Trek to Purandar Fort

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It had been a while after my previous trek to Tikona Fort, so I decided to embark on another trek - and this time, all alone. After my bike accident in Goa in June this year, I had developed a fear of riding the bike. To tackle that, I decided that I would drive my bike to the trek this time. So after some researching on my favourite travel blog by Rajaram, I decided that I could go to Fort Purandar in Narayanpur. This is around 30kms from my place, so I thought it would be doable in my modest 100CC bike - which friends now call a Luna. (Note: Pl. click on the photos to get a better view)
My Starting Point (Bike under that tree in the center)
I started at 9am from home and managed to reach the starting point of the trek on the foothills by about 10am. I decided to travel light - just had my Camera and a bottle of water, knowing well that there were food stalls at the fort where could do lunch. Parked my bike under the Banian tree, I started off the trek. On looking up itself I realised, this one was much bigger a task than the last one. Few minutes into the trek, I was huffing n puffing breathlessly. The group that had started off a bit after me had caught up with me, so much for my wonderful stamina. At one point, I started feeling dizzy and self doubt cropped up - Can I really do this !? I took a break, sat down, caught a few breaths, took a few pictures and silently ordered myself - turning back was not an option - SO MOVE IT !! After that pep self-talk, I started pushing myself and I started regaining confidence as I started approaching half way mark - Binni Darwaza. When I reached there, I had also managed to leave that other group far behind and I was confidently setting foot towards my next destination of Purandar Fort. There were some points of interest at the mid-way stop which I took time to photograph.
A panoramic view just before reaching half-way point

Binni Darwaza - Finally reached !!

TL: Abandoned Church, TR&BR: Shivaji and Bajirao respectively, BL: Purandareshwar Temple (Shiva)

 At the half-way mark, I found more people - who had decided to drive up to this point (which is possible) - a popular picnic spot. There were families, boy scout teams and so on who were all aiming to go to the go up to the Purandar Fort from the half way point. I also spotted the food stall and was glad that it was serving Bharkri/Pitla, Poha etc ... I decided that I would finish the trek and come back to my food reward later.

 At this point I realised that I had two options. One was to do Purandar Fort or do Vajragad Fort which was just adjacent to the Purandar Fort. I decided to avoid the crowd and do the more challenging Vajragad Fort. I took couple of shots at the decision point (see below)
The other side of the valley
Vajragad Fort - Notice the flag the the top most point of the fort (I reached there :) .. you will see that in subsequent photos)
I was unclear of the route to the top of this fort, so I thought I could explore it. It was about 11:15 am at this point and when I should have been tired, I was in fact all pumped up to go ahead and reach the peak. So I started walking and seemed to be going fine until I started hitting really heavy foliage on the trail that I was following (which was sign that this path was not taken so often), but I kept going. At one point I was crouching and walking under heavy foliage for about 20-30 meters.

The path I took
I realised that I had lost my way and that I may have taken a wrong trail so I decided to trace the way back a bit. Fortunately, I was hearing some persons talking so I tried to reach in that direction. After some retracing, fortunately, I found them and they told me the correct path. After that, it was just some more huffing n puffing before I finally reached the entry point if the Vajragad Fort.
The entry Darwaza to the Vajragad Fort
Then came the point, the top most point of the fort where there was a Victory Flag (Dwaj) flying high. The view from this point was really something worth all the trouble I went through to reach all the way to the top .. It was like my own Victory Flag .. (the same tiny flag from the previous photo)
Success at last ... Also in the background you can see Purandar Fort (as seen from Vajragad Fort)
I reached this point by 12:30 pm ... After sitting there for a while, I decided to head back to have my reward lunch (Pitla/Bhakri/Techa) - Simple and tasty. I took some more aesthetic photos on my way back. Have a look below.

Awesome views !!
I reached down to my bike at around 2:45 pm and took a relaxed ride back home. On the way back I stopped by at the Sangameshwar Shiv Mandir to take some blessings from the Lord Shiva.
Sangameshwar Shiv Mandir
It felt good that I had now managed to do a pretty difficult trek on my own and my leg also felt much better - almost a year after the accident. I came back home with fond memories and a much more confident self. Looking forward to many more treks in the future. 

Mommy bird feeding its babies .. Wow !!

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I was sitting this afternoon doing nothing in particular ... When I noticed that there was a honeycomb kind of structure in my balcony . I zoomed in to take a closer look and it was actually a birds nest. And just as I was checking it out I found that there were 3 baby birds ... And suddenly there was some activity when I took this shot ...
What I realised was that it was the mother bird trying to feed its babies .. So I got my tripod and set myself for that perfect shot with the hi-speed burst mode .. And I got some good shots multiple times ... here you go ... See some of my best shots !!


Enjoy !!

Our 5th Marriage Anniversary - Vacation - Part II

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Chickamagalur: Our stay in Chickamagalur was all about the wonderful and memorable stay at Eagle Eye Resorts. We spent all of our 2.5 days there in the resort. Now you can imagine if we did that, how memorable the stay there would have been. All in all .. we highly recommend the place to anyone looking for a nice break and wonderful service/food and activities during the break.

The resort is actually 48 Kms. from Chikmaglur located within a large plantation land. Its a beautiful theme based resort with different types of rooms available to guests. One can choose from standard rooms, cottages, villas, tree house, and sky walk villas, water fall villas. You can check the above website to see what each looks like. We choose to go for the tree house because we have always wanted to experience the fun of staying in a tree house.

The inside of a tree house
I have to say .. It was an out-of-the-world-experience as we approached the tree house it was a short trek from the resort office. We were provided with torch lights to find our way in the dark. There was no phone range (at least for our service provider - Vodafone) which was also a relief. We made our way up to the tree house, climbing from within it. When we reached there the view was unbelievable. It was open from all sides just curtains to close if required and during rains. And it did rained now and then ... which made the climate even better. It was fully equipped with nice hammock, two double beds one inside and one outside with the typical mosquito nets .. In the night, they provided for kerosene lanterns which added to the night ambiance.
Relaxing on the Hammock

Tree House

A beautiful long exposure dusk shot
There was no sounds of civilization .. only the sounds of nature. Insects and birds and their sounds ... It was unbelievable. We had to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner to a common location. It was a nice walk during the day time from and to the dining hall. It became more exciting during nights when it was pitch dark and we had to use our torches to reach the dining hall ... There was a defined pathway but a definitely eerie (but fun) feeling to walk in the dark through the coffee plantations on both sides.

The food was outstanding and there was variety in the food spread. The service was also wonderful. As a part of the activities (part of the package) there was a morning trek (which we skipped because of our injuries and also - we needed a break no morning activities) but it should have been fun ... There was also a plantation tour where the plantation manager took us around the plantation and showed us the coffee plants. He also showed us the two different types of coffee - Arabica and Robusta. He also showed us many other plants/trees and made us taste us some fruits/spices ... Avocado, Mangoes, Oranges, chillies, pepper, cocoa, etc ... It was very informative and nice to taste fruits in their natural form right from the source.
Pepper

Coffee Beans

An extraordinarily large flower

Avocado

Pepper Again!!

Extremely Hot Chillies

Again a very unique flower

Mangoes

Cocoa Fruit

Snail

Itch worm

Beautiful Transformation of a centipede during self-defense
The other activities were Fishing and Coracle Ride. Both were fun activities. Again we had to walk into the woods to reach the pond/lake where we were going to do the coracle ride. The problem with these walks (this and the plantation walks) was that there were lots of leaches on the path and it would stick on to the leg and silently start sucking your blood. Probably my blood being sweeter (because of all the sweets that i have) the leaches choose me as their target. I was bitten by multiple leaches, in multiple places in my leg multiple times (so much so that I am now cool about leaches - I am able to pull them out on my own and throw them away). The fishing was also fun ... we were able to have our share of catches for the fun of it and we then released them back onto the pond.
Coracle Ride

Coracle Ride

Janani's Fishing Success

A beautiful panoramic shot

And ... my fishing success

Another beautiful panoramic shot
Overall, it was a really memorable experience to be so close to nature and to take a break like this away from civilization. Now, waiting for my next big break !!

Our 5th Marriage Anniversary - Vacation - Part I

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Again a long pending post ... (Please do click on the photos to get better view)

The month of July brings in the regular Birthday / Anniversary Vacation that we always make time for every year (except last year when i was in Joburg). This year it was more special as we completed 5 years of our marriage. We decided to take a much-deserved, long break.With 5 days leave, we got a 9 day vacation. We decided to visit the beautiful Coorg and Chickamagalur in Karnataka.

We had planned for 2.5 days in Coorg, 2.5 days in Chickamagalur, travel by train caused us 2 days in travel and we needed 2 days in Bangalore to oversee the progress of a flat that we have booked in Bangalore.
Coorg: Was a beautiful place with lots of places to see. We stayed at Prakruth and I must say that though the location of the resort was great, the service and food there left us with some bad taste. So in case anyone is thinking of staying there, I would recommend a big NO. But in spite of this problem, we did visit some very interesting places.


We first visited Nisargadhama which was a nice picnic spot beside the Cavery river. It has a thick green cover which gives you a feel of a walk in the woods. It was very quiet and pretty indeed.


We then visited Dubare elephant camp. To reach this camp, you have to take a quick ride across the cavery river. The place essentially famous for two things river water rafting and elephant interaction. Now since we both were still recovering from a leg injury (which we got in Goa - long story - later), we decided to pass the river water rafting (as much as we always wanted to try that). Also wifey's fear of any animals ruled out elephant interaction as well. So we decided to just sit on the other side of the river an just relax. :) It was indeed relaxing to just soak up on that beautiful view.


We also visited the beautiful Namdroling Tibetan Monastery. It was the first time that I was seeing a Tibetan temple. I found a striking similarity to the Nanhua Temple that I had visited in Johannesburg. But there were differences as well ... But I was definitely amazed by the sheer size and the detailing of the temple ... I also got to see some Tibetan monks performing some ceremonies. What I couldn't understand was the coke and fanta bottles that were kept near the idols !!


A swan I found in the temple premises
The good part was that all these three places were close to our resort so we were able to cover all of them in half a day. We also did some shopping for spices and coffee (which coorg is famous for). On the last day we visited two more locations slightly away from the resort - Abbey Falls and the Thalacavery.

Abbey falls was simply beautiful and I did try some photography techniques and it did come out ok I guess .. :) ...

We also visited the Serene and peaceful temple of Thalacavery which is supposed to be the origination point of the river cavery.  As strange as it seems the starting point of the river starts in a small tank in the temple. The photo below taken from Manoj's flickr stream (Thanks Manoj) shows this well .. I was not allowed to take photos in that area.
It is after this that the water flows into a larger tank where people can take a dip in the holy water. (Source: Wiki)

It was indeed a very satisfying feeling. After this we headed towards Chickamagalur (Route: Bus back to Mysore - rest in the night .. Morning train to Hassan .. and then bus to Chickamagalur) .. I know its a long route ... But in the interest of making all advance bookings and a relaxed travel I chose this.

I will describe the Chickamagalur in the Part II of this post.