Friday, December 5

Rapelling, a dare devil adventure

Are you an adventure freak? Does heights and climbing Excite you? Have you ever imagined yourself sliding of a cliff smoothly? Ever thought of what would be fastest way to get off from a hill without hurting yourself? Did you ever dream of conquering the rocks?  Do you want to unleash the dare devil in you?

Well, here is an exciting and simple answer to all of these questions; which is Rappelling. Yes, rappelling also called as Abseiling, Deepelling, rap jumping  is a way of descending from top of hill/cliff in a controlled manner by use of rope.  It is one of the essential skills of any climber. This technique is used when hill or slope is very steep and is dangerous to descend without protection. The difficulties involved in descending, steepness of rocks, need for unwavering strong will and mighty heart makes this rappelling a dare devil adventure.

Usually rappelling is done by use of specialized ropes, keeping your face up and back towards the ground. This technique is used by rescue teams to save the victims who are trapped and injured. I had the opportunity to do rappelling down a steep hill few years back in Makalidurga, Karnataka. I had done it under the supervision of professional trainers from adventure club, Nature Admire. It was an exhilarating experience.

Rappelling in Makalidurga

Recently I had chance to do Abseiling also called as Australian rappelling descending from the height of about 130 ft. Austarlian rappelling is slightly different compared to normal rappelling. Unlike in rappelling, the face of the person is pointed down facing the ground and the back towards sky in Australian rappelling, slowly descending the rope in standing position.  Australian rappelling is used as a military assault technique, whereby a soldier is belayed, allowing them to face down the descent and fire a weapon.

Compared to rappelling, Austarlian rappelling seems much scary and thrilling, because you would be witnessing the whole steepness as you descend. I had done this as part of adventure activities organized by meetup group and adventure club GHAC .
Australian rappeling

Performing rappelling on your own needs lot of experience, and in depth understanding of ropes, knots, clips, cleats etc. Never venture in such activities alone. It is safe to do this along with professionals and as a group.

There are many adventure clubs in India and many suitable places in and around Pune, Rishikesh, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Choose your group or club with your discretion, start venturing out and fulfil your adrenaline rush.

Tuesday, December 2

Bhavani island - perfect weekend getaway

A naturally formed island amidst the vast, serene, pristine waters of river Krishna, Bhavani Island is a perfect weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Spread over an area of about 130 acres, this island is poised with lush green trees, beautifully crafted gardens, and elegant meadows.  It is a place to relax, rejuvenate yourself, and laze-out dancing to the tune of the lively breeze from river.

Located in the heart of the city Vijayawada (new capital of Andhra Pradesh state), Bhavani Island is supposedly one of the largest river island. It is very near to the hill Indrakeeladri, abode of goddess KanakaDurga also known as Bhavani, hence this place is named as Bhavani Island.
View from Bhavani island

What to expect

It is a famous picnic spot for the people over the weekend. It has ferry rides, beautiful park which offers many activities to children as well as adults.

Ferry rides:  

Sitting in a boat watching rhythmically swaying tiny waves, enjoying the cool breeze from the river, witnessing the splendorous hills challenging the bounds of the river and gigantic Praksam barrage is an experience which is one of its kind. Ferry rides are free for people staying in the resorts in the island.  Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation(APTDC) has different packages for these boat rides.

Adventure zone: 

The park inside the island promises few adventures. It has Tarzan swings, Climbing wall made out of rope, river crossing.  This place is one of the best place for corporate outings and team building activities.

Festive season:

Festivals are celebrated with equal enthusiasm, passion by adults and youngsters in Bhavani island. People fulfil their religious sentiments by gathering here and having fun at the same time. It is more lively and colourful during Dussera, Diwali and Sankranthi; most celebrated Hindu festivals.

Kanaka Durga temple: 

The island is in the proximity of the sacred Kanaka durga temple, famous religious temple on top of hill which is supposedly the residence of goddess Durga mata. Devotees across the country Visit the temple throughout the year to pray and pay their respects to the goddess. Dussera, which usually falls in the Month of October is the time when lot of activity goes on here.  The procession of goddess in Hamsa vahanam(Boat decorated with lighting, flowers and carved in the shape of swan) on the sacred Krishna river is a must watch during this season.

How to reach:

Bhavani Island is very near to the Vijayawada city, and is in the close proximity of about 3 kms. Vijayawada is very well connected by trains, buses to all major cities of India , namely Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai etc.  APTDC has several packages and organizes regular trips from Vijayawada city to this island.

Day trips:
Regular boat trips to the island from Vijayawada city, they take you the island and leave you to wander around in the island, you can  return back anytime in the day  in the number of boats which operate to and from the island.

Boarding packages:
Haritha resort, maintained by APTDC has different packages which offer accommodation, food and boat trips around the island.

Accommodation and food:

Haritha resort which is inside the island under the governance of APTDC  has several AC and Non AC duplex cottages which offer beautiful view of the Krishna river, unique tree top cottages surrounded by greenery.  It has couple of restaurants, which offers good food but lacks in variety.

Since this resort and  is maintained by the government, the packages are economical and service is not of top notch.
Tree top cottages in Bhavani Island

Best time to visit

From August to Feb. Winter season is best enjoyable here with its pleasant weather and picturesque views.

Final verdict:

It’s a great place ignored by the officials till now. It has potential to become an excellent tourist place,  but definitely needs a better maintenance and effort from the government. It is an ideal place for one day outing.

With the latest happenings of bifurcation of the state , AP government has many interesting plans for this island to make it one of the most desired tourist destination in India. Below are the activities which are in pipeline.

Shilparamam, the arts and crafts village –  For showcasing  the the world famous Kondapally toys made by the toy-makers of Kondapally village near Vijayawada. Also  many exquisite weaves done with great skill by local artisans in areas surrounding Vijayawada.

Amphitheatre and shops for artisans to sell their products are also in the pipeline.

A rural museum – Illustrating the cultural grandeur with sculptures, life-size images depicting day-to-day activities of rural artisans  and their skills is sure to attract visitors.

More adventures: water-roller that allows fun-lovers to walk, float and roll on water in a 12-feet-long cylindrical PVC structure.



Sunday, November 30

Why should you blog

It is often I was asked this question by my friends, why do I blog? Hearing this, at first I thought what a stupid question to be asked? Then I gave a little thought to it and felt that it’s actually not that stupid question and made some sense to me!!  Why do I blog?  Or to put it objectively, why should you blog?

The first answer came to my mind is, I blog because I like doing it. Fine, sounds good, but why do I like doing it? After probing further on the question, I came up with below sensible answers.

I blog because
  • It gives me a chance to express myself
  • It unveils the creative side of me
  • It hones and polishes my writing skills.
  • I can inspire people through my writing!
  • Blogging is in vogue, and I don’t want to be out of fashion!
  • It enables me to generate revenue out of it. Of course it depends on the uniqueness, quality of the content.
  • It lets me make writing as career over the longer run.
  • Writing is good habit and developing good habits is the Holy Grail of many successful people in the world.

Well all these answers do justify the question: why should you blog? But the real reason for me to blog is: Writing is my passion, and passion is the driving force in life. Passion is the fuel which runs the vehicle of life. Writing gives me freedom, freedom which knows no boundaries, limits. It gives me liberty to convey my thoughts, feelings, experiences freely.

Why only blogging?

Blogging is one of the ways to achieve above mentioned things. It is simplest platform to jot down your thoughts freely and get the unbiased  feedback from everyone around the world.

I want to blog, but don’t know where to start and how ?

Don’t worry, you are not alone in that space.
Pick a topic of your interest which is useful to others or can inspire people.
Come up with unique name which is apt to your topic of interest.
Use the free services like blogspot, worpress. Create your blog, start writing and what next? Explore the rich features which these blogging services offer.

Still feeling hesitant, don’t worry; read my post fear factor which enables you to overcome the starting hurdles.

Monday, November 17

Sachin Tendulkar - Playing it my way

Sachin Tendulkar, undoubtedly one of the greatest cricketer, finest human being, the game of cricket has ever witnessed pens down his life story as a cricketer in his book 'Sachin Tendulkar- Playing it my way'. His life clearly shows and sets an example to every sports person in the world, how a true sports person should be(in and out of the field).

Sachin narrates his story with humility and good sense of humour. Reading his story in his own words is an overwhelming experience. Greatest cricketer he is, and will remain so for ever, humbly describes incidents in his life giving due credit to everyone who had helped him to become what he is.

Early chapters of the book talks about Sachin’s childhood, what drew him to cricket and who are all the key people in encouraging him to become a cricketer. He mentions the major role played by his Brother Ajit and his coach Ramakant Achrekar.


His childhood is best example of how constant practice can work wonders, how dedication and hard work defines one’s life. This is also a best example for one of the aspect of most successful people:"doing the same things daily” as mentioned by Robin Sharma( leadership expert and author of the many inspirational books including ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’) in his leadership workshop ‘Productivity Unleashed & Extreme Achievement Formula'.
Here is the related excerpt from the book.

In fact, in my first year at Shardashram I played fifty-five practice matches during the summer break of sixty days. My summer sessions used to start at 7.30 a.m. and I’d bat for two hours, split into five net sessions. All of these sessions were rigorous and required intense concentration. After the morning session, I would go straight into the practice match, which would end at 4.30 p.m., then my evening session would start at 5 p.m., after only a thirty-minute break. During the break Sir would often give me some money to go and have a vada pav (a popular Mumbai fast food) or a soft drink as a treat.
Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I’d have five more net sessions, before a final session of fifteen minutes”

Then he goes on to narrate about his stint with international cricket. The challenges he had faced from the time he has started his international career as a 16 years old boy against Pakistan in 1989, to the time he has played the last ball of his career in the year 2013. He mentions that He always cherishes the times when he got his first international hundred in the year 1992 in Australia at the SCG. He also proudly remarks that he was the first oversees player to get selected to play for Yorkshire county cricket club.

Sachin narrates the cricket matches he had played chronologically in each year, the records he had achieved and the friends he had made during the process. He also refers to the things which have not gone according to his wish, for example the selection of the team when he was captaining the Indian team. The unpleasant incident when Rahul Dravid decides to declare the test innings against the agreed game plan when Sachin was on 194 not out, depriving him of double century.

He gives so much credit to his event mangers, the doctors who has diagnosed him and always been there during the difficult times of his injuries. He modestly appreciates the support he got from his family, His father, mother, brother, wife and his children. He also mentions how he regretted not spending enough time with his wife(Anjali) and kids(Sara, Arjun) and missing the important events in their life. 

His farewell speech (given in appendix) at Wankhede stadium, Mumbai is one of the emotional and honest speeches I have ever heard. One should read it to understand how he remembers, never forgets to give credit to each and every person who has played a part in his life.

To know Many more interesting things like his achievements, what he wished to do after retirement etc. one should read this book. Overall 'Sachin Tendulkar- playing it my way' is one of the most inspiring autobiographies I have ever read and It’s a must read for every cricket lover.
Sachin Tendulkar - Playing it my way

Saturday, November 8

Mahabalipuram, a cultural heritage of India

Magnificent sculptures, beautifully crafted temples, giant monolithic marvels, greatness of Pallava dynasty are some of the facets which strike your mind when you think of Mahabalipuram. It is an ancient historic town located about 60kms south of Chennai, Tamilnadu. Mahabalipuram , also known as Mamallapuram is one of the  famous tourist destinations in south India.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by watching the beauty of Mahabalipuram in many old south Indian movies. Its immaculate beaches, fine-looking sculptures, and the exquisite shrines along the beach, shown beautifully in the movies inspired me then to visit this place.  In fact, it was the famous spot for the shootings in the 20th century. Finally visiting this place is an overwhelming experience fulfilling my expectations.

Places to visit

Shore temple:

Its one of the oldest temples in south India, dating back to 700 AD, constructed during the reign of Pallavas. It is known to have survived many cyclones and Tsunamis staying in shape for more than 1400 years.  This is a two towered temple surrounded by array of Nandiswaras(vehicle of Lord Shiva). Lord shiva/Shiva Linga being the main deity, also has a beautiful idle of Vishnu in his reclining position. Gorgeous Bay of Bengal at the back of the temple adds to the beauty of this place. The area around the temple is now a landscaped park , and has an entrance fee of Rs 10.

There are many street vendors along the way to the shore temple,  who sell hats/caps, shells, other decorative items, and of course Kashmiri shops with lot of glittery stuff, they are worth a try.

Shore temple in Mahabalipuram

Pancha Rathas:

Pancha rathas (Five Chariots) are giant monolithic structures  which are replicas of the wooden  chariots used by the Pancha Pandavas, five Pandava princes (Arjuna, Bhima, Dharmaraja, Nakula, Sahadeva and their common wife Draupadi) of epic Mahabharatha . All the five chariots are unique in its shape, structure and their size, and these structures are well complimented by huge statues of Lion and elephant in between.
This place also has entrance fee of Rs 10 for Indians, Rs 250 for foreigners.  Entry into this place is restricted and gets closed by 6PM.
Pancha rathas in Mahabalipuram

Light House and Mahisasura mardini caves:

 Mahabalipuram being the main port city during those days, features a beautiful Light house. Visitors are allowed to climb up the light house and witness beautiful panoramic view of the whole city. The ascent of the steps leading to the top of light house are steep and are narrow, especially the last 10 to 15 steps on the top are very steep and are very difficult to climb. Due to these narrow steep steps at the top which can be climbed by only one at a time, people will have to wait to reach up/come down. This will make you wait in short intervals of time and you need to cater about 30 - 45 mins of your time. But the view from the top of light house is worth the wait, awesome and spectacular.

One side of the light house is beautiful sea spreading across with the shore temple on its bank, on the other side is the whole Mamallapuram city. On  the way to the light house, there are two storey  Mahisasura mardini caves. In the ground floor there are various sculptures depicting Lord Vishnu and his avatars, on the upper floor sculptures  of goddess Durga can be seen. You can also see the unfinished Rayar Gopuram from top of light house.
Mahisasura mardini caves in Mahabalipuram

Arjuna’s penance

Arjuna’s penance  is undoubtedly one of the master pieces of the ancient art works in India. This beautiful , giant bas-relief carvings depict  Arjuna doing penance to obtain the grace of god(some believe that it depicts  Sage Bhagheratha  worshipping  shiva to bring holy Ganges to earth, not Arjuna!) .  This place is right beside the main road leading to Mahabalipuram bus station.
Arjuna's penance and krishna's butter ball in Mhabalipuram

Krishna mandapam

Adjacent to (to the left of) Arjuna’s penance, there is Krishna mandapam with the carvings of the famous episode:  Krishna lifting up the Govardhan Mountain to save his kin from the wrath of Indhra.

Krishna’s butter ball:

Few meters to the right of Arjuna’s penance, there is a Vinayaka temple made out of Rocks. Little away from here is the ball shaped rock defying gravity, lying on top of slanting hill for ages known as Krishna’s butter ball. This is the fun part of the whole trip posing for snap bringing out  the creativity of a photographer !
To the left of Vinayaka temple which is almost behind the Krishna Mandapam are Varaha caves which have the carvings of Vishnu, Gajalakshmi, Trivikrama and Durga.
 

How to reach and visit places

Many cab services are available from Channai airport to Mahabalipuram which would cost you  around 800 – 1000 bucks.
Frequent bus services are available from Chennai city Koyembedu(CMBT) or Tiruvanmiyur. Since most of the buses which go to Pondicherry via ECR road go through Mahabalipuram, you can board any Pondicherry bus as well.  Frequent Buses are also available to and from Pondicherry.

For sight seeing in Mahabalipuram, cabs are available  from Mahabalipuram bus stop which would cost around Rs: 500/- . Auto rickshaws are also available from bustop , which would take you to all the above mentioned places in 3-4 hrs and would cost you up to Rs 350/-

Mahabalipuram is a small city, and all the places are near by from bus stop and close to each other, you can also go by foot if you deem fit.  
 

Timings:

Shore temple and Pancha rathas have entrance ticket and the ticket sale will be stopped by 5:30PM and the entry into them is stopped by 6 PM.
 

Accommodation and food

There are lots of resorts and hotels available in Mahabalipuram, Usually you don't have to pre book unless its peek season. you can choose basing on your requirements such as beach side, cost, amenities etc. refer to the trip advisor reviews for more details.
 There are also many restaurants around which serve good non-veg /veg food, especially along shore temple road,  few beach side restaurants beside shore temple. If you are a pure vegetarian, there is Adayar Anand Bhavan about 1.5kms north from the bustop, which serves good south and north Indian veg food.
 

Best time to visit:

Mainly due to its hot and humid conditions, its advisable to visit this place during winter season. September - February is ideal period.
 

Caution: 

Beware of the hot and humid conditions in Mahabalipuram, or for that matter whole surroundings of Chennai. Carry your hat/cap, sunscreen lotions, umbrella  and an extra pair of clothes(than usual) as you will sweat a lot here.

Saturday, November 1

Nandi Hills

Located  about 60 kms from central Bangalore city, Nandi Hills makes good half a day trip. It offers breath taking views, amazing adventures, and illustrates  reign of king Tippu and his heritage.  There are many stories about the origin of it's name and its history which you can find in Wikipedia.

There are many interesting things to see and do in Nandi Hills aka Nandi Betta. Below are list of things you get to experience when you visit this place, which  is why it is one of the top most sight seeing place in Bangalore.
Drive through Nandi Hills road
Drive through the road uphill

What to expect:

Rider’s delight:  Driving by bike/car through the deserted Bangalore roads in chill winter mornings to reach the Nandi hills is only one part of the delightment. Drive to reach the top of Nandi hill through the ghat road with sharp turns and steep ascent is an another experience, the awesome climate throughout makes this ride a memorable experience.

Nature lover's paradise - canopy of clouds in Nandi Hills
Enchanting sunrise : Nandi hills is famous for its scenic sunrise. Watching the fascinating view of  the sun with its golden orange splendor, rising up from lush green fields and  the canopy of trees , spreading light to the world is a sight which mesmerizes you and registers  in your heart for ever.

Heaven on earth: As you walk around the hill, admiring the beautiful sight of sun rise, the murky  clouds are not far behind in entertaining you.  As it’s about 1478m above sea level, clouds caressing you with its mist and cheering you up is  a routine here. If you are lucky enough, you can witness  heaven on earth - Kailash (Place where Lord shiva resides, as portrayed in  old Indian movies) here.  All this scenic, charming, enthralling experience makes this place a nature lover’s paradise.

Paraglider’s paradise: Due to its climate, and availability of plain fields around the hill makes this place an ideal destination for para gliding.
 
Cycler’s mighty: cycling lovers and people who feel they are tough, can definitely test their stamina by cycling up the  whole ascent to reach the hill top. Many cycling lovers climb up this hill and are seen in many  during the weekends.

Plain fields around Nandi Hills - ideal place for para gliding
Plain fields around the hill
Night camp and trekking: Some people usually go to the hill with their tents and spend the night there, which is enjoyable  if you are going as a group. But you will have to carry all the necessary things with you while you go and the entry to the top of the hill closes by 6PM.
 Adventure lovers usually trek up the hill , there is route for trekking at the back of the hill.

Children’s amusement: The Horticulture department developed a lovely garden for children to play games like the slides, swings, merry-go-round, etc. Also many benches are in place for the the elders to sit and relax while kids enjoy their time.

Temples: It has few temples on top dedicated to Sri Bhoga Narasimha, Sri Ugra Narasimha and Sri Yoga Narasimha , Hanuman, Gavi Veerbhadra Swamy.

Tippu’s drop:  The place where  prisoners were pushed to death during Tippu’s reign. A danger board is placed to indicate this now.
Tippu's drop in Nandi Hills
Tippu's Drop

Origin of Rivers: Nandi Hills is considered sacred as it is the source of rivers such as Palar, Arkavati, and Pennar, which joins with River Cauvery on their further course. Most of the sources have dried up though!   

It also has:
Tippu’s summer palace: Also  known as Tashk-e-Jannat (Heaven’s Envy),  a beautiful palace resembling the Srirangapatna‘s palace, of which only few remains left!

Amritha sarovar: It is a beautiful lake on top of the hill and is formed by the water-lets flowing from the hills. But it definitely needs better maintenance and care.


How to reach:

Amritha sarovar - origin of rivers on Nandhi Hills
Amritha Sarovar
As mentioned earlier, going by bike/car is better option, Bike’s are allowed to certain point on top of hill where entry tickets are issued. Whereas cars are allowed to go further up. BMTC bus service is also available from Majestic - Kempegowda Bus Station (KBS) up to the top of hill.

Things to carry:  

Carry sufficient snacks and water bottles as not many hotels available on top. There are few hotels around, but eat with caution.

Best time to visit:

Even though Nandi hills can be visited  anytime in the year , September to May is best time to visit and in the morning hours.
  
Timings:   
6AM to 6PM, timings are put in place to avoid any crime.

Note: A request to everyone, please don’t litter the place. This is beautiful place and can be enjoyed by everyone only when  each one of us do not spoil it by littering.