Dandeli, Karnataka

Dandeli is a town located on the Western Ghats region in Karnataka. The Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest in Karnataka and houses tigers, leopards, black panthers, elephants, bears, and deer amongst other mammals, several varieties of reptiles and over 250 different birds. The Kali river flows through Dandeli adding to the scenic beauty of this space. I spent my time here at the Dandeli Mist Jungle Stay. They offer three types of accommodation – tree-houses, luxury cottages and tribal cottages. Every meal provided was an excellent buffet of local dishes. We were taken on night safaris and to various view points around Dandeli. Every moment spent here was one with a view. I’m so glad I found another beautiful location so close to home. ❤

Gajlaxmi Palace, Dhenkanal, Odisha

As you approach Dhenkanal on National Highway 42 it is almost impossible to visually locate Gajlaxmi Palace. The Palace is the home of the Dhenkanal royal family and is quietly tucked away on Megha Hill overlooking vast stretches of forests. Jitendra Singh Deo and his wife Navneeta welcomed me into their home with warmth and generosity.

After a wonderful home cooked lunch we headed out to visit a small artisan village. This village comprised of no more than 50 homes with all its residents working on the craft of Dhokra. Dhokra is a non-ferrous metal casting method that uses the lost-wax casting technique.

The next morning we went on a nature walk that took us through another small village and around the royal family’s property.

Tragically I had to leave soon after. I missed out visiting the Joronda Temples, the Satakosia Sanctuary and so much more. Can’t wait to go back…

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Odisha

The Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves are one of the earliest groups of Jain rock-cut shelters in India which were built to provided dry shelter for meditation and prayer. These caves are located about 6 kms away from Bhubaneswar in Odisha. They are situated on two adjacent hills, Udayagiri and Khandagiri. Udayagiri has 18 caves while Khandagiri has 15 caves. The caves have plain interiors, but their facades are encrusted with sculptures depicting auspicious objects worshipped by Jains, court scenes, royal processions, hunting expeditions and scenes of daily life.

A quick tour of the Indian Museum, Kolkata

The Indian Museum is the largest an oldest museum in India. It was founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta. The museum has 6 sections namely Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Economic Botany. I only had an hour to spend here and the following are a images of a few of the galleries I managed to explore.

Bhitarkanika National Park, Odisha

On the 22nd of February I headed to Bhitarkanika National Park which is located in the Kendrapara district of Odisha. It is placed at the delta of the Brahmani – Baitarani rivers and is an estuary. This sanctuary is spread over 672 sq.km. The flora of the area comprises of 82 species of mangroves and the fauna includes saltwater crocodiles, king cobras, pythons, spotted deer, sambar, otters, dolphins and over 200 species of resident and migratory birds. During my time here I saw many crocodiles, 3 different kinds of kingfishers, a few egrets and other birds along with a few spotted deer.

That night I stayed in the heart of Dangmal Village at the Bhitarkanika Nature Camp located about 300 meters from the main entrance into the sanctuary. I had an amazing host who cooked great food and was extremely helpful in every way possible. I stayed in a Swiss tent for the night and planned my dive to Calcutta for the next day.

Chilika Lake, Odisha

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With a nice cold, foggy start to the morning I headed to Chilika Lake, Odisha from Borra caves On the 21st of February. The journey was less than 400km in total. Initially I drove through a ghat section that had beautiful roads all the way to Odisha courtesy of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department.

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2015-01-21 08_Fotor..While driving around the country I have always come across situations in which people lose their patience and it has always left me wondering where everyone was in such a rush to get to. Right before entering Odisha a few of us on the highway were stopped at a railway crossing for about 11 minutes. People in larger vehicles had no option but to wait but most of those on bikes kept ducking under the barricade with their vehicles to get to the other side. Being in the ghats we did not have much of a visual of the train tracks as they curved with the mountains. Sometimes I really feel like telling all these people that being safe is so much better than being impatient.

2015-01-20 15.32.20As I entered Odisha there was a complete scenic change. From the hills and mountains of northern Andhra Pradesh to the flat plains of Odisha. I passed by so many water bodies, so many rice fields, and so many Toddy palm trees. This state seemed to be so wonderfully lush and green.

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2015-01-20 15_FotorI reached Chilika Lake just in time for a quick coffee and then begun my exploration of the space.

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_DSC0589_FotorChilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon which is spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha. It covers an area of over 1,100 kmsq making it the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest in the world. The lake has a vast range of fish making it an ideal place for small fishermen villages to flourish all around it. Chilika Lake also has the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent, sometime hosting over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. Tragically I managed to lose over 100 pictures I took here due to some technical difficulties so I am unable to give you a full visual of my experience here.

_DSC0592_FotorOTDC (Odisha Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.) provides a range of rooms and cottages located by the lake starting from Rs.800 a night. Their development at this location is called Panthanivas Barkul. It is extremely clean and is safe for everyone.

2015-01-21 17.08.36I stayed in the room at the top left of this construction and this was my view –

2015-01-21 16_FotorAfter a long highly productive day I watched a beautiful sunset and got a great nights rest.

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Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh

Borra Caves are located about 90 kms north of Visakhapatnam in the Ananthagiri hill range of the Eastern ghats, located at Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh. These limestone caves were discovered in 1807 by the British geologist William King. Borra Caves are naturally formed and are believed to be over 150 million years old. Small streams flowing down the Ananthagiri hill range towards River Gosthani are what have formed these caves over the years. The humic acid in the water reacts with the calcium carbonate in the limestone and dissolves the minerals causing the rocks to gradually break.

The main entrance of Borra Caves is located at an altitude of 705 meters above MSL while the interior goes down to 625 meters above MSL. The total length of these caves are about 200 meters, but you can walk around exploring over 350 meters of the space. Surrounding these caves are breath taking hilly terrains that are covered in forests filled with a vast population of wild fauna.

This cave is one of its kind in India and is open to tourists between 10am and 5.30 pm everyday.

666 km around the UK

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This past August when I was in the UK I knew I wanted to take a road trip and explore some of the beautiful cities and sites this country had to offer. With the help of Traffic Self Drive‘s website I was able to rent a car with my Indian license. Once the vehicle delivery was confirmed I set out to finalise my rout. 400 miles over 4 days seemed like a comfortable plan. So starting at Ware I decided to head to Bath for a couple of days and then stop by Stone Henge on my way to the coast at Camber Sands, stay at Rye and then head back to Ware.

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On the 12th a Vauxhall Corsa was delivered to me. All it took was 5 minutes of paper work and I was on my way. With beautiful roads all the way to Bath the drive was smooth and extremely comfortable.

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As I entered Beth I was awestruck by its beauty. I had booked myself a room at the Parade Park which is located in the heart of the city. The room was beautiful and had one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in. The view from the room was of the Parade Gardens, Bath Abbey and the river. After a speedy check in I headed out to explore the city.

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I first headed to the Bath Abbey to take in its beautiful Gothic architecture.

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As I was roaming around I came across Bath’s smallest pub and decided to stop and got myself a pint of a locally brewed beer.

IMG_6858_Fotor_Fotor_CollageI then continued on in search of a restaurant and came by a French place called No. 5 Bistro that had a couple of jazz artists playing there that night. After a delicious meal I headed back towards the hotel.

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The following morning after a hearty breakfast I bought myself tickets for the City Sightseeing hop on and off buses.  My first stop was at the Roman Baths. This 19th century building is a house that the Romans used for public bathing. It was built around the natural hot spring.  There are 4 main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from the Roman Bath.

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I then caught a bus and headed to the American /Museum in Britain to see artist Kaffe’s exhibit, “The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett”. Kaffe is a world-renowned knitwear and textile designer. This exhibition showcases how Kaffe lives by his maxim to find colour in a grey world.

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After walking around the rest of the museum I hopped back on the City Sightseeing Tours bus and circled the rest of the city.

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“Water is best”

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That evening I bought myself a £8 ticket for the Bizarre Bath Comedy Walk. This daily walk departs from The Huntsman Inn which is located in central Bath on North Parade Road. This 90-minute hilariously entertaining walk combines comedy, street theatre and improvisation together. From making up stories to explain the bricked up doors around the city to a stuffed bunny performing an underwater escape, I would recommend people of all ages to go on this walk.

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The following day I headed to Stonehenge. Stonehenge is an ancient temple aligned on the movements of the sun. It was used as a place of ceremony, of burial and of celebration. The stones at this site were raised over 4500 years ago by sophisticated prehistoric people. The visitors center has a shop, a cafe and an exhibition space. The actual site is a little over a kilometer away from here. Land trains and buses are available to transport people back and forth from the site. Back at the visitors center you get to explore the “Life at Durrington Walls” exhibit that has been recreated for us to understand more about the builders’ life during the construction of Stonehenge. The people lived in small huts that were clustered together but separated from their neighbours by woven wooden fences. Each hut was large enough to house a small family and all their resources.

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After a quick bite I continued on to Camber Sands, one of the few sandy beaches in England.

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From here I went to the ancient town of Rye. This small town is filled with antique shops. That night I got myself a room at the Old Borough Arms located on mermaid street. After a quick drink at Rye’s oldest pub and a good nights rest, the next morning I took a quick walk around the city and then headed back to Ware to drop off the rented vehicle. Overall I had a wonderful 4 days and cant wait till I’m back in this country so I can drive around the rest of it and continue exploring.

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York, England – Things to do and sites to see

York is a city that is rich in heritage and offers a vast range of historic attractions. This city was founded by the Romans in  and then captured by the Vikings in . Finally in AD 954, King Edred managed to reclaim York in his successful attempt yo complete the unification of England.

Clifford’s Tower was originally constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a statement of power over the region. This building was originally a wooden construction that stood for just over a century before being burnt down during one of York’s bloodiest and most tragic moments, when, in 1190, the entire Jewish community of York consisting of 150 Jews were massacred at this site.

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The City Walls surround the heart of York. This is the longest medieval town wall still standing today in all of England. It is 3.4 kilometers in length and can take up to 2 hours to walk around at a leisurely pace.
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York Brewery opened in May 1996. This brewery produces 4 ales all year-round. It is located in central York and offers tours of its facilities to the public. The guide and the employees were extremely friendly and a lot of fun to spend time with.
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York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. It took almost 250 years to complete this massive structure. This cathedral had 3 towers that are 250 feet high. York as a whole, and particularly the Minster, has a long tradition of creating beautiful stain glass, some of which date back to the 12th century.
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The Original Ghost Walk of York is believed to be the first exclusive ghost walk in the world. With tickets priced at just £5, this is a walk anyone visiting York should experience. The walk starts at 8pm outside the Kings Arms ‘the pub that floods’. As the group gathered we were first introduced to our guide, Mark Graham. Dressed completely in black this man has the perfect scary storyteller voice. As he took us from one site to the next I found that the most amazing thing about his stories were the historical facts he was able to provide. This made everything so much more believable. At the end he gave us the option of rubbing his ‘head’, the head of his walking stick, for good luck. Overall I had a very enjoyable time and recommend this walk for all those who visit york.
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Some other random things that caught my eye –
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Beautiful yarn bombs – United Kingdom

I found my first set of yarn bombs at The American Museum in Britain located in Bath. The work looks a little rushed but being a yarn bomber myself I know how many hours of work went into it. I love the colors and my favorites here are the 2 lampposts shown below…

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IMG_6960_FotorNext I found this creative yarn bomb outside a yarn store in a tiny city called Rye located along Britain’s coastline.

IMG_7102_FotorI noticed this yarn bombed bicycle in the display of a yarn store in York.

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Lastly as I was walking around Kew Gardens, London, I found these beautiful yarn bombs. I absolutely love the tree that’s been covered with granny squares!

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Balmuri Falls, Karnataka

Balmuri Falls is located on a portion of the Cauvery river that flows wide over a rocky bed in Karnataka near Mysore. This spot is less than a 150 km drive from Bangalore. It is not really a waterfall, but a long wall that was built in order to slow down the flow of water so that the numerous irrigation canals emanating from this spot can get a constant supply of water. When this dam is full water overflows in a neat long cascade resulting in the ‘falls’.

This was our first stop.

IMG_0646_FotorAs this spot turned out to be over crowded we decided to head up river and find a more secluded spot but before we headed on we decided to jump into the dam first.

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We then found the perfect spot less than a kilometer away where we had all the privacy we wanted…

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After playing around, hanging from some branches and watching the sunset we headed back to Bangalore. It was the perfect day trip 😀