Friday, May 28, 2010

Melukote - A pious sanctum for those spiritualites

It had been quite long since we had laid our bikes on Mysore 4 laner when I was suggested by one of my friends to check out the famous temple at Melkote / Melukote. The distance of the place from Bangalore (133 Km from Bangalore and 51 from Mysore) was almost as far as Mysore but the route was a deviation from the Mandya town enroute to Mysore.The route is meant to cover those luscious evergreen sugar cane fields and paddy farms that the Mandya district itself was famous for. Melkote is supposed to house a very old Vaishnavite temple established by Sri Ramanujacharya during 12 th century and also a yoga- Narasimha temple perched on top of the hill. The place is also known for mutts and mathas around the temple providing sanctum for religious devotees. The lake and surrounding pond also provides interest to ornithologists and is a treat for bird watchers.
Without hoping for much we started on a very early ride along the Mysore road, on a weekend and the road was indeed fun to ride especially with very little traffic on a fine early morning. Our intention was to reach Maddur and have the breakfast- with the renowned "Maddur vada" at Maddur. We reached a place called Maddur Tiffanys just ahead of Maddur town. And it indeed was a good treat, the good old Bisibella bath, Idly and Maddur vada.
We started towards Mandya and took the right at the Mandya town towards Melkote. The road leading from Mandya was also a pleasure to ride - newly laid with lots of curves. The place was famous for paddy fields and sugarcane farms and we did come across those endless greens of paddy fields dotted by little villages. Halfway down the road there was a large canal where we thought of taking a respite from the heat. We had a small dip and swim along with a few of the localites there.
We went ahead towards Melukote further and the traffic was almost nil and landsides getting more barren. Along the entry of the Melukote village there was a small lake with plenty of birds which provided some interest to our cameras. We did take some pictures and proceeded towards the hill temple. 
The place did look like a scene taken from the old movies - an ideal temple town with Pujaris and devotees in those white costumes, Namam/forehead marks and kudumis.The square shaped pond along side the temple was also quite unique and provided a nice setting across the temple backdrop.
We started climbing towards the hilltop, the climb along the steps not taking much effort or time -half hour, though the view at the top surely meant that the elevation of the hill was significant. The hilltop provided a beautiful 360 degree view of the town below along with the lake, the temples and the adjoining pond. Both the view as well as the temple was good proving it worth while to visit the place.

Hilltop temple view
Maddur Vada at Maddur Tiffanys

Mandya to Melukote road

 A large Canal enroute Melukote

Interesting bird nests by the lake side
The Kamat highway hotel
Dinner at Kamat

We turned back at around 4 pm, a long ride towards Bangalore waiting ahead of us. And offcourse whats a ride along Mysore road worth if you fail to visit Coffee day or Kamat. We did go to Kamat for our dinner, the restaurant was at its usual best, the traditionally attired waiters, atmosphere and the food itself was quite an experience. We ordered the good old 'Neer Dosa', appam and Puri and indeed savoured every bite. We reached back Bangalore at about 8 pm. 
I would recommend to cover Melukote along with Mysore or adjoining places; just Melukote on a single day might turn out to be uninteresting. One can do a Srirangapatnam or Ranganthittu bird sanctuary along with Melukote on a single day trip. And do take some sun screens or plan your visit during the winters/post monsoon as the place can get hot at the top especially when the sun's beating down.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Munnar to Kodaikkanal Trek

This had been one of our dream treks and got lucky that one of our Bangalore based trekking club got permission for the route. Obtaining permission is quite difficult owing to the fact that the trek ranges along restriced areas of both Kerala and Tamilnadu and most the trek route would be along the border of the states.
Trek Reference:

Misty morning at peak

Village where we ended the trek

The plan was to cover the trek with in 2 days which would be difficult to squeeze since the ideal time to cover the trek would be 3 days. So we had to cover a distance of 35 (15Km on first day and 20Km on the next) within two days. We had started towards Munnar Friday night and got to reach Chinnar at 7 am the next day, where we first encountered the Kerala border check post. The guide joined us there and we went along the picturesque road towards Munnar. We had a great breakfast (Appam and Puttu-kadala curry) at a place called Marayur inside the Kerala border on way towards Munnar. The highway route was amazing with beautiful tea estates and gorgeous valleys. Much to our dismay we reached the starting place of our trek, the ‘Top Station’ only at 2 pm on the day. However on the way were wide stretches of tea estates, beautiful lakes, two amazing dams, Mattupatty dam and Kundala dam that offered amazing landscapes for some of our wannabe photographers.

The Hut where we camped

Indian Gaur (Wild Indian Bison)

After some formalities with forest officials we started towards our camp site, a forest ranger hut located at about 5 hours trek from the Top Station. We were quite lucky to spot a Tusker along the route. We also got to see a giant squirrel and a Black monkey along the trek route. The camp site would be at 2400 m, along one of the ranges of Anaimalai hills. Along the route we went across to cover the second highest peak (2600 m) after Anaimudi peak (2695 m) which is Indias’ highest peak apart from the Himalayan ranges. The sunset atop the peak provided scintillating views, with the ranges of hills stacked across a misty backdrop. This had been by far my highest point in trek and perhaps the best.

The lonely forest hut perched atop one of those ranges where we were to stay was completely remote, without power and any sort of communication and with an indimidating forest outside teeming with wildlife. It was very cold and the camp fire that we set outside our hut saved us from shivers. Our generous guide cooked us some puliogare and we had our camp fire there.

The morning was very misty and sunrise atop was amazing. After attending natures’ call at a nearby stream and having a hot soup, we started the arduous trek. The trek would be along the border of the states for most of the route.

The route offered us plenty of view points looking upon the misty peaks and ranges and at some spots the guide informed us that the view down, would show speckles of buses and villages near the town Kambam/Theni/Boady. There were quite many streams down the route and a few check dams where we could replenish our water bottles. We prepared our lunch of MTR ready to eat at one of those spots.

We got a glimpse of an Indian bison (Gaur) upclose at one of those check dams looking stark down at us. After taking some quick snaps before it would start charging at us, we moved on along. Owing to great heights of the peak, most of the vegetation was pine trees and offered us beautiful glimpses of pine forests all across the valleys. Our trek veered into Tamil Nadu and our destination was a small beautiful serene village adorned with picture perfect landscape of step farming down the mountains.The village was called Kilavarai where our cab would wait for us and was about 45 Km by road from Kodaikkanal. We headed to Kodaikkanal for dinner and some bit of shopping.

This had been my most fulfilling trek till now not that it showed the serenity, and the abundance of freshness and untarnished life at these uninhabited forests but it showcased how man can completely erode the simplicity, and the orderliness of the place where he goes and muddle it up to ravish the place to an irreversible extent. More of my thoughts and treksperience at