Monday, June 26, 2006

On the bison's trail

It’s unbelievable how dfficult it can get to write about an experience you totally loved all because you can’t get the first line right!!!! Yep am talking about my trip to Topslip….. The 48 hours I spent there keep running through my head… first of all, after a long time , I took the initiative and didn’t get stopped for the lack of “enough people’ and trivial things like that…second of all , the place was simply beautiful!!!!!

We left for coimbatore friday night.... and from there to the Forest office in Pollachi which opens only by 9 in the morning… got the approval from the forest officer…. Booked a cab ( who btw way fleeced us) and off we were…. Even the road to Topslip was beautiful…One can feel the change in landscape as you moved closer to the anamalai’s….the trees looking greener….gulmohars in full bloom painting the sky red…

Our trek guide for the day was Mr. baby …. He was on the ‘Animal sightings’ notice board that day for spotting a tiger on his way to work early in the morning…. I was happy that we had got the man who saw the beast…maybe we too would…. He suggested the trail to Ambuli watch tower and we set off… I kept asking him about the wild animals and if we would be able to spot one , quite like the desparate traveler … and in response he pointed out langurs, hornbills and the lion tailed macaque…. While that wasn't the wild life i had in mind, I found it surprising that even the monkeys were not to be spotted easily…One had to be extremely quiet and learn to discern their presence amidst the dense green intermingled with the brown of the barks… He pointed out holes dug out by bears, elephant dung and the foot prints of deer's bears, and bisons….. Still unable to shake off the DT in me, I was praying atleast for a bison sighting!

The ambuli watch tower itself was just a single room and looked more like the water tank on apartment terraces…. We were greeted by extremely strong but pleasurable wind and an absolutely fantastic view of the entire ranges. Our guide later informed us that, had we been interested we could have packed our dinners and camped out at this spot…… On our way back, we got lucky as our man was able to pick up the trail of a bison… nimbly, he kept walking… he was sensing the animal more than following the hooves…. While we were to follow his wake and keep looking for tracks – there they were… a pair of bisons grazing… One had its back to us while the other was facing us…. The bison seemed to have sensed our presence and lifted its head – and looked us in the eye (or so it seemed!) .. we were transfixed…trying to drink in the animal and at the same time get a good pic…and suddenly with a click of their hooves they sped aways …..We (rather baby) managed to pick their scent twice again… but both times we couldn’t observe them for more than a few moments.

The other thing that made this trek eventful was the leech attack on my friends... My theory is that, the more you are concerned that they might get on to you, the more you will have one yourself!!!!

It rained heavily that night - I had made plans for an early morning trek with the guide, and was almost sure that we couldnt make it...but by morning the rains ceased ... And at about 6 o clock me and he set off... yes decided to go for a trek alone as my friends didnt feel upto it! This time, the trek was even more enjoyable...the route seemed a bit uncharted... and instead of just walking there were patches of pure rocky terrain..... and we reached a place that was close to magical!!!

We continued forward, but this time down the slopes to the valley below as against the usual upward trek to reach a peak.... and the place was beautiful...i wish i could have taken a 360 degree photo of being surrounded by tall teak trees and huge shrubs and and of being in the heart of the forest..... This time again we chanced upon bisons..... the guide was just telling me that bisons have come this way and we heard a click of hooves from the other side of the shrubs.... as we moved ahead he pointed out a spot where the bisons had slept and place where it looked like the bisons had fought..... and before long we came face to face with them again- This time around i didnt even attempt a shot with my 'only 3x' cam. Satisfied with my animal sighting, we headed back to civilization!

A quick lunch, a last look and our trip had come to an end.

All My Topslip pics on picasaweb

Some Information:
1. Getting there : From coimbatore, take a bus to pollachi. From pollachi one can either take a bus or a cab. Buses are there at 6.30 , around 11.30 and 3.30. If you are taking a cab, get one from near the bus stand.

2. To stay over night at Topslip, you need to write to the Forest officer, Indra gandhi wildlife sanctuary, meen karai road, pollachi asking for accomodation. Call them later and follow up. Ph: 04259225356

3. They have lodginfs for about 250 a day while fancier ones are being constructed... if you want some luxury , be specifi and ask for more expensive rooms.

4. There is a canteen, which is a hop , skip and a jump away from all the rest need to let them when you would like your food so they can ge it ready... and the food was simple yet one of the best i had tasted.

5. The rooms have wooden cots - but you need to cary your blankets.

6. Likewise, to return back, there are buses - one at 12.30 and one at 6.30 in the evening.

7. You can reach parambkulam through topslip itself. So if you have more time, check out that place

8. Be nice to your guide.. don't know the miracles he can perform for you. Plus dont ask for an Arumugam who seems to be widely quoted from one blog to the other - it seems to offend the other guides... its unbelievable, but yea competition exists even in wilderness!

9. To camp in the middle of the forest or at the watch tower, you might need further permissions.

10. The one blog which was almost like the bible for this trip : Naikutti's Two Days in topslip

Monday, June 19, 2006

Café De Art

While that’s the name of an Art Gallery in Hyderabad, there’s a group of theatre professionals trying to create an artist’s Café right here in Chennai. At Cedars ( a restaurant), in Kotturpuram, they show case play readings of amateur playwrights… I missed the reading last month and got to go for this one….

The feel is quite different. While there isn’t much acting happening, you get a feel of being involved … of being where the actions is and not just watching it!!!! The audience get to be critics of the play and give back feedback and also question the playwright – how often have we walked out of a play or read a story and wondered, ‘What was the author thinking???? ‘…. Unfortunately, for the one play that I really wanted to ask that, the author was not present….

Apart from the fact that u can also order food during the program, they offer everyone a free drink for the evening (this part must be sponsored by Cedars!).... Food and theatre – think it’s an interesting combination!!!

In search of Pulicat

It can be difficult, but you have to call a spade a spade!

It was a hot sunday. The stars seemed to be with me, for the disinterested became suddenly interested and 4 of us set out in search of pulicat ( not that it was much of a search). It was a 2 hour drive, the last 19 kms very bumpy. The road directly leads you to a small market patch and there the lake lies ahead of you.

The sight before me was a let down. A dirty water front, a group of fishermen hounding you with boat rates, a lake with a depth that buffalos pull carts across and an island on the other side filled with buildings, all of which did not quite sum up to the 'idyllic beautiful hamlet and lake ' scene conjured up by The Hindu. The first thing that came to my mind was 'Whats the big deal??'... While the remaining day was much better, first impressions did color the entire experience....

We eventually did fix up a boat for 450 bucks to take us to the estuary or the mugadwaram... Once you move into the deeper waters, you can start enjoying the lake.... The water a beautiful mix of blue and green... wind blowing through you hair.... 30 mins and we reached the estuary... and o my o..The sea is beautiful... a deep beautiful blue ... The patch of land by the estuary is quite small, but clean nevertheless... and certainly the most ideal place for a peaceful , away from the maddening crowd picnic... This stretch is the highlight of pulicat. One should ideally go early in the morning, hit this spot, take a dip in the sea enjoy a nice breakfast and hit mainland before the suns blazing guns. The other nice thing to do would be to get a huge beach umbrella and hire a boat for a day and float about in a quiet corner of the lake.

We saw quite a few sail boats - but they are for boating on the sea and these fisherman dont really take us with them. The casurina groves or saukuthoppu and dutch cemetry are quite a waste of time. And too many fishermen who dont necessarily add to the joy pf the day. Plus, the afternoons are scorching ( which is what we found out first hand).. and the boatmen dont take you after 5... so mornings are the best times! Beware slighting one boatmen for another, u might end up with a punctured tire like us. And remeber to ask for Pazhaverkaadu as very few in this area know it as Pulicat

The unexpected suprise of the trip was the temple we chanced upon.. Its fascinating...Here in the south, in a human forsaken land there might not be water, but you'll certainly find god in a temple .. and if the pipes work, water in there!! This temple was about 1000 years old and built in the honor of lord shiva. The temple grounds were huge and the temple quite simple. Except for the iyers and a lady there was no soul around. Lord shiva in this temple resides as an 'aathma lingam'. The lingam was initially hidden in a tree, which was discovered by a king. Hence, the entrance to the temple too is set in a hidden way. This is one of the places were Maanikavasagar sang his songs. The walls are covered with inscriptions in Granth.

The quite breeze, oil lamps in the dark, the smell of karpuram and the slow vedic chanting was soothing to the mind and soul , and we left pulicat quite satisfied.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hyding nook n corners

Yes.. My second post on Hyderabad.. Well, it was 2 years, and its not easy to pack all that into just a 200 word post..( more like 2000)! I just realized that I had actually wanted to write about living in Hyderabad...Little things I had discovered... But my previous post turned out to be more of relieving my emotions and feelings.... So here goes another one...

I have never ever surfed for details on a city like I did for Hyderabad... One extremely useful and most likely the first site which google lists : An excellent site for most information - it even lists special nights in various pubs and exhibitions... Talking about websites,a word of caution - one shouldn't get carried away by websites, especially of any place in Andhra as they tend to glorified about a 100 times.. The other most useful information service is 'Just-Dial' So just dial 4444-4444 and get phone numbers and addresses of just about any place in Hyderabad.

The first thing I dug around the place was for a library - and to my shock there aren't any..... Specifically not the small ones which issue a small white membership card, charge around 200 for membership and have tons of fiction..... ofcourse, the most common suggestion used to be British council... Which really doesn't have any books that make sense( in my opinion)... More googling landed me on this site no longer is working, but knowledgeport is a library which delivers books home ...You pay 1 grand flat for a year and unlimited number of books delivered to your door step...And for those who want to have the feel of picking up a book, please feel free to go over to Greenlands - Begumpet intersection and you'll find KP bang opposite to lifestyle... Then, there's this guy who makes tons of money in the name of a book exhibition in Panjagutta...Its actually a second hand book shop - for the first book you pay the amount he quotes... Once u are done , you can exchange the book for a similar one for a nominal fee of about 10 or 15 bucks....And ofcourse, there's always crossword in Shopper's stop.

The other thing I dug around was for any signs of drama or theatre work ... Hyd has a very happening Teluge theatre... But English theatre is non existent... There exists a dramatic circle of Hyderabad, but i have never seen them putting up a performance in Hyderabad. The other group here is Expressions and British council organises workshops and some play readings once in a while.

While banglore is named the "garden city", you'll find innumerable of parks and gardens in Hyderabad too... If I am not way off, I think it was Naidu who took a lot of effort to decorate every one of them with fountains, lights and in some cases music.... The lawns along the necklace road also came up during his tenure... Latest to this collection is a 'Rock Garden' that was being developed along the lake... Free yoga classes happen in some of these parks ( in Masab tank, Indra gandhi park )... If you want to a Sunday evening break and also get mehndi done, u should hit vengalrao park... The women are damn fast and do a very pretty job!

There are lots of resorts like Alankritha , pragathi resorts for a weekend break , but I would personally prefer going to Icrisat - this is a UN funded campus for agricultural research - lovely rooms, vast expanse of lands you can cycle about, a simply beautiful large pool, and a sumptuous continental breakfast... And ofcourse their cakes!!!!

If you are a nature lover, and don't have like minded company, try these : There is Bird watchers society of AndhraPradesh (BSAP). They meet once a month to go birdwatching and go for a long trip once a year.They also work on some wilderness preservation projects.One thing is that, in my limited experience of birdwatching (once actually), i found the group a tad old. Then there is the Save the Rock society - which works towards preserving the natural deccan plateau now being destroyed by steel and cement. They also go on 'Rock walks' once in a month. The organized an Indian Ocean concert once in the Secret Lake, one of the best concerts ive been too.. Wild wood adventures is run by 2 brothers who organize day treks for individuals and corporates...quite ok except that places around hyd aren't exactly trekker's paradise...

ok.. I'll stop here now... I want to give a conclusion , but cant think of anything.. So period.

PS: Some links on HYD

Funny Hyderabad

Discovering Hyderabad

PS 2: Looks like I forgot to mention the sailing club...wonder where they sail ? - on the Hussaion Sagar ofcourse! On weekends, the colorful blue sails dot the lake and is a pretty sight! And there is a horse riding club ( located in masab tank).. They have a damn good deal for people interested in learning the sport.... And if you look closely into the 'events' section in the papers, you'll find horse races which happen quite often...