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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 30, 2008 At 10:27 AM

Summer Destinations: Kinnaur, Lahaul And Spiti


Himachal is an obvious choice of destination for summer for people from the plains in Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh. While Shimla may be the de-facto destination, more exotic places in the north are meant for those with an adventurouse spirit. That doesn't mean you have to be strong and fit to access these higher regions of the Himalayas, as most places are close to road networks.

Chandratal Lake

Overview. Most of the places in Lahaul and Spiti are at heights more than 10,000 feet, with highest point close to 15,000 feet. Yet, it is not forbiddingly cold in the summers and is not very demanding on the traveller's physique. But a possibility of altitude sickness always exists. Sun tends to be harsh in these climates and it is necessary to carry sunscreen.

Best way to do this section of Himachal is by hiring a jeep. Public transport does exist but not frequent, so you will have to do some planning and know bus timings in advance. The adventurous lot can do it in bikes. The road is scenic in many parts and you might want to take it slow and easy, enjoying the views, which means you will be better off with your own transport instead of relyaing on buses.

Some passes on the road are closed in winter and open in May-June. So if you are planning the trip early in summer, check first if Rohtang Pass and Kunzum La have been thrown open to traffic.

Orientation.
While Manali and Shimla are connected by a highway via Mandi and Kullu towns, there is another longer detour you can take, passing through Lahaul and Spiti. For this, start from Shimla and head to Kinnaur on Hindustan-Tibet road. The road goes along Sutlej river in Kinnaur, and as you enter Spiti Valley from Kinnaur, traverses along Spiti River. Further, beyond Kunzum La where Spiti Valley ends, the road goes along Chandra river in the valley of Lahaul till you climb up to Rohtang Pass and eventually reach Manali. The major towns along the way are Rekong Peo(which is a short detour from Hindustan-Tibet road) and Kaza. The road takes you through some great mountain scenery and a few Buddhist monasteries.

Places to Visit

Listed her are places worth a visit, ordered as they appear when you go from Shimla to Manali.

Sangla and Chitkul. Sangla is a detour from Hindustan-Tibet road. Sangla Valley is known for its views of snow-capped mountains and scenic locales. Chitkul, which is further from Sangla on the same road is the last village you encounter near Tibet border.

Kalap Village. Located just above Rekong Peo town, Kalpa is a good summer retreat for people of Delhi and Punjab. The village is also known for its views of Kinner Kailash range of mountains.

Kinner Kailash range

Nako Lake. Nako Village is an ideal place to spend a night on the way from Kalpa to Kaza. Nako has a small high altitude lake, which is one its attractions.

Nako Lake

Dhangkar Monastery. The ancient Dhankar monastery is said to be 400 years old. At more than 12,000 feet high, Dhankar is one of the most scenic locales in Spiti Valley. Another attraction here is a beautiful high altitude lake.

Tabo and Ki Monastery. The monastery in Tabo, the oldest in the region is more than 1000 years old. This, along with Alchi monastery in Ladakh is declared a word heritage site. Tabo's ancient monastery is known for rich frescoes in its nine temples. Ki Monastery is located close to Kaza town in a picturesque location in Spiti, and is said to be 800 years old.

Ki Monastery

Kibber Village. Located above 14,000 feet, Kibber was once known as the highest village in the world with permanent habitation. The status is now lost, with better access to remote places in the Himalayas over the years. Kibber offers good high altitude walks, and has picturesque views of Spiti Valley from its heights.

Kibber Village

Kunzum La. Kunzum La is the highest point in the journey, at almost 15,000feet. The pass marks the boundary between Spiti Valley and Lahaul. There is a small temple to Kunzum Devi at the pass. The pass also serves as the starting point for the trek to Chandratal Lake.

A lone Yak grazes in Spiti Valley

Chandratal. This is a beautiful high altitude lake located besides Chandra river, and is a 15km detour from the main road. The road to Chandratal is the last to open after winter, so always check before you leave. But there is always the option to walk here from Kunzum La.


Rohtang Pass. Rohtang Pass separates the valley of Chandra river in Lahaul with the valley of Beas that leads to Manali. While Lahaul is like a high altitude desert in rain shadow, greenery starts making its mark after Rohtang. Rohtang is a popular tourist destination due to availability of snow till late in the summer, and its easy access.

Rohtang Pass


Food and Accommodation.

There is basic accommodation available all through the way. The villages where you can find guesthouses include Sangla, Kalpa, Nako, Kaza, Kibber and Batal. You can also find accommodation in Ki and Tabo monasteries. There is no comfortable mid-range or high end accommodation available anywhere on the road. 

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 30, 2008 At 01:01 AM

Festivals For May


Traditionally, summer is not the time for festivals in most of India. That means no vibrant festivities like Holi or Diwali in May, but a few events organized by governments. Hilly states try to make the best of tourist inflow. Here is a list of festivals of interest for the month of May.

Summer Festival, Mount Abu. 18-20 May 2008. Excerpt from Rajasthan Tourism Website: The Summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of hill station, who welcome the tourist from the depth of their hearts. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic location made this festival a never to be forgotten experience. See details at http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/attractions/fair&festival/summer'fes.htm

Summer Festival, Ooty. 10-18 May. See more information at http://www.thehindu.com/2008/04/09/stories/2008040954600600.htm

Summer Festival, Dharmashala. 29-31st May. Himachal tourism website, which lists the schedule, mentions that there will be cultural events organized every evening. See http://www.himachaltourism.nic.in/events.htm

Other than these, Buddha Poornima, which is celebrated in parts of the country, falls on May 20th.

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Posted on: Monday , Apr 28, 2008 At 10:13 AM

More News From Highlands - Road To Zanskar Re-Opened


Access to parts of Ladakh are opening up slowly with passing days of summer. After opening of Srinagar - Leh road two weeks back, now it is the turn of Kargil - Zanskar road. Greater Kashmir reports -


The 250-km-long Kargil-Zanaskar road was reopened for traffic after it remained closed for six winter months due to ten to 40 feet of snowfall.
 Meanwhile, hundreds of vehicles carrying passengers and essential commodities reached different parts of the Ladakh region from Srinagar after the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh highway was again reopened for traffic on April 22.

See http://www.greaterkashmir.com/full'story.asp?Date=26'4'2008&ItemID=33&cat=21 for the full story.

The road from Manali to Leh still remains closed. Watch this space for updates; I am hoping to travel to these regions in a few months, so I will be tracking all the updated.

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Posted on: Friday , Apr 25, 2008 At 21:04 PM

Pico Iyer's Book - The Open Road


Acclaimed writer Pico Iyer's new book - 'The Open Road'(http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307267603) was released last month, in which Iyer writes about the Dalailama he has known for last 30 years, about his life, his ideas and challenges ahead. At the same time he seems to address the larger picture involving the issue of Tibet and Tibetan People.

Kyoto Journal has a deeply moving high impact extract from the book, which had me baffled as well as touched, and making me want to read the book. See the article on the journal's home page - http://www.kyotojournal.org/

They don't seem to have a permalink for the article, so read it quickly before their next month's issue consumes the homepage.

See also: Iyer's interview at WorldHum - http://www.worldhum.com/qanda/item/pico'iyer'on'the'
open'road'and'30'years'with'the'dalai'lama'20080325/

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Posted on: Tuesday , Apr 22, 2008 At 10:04 AM

Earth Day Post


April 22nd is Earth Day. Cross posted with my personal blog, with a wish to spread goodwill.

Much as I love to travel, a part of me is always feeling guilty about the footprints left by us travellers. Let's admit it, travel is hardly anything environment friendly. The least we can do is to try to minimize our footprints, or if possible, go Carbon Neutral(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon'neutral).

It would be nice to scribble some tips and then forget it, but it is much better to say what I am trying to do myself. Here are a few things I have been consciously trying to do, things that have happened by themselves and things that I hope to do someday.

* Not to drive. I have cut down on driving trips drastically. Three years back, nearly every trip I made was in my car. Now the passion of driving has weathered down; and I am also consciously cutting down on my driving. Even within the town, I don't take the car out unless I have absolutely no choice. I even use a bicycle now for short rides around home, which were done with a car earlier. And if I remember correctly, I haven't made a driving trip since last August.

* Not to Fly. Flying is one of the least fuel efficient ways to travel. From the usual habit of flying everywhere(when I travel to North), I have started taking trains. It it not entirely successful, the basic reason being that train journeys require lot of planning in advance. And my return journeys are usually open, which makes things more difficult. When I travelled to Rajasthan this February, I managed to take the train to Delhi. But when I was ready to return, I could not find seats in any trains, forcing me to fly back. But abstaining from flying is not entirely by choice. Since I have not been working 9 to 5 these days, I try to keep spending to minimum.

* Simple things - like behaving properly in environmentally sensitive regions is something I have been doing for a very long time now. Things like dispose garbage properly, take care of your consumption, avoid being noisy in the jungles or burning wood, etc. I once stopped consumption of tea(once part of my daily diet) and switched over to coffee(which is also destructive, but to a lesser degree), when I was disturbed(see http://travel.paintedstork.com/blog/2006/12/impact-of-tea-estates.html) by seeing sprawling tea estates in erstwhile thick jungles of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

* Some thing that I strongly hope to do in the next few years is to go Carbon Neutral. The strategy is simple - buy land and start growing trees there and do little else. A few people have been doing this already, and this is a project I am very keen to do once I have some extra money in hand. And then, as and when there is surplus money, expand the periphery of the forest. I am not sure when I can begin on it, but hopefully in less than 3-4 years from now. Ah, I can just imaging my private forest and going there birding every morning, makes me smile.. :)

* Another thing I hope to do, but don't know when and how I can start - to volunteer in our National Parks and surrounding villages in projects aiding conservation. I nearly teamed up with folks at Eaglenest(See http://travel.paintedstork.com/blog/2007/03/about-vacation-for-conservation.html) last year but had to drop out due to some constraints.

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Posted on: Monday , Apr 21, 2008 At 20:46 PM

Blogging From Ranthambhore


Let me start by saying - 'No, its not me blogging from the wilderness!'

We have all seen travel blogs, travel writings and trip reports in plenty. People going to a new place, coming back awed and writing their experiences is nothing new. But how about blogs from people who live in well-known tourist places? I haven't seen many, but Ranthambhore Blog is an exception. And an excellent exception at that.


Aditya Singh blogs from Sawai Madhopur, the town just outside
Ranthambhore and writes about the forests of Ranthambhore, its people, geography and things that happen there everyday. And tigers are like part of his life, which you will know once you see all those pictures of tigers in his blog. He is also passionate about conservation and improving the park. In his own words -

I own and run a small lodge on the outskirts of the Ranthambhore (often misspelled as Ranthambore) national park. I am very passionate about tigers, wild animals and photography.

Check out his blog at ranthambhore.blogspot.com

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Posted on: Friday , Apr 18, 2008 At 12:35 PM

Change Of Guard At Rashtrapati Bhavan


Change of Guard at London's Buckingham Palace is a well known tourist attraction that most of you would have heard of, and some of you would have witnessed.

Did you know that much closer at home, you can visit Change of Guard at Rashtrapati Bhavan too? This is a new initiative made a few months ago by president Pratibha Patil(See news http://www.indiaenews.com/art-culture/20071214/86286.htm).

Here is what the Rashtrapathi Bhavan's official website has to say about it.

"The 40-minute Ceremony includes inspection of the New Guard, nomination of sentries, a formal march to take post and an exchange of compliments by the Guards. A formal military ritual, the Ceremony is a coming together of smartly-attired soldiers of the impressive Army Guard and statuesque President's Bodyguard Troopers, astride their caparisoned, sleekly muscled, powerful and exquisitely groomed steeds."

According to the website, Change of Guard will be held from 8AM to 8.45AM on Saturday, except on gazetted holidays that fall on Saturday. See more details on the site - http://presidentofindia.nic.in/ceremonical'func.html

I haven't got a chance to see it yet, but am eager to do do on my next visit to Delhi. If you have witnessed it, or managed to do so in future, would love to hear from you of the details. Drop a comment here, or better still, go to my profile and send an email..

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 16, 2008 At 11:27 AM

Srinagar - Leh Road Opens


I had mentioned a few days ago in 'India Explored' that Srinagar - Leh road work is going in full pace and it is expected to open earlier than ever this year. The road has been opened for traffic yesterday and the first vehicles have crossed Zozila pass. This is a new record, as the road was opened in May last year, and most of the time it used to be closed as long as early June. The report says -


Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad flagged off a fleet of Srinagar-bound vehicles from Zero Point near Gumri across Zojila pass, marking the earliest annual opening of the 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway.

Read the full story at http://www.newkerala.com/one.php?action=fullnews&id=48481

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Posted on: Monday , Apr 14, 2008 At 11:15 AM

The Wildlife Season - Corbett National Park


Summer is indeed the best time to visit hill stations to cool off from the heat of the plains. But if you are willing to dare the heat for your best wildlife experience, this is the time you should be heading to our National Parks.

Summer is the time when the forests run dry, forcing the animals to come out of their hiding and into waterholes. These is the time when, instead of scouring the forest, all you have to do is hide somewhere near water and watch a movie unfold in front of you, with many animals coming and going.

A deer on the bank of Ramaganga

Corbett National Park is one of the best places to go wildlife watching. Its proximity to Delhi is an added advantage, making it an easy weekend getaway. Here is all you wanted to know about Corbett National Park.

Overview. Corbett is one of the best-maintained National Parks in India. Even at a time when rest of the country saw sharp decline in tiger numbers, Corbett had maintained a healthy population. It also boasts of highest tiger density anywhere in India(74 tigers at 200 square kilometers. See http://www.indianexpress.com/story/206758.html), increasing your chances of sighting. But tigers are not the only attraction of the Park. There are elephants, wild cats, four types of deer(chital, sambar, barking deer and hog deer), otters, wild boars, porcupines, Gharials and muggers to see. If that is not enough, don't just keep looking for animals but go on early morning safaris on the bank of Ramaganga River and indulge in seeing the immensely beautiful landscapes at sunrise.

Corbett Landscapes

Corbett is an excellent birding destination too. The keen eyed naturalist will find a great variety of raptors(birds of prey) like Changeable Hawk Eagle, Fish Eagle, Serpent Eagle, Black Kite to name a few. And then there are vultures and Griffons, birds at water bodies like White Capped Redstart, River Lapwing, etc. The list is nearly 400 long, so I must refrain from carrying on.

Orientation. At less than 300km from Delhi, Corbett is easy to visit. The Park is in the foothills of Kumaon Himalayas in Uttaranchal on the Ramnagar-Ranikhet highway. Ramnagar is the road head to Corbett and the town also hosts the office of Corbett Tiger Reserve(CTR). Dhikala tourist village, deep inside the forest is the most sought after place for visitors. You are required to book a stay in Dhikala or one of the guest houses in this section to be able to visit this region, and day-trippers are not allowed unless you take the open bus safari organized by CTR. How-ever jeeps for day-trip are permitted at another section of the forest at Jhirna Gate.

If you plan to stay at Dhikala, you will need to have your own jeep to be able to reach Dhikala and then go on Safaris. You can hire jeeps at Ramnagar. Dhikala is located on the bank of Ramaganga River that runs through the park, which is an added attraction.

Things to do and Places to See.

Tiger sighting is the most sought after activity in Corbett. The best place to look for them is along Sambar road, which goes along the Ramaganga from Dhikala Tourist Village. The guides are familiar with the region and can lead you to places where sightings are likely.

Jeep Safari. If you have booked accommodation in Dhikala, you can go on Jeep Safaris and wildlife viewing in the forests in the region. Jeeps are allowed in the forest from sunrise to sunset and the best time to see wildlife is early morning hours or in the evening before the sun goes down. All jeeps are required to have a guide, who can be hired at Dhikala.

Jeep Safari

Elephant Safari. Once again, you have to be staying in Dhikala region to go on elephant safaris. The safaris are scheduled in morning and evening, and take you around the riverbed and nearby forests. Elephant Safari is the best way to spot tigers, as elephants can be good at finding and flushing out tigers.

Elephant Safari

Daily Bus Safari to Dhikala. An open mini bus leaves Ramnagar for a day trip to Dhikala and back everyday, starting at 8am and ending at 4pm. Though you can't expect an extensive tour of the forest, it is still worth taking, as it takes you deep into the forest till Dhikala. Arrive early in Ramnagar's CTR office to ensure your seat.

Bird watching. Several resorts in and around the Park can arrange bird watching tours. With more than 400 species of birds, and with more than 40 raptors among them, Corbett is a great place for birding. If you are a seasoned birdwatcher, you can also do it on your own when you go on Safaris in Dhikala or any other region. Most of the guides in Dhikala are good at sighting and identifying birds.

A changeable hawk eagle

Angling. Fishing is prohibited within the park, but you can get permits for angling in Kosi and Ramaganga rivers outside the park. Some resorts can arrange permits and angling tours.

Museum at Dhangadi Gate. Dhangadi Gate on the way to Dhikala has a museum that displays stuffed animals that were killed by Jim Corbett and other hunters. Seeing those tiger and spotting bullet marks in them is a worthy experience.

Other attractions. Corbett is close to hill stations Ranikhet and Nainital. You can plan an itinerary to Corbett that includes these places. Kaladhungi, the village near the park where Jim Corbett had lived now houses a museum.

Accommodation.

Dhikala Tourist village is the most sought after accommodation in the park. Book in advance through CTR Office. See http://www.corbettnationalpark.in/page'contactus.htm for contact details. There are a few more guesthouses inside the park on the way to Dhikala but they don't have restaurant facilities and you will have to make your own arrangements for food. There are resorts littered all along the road from Ramnagar to Dhangadi gate on the way to Dhikala, which provide mid-range to luxury accommodation. Note that if you are staying in these places, you will not be able to access the forest ranges of Dhikala with your own vehicle. Ramnagar has a few budget hotels if you have a tight budget.

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Posted on: Saturday , Apr 12, 2008 At 21:20 PM

Ramanavami Music Fest In Bangalore


If you live in Bangalore or visiting at least for a day in the next 30 days, and if listening to classical music is something you love, here is something that might interest you.


Sree Ramaseva Mandali, Bangalore organizes a month long music  festival in the city which brings in artists from all over the country. The program begun last week and will continue till May 14th. There will be four hours of music every evening, and some programs on Sunday mornings too. Entry fees are nominal, but if you are so keen not to pay, you can listen to the speakers setup outside!

See Rama Seva Mandali website for details at http://www.sreeramasevamandali.org/. You can see the complete schedule of the programs at http://www.sreeramasevamandali.org/programme'list.html

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Posted on: Friday , Apr 11, 2008 At 18:55 PM

Books For The India Explorer - I


In this series - 'Books for the India Explorer', I will be listing travel books that would interest the compulsive travellers who are after the genuine expeience(cliche, admiited). Don't expect a Part II and Part III to follow soon; this will be an endless series that will go on as I get to read or get to know about new interesting titles. Here is a list of books that I personally appreciate for excellent travel writing on India. Here we go, five at a time.


1. City of Djinns by William Dalrymple. A book on the history of Delhi, it is no dry and boring history lesson but full of insights on its past mixed very well with the Delhi that is today. Read this without fail, Dalrymple will charm you so much that you will want to dump the book and instead head to all those sites he mentions for a personal visit.

2. Sacred Waters by Stephen Alter. Allow me to express some favouritism and prejudice I have for Alter. He is my most revered writer yet, and Sacred Waters the most revered book. This is a story of his wanderings on Gharwal on foot. While he explores the mountain, he tells the lores, culture and heritage so well that you become part of him, experiencing it yourself.

3. Into the High Ranges. A collection of Anthropological stories and book extracts on the mountains and the people of the mountains. Published by Penguin Books, it has some excellent contributions and makes a great read. Look for names like Tenzing Norgay and Ruskin Bond in the list of contributions.

4. Waterlines. Another good collection of stories from Penguin Books, this time on the rivers. The list of authors includes AK Ramanujan, Stephen Alter, Romulus Whitekar and Jim Corbett, only to name a few.

5. Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater. A unique novel on travelling along with monsoon as it makes its journey starting from the southern end at Kerala, all the way to the north. Set in the seventies, a few things like requiring a recommendation just to get a seat in Indian Airlines feel dated. But the real story about people celebrating the monsoons, the science behind it and the way monsoon defines life in India is timeless.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 09, 2008 At 22:13 PM

The Goa That Was


Goa has been in news lately, primarily for wrong reasons. Scarlett Keeling incident attracted a lot of press and has had its effect in giving plenty of bad publicity for the state with its long line of beaches. Knowing how Goa's tourism has expanded in the recent years, it is not all that difficult to believe that its beaches were once empty, sparsely populated with a few locals, a few Indian and fewer tourists from abroad. In a very well written article, Uma Ranganathan rues of the Goa that was, and the good times it used to offer.


"When I first visited Calangute almost thirty years ago with my parents and brother, the beach was an open, endless expanse of sand, unblemished by the small and big shacks which have turned it into a noisy funfair today. There was just one rather ramshackle bar along the shore where we would head at midday to quench our thirst with a couple of bottles of beer. Except for a long haired unkempt hippy whom one came across now and then, shuffling along the beach, in search of his next chemical high, the land was peace personified."

Makes me long for the Goa of those days. Read the article at  http://desicritics.org/2008/04/09/110120.php

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Posted on: Tuesday , Apr 08, 2008 At 01:02 AM

Now Take A Chopper To Tawang


Tawang is one of the well known destinations in Arunachal Pradesh and in the entire Northe-East region. Besides being known as one of the highest regions in the region, the Buddhist monastery in Tawang is one the biggest in the country. The regions above Tawang like PTSO are known for its alpine lakes of immense beauty.


Buddha statue in Tawang Monastery



But Tawang has never seen a share of tourists worthy of its stature. Distance was the biggest problem, as the only access to the town was by a long road journey from Tezpur lasting more than 24 hours. Things are about to change, and there is something to cheer for those who wanted to visit this region but not willing to go through the ordeal of the journey. Government is soon starting a subsidized helicopter service from Guwahati to Tawang(see http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Airlines''Aviation/ Helicopter'service'between'Guwahati''Tamang'to'start'soon/articleshow/2910230.cms). The exact dates are not known but the indications are that it should begin very soon. Watch Arunachal Helicopter Service website(http://arun-aviation.nic.in/) for updates.

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Posted on: Thursday , Apr 03, 2008 At 21:21 PM

Summer Destinations: Coorg


It is the time of the year when the mercury level goes up, and travelling to every possible destination is not easy. Hills stations and mountains are a way out where the weather remains pleasant and unaffected by the raising temperatures in the planes. In the days to come, 'India Explored' will help you find those places where you can escape the summers, starting with Coorg.

Overview. Coorg is the anglicized name for the district of Kodagu in southern part of Karnataka. It is a hilly region that falls in the Sahyadri ranges(Western Ghats) that stretches from Maharashtra to Kerala. Being at an altitude, weather remains cool to moderate through the year, making it possible to visit the region in summer as well as winters. It rains heavily during the monsoon months of June to September, a period when Coorg is best avoided. Of course, for those who love rains it is a good opportunity to beat the crowds of the peak season.

Orientation. Madikeri is a small town on the top of a hill that serves as district headquarters for Coorg. Some times Madikeri and Coorg are incorrectly used interchangeably. Virajpet, Gonikoppa and Kushalnagar are the other major towns in the district. Most places of sightseeing are far apart and may take up to an hour of drive from each other. Best way to travel within Coorg is with your own vehicle. If you have to depend on public transport, ensure that you have plenty of time. Coorg can be accessed from Mysore, Bangalore and Mangalore. Buses are available to travel within Coorg but some places are not connected at good frequency. Roads are hilly and curvy, and due to heavy rains during the monsoon every year, they are usually in a bad condition, and you may be forced to drive at average speeds no greater than 30-40km.

Kodavas, the local community have a distinguished culture of their own and speak their own language. Kodavas are known as valiant people and have a made a significant contribution to Indian Army; that includes first Field Marshal Kariappa.


Coorg country side


Sightseeing and Activities.

Raja Seat. As the name says, it is place where the king used to sit and spend his time. It is a small garden in Madikeri town, and one end of it plunges into a valley, offering good views. You can see people whiling away their time in the evening here, but the best time to be here is in the morning when it is quiet and the views are at its best. It is generally foggy in the morning during the winter months, and sometimes even in the summer. It is close to Madikeri bus stand, ask anyone for directions once you are in Madikeri.

Abbi Falls. A short drive from Madikeri, this waterfall is in a private coffee estate but is open to all. There is usually water through the year, though may not be a lot of it in the summer months. You can drive here from Madikeri(20 minutes) or take a rickshaw. Public transport may not be available.


Abbi Falls


Kaveri Nisargadhama. This is a small island formed by River Kaveri, approached through a charming hanging footbridge, and is developed into a park by Karnataka's Department of Tourism. Families come here to spend time in a forest like ambience. There is a deer park and bamboo groves inside but the biggest attraction is the river itself. You can also go on short elephant rides. There are a few rooms to stay in the island, book ahead with the Tourism Department. Nisargadhama is on Mysore-Madikeri road is 15 minutes away from Kushalanagar town.

Dubare Forest Elephant Camp. This is a short drive from Kaveri Nisargadhama. Forest Department runs an elephant camp here on the bank of Kaveri. Jungle Lodges and Resorts, a Government of Karnataka initiative organizes day visits to the camp where one can take elephant rides and join hands with Mahouts to wash the elephants. It is a scenic place by the river and a good location to spend time.


Kaveri at Dubare forest


Harangi Dam. A reservoir, also a short drive from Kushalanagar and Kaveri Nisargadhama. The lake formed by the dam is surrounded by thick forest.


Harangi Dam


Bylakuppe Tibetan Settlement. This is one of the largest Tibetan settlements anywhere in the world. See a little Tibet manifest itself in the village where you can see monks in prayer or Tibetan children playing. It is like stepping into a whole new world completely different from rest of the atmosphere. Visit Namdroling Monastery and the Golden Temple and get a feel of Tibet as authentic as Tibet itself.


Golden Temple, Namdroling Monastery


Bhagamandala and Talakaveri. A confluence of rivers, Bhagamandala is a holy place. As it often seems to happen, it is said to be a meeting point of three rivers but you can see only two of them. Kannike, Sujyoti and Kaveri are the three rivers, Sujyoti being the mythical third one. Talakaveri is the place of origin of Kaveri, which is 10km from Bhagamandala and is on the top of a hill. Besides being a holy place, Talakaveri falls on the edge of Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see rolling hills of the Western Ghats(and a few defunct wind mills). Bhagamandala is an hour's drive from Madikeri and is also well connected by buses. There is no public transport to Talakaveri but an asphalted road connects it from Bhagamandala.


Hanging Bridge at Kaveri Nisargadhama


Nalknad Palace and Iguthappa temple. These two places, which are 5km apart are in a small village called Kakkabe and are identified with Kodava heritage. Nalknad palace is a small structure a few centuries old. Iguthappa temple is sacred to Kodavas. Kakkabe village is on the way from Madikeri to Virajpet, 40km away from Madikeri. Buses connect Kakkabe from both the towns.

Thadiyandamol. Thadiyandamol is the highest peak in Coorg, more than 1400m high from sea level. Reaching the top is a four-hour trek and one needs to be reasonably fit. Once on the top, you can see great views of hills spreading far away. It is said that you can see Arabian Sea from here on a clear day. The trek begins from Kakkabe village, and can be completed within a day.


Views from Thadiyandamol


Brahmagiri. Brahmagiri is another high peak and a popular trek in Coorg. This is generally done as a two-day trek. Since the peak falls within Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, those who want to trek must take permission from forest office in nearby Srimangala village and have to take a forest guard as escort.


Brahmagiri Ranges


Irpu Falls. This waterfall is at the beginning of the trek to Brahmagiri. You can see water here through the year, though it won't be much in the summers. Irpu is a deviation from other well-known places in Coorg. To get here from Madikeri, you may have to take a bus to Gonikoppa town first and then change to another bus that can take you to Irpu. However, the effort is worth it and the falls is in a beautiful location.


Irpu Falls


River rafting. Rafting trips are organized in peak monsoon seasons in Barapole River. See http://www.coorgrafting.com/ for more details.


Food and Accommodation.

Madikeri has a few options of hotels. Other towns - Virajpet and Kushalnagar may have some basic accommodation but nothing reliable. The best places to stay are the home-stay accommodations spread all over rural Coorg. Nearly every sightseeing location mentioned above would have a few home stays dotted in the villages around them. Most of these home-stays can be found online; search for them. The home stays are often within private coffee estates that give you an opportunity to wander in these estates or go for treks in the forests around them. Orange County is the most well known up market resort in the district. When you are staying in the home stays, ask for the Kodava specialty dishes of Pandi Curry and Kadambuttu.


Relaxing at a home stay


How to reach Coorg. Coorg is connected by buses from Mysore(3 hours), Bangalore(6 hours) and Mangalore(3 hours). You can also drive from these places. Nearest major train stations are Mysore and Mangalore, and nearest airport is Mangalore.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 02, 2008 At 11:23 AM

Leh May Be Accessible Sooner This Year


If you are the adventurous kind and looking to make a road trip to Leh this year by bike, four wheeler or even bus, it is time to start planning and packing.

Border Road Organization has been working on clearning the road (http://www.newkerala.com/one.php?action=fullnews&id=40894)  to Leh, and is expected to re-open much sooner than last year. Zojila pass connecting Shrinagar and Leh was not open until May last year, but is expected to be operational by April 15 (http://www.greaterkashmir.com/full'story.asp?Date=1'4'2008&ItemID=51&cat=1) this time.

For those who are looking to travel to Leh via Manali, the tentative dates for opening Rohtang Pass is not yet announced, but the pass has been partially cleared and pedestrians are allowed to cross over (http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/business/rohtang-pass-opened-to-pedestrians'10028586.html).

Leh is on its way to becoming a year round destination a few years down the line. Work is already underway to construct a tunnel across Rohtang Pass (http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Work-on-Rohtang-tunnel-to-pick-up-pace/289644/), and a new tunnel is proposed (http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=2&theme=&usrsess=1&id=197502) under Zojila pass to keep Srinagar-Leh road through the year.

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