Travel

New England Trip Continued…

Sand Beach… a pretty little beach located in the Newport Cove. The proximity of steep rocky cliffs to perfect white sand, makes this beach so picturesque. And the water… I’ve seen such blue waters only in the Caribbean.

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The Park Loop Road runs parallel to the shoreline. As you climb along the rocky pathway going up from Sand Beach, you get an awesome view with cliffs rising right off the churning ocean waters. Lots of comfortable rocks to sit on and enjoy the view.

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Further along the coast, off the park Loops Road, is Thunder Hole. It is an extremely narrow cove between high cliffs which makes a sound like thunder when a wave rolls into it. The noise is produced because of a cavern below the surface of the water in the cove. The way the water bursts up in high sprays as tall as 40 feet is striking.

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Even as you approach it from far, you will see trekkers on Cadillac Mountain. There are many hiking trails going up the mountain, of differing lengths and difficulties. And some of our group wanted to climb up one of the trails, but the rest wanted to drive up. Of course, the lazy majority won and we drove up. 🙂

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Cadillac Mountain is named after French explorer and adventurer, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac. Mount Desert Island, the territory where Cadillac Mountain is located, was part of New France, the area colonized by France in North America, between 1534 and 1763. De Cadillac received the land grant for Mount Desert Island from the Governor of New France in 1688.

Before being renamed in 1918, the mountain was called Green Mountain. Topping at 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States.

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The views from the summit of Cadillac Mountain is awesome to say the least. You see far off mountains and islands shrouded in mist, giving them a aura of mystery. Really worth spending some time at the top.
During the fall and winter, many tourists go to the mountain summit to see the nation’s first sunrise.

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There used to be a cog railway running up the mountain, from 1883 until 1893. Guess where it was moved in 1895? To Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which we had visited the previous day!

We had decided to spend Independence Day in Bar Harbor. In addition to being a tourist center, in the late 19th century Bar Harbor was home to the rich and famous, who maintained luxurious estates with landscaped gardens. Among the town’s claim to fame is the fact that it is the birthplace of vice-president Nelson Rockefeller on July 8, 1908.

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The view on a walk along the Shore Path gives meaning to the native American name to the area, Pemetic – ‘range of mountains’ or ‘mountains seen at a distance’. The current name of the town comes from the sand and gravel bar, visible at low tide, at the rear of the harbour. The numerous ships – from large sailing ships to tiny boats – seemingly floating in the mist of the harbour render the view an ethereal quality.

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The coastline of Maine in this area is extremely rocky. You will see very many interesting rock formations around here.

We had dinner at a lovely place in downtown Bar Harbor. Though the waterside walk was crowded with people out to watch the fireworks, the weather was great and the walk very pleasant.

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Another encounter with the lobsters for a July 4th dinner… watching fireworks over the bay. A perfect end to a perfect trip!

 

~Ria

 

04 Jul 2014

Memories of a Trip to New England

It is not that common for the July 4th holiday to fall on a Monday or Friday, presenting us a long weekend, like it does this year. The last time this happened, in 2011, we decided to do a road trip to New England, despite the threat of heavy traffic on the roads. And boy, what a fabulous trip it was!

Plymouth and Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, Sebago Lake State Park, Bailey’s Island, Acadia National Park, Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, and Bar Harbor in Maine… that was our travel plan. We were four of us on the trip, all walking enthusiasts, of course some more so than others.

Plymouth town is named after Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, the first New England settlement by the immigrants from England who sailed on the ship Mayflower. Several prominent citizens of the 18th and 19th centuries are associated with this town.

At 6,288 ft Mount Washington is the highest peak in the north eastern United States. Can you believe, Giovanni da Verrazzano – of the Verrazzano Narrows fame – noticed the mountain from the Atlantic Ocean in 1524 and wrote about it?

Intending travellers are warned of the tricky climb up the mountain at the beginning of the road.

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The views from the car windows are awesome to say the least. As the road goes up, layer upon layer of mountain ranges unfold beneath. And the vegetation grows scantier, ending in miniature plants and evergreens. As you reach the top, the only vegetation to be seen are the lichen clinging to the rocks.

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For 76 years till 2010, Mt. Washington held the record for the highest wind gust directly measured at the Earth’s surface, at 231 miles per hour, recorded by the weather observatory at the top, on April 12, 1934.

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The Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway, is still in operation, though we did not have the time to ride on it! 🙁

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Also, several hiking trails go up the mountain. These trails provide spectacular views of the surrounding ravines and mountains. Plans for another day!

The Lakes Region of Maine consists of more than 50 lakes, of which Sebago Lake is the largest. The lake has several beaches suitable for activities like boating and camping. Also, the Sebago Lake State Park has hiking and biking facilities as well.

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As our plan was focused more on sightseeing than activities on this trip, we continued on to Bailey Island, which is located at the end of one of those finger like protrusions into the Casco Bay to the south of Maine.

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The drive to Bailey Island, along the Harpswell Island Road, is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever been on… the two-lane road passes over beautiful bridges and presents a view of the water at all times, sometimes on both sides of the road.

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The shores are rocky, with spreading green meadows and lawns going up the shore line. And houses like picture post cards!

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No trip to Maine is complete without at least one encounter with the lobster! And the lobster did not disappoint… I do believe there is something really special about eating a lobster in Maine!

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We drove till the end of Bailey Island, which spot offers a wide view of the waters and some of the surrounding islands.

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Amazingly beautiful!

 

To be continued…

 

~Ria

27 Jun 2014

Climbing the Great Wall of China

I have not met many people who have had the opportunity to climb the Great Wall of China twice. So, I consider it no small privilege that I could. After all, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I got the opportunity to attempt this feat when I was in Beijing on an official trip.

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The Great Wall of China, known as the Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li in Mandarin, was built between the third century BC and the 17th century AD along the northern border of the country, from Shanhaiguan in the Hebei province in the east to Jiayuguan in the Gansu province in the west. The estimated length of the Wall is 21,196 km (13,171 mi). Several rulers from different dynasties governing different parts of China, constructed varied sections of the Wall to fortify their empires against foreign invaders. This ultimately came to be known as the Great Wall of China.

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The Great Wall is like a long winding stone trail snaking through the mountains. Two sections of the wall, nearest to Beijing, were open to the public: Badaling and Mutianyu. Located half an hour from Beijing city, the Badaling Great Wall is the most frequented and the time I went there, it was crowded owing to the tourist season, I presumed. It was certainly a stretch, ascending that steep incline with people pushing and shoving you. Yeah, it was that busy! I had taken a conducted tour which also included stopping at a tea house for some indigenous green tea.

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Across the wall, watch towers and small fortresses are built, which were used by the army in olden times. Now, they serve as rest areas for the wearied. The highest point is 1,015 metres (3,330 ft) above sea level. If you happen to stop to catch your breath, you will find plenty of street food vendors, perched on railings, ready to quench your appetite. Many hotels and restaurants are also nestled in the foothills.

Our tour guide mentioned that whoever reached the top of the section would be honored as a ‘hero’ as it was a struggle to get there. Unfortunately, I did not make it since I gave up in the middle. The fleeting thought of using the newly-constructed cable car that takes you directly up the hill, did cross my mind. But it seemed like cowardice. I had already vowed to myself that I will complete the climb someday!

Climbing the Mutianyu Great Wall was more comfortable as the slope was easier to walk on. This was again an arranged tour with a guide. With just another visitor in addition to me, we had quite an interesting personal experience.

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A private cab picked us up, took us around and dropped us back at our homes. This part of the Wall, being further away from Beijing, there were also not many tourists around. Mutianyu is perceived as the most beautiful part, with scenic landscapes spread across the countryside. It looked more natural than the Badaling Great Wall which seemed like a commercial tourist hotspot. It is also older than Badaling. The wall at this point is made of granite and is 7–8.5 metres high and 4–5 metres wide. Had a fun time walking around at Mutianyu.

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13 May 2014

A Trip to Canada’s Capital City

Is it the end of the month already? Where did the whole month go? 🙂 This month’s guest post is by Cux, who talks about her foray into one of the very interesting cities of Canada.

~Admin

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Toronto is a great city… spectacular architecture, a great array of lovely restaurants and a buzzling arts and cultural scene… all add to its charm. But it is the classic international city! Very multicultural and diversified, it somehow lacks a unique identity. Having lived here for a while, I was determined to get around and explore other Canadian cities.
 
When a couple of my friends from the Czech Republic turned up in Toronto, it was the ideal opportunity to go visit Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. These cities were so different in their architecture, culture, signature food, and the outlook of their inhabitants that it was a real pleasure to be there. It was fascinating, to say the least.
 
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Ottawa, the main center of the Canadian government, is a quiet, introspective city which mesmerized me with its colonial buildings and Victorian structures. The many walking trails that weave around the city gives one the opportunity to investigate its varied environments. Whether it is the Discovery walk that begins at the Canadian Museum of Civilization on the banks of the Ottawa River, and ends at Parliament Hill, or the walking trails around the Provincial Parks, all of them provide unique experiences.
 
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My tour companions were seasoned walkers and helped me keep up my enthusiasm for walking throughout the trip.
 
The beautiful Alexandria bridge that connects Ottawa to Quebec is a beautiful sight. Ottawa has the most well-kempt parks and gardens. Also, it is home to the Canadian Tulip festival.
 
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We saw the Rideau Canal which totally freezes over and becomes the world’s largest skating rink in the winter. The canal was opened in 1832 and is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The National Gallery of Canada houses the most creative art that I have seen in Canada till date including a landmark sculpture of a spider in front of the building. The sculpture, named Maman by the artist Louise Bourgeois, is among the world’s largest sculptures, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide. It is made of bronze, stainless steel, and marble.
 
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We sat in for a parliament session as well… it was interesting to watch the proceedings in the House of Commons though we were more taken in by the stained glass paintings and the intricate architecture of the hall! Do take a look
 
The Byward market is the happening place in town, lined with posh cafes and shops. Interestingly enough, adjacent to it, was an old old farmers market. This, I thought, was a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. I found the best cookie shop in this market where I tasted cookies designed as Canadian flags.
 
The friend in Ottawa who hosted us was a good cook and lived in a lovely house in a great locality. He introduced us to homemade maple butter, the next best thing to chocolate. Since then, I am hooked on it.
 
At some distance from the city, on the way to Montreal, we checked in on Plaisance National Park, which has a beautiful lake and some scenic wetlands, spread across the Ottawa river.
 
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That was the best hiking trail of the trip.

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It felt like walking in the wilderness of a natural forest. Protected by forest range officers, this huge park is good for camping. I hope I can go back there with my family sometime in the future.

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And my photographer friend captured splendid shots of the floating gardens, open fields, flora and fauna including deer, squirrels, ducks, and beavers.
 
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More about Montreal and Quebec City later…

~Cux

31 Mar 2014

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

When we talk about birds, the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is one bird that has fascinated me ever since I first saw one at Murchison Falls National Park, many years ago. Since then, I have seen these beautiful birds a number of times on subsequent trips to Murchison and they always make me smile.

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Hornbills are generally sedentary and live within a defended territory. The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is a large turkey like bird that is normally found in the sub-Saharan African savannah, north of the equator. An adult bird can grow to around one metre tall and weighs about 4 kg. It has a large bill topped with a casque, a helmet like structure. Despite their wingspans these birds very rarely fly and are adapted to ground dwelling, hence the name Ground hornbill.  Abyssinian Ground Hornbills also have wattles (a fleshy pouch hanging from the throat, similar to a turkey or chicken). From these pouches, one can distinguish between a male and female bird as males have a bright red pouch hanging from their throats whilst those of females are blue. These birds  always seem to me like they are dressed up for a fancy party not only because of their dark , shiny feathers and brightly coloured pouches, but also their long eyelashes, which are actually modified feathers designed to protect their eyes from dirt and debris.

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I learnt many interesting things about these birds from a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide who had accompanied us on our game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. He told us that the Abyssinian ground hornbill mated for life, which is interesting but one hears that about a lot of birds. What was most fascinating (for me at least, not sure about the others with me!) was finding out about how these birds lay eggs and look after their young. In the case of a regular hornbill, the female lays eggs in the cavities of tree trunks or any other caves or crevices of a tree. The male hornbill then builds a cover over the cavity with mud and twigs and the female does not leave the nest until the eggs are hatched. Naturally, it is the duty of the male bird to bring food for his partner during this time. So if something were to happen to him while he was out fetching his bird wife food and he gets killed, the female will also die of starvation. But Abyssinian Ground Hornbills do this in a slightly different way. They do not seal their nests at all, and they are left open during incubation so the female can come out for preening and excretion. Not for anything else though, the male still has to bring food back to the nest.  Once the eggs are hatched, the female remains in the nest with the chicks for a week and then joins the male in finding food for the young. If there are two chicks the younger one is usually ignored or starved.  Chicks are ready to leave the nest after 3 months. These nests are normally permanent under favourable environmental conditions.

 

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The Abyssinian ground hornbill is listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its large population. So I don’t have to worry about them disappearing anytime soon. 🙂
~Min

20 Mar 2014

Air travel… then and now

I love long distance plane travel… This might be hard for many to fathom. And they do have some valid points too. The narrow seats with hardly any leg room, almost inedible meals, the long hours spent going through security… all true. But for me, these are all minor matters. Especially when compared with the luxury of the exclusive time I get to spend without any outside interference. Totally personal time that no one can encroach upon. Beyond the reach of cell phones, conference calls, and business meetings… And beyond the call of pending household chores, which have a way of bothering me even when I have no intention of getting onto them! 🙂
 
Me and my book, curled up in the window seat… and my mind wandered to a long gone era of luxurious airline travel…
 
The jetliners that started flying in the late 1950s changed the scene of commercial air travel. The flight time from New York to London was promised to be a mere six and a half hours in 1958, as opposed to the 17 hours 40 minutes in 1946 and 10 hr 50 minutes in 1956!
 
This Pan Am commercial from 1954 features the prototype of the Boeing 707 jet clipper that started commercial flying in 1958.
 
Suddenly, air travel became a doable thing. And the airlines of the day came out with fabulous commercials to persuade the public to use the new means of travel. The TV commercials of Pan Am and TWA are full of champagne, fine food and perfect service.
 
Take a look at this TWA commercial… a flight from the east coast to Los Angeles.
 
In addition to all luxuries, it even promises pleasant company. “Everybody nice and friendly, like we knew each other.” And maybe to prove how air travel brings out the best in everyone, it even has a kinda fairy tale ending with… no, I don’t want to spoil it for you, do watch the video. 🙂
 
Air travel apparently was an occasion, an event, with people dressing up in their best finery as if they were going for a party. In fact, the commercials exude a true party atmosphere with everyone smiling and laughing and circulating with glasses in their hands. Having lots of fun. It seemed like it was more about living high, than getting from place to place. And today’s air traveller is left wondering whether it is all indeed happening within an airplane…
 
And the food… white tablecloth, silver trays, hors d’oeuvres… even the dinner was served off a silver cart, on china, with designer flatware and linen. And the meals came piping hot from full-fledged kitchens, complete with freezers and convection ovens.
 
And get this… the early jets had lounges with huge windows, sprawling seats, and buffets, where coach passengers could socialise. Some of the flights even had actual film projectors to replicate the movie theatre experience. Even when the lounges were removed in 1973/74 to accommodate more seats, portable service bars were provided in an attempt to retain the freedom of movement. Sigh… gone are the days…
 
And the rest rooms… nothing like the teeny little spaces where you are bound to hit your head somewhere unless you are a hobbit… Separate lounges for men and women, women’s lounges with vanity tables and settees and large mirrors.
 
When looking at these old time commercials, what impresses me above everything is the space… the abundance of it. The seats were fabulously wide with legroom unimaginable today, and one could move around between seats as seat belts were optional in those days!
 
Of course, air travel those days was only for the privileged few as the cost was astronomical and beyond the reach of the average Joe. Now, it has become more affordable. And with the competition among the airlines for your dime, it could get even cheaper. More so, if you are willing to forego comforts (basics?) like an assigned seat or a bathroom… that is, if you go by the plans put out by some of the airlines… 😉
 
P.S. Did you know that during the early years of air travel all stewardesses had to be certified nurses?
 

~Ria

10 Mar 2014

41 Days of Summer…

… right in the middle of the worst winter in the last 20 years! That is a true luxury, especially for a person like me who starts shivering at the first hint of a cold breeze. Add to it awesome spicy food of a wide variety… that too, without a single day’s toil in the kitchen… Now you know why I am constantly smiling these days! 🙂
 
This was a work combined with vacation trip. The swanky new office in a brand new technopolis near HAL in Bangalore was very impressive with naturescapes and waterfalls all around. The moment I started snapping some pictures, one of the security personnel at the the entrance came running… “Ma’am, no photos please…” “Not even of the flowers in the garden?” “No Ma’am, all photography is prohibited”. I really laughed out loud… it was no use telling it to the security man, but I had to say it… “this is the number one news and photo agency in the whole world, and we ban photography on our own premises? Interesting!”
 

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Stolen photo of flowers 🙂

The whole trip has been a continuum of good food; some great, some really great. It is difficult to pick favourites from the lot, but standing out in my memory are the traditional thaali meal at Rajdhani, a taste of Goa at Fishermen’s Wharf, Manglorean food at Parika, Mediterranean at Byblos, Tex-Mex at Habanero, Mughlai at Umerkot…
 
Amazing among the places I managed to visit during this trip are Ranganthittu bird sanctuary, about 75 miles from Bangalore, and the fishing port at Beypore, Kerala. More about them later.
 

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Ancient tree by the roadside

And the drive through the Western Ghats (9 hairpin turns!) will never lose its charm. Though the waterfalls were not very active despite the bountiful monsoons, the view of the mist clad mountains and valleys was as enchanting as ever.
 
And yeah, I got to eat sweet jackfruit, one of my favourite fruits ever! Though it was early in the season, I found a fruit seller on the road side selling it, and grabbed some. Delicious!
 
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Sooo… tonight I get on the plane to go back home. The last punch of winter is waiting for me, I know. Remember, some of the heaviest winter storms in the past have been in March. It will be great to have a taste of true winter knowing that it won’t last too long and that spring is right around the corner. After all, how will we appreciate summer if there is no winter? 😉
 
Just remembered, daylight saving time will become effective the day I land at Newark Liberty! I can get acclimatised to the new time and get out of jet lag at one go! 🙂

~Ria

06 Mar 2014

In search of tribal treasure…

The car flies along the Mysore road. My cousin Bala is driving and the roads are delightfully empty as it is a Sunday morning. We are headed for the Lambani tribal settlement on the outskirts on the city. This tribe makes beautiful metal jewelry and embroidered cloth with mirror work, well known for their excellent craftsmanship. We are hoping to see the making of the lovely artefacts and to buy some, if available.
 
The progress is not so fast though, as we have to stop frequently to ask for directions. Many of these stops turn out to be exercises in character assessment as it seems inconceivable that anyone would willingly say ‘I don’t know’ around here. So one has to gauge whether the directions given are anywhere near dependable, based on the person’s apparent confidence, his body language, whether he looks you straight in the eyes…
 
From the highway we turn onto a paved road; just barely paved. Soon the going gets worse as the paving disappears from under the wheels and the terrain gets increasingly tough. Soon the path becomes two ruts hardly visible among the high grass, climbing up and down hillocks. The vehicle is lurching from side to side, the bottom often touching the ground with scraping noises. I’m getting more and more uneasy, as I’m the instigator of the plan. The other occupants of the car – Min and Bala’s wife Su – have this scared look on their faces and are looking uneasily around.
 
Soon the trees on either side are brushing the car and we can hear scratchy scrapy noises. Any indication of a road or path is almost gone. There is all kinds of discussion in the car… what if we get stuck somewhere, how will we turn the car around, what if we are not welcome where we are going… Su and I try to dissuade Bala from going any further. And Min looks like she is ready to scream at the first indication of trouble.
 
But apparently Bala is looking for adventure. We have come this far; now we don’t want to turn back without seeing the village… the road is sure to get better further along, says Bala the eternal optimist.
 
All of a sudden, the car bursts out into a clearing. Far off across the flat ground we can see some kind of construction. Just as we start looking around from the now stopped car, there is this loud whoop and flurry of action. A bunch of men, all dressed in tribal finery and shaking huge spears, rush towards the car from across the clearing. The loud shouting and yelling fill the air, combined with the noise of their running feet. Bala makes a tight circle with the car and in the blinking of an eye, we are driving helter skelter out of that clearing. As the car turns, we catch a quick glimpse of a huge cauldron, steam rising out of it, set on three gigantic stones with a roaring fire under it, in a corner of the clearing. It is being stirred by a bunch of women who are standing on stilts so that they can see into the pot. That is all we see and that is enough to set us out of there at the speed of thought…
 
Aah… I guess my imagination ran away with me… The story up to the point where we burst into the clearing is all true. We find ourselves in a grove of young mango trees, with some construction happening at one end of the grove. We speak to the people there… yes, we are on the right track; the Lambanis live around the area. No, they do not carry on their traditional arts anymore, at least not around there. And at this time, mid-morning, most of them will be at their work places.

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Young mangoes – mouthwatering stuff!

So, a wild goose chase, but we thoroughly enjoyed it! 🙂 And the day provided many other enjoyments as well. On the way where we stopped for breakfast, we got to taste moode idli, a delicacy of the locale. Made of a mix of rice and lentils, it is steamed wrapped in pandanus leaves.

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Moode Idli

Also, we stopped at Janapada Loka, a cultural center set up to nourish the arts and crafts of Karnataka. Founded in 1994, it is located on the Bangalore-Mysore Road on a 15-acre campus.

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Statues inside the gate of Janapada Loka

Artists in residence perform and conduct training in the traditional dance forms and music. Bangalore University has recognised Janapada Loka as a research centre.

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Dancers at the Janapada Loka

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The day we visited, there was a Yakshagana performance scheduled at Janapada Loka. But unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for that as we had to go see the Lambani settlement… 🙂

~Ria

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With sincere apologies to the Lambani people. The above story is no indication of the behaviour of the friendly and peaceful tribes; it only proves the influence of popular fiction on my imagination.

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24 Feb 2014

Namma Metro… Bangalore ahead…

Last time I was in Bangalore, construction was going on all over the city for the Metro transit system, named Namma Metro meaning Our Metro. As you probably know, Bangalore is the tech hub of the country, with a population surge already way beyond its infrastructure can support. And extended traffic snarls during the peak hours are as predictable as the sunrise every morning.

All this digging in the middle of the roads added considerably to my commute times. It was easy for me to not get irritated by this as it was a matter of only three weeks, after which I would be going back to my PATH trains… And I had a grand new Metro system to look forward to on my next visit… 🙂

Hence I was a bit amused by the venting of the cab driver one day on my way to work. We were stopped at a traffic signal and had to inch forward missing at least two greens. ‘Madam, who are they building all this for? Can the ordinary people afford the fares of the Metro? Never. All it has done is fill the pockets of the politicians… they all get rich, a white elephant Metro will sit there, and god alone knows whether it will even be completed!’ And I had to wonder whether his frustration had anything to do with the possible competition his trade would face from an efficiently run, on time Metro!

The first stretch of the Metro – from M.G. Road to Baiyyappanahalli – was inaugurated in October 2011. This visit, I took a ride on the Metro on that same stretch. First impression… Wow!

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The stations are expansive, spic and span, and maybe because I entered around 10.30 am, deserted. The personnel in charge of the strict security screening of all passengers are extremely courteous. Energy saving escalators, helpful signs… above all, everything spotlessly dust free; it is a bit hard to believe you are still in Bangalore! 😉

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The train compartments are of international standards and not at all crowded, especially at the non-peak hour that I travelled. Now I do have to check out the crowds during the peak hours, of course!

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To my delight, the trains run on elevated rails, not underground. And provide a wonderful view of whatever can be called the down town on the M.G. Road – Baiyyappanahalli route.

Two things to do next… check out the longer Malleswaram-Peenya stretch and check out the downtown stretch during peak hours. Another day…

~Ria

21 Feb 2014

Sunset at Kappad Beach

Global awareness, global warming, global politics, global citizen, global governance… the word ‘global’ has become part of our daily conversations. It is hard to imagine a world where you cannot pick and choose goods and products from all over the globe. We are truly enjoying the fruits of globalisation. I was reminded of a significant historical incident on the route to this globalisation, when I visited Kappad, a beach on the Malabar coast on the south western shore of India.kappad-beach2
In 1453 Ottoman Turks, under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II, conquered the city of Constantinople, after a siege that lasted 50 days. With the fall of Constantinople (the city was renamed Istanbul), the Ottoman Turks cut off the overland caravan routes that were essential to the spice trade between Europe and countries in Asia that produced spices like cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric.
Meanwhile, the demand for spices which were scarce and costly kept growing in Europe. In addition to flavouring food, spices were valued for their medicinal qualities and as a status symbol.
Finding a sea route to India became an immediate need. Tales carried by travellers, of the fabulous wealth of the East, also fuelled the quest. It was under these circumstances that King Manuel of Portugal commissioned an expedition to India under Captain-Major Vasco da Gama, who set out with four ships on July 8, 1497. After much hardship, Vasco da Gama landed at Kappad near Calicut (of Calico fame) on May 20, 1498. Thus was started an era of strife and competition and warfare among the European nations for mastery over the land and wealth of the East. At the same time, it also was the beginning of cultural and commercial interactions on a global scale.kappad-beach1
Calm, serene, peaceful… these are the words that best describe Kappad beach today.
The place is very beautiful and quite. Rocky formations extending into the ocean on either side of the sandy beach add an extra charm. The huge rocks can easily be climbed and provide wonderful views.
On a regular day, the beach is not crowded at all.
It is glorious to sit on the rocks and watch the sun setting in the Arabian Sea.

The old temple on one of the rocky formations is quite charming.temple
If you are an early bird and get to the beach, in the morning when the fishermen’s boats land, you can buy almost live fish, including the fabulous pearl spots.

Pearl spots taken through their natural progression (unfortunately, not from Kappad)

Pearl spots taken through their natural progression (unfortunately, not from Kappad)

A pillar near the beach commemorates Vasco da Gama’s landing at the Kappad, which used to be known locally as Kappakadavu. pillar

~Ria

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Interesting note
The early stories about the mysterious East were so full of fantasy… In the 7th century, Europeans believed that pepper grew on trees guarded by serpents. The only way it could be harvested was by setting the trees on fire, which would frighten the serpents away. May be that would have explained why pepper was black… 🙂divider-recipe-end

07 Feb 2014