Old Magazine House

I have been planning to go to the Western Ghats for a birding trip since long, many articles, pictures and stories have been coming my way since a long time about how the bio-diversity here is amazing. Eventually this Diwali we managed to go and finally made a road trip down to North Karnataka.

The first destination on the list was The Old Magazine House a jungle camp that is run and managed by The Jungle Lodges and Resorts. As it turned out this place is a heaven for bird watchers!

Tucked slightly away from the highway, a 2 kms off-road drive brings you to this small camp. Amidst tall trees and very little sun peeping through the camp gives you a feel of calm and peace and tranquility about it. They have a small area that has been cleared of the trees where they have put some bird baths and on days when there is no rain around these very bird baths are an absolute favourite of the birds. The birds come here in throngs and they have put some green nets with small gaps made for the camera so that the birds are not disturbed by the bird watchers and photographers.

The first evening itself after around 5 till around 7 we counted 32 different species of birds at one spot, all you had to do was keep your note and pen ready, we would sit around sipping tea or reading a book and the birds would come! I mean I have gone to a lot of places to spot birds and yes there is a lot of fun and a sense of achievement in walking on trails and identifying birds but this was a first!

 

Here you just wait and all the birds from the surrounding woods come and give their attendance! How cool is that!? We counted 48 species in 24 hours and that I think is an amazing number! So many firsts that I cannot even tell you! This place is an absolute paradise for bird watchers who are lazy to go on trails I tell you!

 

The staff in the place is also very well equipped in terms of bird, plant, reptile identification and can have a conversation with us quelling all our curiousness. They not only are efficient that ways but are extremely caring and hospitable, never imagined govt tourist houses to have such a courteous and caring staff. They made some awesome meals as well and also took us out on trails in the woods.

 

The boarding facilities are basic, whilst the cottages are under repair the dormitory that they have are quite simple and good and adequate. Very neatly run this place has to be up on your list if you are looking to go birding in the Western Ghats. Here are some of the birds that we spotted here!

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Flame Throated Bulbul

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White Bellied Flycatcher

 

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Spider Hunter playing hide and seek with us

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Orange Headed Thrush & Fulvetta

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Emerald Dove, the state bird of Tamil Nadu

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Asian Paradise Flycatcher (female)

 

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Hump Nosed Pit Viper. Apart from the birds there are many other things to spot too😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekends in Bharuch! :)

Warning : A post that includes only showing off. Please wear your glares before you read!😛:mrgreen:

 

The best part of living in a town where you grew up is that you have so many people who know you are connected living around you, not just that, it also means that all your friends are either put up here or are visiting your town on weekends or festivals even if they are working elsewhere. So in many ways I live in a town that is sort of a head quarter for most of the people in my circle! Hence, weekends are always fun, sometimes almost hectic! Saturday nights are gathered around some wonderful food and spent regaling each other with stories or pulling each others legs, late nights and then early mornings we have to leave for the Narmada Valley to find some or the other waterfall for a bath.

 

Yea that way we are pretty rich, we drive about an hour to find a pristine waterfall for a bath on Sundays! Blessed with wonderful countryside we Bharuchi’s may not be proud of our city and its cleanliness but are certainly snooting about to everyone about the countryside we have! So many mountains, valleys, waterfalls that you can spend the entire months of July to November bathing in a different waterfall every Sunday!!!!! Now doesn’t that sound amazing!??!?!

 

One friend of ours Nitinbhai actually is a treasure trove in that regard, he has explored the surrounding area’s so much that he knows of all such small streams and nooks and corners of our town and we use our connections to the hilt! Always pinging him up on saturday nights about directions to our next bath on a sunday!😀😀😀

 

Pehchaan hai apni Boss!!:mrgreen:

 

Anyways so this weekend was one such hectic and fun affair! Around 12 I decided it was time for me to cook, so I called home and told all the ladies to take it easy and relax, I will cook, I then got all the stuff around 4 pm and got into cooking, some garlic bread, salad, one type of Crostini and a cucumber crush as suggested by my blogger buddies Rakesh and Monika. It all turned out pretty swell!

 

Forgot to take pictures! But thankfully one friend had made a Snap Story of a couple of things and hence I can now show off!

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The Garlic Bread with mayonnaise, corn, capsicum, tomato and chilli flakes! Do take note, this is home made Mayonnaise!😎

 

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The Crostini before it was sent int he oven to melt!😉

Unfortunately the drinks and salad were not photographed however the salad was scraped off the huge bowl and the drink was finished too with me getting three glasses of it:mrgreen:

 

Then after having slept at around 12 in the night, some of the earnest few even went to Garba that night, we had to wake up at 5 am and one friend was kind enough or well insane enough to call me and wake me up at 4.30! :-/ at 5 am we were on the road! Half of us did catch up some sleep in the car whilst the rest fought on what music to play! The biggest draw back of technology that ways, everyone is carrying their play list and wants to make others listen to music he loves!😐

 

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Once you leave the city, Bharuch regales you with greenery and green slopes especially in the monsoon

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Yes… I belong to these parts!😀😀😀😀

 

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Into the wilderness we go, searching for a waterfall through Jowar Fields!

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Yeh mera gaon …..

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Seems like we are going to have a bumper Ponk harvest this year… thanks to the wonderful monsoon we have had this year! Its October and its still not exhausted!😀😀

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Spotted these two who absolutely were loving the weather and the surroundings!😉

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and then there are angry dad’s at their kids for not running away from bad company, it screamed at the little one for not running far from us and letting us get so close!

 

Now last but certainly not the least, Namaskar from Bharuch!😀😀😀

 

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Welcome to the Mangrove

So we went on a river safari on Madu Ganga, as many mangroves as we have and as many failed attempts I made to visit the Sunderbans, this was my first visit to the mangroves, excitement was palpable between the two of us. A journey into something unknown, something new always is looked at eagerly with a lot of nervous energy at most times.

 

To beat the crowd our host suggested we go as early as 6 am so that we would not have a lot of crowd which usually pours in after 9am. The early morning trip meant a lot of quiet, peace, easy to grab a boat as the boatmen were eager and free and offered a discount. All that done we hopped onto a boat and we went on our way onto the beautiful Madu river. Our boat guide constantly talking to us and keeping us engaged and informed about the surroundings and from time to time making sure he yelled for us to keep our heads lower as we passed under some bridges that criss crossed the river.

 

The river is pretty huge which did not seem like when we started, but as we went on we discovered many small islands, some with temples, some with small settlements of people in the river. Some of the islands are connected by bridges and some are only connected by boats and yes they have people living there. There are some cinnamon plantations inside, apparently some of the best cinnamon in the world comes from here.

 

We spotted a lot of water monitors, monkeys, kingfishers, brahminy kites in just 10 mins on the safari. It being so early in the morning meant poor light and that meant poor pictures, however, the whole experience was wonderful, a lot of nervous energy gave way to elation of spotting so many creatures going about their life early in the morning. With no visitors apart from us meant we would keep things quieter and wait patiently and slowly glide closer to the animals as they lay about or fished or ate some fruits.

 

We even visited one Buddhist temple on the river that is some 200 years old and I saw the largest squirrel I have ever seen there!

 

The high point though was this picture below, entering into this darkness, the branches and the leaves that don’t allow the sun to enter, the being so close to the branches so little space to run if something were to come onto you, no it was not spooky but for the first few minutes we were nervous and excited both at the same time, apparently I have learnt that this is still a pretty small version of what you could see in the Sunderbans and hence my goal to visit it for sure and soon. The feeling inside the mangroves was something I have not experience, a part of this planet that is so different from others that I have seen, a thriving eco-system to boot. We absolutely loved the little time we were inside.

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This in particular is a part of travel, discovering something new, experiencing things you have not experienced before seeing new things is what keeps us all going ain’t it?

 

Here are a few more pictures!

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At day break we were off on our journey into experiencing something new!🙂

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Probably the smallest island on the river!

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A water monitor lazing on a tree, he didn’t even blink an eyelid on seeing us! He was almost saying Go away… the tourist time is after 9!!

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There are many foot massage parlours and the labour involved in the massage literally eat your dead skin!😀

The secluded beach and the sunset

Call me snooty but I generally prefer places with less people, the more quiet, the more I can hear the sounds of nature, my thoughts and just be with my thoughts without any distraction. I love trekking in the Himalayas precisely for that reason, for the only way you can go away from people to the real places is when you walk away from the road and take up a trail up the slopes!

 

There always is an effort going on whenever I travel to go find such spots, sometimes its great to be just by yourself in nature, watching a sunrise or a wave crashing on a rock or a squirrel making merry with some nuts.

 

Recently we stayed in a place called Balapitiya, kinda in between the more famous Bentota and Hikkaduwa on the west to southwest sea coast of Srilanka, whilst Hikkaduwa and Bentota both are pretty nice beaches, there is a lot of activity there too, we did immerse in those, however, in the evenings after a couple of Mojito’s we preferred to walk on the beach across the road from the villa we rented. Barely 50 meters away is this beautiful beach, the best part was very very few people were about and so it was great fun to have this all to ourself.

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The beautiful Balapitya Beach!

 

We took long walks whilst watching the waves, collecting shells, getting our legs wet, spotting snails stuck on stones, and when tired we sat down to see an ethereal sunset! A very quiet, peaceful evening on this wonderful beach that was also where we took our first dips in the morning, albeit in the morning there were a few joggers around!

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The waves crashing on the rocks

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Soon enough the sun started going westwards!

 

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continually showing different hues as it went on its way!

 

There always are hideouts everywhere, remember that! If you are one of those who likes finding them, this is one nice beach tucked away in Srilanka that is not “developed” and at times I am thankful of that!🙂

Off the grid in Kandy

Loads of people go to Kandy in Sri Lanka, one of the major buddhist destinations in the country & a pretty regular place to visit in your Sri Lanka itinerary, situated in the central province and a shining jewel in Sri Lanka’s hill country. However, I am a bit of a loather of doing things that are popular or visit places that are frequented by too many tourists.

 

Thanks to the fact that we were living with locals as I mentioned in my earlier post here we were fortunate enough to discover a few slightly more quieter and lesser explored spots. Our host said that instead of spending time on the Kandy lake which is in the middle of the city near the Temple of Tooth, we try out Sembuwatte Lake along with a picnic lunch. We gladly accepted his suggestion and packed some wholesome food made by our host and headed for Sembuwatte Lake, about 20 kms from Kandy, this lake is in a Tea Estate and is amazingly beautiful, located at a much higher altitude than Kandy it had wonderful weather and was very serene, peaceful and sparsely crowded. The weather in that part also kept on changing very fast from sunny to a shower to showing us a total white out!

 

Tuktuk’s ply to this lake, which somehow the Arabs believe is facing Mecca, I don’t know how religious people come out with such notions. On the way there are a few restaurants serving Arabic Food, a few people had come there for picnic all prepared with a gas stove and all to cook their food. Its a very pretty place as you can see from these pictures!

 

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Thats the place!

 

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There are some small shelters made around for you to sit about when it rains or to make your lunch. Best thing is they are all spaced out enough to offer privacy to everyone visiting there.

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Thats the scene when clouds take over, this was shot at 1 in the noon!

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The place is lively with colours, various shades of green, Kingfishers that keep hopping in and out of the water and loads of Brahminy Kite’s hovering around

 

On the way back from Sembuwatta we also stopped at Hunas Waterfalls which were a very pretty sight as well. The whole ride from Kandy to Sembuwatta Lake and back is scenic, many sections look like a scene out of Congo really!

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Hunas Water fall, seemed so much like a place that would be in Congo!

 

We spent a day just lazing, sighing and soaking in the views whilst munching on our food that was packed. Whilst there is a 5 star hotel near Hunas Waterfall, when you go to Sembuwatta lake remember to carry your own food. There is no food shop there and trust me you will want to spend more time there. A spoiler is that the lake is controlled by a tea estate and they charge 1000 LKR for foreigner entry inside their estate. Bathing is not allowed in the lake, however, they have made a pool of the same natural flowing water so that you can bath in the water at the same time not spoil the serenity of the lake. Amazingly clean and well kept lake surrounded by tea gardens is a lovely place for a picnic.

 

Hunas waterfall is an entry fee of 300 LKR, slightly commercialised however the place is breathtakingly beautiful, you can anyways see the waterfall without paying the 300 LKR. Tuktuk from Kandy would cost around 1500-1800 for a day trip along with waiting charges.

 

 

Sunday’s in Bharuch

On sunday’s you get up lazily, sometimes you are kicked out of your sleep for its time to head for a bath, a bath that is a short drive away, on the way you have to have some breakfast and then onto the bath, here is a short photo story!😀

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Hit the road on a glorious Indian monsoon day!😛

 

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Stop and climb a random green hill!

 

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Find this view atop a random hill!😀😀

 

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Get lost into capturing it all in your camera… this could be a mini valley of flowers from Bharuch😛

 

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Getting friendly with the locals of the place! They are kinda poised to take off I say!

 

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Eventually stop digressing and head for the bath!

 

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The spot!

 

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Finally time to wash!

 

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Then some time for a siesta in the shade watching over rich contrasting shades of nature!

 

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Every few minutes the cloud scene kept changing and it was amazing to just gaze about.

 

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Hamara Bharuch!

 

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As it invariably happens, after you have washed and dried and dressed you suddenly come across another waterfall, this one a natural shower of sorts…. sigh…. what do you do!????

 

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Well I say walk straight in!

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Not to miss out on the wonderful hogging that happened through this arduous day😛 A few dhokla’s here a sev ussal there, bajri ka rotla or makke di roti, locha and well ice cream to top it off!

 

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Enough for a day I say!

 

 

Pic credits have to be shared within the four of us, Jay, Supas, Rishabh and me!

Living with locals

Ever since I discovered AIRBNB, I have fallen in love with it, its very different from what I had always tried, apart from having a home with a lot more space and facilities that hotels ever provide, there so many times is an opportunity to engage with a local. Not always have I had a host who is living hands on, however, many times I have had the chance through AIRBNB to actually stay with some locals and that I must tell you is where AIRBNB takes the cake in comparison to all other websites that aid travel. I must confess I have not really travelled to Backpacking hostels which are next on my list to visit and experience but till then AIRBNB is doing a wonderful job really.

I have to mention this now especially when I am back from Sri Lanka, where we visited not one but three different homes and hosts. Amongst them one experience was so wonderful it will stay with me for life.

I have to mention the wonderful stay we had with Domaine de Bellevue, a home hosted by Valerian a Sri Lankan and Laure his wife who comes from Switzerland. As much as I regret that I could not meet Valerian’s wife or kids who were holidaying whilst we were there, I think that gave us more of Valerian’s time and interacting with the guy was a wonderful thing to do. The guy has travelled extensively all around the world doing all sorts of jobs, speaks 7 languages and now seems to have settled on this little mountain he bought, yes, you read that correct, he bought a mountain with a view and then he built his house. The location is so superb that sitting on his porch in Wattegama we can actually see & determine what weather is in Kandy(18kms away), Colombo(153kms away) & Nuwara Eliya (91kms away). To actually reach his house you have to climb around 400 meters inside his property from where the vehicles stops!! I told you, the guy bought a part of a mountain!

What we learnt from him was most Sri Lankans are involved in making their own houses, unlike us who basically hire people to do stuff. Very proudly Valerian would tell us that the tiles on the porch we were sitting on were actually done by his own hands! How amazing is that?! The man would go for his job, cook breakfast and dinner for us, do gardening, most of his food came from his own garden, would clean and do the dishes, feed his dogs, cats and birds, regale us with his chats, arrange transport for us and all that single handedly! I mean how industrious and resourceful is that, honestly I have come back with a big complex from there!

The other benefit is that it offers so much insight when you have a local who is ready to talk and converse with all the time, so many of your questions have suddenly got some answers, there is ready information to feed all your curiosity about the place.

Another amazing thing was, when at night we would sleep or when we would go out all we did was just close the magnet locked net of the door, the door would be otherwise open for anyone wanting to enter. That is how safe it was around there! Imagine doing that in a foreign country?

I actually joined him in the kitchen, he even made me love eating a pumpkin, I tasted several new fruits in his garden, Katu Anoda juice being new for me and one that fast became a favourite with the meals. We even made a wood fired pizza with me helping him a teeny weeny bit of garnishing. The pizza again was made from dough, that he prepared, most of the ingredients for the toppings came from his own garden, was wood fired, yes he had a wood fire oven made for this specially!

Infact one night he had some other guests who were a french couple who wanted to eat french food and Valerian made a complete french dinner and even asked us what sort of wine we would like to drink alongside! We had a wonderful dinner that night with some awesome classical music collection that Valerian has, the conversation during that dinner was enriching, I love interacting with people from different countries and cultures.

I wonder if hotels can ever provide such experiences? Atleast I have never had any of such in Hotels, its with homestays, which have locals living alongside that such pleasant benefits exist.

Apart from giving so many wonderful moments as far as the stay facilities are concerned the houses have so much more character than hotels, so much more space than a hotel room and actually a lot more privacy than hotels plus this wonderful insight into local life. Isn’t that what most travellers look for when they set out to travel???

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When we reached a little late in the noon to his place and claimed we were hungry, he made us this wonderful salad and Katu Anoda juice. The orange thing in the salad is actually Pumpkin boiled in just nutmeg water and salt and tasted wonderfully with pepper! I never knew I would say I loved eating Pumpkin you know!

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For really wonderful photos of the place you have to visit its page on FB on the link I shared above.

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We spent a lot of time here lazing with a book and sipping tea or just admiring the view.

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The view of Kandy city from our HOME in Wattegama!😀

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Lest I forget, the place is a treasure trove for birds, we spotted many many birds of whom I have to identify many yet! Here is a Scarlet Minivet we spotted from our hammock!

 

I just can go on and on about the benefits of staying with locals or staying in homes instead of hotels, not taking anything away from hotels, I use them as much, however, for the sheer varied experiences you get from a home and living with someone it just cannot match up.

 

So have you ever stayed in a homestay or with locals?? If not don’t wait, give it a try!

 

 

Sea, Sand & Fun

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A couple of kids jump into the Indian Ocean at a beach in Galle under the watchful eyes of their father. A beach is a wonderful blessing to have nearby and the Sri Lankans are pretty lucky in this regard, especially the ones that live near the coast. We happened to spend a week there, which coincided with Sri Lankan holidays as it is their festival season. It was a short, sharp trip but we loved it anyways watching the mild, smiling Sri Lankan’s enjoying their holidays and basking in the glory of their rich lands. Finally after the war ended some 6 odd years ago the emerald isle is set to shine and grow.

 

I guess the abc tag has to take a break, there are a lot of stories from Lanka to share. So stay tuned for more!