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.

Yummy street food

Ramadan (more commonly known as Ramzan) is a month long Islamic festival that celebrates when Prophet Muhammad was blessed with the spiritual knowledge of Islam that formed the Quran. During this month muslims worldwide fast from dawn to dusk. It is said that a person is to spend his time performing the spiritual practices of the Quran in order to free themselves from worldly yearning and create a stronger platform between man and god. After 30 days of fasting the month of Ramadan concludes in Eid. The biggest reason this festival has become so popular is because of the food that fills the streets post dusk. After fasting for almost 12 hours no one would settle for average tasting food. There are rows of stalls filled with a wide spread of meats, rices, savories, soups and sweets located all around Bangalore. As the evening progresses into night the air fills up with smoke. So many flavorful smells. My favorite thing to do is to go from stall to stall tasting all the different kebabs. Other than the usual chicken, mutton and beef kebabs this time I tried emu. It had a similar texture to mutton but was much less fatty. So glad to be living in this beautiful yummy country!

IMG_6047Chicken kebabs, mutton liver kebabs and mutton chops.

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Melt in your mouth mutton kebabs

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IMG_6157_FotorBeef kebabs

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Yummy Emu meat 😀

IMG_6048Pathar ka gosht (meat cooked on stone)

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A wide range of seafood kebabs.IMG_6159_FotorBeef cooked on a slab of stone.

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 😀

 

A day by the river

As the sun began to rise we slowly started to notice how beautiful this location was. With each passing minute my heart slowed down. I had reached a state of tranquility. I never thought we would be able to find such secluded place in a country with over a billion people. A place with no one to judge you and no one to restrict you. A place where I could be myself. Every hour or so we moved down the river to a different set of boulders. Each location had its own charm. We climbed onto as many boulders as we could. Once we were up there if we ever needed a change of scenery all we had to do was turn around. As the sun rose higher in the sky we found a sparrows nest. Surrounded by over a 100 sparrows I sat in awe. Not once did I feel like I did not belong. Looking up I realised it was almost noon. We had lost track of time. None of us wanted to leave but we needed to eat. After a quick lunch break we decided to go back. It was impossible to stay away. This time I decided to take my kitten (Chips) along. With a few bottles of beer and lots of water we returned. Chips was so amused everything. She climbed through every nook and cranny I allowed her to. We sat on the boulders together listening to music and taking in the scenery. I wished this day would never end.      We remained there till the sun set and decided to head back before it got too dark. I could not have asked for a better day. I felt fulfilled. Cant wait to go back…

10600km around India – Week 5 Part 2 – Kaas Valley, Maharashtra

Our last stop before heading back to Bangalore was at Kaas Valley, located near Satara, Maharashtra. ImageImageImageImageImage

32 days later we were finally home. I can’t wait to do this trip again!