January 13, 2015

The Bloody Saga !!!!!

The title with the "Saga" word seems like an overkill for a blog on blood donation, but that is what it has been to me. This personal saga for donating blood started almost 3-4 years back, but due to various internal and external reasons creeping in, wasnt able to donate blood so far. These varied from reasons such as the donation camp dates in close proximity to some of my endurance sports events wherein I feared that too much blood loss would result in a drop in my performance to a bit outrageous reason such as getting bitten by dogs :P (A person administered anti rabies vaccination cannot donate blood for upto an year). Apart from all these "reasons" I had given myself for the delayed gratification, the real reason for not donating blood was that I was AFRAID. Afraid subconsciously of the big needle inserted into my vein and close to half a litre of blood being taken out.  Hence took me quite some time to overcome that fear and donate blood. Therefore in short this was nothing short of attempting some adventure sport :P.

Every 6 months or so a blood donation camp is organized in our office by the Rotary Club. So when such a camp was organized in the beginning of this year, jumped to the opportunity to finally donate and get over the fear, and I must confess it was a breezy affair. After a mini health checkup, a needle was inserted to my vein and the permissible limit of 450 ml was reached within a matter of 10 mins. Once that is done was put into the recovery phase with lots of fluids and food. I was in and out of the entire thing within 45 mins.

Some advantages of donating blood, which I found over the internet.

1. The feel good factor. The satisfaction of saving 3 lifes from just 450 ml of the blood donated. This includes components such as red blood cells, platelets and plasma which are separated and donated.

2. Free medical checkup. Before the donation a free haemoglobin and BP check is done. And before the blood is injected to the person receiving the donation,  the blood is tested for Hepatitis B, C, HIV AIDS etc. and if anything is found the donor is informed.

3. The health angle. Donating 450 ml of blood is equivalent to burning 650 KCals of energy. Further studies have found that donating blood is good to keep a check on the high iron content in the blood , especially in adult males. Iron content within the permissible limits reduces the risk of heart attack and cancer. Therefore donating blood should be in the must-to-do-list of all the healthy males out there.

Therefore a person looses nothing but gains a lot of benefits. The lost blood is usually restored within 48 hrs, during which the donor should avoid heavy exercise and hydrate himself as much as possible. The recommended intervals between successive blood donations should be atleast 3 months. Therefore now I am planning to donate blood at-least once every year. And what inspired me the most was that a severely physically handicapped guy standing in front of me to donate blood. When he can, why cant we ????!!!!. So have you donated blood for this year ???!!!!!. If not go do it, it feels great. :)

December 30, 2014

Unearthing The Secrets Of Sharavathi Backwaters

With 2014 coming to an end, something different was planned within the cousins group and it was decided that we would go for a trek/camp considering that majority of the people hadn't experienced trekking and camping in the wilderness. After researching over the net came across this nature camp "package" offered by Sharavathi Nature Trails (aka Sampath Kumar, http://sharavathi.blogspot.in/) which promised us lot of things such as island camping, boating in the backwaters of the Sharavathi river, trekking etc.

Group Selfie
[NOTE ABOUT THE ORGANIZER : But sadly this package was one of the biggest disappointments I have experienced in recent times and eventhough I dont resort to personal insults in my blogs I must confess that I found Mr. Sampath Kumar to one of the most arrogant person who thinks that he is doing a great favour to mankind by letting people come on this trip even though he demands 2k/person. Being a travel-freak myself I agree that sometimes unexpected things happen which is not within the control of the organizers, and we have to adjust, but when the organizer (Sampath) instead of informing the people beforehand itself in a manner which is understandable, lets the trekkers  discover for themselves in the nth minute which adds to the frustration and to top it up when we called him up he doesnt want to do anything with it at all and starts to act like a bully. So things like island camping gets dropped, full day of water sports(kayaking/canoeing/rafting) gets converted to a couple of hours of playing in water and surprisingly there was not even a sign of apology anywhere. Our taxi driver (a local), went to the extent of saying that this was a badly managed trip. Therefore I would personally not recommend anyone going via this package. Anyway in this blog I would rather concentrate on the good things rather than ranting about the bad stuff again and again. ]

Jog Falls Enroute

So all 7 of boarded the overnight bus to Sagar from where the local taxi would pic us up. From Sagar the lodging place was around 25kms near Talaguppa and this lodging (Camp Tiger Rock) is situated in middle of an forest with some great bird eyes view of the backwaters. The plan for day 1 included driving to spot from where we would be able to indulge in activities such as kayaking/canoeing/coracle rides etc and camping for the night in an island formed by these backwaters. So after having a good breakfast and travelling for nearly 2 hrs we were let into the quient banks of the backwaters and were provided with the safety equipment such as life jackets. Just then when everyone asked where would the water activities be conducted, we were informed by our guide that it has been cancelled because a DFO was visiting on this particular day and the organizers expected us to spend the entire day just playing in water and without even having a basic courtesy of informing us in advance. Anyway we made the best of the moment having a good time in the group, playing in water. Floating around lifelessly in perfectly still water with eyes closed almost felt life floating in space :), an awesome experience.

For lunch we were taken to a local tribal home wherein they had prepared a simple lunch of rice, sambhar , papad, pickle etc and we gulped it down within no time. We returned back to the lodge/resort , had some fun around a bonfire and some of us slept in tents to get a feel of sleeping in one. Just then it dawned upon me that it has been exactly 5 years since I went for my first camping trip in Kemmangundi :).

The plan for the next day was to trek to a viewpoint from the resort from where the entire backwaters can be seen and to catch the sunrise. This viewpoint is around 45 mins climb from the resort and it was a decent climb. But unfortunately by the time we got up and ready, the sun was already up and we still trekked to the viewpoint. The view from the top was breathtaking with an birds eye view of the huge expanse of the Sharavathi backwaters and the various tiny islands dotting them. Spent some time at this place absorbing the view and after that got down to have our breakfast and then left for the trekking spot for the day which unfortunately was around 3hrs drive from the lodge. The trekking route would take us to Goodanagundi falls and Bellagundi falls view point deep inside the Sharavathi Wildlife sanctuary. The organizers had all got the necessary forest permissions for our entry to this place and surprisingly there were no other team/individual who was trekking on this particular weekend.

Sharavathi Backwaters Viewpoint

Trekking to Goodanagundi falls
So after a tiring 3 hrs ride we landed at the starting point of the trek. This trek can be graded as an easy one with the entire trekking distance of around 7 kms and with very little steep gradients. But the views especially the sun kissed grass along the way was simply a treat to the eyes. The route traversed through grasslands and super dense jungles and it looked like the route through the jungle hadnt been traversed very frequently. And we had a surprise package waiting for us in the jungles.... Leeches !!!!!!. Leeches in the middle of December in Western Ghats is pretty much of an unheard phenomenon, but unfortunately they were there and so were we :P. This kinda freaked out many of the first timers seeing these squiggly beings latching on the legs to suck on the blood.  Overall by the end of the trek each of us got close to 10-12 bites :P. Apart from the leeches the other wildlife we encountered were a group of wild boars, a sloth bear and lots of colorful butterflies (see the video).

After close to 2 hrs of trekking along the dense jungle flanked by the rivulet we came across Goodanagundi waterfalls, a virgin and an untouched falls. All of us took a shower directly under the soothing water of the falls for some time. Had a simple lunch prepared by our guide and driver and then started the trek towards Bellagundi falls. It was around 3.30 pm and we were already running short on time since we had to catch the 9pm bus back to Bangalore and therefore it hastened our pace to Bellagundi falls viewpoint. Spent just a couple of minutes at this place and we were  back on track towards the place where the taxi was parked. Reached there at around 5.30pm , after spending close to 4.5hrs in the wilderness. After this it was a boring  journey back and we caught the bus back to Bangalore just in the nick of time, hence bringing down the curtains on our first ever cousins trip :P. Apart from the fiasco with the organizer explained above the guides and resort caretaker were good and provided good care, especially the food throughout the duration of our stay. Therefore we ensured we left a good tip for them :).

Goodanagundi falls

Bellagundi falls

Video Compilation

December 18, 2014

Travel Options From Bangalore

Acting on a suggestion that I should aggregate all my travels into a single page and classify them based on their duration,  I have introduced a new page "Travel Options From Bangalore" with the relevant links to the detailed blogs. This would help those who are exploring their vacation plans and can select based on their requirements. The link is present in the right-hand-top corner of the blog page and I would be trying my best to keep on updating on a regular basis.


December 15, 2014

Offbeat Hangout Spots In Bangalore ..... (P.S For a Couple)

What are some of the offbeat hangout spots for a couple in Bangalore. Apart from the obvious ones like the Malls, theaters, parks etc I have come up with some offbeat ones which are generally less frequented by the general junta who are in search of some alone time :P. Including some tit-bits which would be helpful when planning for the special date with your loved one :).

Nandi Hills : The Chill Zone
The most obvious answer in the list. But my suggestion is go early in the morning and definitely in a bike. The chillier the better !!!!! :P .  There is very less chances of seeing a sunrise since majority of the time these hills will be engulfed in mist during early mornings and it makes sense to head out with the first rays of the sun keeping the security aspect of a couple in mind. Once there one can spend close to 2 hrs exploring the mist filled park, the temple, Tipu drop.

Some useful titbits:

  • There are decent eateries at the base of the hills as well as some enroute. Not much options near the top.
  • Paid restrooms available near the parking area.
  • Some care should be taken driving up and down the hairpin bends.

Savandurga: The Trek

Some time back I came across an article that one should go on a trek with their life partners once,  before they get married. According to the article one gets to know more about their future life partner over a single trek than any amount of meetings over coffee or movies can possibly provide. If you have a trek in mind then I suggest you head out to Savandurga. Its definitely not a walk in the park and therefore it will push you as a couple over the edge. The outcome of such an exercise, you would come out as a team, facing the odds together hand in hand. :)

Some useful tit-bits:
  • The entire trek takes around 5-6 hrs depending on the pace. 
  • There is very less tree cover so avoid this trek in summers.
  • No eateries nearby. Its better to have it in Mysore road (eg Kamat Lokaruchi) and then take the Ramanagara-Savandurga route. Eventhough this route is longer it is quite enjoyable with winding roads. 
  • No public toilets near the base of the hill. In case of emergency one has to request usage of the toilet inside the Kalyanamantap. 

Hessarghatta And Nrityagrama: The walk , talk and dance

If going for long walks, birdwatching etc is in the wish list, then head out to Hessarghatta for an appointment with nature just in the outskirts of Bangalore. One can go on endless long walks in the dried up lakes surrounded by a carpet of grass and migratory birds flocking around.  But when we were there, a police patrol was cracking down on couples even holding their hands. If one continues on this route they come across Nrityagrama and Taj Kuteera which is at the dead end of this route. After paying an entry fee of 30 bucks one can explore this quaint place. Lot of rustic buildings surrounded by greenery. One can see live classes of various traditional Indian dances like Kuchipudi, Bharathyanatyam and so on.
Further there is a kucha road diversion between the Hessarghatta lake and the Nrityagrama (diversion towards "Our Native Village" resort) which leads to one of my most favourite places around Bangalore. A grassland up till the horizon, see it to believe it :).

Some useful tit-bits;

  • The only decent eatery is the Taj Kuteera (5 star, so get ready to empty your wallets :P )
  • Nrityagrama is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 2pm.
  • One has to take a diversion along the eight mile off Tumkur road to reach this place.

November 23, 2014

Exploring K2K (Kodagu to Kasargod)

On a drive to my grannies place took detours to explore some of the places nearby and this is how a trip to native place got converted into a part time vacation. On the long Deepawali weekend we had 3 days exactly to explore the districts of Kodagu and Kasaragod. Post monsoons is one of the best seasons to visit in South India where everything is lush green and some of the views which we got were simply awesome.

We started early morning towards Mysore and after a brief stopover there we were on oue way to Coorg. The places to be checked out in Coorg were Bailakuppe, Talacauvery and Bhagamandala. First came Bailakuppe on the Mysore-Coorg Highway. This settlement of the Tibetan refugees is a must visit place for an insight of the culture beyond our Himalayas. Huge golden statues of Buddha and Maitraye adorn the temples of this settlement. Its a good place to spend close to an hour or two exploring the various temples and the neatly manicured gardens.

The next destination was Talacauvery and Bhagamandala region. After having a lunch stopover at Madikeri (finding pure veg restaurants in  Madikeri is a bit of an effort !!!! ) we took a detour from the Madikeri to Mangalore highway towards Bhagamandala, which is around 35kms. The route is narrow passing through a lot of plantations but it is decent enough. Reached Bhagamandala and decided to visit it on the way back from Talakaveri. Bhagamandala to Talacauvery route is one of the most picturesque routes one can find in Coorg district. This 7.5km climb via the ghat roads, provides some breath taking sceneries and to add to top of it, it started raining, drizzling in the beginning which turned to full blown rains when we reached the top. Had darshan in the heavy rains almost getting drenched in process. While coming back the rains had subsided a bit, therefore giving us a lot of photo ops with greenery, post rains weather and mountains.

Came back to Bhagamandala and visited the main temple by the banks of the river cauvery and I found this place to be so peaceful, unlike the crowded atmosphere in other major temples. Spent some time in here and it was time for us to go to Sullia. There were 2 options in front of us, first one was to retrace our route back to Madikeri and then take Mangalore highway or to take the unknown route to Sullia via Panathur. Since the latter would save close to 60km of driving distance we decided to risk taking the shortcut and there was no looking back after that .

Bhagamandala Temple

The initial part of the route from Bhagamandala to Panathur is via dense forests of Talacauvery National Park and this route can get as dense as a forest route can get. Even though I had gone via this route on my bike trip to Kasargod in 2010, this time around it was during daytime unlike the last time and we came across numerous water falls enroute. Further this route seems to be hardly used as we came across some 7-8 vehicles during the entire 2 hr ride to Panathur. The condition of the road through the national park is good. By the time we reached Panathur it had become dark and from here we had to take a detour towards Sullia. Now this stretch of the road was bad. Huge potholes filled with water from the recent rain and the complete absence of civilization makes this route a bit of a liability especially after dark. Anyhow the progress was slow, but event less. We  reached Sullia and thereafter to grannies home.

Waterfalls enroute
The next days plan was to explore Kasargod district. The places on our hitlist were Bekal fort, Ananthapura Lake temple and Madhur Temple. We first visited Madhur temple and by this time it started to rain quite heavily. Therefore we had to visit the temple in heavy downpour. The most interesting thing about this temple is a spot which is identified as the one where Tipu Sultan has stuck his sword in order to destroy the temple. But I am more interested as to why he left the temple alone after just one deep gash on the wall with his sword ????!!!!!!

Madhur Temple
After this we visited the pristine Ananthapura Lake temple, which is famous because of the vegetarian crocodile which resides in the lake around the temple. I turned on google navigation to take me from Madhur to Ananthapura temple and eventhough it took on the shortest possible route it was not the best. The entire route was through some backroad with bad condition. Somehow we reached this temple which seems to be in the middle of nowhere, but nevertheless in middle of calm and inviting green waters is a treat to the eyes. Unfortunately we couldnt get to see the famous crocodile which according to the priest was sleeping in a cave adjacent to the lake. And more interestingly it just eats the rice balls the temple priests offer it and doesn't even touch the abundant fishes in the lake. This is one of the more unique temples I have ever come across.

Crocodiles Cave

Ananthapuram Lake Temple
Next and final destination for the day was Bekal fort. For this we had to take NH17 and unfortunately for the majority of the route NH17 was under full blown repairs hence we had a very slow progress. Finally by around 1pm we reached the place. Fortunately because of the rain clouds it was a pleasant affair by the beachm eventhough it was afternoon. We explored this huge fort which has changed hands from the likes of Shivappa Nayaka, Tipu Sultan , The British and finally to the Govt Of India. This fort overlooks miles and miles of pristine beach land and in this particular season it was such a pleasant affair. We explored this fort for an hour or so, including a point where huge waves strike the boulders and results in huge water splashing everywhere. From here visited my wife's grannies place and the final day it was just an eventless return journey back to Bangalore.