Thursday, November 02, 2006

Palace Estate, Kakkabe, Coorg

I spent the Diwali weekend at a beatiful home-stay in Kakkabe. Palace Estate, owned by the Apparanda family is located on the route from Virajpet to Kakkabe. Most visitors go there for the trek to Thadiyendamol peak, the highest point in Coorg. We headed there with the same plan.

The trek had to be abandoned within an hour. It had rained and there were leeches on the trail. When Preethi noticed a couple of leeches on her shoes, her shrieks could have woken up the dead. If birdwatchers around Kakkabe had poor sightings that weekend, they now know why. The number of leeches wasn't anywhere close to what we got on our trip to Narasimha Parvatha. Carry a dettol swab, and you can do the two hour trek easily, unless you are mortally scared of leeches. Some other guests did go up to the peak during our stay. Preethi convinced me that the whole point of taking a break was to beat stress and the trek wasn't working for her ("Stress?!?", I can see some at Kodiak snickering when they read this). It was decided that I would try the trek sometime later with the baays (and that could be as soon as this month for our team outing :)

Luckily, the place is enjoyable even if trekking on leech infested trails isn't your idea of fun. The estate has a private waterfall which is a five minute walk through the plantation from the rooms. Don't pack your swimming trunks though as you are not allowed to bathe in it since it's the primary water source. The walks within the coffee estate are refreshing. I could hear many types of bird calls in the mornings (though I'm no good at identifying birds), so birders will have a fun time here. A short walk away from the estate is the Nalnad palace which is more than a century old. There are paddy fields further downhill. The rooms have a vernadah with a beatiful view of the valley. Pick up a book or just relax watching the mist filled valleys below. On clear nights, the lights at Madikeri town are visible.
The hospitality is excellent. Prakash Poovanna, our host made us feel at home on arrival. The food is vegetarian and it is served in the company of Prakash's family in their dining room. I loved the traditional Coorgi dishes that were served. We picked up a couple of recipies from there. The breakfast was the best part- Kapputtu on the first day and Akki Roti on the next. Almost everything is rice-based, so your mileage may vary.

The tariffs are pretty decent. The room came for Rs. 1200 a day (accommodates two). Prakash told me the rates had gone up to 1500 by October. We got the deal since we booked a month in advance in September. Meals cost Rs. 70 per head for breakfast and Rs. 110 per meal for lunch/dinner. The services of a guide for the trek to Thadiyendamol cost Rs. 200. Our total expenses for a two day stay there came to Rs. 3600.

Getting There:
To get there from Bangalore, head to Mysore and take the Srirangapatna bypass before Mysore twowards Hunsur. Stay on the highway near Hunsur. Just after the fork on the left to Hunsur town, the highway will fork again. Take the road on the left that goes to Virajpet and Kannur (Cannanore) (the highway continues to Madikeri). At Virajpet, take the a turn towards Madikeri. After 4 km, there's a cement bridge where you need to take a left towards Kakkabe (follow the Coffee Country signboards from there till Nalnad Palace). There are a couple of bad stretches since the road from Mysore to Hunsur is being widened. Cars can go all the way up to Palace Estate. There are KSRTC buses to Virajpet from Bangalore.

For bookings, contact:
Mr. Prasad Poovanna
Ph: 98804 47702

Here's the trip photo album on flickr.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cryptic Crosswords, Loos, Archimedes

I had to find something to keep me occupied during the bus ride to work. On some days you can tune into interesting conversations, but you don't get to sit next to a smart aleck everyday. (Diverging: Sparun the pun-dit was pretty pleased with himself for writing "Smart Elecs" on the Electrical Engineering department's display board once.) Reading in a moving bus strains the eyes. Listening to the radio with earphones will gradually deafen you since you'll have to turn up the volume amidst all the din. Enter cryptic crosswords. Read the clue, think it over, and when the bus halts at a stop or junction, fill in the boxes. Almost every newspaper carries a decent cryptic crossword. I get Deccan Herald at home and it carries one in the Sunday edition. One crossword a week is good enough for a beginner like me. I also picked up a book with 80 crosswords from The Daily Telegraph. That should last me for months. Try this cryptic crossword solving tips page to get a hang of it.

I completed last week's Sunday DH crossword in a day. It was done in five or six sittings on the porcelain throne (I had a terrible stomach upset from a visit to Empire with the baays on Saturday.) Normally I don't even come close to solving one in a week. I think this is conclusive evidence to show that you think better in there. I know others who share this feeling. As further proof, I present the exhibit on the left - "The Thinker". What do you think this suggests? This leads to the question: Was Archimedes really in a bathtub when he had his great idea? I firmly believe King Heiro's PR department fudged the facts. If you are convinced and want to get yourself a really good "think station" now, consider one from Toto.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Growing Up

After his wedding, our man starts a comic book collection, gets an XBox, goes on volvo bus rides to Majestic, takes a liking for flashy t-shirts and buys rattle snake eggs to irritate everyone around. But when he shows his love for Kannada star Darshan with a car sticker (bought on one of his volvo bus trips to Majestic), his dad pulls him over for some serious talk. The kind of talk that wayward teens half his age get.

Here's to you Kamath:

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. When I became wise, I learned the value of childish things and turned to them once more."

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."

Quotes picked up from a discussion thread on Slashdot.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fishermen, Cherai

A photo that I particularly liked from my recent trip to Cherai for Onam.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Trip to Chikka Tirupati and John's Terror Alert

We went on a drive to Chikka Tirupati yesterday. This sleepy little town is 10 km off Sarjapur. It takes about an hour from the Sarjapur ring-road junction. The road (if you can call it that) is very bad for a few kilometres after the Wipro office. It gets much better as you near Sarjapur. The scenery certainly isn't breathtaking, but it is a nice break from the chaos in Bangalore. There are plenty of small villages and farms on the way. The temple at Chikka Tirupati wasn't very crowded in the evening.

On, the way back, we stopped by a small bridge before Sarjapur. While the rest of us were scouting a location on the bridge for a photo, my brother in law, Praveen, was accosted by a man who seemed drunk. Their conversation went on for a while. Later, when Praveen narrated what happened, we had a good laugh. This is how it went:

Drunkard: Yellinda bandirivaru neevu? (Where are you from?)
Praveen: Bengaluru (Bangalore :)
Drunkard: Bengalura?
Praveen: Haudu, Marathahalli inda. (Yes, from Marathahalli.)
Drunkard (eyeing Praveen with suspicion): Marathahalli-alli nimmanna node ilvalla ... (I don't remember seeing you in Marathahalli ...)

Like Marathahalli is a village where everyone knows your name. Praveen didn't have an answer for this one. The next question was more direct.

Drunkard: Baamb haakakke bandideera? (Have you come to bomb this place?)
Praveen: Illanna, naavu yaake bomb haake beku illi? (No, why would we want to bomb this place?)
Drunkard: Alla, paper-nalli itthu, America minister iddaralla, ... Jahn,.. avaru heliddaranthe, bridge-igella baamb haktharanthe. Adukke kelidhe. (Don't mind, but I read in the papers about this American minister,... John, ... saying that people are out to bomb all bridges.)
Drunkard (walking away): Navella vyasaya maduvavaru, namma mele baamb haaku bedi. (We are people making a decent living, don't bomb us.)

Looks like there aren't many unaffected by the terror threat.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blogspot Blocked

Blogspot is not accessible from most ISPs in India now. The government passed on a list of sites it wanted blocked and the ISPs went ahead and blocked the whole of blogspot. Surely, this will pass since there are too many workarounds to block. I'm using tor to get around this ban.

For the technically inclined, there's an article on Onion Routing at Wikipedia if you want to know how tor works.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ubuntu Linux

I received my free Ubuntu Linux CDs from today, exactly a month after I ordered. I have been using this release (6.06 aka Dapper Drake) at work for a couple of weeks now, thanks to a colleague who downloaded the DVD images while I was waiting for the CDs. The new release boots up faster than the previous version and feels snappier to use. Like the previous version, it detected all hardware on the laptop including the WiFi card without any tweaking from my side. The CDs are live CDs that boot up Ubuntu Linux and let you get a feel of the system before you install it on the hard disk. This also means that you don't have to sit twiddling your thumbs when the installation is in progress. I could browse while the installation went on.

Order your free CDs from or drop me a mail (binu5ue I might be able to send you a copy sooner.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thirunelly/Thirunelli and Irpu/Iruppu

Mohan's wedding this Monday provided us an excuse to make a trip to Thirunelly over the weekend. The place is known for an ancient temple nestled between forest covered hills. The view from the temple is breathtaking. It is relatively unspoilt and nowhere as crowded as some of the other popular pilgrim centres.

The route to Thirunelly via Mysore, Ranganathittu bypass, Hunsur, Nagarahole, Kutta and Tholpetty is as scenic as the destination. On a good day you will be able to cover the 250 km route in 6 hours including a halt at Lokaruchi and a slow drive through Nagarahole. The roads are good but for a 30 km stretch through Nagarahole. Here, you need to roll down the windows and drive slow, looking out for animals on either side of the road.

Accommodation at Thirunelly should be reserved in advance at the Panchatheertham guest house (phone no: 04935-210201). Book a VIP room (Rs. 600 per day) if you want a fan and heater. The basic rooms are much cheaper (Rs. 160 per day). Be prepared for a volley of questions about everything including the purpose of the visit and your marital status when you call them for a booking. There are no other options in Thirunelly other than a forest department guest house on the way. There are stay options at Tholpetty (20 km) and Kutta (25 km) too. The food at the two restaurants in Thirunelly is nothing to write home about. Suffice to say that even Mallus will need to get adjusted to the food here.

The temple is ancient, said to be 3000 years old. According to legend, it was created by Brahma in honour of Vishnu. The older parts of the temple are in ruins. You can see stone pillars around the Eastern part of the temple. There is a also a stone aqueduct that still channels water from the Brahmagiri hills into the temple. The dress code is not as strict as with the other temples in Kerala. Shirts are not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum. Photography is allowed around the temple if you donate to the temple renovation fund. There is a notice about non-Hindus not being allowed inside the temple.

After a day's stay at Thirunelly, we headed to Mananthavady. The 30 km drive through the forest was good. The roads are excellent on this side with teak forests on either side. After a second breakfast at Mananthavady we decided to head to Kutta instead and try out one of the Coorgi home-stays there. We got a log hut at Ramcaud Estate in Irpu, 7 km from Kutta. The rents are reasonable at Rs. 750 per day. The total for both of us ran to Rs. 1100 including food. We got to try out some Coorgi delicacies here. The main attractions are Irpu falls, walks in the estate and the view of the Brahmagiri hills from the room.

Trip photo set on flickr.