Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Double guitar guy kinda day

I accidentally ended up watching 'Mad Max - Fury road' recently. At multiple times during the movie, I turned to Vikas and exclaimed - 'What a weird movie', and he would only nod or laugh in agreement. The oddest guy in the movie was the guy with the double stemmed guitar with a flamethrower (conveniently). He's out in the middle of an intense car chase, and he's dangling there playing music. He was my indicator for 'weirdness alert' in the movie.
So every time I'm having an insanely busy day at work, with people chasing each other for deadlines and umpteen meetings and loads of emails with hardly anytime to eat - I get a feeling that this double guitar guy is gonna appear out of thin-air and start playing crazy car-chase kinda music.
So yeah, I have a new kind of busy day- A "Double guitar guy" kinda day at work !!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Exploring Chalukya architecture

Our trip to Badami was a last minute plan, and we only booked our hotel and taxi a day in advance. There are many buses (SRS, VRL, KSRTC) running regular services to Badami. If you prefer train, then even those are available - they were scheduled at odd times, and it didn't suit our plan.

I'm hesitant in believing everything that a registered guide says about a monument, as they find it hard to separate out folklores and personal opinions from actual facts. Plus, I have no idea about the source and credibility of their information. Hence I googled for a good guidebook, and found a suitable match in George Michell's guidebook titled 'Badami.Aihole.Pattadakal'. This book defined our trip experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested.

The uniqueness of the monuments in Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal is a mix of Chalukya, Rashtrakuta and Pallava styles of temples co-existing within metres of each other. They're lesser known as compared to the monuments at Hampi, but just as grand. These places can be covered in one day, but then that would be as good as fast food - so you can pick what you want. We wanted to spend time and not hurry, and hence split our trip over two days.

Badami 

Badami is a small town with just one main road, and the red sandstone cliffs looming large over the city. To explore Badami, one honestly does not need a taxi and this can be easily done on foot. If you choose to walk, you will see that there are sufficient road signs in the by-lanes and the locals are always glad to guide you.

Exploring Badami can be bifurcated by the Agastya lake - what's to the North and South of it. To the North side are the 4 caves, which form the main attraction of Badami. It takes roughly about 60-90 minutes to explore these caves in detail.

The stairs at the start of Cave 1

The caves as seen from the parking lot

Reasons to avoid Badami on a holiday - was swarming with kids on school trip on Republic day

The cave temples have statues dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, Jainism and many other details which can be appreciated in leisure. 
Vishnu in an acrobatic posture

Varaha is a recurring theme of the Chalukyas

Garuda at the entrance of one of the caves

The 4th cave has many statues of Thirthankaras

After exploring the caves in the North side of the lake, you can explore the Archeological museum to the South bank of the river. One can walk along the steps of the lake, or choose to walk inside the lanes. There are clear directions in the lanes, and its a 5 minute walk away from the caves. 

Walking on the banks of Agastya lake

Boards guide you to the museum

The museum is cool, and one needs about 15-20 minutes to go through the exhibits. After exploring the museum, please hike up the cliffs and you will find a breathtaking view of the caves from the top of the cliff. Also to be seen are the Lower and Upper shivalayas, granaries used by Tipu and the facade of the fort. The view of Badami from the top of this cliff is almost similar to the view of Jodhpur from the top of Mehrangarh fort. 

While climbing the stairs to the Lower shivalaya

The granaries

The caves as seen from the Upper shivalaya

South fort as seen from Malegitti shivalaya 

Malegitti shivalaya

After exploring the monuments to the South of the Agastya lake, one can relax on the banks before heading towards the Bhutanatha temple. We almost missed out on this on Day 1, but spent 2-3 hours of our last evening here while waiting for our bus back to Bangalore. 

Bhutanatha temple

Rock carvings behind the Bhutanatha temple

Vishnu carving behind the Bhutanatha temple

Panoramic view from the shores of Bhutanatha temple

The other important sightseeing spot we missed is Sidalaphadi cave. It is a natural cave with a rock shelter and pre-historic cave paintings. Its a 1-hour hike from the main road, but we skipped this. 

Aihole

We explored Aihole and Pattadakal next day, and this is recommended if you want to spend time at each site and not rush through. Aihole is about an hour's drive away from Badami. All the temples and sites of importance are scattered across Aihole, and its best you hire a taxi for the day. We used the itinerary listed by George Michell's book, and explored Aihole. Besides the famous Durga temple and Ladkhan temple, we also explored Megutti hill temples, Ravanaphadi cave temple, Hucchhimalli temple and Hucchappayya matha. 

Durga temple, Aihole

Ladkhan temple

Nandi inside temple

Hucchimalli temple

Ravanaphadi cave

Inscription in the Jain temple on top of Megutti hill

Two storied Buddhist temple on the way up Megutti hill

Hucchappayya matha

Pattadakal

The good thing about Pattadakal temples, is that they're all housed in the sample compound on the banks of the Malaprabha river. They are a cluster of 7 temples, and are each wondrous examples of ancient architecture. You would need around 2 hours to explore the details of these temples. 

The Virupaksha temple is the grandest of them, and is the biggest. Galaganatha temple has a beautiful gopuram. The Virupaksha temple has very well carved statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Varaha and scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharatha on the pillars inside the sanctum. 

The 7 temples at Pattadakal

Shiva depicted in Galaganatha temple

Galagantha temple to the right

The well preserved interiors of Virupaksha temple

Samudra manthana as depicted on the pillars of the Virupaksha temple

I cannot stress enough of the usefulness of George Michell's book through our journey, and I recommend this to one and all. His book is detailed, and provides sufficient directions to the novices. 
I would however warn you that since you will be visiting around 20-30 temples in 2 days, you will get temple-tired at the end of it. So give yourself sufficient breaks, else you will easily get saturated. 

Local cuisine - Jolada rotti

Curd in earthen pots

This region tends to be dry and hot for most part of the year, so carry lot of water along with you. Don't hesitate to try out curd sold in earthen pots, or the local cuisine which consists of Jolada rottis (made of Jowar). Be warned that the food of the region is on the spicier side, but there's always curd to one's rescue. There aren't any noteworthy souvenirs to shop for in the area, so please do not expect much. 

Post demonetization, one important thing to keep note of while visiting Badami and its surroundings is that there are hardly any places that accept card. Digital wallets are unheard of, and cash is the only thing that works here. Badami town centre does have a handful of ATM's, but they could easily run out of cash during holiday season. Advise you to carry sufficient cash in advance. 

Badami is very dusty, and best visited during Oct to Feb. You will find people spitting everywhere. There are plenty of pigs running amok in the streets as well. But the people are very kind and warm-hearted. Their hospitality is unparalleled, and they are helpful. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cycling to Savanadurga

While others made plans for movies and brunches for the weekend, my phone buzzed Friday noon when Treyambak pinged me asking if I'm up for a ride on Saturday? Considering that I knew Vikas would be working the next day, I replied back with an enthusiastic 'Yes'. Treyambak and Chandrakant, who had also cycled with me and Vikas for the Nandi hill ride would be my co-riders. This was gonna be our second 100+ ride, and all of us had not done a long-distance ride since Nandi hills. 

Trey explained the route to me - Start early, and on the way to Savanadurga we would pass by Dodd aalad mara and Manchanabele dam as well. The route was chalked out so that Trey and Chandra would just hit the 100km mark from their residences by the end of the ride. Since I lived further away, it would be about 120km for me. I didn't complain! 

Through the rest of Friday, Kavya also agreed to join us - but lady luck had other plans. Saturday morning I met the guys at Mysore road metro station at 6 am, but Kavya arrived with her cycle in an auto. She had a flat tyre, and we spent the next 2 hours trying to fix it. Although the puncture was mended, her valve pin broke and there was no quick-fix for that. Eventually we bid her goodbye, and started our ride only at 8:30 am. In retrospect, as Kavya was riding a fixed-gear cycle, the route would've not suited her machine. 

The sun was scorching, and the traffic on Mysore road was at its Saturday morning worst. Navigating through incessant honking, we eventually managed to leave the city behind in Kengeri. My eyes, ears and lungs were pleased - There was no traffic, there was plenty of greenery and the air was crisp. 

About 20-30 minutes later, we had arrived at Dodd aalad mara. This 400 year old tree and its tree-butaries, had stood the test of time and are spread across 3 acres. The prop roots reminded me of the Strangler fig and Ficus trees of Angkor wat. The main trunk of the tree had succumbed to disease, and what remained were the prop roots which looked like trees by themselves. 

The sweeper there wouldn't let us park our bikes inside, lest we paid her 20 bucks per bike. We decided that our bikes were just as safe chained to the pole outside, and went around exploring and taking pictures. Chandra struggled to fit all of the trees into one panorama shot. We went around the trees once and decided to move ahead. It was also strange that we hadn't encountered any cyclists so far, as this was one of the hot-spots for weekend rides.  




From here, Manchanabele is about 15 kms away and this was the greenest leg of our entire ride. We hardly came across any vehicles, and were delighted as it was mainly downhill. We could see Savanadurga hill, but the roads snaked around the hill and at times we even lost sight of it.  

About a kilometre before Manchanabele village, you can see the backwaters and the dam. Entry to both these places is now banned due to many unfortunate drowning incidents in the past. 



Once we reached the village, we followed a path which said that Savanadurga was 13 kms away. The next 10km stretch was the toughest on our entire ride. It was a slow and painful uphill ride, and with the sun right above our head, it only got tougher and tougher. The path looked deceptively flat, but as we kept reducing the gear which we were cycling at, we realised that it was an illusion. We took many breaks on this path to replenish our bodies. The road was not in good shape either, as it had many potholes. Our path was lined by dense forest on either sides, and if not for the passing vehicles - we would surely be scared of being attacked by some wild animal. Think twice before taking your car on this path - I most certainly wouldn't recommend it. 

In the last km, to our relief, the forest cleared to our right and we were able to see the Savanadurga hill. As we cycled up the last incline, we reached Savanadurga village. At this point, Trey was ahead of me and Chandra was trailing right behind. As we cycled through the village, many school kids greeted us with cheers and hi-fives. One little school girl was sweet enough to offer me a guava that she had. I wish I had taken a picture of her, as this gesture was the high-point of my ride. 

The best thing to drink on a long cycle ride is tender coconut. And that's exactly what we did before our last 3 kms to the hill. At this point, the coconut vendor informed us that climbing up the hill was banned as many people had died trying to do so. It was Manchanabele all over again. Although I wasn't disappointed, but the boys wanted to climb the hill and they were disheartened enough to wonder if we should really cycle the last 3 kms. But we did go on to the base of the hill and it was 12:30 when we reached. We rested for about 30-45 minutes at a temple under the cool shade of a Tamarind tree. Ate all the bananas and chikkis and took pictures of our feat. 




We were hoping to be back home by 5, and with that aim we started out. The tough 10km stretch that I had earlier mentioned was an easy downhill ride now. That's the best part of cycling uphill - you know there's a downhill that will follow to compliment your efforts! Proof of the road's condition was that a red car which started with us, reached Manchanbele village at the same time as us. It didn't matter how many wheels your ride had. Just about a few kms before the village, we were greeted by a villager grazing his cattle and he told us - 'Its all downhill from here, ride slow'. 

From Manchanabele village, it was again a gruesome uphill ride for the next 2 kms. The midday sun did not help one bit. We took 2 breaks within a matter of 15 minutes, and even walked uphill for a small stretch. About 5 kms later, we took the right fork which would lead us to a route different than the one we rode in the morning. This would meet Mysore road at Hejjala, and we only hoped that it was not uphill. For the next hour and a half, we cycled around 9 kms and the route was full of ups and downs. I kept distracting myself while cycling uphill by counting the number of pedals for the incline to pass. Most of them were 200 or 300, but one nasty incline lasted 550 pedals! About a km before Mysore road, we could see the huge giant wheel of Wonder-la. We reached Mysore road by 4pm, and took a breather before cycling again. At this point, we were quite exhausted and had a saddle sore. The traffic only slowed us down, as buses whooshed past us like giants. I split ways with the guys and made my way through Bangalore's CBD. The last 20kms were the most tiring, and I was starving by the time I reached home at 7. I pinged the guys that I'd reached, and they had reached just moments ago as well. 

So, 120kms in around 11 hours. The only difficult part in the Nandi hills ride is the 8km uphill stretch. This ride was peppered with inclines, and the 10km uphill stretch was so much more tougher than it looked. Definitely recommend this ride for anyone looking for a 100+ stretch for the weekend. Highs of the ride - Green meadows, clean air, scenic vistas and really nice people to meet on the way. 
Lows of the ride - Riding through Mysore road traffic, Entry restrictions to Manchanabele and Savanadurga (But you still get to see them - so that's still a high). 

Can't wait for my next hundred !! :D

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Red Pesto Penne

I first came across the red pesto on a lazy afternoon at Cafe Max, Indiranagar. It had a wonderful bittery taste of the walnut, and the tang of the tomato. I really liked that it was not a white sauce pasta (that's just lots and lots of cheese!). So I'd been wanting to try this for a while, and wanted to surprise the overworked husband on New Year's eve. Quite a feat, since I'd been sick for 4-5 days, and was out of energy. But its 31st Dec, and what with all the loud pub music on (Psst-We live behind one), I decided to experiment anyway. Here's how I plated this dish.

What you need to serve 2? 

Pasta of your choice (2 cups maybe?)
4 Tomatoes (Sun dried ones, if you're particular)
2 spoons Balsamic vinegar
Handful of Walnuts
Basil
Garlic
Pepper
Salt
Cheese (Based on your liking)
Italian seasoning (Based on your liking)
Bell peppers, Olives, Mushrooms (Based on your liking)
Oil (Olive, if possible)

How to go about making it?

Throw in the tomatoes, walnuts, basil, garlic, pepper, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper into the mixer/blender. Once you've mixed all of these, you're pretty much done with the 'Red pesto' sauce part. You can also store this and use it the next time you're making pasta.

Cook the pasta to al dente. Add a few drops of oil to the pasta while boiling, and ensure you wash it with cold water. This will make sure your pasta does not stick together, while being cooked just about right.

The veggies are optional, and the pasta can go without it too. But I like mine with veggies. So I fried the peppers, olives and shrooms. Then I added the pasta and sauce. Cheese too, if you like it.

And this is how it turned to be. It was really yummy.



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pub ke peechay kya hai?

Its the dream of every 20 something from the metros to live behind a pub. And I've been living that dream for a few months now. One would thing that there's nothing to complain about, if you were in my shoes. But walk a mile in my shoes, and you'll know where it bites....

One would argue that the music must be good. But there's only so much music that's pub-worthy. I cannot argue with their choice of Green Day or Maroon 5, but when you hear it night after night - I can't help being petulant, stressed yet unable to sleep. I also found out that all pubs, big and small, are increasingly fond of Cranberries 'Zombie'.

It doesn't matter whether you own a car or an elephant, you won't find parking space anyhow after 7. There have been days when I finally find the perfect parking spot, and avoid any situations which involve moving out the car.

There are many perks which I cannot complain about. I've never once been turned down by a auto/cab driver, because he's sure to get a ride within seconds of me stepping out.
I also know exactly when someone scores a boundary, as its usually accompanied by hooting and cheering from the party crowd. Of course, I can't really tell which side scored, without visuals :P

Its New Year's eve, and the music has already started at 6pm. I suppose there are downsides to wanting to stay in the best area of the city. The grass may be greener on the other side, but it sure isn't greener behind a pub!