Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Caving & Trekking at Antaragange

Caving & Trekking at Antaragange, Kolar

Karnataka, by virtue of its historical evidences and diverse geography, hosts several places of interest for tourists; Antaragange being one of them. Antara Gange near Kolar is famous for the volcanic rocks and caves that offer trekking and wide cave exploration opportunities for the adventure enthusiasts. Situated at around 65 kms away from Bangalore, Antaragange is also famous for the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple situated at the mountain. There is a pond in the temple, which gets a continuous flow of underground water from the mouth of a stone bull (Basava or Nandi). Though the source of the water is unknown but, devotees, who pay visit to the temple, carry this holy water in bottles because it is also believed that one can get rid of diseases by drinking this holy water of Antaragange.

Visit to Antaragange is a great one day activity from Bangalore, especially for the adrenaline junkies. My visit to Antaragange was planned suddenly during mid of September, 2015. It was quiet long that we didn’t went out and so, on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi (September 17th), I and Shouvik thought of utilizing the holiday and hit the road. We informed many others but, no one showed much interest. On the eve of September 16th , while at office, I and Shouvik did some research work on places to visit nearby Bangalore and finally decided to visit Antaragange.

We planned for starting our journey early in the morning by 6 AM but, we got delayed a bit and finally started at around 7 AM from Mahadevapura. Antaragange can be reached in an hour from Bangalore, through the Bangalore-Tirupati Highway, which is a 3 by 3 lane highway with very less traffic after Krishnarajapuram. On reaching Kolar, you need to take a diversion to the left and travel for another 2-3 kms in order to reach the foothill of Antaragange.
Early morning ride through the highway itself is a wonderful experience!

A giant Sarcophagus built in a spa resort on the way will surely catch your eye

Take a break & enjoy the beautiful Landscapes while you approach towards Kolar

After around a half an hour ride, we halted at a roadside restaurant near Thavarekere, which is almost halfway to our destination. There we had a heavy breakfast, bought 4 litres of water and again started our ride towards Antaragange. At the foothill of Antaragange, there is a gate, which resembles the entry to the temple and further to the top of the hill. We parked our vehicle at the parking situated just outside the gate and started trekking uphill.
Entry to the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple & further up to Antaragange caves & hilltop

Well maintained staircase to the temple

The initial phase of the trek comprises of around 500+ steps that you need to climb up in order to reach the Temple. During this phase we encountered several species of butterflies, colourful bugs & insects (especially bees and dragonflies) and the company of some notorious monkeys. We were carrying our water bottles and some light snacks in a carry bag and unfortunately, we got robbed by a pair of monkeys.
Multiple species of butterfly will make your day colorful

I don't mind bees and think we are all the better for having them around. I like the taste of honey. - Henry Rollins

Kashi Vishweshwara Temple

Rope climbing Monkeys!

The natural trekking trail of around 2 kms through volcanic rocks, boulders and thick undergrowth starts just after the temple. The trek from the temple to the hilltop is moderately difficult and can be covered within an hour but, it entirely depends on how long you spend to enjoy and capture the natural beauty on your way. During this trek we hardly encountered any other tourists or locals and were surprised as we were looking for someone who could at least guide us towards the famous Antaragange caves.
The natural trekking trail starts just after the Temple

Trekking at Antaragange is pretty moderate unless its raining!

View of one of the hilltop from mid way

We reached the hill top at around 10 AM and were really surprised to see the paddy fields up there. There are some 7 villages situated at the hill top and a mosque where drinking water is available. There was also a shop situated near the mosque that was closed. On enquiring a local, we came to know that the shop opens late (not sure how much late because it was already 10 in the morning) and one can avail bottled water, tea, cold drinks and snacks. Since we were short on water, so, we drank very little from what it was left and started looking for the caves that was an important highlight of the place.
Paddy field & scanty vegetation at the Hilltop!

Kolar town as seen from the Anthargange hilltop

After roaming around for some time, we encountered another local, who offered us to guide through the caves in return for some money (Rs. 100/-). Though the person didn't knew proper Hindi or English and we also didn't understand proper Kannada but still, we communicated with sign languages and broken Kannada and understood each other pretty well! It was this person from whom we came to know that the place was deserted because it was a weekday. Usually it is crowded with tourists and locals during the weekends.

Note: It is always advisable to take a local guide for exploring the caves as you would never know where it will lead to and as a result you might get trapped inside and no one will ever come to know also!

Looking at the entrance of the main cave, no one will expect it to be such deep inside! There are several dead ends and it’s really difficult for the first time goers to keep a track of the route inside. Basic fitness is required for this activity and it is not at all recommended for heavy weighted people and people who suffer from claustrophobia or weak heart! After around 45 min of cave exploration, we headed out with a new source of energy and a fully refreshed mind!
And the exploration begins!

Without a local, its very difficult to identify the routes and make your way

Catching the breadth till our guide himself explores a route further down

Its Selfie time!

Narrow, steep passages that increases the adrenaline rush!

The exploration continues until it was pitch black down there & you can't even figure out anything without a torch light

At this point of time, we were thirsty enough and we were out of drinking water. Either we need to go to the hilltop again or trek down to the temple in order to get some drinking water. Both the options were time consuming and will drain out our energy. So, our guide told us to wait there for around 10 min as he will bring something that we didn't understood at all and then he will take us to drink the natural flowing water that is hidden somewhere nearby amidst the boulders.
The trekking trail is filled with thorns, shrubs & bushes at many places!

Downhill in search of fresh drinking water

Luckily it was sunny but not that much hot so, we took rest on a boulder and it was a soothing experience as you enjoy the cool breeze and scenic beauty from the top. After around 10-15 min, our guide returned with a hand basket filled with ripe guava to sell them near the temple area, which he mentioned earlier but, we were not able to understand. After a few hundred metres of downhill trek, he kept his hand basket and asked us to follow him. We went off the trekking trail and went inside the bushes heading towards the hidden source of flowing water. At a certain place, the guide asked me to put my hand inside a small hole that was surrounded by boulders from outside and surprisingly, I felt chilled water running inside that hole. We filled in the water in an empty bottle and drank until we were satisfied. The water was sweet in taste and rich with minerals. We somehow figured that this was the same water that is continuously flowing from the mouth of the stone bull at the Temple. But, the original source was still unknown!
The hidden flow of fresh running water

If you are going for off-road trekking, watch out for snakes, insects & thorns!

After an exciting trekking & cave exploration, its time to chill!

After quenching our thirst we looked at the clock and it was only 11:15 AM. Since it was very early for us to return back, so, we decided to relax there for some time and then head back to our den! We spend around an hour there and then, as we felt hungry, we started our downhill trek that took around half an hour for us to get back to the foothill. There are a few options to have food at Kolar but, we thought of heading back directly to Bangalore and have our lunch there because of the more number of options available. Without a second thought, Shouvik started his Desert Storm and by 1:30 PM, we reached Bangalore.

Important Note:

  • The place is highly populated with monkeys. So be careful with your stuffs. Don’t carry food items openly or simply in carry bags. I myself am a victim of being snatched off by monkeys!
  • Try to avoid visiting the place in a rainy day as it will not be safe to trek while it’s raining or just after the rain.
  • The best time to visit this place is in the morning (as early as possible) because as the day passes by and the sunray gets stronger, you will feel uncomfortable to trek.
  • Wear proper hiking or trekking shoes and carry sufficient water.
  • For the caving or cave exploration activity, take help from the locals, especially if you are visiting the place for the first time.

***Please don’t litter around the place. Kindly carry all your garbage in a bag and dump it in proper garbage container placed near the temple and at the foothill.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Kolkata – The City of Joy

Kolkata – The City of Joy

Kolkata (formerly spelled as Calcutta in English, until 2001), one of the largest cities in India, both in terms of population and area, is usually known as the City of Joy, City of Palaces & also the Cultural Capital of India. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. As the former capital of India, Kolkata (Calcutta) is the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought, that is reflected through the Indo-Islamic and Indo-Saracenic colonial-era architectural motifs present in and around the city. Kolkata has given birth to several personalities who are well known throughout the world for their creativity in multiple genres! With the warm hospitality & friendly nature of the locals, unbelievable varieties in cuisine, rich cultural heritage and historical sites, numerous festival celebrations going on throughout the year and last but not the least, cheap expenses, Kolkata is the ideal place to visit for a vacation, where you get so many things to explore!

The beauty of Kolkata can be seen in many ways. If you are short in time, then you have to short-list certain major attractions of Kolkata and take a glimpse of the city. But, in order to actually explore the city, even a week’s time frame might fall short to many people! And why not! The Indian Museum itself will take 2 days to properly visit all the sections. Though it might feel boring to many people but, it’s heaven for the history lovers! Similarly, the Alipore Zoological Gardens, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden (Calcutta Botanical Garden), Nicco Park & Science City will almost take a complete day to properly visit each of the individual attractions! When you are in this city, time will fly by in the blink of an eye.
Indian Museum - The largest and oldest museum in India

Apart from the mentioned ones, other places to visit in and around Kolkata are –

Victoria Memorial
Backside entry to Victoria Memorial

A ride in the Chariot (Tanga) around Victoria Memorial is a must in Kolkata

Outside Eden Gardens Railway Station

The Cricket Association of Bengal - Eden Gardens

Maidan - The largest urban park in Kolkata

Maidan - From the other end

Horses grazing around in Maidan

Here people love each other very much! Even under the scorching sun, there is no lack in commitment! ;)

Vijay Smarak - At the entry to Fort William

Shaheed Minar

  • War Memorial

First World War Memorial at Red Road

The largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest planetarium in the world.

Howrah Bridge - The sixth-longest cantilever bridge in the world.

Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge)

Howrah Station - The largest railway complex in India

Prinsep Memorial

Prinsep Ghat Railway Station by the Bank of the Ganges

Beautification of the river bank near Prinsep Ghat

Kolkata Race Course - The largest horse race venue in India

Hogg Market (New Market) - Kolkata's shopper's paradise

The crowded Lindsay Street!

Experience one of the most happening places in the city famous for Night Life, Music, Restaurants & Pubs!

The largest library in India by volume.

From Kolkata one can also take a short trip for a day or 2 to nearby places like the Sundarbans, Digha, Tajpur, Mandarmoni, Bakkhali, Frazerganj, Bankura, Bardhaman, Shantiniketan, Mayapur, Nabadwip, Krishnanagar, Murshidabad, Bandel, Taki and many more.

Being a metropolitan city, Kolkata is well connected by road, railway and air with all the other major cities of India. Even in the city, you get the option to choose from several modes of transport to travel from one place to another. Modes of transport in Kolkata include the Kolkata Suburban Railway (including the Circular Railway), Kolkata Metro Railway (first underground metro railway in India), Kolkata Tramways (Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC): The only operating tram network in India and the oldest operating electric tram in Asia), private and state government buses, taxi, auto rickshaw and man-pulled rickshaw.
Kolkata Suburban Railway

View of the Ganges from Circular Railway

Mayer Ghat - Bagh Bazar

A ride in the Circular Railway is an experience in itself!

Kolkata Tramways - The oldest operating electric tram in Asia

The Traditional Kolkata Taxis

After a few days of stay in Kolkata, one would for sure gain some extra weights due to the damn tasty Bengali cuisine. Be it the street foods or snacks or main course or sweets; whatever it is, you can’t resist yourself from tasting a wide range of Bengali food! And especially, if you are a fish or sea food lover, then you will definitely fall in love with the city at your very first meal itself! Though it’s not required to mention, but still, when you are in the city, don’t forget to taste the city’s signature desserts, Sandesh, Rosogolla (Rasgulla) & Mishti Doi!
Some of the Street Food in Kolkata. There are numerous more to go!

Rosogolla & Sandesh: The signature dessert of Bengal

Sports fanatics can also indulge themselves in several games played around along with the locals. Some of the popular sports played in Kolkata are - Cricket, Football, Kiting & Playing Cards.
In memory of Gostha Paul, the first Indian footballer to be honoured with the Padma Shri

Kiting - One of the popular games played across Bengal

There are so many reasons to visit Kolkata but, when planning a visit to the city, one should keep in mind that the climate of Kolkata is not that friendly as its people are! With a typical humid tropical climate, it is definitely not recommended to visit the city during the summer or monsoon. The best time to visit Kolkata is during the winter, spring and the very short autumn, which is generally between October and March. Moreover, some of the biggest festivals of Bengal (Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Boro Din (Christmas), Dol Jatra (Holi), Saraswati Puja and several Music fests) are celebrated during this time of the year. So, if anyone plans their visit to Kolkata accordingly, then it will be a wonderful add-on to their experience! You will be surprised to see, how crazy and passionate the Bengalis are about celebrating each and every festival in its own way!
Celebrating with or without reason - The favourite time pass of the Bengalis

Kolkata is not for everyone.
You want your city clean and green, stick to Delhi.
You want your city rich and impersonal, go to Mumbai.
You want them hi-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place.
But if you want a city with a soul, come to Kolkata.

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