was Md. Bin Tughlaq who gave it the present name – Daulatabad, the City of Wealth. Tughlaq had shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad for a small period of time.

The fortress is situated atop the hillock and is surrounded by a deep moat. Crocodiles and venomous snakes used to inhabit the moat in the earlier days. The fortress has multi level defenses, many layers of massive walls and paths which are like a maze. It is easy to get lost in this maze and no wonder it is named as “Bhool Bhulaiyya”. There is a massive ram headed metal canon atop a small tower inside the fortress. There is also a 30 meter high tower called “Chand Minar” inside the fortress. This was built by one of the Bahmani invaders to commemorate his conquest of the fortress.

Our next stop was Ellora Caves which are a group of 34 caves built in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain styles demonstrating the religious harmony that existed in India even in those days. Caves 1-12 are the Buddhist style caves and consist of Viharas and Chaitya Gruhas. The most popular Buddhist cave is Cave 10, also known as the “Vishwakarma Cave”. It has a multi storeyed entry and a central stupa. A huge statue of Buddha in the teaching pose is seated below the stupa. The roof of the cave is carved in such a way that it looks like wooden beams.

Caves 13-29 are the Hindu Caves and the most popular one is Cave 16, also known as the “Kailashnath Temple”. This temple is the masterpiece at Ellora. It is a huge structure, consisting of a multi storeyed temple with a huge courtyard which houses 2 gigantic “Dhwajastambhas”. There is also a massive Nandi in the courtyard. There are numerous other pillars, prayer halls and images of deities all around the complex. And all this has been carved out of a single rock. It took around a century to complete this temple complex.

Caves 30-34 are the Jain Caves and depict the Jain philosophy and tradition. These caves have exceptionally detailed carvings. The carvings of Mahavir are very aesthetic. The Jain Caves were the last ones that we visited and here ended our Ellora tour.

The next stop on the way back was Bibi-Ka-Maqbara or the 'Mini Taj'. It is a miniature version of the Taj Mahal, but it is not built entirely of marble. Only the first couple of layers are marble while the rest is white plaster. But none the less it is impressive. This wound up our visit to Aurangabad and we made arrangements to board the evening train to Hyderabad.

Hampi


Hampi was the capital of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire. In its heyday it was a magnificent city with countless temples and palaces. The city was robbed of all its grandeur in 1565 AD when it was attacked by the Mughals. The remains of the city transport you back into the bygone era.

As we drove into Hampi, I felt as though we were on the sets of an Indiana Jones movie. The huge boulders scattered everywhere and the ruins resembled a movie scene. We arrived at the Hampi Bazaar. The Hampi Bazaar is the hub from where one can explore the entire area. It was a pleasant June morning and it was drizzling. We decided that the best way to have a look at the ruins was on a 2-wheeler. Accordingly we hired 3 bikes and started off after a hearty breakfast to enjoy the good weather.

The Hampi Bazaar is essentially a walkway with tiny shops and restaurants on both the sides and leads you straight to the Virupaksha temple. The temple is a 12-storied structure and is the tallest in Hampi. Some scenes from the movie “The Myth” were shot in this temple.

We had to visit a lot of places in the 2 days that we had on hand. We managed to visit the Queen’s bath, (which used to be the bathing place of the royal women), the underground Shiva temple (that was dark inside and probably inhabited by a colony of bats) the Vithala Temple Complex (also known as the “Sa Re Ga Ma” temple because of the musical pillars in the temple.) Each pillar is known to produce a distinct musical note when you knock it with your fingers or a slender stick. There was a sign that said – “Do Not Touch The Pillars”. Our guide informed us that the over enthusiastic visitors inadvertently damaged the pillars by knocking on them with stones and stout sticks. The sign was put up to prevent further damage to the structure. This temple is a UNESCO world heritage monument for the musical pillars and the stone chariot that it houses. We were also informed that there are only 3 such chariots in India – one each in – Hampi, Puri and Mahabalipuram.

We saw some really huge monolithic idols - the Sasivekalu Ganesh, the huge Lakshminarayana idol, the Badavalinga, the Monolithic Bull and the Kadelakalu Ganesh to name a few. We also visited The Royal Enclosure, the Riverside ruins, Sugreeva’s Cave, Achyuta Raya’s temple and the Hazara Rama Temple.
We also spent some time on the rocky river bank and went for a coracle ride. This was my first coracle ride and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The river was calm, and the cool breeze made it even more enjoyable. Before we disembarked from the coracle, the boatman sent the coracle into a spin. That was his trademark!

We had our lunch at the Mango Tree Restaurant. It is a very cozy place nestled in a banana plantation. We walked through the plantation and reached the restaurant which is on the banks of the Tungabhadra and offers a spectacular view of the river. The seating arrangement was unique. It was a terraced floor facing the river and a huge mango tree stood in the middle. That’s how the restaurant got its name. Because of the rain we had to sit inside and couldn’t get a chance to sit on the straw mats spread out on the terraced floor.

After 2 days of driving around Hampi we headed back to Hospet to board our train to Hyderabad. A week after returning from Hampi, I saw the movie “The Myth”. I did not have any difficulty in identifying the various temples and monuments featured in the movie. Hampi was a wonderful experience and I would surely go back there again.



Transportation
Hyderabad > Hospet by Rayalaseema Express
Train No: 7416 for Hyderabad to Hospet
Train No:7429 for Hospet to Hyderabad

Hospet > Hampi by Local Bus: Rs 10
Hospet > Hampi by Auto-rickshaw: Rs 100
Hospet > Hampi by Auto-rickshaw (shared) : Rs 15/25 per head.

Bicycle & Moped rental
Bicycle : Rs 30 per day
Moped : Rs 150 per day (petrol Rs 50 per litre - this was in 2006-2007)

Coorg (Madikeri) - Places to see

Coorg in Karnataka



My visit to Coorg or Madikeri - as the locals call it, is going to haunt me for a long time to come. It is also referred to as the "Scotland of India". Coorg is an endless expanse of scenic beauty - lush green valleys, coffee plantations, and majestic mountain ranges. Add to this the brave race of Kodavas - Field Marshal K M Cariappa was a Kodava.

While in Madikeri we visited:
The Abbi Falls
Omkareshwara temple
Raja's Seat
Cauvery Nisargsdhama
Bhagmandala
Talacauvery
Namdroling Monastery
Raja's Tomb
Nalknad Palace

The Abbi Falls is situated very near to Madikeri city and the roar of the water can be heard from the main road from where a winding path goes through lovely coffee and cardamom plantations right up to falls.
The Raja's Seat, according to legends, is the place where the kings of Kodagu spent their evenings at. Whether this is true or not, I do not know, but this place does offer a wonderful view of the valleys and mountains.

Nisargadhama known for its calm and serene beauty, is a 2.5 sq. km. large island in the middle of the river Cauvery. Bhagamandala is the sacred site where the 3 rivers - Cauvery, the Kanika and the mythical river Sujyothi meet.

The river Cauvery which is one of the 7 sacred rivers, originates at a place called Talacauvery in the Brahmagiri hills, at about 4,500 ft above sea level. This place is marked by a kundike from where the river emerges as a small perennial spring, but flows underground again to emerge a short distance away. From Talacauvery, steps (360 of them) lead up to the nearby Brahmagiri peak. From the peak, as well as on the drive to Talacauvery, we enjoyed a good view of the misty blue Brahmagiri hills.

The visit to Bylekuppe, where the Namdroling Monastery is situated, was like a visit to a mini Tibet. The Tibetans were offered land by the Government of Karnataka when they sought refuge in India. They have created a wonderful place for themselves here. All around us we could see burgundy robed monks with shy and sometimes aloof faces. The Monastery is spread over a huge area and there were large gold statues of Buddha. The monks were chanting and the pipes and drums being played in their prayer rooms.

Apart from all this, just walking down the winding hill roads and going for long drive on bike was what I enjoyed at Madikeri.

The place where we stayed - Daisy Coffee Estate




See more pictures here

Tadoba

Tadoba National Park is the oldest national park in Maharashtra and since 1993, a Project Tiger Reserve. It is also referred to as "The Jewel of Vidharba". The park lies about 45 km. north of the industrial town of Chandrapur and covers an area of approx. 116 sq. km. The drive from Chandrapur to Tadoba was rejuvenating. It had rained for the last couple of days and there was green tree cover on both sides of the well laid black tar road. The pleasant jungle smell with a multitude of butterflies fluttering around was a sight I will always remember.

At the entrance gate of the Reserve, we saw a family of elephants (dad, mom and a baby elephant) chained by their legs to trees throwing dust on themselves. The guide informed us that these elephants were used during the animal census and occasionally for safari.

The Tadoba forest type is classified as South Indian Dry Deciduous forest. The terrain is undulating with panoramic views of hills, lakes and meadows. The Tadoba lake is situated more or less in the middle of the park. Our dormitory was located near the lake.

Tadoba is famous for its 'Gaur' or wild ox and crocodiles. As its main carnivore, the park supports tigers, leopards, sloth bears, 'Doles' or wild dogs and hyenas. We were lucky enough to spot two tigers and a leopard. Other animals that are commonly seen are the 'Nilgai', 'Sambar', spotted deer or 'Cheetal', wild boar, mongoose, civet cat and langurs. And we spotted all of these except the civet cat. Troops of langurs would greet us everywhere we went. They even paid a visit to our dorm in our absence and carried away our soap and candles. The spotted deer also can be seen near the tourist area. There was a Nilgai called 'Raju' who had made his home near the guest house. He was found abandoned in the jungles when he was a young calf. He has grown up in human company and now does not venture out into the jungles.

The sloth bear is usually found in the hilly areas, behind the main tourist guest house, and deep inside the forest at 'Katezari'. 'Katezari' is a rocky area with innumerable bee hives. It is a favorite spot for the sloth bears. Unfortunately, we did not spot a single bear. Saw their foot marks though.

The Tiger population is around 25. And we saw a couple of them. On our return from the safari to the guest house in the afternoon, we were informed that a tiger had been spotted nearby. We rushed back to the said spot only to find five vehicles already there. And to add to our woes the tiger was sitting in a clump of bamboo. It was difficult to spot him properly. After spending some time there and unable to get a good view of the tiger we left. But our second sighting more than made up for this. It was evening time and we were returning back to the dorm. And at one of the turns, near a water hole was this beautiful tiger. He was sitting there and cleaning himself. The best part was that we were the only group in the jungle at that time and so we had the tiger all to ourselves. The tiger looked nonchalantly at us and continued his cleaning work. He was enjoying all the attention he was receiving and was not perturbed by the photo-clicking crowd of 9. After spending around 10 minutes we headed back reluctantly to the dorm. We would have loved to stay back but the guide was concerned as it was time to be out of the jungles. Sighting a Leopard is a rare chance, though the number of leopards is estimated to be around 30 in Tadoba. But we were lucky yet again. We caught a glimpse of a leopard as it retreated from a water hole into the thick bushes.

The park is also rich in bird and insect life. The birds we spotted were - the Crested Serpent Eagle, the Honey Buzzard, the Paradise Flycatcher, the Lesser Golden backed Woodpecker, the Wild Babblers or 'Seven Sisters', Kingfishers and Peacocks to name a few. The Paradise Flycatcher was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. We also saw an array of butterfly species including Pansies, Monarch, Mormons and Swordtails. We also saw a 'mud-puddling' for the first time.

Among the reptiles, the top spot goes to the 'Mugger' or fresh water crocodile, which is found in substantial numbers in the lake. There was a board near the lake which said - "Swimming strictly prohibited. Survivors will be prosecuted". This was the first time we saw a crocodile from very close quarters. It was a female and she was guarding her newly hatched babies. We ventured a little too close to her and she was at us instantly with her jaws wide open. My heart was pounding with fear but I was thrilled too.

Tadoba had a Crocodile breeding farm, which was started in 1977. It was very successful and many lakes were stocked with crocs from this breeding farm. The farm was shut down in 1994 as the breeding centre had met its objectives. The guide showed us the ruins of the farm. All the breeding enclosures were covered with vines and it looked as though the jungle was out to reclaim that area.

Tadoba has extensive growth of bamboo thickets and the tigers find a perfect camouflage among them. The trees growing commonly in Tadoba are 'Teak' and 'Tendu' - the fruit of which is eaten by herbivores and humans. 'Mahuwa' is another important tree for the tribals and the bears. The 'Mahuwa' flowers are a source of liquor. The sloth bears love to eat this flower. The guide informed us that often they see intoxicated bears. Around the Tadoba Lake there were a large number of 'Jamun' trees. We had the sweetest of jamuns here.

After spending two days at Tadoba, we headed to Nagpur to catch a train back to Hyderabad.



How To Reach:

Nearest Town: Chandrapur - 45 kms
Railway Station: Chandrapur - 45 kms
Airport: Nagpur 205 km via Chandrapur

For accomodation inside the reserve, contact

Dy. Conservator of Forest
Tadoba National Park,
Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India
Tel. : 91-7172-3414

Mahabaleshwar -Panchgani

We had made the travel and accomodation arrangements for a week's stay in Mahabaleshwar. We boarded the Mumbai - Mahabaleshwar Volvo Bus from Vashi at 12.00 midnight. It was around 5.30 am when we reached the Bus Station situated right in the center of the quaint little market of Mahabaleshwar. The walk to the hotel was just 5 minutes. It was quite dark and cold and people were still asleep.

After a short nap in our cozy little room and a tasty breakfast in the mini garden, we set out. The climate was pleasant and the journey was wonderful. Long beautiful roads with greenery all around greeted us all along our journey. We visited many "Points". Wilson Point, Marjorie Point, Arthur's Seat, Bombay Point, Lodwick Point and Elphiston Point to name a few. Wilson Point is the highest point at 4710 ft above sea level. The view was breathtaking. The Arthur's Seat also offered an amazing view. One could see the barren deep valley of Savitri on the left & shallow green valley on the right. There were some steps nearby and on descending these steps you come across a spring known as Tiger's spring, which is supposed to be the source of the river Savitri. There was an old man at this place, offering the visitors glasses of fresh cold water from the spring.

In the afternoon, we hired two horses and rode deep into the forest to the Chinaman Waterfall. The journey was one of a kind. This was the first time we were riding a horse and the experience was fun.

Venna Lake is another great attraction here. With its picture-postcard sight, boating facilities and stalls for games and snacks, this place is always busy. We went for a boat ride on the calm waters of Venna.

Evening was spent strolling around in the market. There were innumerable tiny shops stacked with different types of chikkis, jams, 'channas', cane walking sticks, straw hats etc. Fruits like strawberries, raspberries, goose berries & mulberries, vegetables like red potatoes, French beans, beets, carrots and radish could be seen everywhere. Almost all the shops were selling varieties of jams, jellies and fruit juices.

The next day we visited Panchgani. Panchgani derives its name from the five hills around it. At an altitude of 1334 m it is just 38 m below Mahabaleshwar which works out to around a 20 km. The main attraction at Panchgani was "Table Land". This flat large expanse of laterite rock is the second longest mountain plateau in Asia. You have the most amazing view of the vast plain below from here. There are some spacious caves that can be seen from here and one of them is Devil's Kitchen. It is believed that the Pandavas stayed here for a while.

We visited "Parsi Point", a windy road situated on the way to Mahabaleshwar which overlooks the Krishna valley and the blue mirror like waters of the Dhom Dam. There were many telescopes put up here, offering a view of the Pratapgad Fort.
The visit to the Pratapgad fort brought back all the history chapters to mind. Pratapgad is one of the most famous forts in the Maratha history. This fort stands 900 meters above sea level and is most well known for the encounter and decisive battle between Shivaji and the Bijapuri general Afzal Khan.

We also visited a strawberry farm on our way back to the hotel. After 4 days in this beautiful town we headed back to Mumbai by the evening bus.



Where we stayed:

Savoy Village
Next to Club,
Mahabaleshwar-412806
Phone:(02168)260310,61743



Its just a couple of minutes walk from the Bus Stand. Located right behind Hotel Rajesh.