Kerala

You can read my sister’s detailed post from 4 years back when she took a trip to God’s own country.

Our trip began with a visit to an aunt who lives in Cochin. After a hearty breakfast and family time we made our way to Thekkady. By the Pandikhuzi waterfalls we stretched our legs and enjoyed watching the mountains and the milky water snaking down. There were shops thronged by visitors eager to try fresh fruit salads and other local delicacies. We too tasted some and drove on.

Pandikhuzi Waterfalls

Club Mahindra Tusker Trails at Thekkady is located close to the gates of Periyar Tiger Reserve. A trek was organized by the staff at Club Mahindra, who took us through the bustling streets of Thekkady and into the cool and calm interiors of the jungle. It wasn’t such a wild experience; there were people and a Devi temple too. It was a pleasant walk though; we got to bond with the other guests of Club Mahindra.

Then we booked an Elephant ride at Tusker Trail Elephant Ride and Jeep Safari where we rode on elephants on a muddy path strewn with elephant dung between coconut trees, banana plants and fig trees. We didn’t opt for the Elephant bathing experience. Maybe we should’ve tried that!

One chilly morning we went on a jeep safari into the Periyar tiger reserve. The jungle was too green and dense, unlike the dry grasslands we were accustomed to. A misty haze in the air, the tiny glistening ponds, all added to its ethereal beauty.

We stopped at Gavi, an Eco-tourism spot inside the jungle where we went boating on the emerald waters of kochupamba. We then climbed up a mountain, spotting a variety of birds all along, and reached the Sabarimala Viewpoint, where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the Sabarimala temple. At the Valley view, we were treated to breath-taking views of the misty mountains and the wooded valley below. This perfect location impelled the kids to perform some Yogasanas right there! We took a tour of Cardamom plantations where we had to be very careful as the area was thick with blood-sucking leeches! I remember watching many guests at the dining area, warding off these bloody buggers with heaps of salt.

Breakfast, lunch and snacks were served right there and so it was a full-day event.

For a bit of culture, we decided to watch a performance of the ancient martial arts form called the Kalaripayattu at the Mudra Theater for Kathakali and Kalaripayattu. Before the stunts began, the members performed a ritual of prayer. It was dark inside the arena, so a bunch of lights lit at strategic locations provided a suspenseful glow. We watched with bated breath as kids (the performers didn’t look too old) performed acrobatics with swords and fire. They were swift and supple. We sincerely hoped they wouldn’t break their backs or set the whole place on fire!

Our next stop was Munnar, a hillstation, a honeymooners’ paradise. Well, we were in a big group with a bunch of kiddos, so it wasn’t such a romantic experience for us. There was fog all around, which made it difficult for us to see the road ahead or the edges beside. The hills were so steep, it was exhausting to get to our rooms from the reception at the Club Mahindra. But the green tea plantations on mountain slopes, the clouds hanging low, all made for some mind-blowing views and awesome pictures. I would wake up refreshed and do yoga on my balcony, overlooking the hills.

club Mahindra Munnar

There were roadside food stalls, serving steamed dosas and spicy maggi. Water gushed right beside the roads and underneath them which made me so uncomfortable whenever we got down from our vehicle. The poor visibility made me hold my kids closer to me. It worried me to find people posing for pictures on the middle of these roads, where the fog made it hard to tell whether there was a vehicle coming or not.

At the Sun Moon Valley Boating recreations by the Mattupetty dam kids had fun on the speed boats. We went to a beautiful spice garden for a tour. There was a stream running beside as we walked inside the garden packed with herbs and trees. We learnt a lot that day, about trees like cinnamon, (Did you know that bay leaves came from the same tree? I didn’t!), about cocoa sheathed in thick green coats, about medicinal herbs like Adulsa (used for cough and cold). We shopped for some spices and ayurvedic medicines at the store.

We went to Eravikulam national park, native of the famous nilgiri tahr- mountain goats. After a long wait for tickets, and the bus that would carry us up a mountain, we were dropped at a point from where we had to cover the rest of the distance on foot. It was drizzling almost the entire time which made it difficult to spot any wildlife, but the rain-soaked trees on hills and water gushing down them made our walk worthwhile. We saw the Strobilanthes kunthianakurinji or neelakurinji, that blossoms every 12 years. Nilgiri Hills, which means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji.

Our guide from Club Mahindra took us to a Cardamom plantation called Gudumbara, where we learnt how the plant is cultivated, harvested and dried to be used as spice. At an ancient, dilapidated building there was a furnace maintained at 60 degree for drying the cardamom for 18 hours.

We explored the plantation which was almost like a jungle with its packed vegetation and an eerie quietness. It was damp everywhere and with leeches festering the place, it was quite an adventure! All memories of this trip fade behind the singular memory of seeing blood oozing from our legs and having to clean out wet clothes and drying them with hair dryers in various rooms we stayed at!

There was ziplining across a small lake, which everyone tried. Trudging our way through wet, muddy roads on a jeep, we went to a windy point. The views of the farms below and the hills around were stunning!

Driving down from Munnar to Guruvayur temple in Thrissur was a feat in itself. The roads were dense with vehicles and fog!

We visited the beautiful but overly crowded Guruvayur temple the next day early in the morning. After the chaos of the visit we strolled about in the temple complex, visiting hotels and shops and purchasing traditional clothes and ayurvedic books to study.

Manasa

Binsar , Uttarakhand

After Jim Corbett National Park and Nainital, our next stop was Binsar, about 150 km away. The journey was uphill and winding. Since almost everyone, except me and a couple of others, suffered from motion sickness, it was a quiet journey, punctuated with frequent breaks for vomiting!

On our way, we stretched our cramped legs and ran about in the lush green Golf grounds of Ranikhet. I was told that parts of the movie, Raja Hindustani, were shot here.

Ranikhet

We finally reached Binsar, located on the Jhandi Dhar hills of Himalayas. This was the summer capital of the Chand Kings that ruled over Kumaon between 11th and 18th centuries.

We fell in love the moment we set eyes on our hotel, the Club Mahindra Resort Binsar. The beautiful cottages with their sloping green roofs simply blended into the surroundings. It was a bird-lover’s paradise. We could simply enjoy the views of the mountains with tall oaks and pines, the motley-hued birds that made their homes in the gardens, the rich flowers in their full bloom attracting a variety of critters. We didn’t have to set foot outside the premises. We all had much to do right inside the cozy confines of our resort. There was karaoke, art and craft, zip-lining, rock-climbing and other activities. The food spread was delicious, but we walked the extra mile (literally) to find cheaper alternatives to our dining experience. We went exploring up the slopes of hills nearby to see the locals and their daily lives up close, and sometimes lost our way too!

One morning we drove up to Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary where we stopped at KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam) Resort. We snuck up to its wide balcony and stole glances at the majestic snowy Himalayas. The clouds were being nasty, trying to hide the jewels behind, but we were still blessed with a few sightings. We were shooed away, as the views were solely reserved for the guests of KMVN!

To Zero Point

We hiked the winding path up to Zero Point with an awesome Guide who taught us so much about the flora and fauna of Binsar. We watched a noisy woodpecker building its nest, learnt about the medicinal value of Rhododendrons, watched the sunlight dapple our path through the shady branches of Oak trees, observed the spores dotting the underside of fern leaves and simply went crazy with pleasure at finding ourselves at such a divine place. At zero point (the highest point of Binsar) with the clouds still teasing us, we had the Darshan of Himalayan Peaks like Nanda Devi, Trishul, Shivling and Kedarnath. Our Guide regaled us with tales of trekking some of its slopes. We began dreaming of the day when we would go on such an expedition!

After a relaxing stay at Binsar, it was time to make our way back down to Khatgodam. On our way we stopped at Naukuchiyatal Lake for a boat ride. Before I knew what was going on we were strapped with life vests and shoved into a boat without a driver! We were on our own! Only later did I learn that Prasad wanted to go on a pedal boat, while the others chose a motor boat that came with a driver! I spent half the journey fuming and fretting, refusing to join him in pedaling. I kept thinking what would happen if the boat overturned or something. Was the lake too deep? Would Prasad, who was the only one at the time who knew how to swim, be able to rescue us?! And then as I felt brave enough to enjoy the stunning views all around me, I joined him in pedaling. We made our way back. What an exercise we had that day! We deserved to gorge on plates of crispy pakoras and spicy maggi at the eatery beside the lake, while watching a flock of ducks putter about.

Naukuchiyatal Lake

We drove past Bhimtal with its Island Aquarium on our way to Khatgodam. There we spent the night at a cozy hotel before we caught a train to Delhi the next day. The Capital was eerily quiet as some kind of Bandh was going on. We were glad to be out of Delhi and on our way to Hyderabad.

Manasa.

Nainital, Uttarakhand

We booked a day trip to Nainital from our resort- Club Mahindra Corbett National Park.  I remember walking along Mall road with the Naini lake (lake shaped like an eye) on one side and the Kumaon hills on the other. It was vibrant; The streets were buzzing with people. Hawkers were selling colorful knitted shoes, scarves and hats at exorbitant rates.

We took the aerial ropeway to get us to the Snow View Observation Point. The cable car seemed rickety. With hearts in our mouths we made our way, trying to enjoy the magnificent vistas of Nainital and its vicinity.

 There was quite a bit of walking involved and that too at high altitudes. We felt heavy and out-of-breath. There was an amusement park and a lot of eateries. We hired traditional costumes for the kids and had their pictures taken. Then we spent some time at the observation point trying to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas.  

We went boat-riding on Nainital. It was magical! The unspoiled natural beauty on one side, the hills stacked with multi-colored buildings among towering trees on the other side, the emerald lake beneath our boats, all put us in a blissful mood, except when the boatman made us move here and there to get some good (& some weird) family pictures. The boat seemed to be losing its balance at such times. I don’t remember how much we paid for the boats, but I remember it being quite expensive.

We ladies were on a mission! Tibetan Market- that was our target. It was densely packed with tiny stores and gullible tourists willing to shell out high prices for beautiful clothes, jewelry and handicrafts. We loaded our bags with quite a few things, much to our husbands’ dismay, while they prayed to Maa Naina Devi at the alluring temple beside the market.

We visited the famous G B Pant High Altitude Zoo, where we had to do quite a bit of walking on uneven paths as the animal enclosures were scattered on a vast area.

Manasa.

JimCorbett National Park

The Tiger is  a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage and when he is exterminated – as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies to his support- India will be the poorer by having lost the finest of her fauna.

-Words by Jim Corbett, a British hunter, tracker, naturalist and an author of several books. He played a key role in establishing the Corbett National Park in the 1930s.

This was 4 years ago. I was going through pictures of our trip to the World famous Jim Corbett National Park. We flew to Delhi from Hyderabad and drove to Club Mahindra Resort in Uttarakhand, about 240 kms away. It was raining cats and dogs and the city was clogged with traffic. Boy were we glad to leave the crowds, the sludge, the air thick with pollution behind! 

Our rooms were spacious, cozy and clean like all Club Mahindra Resorts. The Resort is situated on a riverbed, so we simply splashed about in the water or relaxed on boulders beside the river in the mornings. There was a big pool at the resort that kept the kids busy for hours. And the food? It was quite a spread. There was too much food! And so expensive too. So now and then we tried other dining options like the dhabas and other little eateries. The Resort provided good entertainment for the whole family in the evenings. There was bonfire, music, dance, laughter and good socializing with the other guests.

We booked a guided walking tour to the nearby Garjiya Devi temple which took us beside a river, across an old bridge, through a jungle, on a narrow path hugging a hill and down across the river (Kosi river ?) again with a hop-skip-and-jump on boulders. It was quite an adventure with the little ones. Our guide was very helpful as he led us. A long queue of devotees was snaking its way towards the temple situated on top of a hillock. We simply bowed to the goddess from the outside and headed back to our rooms, this time in auto-rickshaws. 🙂

Apart from a visit to the Jim Corbett Museum, where we had a glimpse into the life and times of Jim Corbett, we even went on an eco-tour of a Kumaoni village, where a local family served snacks and beverages. We explored the village, watched locals carry pots of fresh mountain water from a pipe where we took a refreshing sip or two, visited the spooky temple and enjoyed the beautiful views of river Kosi flowing down below

One morning we even went on an Elephant Safari in the Seethavan, about which I have already written at length here. It fills me with joy to look back on that memorable event, even after all these years.

And then the Jeep Safari…. I can’t get enough of it. I mean we’ve gone on so many, yet it thrills me every. single. time.

I simply enjoy waking up early in the morning when it is still dark outside, bundling up and making our way into one of India’s enchanted jungles. To my mind it feels as if we’re about to enter the Jurassic Park. A wave of awe and fear washes over me. Jai Shree Ganesh, We send up our prayers. We are determined to spot a Tiger or a Leopard or an Elephant, but you never know what you might find. Or not. As the gate closes behind our jeep, we leave the world of men and enter the abode of the untamed wild.

It is refreshing to breathe in the cool, unadulterated air of the Jungle; The environs look like the fresh face of a child as it wakes up; The sky still, but vibrant, the early morning sun splashing colors as it takes center-stage. What’s not to love about an early morning foray into a Jungle, especially if it is one of the oldest, most prestigious Jungles of India?!

We did not spot a Tiger or a Leopard, but we had a great time watching a variety of birds like the Bee- Eaters, Black Drongos, Common Flameback Woodpeckers, Red Jungle Fowls. A playful Jackal wished to walk only on the paved road, instead of limiting itself to the rough woodland. It kept following us for quite a distance.

Book I’m currently enjoying

We went on to explore Nainital and Binsar about which I plan to write next. So please humor me.

Manasa.

In the time of Coronavirus

We are on lockdown mode. All of us are staying at home. We don’t have anywhere to be, nor really anything much to do. It feels like a vacation, yet it is not. We can’t go out as and when we want to. We can’t hang out with friends and family. We can’t travel. We are lucky if we are healthy, our distant family and friends are safe, have enough money for food and other emergencies.

It’s a weird situation we have all been thrown into. And the end is nowhere in sight. At such a time we can either easily lose ourselves in the rabbit holes of our miseries, dragging everyone else down as we go, or we can try and remain positive, spread cheer, help pull one another up.

We have been reading a lot, sleeping a lot, watching shows a lot, eating a lot, chatting a lot and of course quarreling a lot. Trying to keep a distance from the others has meant that family members have been tossed too close to one another. We are bound to step on one another’s toes, get on each other’s nerves…. But all is not so bleak at the Pejavar household.

Some of the things we’ve been doing to keep our spirits relatively high are-

1. Talking to family and friends. We have been video-calling our old friends and family members who we haven’t talked to in ages. It’s nice to be reminded that we are all sailing in the same boat.

2. Going out for walks around the neighborhood, adhering strictly to social distancing rules and maintaining hygiene after return.

3. Enjoying coffee and meals as a family. Before, we all ate at different times and in a rush. Now we talk to each other and take it slow.

4. Spending a lot of time outside in our balcony or at the rooftop under the sun just reading or talking.

5. Cooking together as a family. Kids are helping out with the cleaning and peeling and of course deciding on the menu.

6. Homeschooling- I’m encouraging my kids to do a bit of cursive writing practice, a bit of math, a bit of reading their text books, every single day.

7. Watching good shows on tv, netflix and amazon. Kids are enjoying the re-runs of Ramayana and Mahabharata, our great epic sagas on DD channel.

8. Working out in our home theater. We play “Workout with kids” or “Yoga for beginners” or sometimes Zumba on Youtube and follow along. It’s amazing how full of energy and inner and outer glow we feel after a bout of exercise.

9. Working on side-projects. I’m doing a lot of alterations on our existing clothes and working on sewing new clothes too. Medha is into drawing and Madhav is very much into Origami and stuff.

By Medha

10. Not listening to or reading news all day long. Disconnecting from social media to avoid constant negativity.

Also, Giving ourselves grace when things don’t go the ‘right’ way, when someone isn’t being ‘nice’, when WE are not being ‘nice’, when plans unravel, when trips get cancelled, when there’s nothing to do, when there’s too much to do…

Just… you know, taking it one day, one single precious moment at a time.

We will all get through this . Together.

Manasa.

Mainland China- Restaurant Review

I think it was watching the movie “102 Not Out” that sparked our interest in Mainland China. There’s a scene where the main characters all go to this fine-dining place to celebrate a milestone. It looked tempting. We’d never tried this before even though we’d passed by it so many times on our way to other restaurants. Being vegetarians, we, not exactly my husband and I, but a few members of my family,  refused to go on the grounds of it serving non-vegetarian food along with vegetarian, being smelly etc. etc. But one fine Sunday we decided to check it out. Everyone else took a safer route and went along with the restaurant we normally dine at. It was just Prasad and I. We called it a date. 🙂

First things first, there was no smell as we entered. It was quite empty at that hour. We were greeted by friendly staff and huge Chinese statues. The restaurant was done up beautifully. I walked around looking at the paintings and hangings on the wall. We went with the buffet. Vegetarian. There were separate tables for vegetarian and Non Vegetarian entrees.

The Eight Treasure Vegetable Soup was a comforting meal in itself. It felt like just what the doctor prescribed for a gloomy day. It perked us up immediately. We both went for another bowl each. And then came starters, one better than the other- vegetable Siumai, corn and mushroom dumpling, crispy vegetable herbal salt and potato hunan style. Even their appearances were a delight, especially the dumplings. I was tongue-tied at how delectable the crispy vegetables were. They were all so tasty just the way they were that I didn’t need to pair them with any of the many sauces that were placed alongside the snacks.

We were almost full by the time we were through with the appetizers. And then came the main course. I’m not a big fan of Chinese food anymore, thanks to Prasad, who has dampened my appetite for it by ordering some bad takeaways. But there, at Mainland China, I found myself taking a bite of everything and simply closing my eyes in pleasure. I was in Food Heaven! Now, back to the main course, the ginger and capsicum fried rice, the vegetable hakka noodles, the vegetable in Chinese parsley sauce, okra and tofu in hot chili mustard sauce, everything, even the stir-fried vegetables were lip-smackingly good! I’m not the adventurous type at buffets. I eat only the things I really feel like eating, but at China, I was trying everything.

The Sweet and Sour vegetable with Crisp noodles was a dessert in itself, but I had my eyes set on the Dessert spread. We were so full by this time that we had reserved space  just for one special sweet. But how could we not try the others? They looked so pretty and forlorn! 😦 Good-natured folks that we are, we decided to try them too. 🙂 The mousse, the chocolate biscuits, the Deep-fried milk, Uff! Everything tasted divine, but what left an indelible mark in our hearts and minds were the combination of crispy honey noodle with sesame topped with assorted ice creams and a generous pouring of hot chocolate sauce all over. I said to Prasad that I could cry out of sheer joy!

I felt so bad for the family of 3 seated beside us, none of them smiling, 2 of them immersed in their phones, pulling at their chicken legs as if it were just another meal and not a godsend. I asked Prasad if I were allowed to compliment the chef. He didn’t let me and I’m glad he did so. I would’ve surely embarrassed myself in my over-excited state! Yikes!

We stepped out of our routine, our comfort zone, the usual North Indian Buffet we go to,  and gave Mainland China a try… 🙂 It is quite pricey, but it is well worth checking out, at least once. Ha! But I’m sure you will not stop at once!

“What we are ………….” Wednesday!

Hey guys, What are you up to?

Here’s what Madhurya and I are doing this Wednesday…..

Madhurya:

Reading: “Pride and Prejudice“. I was too young when I read it the first time to understand it well. I am enjoying reading this book again. My sister and I love Mr. Darcy!!

Watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine series on Netflix. It’s really silly and funny and kind of a stress buster for me.

Eating: lots of homemade Indian food. I currently have a strong urge to eat South Indian curries and dosas and enjoy making them too.

Making:  a list of fun activities for Neel to do at home on his own while I work.

Wishing: that my parents and my sister’s family was living close to me. Well, the bright side is I will see my parents soon.

Learning: to take it easy and not be hard on myself. Everyday is a new day with a baby at home. Everyday I make a new schedule to stick with but if one day it works out, the next day it doesn’t. So instead of cribbing about it, I am learning to take it one day at a time.

Thinking: about baking my favorite chocolate chip cookies or a chocolate cake this time? What do you think? Will Neel allow me to spend some extra time in the kitchen?

Listening: to kannada song “ondu malebillu”. It is so soothing and melodious.

Loving: the antics of my super-active baby. He has started to stand while holding something for support and enjoys standing on me, the table, basically anything and everything he finds. He just doesn’t want to stop!

And me…
Reading: I just finished reading my sister’s “The Seafront Tearooms” by Vanessa Greene. A nice book to enjoy on a lazy rainy day. Now on a hunt for another feel-good book. Can you recommend any?
Watching: “You’ve got mail” on Amazon Prime. Something else prescribed by the doctor to lift my blues. 🙂
Eating: Yesterday’s Mango Italian Festa Icecream cake from Ibaco. 🙂
Making: .Nothing, sadly, although I PLAN to make something every single day.
Wishing for:a clearer mind, better time-managing skills and more energy.
Learning: Yoga. I joined a class. Finally.
Thinking: about spending less time online and more time making stuff happen.
Listening: to lots of interesting podcasts and videos. Found a new one.
Loving: reading to my kids. I’m currently reading this to Medha and this to Madhav. 🙂
Love,
Madhurya & Manasa.

Currently…(29/06/18)

  • Projects, Assignments, Tests, Dictations, what not… We (the kids and I) barely have time for free play, answering questions Madhav comes up with, listening to stories Medha weaves, for movies, for ice-creams, for simply meandering through aisles of stationery supplies, for doing nothing… What am I turning my little kids into?
  • A friend’s mother has been diagnosed with Invasive Carcinoma, which has us all talking and talking and questioning the ways of this World.
  •  Madhav- “When I’m 8, Medha will be 11. When I’m 11, Medha will be 14.”

           Me- “When you are 97, Medha is gonna be 100!”

           Madhav- “What age will you be then?”

           Me- “I’ll be up in the sky, smiling at you guys. “

           Madhav- “No mama. You will be here only.”

Hugs me and we move on. Or at least I do. After a while he comes up to me and says, “You WILL be there mama. You will be dyeing your hair to become younger.”

  • I’m learning make-up and skincare, 2 things I vicariously enjoyed but denied myself, saying I’m too busy or I’m not so vain. But I hadn’t realized I was making myself unhappy by not doing the very things that made me happy. Like Julia Child said in her book, “My Life in France”,(I don’t remember her exact words, but..) I’m in my 30s and I’m still learning so much about myself.

We don’t have to have everything figured out. We just need to be willing to learn.

  • I’m a mess right now, what with so many things to do, but hardly any time to get them all done. You gotta see my to-do-lists. You will think, nah, you will KNOW that I’m crazy! I also know I just need a break, to come up for air. It will take time, but I’ll be OK.
  • Read “Eleanor & Park” . A sweet story of romance for young adults. It was good, not great. I wish I had read it long ago. Maybe I would have liked it, but now, the romance didn’t resonate with me and Eleanor and her household kept depressing me. Reading “Strengthsfinder 2.0″ and this line kept me thinking…

         “you CANNOT be anything you want to be-

          but you CAN be a lot more of who you already are. 

-Manasa

“What we are ………….” Wednesday!

Here’s what Madhurya had to say:

Reading: (Re-reading) The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie. I am looking for new interesting books. Any suggestions?

Watching: Thor Ragnarok. I am so in love with this movie. I love the humor!

Eating: Watermelon and fresh strawberries. We plucked the strawberries from a farm nearby. They are so sweet and juicy!!

Making:  a list of projects for my #100craftadventures on instagram (I will update this in our blog soon)

Wishing for: a lovely sunny weekend so we can do more hiking, swimming and spending time together.

Learning: to experiment different food recipes for us and Neel (I don’t want Neel to be as picky as I am when it comes to food) and different methods to keep Neel busy while I work at home.

Thinking: about starting a Moms group or a Reading group here. Hope it works.

Listening:  to Tamil songs like Aluma Doluma & Donu Donu.. Thanks to Manasa, now I cannot get these songs out of my head. Even Neel starts to dance when we play them on the radio.

Loving: my “Today I am happy about” journal where I list out at least 5 things that made me happy every day. It is just to remind me that no matter how bad a day goes, I need to see the bright side.

 Here’s what I had to say:
Reading: “Writer Mama” by Christina Katz. I’ve had this book since forever, but I’m reading it now. Guess I never considered myself a writer. Can I call myself a writer now? I always write, don’t I? I still wonder…
Watching: “The Hollars” on Amazon Prime. I’m only now beginning to enjoy the perks of watching what I want on the Prime app on my phone.
Eating: Mangoes. Lots and lots of Mangoes. ‘Tis the season, y’all….
Making:  Masks, Animal masks, for Medha’s Inter-house Competition at school.
Wishing for: more time to do some creative projects plus more time to relax. Is that too much to ask?
Learning: how to do make-up that looks natural. My skin isn’t the same I had in my 20s. Sigh!
Thinking: about how mamas are being so so protective these days. Is that healthy?
Listening:  to Marie Forleo’s Interviews on Youtube. She brings such inspiring people to her channel.
Loving: my daily writing habit.
Love,
Madhurya & Manasa.

Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

It was the month of May. We wanted to get away from the heat and our daily routine. We’d heard about Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra on our last trip to Tadoba, so we decided to check it out. We knew the place would be hot, but we were so not prepared for quite literally an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” kinda experience!

Tipeshwar is about 5 hours from Hyderabad, which is awesome. It isn’t as far as Tadoba, but is on the same route. We booked our stay at a newly opened resort right at the entrance to the sanctuary. We left home around 1 pm and reached by 6:30. We would have reached earlier had we not stopped to change our punctured tire. That took us nearly an hour as we had to figure out how to get the spare tire out of the car and find that there was no air in it. Thankfully there was a petrol bunk right opposite to where we had stopped. Our men rolled the huge tire across the highway like a couple of 6 year olds having fun along the way, pumped air by themselves and rolled it right back. We didn’t stop anywhere after the fiasco.

We got onto a rocky terrain after the smooth highway, to make our way towards Sunna gate. There were low-roofed squalid huts, tiny stores that seemed poorly stocked and women walking around holding cans to attend to nature’s call in the fields nearby. It wasn’t a pretty picture. In fact it made me realize how granted we take basic facilities like a comfortable home, a restroom etc. After much driving we finally reached our destination. It was sundown time, yet it was too hot, the air thick and hard to breathe in. It took a while for our bodies to get used to the heat.

The rooms (tents) made of canvas were spacious and clean. Since it was hot outside, it was hot inside as well, despite the fully functional ACs in every room, but I did not mind. I sat and read and wrote and slept whenever I could, as the kids were with their cousins in the other room. When the power went out, which was quite frequently, the Generators were turned ON. Food was delicious and healthy throughout our stay. With so many kids in the group, the cooks even customized our food to suit our varied tastes, without bickering. I don’t know if the exceptional Customer service was because there weren’t any other guests in the resort!

Our Walk in the morning took us through barren lands, cracked open, yearning for Rain water. A couple of workers from the hotel accompanied us along with a house-dog (There were a lot of Dogs at the resort, but they were a harmless sort. They barked at the wild boars, which were a menace. Take care of your shoes and snacks though!) We crossed ploughed fields, climbed atop a mountain full of dry teak trees and leafy tendu trees (that are used in making beedis. Apparently the fruit is a delicacy around here). It felt a bit breezy atop the mountain. Madhav walked bravely and earned the affection of the staff, who kept calling his name and going out of their way to help him cross the slippery dips and climbs. The way back was a bit scary and exhausting, but everyone enjoyed the adventure, even the less-prepared ones wearing slippers instead of shoes. On our return, we tried climbing the machaan (a wooden platform used for viewing wildlife). Madhav and I struggled while Medha climbed like a monkey. She kept going up and down, up and down.

IMG_0655

IMG_0669

Our Safari into the jungle was HOT! It was 3 in the afternoon and the Sun was overhead. We were loaded with quite a few bottles of lemon juice and water, but we realized, that pretty soon we would have a shortage, no, a crisis at hand!

IMG_0698

We drove through rocky roads, ascended hills, turned curves and everywhere the landscape was barren- bald trees and parched soil. We could spot the birds and animals easily. Usually I suck at sighting, but this time I pointed out all the creatures left and right. We saw the usual monkeys, Peacocks, spotted deers and nilgais. Indian Rollerbirds with their blue, wide wingspan became a hit with the adults and kids alike. They were everywhere and provided such cool bursts of color amidst the brown and muddy landscape.

IMG_0872

All we did inside the jungle was park our vehicles by the Tipeshwar lake and waited, for hours. Kids began getting restless as they weren’t allowed to talk or get out of the vehicle, play or eat snacks as that would make them even more thirsty. They took turns and sometimes squabbled over whose turn it was to see through the binoculars we had. There were herons and peacocks and other birds by the lake. Nilgais and Spotted deers could be seen quenching their thirst too. A few jeeps left, but we were told to wait as the tigers would come out for water. And they did, just as it was time for us to leave. There were 3 cubs and a mama tiger who all came, one by one, to take long swigs from the lake and just loll beside it. All the animals, except a few birds, had vacated the premises by then. All of this happened quite far from us. I had to zoom in through my camera to see them. Although we enjoyed the sight of the Tigers and were reluctant to leave, I felt that we were more worried about whether we would have enough water to drink till we reached our hotel! We asked other people if they had any water to share. Some lent us, some didn’t. And when it was time to leave, our guide brought us a bottle from somewhere which we simply gulped down. fighting over whose turn it was to drink! We’d lost it! I feel so ashamed of myself just thinking about it now.

IMG_0765
Can you spot the 3 cubs?

IMG_0745

We made our way back in the dark. It was Medha’s birthday and the men had gone and bought a cake, so we got Medha to cut it during dinner. Someone said the cake looked a bit funny. Tipeshwar is not a big city to house a fancy bakery, of course the cake would look and taste funny! But Medha was happy she got to celebrate her birthday in the jungle with her cousins! Thank God we were fine the next morning, despite all the things we subjected our bodies to!

What a rough night it was! Medha dozed off right away. Madhav slept with his grandparents in the other room. Somehow I couldn’t sleep, so I just read. It felt like there was a knock on the door every few minutes. I thought the dogs were just playing. Then I heard the wind howling. It was picking up its intensity, almost pushing open our locked doors. Then came the thunder. I thought our tents would be blown away or get burnt due to lightning. I simply read on…. Then I heard Madhav’s voice. “Mama”, “mama” he called out. I ran out, all panicky, my wildly-beating heart in my mouth, assuming his tent had blown off and that he was getting drenched in the rain with his grandparents! But…

He was just having a good time while the grandparents were out checking what was going on! That kid! I was worried sick! After a rough night through which we hardly slept, I thought our safari in the morning would be cancelled, but it hadn’t. It was 5 when we were woken up by the staff. We were late! There was quite a throng of visitors already lined up by the gate to the jungle! We got ready and left. And then we were told that one of our jeeps had broken down and there was just one. We thought of taking our Fortuner inside, but decided not to. The roads were not suitable for our car and we didn’t have a spare tire. All of us, that is 6 adults and 5 kids, squeezed into a single jeep and crawled into the jungle once again. It looked beautiful in a bent-but-not-broken kinda way! The rain that had scared us last night hadn’t ruffled most of the jungle’s feather! Everything still looked dry and barren, but there was beauty in it, or maybe, it seemed to me to be so. I understand that nature goes through these cycles called seasons and now it was time for summer, peak summer that too.

IMG_0860

This time we were well prepared with lots of water bottles, but we weren’t as thirsty. We waited a long while by the lake again, but this time had no chance. Someone said they spotted the Star male (the sole male, the father of the cubs we saw) in another location. We went there but he had left by then. We were a tad disappointed, but It’s all a matter of luck we know. We got back to our rooms, got ready, settled our dues. (About 45,000 for 3 rooms for 2 nights i.e 7500 Rupees per room per night inclusive of food. ). The jeeps were paid separately- 950 for permit, 2000 for drivers. We had to pay for 3 jeeps as the fourth one had broken down. We thanked the folks at the resort wholeheartedly and left.

Tipeshwar is so close to home, we will surely pay a visit in the cooler months.

-Manasa