"He who does not travel does not know the value of men"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Are you striving for a break from your hectic schedule? Are u a nature enthusiast? Then Vazhvanthol would be a perfect spot for rejuvenation and relief. The Vazhvanthol waterfall is only 45 KM from Trivandrum in the Bonacaud region. The main attraction of this place is its easy accessibility combined with its sheer beauty and calmness. From Trivandrum one need to travel via Nedumangad, Chullimanoor, Vithura, Bonacaud road, by taking right deviation after Vithura.

There is a forest check post near Kanithadam. Entry charges are Rs35/- per person and Rs 25/- for the vehicle. You can proceed further for around one km from the check post in your vehicle and need to walk 2.2 KM through the forest after the parking slot near the settlement area. It will take about one to one and half hours, depending on your ability, to reach out the blistering waterfalls deep inside the forest.

The spot has got a terrific atmosphere with the music of waterfalls and the song of birds adding spice to it. The waterfall is not that dangerous as the water flows flat after the falls. Of course you have to be careful while walking through the rocks which may skid.

We, a group of five people, on a working day, started from Trivandrum at about 8 am by car and reached the forest check post near Kanithadam at 10AM. In between we had our break fast from a local small restaurant near Vithura and we had to spend almost 45mts packing our food for the lunch. After parking the vehicle near the settlement area it took almost one and a half hours to trek a distance of 2.2KM, some of the areas having steep rocks to climb. We reached the falls at about 11.30AM. Luckily there were no leeches although it was drizzling.

The effort in trekking for about one and half hours faded out when we reached the waterfalls. The feeling of freshness and coolness of waterfall was a huge sort of relief from the extreme summer heat. Being a working day we were the only group there and we got absolute privacy too.

While others were having shower, myself and Hari was engaged in taking snaps of a butterfly having fun circling us. He/She was fantastic to watch in the sizzling green colour. We had a great time there enjoying till 3PM. After having a late lunch we returned at about 3.30PM. It’s always better to be back to the forest check post before 6PM as the area is known for elephant crossings.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


An escape from the hot climate, spending the vacation splendidly-our choice was a cool place. But it so happened that friendship overpowered our destination and we set for a trip to Daman. My friend Suman had been inviting us for a long time to visit Daman ,but now only it was the right time for us .So we decided to start and after a hard struggle got tickets to Mumbai in Dehradun Express from Trivandrum (Kochuveli)
The Journey
On the 9th of April we started at 8.50 AM from Kochuveli Station in Dehradun Express, which is a weekly train. We were glad to see the sole new III rd AC coach attached to the train. Only constraint was the non availability of Pantry in the train, for we enjoyed the food we had taken with us. Being an Express train we reached Panvel in about14.5 hrs. Suman had arranged a taxi to pick us from Panvel. We reached Panvel at about 11.30AM the next day and driver Vikrant Bhai received us. We went via Thane to Vapi. In between we had our lunch from the Express Inn at the Fountain. NH-8 is well maintained but the sight of cows and buffaloes lying by the side of the roads that are hit by vehicles was pitiable. Daman is only 15 mts drive from Vapi, a big city in the state of Gujrat. Vapi is also the nearest railway Station to access Daman too but only a few trains from south has got stop there. We reached Suman’s house at about 3.30 PM. We were all happy meeting each other after a long gap. It was surprising to hear suman’s 3 yr old daughter Ishani calling my son ‘Keshu chetta’. We all had a long chat till evening while children engaged in their activities.

In the evening we went to a beach named Devka which is near to Suman’s residence. Daman has got peculiar type of beaches where the effects of tides are very obvious. Beaches are also muddy unlike that in Goa and in south. Sometimes the sea goes even 1-2 KM back from the actual shore.

We had our dinner from the ‘Meeramar’hotel which is situated on the beachside. It would be better to say ‘in’ the beach b’coz it’s so close to the sea that we could see the waves brushing the walls of the building. It is a huge restaurant that can accommodate 1000 people at a time. The Daman hotels/restaurants are too busy during weekends. Liquor being very cheap, mainly people from the state of Gujarat {it being a dry state} come to these hotels to spend the weekends. It was understood that they hang over there for parties till 2AM. While we were having dinner there was a birthday party going on at one end and IPL match live on the other side in big screen. After a heavy dinner we returned late night.

Next day Suman, Ishani and I went for a housewarming ceremony of a Bengali family. I felt that there are so many similarities between Bengalese and Keralites in their culture. They were very cordial and we participated in the pooja, and had heavy food. It was too hot during the morning time that we could not go out with the kids. Being the coastal area evenings are always pleasant with cool sea breeze. In the evening we went out to the Jampore beach. We went to Moti Daman through the bridge that connects both the Damans. It is across the river Daman Ganga. There was heavy rush in the beach.

The settlements in Daman had sprung up due to the forts on either sides of the river. The side where we had the major government offices during the portugese rule and even today is Moti Daman ( in Gujrati " Moti" means " Big " ) and the other side where suman resides used to be the fort for the Garrison during those era is called Nani Daman ( in Gujrati "Nani" means "Small" ). The entire Industries have developed in Nani Daman .

Some were playing football and some cricket on the beach. One should be watchful while standing on the beach as balls from all corners can come and hit you at any time. A ball even hit Sunetra’s eyes. There is parachute diving, horse riding, and camel riding on the beach side. Sea had gone 2 kms back because of low tide. It was muddy and filled with black sand. People come there for picnic with food and drinks. Young chaps with beer bottles are a common sight. There is no restriction on the same and one thing to be highlighted is that there is no disturbance from anyone though. Minnu and Keshu had a good time playing in the sand while Ishani was sleeping. It was surprising to hear a policeman speaking Malayalam there. Suman said there are a lot of Keralites in Daman. We returned at about 8 o’clock. The sunset is late there as it is in the western side. Way back we came through the fort inside which Secretariat and all Govt. offices are located. We could feel the Portuguese influence when we go through the route. Most of the buildings there including an old church were built by the Portuguese. Then we went to the ferry. Portuguese settlements are there in Moti Daman. Nani Daman is more an industrial area which also has a fort. Sundays are always busy with people enjoying the cool breeze. We came back at 11PM.

During my morning walk I went to the park maintained by the Dilip Nagar Development Association. Even at 7.30 the heat of the sun was unbearable. In the evening we went to Vapi for shopping at the Vishal Shopping Complex. While returning our food was from the Veer De Dhaba –a typical Punjabi Dhaba. The ambience was truly appreciable. The restaurant was internally decorated in such a way that we felt that we were in a road side Punjabi Dhaba. People were also enjoying the IPL matches through the huge screens provided in the restaurant with a cup of beer. Even though bar and restaurant are together it is absolutely safe to sit there with family, which I feel is the uniqueness of the place. The food was also good especially the Lassi. We returned at 12.30.

Next day also we spent the day time at home due to the extreme heat chatting and watching TV. Evening our visit was to the temple of Kaali Maa temple maintained by the Bengalis in Daman. Being a Kali temple pujas and rituals begin only after 10PM. We could not stay too long overnight with the kids. There also we met friends speaking to us about Kerala with great enthusiasm when they understood that we were malayalees.

Keshu’s request for having dosa was granted and we stopped at Sankalp Restaurant for dinner. It’s a south Indian restaurant and holds the Guiness World Record for making the largest dosa of 25ft length on a 27 ft.long tava. Even though the menu card had a variety of dosas, the cheapest being the sada dosa for Rs.65. We had a tasty dinner and reached back late night. As the kids were all asleep we sat chatting till 2AM.

Next morning we planned a trip to Shirdi via Nasik. We hired a vehicle with the driver as Vikrant and started at 2PM.. Nasik is around 150KM from Daman. The route that we went through was fabulous; the heat too. Enrooted, at one point our vehicle was stopped by traffic police. Vikrant Bhai took some change from me and without uttering a word returned after giving the change to the policeman as if they both understand what they were doing. Vikrant Bhai then explained the matter that it’s like a “pesha” (bribe) for the policeman which has to be given by the vehicles which are not registered under the state of Maharashtra. I asked him why we should give that if the papers of our vehicle are correct. He answered that if the amount is not given they would spoil our two hours asking several queries. He being a regular traveller via this route knows the matter. I wonder when our country will be at the top of the list in non-corrupt countries in the world.

We reached Nashik at about 5.30 PM. Local guides approached us and we hired an auto for Nashik Darsan at the rate of Rs 150 .The auto driver was our guide too. First we were taken to the Triveni Sangam –the meeting place of the rivers Godavari, Aruna and Varuna. Then we visited some temples like the Kapaleswar temple, Kalaram mandir and the Panchavadi Sita caves. One has to crawl through a very narrow path in the cave. After spending around two hours in Nashik we proceeded towards Shirdi which is almost 100KM from there.

At about 5.30 we started for Shirdi and in 2 hrs time reached there. In between we could see a lot of sugarcane plantation. We had fresh sugarcane juice too. After taking room at the Sai Arpan Hotel in Shirdi we got fresh and went for darsan. There was a bit rush but we could secure place in the queue easily. Being the day’s last Pooja, we could stand for about half an hour in front of Baba and had a satisfying darsan. One speciality I found there was the mutual understanding between the pilgrims, although from various parts of our nation, helping each other for a satisfying darsan. The Shirdi temple premises are so large that it’s difficult to understand the place through which we entered inside. We were in a dilemma after we came out after darsan to find out the place where we kept our chappals. After a long walk only we could find out the place but to our surprise it was found that Keshu’s chappal had been stolen. Theft in that holy place too! We had a small shopping from the street in front of the Shirdi temple and went back to the hotel.

The next day we started at 8AM to Sapthasringi, via Vani. On the way we could see wine yards with ripe grapes. We stopped in between the yard and we wanted to buy some grapes. When asked the workers inside the yard told us to contact the owner as they don’t sell grapes directly from the yard. Hearing this Suman got out with Vikrant and went to the other end of the building to see the owner. Within no time Suman returned with a carton of grapes well packed. Suman even discussed with the landlord about investing money in that grape business! His skill in tackling situations is really admirable.

Sapthashringi is 22km from Vani. Chanch (curd mixed with spices) which we had from Vani in that hot sun was energizing. Saptashringi as the name conveys are 7 hills and there is a temple at the top of the hill. We reached Sapthasringi at about 2 o’clock. The temple was up the hill. We had to climb about 1000 steps to reach the top. It was a hard time. Keshu somehow managed to climb up. I had to carry my one and half year daughter too. But it should be mentioned that she too tried to climb some steps. The sight around from up the hill was superb. There was quite rush out there in the temple and we could even see old people coming up with ease. They may be regular visitors. The temple was of peculiar type unlike that in south India.

At about 4PM we move to Saputara which is about one and half hours drive from Sapthashringi. On the Maharashtra and Gujarat border in the Dang district is Saputara a picturesque hill resort. Perched on the Sahyadri hills, surrounded by forests and inhabited by ancient tribes... Saputara is picture postcard perfect with lakes, streams, woodlands and hills. At the heart of Saputara is a lake, with boating facilities. A climbing road takes you up to the Chimney ropeway, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the hills. The Dangs, in which Saputara lies, rises from 50 to 1083 m above sea level offering a vista of paradise. When we were about to cross the border of Maharashtra we could see a lot of wine shops in border area of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It’s a place where we can spend time with kids for a short period of time. We enjoyed camel ride and horse ride at the sunset view point in Saputara. The camel ride was a different experience for us. We even fed the camel, Gajini, for the pain he took in taking us for a round.

We returned from Saputara at about 6.30PM and after taking short breaks in between reached Vapi via Valsad at about 10PM. We once again enjoyed the sumptuous dinner at Veer de Dhaba, the Punjabi dhaba in Daman with a unique ambience.

We could somehow secure tickets under Tatkal Scheme to Trivandrum from Mumbai in Netravathi Express. Thanks to the travel agency in Daman. Even one week stay with Suman and family in Daman couldn’t rescind the pain in saying farewell to them. It was a special kind of vacation for us, home away from home. Our return journey to Mumbai from Vapi was in an Express train which only took 2 and half hours. It was quite dull for us and we missed Suman Sunetra and Ishani so much

One day before the departure journey we went to our friend Deepa’s house in Thane and had a short but memorable stay in Mumbai, the city of traffic. In Mumbai we had shopping from huge shopping malls. Manoj, Deepa’s husband, took much effort in showing us the Gate way of India and surroundings in short span of time. The traffic block experienced even during late night (01.00AM) was unbelievable. The next day Manoj and Deepa dropped us to the Thane railway station. Deepa had a tough time engaging herself in preparing food for us.

Our train back to Trivandrum, Netravathi Express, was on time and we reached home the next day evening. As we all know the return journeys are always boring.