July 23, 2009

The Andhra Land

Andhra Pradesh is the rice bowl of India. The eastern parts of the state are filled with paddy fields and the western regions are mostly dry. As a kid, when i was in Orissa/Assam , we used to travel by trains(the usual Coromandel/Howrah express or the Trivandram-Guwahati Express), almost ONE complete day used to pass by this HUGE state. Not to forget the steaming masala dosas, vadas and idlis at the Rajamundri railway station and nice mangoes at Vizag and Vijayawada.

I have not heard of many who have traveled much in A.P or have visited A.P for leisure; and those have visited have gone only to Tirupathi or Ahobilam. And that led me to check out this bland but yet interesting state.

Did 2 excursions of the state (all in 'dabba' bus) :

Tour 1 (Feb'07) :
Kurnool was the base and roamed around. Budget : 3k INR
Day 1 : Bangalore - Hindupur - Lepakshi - Hindupur - Anantpur - Kurnool
---- Ruins and paintings at the beautiful Lepakshi temple, and the big nandi.
Day 2 : Kurnool - Banganapalli - Belum Caves - Nandyal - Mahanandi - Nandyal - Kurnool
---- Belum Caves is the second largest underground cave system
---- Mahanandi boasts of a temple which has a pool wherein water is so clear that you can spot a pin at its bottom
Day 3 : Kurnool - Yemmiganur - Mantralayam - Kurnool - Alampura Chowraste - Alampura - Kurnool - Bangalore
---- Raghavendra Temple at Mantralayam
---- Alampura ruins

Tour 2 (Jan'08) :
Budget : 2k INR
Day 1 : Vijayawada (KanakaDurga temple, Undavalli and Mogalarajapuram caves, Kondapalli)
Day 2 : Vishakapatnam (Simhachalam temple) et al.
Day 3 : Araku - Borra Caves
Day 4 : Bhadrachalam (Ram temple) - Warangal(Temple and Fort ruins)

Other place of obvious interest are : Hyderabad, Ahobilam, Srisailam (the latter 2 being important temples)

Couple of pointers w.r.t travel in A.P:
# Very Dry and HOT - STRICTLY avoid summer months.
# Temples and ruins are more than greenery
# Good connectivity by buses (no worries on this front)
# Not frequented by many tourists
# Cheap

My personal faves in A.P would be :
# Lepakshi
# Belum Caves
# Alampura ruins
# Spine numbing ride to Belum caves via the dry Cuddapah fields (take the small 'dabba' bus and enjoy with the locals)
# Early morning sunrise from KanakaDurga temple overlooking the Krishna river.

Pictures:
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/NorthernAndhraPradesh
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/Alampura
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/Mahanandi
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/BelumCaves
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/Lepakshi

Hope this was helpful if you are planning a trip to the Andhra land.

July 17, 2009

Road Trip - Jammu to Delhi via Drass, Leh and Manali

[Click on the map for an enlarged view]

So this is what it was :
[Day 1] July 3th, 2009 : Blore to Delhi and then onto Jammu
Started from Bangalore at noon. JetLite flight to Delhi. Hopeless airhostesses. Reach ISBT by 5pm. Board a super 'dabba' bus to Jammu at 7pm. Amazing chat with a jawan who was in Siachen and who had also fought in the Kargil war. Nice chats with other fellow passengers. Didnt sleep much.

[Day 2] July 4th, 2009 : Roam around in Jammu
Reach Jammu at 10am. Hot and dusty Jammu. Took a room and a quick nap. Stroll in the bazaar in the evening.

[Day 3] July 5th, 2009 : Jammu Sight Seeing
Parents arrived early morning by train. Received them in the railway station and then to the hotel. Went sight seeing in the hot sun. Visited some temples and some more temples.

[Day 4] July 6th, 2009 : Visit to Vaishno Devi
Early morning depart for Katra. Reach Sanjheechat by helicopter. Walk for 2 km to the actual cave(bhawan). Back to Sanjheechat from Bhawan by walk and then to Katra by helicopter. Back to Jammu in the evening. Parents happy :)

[Day 5] July 7th, 2009 : Rest Day. Jammu to Srinagar
Damn HOT day. Day spent in the hotel , talking and eating and sleeping. Left parents in the railway station in the evening at 5pm.
I came back to bus stand and then after some hassles got a shared cab to Srinagar. An amazing ride . Nice fellow passengers. They told me a lot about Kashmir - climate, issues, food and water. Who were VERY nice to me. Was thrilled and excited . Night halt in the cab in front of Jawahar Tunnel, as it was closed.

[Day 6] July 8th, 2009 : Kashmir Valley, Sonemarg and Drass
Start from Jawahar Tunnel at around 7:30 am in the same cab and then reach Srinagar at 10am. View as soon as one emerges out of the tunnel was mind numbing. Amazingly beautiful. Came to know that all buses to Drass/Kargil/Leh have departed already in the morning and there was no means now :( Luckily, got informed by a guy there that there was a bus that was going to Sonemarg to pick people back to Srinagar; from Srinagar i can hitchike to Drass/Kargil.
Hopped into this bus; nice landscapes enroute. Reached Sonemarg around 1pm and then got into a truck that was going to Leh. Was stopped at Zoji Pass by the Army. Got stuck. Luckily got a school bus and the army jawan asked me to go to Drass in that. Thanked the jawan. Had the ride of the lifetime with the kids in the school bus. Singing and clicking. Reached Drass at 8pm - sun still to set. Couldnt sleep much in the night.

[Day 7] July 9th, 2009 : Kargil and Leh
Woke up early at 4:30am and went for a stroll. View of Tiger Hills was amazing. Came back to room, packed and kept walking. Took a cab which was going to Kargil. An 'intellectual' ride to Kargil from Drass. The scenary was captivating. Reached Kargil by 9:30am. Walked around 5-6kms till outskirts of Kargil to catch a truck to reach Leh. Got one. Stopped in the middle for break. Got a cab from nowhere and then a beautiful, challenging and dangerous ride to Leh. Reached Leh in the evening. Took a dormitory. Roamed around in the bazaar in the night and then retired for the day.

[Day 8] July 10th, 2009 : Leh to Keylong
Start early from Leh at 6am. Via dusty roads and snow capped mountains and snow fields. Slow and jerky ride in the bus. Reached Keylong at 9am. Night halt in a dormitory.

[Day 9] July 11th, 2009 : To Delhi - Keylong to Manali and then to Chandigarh
Bus ride with school kids singing. Uneventful ride to Manali via Rohtang Pass. Petrol smoke fills the air near Rohtang. Temperature raises after Manali. Gets hot by the evening when we reach Bilaspur then 'really' hot as we reached Chandigarh in the night.

[Day 10] July 12th, 2009 : Delhi
Reached Delhi at 5am. REALLY hot and humid. A much needed bath after 4 days. Day spent sleeping in the hotel. A long stroll and some street food in Paharganj in the evening. Sweat!

[Day 11] July 13th, 2009 : Back to Banglaore
JetLite flight from Delhi to Bangalore early morning. Hopless cabin crew. Fly. Back home.

Expenses:
Commute : 6035
- Flight to-fro Bangalore-Delhi 3740
- Volvo to-fro Blore airport (125*2=) 250
- Delhi to Jammu(Haryana.T.D.C Bus) 325
- Jammu to Srinagar (Shared cab) 350
- Srinagar to Sonemarg (J.K.S.T.D.C bus) 170
- Drass to Kargil (Shared cab) 70
- Somewhere-near-kargil to Leh ( Shared cab) 500
- Leh to Keylong (HPTDC bus) 470
- Keylong to Delhi (HPTDC bus) 485

Stay : 1240
[at Jammu( 3 days)= 550; at Drass(1 night) = 100; at Leh(1 night) = 50; at Keylong (1 night) = 40; at Delhi (1 day) = 600]

Food : 1300

Total Expenses : approx 9000 INR
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