Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Kerala Diaries--Tale of Eight Lakes.

"Woah..! beautiful..!!", was our reaction after seeing the pictures of Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi. The set up was serene, green and floating..! Without any second thoughts we decided to visit God's own country.
Now, the real challenge was commutation. The place is around 700 kms from Bengaluru, and very near to Trivandrum. Since other transportation facilities did not meet our expectations, we put our trust on our beast--and it did not cheat us !
I was new to Kerala roads. I knew the quality of roads until Tamil Nadu border were butter smooth, but I had received mixed opinions about Kerala roads. 
The expedition started at the whee-hours of night and was very tiring. Heavy rains until Kochi..! 
More than rain, what irritated me was the NH that were mostly dominated by Kerala private buses. 
We finally managed to reach our destination at 1130 AM. A warm welcome by Club Mahindra staff relieved our travel pain.

What we saw then was indeed Heaven..!

Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi--Floating Cottages.
The main attraction of this holiday destination are the unique Floating Cottages. Built for luxury and comfort, it has a small veranda facing the vast lake.

Ashtamudi, is one of the most popular backwaters in Kerala. Surrounded by thick coconut groves, lush plantations of banana and mango, this place is a peaceful getaway. Club-Mahindra Ashtamudi is part of Kollam district, an ancient tourist destination that also has several historic stories.

Fishing is the main earnings in this region. Above pic depicts Chinese fishing techniques.
The lake consists of numerous estuaries.
This property focuses mainly on couple of things. 1: Kari-meen fry--a sort of fish curry which is prepared using live fish. Kari-meen is bred inside the resort for this purpose.
2: Kerala tradition is heavily followed in this resort. I was lucky to witness Katha-kali performance that was arranged by the resort staff..it was amazing..!

A boat safari was arranged for in-house guests of the resort. Breathtaking landscape Kerala has..! Pristine waters and mangrove forests is just wonderful treat for eyes.

Majestic Backwaters of Ashtamudi.
Cruising through high tides.
It was time for us to check out Kollam city. The resort travel guide suggested some place where we could shop authentic cashew nuts and coconut products. He insisted us to visit Varkala beach, which we did. It was magnificent.

Varkala beach was very rough.! High tides struck us several times. I spoke to one of the bay-watch person who pointed many mishaps in the past as a result of the rough tides.

Kollam Beach view.
Dirt beach.
I felt Varkala was far more cleaner than Kollam..! The sea water appeared yellowish due to possible Oil spillage or mix. White sand beach was transformed to black because of oil residues, I guess this has been going since quite some time now.

Kollam sea water.
Sunset view.
Black sand beach.
Since on-ward journey was tiring and not-so-pleasant, I asked the tour-guide if there were any alternate route to Bengaluru. He thought for sometime and suggested a different route. Yet again, new surprises. On the way to Bengaluru, we stopped at Palaruvi Waterfalls.

Palaruvi Waterfalls, Thenmala District.

The specialty of this place is that Men and Women have separate designated ares to enjoy the falls. It was something new to us but wasnt a problem at all.
Kerala is definitely a gifted state with beautiful landscapes. I hope they maintain it as is.

Destination: Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi.
Distance from Bengaluru: 720 kms.
Onward journey: Bengaluru--Salem--Coimbatore--Pallakkad--Thrissur--Cochin--Allapuzha--Karunagapally--Ashtamudi.
Return journey:  Ashtamudi--Kottarakara--Thenmala--Palaruvi--Rajapalyam--Madurai--Dindigul--Bangalore.

Places to visit:
Astamudi Back waters--try house boat.
Kollam beach-- 20 kms.
Varkala beach-- 50 kms.
Thenmala dam-- 70 kms.
Palaruvi waterfalls-- 80 kms.
Trivandram-- 70 kms.

Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi.
Homestays in Kollam.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

ಆಗುಂಬೆಯ ಅಜ್ಜಿ ಮನೆ.

"Where do we go now, my search is exhausted", I said. She replied- "Why should not we try Agumbe, we have never been there". I was like-- "Why didnt I think about this place earlier..!".
I nodded and told her about Ajji mane in Agumbe. It seemed interesting to her.
So, we decided to visit this place to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Agumbe is a small hamlet located just 20 kms away from Sringeri. With the amount of rain it receives during the monsoon, this place is otherwise known as Cheerapunji of south. Civilization is surrounded by thick evergreen forests with river source "Sita". Sunset point at the start of Agumbe Gaut attracts tourists from different parts of India. During monsoon nature lovers throng agumbe to experience continuous rain and vivid colors of flora.

Agumbe Dodda Mane.
This legendary house has a lot to speak. This is where episodes of Swamy and his friends of infamous Malgudi days were shot. This is where Kiccha Sudeepa's My autograph was shot. But out of all these cine facts, what caught my attention was Kasturi Ajji and her family's selfless deeds. Her family have been catering traveler's needs since decades. She prepares food and offers shelter at her ancestral big house for anyone who wishes to spend sometime in Agumbe. That's a humble gesture.!  

With much eagerness, we drove to this place after a brief interval at divine temple Sringeri
I was amused at the architecture of Dodda Mane. Such a big house with sturdy pillars, spacious rooms, a large open area to hang out with people. If you feel bored of sitting, you could dive into fresh water just across the road or go bird watching, which is even better.!

I went in search of avian beauties around dodda mane and Jogi gundi road. Trust me, it was one of the best birding experience.! Whistling thrush's melodious song, grey hornbill's call, pitta's guest appearance, hopping of orange headed thrush, woodpecker's noise..and many more.

White Bellied Woodpecker.

Yellow Wattled Lapwing.
Agumbe is a great place for birding, herping, macro photography and many adventure activities. If you have plans to visit Agumbe I certainly recommend a night stay at Dodda mane to relish delicious food and friendly hospitality.

Contact details of Dodda mane:-
Kasturi Akka : 08181-233075
Ravikumar (son-in-law): 9448603343
Food availability: Vegetarian

Places to look around: 
1: Agumbe Sunset point.
2: Jogigundi Water falls.
3: Barkhana Water falls.
4: Kundadri peak.
5: Someshwara Wild life sanctuary.
6: Sitanadi herpo camp.
7: Sitanadi white water rafting.

Date of visit: May 4, 2015