Saturday, August 5, 2017

Elephant census 2017

I had been wishing to be part of a national level nature program. It was very lucky of me to see the 3'x 2' column article about the census in the news paper, inviting applications from citizens to volunteer for the program. I arranged for a medical fitness certificate and applied for the same. 
We were intimated about the a day training program at Bannerghatta National Park. During the training we were briefed about the schedule and on field training was given to us on the  methods we were supposed to deploy during the census. 

Srimangala Ranger Office





Till May 10th , I did not get any intimation about the  range I was allotted. When checked in the group mail understood they are yet to be published and the same would reflect in Karnataka forest official web page.


Finally the list got published 3 days prior to the program. However no individual notifications came as the email id marked was wrong. 
I was allotted to Madikeri Wild Life. 
DFO Breifing

May 15- 2332hrs: Boarded the bus at Mysore road bus stand for Madikeri.  Met Kiran a fellow volunteer in the same bus.  

May 16- 0600hrs: Reached Madikeri. My friend Pavi's Cousine came and picked me up and took to Fort Mercara Hotel. Very nice boutique hotel. Took some rest there. Got freshened up. The weather was awesome .

Had breakfast at the hotel itself and moved towards Aranya bhavan. Reached by 9.15am.  The meeting finally started at 10.30am. 

The turnout of volunteers was around 50% only. Presume it was because of the communication failure. Forest college students were also there.

Three DFO's  - started their briefing about the  coming days programs and geographical details. The Range and block  allocations happened during this meeting. 


My Roomies and Team @ Kutiyala
I was  assigned to Range - Srimangala, Block  - Kutiyala. The location was around 75km away from Madikeri Aranya Bhavan. Lunch was arranged at Aranya Bhavan Guest house. Finished lunch and commenced our travel at 1.30. Reached Srimangala range office at 3.30pm.   Post debriefing from Ranger left for Kutiyala. The 3hrs drive in Bolero 4w drive Jeep through the jungle was an experience by itself. Decision to drop all other volunteers and then reach my place was wise and fruitful.





I stayed in this Anti Poaching Camp 






Reached the Anti Poaching Camp ( APC ). Met Mr Raghu the forest guard.  Sharath and Avinash were his assistants. Very warm people. Shocked to see the drinking water they were using. Bit off coloured and tasted  different- muddy flavour like the river water.  Thought how will I manage with this water.  

APC was a small two room concrete building.  Connected by Permanent power which is unpredictable. They have a solar invertor as back up.  Water from nearest water hole is pumped to the tank. No water heater :-(

Checked with Raghu on the food arrangements. As expected it was regular rice and one curry. I requested them if we can have some chicken, egg and some RUM. They agreed to get the stuff sourced from the nearest town 24km away. That was a sign of relief for me.  


Waiting for the elephants to come to water hole.



















By 9.00pm we were good to start with our drinks and the chicken. Awesome weather and good drink and great food.  Once done retired to my sleeping bag. It really came handy to avoid the cold and had a comfortable sleep. 
Viper - Very abundantly found in this region.

Machan at Tree top

























May 17:  Automatically woke up 5.30am. Very pleasant morning. Breakfast was rice pulav. Got ready and started our activity for the day - block count at 0730Hrs.  It was really hectic and physically demanding. My whole image of forest changed. There was no trail or path. Raghu was literally cutting the branches to make way through. Lots of snakes sighted - viper was common.  Leaches were in abundance. Terrain was very much hilly. Ups and downs. God it was very bad.  The water we carried got exhausted mid way only.  With no option left I started drinking water from the river. The taste difference I felt yesterday had vanished. Here the target was only to quench the thirst. The lunch was the same rice pulav we had in the morning. Could barely  eat it.




After lunch we continued our block survey. Spotted a female adult elephant around 3 pm. Could not click any pics as she was not in great mood and was charging towards us. We reached back to APC  by 5.00pm.  I was like dead tired. Freshened up fast. Had couple of drinks. Dinner was roti and chicken.  The chicken was awesome. Thanks to Sharaths cooking  skills. Retired to my sleeping bag by 2100Hrs. 

May 18: Today was line disect day. Dung count along a straight  2 km line and taking  Lat Lon readings. We were not in a hurry today. Started our day at 8.30am. Raghu had already marked the line previous week itself. Hence some work was saved. The line took us to terrains when we need to trek up and down very steep.








Went to the river enroute. Awesome landscape it was. Reached back to APC by 12noon.  Copied all the recorded reading to the submission sheets.  Lunch - Rice,sambar, egg omelet. Had a great lunch. Evening was leisure.  






May 19: Today was Water Hole monitoring day. Thought it would be very easy as we were supposed to sit at a place and monitor the water hole and make a count of the elephants coming to the water hole. We reached the spot after a small trek around 7.30Am. It had rained heavily the previous night. Leeches were in millions. The tree branches were very slippery.






Chose a location on a tree top where we can make our Machan to view the animals coming to the water hole. We sat there for 10 Hrs at  a stretch. Since it had rained heavily, no animals came to the water hole. Sitting on a tree branch for 10 hrs was really a difficult task. My patience level  was put to tests  so badly that in between i even thought  to abort the task. However I was determined to accomplish the target and did it successfully.





Once back in the APC, we contacted the Ranger and updated him the days results. He advised me that If I wish, I can submit my report at Srimangala Range office and can return home the same night. I was more than happy to hear this. Rescheduled my tickets for the night bus.

Srimangala Range Volunteers
After applying, I had a rough picture in my mind  about  this Census. Since had been to various types of Forest's was pretty confident that this activity would be a cake walk for me. However my imaginations were shattered to pieces as all the events turned out to be completely different from any of my previous experiences.

Stay: It was just meeting the basic necessity. No cot, no bed. Lots of bug noises around you always. No water heater. No European closet in the wash room. No full time water. No full time electricity. No mobile network. 25Km away from any human settlement.

Food & Water: Rice and some regular veg curry. All three meals had rice. However Raghu had helped me with some chicken and eggs  sourced from near by town during my stay. Hence saved. Water was from near by eater hole. Which gets discoloured if it rains.

This trip actually made me realise that I am blessed to be having a life what I am living. I thank almighty for the same. The value of good food and water was reiterated to me by god in this trip. I salute the Forest department personals who live in these adverse conditions and take care of our Jungles.

And lastly I thank Raghu, Bharath & Avinash for all the support and help they extended during my stay with them. Thanks you god for blessing me to be part of the program. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NavaGriha Temple Visit, Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu.

The Navagraha temples in Tamil Nadu are a cluster of Navagraha Temples dating from the Chola dynasty near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. As per Hindu legend, Sage Kalava was suffering from serious ailments along with leprosy. He prayed to the Navagrahas, the nine planet deities. The planets were pleased by his devotion and offered cure to the sage. Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, was angered as he felt that the planets have no powers to provide boons to humans. He cursed the nine planets to suffer from leprosy and were sent down to earth in Vellurukku Vanam, the white wild flower jungle - the modern time Suryanar Kovil. The planets prayed to Shiva to relieve them off the curse. Shiva appeared to them and said that the place belonged to them and they would have to grace the devotees worshipping them from the place. Each temple is located in a different village, and is considered an abode of one of the Navagrahas. However, the majority of these temples are dedicated to Shiva. The Surya temple is the only one dedicated to the Graham. In fact, it is dedicated entirely to the worship of the Sun-God and the other navagrahas, the former being the object of worship as the principal deity and the latter as attendant deities. It was built around the 11th or 12th century C.E. The other temples were built earlier, ranging back to 7th-9th century.[1
  • Surya Navagrahastalam -- Sooriyanar Kovil
  • Chandra Navagrahastalam -- Thingaloor
  • Angaarakan Navagrahastalam -- Vaitheeswaran Kovil
  • Budha Navagrahastalam -- Thiruvenkadu
  • Guru Navagrahastalam -- Alangudi
  • Sukra Navagrahastalam -- Kanjanur
  • Shani Navagrahastalam -- Thirunallar
  • Raahu Navagrahastalam -- Thirunageswaram
  • Ketu Navagrahastalam -- Keezhperumpallam


It was a sudden plan proposed by  Rajith to visit the nine temples. The Diwali holidays were starting next week. We chose the Amavasya day - 10/30 for the visit.

Rajith did all the booking online. KSRTC bus to reach Kumbakonam. From there a swift Dezire taxi to take us to all nine temples. And night back to bangalore by red bus.

As per Rajith's advise , I got my current Griha status checked. This was done so that we can do the necessary Pooja's at each temple.

10/29 - 2130Hrs - From Shantinagar bus stand we departed to Kumbakonam.

10/30 - 0530Hrs- We reached Kumbakonam. The cab was waiting for us. Driver took us to a nearby lodge where we were scheduled to freshen up. It was an old SATRAM setup, with big hall and few toilets and bathrooms. We freshened up fast and rushed to visit the temples. The lodge guy charged us RS 40 each for using their facility. Below is the sequence of the temple we visited. We had a quick breakfast after Budhan temple. We finished 8 temple visits by 1300Hrs. 1350 Hrs is the closing time for Kedhu temple.
After kedhu temple we moved towards Karaikal  Saneesvara temple. On the way we had our lunch. We went to a hotel called Sri Kandans. The food was not good. Very much rush. later we came to know that there are other  good hotels in the bus stand as well.


Chandran temple, Thingaloor
Alangudi Guru(Jupiter) Temple, Alangudi
Thirunagrshwaram (Rahu) Temple 

Suriyanar Kovil Suriyan (Sun) Temple 
Kanjanoor Sukran

Vaitheeswaran Kovil 
Budhan Temple
Sri Arulmigu Naganadha Temple - kedhu, Keelaperumpallam
Sri Saneesvar Temple, Thirunallar, Karaikal

Finished all the temple visits by 1630Hrs. The driver dropped us to the SRM bus booking office. We paid him RS 3400 for the complete trip all inclusive. Our bus was scheduled to arrive at 1945Hrs. Went to the beach  at Karaikal , 5Km away. Had our dinner at Seagulls Restaurant and Bar. Boarded up the bus by 1930Hrs. 

10/31 - 0530Hrs - Reached back Bangalore.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Mallus in Leh !

Note : My words below will not be able to justify the feel of experience we had during the trip to even 25%. You need to be there to understand how it feels. I recommend that every individual needs to go to Leh at least once in life time.


It was a sudden decision of us to plan the trip. All happened while we Met in Syed's I'ed party. I checked with Rithwik  and got the contacts. Rajith did his side  R&D  and we all finally decided to go with this service provider - Overland Escape. 
Tickets Booked. Purchased the gear from Decathlon.

Day 01/ Sept 06: Manali  - Srinagar
We reached airport by 1910 pm. The drop was sponsored by GI. Gulped couple of drinks in BIAL. Boarded the flight. Flight was full to Delhi. Reached Delhi on time. Spent some time wandering inside airport as our connection flight was at 0540 hrs to Srinagar. We found lots of empty space in airport to settle down as there not many like us there waiting. 
The utilisation of sleeping bag was done full extreme. Slept on the floor taking turns. 

Day 02/ Sept 7: Arrive at Srinagar airport  and drive straight to Kargil.

Reached airport by 7.30 am. Did our morning nature calls in airport only. They got only one american commode in clean and usable condition. We were picked up by a taxi which was only for 7 km. Then we changed to Leh taxi. Unfortunately it was a strike day at Srinagar and we not able to explore the city much. Had our break fast at Son Marg. Without waisting any more time we moved on to Kargil. 
Son marg-India gate-Zodjila pass-Vijay war memorial-Kargil hill
With Jidins help the Drinks supply was supported by forces. Kargil was a small town. We were scheduled for a stop to get acclimatised with the increasing altitude. Had couple of drinks and retired to our beds. Food was not so great. However basic requirements were met.





Day 03/ Sept 8: Kargil – Leh 230 Kms / 5-6 hrs

After Breakfast started for Leh by 0700Hrs. Enroute visited Mulbek, Giant Living Buddha Sculpture on Rock Mountain, Lamayuru, one of the oldest Monastery of Ladakh and enjoy the view of Moon Landscape. 

The drive was good. We had to believe the Magnetic Hill concept. The car was literally pulled back by the mountain.

Reached Leh by 4pm. We were feeling the altitude and lack of oxygen. Climbing few stairs was like running a mile. 
The tour operator representative came and briefed us about the trip plan. The altitude had pulled down Shivaram. Rajith tummy was upset due to the chicken we had last night. I had couple of drinks and we all went for dinner. Food was good. Retired to our bunkers by 2200hrs.  

Day 04/ Sept 9: Leh - Pangong Lake - Leh 280 Kms / 10-11 hrs

After early (0730Hrs) Breakfast left for Pangong Lake (14,500 ft) through Changla Pass 17,350 ft, it is the third highest motor-able road in the world. Arrive Pangong by 1300Hrs.  it is the highest salt water Lake in the World, shared by two countriesIndia & China.  Enjoyed the beauty of the lake on the Banks of pangong while appreciated the changing Colors and fascinating high altitude of the LakeThe various colours visible in lake contributed by the sand  was a marvel to see by itself. Spent couple of hours there. The lunch was packed and carried with us.The drive was ok. Lots of off-roading. Drove back to Leh by the same route. Altitude had literally pulled our efficiency levels . Had a quick dinner and retired to our bunkers. 


Day 05/ Sept 10: Leh - Nubra Valley 120 Kms / 4-5 hrs
We had to start early by 0700hrs for Nubra valley. Else will be stuck on the roads due to road widening activities happening en route. After Breakfast we started  to Nubra Valley via Khardungla (Highest Motorable road in the World, 18,380 ft) Arrive at Hundur by afternoon. Lunch at Camp. The lunch was made from the stuff produced in their organic garden. Every where apple trees. Fed up of eating apples ;-)  In the evening we went for the two humped camel ride. It was fun on the camel and interesting to see the sand dunes. We had a camp fire set for the night. Met couple of riders at the camp fire. Had a great evening. Finished dinner and retired to our camps.



Day 06/ Sept 11: Nubra Valley - Leh 120 Kms / 4-5 hrs
After Breakfast  we started back to leh. En route visited Deskit Monastery, where we had a magnificent view of Nubra Valley .Back to Leh by same Route, crossing Khardungla Pass. Reached by afternoon. Did some local shopping. Bought the worl famous Pashmina shawl.
Relaxed the rest of the day. 

Day 07/ Sept 12: Leh to Sarchu 250 Kms/ 10 – 11 Hrs 
Started for sarchu. Reached by 1500hrs. Our stay was in camps. The camp guys told us that we need to collect water in buckets in the night itself as morning it will be frozen. We took it lightly. However what we had in store was horrible. The temp went down to -4 deg cel. Adding to this the altitude was killing the oxygen.  The coldest night we experienced. If we have a choice we will not go back to this place. Old monk and Holister jackets were complete failure. Multiple blankets helped us to sleep for few hours. 

Day 08/ Sept 13: Sarchu – Manali 222 Kms / 9-10 hrs
Left sarchu ASAP. Target was Manali. Roads were really bad. Leh-Manali road was restricted until 1988, this rugged 472km road - 2nd highest in the world - is only open about three months per year. 


Crossed Baralacha La (4845m), lunch at Sissu village, later cross famous Rohtang Pass, 13050 ft. 
We some how wanted to reach manali. We passed through the Rohtang  pass which was fully green. By 1700 hrs we reached Manali. Checked in dragon guest house. A decent one. We were allocated a pent house to stay. As we were completely exhausted by the road travel we did nothing but relax. 

Day 09/ Sept 14: Manali  - Chandigarh 7-8 Hrs


The best sleep we had in the complete trip was in Manali. Woke up late. Checked out of the hotel after the brunch. Decided to go for JOHNSONS spa. Spend half a day taking care of ourselves. The massages and facials did really rejuvenate us. By 1900 hrs we left for Chandigarh. Our initial plan was to directly go to airport. However we reached Chandigarh airport by early morning 0400hrs. Flight was at 1140hrs. Decided to take a room to retire and freshen up. Checked in in a nearby hotel. 

Day 10/ Sept 15: Manali  - Chandigarh 7-8 Hrs 
Flew back to Blore via Mumbai.  

Stay:
01 night Hotel D’zojila  in Kargil
03 nights Hotel Pangong  in Leh
01 night Organic Retreat camp  in Nubra
01 night Deluxe camp in Sarchu
01 night Dragon Guesthouse in Manali 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Relaxing Trip to Goa








For our annual vacation this year, after sifting through various locations, we decided on Goa.

Shivaram’s family, Santhosh’s family and we started from Bangalore on 19 th Nov by bus and reached

Goa at about 10am next day. We had already made our booking in Santana Beach Resort. We reached

the resort, had breakfast and retired to the rooms. The resort was well maintained, the rooms were

spacious and had a kitchen attached as well. After relaxing for a while, we went to the beach in the

evening. It was good fun. We then had dinner was called it a day. As we had planned this vacation to

relax from our normal busy schedules, we did not make any plans to venture out.



The next morning, we finished breakfast and decided to go around the city in bikes. We hired 4 bikes

from the resort and went to Candolim beach. The beach was quite crowded. While Shivaram, Santhosh

and kids enjoyed in the beach, Meera and I went to the shack to relax for a while. We had some

prawns, chicken and crabs for lunch. As there was not much to do in the beach we rode back to the

resort and spent the evening again in the pool and beach. As the next day was my birthday we cut the

cake at midnight. It was a great birthday indeed…!



Day 3 was a relaxing day and we spent it idling at the resort. We had some late breakfast and spent

the rest of the day in the resort. Evening was again in the pool and beach. It must be said here that the

beach is the best part of the resort. It was shallow and the tides were really welcoming. We never got

bored of spending long hours in the beach. It was Santhosh’s wife Geetha’s birthday today and so we

cut another cake at midnight. We had ordered lobsters for dinner today and we totally relished it…



Day 4 was the last day of our trip and we went for the city tour organized by makemytrip. We visited

the dolphins park and the Church during the tour. As we found the tour quite tiring, we got off at

about 3pm and got into a resort in Panjim for rest of the evening. Our bus back to Bangalore was at

7pm and reached home next morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Movie Review : Bachelor Party ( Malayalam -2012-June)

The film Bachelor Party: cinematography is great. Amal Neerad did justice to only that. Apart from that I felt bored. Item number songs were torture. Songs are ok . Not recommended viewing. I would rate 1.5/5

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coonoor - A Trip to Niligiri Hills

Mar 23rd – Mar 25th


Work was taking its toll on us and what we needed was a rejuvenating break and what Coonoor offered was exactly that. It had been while since we had gone for a trip and so Shivaram’s family and we decided to venture out during the Ugadi weekend. We originally planned to go to Chikmagalur but as the weather was too hot there, finalized on Coonoor.

We browsed through a number of resorts listed in tripadvisor and found that the best reviews were for Sun Valley resorts. We enquired about the availability on 11th Mar and confirmed the booking on 13th. By now, Santhosh and family decided to join us as well.

Day 1

On Friday 23rd Mar, we started from Bangalore at 6AM. The weather was perfect and our holiday started with a cool drive under the rising sun….one of those rare mornings where we stopped to watch the sun rise. On the way we stopped at Bidadi for breakfast, where we filled ourselves with some awesome hot Thatte idly. There were no stops thereafter until Coonoor.

We took the Bangalore –Mysore – Gundlupet – Mudumalai –Masinagudi – Ooty – Coonoor route. The drive through the forest was exciting though we didn’t expect to sight any animals. The roads were good but the ghat section from Mudumalai till Ooty was quite a steep and tedious drive. We reached Ooty at about 1 30PM and Coonoor by 2PM. We waited near the Coonoor railway station from where Michael (from the resort) came to direct us till the resort. We were famished by the time we reached and all we could think about was food. Before we could feel the cool air and absorb the serenity, we gathered ourselves for lunch. The food was really awesome in South Indian style with sambar, rasam, rice and chicken curry.

We then checked into our rooms, which require a special mention here…they were fabulous and very well maintained. The furnishings were really good and the rooms were well ventilated. The view was perfect, overlooking the tea plantations and the town below. Our rejuvenation had begun…..

From the start, we had planned on not keeping the trip packed with visiting places. We spent the evening in the resort, relaxing around camp fire and just enjoying the weather. Again had some yummy dinner and looked forward to the next day.



Day 2

As planned…we didn’t have any big plans for the day, though the one thing we did not want to miss after coming to Coonoor was the ride on Nilgiri Express…the train that has set the mood in a lot of Indian movies and was part of everybody’s dream of a hill station. The train was starting from Coonoor at 1215PM. We had a late breakfast at the resort (bored of saying how awesome the food was…again…!!) and started to the railway station. The itinerary was to take the train to Ooty and to immediately return in the same train, which had a stopover of about 15min before heading back. We got into the train and it started chugging along at 1215PM and immediately the mood was changed. Though the train was crowded and noisy, it didn’t stop us from enjoying the beauty of the Nilgiris unfurling itself outside. It was now that it dawned on us they we were going to Ooty- The Queen of Hill Stations and how could we return without enjoying her, though it may be only for a short while. So we reworked our plans and decided to stay back for a few hours in Ooty before taking the last train back to Coonoor.
The experience on the Nilgiri Express was truly special. She rode along the hills taking each turn slowly so that we could fill our eyes with the beauty underneath. It was a nostalgic trip for all of us as we had only heard about the tunnels and views of the Nilgiris in our childhood and this was like all those images coming to life in front of us. We reached Ooty at 130PM and headed straight for lunch. We then decided to go for the boating in the lake.

It was quite sunny though not particularly hot. Being Ugadi holiday, the boating place was crowded. We still managed to get the tickets and took an eight seater ride around the lake. It was beautiful. The greenery around was mind blowing. The place was swarming with people and we couldn’t help but imagine what a beauty this place once would have been. This felt like one of those tragedies that men inflicted upon nature, where her eternal beauty was replaced with cement buildings, shops and crowd.

It was almost 4 by now and our last train back to Coonoor was at about 600PM. After boating we spent some time lazing around – the kids enjoyed a few rides and we started back to the station. One word of caution here, the queue for taking tickets for the train is really long and so it is better to reach the station well in advance to avoid standing in the queue for too long or taking the risk of missing the train. We took the 1st class tickets for our way back and enjoyed the ride back in the coupe.

We reached the resort by 730PM, feeling refreshed in mind, but tired in physique. Again, we relaxed by the camp fire for a while, had dinner and retired for the day.

Day 3

We were scheduled to start back to Bangalore in the afternoon. We had late breakfast and relaxed in our rooms. Brinda and kids enjoyed a walk and few photo sessions in the tea plantation. By then it was time for lunch and start our journey back. We picked up some homemade chocolates from Ooty as well.

While returning, we took the Ooty – Gudalur – Gundlupet – Mysore – Bangalore route. Although this route was longer than the earlier route, the view was amazing and it was worth every extra kilometer we drove. The tall eucalyptus trees and the beautiful view of the Nilgiris provided a real treat to the eyes. We also sighted some elephants and deer along the way...would recommend this route to anybody who wants to really enjoy their drive back. We reached Gudlupet, took a short break at CafĂ© Coffee day headed to Mysore.

Sharing few  moments we enjoyed together ....click here

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Trip to Sri Lanka , The Pearl of the Indian Ocean


Thanking ....
Mrs&Mr Zukkur for all the help and support provided for inland transport and accommodation in Sri Lanka.

Plan :
Oct 20,2011 - Departing Bangalore - TUTICORIN EXP - 2100Hrs.
Oct 21,2011 - Arriving Tuticorin - 1100Hrs.
Oct 21,2011 - Departing India - Check-in Flemingo Liners - 1400Hrs.
Oct 22,2011 - Arriving Sri Lanka - Check out Flemingo Liners - 800Hrs.

Oct 29,2011 - Departing Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan Airlines - 1835Hrs.
Oct 29,2011 - Arriving India, Bangalore - 1955Hrs.

Our Travel:
IRCTC - Indian Railways .
Star Destinations India - Flemingo Liners Pvt. Ltd
SriLankan Airlines

Our Stay:
Bell Hotel Tuticorin, 23 South, Tuticorin 628 001, India.
Kassapa Lions Rock ,Digampathaha ,Kimbissa, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.
Glendower Hotel ,5 Grand Hotel Rd, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.
Ruhunu Safari Village, Gurugoda, Yala, Sri Lanka .
Sunils Beach Hotel,Galle Road,Narigama, Hikkaduwa 82020, Sri Lanka.
Hotel Renuka ,328 Galle Road,Colombo 3, Colombo, Sri Lanka.



Shivaram's family and we decided to go for a week long trip to Sri Lanka about 4 months back. After a lot of discussion on the dates, we zeroed in on the Diwali week due to the long festival holidays. Our friend Mr. Zukkur from Sri Lanka helped us in organizing the itinerary and advised us on the places of visit. To add to the excitement we looked into the possibility of taking a ship to Colombo. Our wish was granted - Flemingo liner services – “Scotia Prince” plying from Tuticorin to Colombo.



Day 1 - 20 Oct: 2100Hrs - Boarded the Pearl City Express from Bangalore to Tuticorin .

 


Day 2 - 21Oct: Reached Tuticorin the at about 1100Hrs. Took a taxi to bell hotel where we had booked our halt for freshening up.We checked into Bell hotel for a couple of hours to freshen up before leaving for the port. The place was good. People were very nice and food was great. The same taxi guy picked us up and took to the port. Scheduled check in was about at about 1400Hrs. The Tuticorin Port is 12 kms from the railway station. Orange gate was the one for passengers. The check in process in the port was slow and severe with the passport checked and baggage's scanned a number of times. Finally we got into the ship at about 1500Hrs .

 

It was a new and exciting experience for all of us to go on a cruise. The ship had good facilities including a casino and bar. The rooms were well maintained and we had a good time in the evening on the deck enjoying the sailing. Welcome drink and Complimentary snacks were provided as we checked in the reception of the ship. The ship started sailing at 1800Hrs. Initially due to the sea motion we felt a sort of instability and later on it was fine. Duty free and casino starts after sailing 12 nautical miles called International waters.

Once we were in international waters , had couple of drinks and moved on for dinner. The food was fine. We returned back to bar and continued our drinks waiting for the clock to tick12 as it was my birthday next day. Raised few toasts on my birthday and we all retired to our bunkers. We had opted for deluxe rooms with toilet and shower. The rooms were really nice.




Day 3 - 22Oct: Breakfast was served in the ship. We reached the Colombo Port at about 800Hrs.But the emigration and clearance was slow and tiring It was about 1100Hrs by the time we came out.


The vehicle arranged by our friend Mr Zukkur was waiting for us with pluck cards mentioning our names.

 Jagath was our pilot for the trip. We all were so hungry that it was unanimous thought to fill in our tummies. We converted few USD to LKR. Went to McDonald's and had a great brunch. From here we set our course to Sigiriya, our first place of visit, which was about 170kms from Colombo.

Our accommodation was booked in Kassappa Lion Rocks. The resort was good, though we had some difficulty locating it as there were no signboards. There was a complimentary cake from the hotel as it was my B'day. We celebrated again in the night with lot of Deviled Chickent. Couple of Tripple distled arrack added the icing to the cake.

 

Day 4 - 23 Oct : We woke up quite late and it was raining heavily. The plan was to go to the Sigiriya rock in the morning. Due to rains  we cancelled the trip to the rock and headed to the Dambulla temples. These temples date back to 1st Century BC. There are five caves here and they house some of the most amazing Buddha statues. We spent about a couple of hours in the caves and headed to our next destination – Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is a hill station and was a 100km drive from Dambulla. We had booked our stay in Hotel Glendower. The hotel was really nice and well maintained. The place was also really beautiful with greenery and the typical hill station views. It was almost 2200Hrs by the time we reached our hotel and hit the bed straight away as it was a long drive  uphill.
visit – The tea factory ( Pedro Estate) and Ambewela Farms. The tea factory was closed by the time we reached and hence Day 5 - 24Oct : We went to the lake side and went for boating. The boating was quite enjoyable and then the kids went for horse riding. After that we ventured in to the Nuwara Eliya local market There were some really good stuff priced cheaply, we did not purchase much though. It was raining quite heavily and the fog was too dense. Without wasting any more time we set out to the next places of we went to the farms directly. We had to walk quite a distance from where we parked our car to the cow shed. As the place was covered with mist and it was really cold. Our walk through the farm was really enjoyable. They were breeding cows and goats imported from Netherlands and it was an interesting experience to see the animals being fed and processing of milk. That was the last stop for the day and we headed back to our hotel to relax.

Day 6 - 25 Oct: We set out early at about 8am as we had to visit the tea factory that was open only between 800Hrs- 1000Hrs. We got to see how the leaves are plucked, dried, cut and processed to make tea leaf / powder. Spent some time in the tea plantation, had some tea they served us and headed to our next destination – Yala. Nuwara Eliya to Yala was again a long drive of about 200kms. Our accommodation in Yala was inside the forest and this was perhaps the best place of our visit. Our stay was at Ruhunu Safari village. The resort  was small and well maintained. We were the only guests there and that made it all the more exciting. The best thing about this place was the whole set up itself. A hotel inside the forest and beside a beach…! We normally don’t imagine a forest and beach together and this was exactly that. However the sea here was quite rough and won’t really qualify for a holiday type beach. Nonetheless, it was exciting to have a whole beach to yourself…! We spent the evening in the beach and went back to our rooms once it was dark. The food here was very good as well even though the options were limited.Day 7 - 26Oct : Today was the safari to Yala National Park and we started early at 500Hrs. We saw and captured some outstanding pictures of sunrise at the beach. The safari lasted for about 3hrs and it was an amazing experience. The wild life was really active in the morning and we got to see most of the animals  in the forest except the ever elusive wild cat. Apparently Yala has the highest density of leopards in Asia.We were not lucky enough. Nevertheless, it was nice seeing Peacocks in their full bloom, Land monitors, Crocodiles lurking around the corner of swamps, Jackals, Elephants, Wild Hens, Wild Rabbits and all the wild life in full glory. We were back in the resort by about 1000hrs. Had breakfast and checked out to our next destination – Hikkaduwa.

Hikkaduwa was another 150kms from Yala. We reached by around 1500Hrs. (On the way we stopped near a small waterfall.) We were staying at Sunil’s Beach hotel, the worst place of stay during our visit. It seemed more like a senior citizens cottage with all the waiters and most of the guests being well above 60. The rooms were not great, food was bad and the pool was dirty. The only good thing about this place was the beach, where we spent most of the evening. For dinner, we were in no mood to eat from the same place and so ventured out to find an eat out and ended up in a small restaurant where they served some amazing chicken and paneer “rotty”. Back to the hotel and end of the day .

 

morning, after having breakfast it was decided not to continue our stay there and started to Colombo. Day 8 - 27Oct : The original plan was to stay in Hikkaduwa for 2 nights and then check out to Colombo. That Fortunately rooms were available in Colombo a day in advance. We started at about 110Hrs.On the way we visited the sea turtle hatchery. It was quite informative. We purchased some souvenirs and reached Colombo by 1500Hrs. We had booked our accommodation in Renuka Hotel. It was a good one, typically serving the corporate visitors we suppose. That evening we walked few streets in the city and had dinner in a small joint.

really cheap and you get good branded stuff. We shopped till evening and went for RA.One that night. Day 9 - 28Oct: The next morning we set out for shopping. Colombo is a great place to shop for clothes as its Probably the worst disaster after Sunil’s Beach Hotel was RA.One during our trip. Bad movie.

Day 10 - 29Oct: This being the last day of our trip, we spent the day relaxing and packing. The flight was at 1800Hrs and we started to the airport by 1500Hrs.

you can make the most of it only if at least a week is spent there.It felt like a long trip when we started off, but in the end it was over really quick and we were back in Bangalore on 29th night. We had a great time in Sri Lanka and it was an enriching experience to get a peek into their culture and life. We would definitely recommend a holiday to Sri Lanka to anybody, but


Thanking again Mrs.& Mr. Zukur for helping to organize such a wonderful trip. We would have been lost without their immense help in booking accommodation and without the car that you provided us with..!!




Photographers :  Brinda Shivaram, Meera Menon and Radhish Kurup