Coffee With A View At Mandalpatti, Coorg

It was a relaxed trip to Madikeri, Coorg, to unwind and just be. So I’m going to just add some pictures to give the feel. But if you still want to know any additional info., like where to stay, how to visit Mandalpatti, etc., drop me a mail. A visit to Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, however, is recommended if you have time and interest.

The serenity and tranquility is soothing and a walk in the forest is a relaxing one. Get the undulated views of hills and valleys and the beautiful Shola forests all around.

Sholas Of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary
Luscious views of Mandalpatti
The roads so beautiful…

Post monsoon and winter months would be a lovely time to visit and enjoy the beauty of Mandalpatti, however, do keep in mind that Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, like any other sanctuaries, is a very important place and home to several endangered birds and animals, and therefore be a responsible traveller or drop the plan.

Gandikota: Of Rocks, River And ‘Gorge’ous Views

Pennar river & gorge at Gandikota

Gandikota: A Beauty Lost In Time

We walked through the narrow alleys of the Gandikota village, dotted with houses, with goats tied to posts, chickens running around, men and women busy in conversations. I looked around the massive red sandstone walls of the impressive Gandikota Fort dating back to several centuries ago that must have guarded the town.

Spread over several miles, the fort has a long perimeter wall that can be seen alongside the ruins of the once-majestic fort and the beautiful Pennar river. The Pennar river – serene and tranquil, cuts through the Erramala hill ranges and forms a stunning gorge – the highlight of Gandikota.

Pennar river & the perimeter wall of the Gandikota Fort

I had heard about Gandikota, almost always being referred to as the Grand Canyon of India. Though I understand doing so gives one an idea about the place, but feel it’s more of a marketing gimmick. Calling a certain place a ‘this’ of ‘that’ is taking away the uniqueness of that place and comparing it to something else. And comparisons, in any form, is something I personally do not prefer.

Pennar River & Gorge

Though Gandikota was actually an offbeat place until a few years ago, it’s not anymore. It still is less-frequented, possibly due to the fact that the place is quite remote with only limited options to stay, eat, etc. I had visited the place in February 2018, and if not for the comfy road-trip that H agreed upon, it would have been kind of difficult for me to be there.

Entering the Gandikota Fort

The February weather is supposed to be cooler, at least it is so in the other parts of the country, but it wasn’t the case in Gandikota. The mornings & evening were comparatively manageable, but it got really hot during the day. So do check the weather, pack light clothes, sunscreen, hat, etc. On the other hand, you may want to consider visiting here during the relatively cooler months of December, January or the post-monsoon months of September-October, as per your convenience.

Charminar inside the Gandikota Fort

I was under an impression that I’ll definitely find someplace – out of the many – to stay, but after a lot of research, I learned that the Haritha Resort, maintained by AP Tourism department is your best (& only) bet for accommodation in Gandikota.

Pitching your own tent near the rocky cliffs is possible as well. There are no restaurants or shops in the vicinity of the fort or even around the village, so you may have to carry or cook your own food. Jammalamadugu is the nearest place where one can find any shops, ATMs etc. and which is 15ish km away. Perhaps this is the reason why not too many people crowd the place (which I think is a good thing! call me whatever).

Haritha Resort at Gandikota – managed by APTDC

If planning a stay in the Haritha hotel, expect very simple and basic food. The resort is well-maintained, the cottages are spacious and tidy. The staff speaks little English but is pretty helpful. As Haritha is the only accommodation available here (with about some 10-15 cottages) the bookings generally tend to get full soon. Also note that the booking can only be done online.

By the time I went to the APTDC website for the booking, there was no availability. I dropped a mail to the ID mentioned in the footer, & was super impressed when I actually received a call. The rep. was super helpful and after checking a few options like date change, etc, which were not matching with my plan, connected me with the Divisional Manager. I wasn’t sure if we’ll be able to continue with the plan or not but was happy to come across a team that was putting efforts in helping me.

Ranganath Swamy Temple near the Gandikota gorge view

After I had dropped the plan, two days later, the super helpful Divisonal Manager called me and told me we needn’t cancel our plan and that the accommodation will be managed for us! I must admit this level of customer-centricity was highly impressive. We set out on the road trip the next morning.

Panorama of the gorge

The drive was a pleasant one and passed through pretty sunflower fields, rocky hills and several nondescript villages. The final stretch of road leading up to the village had boulders and stones of various sizes on either side, that looked as if someone had neatly stacked them up.

Sunset and the ruins

A little before sunset we were relaxing on one of the many boulders strewn around the gorge formed by the Pennar river. The chaotic voices of the surroundings were subdued by the strong winds that blew over the dark water and across its magnificent gorge. We sat quietly watching the changing colours of the sky, the sunset on the rocky ruins opposite the gorge and the Pennar river moving quietly giving an illusion of stillness.

When I found a perfect spot

The next morning, however, we decided to go to the surrounding cliffs, a few kilometres away from the fort. It was absolutely quiet here, with not one soul around. If not for the cloudy skies, the sunrise over the gorge would have been a stunning sight. We walked around, hopped over the boulders until we found a perfect spot. I don’t remember how long we sat there, soaking in the peace and beauty of the surrounding that, for that moment, was just for us.

Other Places To See And Activities To Do In Gandikota

In the fort premises, there are numerous monuments and structures like the Juma Masjid, Charminar, Granary, Ranganath Swamy Temple etc. Apart from these, several adventure activities take place in and around the fort area. If interested one can also go for water sports like boating & kayaking in the nearby Mylavaram dam. The second largest natural caves in India – Belum Caves, which is at a distance of about 60ish km from Gandikota can also be visited.

Gandikota: Of rocks, river and ‘gorge’eous views

A Rejuvenating Weekend At Shathayu Retreat, Bangalore

Imagine waking up to the melodious chirping of birds, amidst hills and greenery. To witness the chunky clouds float above a lake casting photographic reflections in it. To relax and reconnect with yourself; to experience peace and tranquility, as you take a step towards wellness with Ayurveda. Well, I’m just back with all this (and more) after spending the most relaxed weekend in a while.

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Sunrise behind the Meditation Hall at Shathayu Retreat. PC: Shathayu Retreat

I was at this beautiful location on an invitation from Shathayu Retreat, an Ayurveda & Yoga retreat set at a picturesque location, about 36 km from Bangalore. The retreat is located very close to the popular tourist destination of Nandi Hills and is just about 12ish km from the Kempegowda International Airport.

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Sunset, hillock & the entrance to the retreat. PC: Shathayu Retreat

On a fine Saturday morning, we started from Bangalore. As we crossed the toll and took a left turn, following the signboard for Nandi Betta, we left behind the sounds of highway and the hustle-bustle of the city, entering a quieter place. Following the directions on maps for the last bit, we reached at the sole structure standing in the middle of a sprawling piece of land, surrounded by hillocks on two sides. At first it looked like any other resort, but in no time we realised it was more than what meets the eyes.

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Statue of Lord Dhanvantari, at the entrance

At the entrance, one can see a huge brass statue of Lord Dhanvantari – the divine God and founder of Ayurveda. And I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it is that this field of medicine is so widespread in the world attracting people from not just India, but worldwide. As the world has come to accept and recognize the potential and health benefits of Ayurveda and Yoga, I feel Shathayu Retreat is a perfect place to experience the journey to good health with it. I haven’t been to any other Ayurveda facility before, but this one surely caught my attention with its simple yet elegant architecture, location and great vibes.

After sipping on a glass of the cooling welcome drink, we went around to look around the property. The place offers a comfortable and luxury stay with options to choose from standard, deluxe and studio rooms. There’re consultation rooms with certified doctors & a number of, well-equipped, therapy rooms, with experienced, well-trained and courteous staff. The restaurant serves a decent variety of healthy food, no non-veg or liquor is served, for obvious reasons. I’m a vegetarian so this worked perfectly for me, but my husband gorged on the egg dishes (eggs are served, yes) whenever the menu had it.

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View of the little lake and resort from the hilltop. PC: Shathayu Retreat

We woke up at the crack of dawn to watch a beautiful sunrise, and needless to say, clicked a lot of pictures while admiring the play of colours in the morning sky.  So while a typical day at the retreat begins with meditation and yoga sessions facilitating a great and positive start to the day, we skipped that routine. I was more interested to go on a small hike to the rocky hill opposite the retreat. This place is also the venue for many adventure activities, like cross country race, Downhill Mountain biking, etc. Recently, the retreat was the venue for the Bangalore Mountain Festival.

I must confess, I wasn’t quite sure about what to expect before going there. But I’m so glad that the weekend turned out even better than what we had imagined. Plan a visit to Shathayu Retreat and embark on a journey to wellness with Ayurveda. Watch the magical sunrise & sunsets, eat healthy, indulge in yoga and meditation for peaceful and calmer mind, connect with your inner self, relax and just be.

 

Blooms And Blossoms: Lalbagh, Bangalore Flower Show 2017

It was a good day for a walk in the city. The day was clear and not too hot, and since I wasn’t doing anything significant (apart from lazing around on a Sunday afternoon) I decided to stroll off to the Flower Show happening in Bangalore. Every year, on the occasion of Independence Day, Lalbagh hosts a flower show. This year the garden city is celebrating the 206th flower show and it’s dedicated to the great Rashtra Kavi (national poet) Kuppali Vekatappa Puttapa who is fondly called as Kuvempu.

Flower Show Bangalore

A gallery showcasing the poet’s photographs, literary works, books, etc., can be visited. Stalls showcasing flower, fruits and vegetable arrangements can be seen around the area. You will see a huge arch welcoming the visitors to the flower show. Do look out for the 3-D visualization of the poet’s portrait on the left-hand side as you walk inside the arch.

The road from the arch leads to the glass house which is inside the Botanical Garden. Here is where the many beautiful flowers and plants are exhibited. One can see a huge replica of Kuvempu’s house made out of flowers at the glasshouse. There are beautiful flower arrangements inside the glasshouse. One can also see Cymbidium flowers here, that are grown in Sikkim and Darjeeling and which are originally from Australia and Netherlands. My favourite was the Gerberra and Pansy gardens and the colourful cacti pots.

Flower Show Bangalore

Outside the glasshouse, several stalls and booths are set up. Stroll past these or shop for the varieties of seeds, plants, gardening products and more. I chatted up with some of the exhibitors who gave informative insights about agriculture, horticulture, along with the unique/useful products they were exhibiting. For the first time, I tasted Areca tea and Stevia leaf (Stevia is a natural sweetener and a healthier alternative to sugar).

Later, I strolled off to the Peninsular Gneissic Rock Hill or commonly known as the Lalbagh Rock or Lalbagh Hill. This rock hill is a geological structure that is identified to be billions of years old, by the Geological Survey of India. A tower is erected on the hill top and a placard next to it suggests that it is one of the four watchtowers built by Kempegowda marking the predicted limits of the Bangalore town.

Flower Show BangaloreFlower Show Bangalore

The Lalbagh Flower Show is celebrated for 10 days. It was inaugurated on the 4th of August 2017 and will conclude on the 15th of August 2017. The flower show is open to visitors between 9 am – 6 pm. The entry fee per person is Rs. 60 (on weekdays it is priced less) for adults and Rs. 20 for children.

So are you going there? Tell me your observation if you have already been there.