Paradise and Back – our last day there

We were done with sight-seeing mostly. We hadn’t seen Pari Mahal but the area had been cordoned off that day. Visitors were still not being allowed into Dachigam wildlife sanctuary either. We left the houseboat after breakfast and went to a shopping area near Jamia Masjid. There are several shops here selling crockery and though they are not made in Kashmir, they cater specifically to the Kashmiri people. We were looking for tea cups and saucers with intricate patterns and designs.

IMG_20150530_100714270_HDR IMG_20150530_105036495 IMG_20150530_112209675_HDR

We stopped by Sona Sultana next. One will be amazed by the wide array of furniture and wooden artifacts made from Walnut wood. From screens to side tables to dressers, trays to serve hours d’oeuvre and ingenious nut-crackers, you can spend hours ogling at the mind-blowing range of Walnut wood products that are on display over three floors. A dinner table that could seat over 12 people had carvings of trees all along the edge, each one being of a different genus. There were many things we wished we could have in our home. Larger products will be shipped to your residence if need be.

We had  lunch at Alka Salka. It’s near Ahdoos restaurant, but less crowded. The food was very good too with many choices and options in the menu card.

IMG_20150530_170338803 IMG_20150530_175345280_HDR

In the evening, we visited the Grand Lalit Hotel as we’d been told that their lawns and gardens were worth a dekko. It is a sprawling, well-kept property. We spent a good half an hour or more in their open cafe, sipping coffee. Thereafter we went to Jee Enn Sons bakery in the old city. There are plenty of goodies you can pick and choose from. We’d gone there for the specific purpose of buying and carrying back to Mumbai the melt-in-the-mouth coconut cookies and anything else that could last the journey. Apart from cookies, we also bought a flaky plain pastry called kachori that is very different from what we get hereabouts. It needs to be noted that the cookies and kachoris did indeed last the journey and was consumed with much pleasure by us and a few others who were recipients of the same.

It was time to bid adios to this beautiful land of snowy mountains, splendid lakes and rosy cheeked girls. Most parts of the country was going through a severe and catastrophic heat wave. The last day was also the first day for us in Kashmir when there weren’t any rains. It was comparatively warmer than it had been all along. Sweaters and jackets came off. But the indoors was still cool and comfortable.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Paradise – Day 7 – Evening on the Lake

We returned to Srinagar that morning. On the list of must-sees on the way was the Martand Sun temple. We dropped it as there were some security concerns and went instead to Mattan temple. This serene shrine is surrounded by ponds sourced by springs and abounds in fish. You may feed the fish as an offering. We were told that the complex also houses a Mosque and a Gurdwara.


Mattan temple

IMG_20150529_103708436 IMG_20150529_113357953

IMG_20150529_113344998_HDR - Copy

Passing by small towns

IMG_20150529_102311566 - Copy


Our next stop was the temple ruins at Avantipura. It is under the care of the Archeological Department at present and entry passes are available for a small fee. A well-informed guide will run you through the complex, pointing out the various stone carvings that you may miss if you were to do it by yourself. Some of the stone sculptures are still intact. The structure itself dates back to mid 800 AD.

IMG_20150529_123620382 - Copy

The temple ruins

IMG_20150529_124200712 - Copy

We were going to spend that evening and the night on a houseboat. So we stopped by Ahdoos for lunch. We headed towards Dal Lake after a sumptuous lunch. These house boats are maintained by different people or groups of hotel and are stationed along the bank of the Lake. Shikaras are used to access these boats and that is the only way in or out. Prior to our arrival there, we’d been advised where to expect our Shikara pick-up. Various points called ‘Ghats’ are allocated to certain houseboats and hour-wise charges for shikara rides are listed on mounted boards.


A comfortable suite on the house boat

IMG_20150529_145410436 IMG_20150529_144249404

The houseboat has a common verandah at the entry point as well as a living area and dining room which was tastefully decorated in a manner typical of Kashmiri homes. Our room was the last one down a narrow aisle. The welcome drink was Kahwa served in dainty teacups.

IMG_20150529_171738187_HDR IMG_20150529_171656241_HDR IMG_20150529_160625877_HDR IMG_20150529_160452201_HDR IMG_20150529_160413486 IMG_20150529_155854164

Thereafter we went for two boats rides. The first ride was an hour long and the children accompanied us as well. Expect salesmen in shikaras that float alongside yours who come to convince you into making a purchase. By the time they were done, our one hour was already over. But no complaints, as we’d picked up some nice jewellery as well as a few beautiful papier mache objet d’art. You’ll also find boatmen selling you soft drinks and packaged chips and boats laden with all kinds of fruits that are meant to be converted into a fruit chaat.

We were planning to stay put after the first ride, but the owner of the houseboat who’d arrived by that time convinced us to go on another ride, a longer one this time. According to him, the Char Chinaar, a miniature island with a handful of maple trees was a not to miss. This time it was a quiet and peaceful ride and no vendors approached us either. The view along the lake was outstanding. A few men, probably boatmen who’d taken the evening off, were having a friendly game of cricket on the tiny island. We spent a little time there before returning.


The Chinnar Trees on the island

IMG_20150529_183909910_HDR IMG_20150529_183455419_HDR  IMG_20150529_183026431_HDRIMG_20150529_183437570  IMG_20150529_180740864 IMG_20150529_180021618_HDR

On the mainland, a Friday night music concert echoed across the lake and filled the gaps left by the silence that deepened at twilight. A fisherman made a catch. A family of three passed us by at an unhurried pace. The vendors had mostly gone home and there were but a few shikaras still left on the lake. Kites and Kingfishers made a last attempt for an evening snack as the sun began its descent.


The city coming alive on a Friday evening

IMG_20150529_190922018 IMG_20150529_185914913_HDR IMG_20150529_185308401_HDR

Dinner was a simple affair on the houseboat.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Paradise – Day 6 – Verdant Valleys

We took a walk that morning and Sid decided to join us on a cycle hired from the hotel. There is a paved path which one can use to walk on along the river Lidder. Men with horses kept moving down the road in preparation for a normal working day. We returned to the hotel for breakfast, a reasonably decent spread of assorted breakfast  including some unique Kashmiri flat breads.


Walking track by River Lidder


Horses all set and ready for tourists


A bird’s eye view of Betaab Valley

Pahalgam, as mentioned in the previous chapter, is a favourite with movie makers for its scenic beauty. The snow was still melting in some  places and crowds thronged the areas. We arrived at Chandanwari first.  We’d decided that we were not going to venture into the snow, so we did not hire boots this time round. We spent about fifteen minutes there. Little boys and girls holding a lamb or young goat will pester you, asking you if you want to click a picture holding the creature.

IMG_20150528_111838077 IMG_20150528_105421955

Our next stop was the Betaab valley where the eponymous movie was shot. Betaab Valley is now a sprawling  garden with a river flowing close by, tree-lined  pathways and a great picnic spot. Apart from tourists, huge groups of school children, families and honey-mooning couples could be seen everywhere.

IMG_20150528_125023805 IMG_20150528_120407497_HDR IMG_20150528_120359567 IMG_20150528_115727934

The Adoo Valley on the other hand was not that crowded. There were school children there too but fewer tourists at that time. Vendors selling Pashmina shawls will follow you around hoping to make a sale. Each of these places are about 45 minutes to an hour away from eachother. The sights on the way to each of these places is breath-takingly beautiful as some of the glaciers are yet to melt. Mountains streams flow through the rocks and at one point we saw a group of people who appeared like tiny specks as they made their way up a glacier. (Yup, need that pair of binoculars asap).

IMG_20150528_135020428_HDR IMG_20150528_134105111 IMG_20150528_131936058 IMG_20150528_131157104_HDR

On the way back we stopped by at Dana Pani Restaurant  yet once again and ordered the same things because we’d enjoyed ourselves so much the previous day. [It was very crowded that day, but we didn’t have to wait for a table and although we got place to sit on the crammed mezzanine and had to literally make fellow customers get up so that we could exit once we were done, the effort is really worth it. The food is that good. Alternately, check out other places, of which there are many good ones, in the vicinity.]

IMG_20150528_175325300 IMG_20150528_174034938 IMG_20150528_135216333_HDR

We returned to Pine N Peak and headed straight for the lobby to have the on-the-house Kahwa. Thereafter we found a nice quite spot on the lawn and spent some time there. The view was gorgeous and even as we watched clouds gathered around the hills, covering it up and soon it was drizzling. As the temperature dipped some more we scurried back into the lobby. We opted for a quiet dinner in the room itself. Our tryst with the mountains was coming to an end.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Experiencing Paradise – Day 5 – Lullaby by River Lidder

When you have a holiday itinerary with multiple destinations, there is always this one place that you are dead certain (and mostly you are right) is going to blow your mind and be one of your favourite places on that trip, or maybe of all times.

This time it was Pahalgam, a favourite destination for a perfect holiday and movie-making too. There are no cinema houses in Kashmir but a Kashmiri will proudly point out a lodge where a crucial climax scene from a movie was shot or the ranch where a love story with two newcomers was panned. The ranch from the film has since turned into a crowded park.


Paddy fields


Farm fresh

We were to spend two nights at Pahalgam in Hotel Pine N Peak, a well-rated hotel. We left Srinagar for Pahalgam after breakfast. Pilgrims from the neighbouring district of Jammu were visiting Kashmir in huge numbers to attend the Kheerbhawani temple festival and they were returning on buses that morning. There were ‘n’ number of such buses on the road and this resulted in some amount of traffic congestion that delayed us slightly.

Enroute to Pahalgam we passed many saffron and paddy fields. Rice is the preferred food grain for the Kashmiris which we found surprising. In India, the staple food grain of South Indians is usually rice and it’s  rotis or parathas made from wheat flour for the North-Indians. In fact there were more paddy fields here than one has seen in Kerala in a long time.


Down by the river


We also passed by saffron fields and apple and cherry orchards as well. Due to the limited yield of saffron at any given time, the product is very expensive and is sold in containers of 1 gram onward and is worth its weight in gold.

On the way, we stopped by a shop that sold saffron among dry fruits and many other things. After a saffron tasting session, we picked up a few boxes of this fragrant treasure. Here are some pointers to distinguish genuine saffron from the fake ones – saffron is never sweet to the taste, but bitter and it never melts away completely always leaving behind a residual strand. On the other side of the block, a little shop/bakery was selling some refreshing Kava.


Kava is the Kashmiri green tea spiced liberally with cardamom, cinnamon and saffron. It is served with slivers of almonds and you may sweeten it with sugar or honey. Here we also discovered the delicious coconut cookies with it’s soft centre.

From there on we passed by the Jhelum-Sangam. There were horses roaming around everywhere and the apple orchards spread a sweet fragrance. Arriving at Pahalgam town, we stopped at Dana Pani where we had lunch.

IMG_20150527_162137826_HDR IMG_20150527_161810478 IMG_20150527_161041954_HDR

The evening tea at Pine-N-Peak hotel lobby is on the house and after checking in, we downed a few more cups of kava. We’d found a new favourite beverage. We went for a short drive thereafter, stopping by an interesting foot-bridge and probably a popular picnic spot. The view from there was just beautiful with the Lidder river flowing by our feet, the mountains and the amazing greenery all around us. Several birds flit by including brown pigeons, the black bird and another black bird with a yellow/orange tail. Following that we stopped by the local zoo that has just a few but largish enclosures with animals that ranged from black bears to gorals and a leopard that remained hidden until someone spotted it and a crowd gathered around.


A goral


Letting sleeping leopards lie…


Our last stop was the Mamleshwar temple. It dates back to 900 years. The small stone structure has a pond that is sourced by the hill springs and within the sancto sanctorum one can find a Shiv Ling and a two-headed Nandi bull.

IMG_20150527_172424267_HDR IMG_20150527_173348672


Our evening was spent in the lawn where a little boy came over to chat with us (and it turned out later that he was from Mumbai too). Dinner was a time to experiment and we all headed to Trout Beat which we’d seen when we were leaving Dana Pani and is situated next to it. There are some good food outlets in the area too .The boys were delighted with the fare at Trout Beat. The trouts are fished out from the local rivers apparently. The service was helpful and snappy. The menu boasts of trout is various avatars including continental. Fortunately for me some good vegetarian food came from a nearby sister outlet.

IMG_20150617_124254 IMG_20150527_175415281_HDR

We were pretty much done for the day. In an all-time first, the Lidder River sang a night long lullaby while we slept.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Kashmir – Day 3 – Spellbound in Srinagar

Heavy rains continued into the next day. We decided to remain in Srinagar and see what the capital city had to offer. Our original plans to visit Kargil with a short halt at Drass was abandoned without further ado.

First we visited the Shankaracharya temple situated atop a hill that is surrounded by woods. The view from the hill is outstanding. Due to security reasons, there is heavy patrolling in the area. Also photography isn’t allowed within the temple premises. The temple can be approached by ascending 243 steps and it proved to be quite a challenge. The premises consists of the living quarters of Adi Shankara where it was believed he had resided after arriving on these hills,  and a small shrine made of stone(a relatively new structure) dedicated to Shiva although it is said that there used to be a temple here as early as 200 BC.


Srinagar and the Dal Lake with its houseboats

We stopped at Jamia Masjid next. Spread over a large area, this mosque has 370 wooden pillars and a large courtyard with well-kept gardens besides wide spacious halls to offer prayers. Certain sections of this mosque had been destroyed by fire on three separate occassions over the years and have been restored each time. Within the complex, women are expected to cover their heads (the hair should not be seen as an elderly man sitting at the entrance informed me politely) The mosque itself is a marvellous structure. It was during this visit that we were acquainted with a gentleman. Over a brief chat he told us much about the mosque and shared with us his candid views on the state of affairs thereabouts.


The pillared hall in Jamia Masjid


Akbar Fort (or Hari Parbat) as seen from the Jamia Masjid courtyard


Our next stop was the Badaamwaari, the garden we’d missed on our first day in Srinagar, a definite must-see. Badaamwaari, as the name indicates, is an orchard of almond trees, but that is not all there is to see here.


The delightful Badaamwaari garden

IMG_20150525_115651276 IMG_20150525_115414915_HDR IMG_20150525_115321981 IMG_20150525_115301794_HDR IMG_20150525_114815543

The day was proving to be an amazing insight into the richness and beauty of the Kashmiri culture. The next one hour was spent in admiring the exquisite carpets that was adorned in striking patterns and rich colours as well as Pashmina stoles that were all so pretty, that it was difficult to pick but just a few. Special designer Kashmiri coats are available too. Take time to marvel at the way the carpets are woven to perfection in the workshop. A special script that only the designer and weaver can decipher is used to protect unique ideas and patterns from being plagiarised.


Splendid weaves on Pashmina stoles


We stopped by  the Hazratbal Shrine next. As the prayers were on, we didn’t go inside. This shrine is very sacred to the Muslims as a valuable relic of immense import is housed there. We walked around the mosque moving towards the lake from where you can see the shrine in all its splendour.


Hazratbal Shrine – a marvel to behold


After that we picked the children up from the room as they’d not accomompanied us on the sight-seeing spree and then made our way to Ahdoos restaurant that came much recommended for its delicious food. Wazawan is a typically Kashmiri feast which comprises several lamb and chicken dishes along with a few vegetarian dishes as well to be eaten with rice. Kashmiri food, like everything else in that state, is also rich in aroma, flavours and textures. Nothing is ever simple here, I’ve come to believe. My husband and boys toyed with the idea of going in for a Wazawan ‘thali’ and finally decided to opt for Rogan Josh and Gostaba, which are just two of the many dishes that make up a Wazawan.

Kashmiri Nan with a stuffing of cottage cheese and garnished generously with dry fruits and cream

Kashmiri Nan with a stuffing of cottage cheese and garnished generously with dry fruits, saffron and cream

Streetside vendors

Streetside vendors

Hoping to pick up a few memorabilia and keep-sake trinkets, we went to the Handicraft Emporium. The ground floor was under renovation after the extensive damage wreaked by last year’s floods. One can pick up carpets, dress material (again with the splendid cross-stitch and embroidery typical of Kashmir) or various objects made with papier mache.

The Handicraft Emporium

The Handicraft Emporium


Papier Mache moons with typical Kashmiri artwork

It was only late afternoon but we were pretty much done for the day.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Paradise – Day 4 – Over the Hills and Far Away

After putting it off for two days, we were headed towards Gulmarg finally.


Rice fields

The biggest attraction in Gulmarg is the snowy peaks and the cable cars set up by a French company. The cable cars take you up to Phase 1, where when we visited the snow had all melted and Phase 2 which is at an astounding altitude of 3,747 m and is covered with glaciers. The sights from the cable car is beautiful and would have been even better going towards the next level.


View from Phase One of the Cable Car Ride


As the mist lifts off, the mountains come into view


Mud Huts put up by local dwellers who leave the area when winter arrives

Unfortunately Phase 2 was temporarily out of service and we could only go up to Phase 1. The options as in Sonmarg were to take a pony ride and probably slide down on a sledge from there. Although we had hired boots and jackets from a little shop at Tungmarg, we decided to return to the base. Once again the slush makes the ground very slippery. During holiday season, it would be wise to prepare yourself for huge crowds and long queues to board the cable car. Another option, as a friend suggested, would have been to stay back in Gulmarg for a day or so. IMG_20150526_130543744_HDR IMG_20150526_130202823_HDR IMG_20150526_130015573_HDR We drove around the area for a little less than an hour and then returned to Tungmarg and had lunch at a place called Rizk. The inevitably obvious joke was cracked, ‘Dad, are you sure you want to take the rizk?’ The food there was very good. And be warned! Any food that says ‘Kashmiri’ also means ‘rich in dry fruits, nuts, saffron and butter’. We had a delicious Kashmiri pulao. Gulmarg is a no-plastic zone. But it wasn’t just that. I noticed (like I did in most smaller towns in Himachal Pradesh), shops hand over purchases in cloth bags, never polythene ones. Throughout Kashmir wherever we went, they handed out only cloth carry bags. Another thing I’d began to notice was the road discipline. Cars make way; drivers are polite and patient; there is no road rage and I saw on the entire trip but two people losing patience and shouting. And thankfully, no unnecessary honking.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Experiencing Paradise – Day 2 – Some Snowy Tales

We were hoping to visit Gulmarg that day. But incessant rains and inclement weather, called for a change in plan. Instead we decided to visit Sonmarg. Sonmarg is around 2 ½ hours away by road. The last of the winter’s snow is yet to  melt and Sonmarg is a major tourist attraction. The area abounds in amazing visuals of mountain glaciers.

Some pretty sights on the road


A sight to behold right outside Sind View Restaurant


Enroute we stopped for tea at Sind View which commands a view of River Lidder. From there on we passed many apple and cherry orchards. The cherries were in various stages of ripening.

We stopped by a spot where a huge chunk of glacier was yet to melt across the road. The sudden drop in temperature hit us much to the amusement of the locals.


No one told them that the summer has arrived there


Sonmarg was crawling with tourists. The climb up to the glaciers requires one to take a pony ride to a certain point. Here men dragging sledges will haul you up to a higher point on the snowy slopes. Having reached a comfortable distance, you’ll slide down the slopes until you reach the point where you’d started out. Gumboots and heavy jackets are available on hire and are essential if you wish to walk on the snow. Also one needs to take care  while treading through the sludge as you can slip on it.

What strikes one as a major racket is apparently the only source of income for these people. The man who pulled my sledge told me how they depended on these few months which lasted as long as good weather did to earn their keep.  It was pitiful to watch them haul grown up people up the slope and I myself was prompted after a while to get off and walk up the slope which can be managed if you are wearing gumboots. Later on one of the men, younger than the rest, spoke to me in chaste English while complaining about unequal distribution of wages between them. And certainly, it was sad to find a seemingly educated person pulling people up slopes.

IMG_20150524_165107798 IMG_20150524_154839443_HDR

We returned to the foothills where we had lunch at Hotel Sonmarg Glacier where the food was reasonably good. Thereafter we returned to Srinagar.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing Paradise – Day 1 – Come Walk with me in these gardens divine

What strikes you at first look through the airplane window are the snow-clad mountains. Fellow passengers were getting excited as they moved from one side to another to take a peek out of the window. The landing itself was spectacular seeing that the pilot had to manoeuvre his way into the airstrip that lay within a valley. So after all the deliberation and doubts, we were finally in Kashmir – the one time Paradise that even to this day does not fail to enchant.

The thought of Kashmir has always brought to one’s mind the beautiful shikara rides, the pretty blooms and women, the wonderful gardens, the majestic mountains and of course the luscious fruits. The earliest memories of Kashmir comes straight out of posters that depicted all this and more with the caption ‘Incredible India’. The recent conflict had blurred those visions somewhat.

Kashmir has been on our list of places to visit for a year now. After the devastating effects of last year’s floods, we’d put those plans on the back-burner. As we toyed with  various travel options this year, Kashmir was back in the reckoning and the final decision taken, with the tacit understanding that the plan may have to be changed if the need arose.

It can take 20 minutes by car to circumambulate the Dal Lake

It can take 20 minutes by car to circumambulate the Dal Lake

So here we were finally taking in deep breathfuls of the pure air and enjoying the tingle of the spring-summer chill. We checked into our room and headed out for sight-seeing immediately after a late lunch. We passed the mesmerising Dal Lake both while going back and forth visiting the gardens that are a must-do on any Kashmir sight-seeing agenda.


Chashme Shahi Gardens

IMG_20150523_162631383_HDR IMG_20150523_163047229 IMG_20150523_163249476_HDR

We visited the Chashme Shahi Gardens, Nishat Bhag and Shalimar Bagh that evening. Flanked by mountains on one side and sometimes the Dal lake on the other, these parks which are of historic significance often also contain within the premises age-old structures. They are also known as the Mughal gardens having been created by Mughal kings of yore. Shalimar Gardens was created by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir for his Queen Nur Jehan. Nishat Gardens was built by Nur Jehan’s brother. Chashme Shahi was built during Shah Jehan’s reign.


The Mughal Heritage Garden Nishat

IMG_20150523_170000524_HDR IMG_20150523_165501964 IMG_20150523_165226742_HDR (1) IMG_20150523_165057080 IMG_20150523_164927412

There are channels of mountain springs running through these gardens too. We missed visiting Pari Mahal which is also in the vicinity and is apparently a sight to behold [I was hoping to go there on the last day of our stay, but the road towards it had been blocked].


Heritage Mughal Garden Shalimar

IMG_20150523_175010415 IMG_20150523_174536483 IMG_20150523_173452653

Our next stop was the Nagin Lake which can be accessed after entering  an exclusive club. There are shikaras and houseboats available for hire on this lake.


Nagin Lake


Weary from the journey, we decided to give the Badaamwari, another garden, a miss for the time being. We returned to the room after this sneak peek and geared up for a whole lot of beautiful sights in the coming days.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Cyan Hills – Day 3, 4 & 5

There was no sleep-in that morning as we had to wake up, be out of the home stay and on our way to be in time for the jungle jeep safaris that begins at around 6. Once again we were a big group of wildlife enthusiasts. The Wynaad wildlife reserve permits only a certain number of visitors in a day. We were lucky enough to be among them that morning.

Going into the jungle we saw some deer, a few receding elephants that trumpeted from the thickets, then later on, peacocks, jungle fowl and just about got a glimpse of a wild goat that disappeared when it heard the jeep approaching. At the entry point into the jungle, a rogue tusker stood by himself creating quite a flutter of excitement among the members of our group.

A silhouette of the rogue tusker. He was still there when we returned after the safari

A silhouette of the rogue tusker. He was still there when we returned after the safari

By now, every one was pretty hungry. We stopped by Jubilee restaurant for breakfast and gorged on Kerala parathas with egg curry, puttu and beans curry along with some good tea.


From groceries and cattle feed to tooth-brushes…you got everything here

The quiet town that we stopped by

The quiet town that we stopped by

Someone needed a toothbrush, our hostess needed to visit the supermarket, so we all waited on the footpath of the little town watching life go by. Our next halt were old temple ruins. Left in shambles after Tipu Sultan plundered it, there is some restoration work happening at present. A helpful bystander began to describe the concept behind the architecture and reliefs that is modeled around the seven spiritual chakras in the human body as well as the nervous system. The path between sets of pillars on either side leading into the sancta sanctorum represents the spine with the pillars being symbolic of the nervous system.


The Head Chakra represented by a serpent which neither begins nor ends

The Head Chakra represented by a serpent which neither begins nor ends

The seven chakras depicted on the pillar being explained

The seven chakras depicted on the pillar being explained


Time has ravaged this monument in its own way

Time has ravaged this monument in its own way

Our next stop was the Edakkal caves. The Edakkal caves (Kal – with a soft ‘l’- means stone) are so called because of the positioning of one humongous rock on an open hill top to create a shelter of sorts. Ancient dynasties have apparently thrived and grown within the safe confines of this space. The highlight were the pietroglyphics of which you find both known and unknown scripts. A couple of guides are available within the caves to answer all queries and even show you around which I thought was a great idea. Mobile phones are not allowed inside and they are pretty strict about it too.

Shopping around

Shopping around

Entrance to Edakkal Cave

Entrance to Edakkal Cave

Views like this one are aplenty

Views like this one are aplenty

IMG_20141231_113037200 IMG_20141231_110623131 (1)

The climb up is not easy at all. But it’s not impossible either. Take  ample breaks while you view the amazing sights and catch your breath. The climb down has been made easier with a proper stairway and as we all know, is harder than going up.

We broke up into many little groups on our way down, with the children and a few adults going ahead sooner than the rest. There were four of us and we decided to try out the bamboo rice delicacies which were on offer.

[Beware of monkeys : Do not carry eatables openly. A monkey attempted to snatch something from us and even snarled when we refused to part with it. And come to think of it, do not feed them either. This will only further tempt them to expect something from everyone who passes by and turn aggressive when that doesn’t happen.]

IMG_20150513_124526 IMG_20141231_131442591

For your shopping pleasure

For your shopping pleasure

After this we visited the Regional Agricultural Research Station, the perfect place for those with a green thumb. Apart from saplings of various trees and flowering plants and bushes, many individual  green houses with all kinds of trees and plants, there is a rabbit pen. We spent about twenty minutes there. Then we returned to our cousin’s house for lunch.

We had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. 2014 was coming to an end. A short snooze and then we were back together partying the night away. A quiet damp blanket of mountain mist  covered us while our very own homespun DJs rocked the New Years eve away. The barbecue night continued with a bonfire and fireworks as a new year began.

We opted to stay indoors most of the next day and took a walk down to our hosts’ home in the evening. It seems many people from the software industry come to Kliff’s View Resort only to spend time in the quiet languidness of the indoors.

On our return the next day, we stopped at a shop hoping to purchase a set of wind chimes. We left with a few wooden toys, some bamboo rice and a lot of other things but not get the wind chime I’d specifically wanted. But do take some time to check out the many shops on the way to Wynaad. You are sure to find something of interest –  spices and oils, bamboo rice and many other things.


Some pictures taken at Kliff’s View Homestay

In-house coffee beans

In-house coffee beans

Lawn with a view

Lawn with a view


Ponds to ponder by

Pond to ponder by

Posted in Animals & Wildlife, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cyan Hills – Day 2

Our wake up call that morning were bird songs –  sun birds, jungle fowls and bulbuls were singing morning glories. From not very far away, a woodpecker could be heard tapping away. This was enough incentive for us to emerge from the warm interiors out onto the cooler verandah.

From the suite upstairs, we could hear my cousin and his wife discussing about a large bird they could see from there. Then I saw it too. They asked the caretaker what it was. And he told them it was an eagle hunting for smaller birds. It wasn’t close enough to sight easily though.

A sumptuous breakfast was waiting for us. After that we all got ready to go sight-seeing. A Mini-bus had been arranged for this purpose as we were a group of eleven people. Our first halt was the Banasura Dam. The Dam is a good 2 ½ km long and before you get there, you have to climb up a steep path for about 7-10 minutes. Apart from the beautiful view from there, you can also avail of the boating facility. We chartered a single large boat for the group. The boat ride was about an hour long and we managed to sight a few birds along the way.

It's a long but nice walk

It’s a long but nice walk


Natural barrier

Natural barrier

IMG_20141230_121712326 (1) IMG_20141230_124926245

The walk had made everyone hungry. So the next mission was to find a good place to eat. After one false start and the following disappointment, we arrived at Coffee Grove Restaurant. The food was great, the spread was interesting and choices being varied, people ordered various things : fish curry, fish fry and rice, paratha, gobi (cauliflower manchurian), butter chicken and appams.

It had taken us quite some time strolling along the Dam, taking a boat ride and then getting back to the vehicle, along with the time that was spent searching for a suitable place to eat. It was suggested that as there was not enough time to go to Suji Para, we could go to Kantam Para instead [Para means Rocks]

Making a splash

Making a splash

Stones and slopes

Stones and slopes

Bamboo grove

Bamboo grove

Carved out by Nature

Carved out by Nature

Groups of people could be seen everywhere taking a dip in the cool water. There is a sheer drop and a waterfall further down. But most of us preferred to stay on the top. People visiting such places in large groups, and usually younger people, tend to get carried away and underestimate the power of the flow of these rapids and streams. Flash showers are known to result in serious and tragic accidents.  Especial care and precaution needs to be exercised and youngsters are better off under the supervision of a responsible adult or two.

We returned tired and hungry to be greeted with a feast arranged at our cousin’s house. For me there was kan pathiri, egg curry and fried rice, Kerala style.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments