Category Archives: travel
Proximity of a country at walking distance rarely arrives when you are stationed in a big country like USA. The closeness to the international border was not thought to be as close. I never had a chance to cross an international border by foot. It would have been a big tragedy, remembering the partition of India and people crossing by foot the newly created international border at that time.
The understanding between countries help the people in the border and is great boon to random tourists like me who is in Buffalo for some other reason, studying, rather than tourism.
The chill factor of summer lets the mind go random and for me it was the desire to cross the country by walk. Being an international student on F1 Visa in the USA I applied for Canada visa. Duly received it. Like a good new generation guy, showed it to friends, updated in facebook, planned my international travel and executed it.
I put it on Google Maps, took a print out, in case the phone becomes unresponsive.
I had to be double careful to have all documents in hand so that I can have my journey with no issues at the two entry points, viz Canada and USA. I got to downtown Buffalo as one of my friends were heading to Buffalo General Hospital. I started walk from Buffalo General to Mather Park, Fort Erie, Ontario.
I had to be sure that I am not going the wrong way. Since , google shows the shortest route for walking, it is better and energy-conserving to follow the path. I had to refer to the printed page of map in between just to make sure that I am going in the right direction.
On the way i was happy to see the Allentown arts festival. Allentown has its own history in Buffalo. Though it cannot boast of hundreds and thousands years of heritage as we do back in India, it still has something in it. There was some Latin American music on the street with the traditional drums and their unique beats. There were shops the completely took over the roads. Traffic was blocked for these two days. June 11 and 12, 2016. My plan was to have a short stay at the Mather Park , Ontario and return before night. The distances mentioned in miles in the maps can be misleading to the unfamiliar eyes and legs. 3.2 miles shown in the map is 5.1 km. This is not a normal casual walk. Luckily , there are many parks on the way where i could sit and relax. My first stop was at Symphony Circle. I had been there, have walked till there to attend the Kick off meeting of the pre-seed workshop. Unlike India, where you can walk anywhere and piss anywhere, here, the possibility of public urination is zero, a public offense. So, I was told that all shops have restroom and I could ask permission and have the job done, in case it was needed. After a 10 minutes rest at the symphony circle for the unacquainted legs, I continued. From symphony circle I continued walking, the temperature was perfect for a walk. Not too hot, not too cold, the Goldilocks standards of sorts .
After the prospect park , before the front park I take a right and it goes all the way under the bridge, this is the path for pedestrians and bikes (cycles). I see the peace bridge from under the bridge and take a turn to approach the turnstile date to the peace bridge.
I was wondering if they would be checking my documents at the R.F Willson Administrative Building. I waited and an officer told me I could go and on returning press the button at the door of the building to get the documents checked. So I had the walk. The walk to Canada was under construction. I saw that some nice infrastructure is coming up. But the entry point to Canada at the current condition for pedestrians is not so welcoming. There was a big queue of vehicles which wanted to pass through the inspection. I was on the fastest mode, since I was the only pedestrian there.
The officers at Canada border were very helpful. Though I was this strange lone guy walking to another country. They were very pleasant and approachable. They told me how to walk to Mather Park with a cool walk along the river side. The Waterfront trail had lot of seagulls and kingfisher birds busy getting their lunch and hanging out. Another strange and old friends that I found there were the mosquitoes. I was like a magnet attracting almost all the mosquitoes on my pant. I had a busy time shooing and beating them to death. International Crime under the Peace Bridge! These were some very hungry mosquitoes with very less momentum and energy. They should go to Kochi and learn the tricks of their trade. I had a few clicks of the Peace Bridge from the Waterfront Trail, Canada. And kept walking to the Mather Park.
I was the only person at the Mather Park on Sunday evening. I found company with a spider who had the whole park bench for itself. If the spider was on airbnb I would paid generously. For it was a very satisfying, heart-filling feel of having accomplished something. Looking from the spider’s kingdom at Mather Park, the peace bridge, so near and was so busy but did not affect me. Peace was mine!
I stayed there for some time. Enjoyed singing my songs. Had the light breeze and the fresh air on me. After some time , with enough rest, I started back. As the officer had suggested there was an approach to bridge from the Mather Park. The stop sign read in English and French. Reminded me of the railway level crossing at Vepagunta. And then the international peace bridge. more pictures to swank were taken. I said ‘Hi’ to the construction worker who adjusted the traffic cones for the change of signals over the bridge. Canada, entered the international boundary line and entered USA all within 30 seconds. The bridge was again full of trucks, the smell of diesel was bad enough to spoil the mood. The vastness of river , the seagulls and the swimming ducks tried to compensate for it. The wind tried hard to take away the unpleasant smell. The bridge rattled as the vehicles passed through, with the power of wind there is an illusions that you are swaying and moving, a nice experience.
I officially entered the USA after the inspection at the Administrative building. There was this biker who had come biking from the beach. An inspiration to go biking to Canada next time. I walked to Allen Station NFTA Metro , and took metro to my home. The total expense, other than the visa, of the international trip was due to this $2 USD.
I am a student in University at Buffalo (UB). I have been to the Niagara Falls, USA on the orientation trip @$12 organized by UB. That was is August 2015. And then at that time the driver of the chartered bus used to caution us not to go too near the river as the flow rate is too high to survive safe. Also, we were the caution of not to cross the bridge come what may. Because then, as an International Student on F1 visa, without documents , If I went across I cannot enter back USA; and start my studies!
Buffalo and Niagara Falls are so close, also the visa to Canada is kind of affordable, many Indians (Bharathiya) came with it when they entered the USA. Better late, I could apply for it from here, Buffalo. It is the summer vacation. And there is enough time to engage in such indulgence. The Canada visa centre in Buffalo is closed and the processing goes through NYC (or LA if you choose to). Buffalo, NY is so close to NYC , LOL!
How I applied ?
I applied online at Canada Government website. There is fee to be paid almost $78. I do not have any relatives or friends in Canada. So as support document, I attached why I wanted to visit Canada, to visit the Niagara Falls from Ontario, of course. After a few days the website sends email updates on status of application. This turned to “Passport requested”. And then I searched on net, where and what to send. This took some time to understand. This is because the Visa Application Centre(VAC) for Canada in NY is through CSC, not the embassy. And there is a fee to be paid $ 31 (no card payment online, the CSS VAC website for details, or call them for more information). Here, the fee along with proof of payment, copy of consent form and application number goes to the CSC centre in Pittsburgh, PA, while the passport , signed consent form, passport request document need to go to NYC. This has to be in Prepaid Airway Bill, which is prepaid post (Indian English). US postal service (USPS) people know what the former is. In UB Bookstore, the USPS personnel know about this, because all the time someone would apply to get the Canada VISA in this way. The Prepaid Airway Bill comes with a tracking option. Priority Mail is written on the hard envelope. One envelope to send the passport, another is folded and kept inside it with the return address mentioned. This is the prepaid post! The total postal charges was $ 14.
I had forgotten to add some of the mentioned documents. The NY VAC will send details on missing documents if any. I send these via email to them. And in about a week and half (15 days) I received the visa on passport in hand.
Total charges for the visa (including postal charges from Buffalo) = $123.
This may be cheaper in India, depending on the location from which you are applying. Please check the corresponding process for visa application in India. Probably a good thing to consider once you get the USA visa process done.
I read the following blogs for reference to Canada side of Niagara Falls. This may become useful soon.
There was no irregular ornate reason for a hiatus from regular work. It was plain as useful, the life of a degree-holder, a call for test at IIT Hyderabad.
How a three-letter acronym can cause a flummoxed discernment about persona and attitude was depicted here.
Coming back to more recent visit I see that those were the exact reasons for the trip. There could be no other reason, except the three letters. The mystic magnetism of the letters are inexplicable, beyond materialistic achievement. I had applied to CCRAN project place because of a colleague, for whom the institute is nearby. This was a dream for him, OK a demi-semi dream. As you may expect the journey was not without the thrills of any other Indian travel.
I had read the interview/test call very late, this had come via email. The complete application was through email. Then I had with me two wait listed tickets, forward and return, both of which got confirmed before chart preparation. Waking up in the morning was no big deal. It was only then I realised, that India is united in a culture, a common culture, of procrastination and delay. The train suppossed to reach Secunderabad in the wee hours in the morning was 40 minutes late. Some people crawled back to their berths. Some mused over the consequences of the situation, more complacent listened to music, had coffee, tea and chatted.
At Secunderabad, the train went to Platform 1, a blessing for the regular travellers. Even though, first time in the place, I was assured about the lingua-franca of the place, Hindi. I could with some enquiry get the direction to Patancheru. The bus route no. 219 starts there just left after the HP petrol pump. From there I boarded the shattering bus. What I noticed is most buses had their headline as “RTC” to the right. What was “APSRTC” got reduced to “RTC”. Some new small buses had “TSRTC” as their heading. There were some APSTC also plying. On the way I could see JNTU Kukatpally, MSME tool room and some shops and places. The air was dusty but cool. Road was not great but usable. Patancheru was INR 17 from Secunderabad. I got down there.
From here, I took a bus route No. 502 via Shankarpally. This was a nice trip, it went through some villages and farmlands, Industrial units and Ordnance Defence Factory. The road was wide enough for a single bus. The ride was rattling and very uneven. There were some smallf factories here and there. In between some houses poked their faced from out of nowhere, the road continued. A lot of school students boarded the bus at on village (Pasamailaram) they all got down at ODF. Further, the bus moved to an unassuming junction with a small building. There were a few yellow school buses, only the buses read IIT Hyderabad. The building was the temporary campus on IIT-H.
After getting down, I followed some guys who, apparently, were hungry. They were in search of canteen, found answer from security and boarded one of those yellow buses, just about to reverse and start off towards hostel, later I learned. The next stop at a complex, there was food corner, with Rs 20 for 3 Idlis. We got the bus back to IITH, and then there was the wait. Signing at the gate, waiting in a room, drinking water, visiting restroom, getting sleep, chatting and chatting.
Then there was exam for CS and EC- Communication stream question papers were ready. For EC- microelectronics and VLSI track the question papers came later. Again wait. Exam started at noon ended after noon. Hungry, I visited the IIT H hostel, of course on recommendation from exam conductor, for lunch. There was only a snacks and tea shop in the temporary site. The yellow bus took me to hostel for lunch. It was not a typical IIT hostel mess. My experience at IIT B and IIT M were grossly more satisfying and sumptuous food. Compared to those, this was just the normal dal, chawal ( rice), roti, dry fried oily vegetable, pappad, pickle and curd. This cost INR 45.
I went back to IITH roamed all the corridors, drank a lot of water, got to sit at the ground, steps and in the testing classroom for longtime, then the eventual sleep. By 1700 they announced result for microelectronics and VLSI stream, 5 got shortlisted. In Communication stream also same number but since their exam started early the result came early too. CS was MCQ based test which announced the shortlist of 3 candidates just after 1400 hours. Since I was out of the game and having no way to escape, and as planned, had to stay to get a proper train the next day. I stayed. Thanks to my friend who extended grand hospitality.
The day passed trying to figure out how to see most of hyderabad at least time. Must see places were Charminar and Mecca masjid, Chowmahallah Palace and Salar Jung museum. Chilkur Balaji came as a last-minute plan while Birla Mandir was very hopeful. I started very early morning. Got an auto-rickshaw to cover distance of tens of kilometer from Shankarpally to Langar house. Langar house was the first point were I could get a bus to Chilkuru Balaji temple. The autorickshaw which ran in shared basis had at max 6 people at one point. Through out I saw the land divided by road. On sides of the road men and women cycling and running, jogging and walking. A few waited for the auto and the elusive bus. Though I did see one bus coming opposite.
There is a better faster way to reach . The path being Shankarpally – > Yenikapally -> Chilkuru , all by auto. But there was no auto running in this route. A bus was sleeping at Chevella route from Shankarpally.
Way to Chilkuru Balaji Temple
From Langar house I crossed the road and immediately got 288D to Chilkuru Balaji Temple
It took 45 minutes from Langar house to Chilkuru Balaji Temple at INR 19 in JNNURM bus. The road was very good. At the last stop at Temple there was a small moving crowd. There were vendors and shops all trying to make business. Starting with coconut, flowers, shoe stand, curios and transgenders who begged.
Shoe stand at the corner had water taps to clean feet after depositing footwear at INR 3. Inside the temple there is a cloak room, to keep luggage and mobile at INR 5. Fill up the bill receipt and then pay deposit the belongings and then I entered. There was check by the police department. Inside the temple there is restroom facility at INR 3. There was a circumambulation by crowd, praying and chanting. Some were sitting. The crowd was smooth without hitting each other. The priest was extremely good telling people what to chant and the meaning of it. He spoke English too. The chants were in Telugu. After darshan there is thirtham and kalkandam(sweetmeat) given plus some telugu devotional literature, which I did not take. The temple is known for the Visa balaji who helps with visa troubles of the devotees. There was no facility to donate money there, no hundi (bhandaram). I had know such problems but a visit to the Visa god was good. I had breakfast after darshan. I waited for Mehdipatnam bus and got seat in it as soon as one started.
288D took me to Mehdipatnam. From the same stop I could get 65/66 series to charminar. There was 65M small bus direct to Charminar Bus stand. In the bus I saw charminar at a distance and completed a 180 degree around, all the while seeing the Charminar, and ended very near to it. I had to ask the conductor where to get down to move to Charminar. She replied that I had to go for the last stop. There is a functional urinal at bus stand.
I walked to Charminar. Some guys were selling sunglasses at cheap price. There was a moving queue at the entrance. The entry fee by ASI was INR 5. The security cleared the ticket and all entered at one pillar. The steps were not too easy nor too steep. Only climb upto half the height was allowed. The later half was blocked for visiting. I had a good look around. The old calling bell and carvings and the central area’s view from the half-top view. Small closed rooms where all closed, some served as storage for the present Charminar cleaner’s paraphernalia. I could ask the security about Mecca masjid, the view of which from Charminar is good. Only inside the mosque non-muslims had not entry.
Everybody exited from the diagonal pillar down. There was a small fountain at central area with potted plants. Around there were places to sit at the steps and there were benches. Some huge potted plants that reminded of Roman-movie like setting were also seen. The area of Charminar was fenced away from the road on for sides.
Then I walked to Mecca masjid. Here, there was facility to keep the luggage, in cloak room, after checking, at INR 10. There was a pool were people brushed and cleaned. Many pigeons flocked at the entrance. The footwear removed, I entered the tomb area. An uninvited guide tried to guide me around, telling me all the muslim names and hierarchy of the buried. One thing I remember is, the tomb with green cloth on was of a King who became a Sufi saint. All tombs with projected are that of men, the flat ones are of women. Then outside there was lot of pigeon shit. Through this we walked to the Masjid front. He told about the chandeliers which used to have candles burned for light, now covered with cloth. He gave a number on how many could sit and pray there. I had not seen a mosque open and so near. There was a boy sitting inside and reading. The guide said in a few hours it will be prayer time. On the Charminar side there were to big benches. One was granite from Persia , the black one, the other of white marble was from Rajasthan. The guide said if you sit on Black one there is chance to visit Hyderabad again. He told that the middle arch above which red bricks with lines were used was build with stoned from Mecca. On either side there is a copy which is of local origin. I paid the guide away. Or rather he was busy to finish and catch another poor fellow.
I continued to Chowmahallah palace. From Mecca masjid, cam out, walked opposite to Charminar, took first right, walked straight till dead end, and turned left and walked on to meet Chowmahallah Palace entrance. The entrance looks very small and expectations about the palace was proven wrong later. Entry fee was INR 40. There was space to deposit luggage, metal detector checking, restroom and snacks and tea area. Inside there was a pool with fountain. Some birds enjoyed the water. There was a small building whose entrance faced the pool. There were 2 entrances to this place. The building housed many articles. On the walls there was neatly arranged history of the Nizams, hyderabad rulers. Photographs. Swords. Palanquins. Various weapons, collectibles, crockery, more photos and it went on. There was a lady-sweeper who held the brromstick like sword , resting after a long-sweep, near the King’s seat. V. Unfortunate I ‘d only my eyes as capturing device. Visitors were not allowed near the seat. There were many rooms filled and neatly arranged with royal dresses, books, Quran copies, textiles, Kalamkari art, and very many things. I thought that was all. But that only the beginning. There was a second courtyard, with more buildings more things, furniture et al. I thought that was all, but then there was one more area where Vintage cars were displayed. The total palace premise were kept neat, with enough restrooms, drinking water facility and other amenities. On the way back there was a photographer near to the office, who provided photos with royal costumes and backgrounds.
Out of the palace I headed to Afzal jung by SETWIN bus. They do not give ticket. The conductor takes the money and crowds the bus. I got down at afzal jung, walked over the bridge, took a left turn, walked straight, on the right after the museum exit gate came the entry gate. Here, again, there was luggage room, to deposit luggage for free, ticket was INR 10. I knew the museum visit would take minimum 2 and half hours. I headed to the food court, which required asking the way around. The lunch (meal) was 111 INR. By the look of the setup I understood that it is typical money-squeeze format of food court. There was place to sit outside in the garden. I could notice that the bill had INR 14 as tax. I took enough time to roam around. There was place to sit,rest to eat and to roam about.
As a security told me that Birla Mandir opens at 1600 and takes minimum 45 minutes from Afzal Jung stop, and my train departure being at 1650 at Hyderabad station, I dropped that idea. I dedicated the time for the museum.
Attractions at Salar Jung Musuem
Veiled Rebecca – intricate intriguing work with marble that makes the veil look very real, like cloth
The Clock – There is a clock in display in ground floor, make sure to check at each hour where the drummer comes. In chowmahllah palace there is more elaborate clock with King looking left and right with his court members and chiming 4 times. The French gallery in Western block had a large collection of clocks.
Elephants Everywhere – There is elephant in clock collection, ivory works, walking sticks and wooden carvings. No other animal had these many variety of base medium for representation
It was nice to know that even king’s used pencil-case.
In the western block, western countries’ collection is displayed.
Chinese colours, belgium bluem red and green coloured utensils are very interesting.
Bohemian art was also interesting.
Jaded Art gallery had diamond studded swords and weapons, the beauty of which drowns at the thought of their maleficent usage. Except possible one item the Noorjahan’s fruit knife. This was purely for the most peaceful act of eating.
Chinese fruit tray with fish picture was confusing, why any fruit lover would eat from a plate with fish picture on it. If the person wanted fish he could use it as fish plate. I don’t know about Chinese but definitely am curious ask one about this idea of fruit plate.
Some Chandeliers on display had lights which looked like upside down glasses. There were many variety of glass works, with different hues and colours. A chemistry enthusiast may enjoy it more to guess and find out only a few colours were prominent, what metals and compounds made up the colour and so on.
LED lights fixed under some glass work which gave it a surreal look.
Venetian gold and enamel works were nice.
Porcelain toys of the west, Chinese toys, Japanese dolls in the eastern section, Indian toys from Kondapally village, German porcelain soldiers all were a treat to the eyes.
Textile works of Kalamkari style, The embroidery of polar bear on silk and Dogs in the forest were excellent.
In addition to all this collection the exhibition area hosted Asit Kumar Haldar Exhibition of painting in Bengali school of art.This reminded me of my trip to Cholamandalam Arts Village, Injambakkam. That is another story in itself.
To Nampally (a.k.a Hyderabad station)
Finally, I started to Hyderabad station from Afzal Jung stop. But no one would agree on a single name for the station. Everyone whom I asked said “There are many stations in Hyderabad- Secundarabad, Nampally and so on, which one you want to go ?”. I was dumbfounded when I ultimately reached the station. The Nampally – Hyderabad station, which was 15 minutes from museum by bus , was hidden and there was no direction indicators. At Chowmahallah palace there is a photo of King inaugurating the Secunderabad railway station. That King opened the main station (having 11 + platforms) and people do not identify the smaller namesake Hyderabad station! It is Nampally station. Then why not name it so?
To my luck my train was at 4th platform which is the platform to which one enters from the road. There is bag check, scanning and security. All made safe. From Hyderabad station to Secunderabad I saw many beautifully built local train stations. At Necklace road station I could have a nice long view of the hussain sagar lake. By the time it reached the James street the sewage entering the lake is more clear with smell. As the darkness crept in my sight seeing of Hyderabad ended. The time was good for rest with a berth for sleep and mind replayed the journey in a relaxed state.
An additional day of cool off time, paved way for the day to think on an expedition. With many blogs and websites that help to see the unseen we decided on a trip to Ubbalamadugu waterfalls. The nearest waterfall that one can get to from Chennai. It needs some patience to climb the rocky paths to reach it. And the falls, itself looks like a slightly huge shower,under which you can stand and not get washed away. You can experience, feel and drink from the falls, due to its moderate force and small size.
We were a bunch of lazy guys trying to cool off on a rather unassuming day. So we got on a 0730 train from Chennai Central Suburban station (MMC) towards Sullurpeta (SPE). Tada railway station was almost 2 hours away. We could sleep, talk, and listen to music, and look around in the typical bachelor style of operations and movements.
Tada marks the border of Andhra Pradesh (2014) and Tamil Nadu state borders. But it has no grand welcome or exit messages. on reaching Tada, we had our breakfast and then went to the mayhem outside, that was the least welcoming for a tourist, in the form of share autos and other autos. The auto drivers were all enthusiastic, full of energy and ready to bargain. We started asking about the charges for to and fro the waterfalls (Forest Gate). Their estimates were all a solid INR 800 plus. Some drivers asked whether we wanted to go to toddy shop. We had a good laugh over it. And found a better way to proceed. We decided to go to the nearby bus stop and get ourselves as far as the public buses would go. We got to Tada bus stop,near Tada market, from there we took bus to Varadiah Palem. At Varadiah Palem, it was learned that there was no us to the place we wanted to go. So we have to resort to some auto. Without expertise of Telugu speakers in the group of 5, we do not know how we would have bargained. But the bargain was not as expected. The auto driver was contumacious, and we had to stick to what price he had put, at INR 450 for to and fro. So we proceeded, the auto-driver suggested to buy and eat or store whatever required from Varadiah Palem, nothing would be available at the forest, the canteen which was there is also closed.
At the Forest gate, there was a shed under which some guards in khaki uniform rested. On seeing the auto , they came up. Some officials, were noticed, to be sitting with some papers under the shed. The guards who came up asked us about the bags, and requested to open it up. They check whether we are hiding liquor. Camera charges are to be paid at INR 50 per camera. Our auto driver paid for our entry and for the auto-rickshaw parking, after a shaky rocky ride. Then we moved on to the parking spot. From where, we have start on our foot. We saved the auto-drivers phone number and the auto number. We told him our estimate of return. He had put up his time to return as 1400. We had reached there after 1100.
We met some steps built over a stream. We crossed it and started with photo sessions. The water in the stream was cool. And then the feet that are unused to walking have to start walking, over the stream, rocky trail. And the trail become more rocky. Some nice view of mountain tops. And then we moved on, it was the end of winter on March 2. The climate was pleasant and cool. It was not dusty and we could listen to some birds singing out. Then we met another stream, where flow was more. We had emptied our bottles into sweat, bottles were filled at the running portion of the small river. Then we noticed that there were some empty discarded plastic bottles and some socks in the water. The rocks in the stream were like large pebbles, there were still some small ones that one could pick up as a souvenir.
We moved on, there was nothing to do about the waste in the forest, for we are also new here, but determined not to spoil it any further than it already is. Moving on, we started seeing some dogs and then a Siva temple. Beyond which we met another stream, a much small one, with two steps we could cross it. Near the stream some guys were having liquor, the smell was on the air. It was uninviting.
There were rocks to be trodden yonder, we were totally immersed in rocks and boulders. The size started increases, jumping over some and watching over the rocks all the time, since some which were easily step-able were shit on by some organism of the wild, but our better guess were the dogs. Some guys were happily returning, we asked them about the onward journey for us, how far to the waterfalls. All of them of our age range were totally happy and energetic about tellings the routes and how the rocks got bigger. Some guys had picked up sticks to help themselves to climb over. We noticed that all the people had turned out in gangs, so that help was always around, there were also girls who went on trek, though a minority by number. The rocks mixed with streams. Sometimes, it was easy to walk on the stream below and get wet up to knees than to climb up a difficult stone.
The rocks became bigger, it was sometimes hard to find the easiest path, and then I relied on some extended hands of friends who could pull me up, tell me where to place the foot and climb and tread on. I met the read on white background solid lines on a big rock, that read danger area. Of course, the footwear were proving to be a head-ache, it helped over soil were we could make out there were shards of glasses. But then placing the foot on stone to climb up was easier with the leverage of foot-fingers than a plain surface provided by the footwear. Often, I had to take the footwear in hand to win over a challenging stone. I wanted to discard the footwear, while a friend also felt the same. We wanted to put out the danger in “Danger area” and we declared the place as “Chappal(footwear) area”. The danger area, we assumed were going to be even tougher, as mentioned by returning trekkers. There was two huge massive stones and in between there were a few stones. From top of the landing stone, we had to step on the small area were the stones were actually stuck by the gap between the two large boulders. The small stepping stones were stuck there due to sheer size of the boulders on the sides. And to add thrill to all this we had to have a small jump from landing rock to the stepping zone. With abyss at the bottom giving some kind of creepy feeling, with the smaller pieces of stones giving way to our weight on them and falling onto this depth, it was really giving a dangerous outlook on the purview. Two odd sticks could possibly lead us to the path above the danger area. This had to be done with extreme care. Especially with my weight to be pulled up, I had help with friends holding the sticks at the bottom and friends above who told me exactly where to put my step on, besides I had my hand ready to be pulled up just in case.
We met some monkeys, some humans filled with liquor, a danger pool area and a path further up. The slopes were steep. I would view only the immediately available rocks and tree trunks to hold on to. I would not look down, or look up. When some loose pieces of rocks were on the way,I pushed one away in frustration and irritation and the enthusiasm to move on. Little did I realise that it could have hit people coming up from bottom and the slope was steep enough to make them loose their holds and get injured by yet unforeseen loose piece of stone coming in their direction. I regretted for having pushed the stone down, while I heard a group of 3-4 guys trekking up. I assumed patience to be my best comrade and moved upwards.
Getting lost in the forest was easy when two of us were slow to catch up with the fit guys of the team of five. We lost way and ended up at a dead end, where there was some resting place like that of a cave. The cave had a small way inward, very small, not good enough for a human to crawl into. We decided that they had not gone this way. Later realising that there was another path to the left of the route. We resumed trekking and then went left. Further, we could easily walk on a comparatively flat and one man’s walking way. The track gradually slopped down and then there was no gradient. There were easy steps on the rocks to walk down instead of sitting and crawling down. This had made the trousers very ugly and the effort seem worth displaying with all the dirt on the clothes. The trek could have been easier without the backpack with water and foods that I was carrying, but it could have turned out terrible afterwards, with no bottle to quench the thirst. I rested myself on the rocks and could see people taking the waterfall for a shower. People took turns to stand under the falls and take pictures. We took lot of photos and with help of many co-trekking group we could get some frames with all of us in it. Our bottles were once again filled with natural water. This water was tasting better, in some opinion. Nevertheless, it was water that was urgently needed.
After great deal of getting wet, taking photos, shouting and so on, we decided to visit the danger pool, way back. The climb down was faster and easier, with sliding down and small jumps we could easily get down. The loose pieces of stones were treaded on with some empathy towards the trekkers in oppostite direction. We precariously moved on such stuff that could slide and cause problem to other climbers. After crossing the Chappal area we turned right to reach the danger pool. It was a brilliant view with the green pool, reddish cliffs above and huge rocks. The crystal like pebbles in the pool were very attractive. Some guys stayed at the rocks and drank, some ate, some smoked. Some monkey gangs came up to collect leftover and spilled food items. Some guys were in the pool, enjoying the cool water. Some stayed at the halfway mark that demarcated the depth difference, beyond which the depth was more than neck-deep, say 6 ft(182 cm). Proficient swimmers went beyond the mark and met a small waterfall at the end of it. Some newbies to swimming learned swimming in the first half, for the first time in the natural setting. Some were diving from the plank at the half mark and enjoy the freshness of the whole place. After a considerable duration of fish-life, there was drying up , further photo sessions and then return journey.
During return at about 1530, we noticed more people were hanging out and moving around. We were not feeling hungry, we do not know why. We also found an alternate path midway and entered the Siva temple side without crossing the small stream. This path was very easy to walk on except for lot of shit. Many dogs were present this time and some ladies were cleaning up and burning up the litter. We walked on with somebody sharing some story and keep up the momentum. Beyond the other stream, the only noise that followed us was the song of some bird. One of us easily caught up with the bird and whistled in a mocking manner.
We got to the parking area and reached Varadiah Palem , without any events. Mostly, we were silent and happy at having done something different and enjoyable, natural and so mentally freeing expedition. At Varadiah Palem we paid the driver INR 500. Then, he suddenly extended help to catch a sullurpeta bus that was leaving the stand. We successfully caught the bus at next stop and got on. We saw the Kalki oneness temple on the way and then to Tada Bus stop. There the Tada Market was active, and we helped ourselves with tender coconut water and some bajjis (fried snack). We had a train from Tada R.S after 1800, the ticket seller was not willing to sell it too early, we waited for him to turn to his capricious side that was favourable which not coming up. We were hanging out and then went for eating our lunch. After giving the ticket seller enough time to contemplate on his contumacious non-officious habits, we were back in queue, got our tickets and waited in platform 2. Some more photo-sessions happened. And the train (MRTS) came. We were more than happy to stay silent and chew on the memories of the trek that was.
(PS: The reader is requested to keep in mind that the terms moderate, small, huge, clean, good, bad, heavy. difficult are all subjective to individuals physiques and emotions.)
From Guindy RS. There is a TMLP, Tirumalpur train that goes to Kanchipuram. The train arrives at Guindy at 0730 and we reached by 1000. We got down at Kanchipuram station not to be confused with Kanchipuram East railway station which comes before the Kanchipuram station.
1.Kanchi Kamaakshi Amman Temple – Sakthi peeda with the eyes of the goddess. Big temple. Timings : 0500 – 1200 and 1600 – 1800. Lot of shops around. Good traffic for the road of the size available there. Elephant at the gate will bless. Queue was moving smoothly, quick entry can be at INR 100 with the watchman. The tample announces that no payment is required for the entry inside. We followed queue, which had fans hanging from sides to let out the heat. Kumkumam is given. There is lot of scope to take photos outside the main deity, inside the huge temple premises. People beg for various reasons. Toilet facility available outside the premise.
2.Ulaga Alanda Perumal Temple – Very close to Kamaakshi Amman, Ulaga Alanda Perumal is a smaller temple. The sculpture is huge, showing the Ulaga(world) Alanda (measured) god. This was possibly the first instance of measurement in the workd of mythology, hence the God of measurement and Instrumentation in my eyes. Very cute premises with considerate priests.
3.Vilakoli Perumal Temple – Somewhat at a distance from the previous temple. Journey made by Auto, took us fast. The Temple had some portions being renovated. Some neglected areas. Anyways wonderful small temple.
4.Ashtabujaswami with pushpavalli Temple : Pretty good temple, with not much crowd and friendly priest.
5.Yatoktakari Perumal Temple : Huge perumal in lying posture made of the same black elements of art that is used in Vilakoli perumal temple and Ulaga Alanda Perumal temple.He lies with head on the right facing us and feet on the left. There is a story behind this.
6.Varadaraja Perumal Temple with the Lizard: Varadaraja Perumal tested our patients with us standing in queue for a long time. We had entered at sharp closing time 1200. So this was expected. People who had contacts with security could take an easier route. Others should engage themselves in conversation, devotion or muse over the scribbling in tamil , telugu and kannada on the stones and steps. Lot of steps had to be climbed to see the tall Perumal. Then another long queue and ticket of INR 2 per head to touch the lizard on the ceiling, and get rid of sins. There is a golden big lizard, silver small lizard and sun and moon in round golden plate like things attached to the celing, proper stairs are provided so that we can easily touch the figures on the ceilings. Coming out, we met the Prasadam stall, very inviting for our hunger, Puliyogarai and laddu we tasted, there were other options too. Annadanam stall was closed. There was a small structure which listed price for camera and video but man at the door did not let us in.
We took tonnes of photo near the pond and other stone structures. There was lot of interesting locations to act as background.
7.Kanchi Kamakoti Peedam :Run by the Kanchi Mutt of which Sree Sankara was part of. Had maps of temples at Kanchi and information on Mutt activities. There was big halls were we could rest. One of the hall was inside were there were photos of the prominent Mutt activists. Mutt related books and articles could be purchased in the inside hall. There was a small Ganesa sitting happily at on corner when we took a round around. It is INR 2 per footwear safeguarding.
8.Ekambaranathar Temple: Seeing the HP Petrol Pump we take a right turn to see Ekambaranathar Temple. Has a double entrance. We walk opposite to the Kanchi Kamakoti Peedam and see huge temple gateway. Again moving inside we see some shops and an entry were Camera has to get its tickets. A lone Nandi sits outside. Inside we have a huge temple to visit. RO water is available just before this entrance. The temple depicts an illustration of Parvathi devi hugging on to Sivalinga under a mango tree. This is the inspiration for some Kolu sculptures and paintings. There is a glass casing showing the bark of a 3500 year old Mango tree. We went inside to see a Mango tree which was of much less size than this bark. Telugu version of announcement says that Parvathi devi got married here. While the Tamil version says that Siva presented himself before Devi here. This temple has many carvings and idols. On a raised platform there are the Navagrahas, On farther end there is Venkateswara and family in full regalia. 108 Sivalingams in addition to many idols. Lot of stone art to be seen on the temple carvings. Scope of lot of photography, flash is a must for photography inside, due to limited light.
9.Pandava Perumal Temple: We go opposite to the Ekambaranathar temple entrance and take second right. Thanks to the administrators all streets are named after the temple it leads to, making the search process very easy. Pandava perumal temple has a huge statue of perumal in sitting posture. Not very crowded and the premises are under renovation. There is a small temple pond. The roof and structures around are hangouts for variety of birds, parrots, doves in –white spots, brown and white and grey and pure white. Chakrathalwar has his presence next to perumal. We walked straight opposite to the entry point to enter the raja veedhi and took a right and crossed the road for meeting Kandasamy temples colourful tower. On the distance in the same direction we see a creamy coloured tower of Kachapeswarar temple.
10.Kumarakottam Kandasamy Subrahmanya Temple : This temple is easy reach and on the raja veedhi. Kandasamy a.k.a Subrahmanya swamy had many cocks outside resting on benches. Temple seemed newly constructed compared to others. Some designs resembled that of previous temples, but there seemed to be a kind of machine finishing or polishing of some kind. We had entered the temple by some puja time, we had to wait for the darsan. Took a round around to meet Navagraha, Saraswathy devi and other deities.
11.Kachapeswarar temple: It had a giant doorway, closed parking area for temple chariot inside, a huge temple pond full of water and lot of free space to move about. Kachapeswarar was as busy as Kandasamy and we waited. The Nagaswaram and temple bugle sounded with the temple bells and that signaled the opening for darsan. This was a huge temple with many Sivalingams installed. We saw many bats which were disturbed by the sounds made. Just after exiting on the left there are a few deities. A rare sight was noted by a friend. It was Sivalinga with a face on it, and rudraksha beads arranged in a manner above the Sivalingam giving it a very divine and antique look.We got sweet mix of some assorted cut fruits.
12. Kailasanathar temple: After exiting from Kachapeswarar we enquired for Kailasanathar temple. We were told that it was 1 km from there and we took a left and walked straight. There were a few shops, Kanchi Kudil (Kanchi hut) and a junction where buses stopped and took people. All Chennai buses went this way. Chennai was 78km from there. Kailasanathar temple was straight. We walked some distance without seeing a glimpse of temple. Another junction passed and there was a small temple on the left a small lake on the right and a tower of temple all lighted up in full glory was visible. We walked straight with the street lights flooding the road. We reached the ASI maintained Kailasanthar Temple. People and families were having a happy time playing and joking on the premises. There was a huge Nandi on stone there. This temple is supposed to have resemblance to the shore temple of Mahabalipuram. It was found to be true. Many carving were found restored and smoothed out, may be with plaster of paris and cement. The cariving were sophisticated and intricate. The light was not good inside. We were told that it was closing time, Yes! It was near 2000 hours. The deity could not be seen , the door was closed and time , we were told was 0900-1230 and 1600-1800 hours. We got permission to roam around for a few minutes and we roamed. Fascinating art work was visible even in the dim light of outside flood and street lights. We marked it on the list of must visit back on daylight. Happily we backed the way we came. Met with the tower of kachapeswarar.
Yes we did some shopping at some saree shop. Got to know difference between silk sarees and prices.
Eat: Restaurants charged the same high price as in Chennai.
Some Foreigners were seen in many places. Carrying camera and taking picture of anything on the way.
Walked straight again to see Kamrajar statue, many restaurants, familiar brands of HSB and A2B were there in addition to many other restaurants. We crossed the road to get to bus stand. Bus stand was also marked with sign board showing us the way. 576 to T Nagar, 576C and Poonamallee buses were in abundance. When inquired the 576 Volvo conductor said this was not the last bus to T Nagar.
Today I had a very close encounter with a pick pocket I believe.
I was hanging with many people at the regular MRTS in Chennai. Being a regular I know how many will approximately get out of each station and how many will get out just to make way. Today I assumed my role to be of the later because of the apparent crowd inside the train. I was moving out to make way for some guy who was happily pushing against me. I sensed my pocket become light and whoosh! my mobile is missing by the time I was on platform.
I looked around and saw a guy who was putting something in his right side pocket while I was on the left side. He was on my right side and I almost! believing that he had taken my mobile and put in pocket followed him to the coach back while telling somewhat loud .”my mobile”. He was looking at the right end corner of the entry to the coach. And there it was my mobile lying there on the floor of the coach. Had it been a little bit more outside it would have fallen on track. I kept mum while noticing this guy’s hand for rest of the journey while I was having both my arm inside the pockets.
I am not sure whether it is this guy who had taken the mobile out of my pocket, but definitely it was him who pushed me. I undertood that he belonged to that entrepreneural class which believed in monopoly, he did not have helpers.
If he had helpers it would have been easier for that guy to throw the mobile on track to be later collected by someone else.
But thanks to the spirits which helped me to retain the mobile since I was having my 5 railway tickets in that.
It makes way for the question that what will happen if you do not put the ticket in print and take your mobile sms ticket as proof, and then someone steals the mobile leaving you as double loser, without ticket you pay a fine, also without mobile you are definitely a loser.
That may be sometimes a hypothetical thought, but possible. Being careful is the only way to live!
A Sabarimala trip which happened 6 month ago.
It was decide to board the Malabar Express on a December night to Chengannur. Had to wait at railway station. There were enough and more mosquitos to keep me awake. Checked my weight ,it was 70Kg,checked also the suitcase,it weighed 11Kg. There was a cute and healthy looking dog with a policeman. Didn’t know why it was there.but it was very silent. Barking dogs seldom bite,this dog seemed to be capable of ripping a the limbs apart from the body. Then the train came.
Got into the train the RAC was confirmed to berths, I got the upper one. It was not so cold inside the train and the mosquito count was also less. I didn’t use the sheet.I had taken,to cover myself. Alarm was kept for 0530.When TTE came I asked him whether he could wake me up,he refused.
At 0530 I was up . I just roamed about the decide to stand near the door. Other’s were sleeping, I felt like humming a song. When I opened the door very cold wind rushed in the train was late and was trying to catch up with time. The all pervadsing darkness was getting lifted. I could make out the coconut trees in the semi-darkness . A misty cover hung over the abundant coconut trees outside. At the door I watched the sunrise. In between I just glanced at the doorway. I thought I saw a familiar figure in between two bulky policemen. I tried to smile,got no reaction from the other side. The figure in white and white went to the toilet. I asked one of the fatty whether it was our Chief minister V.S.Achuthanandan. He replied”yes”. At the next station I saw more and more police on the platform. The reason for the cute dog’s presence was clear.
The policeman asked me my whereabouts and my destination. I replied with due respect. I queried about the CM’s destination.He answered”To thiruvananthapuram”. Accompanied by the policemen the white and white dissappeared into the AC two tier coach. I had seen him really close ,just less than 2 feet. WOnderful.
After some phone calls I headed to the Mannar panchayat. There was a marriage function to be attended. Before the function I got the opportunity to visit the Thrikkurutti Mahadeva temple. A very nice temple with lot of free space.the Banyan tree in the front , I felt represented the unity of all human beings,the unity of all religion. For the base was thick, it got divided into two after some height from the base, then it spread into uncountable number of branches. After the function, and the banquet. Then came back to main course of the journey.
Planned to stay at Guruswami’s house in the evening. The next day we were to head to sabarimala. The Guruswami’s house was very near to the Pamba river. The sound of the small waterfall was mistaken to be that of rain. I had a dreamless sleep.
Got up after a quick prelimnaries. Went in jeep to Pamba river. At first I didn’t want to take a dip due to hundred reasons, I may get cold, fever, fungus in ears, etc. So I carried a bucket to take water and pour it over the head. As I got out of the jeep my knee-shit the jeep’s door, got a pretty good swelling (never mind). Went to Pamba. After pouring three bucket full of cold water over my head, I felt like taking a dip. I took one with my glasses on and holding one of the nearby fellow;s hand. Great feeling, Great experience. Taking a dip in a holy river for the first time!
Woke up at 0400 at headed to Pamba to take a dip, so that we need not spend much time at the Pamba en route. The Swaraj Mazda with all decorations was ready for the trip. I got a comfortable place. We started on some devotional songs. Everyone sang in chorus repeating from the Guruswami. My mom had insisted on me to use a monkey cap.i didn’t take it from my bag. Had my shirts collar buttoned. There was a brief stop at a tea shop just to energise everyone, I didn’t have the tea. Entering Pamba, I saw the crowd, I saw the river, the shops, heard the announcements. The way up was busy and crowdy. Climbing up the hill, I tried to walk fast , and felt like I could carry myself up all the way, I was advised to take small patient steps.
The PeriyaSwami had some hold in the police so we didn’t have to stand in the queue. “Apachimedu” and “Saramkuthiyal” all passed. Atop, First saw the PambaGanapathi idol, looked like what my grandma’s decoration. Great.
Towards the sannidhanam. I had by coconut ready to be broken. But somehow I had a bad feeling of my mundu (dhoti) getting loosened,tightened it up. Everybody wanted to touch the 18 holy steps. I touched the first three then one in between, mundu loosened, my hand got stuck with somebody else’s, the towel was now over my eyes. The police was “helping “me up. I stopped where I was, tightened the mundu again . I had actually stepped on my mundu-that was why it loosened.Everyone in my group were already up there.
I realised that I had lost my handkerchief (never mind). I was fortunate enough to get VIP Darsanam. After all other rituals,we got out. But three from our group were in the original queue, they missed the quick path. They were asked to get out of the queue and go by the easier path. The rest of us decided to have food. The waiter said that they will provide meal only at the three rows at the other end, we were asked to go and sit there. I was not really hungry. The head of our group got angry, because there were small children who were really hungry and tired after the long journey. We all got out. Then at the exit a man said that we had to go by the queue near the cashier. Everyone got angry and fired at the restaurant people. There was something like a goat, (or was it a donkey?) . Trying to move away quickly, my Irumudukettu fell down.
After the row we headed to the only other restaurant there. This one was not as neat as the earlier one (who bothers?) I was hungry now. We demanded them to serve us where we sat. The restaurant people had to comply. The meal was a bore to many, manageable for me. The late three had appeared , after their lunch we started back. For me there was a bus in the morning 0530 . Stayed at the Periyaswami’s house.
I got a window seat, the wind was cold. I saw the Vavaru mosque, people moving with colours all over them. After some time I had an uneasy feeling. I had my monkey cap, shirt buttoned up to collar still it was cold. I saw the Amar Jyothi college of engineering. There was some kind of reading room (there was no room though), Somemen were seriously reading newspapers. Devotional songs were being played through the speakers. At 0700 the bus stopped at a stand. The song had changed to “adipoli-dappankuthu”. Songs from the Tamil film “Pokkiri” were being played. That must be real management and marketing.
A nice journey not to be forgotten.
originally posted on Jun 21/2008