Saturday, October 27, 2018

Anna's 80th Birthday - Sathyanarayana Pooja

Feb 3, 2018 - Saturday

Anna completed 80 years on Feb 2nd, 2018. We celebrated his 80th Birthday by inviting all our near and dear ones to the Sathyanarayana Pooja at Shri. Subrahmanya Matha, N R Colony, next to APS College grounds.

We had taken the First Floor of the building for this event. Day started with a sumptuous breakfast of Shaavige Bhath, and Kashhi Halwa, followed by steaming Coffee.

The Pooja itself started at 8 and got over by 10 AM giving enough time for everybody to meet and greet each other. It was so nice to see everybody whom we had invited come and join us for the wonderful event. 

The highlight of the event was Anna's 'Chaddi Dosts' from Gandhi Bazaar, friends for 70+ years come down and attend the function! A real feel good factor. Made up the day for Anna.

Relatives, Friends, Neighbours from both Anna and Amma's sides, joined us for the event.

The lunch was served at 12:30. We had 'Tarkari Kootu', 'Aloo Bonda', 'Mysore Pak', Laadu and Boondi, specially made for the occasion apart from the regular Rasam, Chitranna, Pineapple Gojju and other delicacies. 

Thanks to everyone for coming over to meet and greet Anna on this wonderful day and making a huge success.

Here are some photos and videos from the event.
Anna @ 80

A 3-day getaway to Sirsi and beyond

With the Dasara festival coming up, Souji wanted to make use of the holidays she would get along with the kids. So she chalked out a plan with visit to Sirsi and stay in a homestay along with a couple of families. After getting the confirmation from Sanjeev, Sarju, Pradeep and Usha, she booked the 'Parnakutira' homestay at 3 days at Sirsi. 

Sanjeev and family was to drive their car, while we planned to tag along with Pradeepa's Innova.

Oct 18, 2018 - Thursday [Ayudha Pooja Day]

Sanjeev's family left early morning by 5:15 AM ahead of us. Pradeepa and us, started around 10 AM after the Ayudha Pooja formalities at our respective homes. Parineetha, niece of Pradeepa accompanied us till Davanagere which we reached by 1 PM. Thanks to the wonderful hosts [Parents of Pradeepa's Sister-inLaw Chinmayee] for preparing a super-duper lunch at their house. It was a fun gathering and so nice to meet up with their family and having spent some good time there. 

We dropped Parineetha and then started again towards Sirsi by 3 PM, via Haveri. I drove the Innova [first time] till Haveri and Pradeepa took over from Haveri onwards. Smooth drive through beautiful greens under a setting sun - awesome!

'Parnakutira' - our Home Stay @ Sirsi:
We reached Sirsi our Home Stay 'Parnakutira' nestled inside a deviation 4 Kms away from the main town of Sirsi. This happens to be a 100 years old traditional home converted into a heritage homestay, and belongs to Asha's Uncle. So that is how we got to know of this place. A beautiful place to stay, and named after the forest home that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana lived during their vanavasa. The house can accommodate 3 to 4 families easily, has 3 good sized rooms with 2 of them having attached bathrooms and multiple halls, common bathrooms with both Indian and Western comforts. They even have an outdoor Badminton court, Indoor Carrom Board, Library, TV, beautifully landscaped front yard. The biggest asset to visitors is the amazing variety of traditional 'havyak' food they prepare. And before I forget to mention, this homestay is for Vegetarians, No Alcohol allowed inside and Smoking is prohibited! So if you plan to visit this place, you may want to fall into this bracket :-)

It was already 8 PM by the time we refreshed ourselves, met with the hosts and then visited the famous Sirsi Maarikamba Temple, which was about 4 kms from our Homestay. The temple was decked in colourful lights all across and swarming with huge number of people, both visitors as well as locals. The darshan was easy and we spent a good time at the temple. 

We were back in our homestay by 9:30 PM and had a wonderful dinner. We chalked our plan for the next day and hit the bed by 11 PM.

Oct 19, 2018 - Friday [Vijayadashami Day]:

Sanjeeva, Sarju, Souji and I got up by 6:30 AM, while the kids were still stiff as a bone in their beds. We strolled leisurely through the winding roads that led to our home-stay. The misty morning greens glistened with the slant rays of the morning sun falling on the dew drops and the huge trees alike, making the scenery look so fresh and so refreshing. 

We all got ready by 8 AM and were drawn straight to the sweet smells of Kharada Avalakki  with Curds and Uppittu. We got some packed some for kids for our day's visit as well. 

We started bang at 9:30 AM and headed straight to Yana which we reached by about in by 11 AM. Good clean roads, not much of traffic anywhere and it was a pleasant drive. The only concern was about Leeches at Yana, but we were kind of mentally prepared for it. This was one place on Souji's must visit bucket, ever since she was inspired by the movie 'Nammoora Mandhara Hoove'. We walked about a half a kilometer from the Parking lot amidst a lot of trees and greens, which is when the huge hillock of black stone started emerging in front of us. It looked as if a huge mass of black Lava rock simply rose to the heavens from ashes, making it look totally out of the world. The hill is completely VERTICAL! No slant or gradient sides to a hillock. Unbelievable!.

A little bit of a walk and you get to the base of this rocky hill structure where there is a small temple of Shiva underneath. The Poojari explained the multiple scientific research that have been conducted here to understand the origins of this natural rocky hill structure, which ended up inconclusive. The final conclusion got attributed to the divinity of Lord Shiva, being the reason for this place. Nevertheless, this place is just outstanding and a must visit for anybody visiting Sirsi. Thanks to Souji for making sure we visited this place!

The Poojari also asked us circle around the perimeter of the temple through rocky caves. The cave formation was just astounding with the sunlight playing hide and seek through the crevices over the top. We spent a good time taking loads of pictures, and it was worth it.

By the time we came back the parking lot, it was already 3 PM. With a small pitstop for tender coconuts, we departed Yana for 'Vibhooti Falls', which was about 30 minutes drive from the main road. 

Vibhooti Falls:
The moment we reached the Parking area of the falls, the rains came pouring down for about an hour - which gave us some time to enjoy the 'Mungaaru Male' while sipping piping-hot tea and coffee at a small shack near-by. Once the rains subsided, we walked for about 20 to 30 minutes through the slushy hill sides to reach the foot of the falls. We were very wary of the blood sucking leaches all along the way. The kids had no idea what one would look like and what to expect. 

A 100 foot tall Vibhooti falls emerged from the lush green cover, cascading and gently falling towards the earth in 2 jumps. The second section at the foot of the falls was quite small, making it friendly enough for people to bathe. The water was crystal clear, devoid of any plastic junk and litter. Pradeepa and Sanjeeva took the kids to the water and ensured they had a good time playing and having fun. Souji, Sarju and yours truly bay-watched all our babes. 

After dragging the wet-bodies off the falls, and having another round of tea and coffee at the shack, we rode back to our homestay, by 7:30 PM. The dinner had Chapathis and Subjees, Rice, Sambhar, Tambooli, Palya [curries], Jackfruit Papads, Chutneys, local variety of soups... wah wah... and that list went endless..  Burp!oor Khana!

We spent some time chit-chatting at the hexagonal Verandah overlooking the green landscaped garden and spent time talking on how the day went. We chalked out the next day's plan and decided to have a rather casual day than a packed one. We hit the bed early as well.

Oct 20, 2018 - Saturday:

We did an early morning walk and this time around the kids also joined us after we did our first round. Kids had a gala time running around the empty roads and their nonstop banter must have woken up half of Sirsi town miles away.

Breakfast was on the table waiting for us. Speciality of the day was 'Taalipattu' [Bangalore's Akki Rotti]. The Taalipattu, Coconut Chutney, Jonee Bella, Ghee and Honey combination was so tasty , we lost count of how many we had.  

Our humble hosts were literally sweating at the pace we were consuming them. They probably wouldn't have seen people eating as if there was no tomorrow. We could see tears rolling down their cheeks when we left the table for washing our hands, only to later know that we needed some more to be packed for that day's journey. We could hear the lady cook bang her head on the other side of the wall, in disbelief of us Bangalorean's appetite for Akki Rotti :-)

We started by about 10:30 AM, to visit the 'Gudavi Bird Sanctuary', about 40 Kms away from Sirsi town. It took as about an hour to reach that place. Good roads all along, so driving was fun. There was hardly any visitors there at the place so it was quite empty. We saw thousands of white and black cranes, egrets settled here after migrating from far and beyond. Nicely done 1 KM walk way all around the sanctuary with watch towers every now and then for an aerial view. 

Our next stop was Banavasi - The capital of Kadamba Dynasty. A grand 4 lane road welcomed us to the 'Uma Madhukeshwara' temple [dedicated to lord Shiva] which is the most important visiting point at Banavasi. The temple was built in 4 different centuries by different kings and kingdoms including that of Chalukya, Vijayanagar, Kadamba and Sondha kings. 

The temple also houses a large hall with massive black pillars and a place for court dancers to perform in front of the lord. The external quarters of the temple holds some beautiful artifacts like a richly carved stone cot presented by Sondha king 'Sadashiva Nayaka' which has inscriptions in Brahmi script [Classical form of Kannada script, 2 A.D] and adorned with intricate floral, animal and geometrical designs. Another artifact has inscriptions in 'Prakrit' language that is believed to be older than 'Sanskrit' language itself. 

A huge 50 foot Stone-Chariot stands tall at the entrance of the temple which was presented by Sondha king Ramachandra Nayak to the temple in the 16th Century.

The grand road in front of the temple looks majestic. We noticed that many shops were selling Cucumbers, Tender Coconuts, but one thing that was in huge demand was the king-size Pineapples. Upon inquiry we got to know that these belt from Sirsi till Sagar were best suited for Pineapple cultivation and we could see lorry loads of these getting transported. All of us had enjoyed quite a few of these Pineapple slices and they were juicy sweet or what! Very nice.

We left Banavasi by about 3:30 PM and reached Gudnapur, a short distance away from Banavasi, on the way back to Sirsi. This was a place that was on the tourist map and so we thought it must have something special. We landed at the Sangameshwara Temple very close to a huge lake. With copious rains, the water level in the lake had risen and submerged the floor of the temple up-to half a feet. So the otherwise ordinary road-side temple looked like a Star-category temple! There was nobody there at the temple and it looked quite deserted as well. Kids had a fun time splashing water in the courtyard of the temple while the oldies sat on the steps. With nothing much to see or do, we left on our way back to Sirsi. 

We drove past the Maarikamba temple where the ladies and kids did some 'Glass Bangle' shopping for some time. On our way back, we also visited the Kadamba Stores, which sells the local produce of Jackfruit Chips, Sambhar Powders, variety of local spices, Papads, Juices which we ended buying back to our home and families.

With that, we returned back to our homestay by 7 PM and refreshed ourselves. We all got seated at the hexagonal verandah and played Anthyakshari for quite a while. The boys [Sanjeev, Pradeepa and myself] took on the might of Sarju, Souji, Usha, Pooja, Srivali and Prathyusha. Shrishti and Ruchir got busy playing their own games. The Anthyakshari went on for 2 hours well through the dinner as well. It was great to see the kids doling out popular songs from Bollywood while the boys went after songs of the Rajkumar and Kishore Kumars. Loved it!

We chalked out the plan for the next day and then headed to sleep.

Oct 21, 2018 - Sunday:

Sanjeev and family left for Sondhe Vadiraja Matha at 5 AM to ensure that they got the dwadashi darshan and other proceedings completed. Rest of us had left to the Sondhe Matha at 8:30 AM after our breakfast at the homestay. We visted the main sections of Vadiraja Matha and offered our prayers there. We stayed for about an hour and then drove to the near-by, 'Sahasralinga' spot on the river 'Shalmali'. A beautiful place where one can see carvings of Shivalinga on many rock faces across the section of the river. The river was quite full but there were some nice spots where one could dip themselves in the water. It started with Ruchir wanting to get into water and then Pradeep and then Pooja and Prathyusha. So each of them got into the river and played in the water for close to an hour. We had to literally drag them off the river and then bring them back to the shore. 

We returned back to our Homestay and found Sanjeev and family waiting for us for the lunch. The cooks had prepared their special local dishes of their choice and we loved every one of them. The Kheer, Tambooli, Sambhar, Sweet Kadubu with Honey and Appehuli were just excellent. 

It was already 1 PM by the time we were all set to leave. We bade our wonderful hosts good-bye and started our return journey back to Bangalore. On our way, we stopped briefly at Davangere for having a quick bite of the Authentic Davanagere Benne Masala Dosa at the very hotel it all started - Shri Guru Kottureshwara Benne Dose Hotel, which was right opposite to the Kasturba Medical College Campus. 

We also did a dinner stop around 8 PM at 'Purohit Dhaba' right after Sira, where we were treated with lipsmackingly delicious Rajasthani dinner. We endured a mile-long traffic jam at Nelamangala junction, post which we took the Nice road and then reached home 30 minutes past midnight. 

Overall, a wonderful trip where we say the beautiful places in and around Sirsi with the company of two lovely families. A very good and memorable trip. Looking forward to many more such trips. 

Click on the photo below for some selected photos from this trip.

A 3 day getaway to Sirsi and beyond!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Year-end vacation to the hills of Kodai!

Our 4 day vacation to the hills of Kodai!

With ever-growing list of things to do, vacations are getting squeezed to less and less number of days. This time around, we could plan for only 4 days. With most of the near-by places already covered, very few remain to be seen. One such place was Kodaikanal, which I have already visited personally, but Souji and kids have not seen yet.

We rounded off on visiting Kodaikanal and booked the hotels a month in advance. Train tikcets were unavaiable even a month earlier, so we took the sleeper buses to and fro.

25 Dec, 2017 - Christmas - Monday:
We boarded the Sleeper coach (SAM tourists) right across Shantinagar BMTC Bus depot by 9:30 PM and rest of the journey was peaceful.

26 Dec, 2017 - Tuesday:
We reached Kodaikanal at 7:30 AM and it was as chill as a freezer. We asked around for 'Hotel Sivapriya' and thankfully, it was just across the bend and no need to travel any further. We took an hour to get freshened up and were ready for breakfast by 9:30 AM. The hotel was also one of the few ones which has a Pure Vegetarian restaurant, and that made our lives so much easier.

After a sumptuous brunch, we fixed the 'Valley Tour' deal through the travel and were off for sight-seeing by 10 AM. We covered various places like the Pine Forest Visit, Observatory, Mahalaxmi Temple, Palani View Point, Poombarai Village, Devil's Kitchen (Guna caves), Moier Point, Pillar Rocks, Golf Course, Upper Lake View and Kodai Lake. 

Observatory was not open to public, Gundar Falls has been closed for public, but we were informed by the driver only after reaching the spot. (We wish that the Travel desk should have informed us of this earlier, but they wanted us to buy the package) The Mahalaxmi Temple seemed to be very newly built, and seemed like an addition of one more #item to the itenary.

The Poombarai ('Poomparai') view point offers breathtaking beauty of a little village encircled by the mountains with terraced farming on one side and the hamlets on the other, making it a picturesque marvel. A picture perfect location that looks like a dream. A must see and most recommended.

The village itself has the Murugan temple which apparently is next in order of priority to that of the Palani's Murugan temple. 

The Palani view Point, was another view of the mountains which was completely covered with clouds and couldn't see anything other thant that. But the thin air and chill weather makes the drive and location absolutely enjoyable.

The Pine Forest was a visual treat. The lofty Pine Trees makes a beautiful forest scenery worth spending time. The clouds that caress the trees with the mountains in the background and a diffused sunlight makes this a must visit place for taking photographs. I believe many Bollywood and South Indian movies have been shot in these areas.

The Devil's Kitchen (a.k.a Guna Caves) was again thoroughly fenced and could hardly see anything. Apparently these are crevices in the land mass that have formed these caves. This caves were picturized in the Tamil movie 'Guna' and since then have been named as 'Guna caves' which earlier was called Devil's Kitchen. We heard some people have lost lives while the caves were open and since then have been fully closed with iron fences. 

Moier's Point was another view Point, which was covered with hovering clouds. We couldn't see a thing, but am sure should offer a good glimpse of the deep valleys.

We spent a couple of minutes at the  Upper Lake view, a point where one can see the Kodai lake and city from high above the valley.

We returned back to our hotel by 6 PM, freshened ourselves and had an early dinner at our Hotel. The mercury dipped to 'Unbearable' by 7 PM and we covered ourselves with thick layers of blanket and hit the bed by 8 PM.

27 December, 2017 - Wednesday:
We got ready early and had a heavy breakfast at our hotel. We walked to the Iconic Kodai Lake which was about 5 minutes from our hotel. We took a boat ride at the lake and spent quite a while enjoying the picturesque location. The boat-guy took us to the middle of the lake and informed us that the current circuit is upto that point and that he will return back from that point, unless we pay him extra if we want to see even more beautiful locations up the lake. Basically enticing/fleecing the tourists by paining a beautiful picture of what lies ahead that is not already covered in the current plan. And we had to take the bait, for not wanting to miss out on that beauty that lies ahead.

Well except for a few beautiful hoses near the road and a canopy of a bending tree, there was nothing extra to what we had already seen. Anyways, tourism survives on these hypes, doesn't it?

After the boating, we hired 2 cycles (one for Pooja and other for Souji) and a cycle assisted with trainer wheels for Ruchir. The route around the lake took close to 1.5 hours (5.25 Kms). Mostly having to push Ruchir's cyle all around the lake! We took some nice pictures wherever possible. It was a memorable drive!

We took a walk around the Shopping streets around the lake, Byrant's Park, Coakers Park and Coaker's walk. Coaker's Walk offered another beautiful views of the mountains. Good places to visit.

We checked out of Hotel Sivapriya after a sumptuous lunch and took the taxi to Hill Country Resort, about 6 Kms from Hotel Sivapriya further away from the City Center. Souji had booked this place after seeing some photos on their Website and when we reached that resort, we found the Resort even more stunning! The resort had a lot of cottages, greens, beautifully landscaped and very detailed. Surrounded by mountains, and very well maintained, this place was definitely luxurious. 

We took loads of pictures exploring all the spaces inside the resort. We played Badminton, football, Table Tennis, for some time in the evening till it became freezing. Thankfully, the window of our room overlooked the Amphi-theater and the huge lawns that carpeted most of the resort. Just sitting in our warm room, we could see all the activities around the resort and that was the best part of our stay here.

In the night, the resort's discotheque got us dancing to all the party songs. Ruchir danced away to glory and had a ball of a time over there. With tired legs and a long day, we got back to our room late in the night for a tight sleep.

28 December, 2017 - Thursday:
Morning breakfast at the Resort was outstanding! With tummy full, we took the bus out of the resort to cover a few more places around Kodai. We hired a Taxi at the Kodai lake area for the next better half of the day to go around the 'Picnic Tour/Trekking' package as they call it, which covers 'La Saleth Church', Dolphin Nose trek, Echo Mountain, Mountain View Point, Pambar Falls (Vattakanal Falls) and Lion's Cave. 

We drove past the 'La Saleth' Church  and did not spend much time there. A drive through the forests for about 30 minutes got us into a hilly region where we had to get down and walk the mountainous slope for visiting the Dolphin Nose and Echo Mountain and Mountain view points. 

The slope was quite risky, with very few man made steps. Rest of the steps were the fibrous roots of the trees that have spread far and wide across the mountains. Very uneven, unwieldy and quite arduous. Physically it was very challenging to get down the slope, forget even climbing back up! First stop was the Mountain view point, which offered pretty much the same clouds and trees across the viewpoints. Completely covered with clouds, we could hardly see anything. 

By this time, the knee joints were already making loud screeching noises, and we had just 15 minutes into the descent. The folks who were returning back after their full tour looked like zombies and that worried us a lot considering we had to descent 1.5 Kms further down the mountain to reach the Dolphin Nose Point and others. Our biggest concern was that of Ruchir, all of 4.8 years and whether he could pull it off. 

After another 30 minutes of climbing down the hard terrain, we made it to a Rocky edge of the mountain that somewhat looks like the beak of a Dolphin. The edge of the beak is again a suicide-spot and offers a view of the mountainous backdrop and the huge cliff. We spent a few minutes taking some pictures on reaching the end point. Very next to it was the Echo Point, another cliff where one can shout and hear an echo. However, it did not echo. May be they had gone out for a vacation as well.

After spending some time taking snaps all round and sinking in a liter of water, we looked at the unending, 60 Deg Ascent through the hills and our hearts lost a beat a beat or two more.

Ruchir was tired but was still carrying on. Pooja was remarkably doing fine for herself. Souji and I were barely surviving at this point of time.

The uphill trek of took 1 hour to get to the top. We took little breaks wherever we were out of steam. Thanks to the small shacks conveniently located all along the trek, that gave us some rest, water and snacks which helped immensely. 

Remarkably Ruchir was able to manage the trek all by himself without us having to Piggy-back him. Pooja was a trooper and a super sport and helped Ruchir and herself right through the trek and engaged him all along. For Souji and myself, our Knee joints were almost dead and demanded replacements. 

Overall, the trek to Dolphin Nose Point and Echo mountain, seemed that it was mostly for testing self endurance rather than the view points themselves. We were very happy to get back safely and still able to walk on two legs.

Next point was the Vattakanal Falls (Pambar Falls). This falls is quite close to the driveway and quite close to the road. In about 1 minute after getting down the car, we were awestruck with the beauty of this wide and cascading water fall. It seemed very child friendly, with no slippery stones and was not even ankle deep at the foot of the falls. The falls itself was beautiful and mesmerizing! 

Just that the water was freezing and playing with it would be bad mistake. Ruchir initially wanted to play in the water, but after his feet touched the freezing water, he did not want to even come get close to the waterfall, lest play over there. A few minutes of acclimatization, he started letting his feet down!

We spent quite a while here enjoying the beauty of this falls. Another point Lion's Cave/Den was across the same falls, but we were too tired and also got to know it was little risky for kids. So we dropped that point.

It was about 4 PM in the evening and it was already getting cold. We had a good lunch at Woodlands and then returned back to our resort. We struck the deal with the same driver to drop us at Madurai the next morning.

Back at our resort, we played Badminton and Football for some time and then went around the resort checking out all the other things we had not seen. We were very tired with all the trekking and our bodies were crying foul for not giving any rest. We hit the bed pretty early, as we had to check out and move towards Madurai the next day.

29 December, 2017 - Friday:
We got up early and after an early breakfast, checked out of Hill Country Resort. Our driver picked us up by 8:30 PM and we were off from Kodai to our next destination, Madurai. On the way, we took a break for 15 minutes, checking out Silver Cascade Falls. We drive to Madurai took us about 3.5 hours and reached the city by 12:30 PM. 

On the way, I had just called Prabhakar (my McAfee Colleague) to say Hi and inquire how to get around the Meenakshi temple, as he was from Madurai. Prabhakar, being so generous, got a room booked at 'College House' Hotel, and also got his car to take us around Madurai.

We refreshed ourselves at the hotel and then Prabhakar took us to a super Authentic Madurai Plantain Leaf Lunch at 'Sabarees' restaurant, right across our Hotel.

Later, we got into his car and he gave us Whirlwind tour of Madurai's must see hotspots, covering 'Perumal' temple, Murugan temple, Outer ring roads, his Cricket grounds, famous other landmarks in Madurai like Taj Hotel, Honeywell, HCl and other Industrial areas. We also checked out a few other localities inside the core city as well.

Next we visited at the 'Thirumala Nayak's Palace which was just awesome. People including me, mostly associate Madurai with Meenakshi temple, but thanks to Prabhakar, who gave us some insights and history of Madurai and the Pandian kings whose capital was Madurai. 

The palace itself is worth seeing for it's well maintained durbar hall, the huge pillars, the lovely aritisty on each of the pillars and the domes that form the palace. The museum adjacent to the Palace has a huge collection of all items related to Madurai and its history and is definitely worth visiting. All credits to Prabhakar for guiding us on this journey, which otherwise we would have completely missed. 

Prabhakar dropped us back at our hotel which was just about a KM away from the Meenakshi Temple. It was already 3:30 PM. So we quickly refreshed ourselves and then by 4:15 PM we were off to visit the famous Meenakshi Temple. 

We entered the temple by 4:30 PM and took the Rs. 50 Special Darshan tickets. The day being Friday and coupled with 'Vaikunta Ekadashi', the temple had long queues by the time we entered. The magnificent Gopuras were visible from a long distance. We got into the West Tower and then the unending queue took us about 2 hours before we could complete the darshan of Godess Meenakshi. 

By the time we came out of the temple it was already 7 PM and we ensured we got exited from the same west tower which was closest to our hotel. On the way, we quickly grabbed some food and then checked out of our hotel by 8 PM.

We walked to the Periyar Bus Stand, about 5 minutes of walk from our hotel. Our bus got delayed due to traffic jam by about 30 minutes. We departed through Royal Travels by 9:45 PM through a sleeper coach bus.

30 December, 2017 - Saturday:
We reached Bangalore by 6 AM and got dropped at Lalbagh's Double Road Entrance. We took a OLA cab and were back home by 6:45 AM.

Overall, the trip was quite refreshing and we had a good break from the monotony of official duties. The kids too had a good time and everything went well as planned. 

Here are some photos and videos taken during this trip for anybody interested.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Visiting Hassan, Belur, Holenarasipur and Shravanabelagola

May 13 - May 15, 2017 

The summer holidays for Pooja and Ruchir were coming to a close and Souji also had to start working at the Montessori at the end of the month. So it was the last week before things would get busy and our thought were that it would be good break to go out for a couple of days. And that led to the quick 3 day trip to Hassan, Shravanabelagola and nearby places.

May 13 - Saturday:
We left Bangalore by 7:00 AM and took a quick pitstop at 'Kadamba' restaurant on the highway. A beautiful hotel with spacious interiors and the food was good too.

We touched Hassan by about 11 AM and then then reached 'Hoysala Village Resorts'. One of the most acclaimed resorts in Karnataka, located at the outskirts of Hassan. Harish had gotten this resort booked for a couple of days, with some discounts from his company.

We have been to many resorts, but we had always wished that we stayed overnight in a resort, and what better place than the Hoysala Village Resort. 

As soon as we entered the resort, each one of us were welcomed with flower garlands, Vermilion, and with a Sarangi playing in the background. Quite an enjoyable entrance I must say!

A towel dipped in tepid water with exotic fragrance was given for each of us to freshen up before we were taken to our cottages. The neat, clean and winding narrow tiled pavement covered with beautiful flowery trees on both sides took us to our Cottage.  Our Luxury room was very well furnished with all the latest amenities, a huge double bed which accommodated all of us. The interiors were very well done , very upscale and made us feel royal. We spent a good time exploring the luxury of our room and the resort in general.

The Swimming pools were quite close to our room and the kids could not wait any longer to jump in. An ovular large pool for the adults and a nice and comfortable kids pool, with Crystal clear water. 

The kids had a whale of a time, dipping themselves and had a merry time. We spent the whole afternoon at the pool. By the time we returned the sun was already dipping. And we were a bit tired as well. So we all got a deserving nap.

In the evening we strolled lazily in and around the resort, playing Badminton, Criket and checked out the club house and other things. We then took the car out for a stroll to check out Hassan city and also visited a Hanuman temple. We spent a couple of hours checking out the town and had a good dinner at the Kamat Hotel. We reserved a double-bed room in a decent hotel for the next day evening as well. We returned back to the resort. We spent some time watching TV and then went to bed.

May 14 - Sunday:
The kids got into the pool early in the morning and spent the next couple of hours enjoying the aqua blue waters. Thanks to the kids pool, it made us more comfortable. By 9:00 AM, we had a delectable breakfast at the Cateferia, a spread which had pretty much everything one can think of. Salads, Assorted breads, Cakes, Idly, Poori, Dosa, Parathas, Upma, Kesari Bath, Cereals, Juices, Milkshakes, Coffee, Tea. The best was the the Corn Appetizers, Mashed Potatoes and baked beans. Wah - Mazaa aagaya!

The sun was up bright and shining. We checked out the hotel by 10, and drove towards Belur. Our resort was anyways on the way to Belur, and somehow we had always wanted to visit Belur because the Jackfruits are very famous there and the last time we were in Belur, we missed enjoying them and this time, we couldn't lose!

An hour's drive we reached Belur on empty roads. The Sun was hard and the temple's stone flooring had become a Tawa. We probably ran the fastest 100 meter dash from the entrance to the temple.

Even though we been here 5 years earlier along with Sanjeev and Sudhir, there was still so much to see and enjoy. The intricate carvings inside and outside the temple are just so magnificent. Souji and I explained to Pooja on the story of 'Amara Shilpi Jakkanachhari' - A movie made on Belur's temples.

On our way back, we visited Mango Gardens where Ruchir was delighted to see Mangos hanging in hundreds, that he could easily pluck. We took a little de-tour on our way back to Hassan and got to know that there was a Water-Park that had recently opened. The Yagachi backwater Adventure Sports! 

And Yagachi is a small rivulet across which a Dam has been built that I believe supplies water to Hassan and other places. The Water Sports were at the backwater area, and offered Jet Scooters. Souji and Pooja did not even blink before getting their tickets for the ride. And Ruchir was not to be left behind.

Each one went on their own Jet Scooter rounds and had a gala time. Rain or Shine, Adventure is mine was the mantra. We spent quite a while there are the backwaters post which we drove down back to Belur. On the way, we purchased 2 huge Jackfruits that were a steal, when it came to what we paid for them. 

It as about 4 PM when we had our lunch at Kamat. We then left to the hotel we had booked the previous night and took a little nap and recharged ourselves.

In the evening, we drove to Holenarasipur - A quaint little temple town about 40 Kms from Hassan. The drive was just perfect as it was drizzling all the way through. The temple too was just as beautiful, peaceful as we hoped it to be.

We drove back by about 8 PM and had dinner on the the way. We got back to our little hotel and spent the night there.

May 15 - Monday:
We checked out by 8 AM had a good breakfast and left towards Bangalore, via Channarayapatna.We then took the road to Shravanabelagola and reached the Vindhyagiri hill (A.k.a Indragiri) of Gommateshwara by 9 AM.

The weather was just perfect as it had rained overnight and that brought down the temperature down, making it easier for us to climb the hill. All the while we were concerned if Ruchir would be able to climb the steep hill (3350 feet) which has 620 steps (one way). 

To our delight, Ruchir and Pooja climbed the hill faster than us, without a sweat! Soujanya and I were huffing and puffing while we got up, but these two kids made us feel old for the first time. 

What a beautiful sight it was to be able to see the lush green fields in and little town of Shravanabelagola as we climbed the peak. The ascent was hard but the view from the top was just awesome. 

Over the top, we visited the gentle giant of Bahubali Gommateshwara, all of 56 feet and so neatly carved out of a monolith. After recently watching the movie Bahubali 2, it was such a good time to discuss with Pooja on who the actual Bahubali was and how he became Gommateshwara. It was good learning for her and appreciated the character. 

Apparently, the Mahamastabhisheka of Gommateshwara is due in Feb 2018 and work is already in progress in carving a second set of steps for ascending, considering that the current capacity will be far less considering the crowds that would be landing here for the big occasion that happens once in 12 years.

We spent a good time, taking photos, watching the scriptures on the mountain side, and then watching the beautiful greens from over the top.

Getting down was a little harder than we imagined and we took time to get down slowly especially the section of the hill that has an acute vertical slope at one point. Overall, we were immensely pleased with Ruchir's ability to climb the hill up and down without any issues as if it was just nothing. This is despite the fact that he throws tantrums walking a few 100 feet, in Bangalore asking to be piggy backed all the time.

It was time for us to drive back to Bangalore. The sun was hitting hard. We took the road to Hiriyur from Shravanabelagola which took us through thousands of acres of Mango and Coconut grooves. It was a beautiful drive. 

We had lunch at one of the roadside Hotels and then drove back non-stop to Bangalore. We were home by 4 PM after a wonderful 3 days of pure freshness. A break that the kids needed, Souji and I wanted dearly.

Here are some photos and videos from our trip.

Hassan, Belur, Holenarasipur and Shravanabelagola

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Anna @ 79

Feb 2, 2017 - Thursday,

Anna completed 79 years today and we cut a cake at 'Vinayadeep' in the evening!.

Here are some photos we took during this day!
Anna @ 79

Pooja @ 10!

Jan 11, 2017 - Wednesday

Pooja completed 10 years and we wanted to celebrate her birthday a bit differently this time.

So instead of the usual celebrations we do inside our home, we thought we should celebrate this outside and so we organized a quick birthday at McDonald's outlet near Banashankari II stage, opposite BDA Complex.

Pooja invited her friends from the apartments for the event. We had a wonderful time with all her near and dear ones who joined us for the celebrations.

On her 10th Birthday, we gave Pooja 10 unique gifts, each representing a year of happiness she has given us all. 

Here are some photos we took on this day! Happy Birthday Pooja!

Pooja turns 10 !!!

Ruchir @ 4 - Grand celebrations at Chiguru!

April 2, 2107 - Sunday

Ruchir's Birthday was actually on the Monday, 3rd April. However, Souji and I were very busy with Office and her Montessori Training and exams. So we decided to have the birthday celebrated when everybody will be available, so chose a day prior to his actual birthday.

Ruchir @ 4
Ruchir has been seeing a lot of birthdays of his friends at School and at our apartments and other places. This time, he was craving for all the attention that one deserves on a Birthday and had been waiting for months for his Birthday to arrive.

To make his Birthday memorable, we got our home decorated with  Balloons all over the house through an agency [Showtime]. 

And a little something more. Ruchir has been watching 'Little Krishna and his friends', a beautiful animated set of stories and since then, has been dreaming to visit Dwarka, to meet Krishna and his lovely friends. In that light, we made 'Little Krishna' as the theme for his Birthday. The signboard at the entrance of the house, The backdrop behind the Balloon Arch had loads of cutouts of Krishna. The special cake we ordered from Cake of the day also based on the same Krishna theme!

None of the folks except Souji and me knew about the plan so had to keep Ruchir at his Amamma and Naana's place till the time the house was decorated. And when Ruchir stepped inside the house, his reactions were priceless!. He had been wanting for this for a long time!. Here is a little video to capture that moment!

And in due time all his friends from our apartment arrived and we cut the cake by noon amidst loud songs, cheer and good wishes from everybody in the house. Happy Birthday Ruchir!

We had catered lunch from Kaveri Caterers. The menu was simple and the kids loved the food and so did all the others.

Ruchir loved his new dress, the decorations, the cake, all the attention, and all the gifts! Post the lunch session, he couldn't wait longer to open his gifts and played with them to his hearts content!

Overall, Ruchir's 4th Birthday was a super event and we always wanted to do something special this time. We had done something similar to Pooja when she turned 2, and now it was Ruchir's turn.

Here are some pictures that we took during the celebrations. Hope you like them!

          Ruchir turns 4 !!!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Visiting In and Around Belagaavi (Belgaum)!

This year, Souji got busy with her Montessori training, and we had to plan for a short year end outing (4 days including commute). With most of the exotic places already covered, and the big ones needing longer travel days, we decided that we should explore those areas which are not frequented by tourists, but have a whole lot to offer!

Belagaavi, earlier known as Belgaum, (and still widely used) is one of those places, that is truly blessed with a beautiful weather all round the year, natural water resources, green landscapes and a Language, Culture and Food that shares the boundaries of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Exploring in and around Belgaum was chosen as the obvious choice for our visit as it met our needs.

We booked our to-and-fro railway tickets 2 months in advance and the hotels a month in advance.

28th Dec, 2016, Wednesday:
We boarded the Rani Chennama Express to Belgaum from Bangalore Central at Night.

29th Dec, 2016, Thursday:
We arrived at Belgaum City at 8:30 AM and headed to Hotel Hanuman Lodge, which became our home for the next few days. The rooms were quite neat, well maintained. Fortunately, we got a corner room so we had huge windows which offered a great views of the main roads. The location of our hotel was very convenient as we had ATMs, Food Shops, Medical Services, Taxi and Auto services right at the junction. The rooms were spacious, and well maintained.

The first thing we did after piking up the keys from the reception was to hire a Taxi to take us to Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple, about 120 KMS from Belgaum. (Actualy, visiting this temple was not in our plans, but the front office person suggested that we do this and we kind of bought his plan ;-))

We refreshed ourselves quickly and had a quick breakfast (came complimentary with our stay).

Here is where we got to taste the Belgaum's version of Uppit (Upma), Shira (Kesaribath). The taste of Uppit was just divine. We have not had such good Uppit in years. The Crispy Vaadas are another best that one should not miss while at Belgaum. And we tried Uppit across many hotels during our stay at Belgaum and every other time it tasted as good as the first one. I can happily concede that the Uppit @ Belgaum is one of the best Uppits I have tasted till date. Enough of Uppit now :-)

Our taxi driver arrived on time and we started towards Kolhapur by 10:00 AM. Kolhapur is in Maharashtra. We passed through the towns of Hattargi, Sankeshwar, Nippani before entering Maharashtra and then into Kolhapur. On the way, we crossed River Ghataprabha, which looked majestic and huge!. These areas being the flat plans, the water spreads flat and wide and as far as the eyes can see. Some times, one wonders whether it was a River or a Sea!

We reached Kolhapur by noon and immediately got into the Queue. Because of the holiday season, there was long winding queue. It took us about an hour and half to get the Darshan of Mahalakshmi, the main goddess of this temple. The temple structure itself was quite beautifully carved in black stone. Some of the figurines on the walls seem to have been spoiled, but overall, a nice temple to visit. By the way, this temple has no strict dress codes as long as one is decently dressed. No restrictions such Only Dhotis / Pyjamas / Sarees. Jeans, Shorts, Skirts etc.. are all allowed :-). We were done with our visit to the Temple by 2:30 PM.

On the way back from the temple, one can see the street side vendors selling the famed 'Kolhapuri Chappals'. Footwear, the size of mini Key Chains to the monstrous sizes - 6 foot tall(for decorative purposes) adorn the walls of these shops. The area in and the Temple is quite festive and colorful.

Our Taxi driver (Vishwas) suggested that while we were at Kolhapur, we visit the 'Gandhinagar' area, which houses a lot of Wholesale Garments shops. Apparently these wholesale stocks arrive directly from the mills of Mumbai before it reaches the Markets of the other towns. So we drove to the Gandhinagar area, and checked out a couple of shops. Souji was more than happy to start shopping on Day 1 of the tour itself and picked up whole lot of dress materials from here.

We left Kolhapur city by 3:30 PM and headed back towards Belgaum. 30 minutes into our drive, we glanced upon a huge reservoir near a town called Kaagal. The blue water was very enticing and demanded that it be visited. We asked the locals about this place. (Our experienced driver himself did not know much about this ;-)). Further enquiry with the locals, we got to know that they have Boating facilities there and that was a good enough reason for Pooja and Ruchir to visit this place!

We took the motor boat ride and Kids loved it. There was hardly any crowd, except for the locals. Hardly anybody knows such places exist as most of the visitors who come to Belgaum are mostly on their way to Goa and spend their time in Belgaum as pit-stop for their onward journey.

We planned for the next day's outing and informed the driver to be ready by 8 AM for our next day's trip.

We were quite tired with all the travel after a hectic day. We reached Belgaum by 7 PM and had very little energy left to roam around. We refreshed ourselves as the room and got down to the food Junction, right across the main road. The make shift Food-Junction, was a set of Shops on wheels, who come in the evening and park at a junction and offer all the fast food snacks from Dosas, Chaats, Mewad Ice Creams, Faloodas, Pav Bhaajis, Chineese Noodles, Fried Rice, and and fried stuff. Kids loved the Pani Puris, Kulfis and Vada Pavs. We were done for the day and hit the bed early.

30th Dec, 2016, Friday:
After a good nice sleep, we got woke up early and got to the next-door restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. The Uppit was waiting! An obvious first choice for all of us, along with Crispy vada and some Idlis.

Our driver arrived with his Tata Indigo by 8 AM and we set off for the days trip. The plan was to see Hidkal Reservoir / Dam, Godachinamalaki Falls, Gokak Falls, Gokak Dam and whatever other other surprises we could cover in and around these places.

On our way, we again crossed the Ghataprabha River and after Hattargi, we took a right turn towards Gokak City. First stop was at Hidkal Dam.

Hidkal Dam:
Hidkal dam was completed in 1977, with the purpose of generating hydroelectric power as well as supplying drinking water and irrigating agricultural land in surrounding areas. Total length of the dam is 10183 meters. Water from Ghataprabha River fills up this reservoir. It also has a power generation plant. The reservoir and dam areas are not allowed for General Public viewing, as it is meant only for officials. However, the view and sights from this place so Awesome that it makes me think, why haven't our Tourism development boards not-yet cashed on such wonderful locations.

We spent some time here enjoying the unending blue hues of the reservoir spreading till the horizon. An amazing place to visit.

As we continued driving we stopped briefly on the bridge, where we could see up-close the Crest Gates of the Dam, The power plant and the gushing water released into the canals. Pooja had read about Dams, Reservoirs, Power Plants as part of her school curriculum this year and she was quite excited to see and appreciate all of this in a real sense. Visiting these places served the very purpose of entertainment and learning. No amount of reading can match the learning when you see and experience them in reality and this trip definitely helped.

We took a quick Tea Break near the Dam area and then went on towards Godachinamalaki Falls. I came to know of this falls through a news paper article a few months back and was impressed by the details. I did a quick search on YouTube and was thoroughly impressed with what I saw and that is when I decided that we should make a visit to Belgaum and other falls in and around Belgaum.

On our way to Godachinamalki falls, something else was in store for us.

Hidkal Reservoir:
We drove along the reservoir bund and we got off the main road and lost our way briefly.and entered a small village. To our surprise, we came across a barren strip of land from where we could see from inside the reservoir area! We parked our car and then walking towards the bank of the reservoir. The view of the reservoir from this side was breathtaking and appeared as blue as the lakes in Ladakh's Pangong Tso, made famous via the movie 3 Idiots!

We had to walk about a kilometer to reach the banks, but the walk was worth it. Miles together of crystal clear, Aqua Blue water and nobody except the 4 of us. We spent quite some time assimilating the beauty of this place. So calm and peaceful.

There are no directions to this place, no paths, nobody to assist, but probably intended that people should not visit such places as crowds could gather and security could become a problem for the administration. Also there could be rising waters due to heavy inflow as well that could be dangerous. So anybody visiting such places are at their own risks.

We returned back to our car somehow found our roads back to the main road. This off-the-road experience, was 'full paisa-vasool' for this trip!!!

Godachinamalki Falls:
The Godachinamalaki falls is about a 45 minute drive from Hidkal Dam Area, but to get to the Falls itself, one has to trek about half a Kilomoter from the parking area. A small signboard of absolutely minuscule size, points towards a small opening into a 5 foot walking track with loads of thorny shrubs that completely masks all view into the approach. There is absolutely no road, no sign posts and just a muddy track surrounded by dry shrubs. Again, there was hardly any visitors whatsoever and one could hear their own breath while walking. Lucky few can get easily lost here ;-)

We were informed about the falls not having much water at this time of the year. And when we reached the spot, it was as expected. There was hardly any water to call it as a falls.

However, being there, one can imagine and appreciate how it would be during the monsoons, looking at the width of the falls and the number of cascades before the water drops further down into the gorge.

There was however, a little stream of water gushing out of a few rocky crevices and that was just enough for Pooja and Ruchir to play in the water for some time. The warm sun and the clear water was quite enjoyable.

We left Godachinkamalaki falls and headed next towards Gokak Falls. We drove past green fields of Jowar, Sugarcane, Chillies, Sunflowers, Cabbage, Cotton and many others. Looked to be a very fertile area in and around these places, mostly so because of the rivers near-by and the moderate weather right through the river.

Gokak Falls:
We reached Gokak falls area and the first thing you see is the 120 year old hanging suspension bridge across the river. It spans about 200 meters in length and recommends only 30 persons weight as the load bearing capacity at any point of time. The bridge sways as one walks on the narrow bridge and is a funny feeling when it really sways! The bridge also provides a spectacular view of the valley and the river underneath.

Ghataprabha river dives 52 meters through a horse shoe shaped water falls. A Power Plant station stands at one side of the falls and has been supplying electricity since 1887. All of its power is now utilized for the locally famous Gokak Textile Mills that is built at the entrance of the falls.

Crossing over the bridge, we climbed the hill to get a better view of the falls. It was an awesome sight. Again, we had the same feeling, that had it been the monsoon, this place would have been even more spectacular!

We crossed the bridge back and visited the famous Gokak Textile Mills, that stands right opposite to the entrance. We visited their Garment Showroom that was shop was offering discounts at factory rate for all garments and got a good deal on Kids garments, Inner wear and towels.

Our next task was to buy the famous Gokak Kardanth. We enquired with the locals on the directions to the authentic Poornima Sweets [Kalburgi] which prepares the most authentic Gokak Kardanth. We located that it was opposite the Gokak Bus Stand. Poornima Sweets [Kalburgi] is the authentic shop that prepares and sells the famous 'Gokak Kardanth' and has been around since 1904. So it was a nice experience to have bought some sweets home from the shop that made it this famous!

We started our return journey to Belgaum by 4:30 PM and reached close to 6 PM. We had an hours time with us before our batteries died and so we made a quick visit to the 'Military Mahadev' temple near the Camp area, quite close to the Railway station. 

Military Mahadev temple is Shiva Temple has been constructed within the Army Defense Area, but opened out for public as well. A very neat and clean area, [Military area]. So a lot of folks come to visit here daily. Kids also get to enjoy Mini Merry Go-Rounds and Jumping Jacks along with Swings and See-Saws and Slides. We spent the next hour till it got dark. We returned back to our hotel and thanked our Driver Vishwas for his services in the past couple of days.

In all the hectic activity, we forgot to have lunch during the day and the kids were hungry like hell and so were we! We refreshed ourselves in a jiffy back at our hotel. We then hopped into our regular restaurant and made sure Ruchir and Pooja got something to eat for starters. Later, we enquired with the locals on where we could have the most authentic 'Belgaum Jowar/North Karnataka Meals', and got to know that he best one was just 100 meters away from where we were!

We visited the 'Basaveshwara Mess' and ordered the Regular Jowar Rotti Thaali. We love North Karnataka Jowar Rotti meals and we have had meals in many hotels across Bangalore. But have to admit the we had the the tastiest Jowari meals ever, hands-down! Absolutely delightful taste, variety and quantity that was served here.

With tummy full and sagging eyes, it was lights out by 9:30 PM.

31st Dec, 2016, Saturday:
Another beautiful day and another round of Lip-smacking Hot and piping Uppit for breakfast! Yay!!!

Our return journey was at 6:50 PM and our room booking ended by 9:30 AM. So we checked out of the hotel by 9 and kept our luggage at the reception. The plan was to roam around the Belgaum town and explore the culture attributes of the City, the old town, market area, the people, the dresses they wear, the day-day life and things like that.

Before to that, we visited the 'Kamal Basadi', a Jain temple which was built in 1204 AD. It gets its name by the Ceiling carved like a Lotus. This temple is covered under the Historical Monuments  of Architectural Society of India (ASI) and is one of the famous land marks to visit while in Belgaum. Kamal Basadi temple is a full black stone structure supported by huge Pillars of enormous size. It has a huge 'Ranga Mantapa' which probably was used for dance and musical performances. Mahavira's idol inside the temple is well carved and very peaceful.

We spent an hour at the temple and later took an Auto Rickshaw to 'Khade Bazaar'.

Khade Bazaar is one of the oldest bazaars in town and hosts a lot of small shops as well as the big and upscale ones, selling everything under the sun. Very busy and that day being a Saturday and the last day of the year 2016, the crowd was everywhere.

We walked from one end of Khade Bazaar to Ganpath Ghali and then to Maruthi Ghali. We roamed around all the streets. The wholesale markets offered fresh vegetables and flowers. The vivid colours of Rangolis, the smell of the spices, the fragrance of Dhoop and Agarbhathis filled the morning air. And not to miss the dust and dirt from the busy streets ;-) It was a quite a sensation. We shopped for some local stuff here as well.

Our next activity was to buy the famed 'Belgaum Kunda'. A sweet made of Khova. By this time, we had made our homework on where to shop for the most Authentic Kunda at Belgaum. As one can imagine, the town has every other sweet shop selling Kunda and claiming theirs is the most authentic.

On College Road, there is a shop by name 'Atul Purohit' and this shop, most locals believe, is the most authentic Kunda maker in the whole of Belgaum. Most of the folks concurred on this shop as the most authentic Kunda maker of Belgaum even while a some of them claim that it is 'Camp Purohit'! People swarmed this place like bees!

Anyways, we tasted the sample of Kunda, and it was awesome! That is what mattered the most. We packed a KG of this treasure for back home.

It was 2 PM and we were all hungry! Not really hungry, but hungry for having one more lunch at Basaveshwara Mess! So took an Auto Rickshaw and reached there. The food was as heavenly as it was the previous night. Loved it.

We walked down lazily towards our Hanuman Lodge, which was at a walk-able distance from 'Basaveshwara mess'. Our plan was to spend some time at the reception till about 5 PM and then go to the railway station for our train that had to depart at 6:50 PM. We refreshed ourselves at the hotel and relaxed for a while at the reception itself.

I did a quick check on the internet just to make sure that our train to Bangalore was on time. My friends, had warned me prior to our travel here that the trains arriving from north would generally be delayed by an our or two. Upon my enquiry, got to know that our train was delayed by 5 and half hours and was expected to reach Belgaum by 12 midnight!!! This was not expected at all!!!

We had to spend another 9 hours at Belgaum, with all the luggage at hand and without a hotel reservation! So we had to scratch our head and plan on what next to do. We took an Auto Rickshaw to the Railway Station, and deposited all our big bags at the Railway Station Cloak room and freed ourselves from carrying the load. Military Mahadev temple was near-by to the Railway Station and Kids loved the mini-amusement park within their campus. So we walked to the temple and Kids had a good time playing there. We also discovered that this place also had a mini-zoo! Emus, Deers and Ducks!

We spent time till about 7:30 PM in the evening and then headed back to the railway station. We went straight to the AC Waiting Room to find out that apart from the 4 of us, there was not a soul around!. A huge AC waiting hall, fully furnished with AC, Sofa Sets, Mobile Charging Units, Spic and Span Rest rooms! This was better than our Hotel where we spent the last couple of nights! What else can one ask for?!?!

We spent the rest of the evening there and tracked our train all the time. Few other families joined us later at the AC waiting room. The train got delayed even further and was finally scheduled to arrive at 1 AM in the morning.

At the stroke of mid-night of Dec 31st, we celebrated the arrival of New Year of 2017 at Belgaum's Railway Station, along with a few strangers! This made it very interesting for us as we were never outside of home during the New Year and this was the first time and it was so much different! This will definitely will remain with us for a long time to come.

Finally our train arrived at 1 AM and we boarded our train. The rest of the journey was peaceful and we reached Bangalore and finally home by 3 PM in the evening.

With that, our small little year-end trip ended with a loads of sweet memories from Belgaum! Wishing you all a Very Happy and Exciting 2017!

Here are some photos that we took during our trip.