Saturday, November 28, 2009


Welcome to a different post on this blog. Well, generally I write my posts after my first time visits to places. And that exactly is what makes this post different. This probably is my last trip here during a phase of my life known as Chennai.

To begin from the scratch, Mamallapuram is a small town located nearly 60 km from Chennai. Previously known as Mahabalipuram and referred to as "Mahabs" by the "fashionable junta" of Chennai, this place has loads to offer, from 6th century architectural marvels to continental grilled lobsters. A popular destination amogst foreign tourists and a top pick on lonely planet, this place was a lifelie during my tenure in a lifeless city called Chennai.

Be it the first time when the sea facing shacks with amazing sea food and beer turned out to be a great discovery or the late saturday escapes after work to get a life, this place always lures me with an everlasting freshness. It's rightly referred to as an 'Easily accessible Goa for Chenaiites'

The things to do here range from sightseeig loads of ancient tamil architecture to having a relaxed beer with sea food on the shacks. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. In the surroudig areas, you have a boat club, a crocodile bank and options for go karting too. The better things I've done however would include going all around the city on a cycle at a rate of just Rs.10/ hour and going into the sea to see the sunset from water for a change. The best however was drowning myself in the unpredictable waves.

My love for the place seems so firm that even the sight of death in the brackish waters couldn't alter it. And that exactly is why I'm sitting here facing the sea writing this at Mamallapuram, despite being sleep deprived for more than 2 days. So that I get a chance to say a final bye to this place that turned out to be much more than just a place, a confidante.

I'd just like to sign off by saying thanks for making the "Chennai phase" of my life worthwhile. Will definitely come back for more.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Well, after spending nearly 2 years in Tamil Nadu, I finally make it to one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the state, or in the country, for that matter. The plan was rolled out by my brother, Nitin's in-laws. Staying in Coimbatore and having their daughter come over for Diwali, Ooty seemed to be a great option for the festival. And I didn't mind butting in.

So on 16th October friday, I catch the night bus to Coimbatore to Nitin's in-laws place. I reach there at 8 in the morning. After cathcing up on some sleep and some amazing home made breakfast, we all hit the road at 11 am. Well, the 'WE' includes Nitin, his wife, her parents and her brother, Unni. And yes, me too.

Ooty to Coimbatore is nearly 100 kms. Well, officially, it's 98 but then we had a few extra kms to catch up. After a couple of kms, a mountain appears, which would later on lead us to our destination. As we start ascending the mountain, we are welcomed by monkeys. Passing through several hairpin bends, we make our way up. As we start going up in altitude, the air gets slightly chilly and ears start popping on and off. The Nilgiris is simply beautiful with trees, tea plantations and picturesque mountains enveloped in fog.

After a 2 hour ride uphill, we reach the town of Ooty. The crowded town made me feel like I had gone there to meet some relative. It was way more populated than anyone would expect a holiday destination to be. It looked like people who came to see the place over years, loved it so much that they decided to stay back.

So we first head to our hotel room on Wenlock Road, next to Cafe Coffee Day. We keep our luggage, relax, have lunch at a nearby restaurant known as quality restaurant. It was a nice buffet for a bit over hundred rupees. After that we head to our first destination in Ooty, the Boatclub. Built over the picturesque Ooty lake, surrounded by mountains, the boatclub offers you relaxing boat rides. As you move through the lake, on one side you could see a very small deer park where you could spot a couple of antelopes. As we ride on the boat, Nitin tries his hand at rowing, and he wasn't bad at all. Guess he could keep it as a back up career option.

Once we're off the boat, I see a board which says Bunji jumping. (not a spelling mistake by me.. that's how they wrote it) Fully charged, i run to get highly dissapointed to see a boy jumping on a spring mat with huge rubber bands attached to his waist. Anyway, Me, Nitin, Ananya and Unni head to Dashing cars. Here it was quiet different from the other dashing cars I had seen elsewhere. It had only four cars and the duration was longer. Upto 20 minutes, I guess.

So as we stand in the queue, waiting for our turn, a group of four who went before us play in a very interesting fashion. they go around in circles without touching each other. As though they're practicing driving in a round about, they jus keep going round in circles. When they leave after 20 minutes of redefining 'dashing cars', we applaud and cheer them for their great accomplishment. All the frustration however came handy once our turn came.

By now, it's already 630. Without wasting much time, we head to the Botanical garden. A large beautiful garden for people interested in flowers and botany. So if your planning to go there, do some research on botany. Or else just take a walk through the cool garden as we did. The temperature was dipping down and it was simply incredible for a poor soul who made his way from chennai. As the sun set behind the mountains, the place was jus getting lovelier and cooler.

As we head back, we stop at this place where I had spotted shawarma a while back. Shawarma, tea, snacks and then we head home. After a couple of hours at home, we have to move out for dinner. The cold was making us too lazy to move. it was an amazing feeling. I don't remember the last time i enjoyed being so lazy. But still we had to move out for dinner. We again head to the same restaurant we went for lunch.

As I step out before the rest, the hotel caretaker tells me about this 'Kebab Corner' which was a long walk from there as compared to Quality Restaurant. So during dinner itself, I make my mind to go to Kebab Corner after dinner for two reasons. one obviously is my quest for the ideal Kebab, induced by Khaled Hosseini's book The Kite Runner and the other was to enjoy a walk in the cold. Once dinner is over, Nitin, Ananya and Unni join me in the walk. Uncle really can't tolerate so much of cold, so they decide to go home.

The walk was a delight. That's the one best thing to do in Ooty. I was getting a deja vu of Mussoorie. Walking downhill, overlooking the lights of the town. As we reach Kebab Corner, to our dismay, no mutton kebabs were available. So we head back to our hotel room. A half hour in the Cafe Coffe Day before we finally go home. Hot chocolate and sizzling brownies seemed to be made for Ooty and so were the quilts, once we hit the bed. A good night sleep and the next day, we had to see whatever was possible before i reach Coimbatore at 8 PM.

Next morning, after a quick breakfast, we head to Dodabetta. Commonly known as the suicide point, the beautiful location is quiet a treat to the eye. Distant mountains filled with decidous forests, covered by fog appear blue, thus giving the name 'Nilgiris' meaning blue mountains. At that point, the tourism department has instilled a telescope. After a long wait, we were elated to see people getting on and off buses in the busy ooty town. Even Galileo would've never thought of such an amazing application of his invention.

After Dodabetta, next we head to the tea factory. I was hoping to see tea plantations, but it turned out to be just a factory Anyway it's a must visit if you want to get your friends something from there. At the factory they show the entire mechanism, which happens in five stages. 1, withering, where they dehydrate leaves, 2. Rolling, where leaves are cut and curled 3. Fermentation, where the colour of the leaves change and 4. Drying, self explanatory and 5. Grading and sorting to remove dust and other particles

Once you're out of the factory after seeing all these stages, your led to a shop where you get a free sample of tea and you get to buy flavoured tea. I buy a chocolate tea from there for my friends back in Chennai. Form the tea factory, the way moves in to a chocolate factory. A small cottage factory. Here they save us of an explanation of how it is made by showing a tray of liquid chocolate besides one with solid chocolate. Now don't ask me any doubts. We pick up chocolates from there and get going.

After lunch, we're not left with much time, so we plan to see Sim's Park in Conoor which happens to be on the way back to Coimbatore. Sim's Park is one of those amazing things that the British brought to India. Back in 1874, the British established this park and brought in exotic varieties of trees and plants from across the globe. Except for Antarctica, you'll find trees from all continents here. The different types of trees and their intriguing forms are a treat to the eye. The place, like the Botanical garden in Ooty, is a must visit for Botanists and people interested in Flora.

A couple of hours in the beautiful park and it's time to say goodbye to the Nilgiris. The drive down is amazing, the view breathtaking and monkeys hovering around yet again invokes a feeling of joy. Like all good things, the trip comes to an end in a few hours.

Before my trip, I had heard many people say that Ooty has lost its charm and that now it's too crowded. Well, now even I say the same thing. Having been to Yelagiri, known as the 'poor man's Ooty' earlier, I must say that a place like Yelagiri would be a much better getaway. However, Ooty and the Nilgiris have an unparalleled charm. And as John Keats said, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Panoramic Europe Tour - Day 5

This day would be spent mostly on water. First the cruise on the Seine, then on the ferry back to England.

At 1130, we board the “Bateau Mouche”. Passing through the calm waters of the Seine, we get another perspective of the entire city. Such is the beauty of the city that it is believed that Hitler who came to invade the city fell in love with it. And the city was not much different back then. So if Hitler rises from his grave I guess he’d be more excited than my parents were to see Paris. The Louvre pyramid however would be new for him as well.

The bridge passes under innumerable bridges where the local inhabitants wave to us on the boat from the top of bridges. The city has warmth and an undisputable charm that would captivate anyone.

After the cruise on the Seine, it’s time to go back to England. Switzerland and France had been unbelievably warm with the temperature going up to 30 degrees. We were sure England would not be the same. As we approached Calais, the port city of France, we could feel the English weather already

This time our coach goes into a ferry. We get out of the bus and go upstairs to enjoy the ferry. There were options for shopping, eating and drinking. But I chose to go to the deck and gaze at the Channel.

At the top, it was phenomenal. Legally speaking half of the channel is French territory but meteorologically speaking, the whole channel’s weather was bloody British with occasional rain and chilled wind blowing across us. I’m sure the water could make anybody numb. Chilled breeze, no land till far away, water ripples formed by the ferry and clouds of all sorts decorating the skyline; It sure was the bliss of triviality.

After the 30 minute ride, the Panoramic Europe tour ends with a beautiful view of the channel. Now I was sure they didn’t fool us on the Euro tunnel, we really did pass under water. 5 days, 4 countries and infinite memories; I guess I’ll stop before the praises and emotions become superfluous. I also have to take into consideration your patience for having read all of this. Thanks again!

Panoramic Europe Tour - Day 4

Next morning after breakfast, a six hour drive and the Swiss-French border, we reach a busy traffic jam. The graffiti filled subways lead us to the world’s most visited city. Paris! My parents had been coming here after 20 years. So was I but absolutely nothing in the city would ring a bell.

As we move closer to the city, from a distance we could see one of the few things in the world which deserve their hype, la tour Eiffel.

Standing at 324 m high, this iconic structure towers over the scenic city. The tower comprises of angular legs, followed by first and second floor and then if you move further upwards, you reach the top. The first elevator takes us up the leg. The elevator which takes up to 40 people travels diagonally up the leg. We get off the lift at the second floor. We get an image of Paris from above. Things are only to get better now. Next, we head to the top. After our ears popping a couple of times, we reach the top of the world’s most photographed monument.

What a spectacular view! The entire Paris is laid in front of you. At one side you can see the River Seine with innumerable bridges over it and on other sides monuments and buildings in shades of mostly white and off white. When you’re at the highest point in Paris, romance is definitely in the air. It’s there all throughout the city. As you watch the skyline of Paris you would not miss the sounds of kisses coming from all around u.

After coming down and popping our ears a couple of times again, we head to the Place du Trocadero, which is just down the road from the Eiffel tower. We cross the Seine and we’re amongst huge monuments. My parents were really excited walking down the same roads they did 2 decades back.

The Place du Trocadero gives a beautiful view of the Eiffel tower, one of the most photographed views of the tower. The place is always buzzing with activity as there would always be some performance or the other going on, ranging from street dancing to magic shows.

Soon after we’re done with Trocadero, we move to check in to our hotel but the night doesn’t end there. We would soon be on a night tour of Paris.

At three minutes to 11 pm, we again land up in front of the Eiffel tower lit in golden lights. Just in the nick of time we reach to catch a spectacular light show. At the stroke of 11, sparkling lights shine all over the tower. A huge roar of applause from the spectator adds to the fervour. The 5 minute show of sparkling lights was just breathtaking and I guess I could see it everyday and still get amazed.

Once the sparkling lights go off and the tower is back to its usual golden lighting, we head back to our coach. From the coach, I can see a convertible car with a middle aged couple kissing right in front of the Eiffel tower just after it was at its prettiest. C’est la vie! That moment could be a picture perfect ending to a paperback novel!

We next head to Arc de Triomphe. An arch built in the memory of the brave Frenchmen who laid their life for the country especially during the Napoleonic war. It’s situated on a round about but it could only be seen from the other side of the road. You’re not allowed to get up close and personal with it.

We then pass besides the Louvre, seeing the pyramid. The pyramid was built in 1989. So that was the only part of Paris which my parents had not seen earlier. None the less, it was a great reminiscence for them. From La Louvre, we then pass besides the Obelisk, a gift by Egypt with hieroglyphics. We then pass through Place de Concorde.

The city was so well planned centuries ago that the Arc de Triomphe, Place de Concorde, Pyramid of La Louvre and Obelisk are in a straight line. It would be a bit hard to explain if you haven’t seen the place but nevertheless, it’s great trivia. And it’s now time to catch some sleep. It’s nearly one at night even though you wouldn’t know by seeing the streets, still bustling with life.

Panoramic Europe Tour - Day 3

We get up in the morning again watching last night’s trailor. Soon we were heading towards Mt. Titlis. After breakfast, we head to the cablecars at Engelberg. The cable cars which take upto 6 people goes uphill from Engelberg towards Trubsee. From inside, other cable cars look like pearls on a necklace. As you pass over the hills, we suddenly hear a symphony of bells. The bells sound more like triangles. We look down to discover they’re cows with huge and different bells.

The cable car stops at Trubsee, from where we change to a bigger cable car which would accommodate more people. This would take us to Gletscherstation Stand. (I just had to refer to the picture of the stand to get the name right). As we move higher, the view just keeps getting better and better. We can see a frozen lake from the cable car. After we reach the Stand, it’s now time for a third cable car, the world’s first rotating cable car. With a good capacity, the cable car had a rotating floor. So the handle attached to the window, which we were holding, had to change after every few minutes. The cable car gave us a good 360 degree view

We finally reach Mt. Titlis. From the final stop, we still had to climb 2 stories and Voila! Snow!!! Seeing snow after around 15 years was too much of euphoria to control. I just ran onto the snow, fluttering my arms like a small kid. I slipped and fell a couple of times but then I got up again and started running all over the place.

We spent a lot of time playing in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other, sliding downhill, and making snowmen. Well, actually destroying others’ snowmen. The place had an igloo, a skiing track (only for professionals), a special cable car to bring the skiers and a breathtaking view. Snow all around and greenery if you look a bit lower. I was surprised I would get to see snow at this time of the year even though Switzerland was really warm. Even Mt. Titlis just seemed to be cool because of the altitude and the earlier lying snow.

I just couldn’t get enough of the snow and Mount Titlis. I was reminded of a magazine on Mt. Titlis I saw the previous night at the hotel. It read “Mt. Titlis – It’s heaven” It indeed was. Coming down the cable car was great as we got to experience the beautiful Alps, frozen lakes and the musical cow bells once again. This time however at a distance, we could see many colourful parachutes hanging in the air. Engelberg is an important destination for paragliding as well.

Later on we have lunch and head to Interlaken. Interlaken is situated between two lakes, namely Brienz and Thun, hence the name which means between two lakes. As we enter the city, we get to see more paragliding. Interlaken is a prime destination for adventure sports. The city is a prime destination for shopping for those with extra surplus disposable dumpable income. Since I don’t fall into that category, I just saw the river Aare which passes through it and left the place

Next was Geneva. As we headed Geneva from Interlaken, the boards changed from Ausfahrt to Sortie (exit in German and French). Geneva would be our first place in the French part of Switzerland. Geneva is a worldwide centre for diplomacy. With the headquarters for the United Nations, many of its branches and the Red Cross, Geneva makes for a perfect global city.

From the United Nations headquarters, across the street is a monumental sculpture, the broken chair. The giant chair with a broken leg symbolises opposition to landmines and bombs. After clicking pictures of the Broken Chair, United Nations Headquarters and many more other headquarters like WMO, UNHCR etc, we head to the water jet.

The jet d’eau located on lake Geneva or Lake Leman is a hydraulic pump which has been fitted on the lake to create a fountain as a tourist attraction. The pump which throws water to a height of upto 140 m is so powerful that at any point of time, there’ll be 500 litres of water in the air. Near the Jet d’eau, my parents bump into an old friend after a couple of years. I’m sure the backdrop of Geneva would’ve made it more special for them. A few snaps later, we head to retire at the hotel

Panoramic Europe Tour - Day 2

The next day we make our way through the deciduous black forests of Germany to the home of the famous ‘Cuckoo Clock’. The factory itself has been shaped as a huge Cuckoo clock. As we reached there at 11 o clock, a huge wooden cuckoo bird came out of a window and made the cuckoo sound, followed by statues of couples dancing which came outside rotating and dancing.

Inside the factory, the entire procedure of making the clock, its history and the variety of clocks were demonstrated to us. The whole description would take up an entire post, so I stop it right here. We leave the factory at 12 sharp, to see the big cuckoo bird and dancing statuettes again. That was the end of our stint with Germany. Even though we can’t really say we saw Germany.

After lunch, we cross the border into Switzerland to see the Rhine falls, Europe’s largest waterfalls. Passing through deciduous forests and the German-Swiss border, we make our way to the gushing falls. The water was just divine. Its bluish green colour was very tempting. The colour resembled the colour of a glass slab seen from the side. As we wait for out boat which would take us closer the falls, ducks and swans approach us. The swan gets up and does a little act and takes away a lot of applause and attention.

We then get onto a boat which would take us closer to the falls. Passing through the beautiful river we’re now just a few metres away from the falls. As we approach the falls, a zephyr of droplets blows across us. As the heat was rising, the aerosol spray came as such a relief! It was a wild experience as the boat was getting rocky.

Later on we get to move around the falls and see it from the top. The falls were just stunning with lots of greenery around. In the area, they had also instilled a manually operated turbine. The turbine was inside a cylindrical glass container with water and attached to it was a handle which we could rotate. As we rotate the handle, we would create a whirlpool. This was to manually demonstrate how hydropower works.

Our next destination is Luzern or Lucerne as it is called in French or English. The city which is split by River Reuss is a good blend of tradition and modernity. A witness to the turning pages of history, Luzerne ranks high among the topmost tourist destinations in Europe. After a stroll through the city roads and besides River Reuss, we later on go to the Lion Monument.

The lion monument is a carving of a wounded lion. It was built to commemorate the hundreds of Swiss guards who were massacred in 1972 during the French revolution. It’s believed that the artist who carved it was not paid well on time, so he carved the outer frame in the shape of a pig. Even though you might miss the pig while watching it face to face, it’s hard to miss it on a photograph.

That evening, we head to Engelberg. We would stay at a hotel facing Mt.Titlis, one of the most popular mountains in Switzerland. As we moved towards Engelberg, the view was just spectacular with mountains and rivers flowing on either side. At a far distance, a snow capped mountain was visible. That was Mount Titlis. We passed through various picturesque landscapes as we started to ascend uphill towards Engelberg.

Unwinding roads, mountains and small waterfalls everywhere were making for a beautiful spectacle. The picturesque sceneries were only picturesque until half way. After that it was time to keep cameras away and experience the beauty. The air was so clean that anyone from an Indian metropolitan city could get an asthma attack. We finally reach our hotel at Engelberg from where we could see Mt. Titlis and cable cars leading to it.

That night at Engelberg with a balcony facing Mount Titlis was a movie trailor for the whole night. We would be watching the real movie the next morning

Panoramic Europe Tour - Day 1

On may 21st, 230 am, we set out on the tour. I was accompanied by my parents, my brother Nitin and Anannya, his wife. We leave from Birmingham early in the morning and move towards Folkestone from where we’d catch the Eurotunnel, a tunnel which passes under the English Channel.

Soon we’re next to a railway track and the bus enters a huge coach of the train. The train was a string of huge containers into which all sorts of vehicles could fit. As the train moves it suddenly enters a tunnel and that’s all we could see for the next 40 minutes or so. After the 40 miutes, the train comes out of the tunnel. No signs of water anywhere. We could’ve still been in England. But they told we were in France so we believed them.

From Calais we head for a chocolate factory in Belgium. A small cottage industry with loads of chocolate and luckily free samples too. Chocolates were there in all shapes and sizes. I disregarded buying a few because all shapes and sizes would be the same once they entered India and melted.

After lunch, we head to Brussels. We enter Grand Place, the central market square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guild houses, the city's Town Hall, and the Bread House. One of the most important tourist destinations in Brussels, Grand Place is an architectural marvel with larger than life gothic structures. Built in 1402-1455, the Grand Place has been declared a wolrd heritage site by the UNESCO.

Next, from Grand palace we move through a busy street downhill to catch the world’s most pictured wee. The Manneken Pis was quiet different from all pictures and imitations I had ever seen. It was way smaller than expected. I mean the statue. It was black and not bronze as I had thought it to be. On many occasions, the statue is dressed in a costume. We happened to catch one of the occassions as it was dressed in a black suit with a bow tie.

We next head to get some foreign exchange as we still didn’t convert our British Pounds to Euros. Unfortunately it was 430 pm and all the foreign exchange centers and many other shops shut by 4. Strange as it may seem, 430 is too late to get foreign exchange in the capital of Belgium.

Then we go to see the Atomium. The structure built in 1958 was just built for an Expo. The Atomium is a unit cell of an iron cell magnified 165 million times. Each atom is represented by a huge steel ball with a diameter spanning 18 m.

After seeing the Atomium, we retire at a hotel at Strasbourg in France on the German border. The next day we would head to black forest and the cuckoo clock factory in Germany


For those handfuls of jobless people who make it to this page, first of all, thank you. From here on this blog offers you more. Because now, the game goes international.

2 days after reaching my parents’place in Birmingham, I set out to see Manchester. This time on the tour, I would meet Robel, a long-lost school friend, after 10 years. He was coming from Stoke on Trent, which happens to be midway between Birmingham and Manchester. The plan was to meet at Manchester, but miraculously he joined me on the same coach and I happened to recognize him. Thanks to facebook. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have even known about his whereabouts, leave alone recognising him.

So we reach Manchester by 1130. Unfortunately, my health and the weather are not on my side. Once out of the coach, we hit old Trafford stadium, the home of Manchester United, as per special instructions by my brother, Nitin, who’s a Manchester United fan. This was just two days after they won the FA title. Unfortunately the official merchandise store was closed. So I settled for an unofficial Manchester United scarf. We take pictures there and plan to hit Peter’s square next.

At the centre of the city, Peters square has a huge central library which resembles the pantheon and many huge medieval structures on all sides. Manchester as a city is a good combination of modern and medieval buildings. The city has old cotton mills and many museums. There’s nearly a museum for anything. Perhaps your grand children might find the watch you’re wearing right now in a museum at Manchester. But lack of time and my fever would not permit us a visit to the museums.

We next head for lunch after a lot of failed attempts at converting Indian Rupees to Pounds. There we meet up with a Manchester united fan who happens to see the Manchester united scarf kept on the table. Elated to see a foreign fan, he approached us with a local newspaper supplement. More than half of it was on Manchester United’s victory. He enquired about my whereabouts and if I would be going to Rome to watch them play EUFA. Finally while leaving he said “It’s a good time to be a Manchester United fan” asking me to keep the supplement as a souvenir. This off course, was way before the UEFA finals at Rome.

Later on we head to the Manchester Eye, a cheap imitation of the London eye, also considering the fact that Manchester doesn’t offer as much of an aerial view as London. I recall a British gentleman who once told me that you can’t say you’ve seen England if you’ve seen London. I don’t know if he was talking about interior England but as far as the cities are concerned, if you’ve seen any one city, you’ve seen it all.

So later on to kill time and to seek refuge from the atrocious weather which was taking its toll on my health, we head to one of the million starbuck coffee shops there. As we enter the café, the rain stops and resumes after our 2-3 hour stint in the café. Left with a couple of hours and with a not so favourable weather, we spend the last one hour or so in the coach station.

To sum it all up, Manchester seems to be the most liveable city in England. As cosmopolitan as London, yet not as expensive. Also not ill-reputed like Birmingham. If you like the British architectural magnificence or if you’re a die hard Manchester United fan, do plan a trip to Manchester.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Hogenakkal. After months of procrastination, I finally got to go to Hogenakkal falls, situated in Salem district of Tamil Nadu. After spending one full Saturday discussing how to reach there, me and Sukrit decided to rope in one more friend, Kiron from Bangalore. We were to go to Hogenakkal in his car. So we left to Bangalore by a Saturday night bus. The bus which had to reach Bangalore by 530, took its own pace, reaching Bangalore at 7 am.

We then head to Kiron’s home near Marathahalli in Bangalore, from where we leave by 11 am. Heading towards the Hosur highway, we have breakfast on the way. We have to make our way through Royakottai and Palacode , before we reach Hogenakkal. Passing through a few bumpy roads and a few tarred ones, we reach near Palacode when Sukrit expresses his desire to drive the car and Kiron agrees. As they exchange positions, a hissing sound from the bonnet catches their attention. We open the bonnet to find a leak. The coolant had been leaking with shining green droplets scattered here and there.

The need of the hour, to find a garage. So we drive slowly asking for the nearest garage. After every hundred metres, we would get to hear that there was a garage another hundred metres ahead. Having covered a couple of kilometers in the process, we finally reach outside a closed garage at around 130 PM. Luckily the gate had a number. So we call on that number and call the mechanic who says he would come in 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile we have our lunch, a couple of omelets and porottas. The next half an hour or so, went in waiting for the mechanic who would open much more than the bonnet.

He detects a leak in a tube carrying the coolant and corrects the flaw by cutting it short and connecting it back. He then opens the pandora’s box as he announces that the car was on a temporary adjustment and the engine would have to be opened once it returned to Bangalore. Following his guidelines of maintaining a speed below 60 km/h, we move on. Sukrit finally gets to drive. As we move ahead, we’re on a speedbreaker, with a bus infront of us. As we’re somewhere in the middle of the road and a bus from the opposite side approaches us with quiet a vengeance, we had to move quickly towards the left, eventually kissing the bus infront of us. Even though it was a soft peck, it was good enough to bring a dent on the bonnet. Shock part 2 for Kiron and part 1 for Sukrit. I was still at the back, enjoying and sleeping.

A few kilometers and we finally reach the valley where Hogenakkal is situated. The road downhill is a delight and the view is like a shy bride who slowly reveals her beauty. With many hairpin bends and lush greenery, it was a beautiful sight. But the waterfalls were nowhere to be seen. Monkeys all along the way also make for a good sight.

We reach Hogenakkal at 330 PM and now only have time until 5 PM, as we have to return to Bangalore to catch a 930 bus to Chennai. As we park the car at Hogenakkal, we are welcomed in true Indian style. With questions like “Sir Boat??” and “Sir Massage?”. The nagging questions continued as if we were deaf. Following the boards and being led adamantly by the boatman, we finally reach a stream where people are bathing and boats are moving allover. The boats here are quiet a phenomenon. They’re round in shape, made of cane, coated by a plastic layer, mounted by a layer of road tar. Though they may seem very rocky, they’re highly steady.

On the way, there are many masseurs who are known for their powerful massages. You also get locally fried fish there. But the crunch in time would only permit us a boat ride. Now it’s time to negotiate rates for the boat. The boatman says Rs. 600 per boat. He further says that he generally only takes 6 people so for even 3 people, it would be the same price. Finally after minutes of negotiation, we bring him down to Rs. 350 for the ride.

At first, you have to cross the stream and once you’re on the other end, you would have to walk a few metres downhill and descend a few stairs to finally reach the waterfalls. Meanwhile, the boatman would carry the boat on his shoulders all the way and we would again get on the boat near the waterfalls. Being off-season, the falls were not at their best. Nonetheless, it was a good sight.

As the boat approached the falls, the zephyrs and aerosol spray of water was truly refreshing. The tiny rainbows in the falls are also a delight. The boatman was talking a lot all the way about how the falls would be much more intense during august and that the song “Chinna Chinna Asai” from the film Roja was shot here. The good part of visiting the place off season is that you get to go even closer to the waterfalls. During August, all the small waterfalls would join to become one big fall and the boat would take you through a stream which goes in a totally different direction.

At a point, we ask the boatrider to stop for 5 minutes so we could take a shower under the falls. He refuses saying that he would charge Rs. 600 if he stops there. Already upset with problems of the car, we replied saying we would only give Rs. 300.

As our boat heads back, we see two boys standing on top of a steep and tall rock. We gesture them to jump down. They scream “pattu roopa”, ten rupees, to which we agree. Before we know it, they dive from approximately a height of 25 feet, and that too for just Rs.5 each. Unfortunately Kiron couldn’t get the camera on time; otherwise it would’ve been a great picture to add to this post. The boys then swim following our boat. We hand over ten rupees before we get off the boat.

As we finally get off the boat, we handover Rs. 300 and walk away. The boatman starts shouting abuses and returns the money saying that he would take nothing short of Rs. 350. We already had a bad day and we didn’t want to give in to his compulsions whatsoever. Having come all the way from hundreds of kilometers away and not getting to enjoy the falls because of a boatman’s ego was enough to add fire to our already existing fury. He threatened not to allow us leave the place if we didn’t pay him Rs. 350. We kept arguing why we were not ready to pay the amount.

Hours of futile argument continued before we remembered a tool that works wonders in India, namedropping. Having worked for the Tamil Nadu tourism department and with Sukrit still working for it, we knew the names of a few prominent people. As we took the names, we could see his face turning pale for a fraction of a second. Quickly managing to hide the fright from his expressions, he walks up with a pseudo-confidence saying “give whatever you’re giving” in a tone through which he was trying to imply that we were the adamant ones.

We atleast leave the place with the contentment of not paying him what he didn’t deserve. We leave Hogenakkal at correct 5 PM. The road uphill was beautiful as the sun was going down. The rays of the sun diffracting atop the hill was adding to the beauty of the valley, and off course, the monkeys too were there having a good time.

We drive our way through the sunset, reach Bangalore on time, have dinner and happen to catch our bus just before it leaves. Though the tour was not all that pleasant, I wouldn’t like to pass on the blame to the place. Hogenakkal is a nice holiday destination and is worth a visit if you stay at Chennai or Bangalore. In case you happen to go, do get a massage and do try the fish fry and let me know what I’ve missed.