Saturday, December 20, 2008

14-Dec-2008 Shivaneri Fort

Shivaneri is the birthplace of Shivaji Maharaj. It has a special place in the history.

From Pune, one has to go to Junnar. Shivaneri fort is just outside the town.

6:00 AM Shivaji Nagar bus stand
We met at the Shivaji Nagar bus stand at 6:00 AM. We did not board the bus to Junnar. It did not have place for our group.

8:00 AM Started from Pune
Finally we boarded a bus to Rajguru Nagar. There we had breakfast near bus stand.

10:30 AM Reached Junnar
After breakfast, we took another bus to Junnar.

11:00 AM Started climbing the fort
From the bus stand, we took one vehicle which dropped us at the base of the fort. We started to climb the fort. This fort is relatively small. It has gardens created at many places. There are trees planted.

From Trips - Shivaneri fort Dec 08

From Trips - Shivaneri fort Dec 08

11:30 AM Temple
We first went to a temple.

12:00 PM Caves
Just behind the temple, there are few caves. These served as stupas in the earlier times. There is one chaitya and several viharas.

After the caves, we went to the other side of the fort. This is the place where Shivaji Maharaj was born. Now a building stands at the place.

From Trips - Shivaneri fort Dec 08 Stupa on Shivaneri fort

We had our lunch.

After lunch, we roamed the other parts of the fort. There are tanks which are covered and interconnected.

4:00 PM Started descending the fort
Finally we started to descend the fort. We could reach Rajguru Nagar fairly quickly. However, getting a conveyance from there to Pune was really difficult. This was Sunday evening. All buses were full.

10:00 PM Back to Pune
Finally, we entered one bus. We covered most of the journey standing between the seats. This bus failed near Bhosari. We took another bus after much difficulty. Finally we reached Pune by 10:00 PM.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

15 to 16-Nov-2008 Rajgad Fort

I wanted to see different forts. However accessibility was a big challenge. The public transport is not good enough to see many places on our own. Fortunately, I came in contact with trekking groups. I decided to take the first trek available at the time. This was arranged by Giridarshan to fort Rajgad.

Rajgad has been the capital fort for Shivaji Maharaj for maximum time. I was very happy that I will be able to see the fort.

To visit the fort, one has to take MSRTC buses from Swargate in Pune. Any bus going to Gunjwane, Vajeghar, Velhe would take us to the base of Rajgad.

3:00 PM Swargate bus stand
As per the email, I reached Swargate bus stand and located the group. I payed my fees and registered my name.

There was no sign of any bus. Repeated enquires revealed us that sometime the driver was not available but the bus was available and vice versa. This waiting was very tiresome.

6:00 PM Took a bus to Gunjawane
As per plan we were supposed to go to Vajeghar. However in the evening, we had to take a bus to Gunjwane.

At last, the bus reached Gunjawane. It was dark in the night. We were supposed to climb the fort in darkness.

8:30 PM Started climbing the fort
A couple of villagers were taken to show us the route to the road. Initially all the torches were on. However, after some time, the sky cleared and moonlight was spread. We switched the torches.

10:30 PM Reached Padmavati machi
Nearly two hours of climb took us to Padmavati machi. There was a rock patch. In the night, I did not realize the dufficulty.

Most of us were exhausted after we reached the place. We rested there for some time until some of us found the place to sleep. Unfortunately, on that day, 3-4 other groups were also on the top. Hence all the shelters were occupied. Finally, the archeology department room was available to us.

11:00 PM Diner
Once the place to stay was finalized, we took out food and had dinner.

11:30 PM Bedtime
Immediately after the dinner, we found a place for ourselves and slept inthe cramped room.

6:00 AM Wakeup
In the morning, wakeup call was given. In the dark, we went and fetched water to drink. We got ready for the next phase. There is no proper facility for sanitation.

We could not start until 9:00 PM. Tea had to be ready so that everyone was able to start the day.

9:00 AM Started for Suvela machi
The first thing that we did after we packed our bags was to see Padmavati machi. There is one temple. One water tank, and one partial store which used to house ammunition.

After seeing this, we saw Suvela machi. This machi has a Ganesh idol. It was worshipped by Shivaji Maharaj on an auspocious time before the construction for Rajgad began.

We spent some time on Suvela machi.

1:00 PM Climbed bastion and breakfast
Then we started to climb the bastion - bale killa. This is steep without much gradient. For the first time climbers like me, it poses a difficult challenge.

Somehow with the help of others, I could climb the bastion. 3-4 of us stayed back on the machi.

We had our breakfast of bread and jam. We would get lunch only when we reached the base of the fort. There we saw a few birds in the sky.

3:00 PM Started descending
We saw the palace and a couple of other buildings all in ruins. We saw the main entrance of the fort. This entrance faces Torna fort.

I was very much afraid of descending the bastion. Somehow, I managed the get down with the help and courage given to me by others. It was terrifying.

Once the rock patch was over, we came back to the place where we had kept the bags. Some of us started to descend.

4:30 PM Lunch
We reached the base fairly quickly. Behind the hotel, there was a stream flowing. Some of us cleaned ourselves. It was refreshing.

We had lunch. Most of us were very hungry.

6:00 PM Vehicles to main road
We waited for the bus to arrive from Pune. After waiting for a long time, we telephoned the Swargate station. We came to know that the bus did not leave at all.

One vehicle was arranged for Pune. Mostly the females were sent by the vehicle.

8:00 PM Reached Pune
We took other two vehicles to the main road. We took a city bus to Swargate.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

31-Oct to 7-Nov-2008 Trip to Singapore and Malaysia

For quite some time, Thiru and myself were discussing about visiting him in Singapore. For some reason or the other, this did not materialize. I have visited Singapore on 4-5 occasions. I always thought that there is nothing new for me to see. During the visit, I saw that I was wrong. Probably my perspective has changed. Partly due to the fact that Singapore has changed significantly during this period.

Just 4-5 decades back, it was like any other city in Asia. Right now, it is one of the most modern cities in the world.

I coordinated with Thiru about timings and his availability. Accordingly, I booked airplane tickets from Chennai to Singapore. Got the visa from a travel agent. Bought some US dollars for the journey. For the week of Deepawali, we stayed in Bangalore.

8:00 PM Reached Singapore from Chennai
From Chennai, we had an Indian Airlines flight at around 12:00 noon local time. At the airport, we passed through the immigration. The officer called us of the queue. He smilingly explained that this was due to the children accompanying us.

In the airplane, we were requested to sit in the business class. Again due to children accompanying us. This was the first time I was able to see what happens behind the curtain of the business class!

To my surprise, the service in the airplane was extremely nice. Everyone from ground staff to airplane crew were very nice and professional. It was no more the same airline that I have experienced in the past.

The airplane landed in Singapore at 8:00 PM local time. After coming out of immigration, we saw Thiru waiting for us. We took a cab and reached his house.

A dinner was ready. We had the dinner. Then we spent time in planning what to be done in the next 3-4 days. Thiru had booked our tickets for Kuala Lampur and Genting. He was not able to come to Malaysia as he had to visit Vietnam on some official visit.

2:00 PM to 6:30 PM Jurong Bird Park
We were supposed to start earlier in the morning for Jurong Bird Park. However, we could not leave the house before 11:00 AM. We reached Jurong. Had lunch near MRT station. Then we took a bus to the Bird Park. There we bought tickets for the zoo and night safari as well.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

The first thing we saw in the park was a bird show. There are several shows organized at different time. The birds are trained to do certain things. This is nice way to create interest. We can easily see that it requires a lot of effort from the staff.

Then we saw many different birds. We were amazed to know that there can be several species of owls, Penguins, etc. Special enclosures are created for specific birds. For owls, a night atmosphere is created. We can see them through dim light. For penguins, a cold enclosure is created along with water pool.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

Then we saw Birds of Prey show. In this show, vultures and kites can be seen. They are trained to do certain things.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

There was an enclosure which contained several different colorful parakeets. The visitors can touch them, feed them with the articles available there.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

There are several different birds out in the open. Swans, ducks, flamingos, storks, many more varieties of parakeets enclosed and outside the enclosure.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

For the uninitiated, this can be a tiring exercise. But those who like birds, this is the place to be in. We can find birds from across the globe. Nice information is given for each bird.

7:00 PM Boat ride in Singapore river
From Jurong, we came to Clark Quay. We took a boat ride in Singapore river. This ride shows us the Singapore waterfront in the evening. It is very beautiful waterfront. The buildings are nicely lit.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

9:30 PM Dinner in Little India
We went Little India for dinner. We had South Indian meal. In this area, we really feel like being in India.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

4:00 PM to 11:00 PM Zoo and night safari
This day, was for Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. Orchid garden was closed on that particular day. All three places are in Mandai. As we travel to the zoo, we cannot believe that we are in Singapore. This area has thick vegetation with lots of trees.

As we started to see the zoo, it started raining heavily for nearly 2 hours. We had to wait until the rain stopped. At that time, we were about to see the elephant show. This show was canceled because of rain. We had to pass our time by watching the elephants.

As soon as the rain receded, we bought raincoats available there and continued out tour. We saw walrus show. Then we saw different animals like bear, crocodile, giant tortoise, different varieties of deadly snakes, a huge python, cheetah, zebra, deer, rhino, etc.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

We had our dinner and then proceeded to see the night safari. This contained 2 different trails. One could see different animals as close to natural habitat as possible. The best sight was that of lions. In the dim light the lions were very beautiful. This is one of the most cherished moment in my lifetime. Unfortunately due to low light, we could not click any photos. It is requested in zoo not to use any flash as it may damage the eyes of the animals. Finally at 11:00 PM we started back home.

4:00 PM to 10:00 PM Sentosa
This day was a disaster in terms of time management. I did not have much money in the pocket. Thiru could not come from his office early enough. Hence we roamed the VivoCity mall. Finally things started moving for us.

We bought tickets of different shows. We saw Dolphin show. The dolphins are trained a lot. They displayed their skills.

Next, we saw the southern most point of Asia continent's mainland. Then we saw Merlion. Then we went to "Song of the Seas" show. This show is nice technically. The story may not be liked by everybody. The way water is used to create different illusions is amazing.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

We just managed to enter the Underwater World. This place has may different fishes. Within half an hour, we could see whatever we can. We saw starfish, sting ray, sharks, octopuses, spider, etc. I wish we could spend 3-4 hours in this place.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

We had our dinner in boat quay and returned home.

7:00 AM Start from Singapore
In the morning, we took a 7 AM bus to Genting. The bus stopped at Tuas checkpoint for immigration. I always thought that Malaysia is just like India. 8-10 years back when I used to visit Singapore often, I used to hear from firends who visited Malaysia that the infrastructure reminds us on India. However, once I entered the country, things were entirely different. The expressways are as nice as Singapore. All the road side is green with teak and palm trees. After nearly 5 hours of journey, the bus entered Kuala Lampur. We saw the famous Petronas towers en route. The moment, bus was out of Kuala Lampur, there was a thick forest and hilly area.

1:00 PM Reached Genting
The bus climbed all the way to Genting. The journey was about 1 hour from Kuala Lampur. There are several resorts in Genting. But not many people on the road. I wondered how can I see the place. Our rooms were booked in First World hotel. This hotel is the largest in the world with 8,000 plus rooms. It took us nearly 2 hours in the queue to get the rooms. We took possession of the rooms and started to explore the place.

Genting is a nice hill resort with a lot of forest around the hills. I learnt later that the forest is artificial. I am still wondering how can a forest be artificial.

5:00 PM to 10:00 PM Roamed in hotel
After some efforts, we came to conclusion that there is nothing that we can do outside. Everything is inside the hotels and the shopping corridors. The kind of hotels and the shops are the same as we can see anywhere in Singapore and even India. The only thing different is the casino. We were informed that entry is allowed only to those who are wearing a formal dress. Seeing a casino was also ruled out. The children did play some of the games that they usually like. All of us were disenchanted with the place. We met few groups. We inquired about what they have seen in Genting. It was all about the shopping plazas and the casinos. There was nothing outside. Hence we thought we will go back to Kuala Lampur earlier and see the city at least.

10:00 AM Started for Kuala Lumpur
We started early for Kuala Lampur. The shuttle dropped us at Barjaya Times Square hotel.

12:45 PM Reached Barjaya Times Square hotel
We checked in. By chance we were checked into a suite! We got to know what a suite is. We ate some fruits kept in the suite.

2:30 PM to 10:00 PM Sight seeing KL
Our aim was to see maximum of Kuala Lampur during the day. Hence we booked a taxi for about 250 ringgits. The driver Ruslan was very friendly person. He had some connection with India from his mother's side. We saw war memorial, Chinese temple, Batu caves, KLCC towers, Petronas towers.

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

From Trips - Singapore Nov 08

At the entrance of Batu caves is Hanuman statue. This must be one of the largest statues in the world. The caves have a temple.

In the night, we did some shopping in Petaling street - Chinatown in Kuala Lampur.

7:00 AM Started from KL to Singapore
After having our breakfast, we started for Singapore. Ruslan dropped us to the bus stop. It was nice to meet him. He surely knows how to handle tourists.

3:00 PM Reached Singapore
By afternoon, we were back in Singapore.

5:00 PM 10:00 PM Roamed Orchard Road and Chinatown
In the evening, we decided to see Orchard road and Chinatown. I have spent entire day on Orchard Road without spending a single dollar! This was one of my tricks to save unnecessary expenditure in Singapore.

In Chinatown we saw a different kind of restaurant Annalaxmi. Pay as much as you like. I wonder how can such a thing exist. However it is running for the last 15 years of so. This was a worth visit.

From Chinatown, we could buy some gift articles. We reached home very late.

9:30 AM Return flight to Chennai
In the morning, we went to the airport early. The children saw how airplanes land and take off. It was fun for them. We landed in Chennai by 12:00 PM local time. Headed straight to Balaji's house.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

12-Oct-2008 Trip to Katraj Zoo

Our children were learning about animals in their schools. They had the curiosity about how animals really look like. They are addicted to Animal Planet TV channel. We decided to visit the zoo to show them different animals.

Katraj is a suburb of Pune city on Satara Road. One can come to Swargate. From there, city buses ply regularly to Katraj. Zoo is the last but one stop. We can inform the conductor and he will inform when the stop arrives.


12:00 PM Started from house
After having our lunch, we started from our house. We went by autorickshaw to Swargate. We had to enquire about the bus stop to Katraj. We boarded a city bus to Katraj. In about 20 minutes, we reached Katraj zoo.

2:00 PM Reached zoo
Got the tickets for everybody and entered the zoo. First of all we noticed that there are lot of trees in the zoo. The trees are big. The are must be around for long time. It was a hot day. We saw the layout of the zoo and chalked our strategy.
Saw animals, birds, snakes
First, we went to the section where animals are kept in their respective cells. These cells are not the usual cells with grills. Each cell is big enough for the particular animal to feel free. There is no cage. A trench and a big wall protect the animals. A shelter is built in each of the cell for the animals. There are trees in every section. It was nice to see deers, stags, salamanders, tigers, monkeys, etc. Bear and white tiger were also supposed to be present in the respective cells. But we could not spot them.

Then we went to see birds. There are very few birds kept in the zoo. Peacocks, vultures are the only notable birds. These birds were caged. Not much information was present about them.

Lastly we saw snakes and other animals like tortoise, and turtles. For the first time, I understood the difference between tortoise and turtle. There are several species of tortoises and turtles.

We saw different snakes. One tank was full of cobras. The star attraction was King Cobra. This cobra was 12 to 15 feet long, black in color. Till that time I thought only Pythons can be so long. It was a majestic site from a distance and behind glass.

My son Varun was so impressed with the cobra that for a few months, he used to say that King Cobra is his friend. He meets King Cobra and they play together. He used to call all snakes on Animal Planet TV channel as King Cobras. He used to actively look out for pictures of snakes. For him, every snake was King Cobra.

The crew there chatted with us for some time about snakes.
I learnt that Cobra is not the deadliest snake as most of us believe. Vipers are more venomous than Cobras. If a snake releases poison in sufficient quantities, all venomous snakes can kill humans. Hence there is no point arguing which is the deadliest snake from practical angle.
If given treatment in time, almost all the snake bite victims can be saved.
Most deaths due to snake bites happen because the person is not well trained. They see TV and they think even they can handle snakes with ease. This overconfidence puts them in jeopardy.
The zoo has setup a snake helpline. They catch snakes and release them in the wild. Almost all of the snakes in the zoo are rescued snakes.

5:00 PM Started return journey
Finally we took a city bus to Pune city.

I was impressed with the zoo. The staff was trying to do whatever they can with the available means.

They have many skills. But they lack skills to handle this commercially. If we compare this with Singapore zoo, we feel the difference. In Singapore, it is almost a commercial activity. It supports several hundred staff all trained in different skills related to the animals. Huge funds are available at their disposal.

In India, we charge very less and do not provide facilities. This attitude can be changed. The charges can be slightly higher. Several world class facilities can be provided along with the latest knowledge in the field.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

24 to 26-Dec-2007 Trip to Morkhandi and Gunjoti

Our native place is a village called Morkhandi in Bidar district in Karnataka. It is believed that this place is the same as Mayurkhandi, the capital of Rashtrakutas. It is mentioned that Rashtrakuta king Amoghvarsha shifted his capital from Manyatkheta (present day Malkhed) to Mayurkhandi (present day Morkhandi). The villegers are definitely not aware of this history. Morever there is no evidence to be seen that the village could have been a place of capital for such a powerful dynasty except for one reference. There is a very old temple just outside the village. This temple is in Hemadpanthi style of architecture. No one seems to know about this temple. Presently it is in abandoned state.

The village is also famous for the Shiva temple. The present history as known to the villagers is that nearly 200 years ago, one of our ancestors was despatched from Badur (in Neelanga taluka, Latur district) to look after the area. He could not construct the house in the area. One night, during his sleep, he got a drishtant to build a Shiva temple on the hillock. He constructed a temple there. From then onwards, the village prospered.

This village is barely 5 kms from Basavkalyan. This city is holy for Lingayats as mahatma Basaveshwar belonged to this city.

Nearly 2 decads ago my ancestors sold off everything in the village and we lost contact with the village. It was always in our minds to visit the place and have a darshan of the temple. Things did not materialize.

This time, we made up our mind to visit our ancestral place as Varun was also born. Dada (my grandfather) was very enthusiastic about this trip. Even though due to his old age, he was unable to travel. He gave instructions about whom to meet, what to do, etc. All the preparations were made and the trip was planned.

The village is situated very near to Mumbai - Hyderabad national highway. It is nearly 30 kms from Umerga. It is nearly 250 kms from Hyderabad. It lies in Karnataka. The boundary of Maharashtra should not be more than 2-3 KMs from the village. One way to reach the place is via Latur. From Latur, take a bus to Umerga or Basavkalyan. From there, village is accessible. Another way is from Hyderabad. From Hyderabad, take a bus to Basavkalyan.

7:00 AM Reached Parbhani - Seema’s function
Ashwini, Janhavi, and Varun along with their grandparents went to Parbhani from Pune one day in advance. I bought a new camera and joined them a day later. i.e. on 25th.

There was a function for Seema - Ashiwni's sister in law. We attended that function.

All of us met Dada. He could not balance himself. He could not sit upright comfortably. All of us were enthusuastic about the trip. Varun and Janhavi were playing in the house. Dada was not enjoying it. This proved to be the last time when we met.

7:00 AM Took Bangalore Express from Parbhani
The next day morning, we boarded Bangalore express to Udgir.

11:00 AM Udgir
The train reached Udgir around 11:00 AM. PD Deshpande uncle had come to receive us on the station.

12:00 PM Lunch at PD Deshpande uncle’s house
He took us to his house. We were offered a very good meal. After having the meal and chatting with PD uncle, we started for Morkhandi. PD uncle had arranged a vehicle for us.

1:00 PM Started for Morkhandi
Route from Udgir to Basavkalyan is very tedious. Travelling nearly 80 odd kms took us nearly 3 hours. En route, we saw an imposing fort. It turned out to be Basavkalyan fort. From Basavkalyan, roue to Morkhandi is just 5 kms.

4:00 PM Reached Morkhandi - Darshan
We went straight to the temple. The temple is old. It was constructed by one of our ancestors. We had darshan of the diety. The temple has few old idol sculpturs placed. It was very nice feeling. There was a beautiful garden on the east side of the temple. The well in this area is old with constructed stone wall.

Near the last step, there is a small stone. This is where, Dinkarrao, one of our ancestors was killed while getting down from a horse.

After having darshan, we went to see our old house. It was sold long back. It lies in shambles today. It was a sorry sight. We went inside the main house. Bhalchandra uncle was present. He talked to us for some time. We saw the entire house. It is in very bad shape. People who stay there cannot afford to repair it.

My great grand mother belonged to an adjacent house in Morkhandi.

6:30 PM Started for Gunjoti
We started for Gunjoti which is nearly 30 kms on the highway. This is the place where my grandmother belonged. My grandmother's brother (Bhaskar mama) stays there.

8:00 PM Reached house
This house has changed a lot since I visited last nearly 30 years ago. A good dinner was prepared by Varsha aunty. All of us had a dinner. Then we talked for some time. Finally we slept in a room. It was very cold in the night.

8:00 AM Darshan in a temple
In the morning, we went to a temple just next to the house.

10:30 AM Lunch
We had a very good lunch. It was too early by the normal time. We saw house of Krupavati maushi. She was my grandmother's close friend. Bhaskar mama took us to his field. We had darshan of a Hanuman temple in the field. We collected some tamarind. We bade good by to Bhaskar mama and started our journey to Tuljapur.

11:00 AM Started for Tuljapur via Naldurg
We saw an imposing fort. On reaching nearby, we learnt that it is Naldurg fort. I wish I cold spare some time to see Naldurg and Basavkalyan forts. From Naldurg, we went to Tuljapur.

2:00 PM Darshan at Tuljapur
We had a darshan of Tulja bhavani. This is our family diety.

5:00 PM Reached Solapur
By evening, we reached Solapur at Appu mama's place. Yogesh had opened his store. All children like his store as there are chocolates kept there. He must be losing a good amount of revenue due to the children who visit him.

6:00 AM Train to Pune
Next day morning, we caught Intercity express to Pune. The train reached Pune by 11:00 AM.

11:00 AM Reached house in Pune
Finally we reached house.