A walk in the clouds

Fog filled mountain lands are so far away from the immediate stark reality that surrounds us in the city. Remembering the moutnains only makes this reality even more real.

The weekend that we were away at the Western Ghats in Sakleshpur, the fog rolled in one afternoon right in front of our eyes and enveloped all of what we could see. We went for a little walk and I saw my mom and the kids in front me, like little people walking in the clouds.

Chitra Aiyer - Grandma and grandson, Sakleshpur

My daughter was all on her own, even walking in circles at times.

Chitra Aiyer - Daughter, Sakleshpur Chitra Aiyer - Daughter, Sakleshpur

When the fog got denser, we got the kids to walk under umbrellas. Here’s daughter again, taking a moment of a breather to take it all in. The landscape and the umbrella canopy really making her tiny frame tinier.

Chitra AIyer - Duaghter, Sakleshpur Chitra Aiyer - Daughter, Sakleshpur

While I love sunshiny, bright landscapes, it is the fogged up, blurry mountainscapes that I completely enjoy. There is a surreal quality to the feel, a sense of getting lost … lost from reality.

Happy Diwali, folks

Here’s President Obama delivering Diwali wishes. He even has a why we celebrate Diwali bit in it. So, I will post the video and wish you all health, happiness, and prosperity this Diwali season. :)

Wake up Sid - Movie review

Wake up Sid

I am not one who hits the movie theatres too much, especially now, after the kids. However, there was this little something about the trailer of ‘Wake up Sid’ that I knew I wanted to watch the movie. I had ‘youtube’d the songs quite a bit and knew it had a certain something that I was going to like. Bollywood isnt really something my husband and I do together, so this one I was going to go watch with a good friend. It so happened that she had to drop out in the last min to attend to an emergency. So well, long story short, my husband and I watched our first Hindi movie on the big screen. :)

… and as I suspected, it was a movie that I absolutely liked. While there are many sites out there that tell you what the movie is all about, I will skip that part and only write about why and what I liked in the movie. There is a certain endearing quality to the movie - well made, extremely aptly cast, bright, and refreshing. Cast could not have been better! I went to the theatre for Konkana’s sake; I was sure she would deliver whatever was given to her. And Ranbir, well I had no opinion till today. What do ya know, he turned out to be a good actor.

The movie’s endearing quality lasts through and through. Ayan, the debutant director hasnt lost pace anywhere. Most of it is delivered believably nicely and well, the songs are absolutely beautiful. The entire movie is smooth flowing, all relationships have been attended to nicely, Ranbir’s expressions are apt, Konkana has acted well in her role, Rahul Khanna is cute, and well so is Ranbir! I definitely didnt expect to say that Ranbir was cute. So, yeah, I definitely enjoyed the movie.

While the movie for the most part relies on the lead pair’s relationship being platonic, which is cute, the slow turn of events when that changes and they both begin to fall in love is very cute too, especially since they are so “not right” for each other. But there is that certain click to them, and well, that is all that matters. The romantic in me was happy, and I hope that romantic in me never dies.

Now: Past 11 pm. Its pouring outside the window. The window is right behind me. The breeze is carrying in the mild sprays of rain. I am on the bed with the laptop; husband is next to me with his laptop. Iktara is playing from mine.

Did you watch the movie ? What did you think of the movie? If you havent yet watched it, are you likely to?

PS: Ranbir is a camera toting free-spirited guy, who comes alive when he is behind the camera. What is not to like about that? :)

Ammadi Homestay, Koppa

Oct 2nd long weekend - we had nothing on the cards. But a long weekend, and not go on a road trip? So, well, we got to pouring on the maps. My eyes kept hovering over Sagar in Shimoga - the famous Jog falls are in Sagar. And luckily for us, I thought then, we found a lovely homestay that was somewhere around Thirthahalli. Given a choice, we’ll pick home-stays any day over hotels. Why? Will leave that for another blog post. Well, it so happened that the family running the homestay had to deal with an emergency and wasnt going to be in town. So, we had to quickly look for another place of stay. This was a long weekend, and everything was taken. And just as we were reconciling to staying in the city for the long weekend and doing day-trips, I found another promising home-stay that hadnt shown earlier in my various online searches - it only showed up when I kept tweaking my search queries - Ammadi homestay. Luckily for us, they still had a couple of rooms left.

So, off we went to Koppa via Shimoga early next morning. Ashwin, from the home-stay, with whom I was in touch, called us at least 3 times during our drive. He was making sure we were alright and on the right route. The entire route was pretty, but after we turned left at Shimoga, the drive was awesome. That is a lovely route with whizzing green scenic landscape. The road for the most part is nice and the drive was smooth. The Ghats were beautiful and the little villages that interspersed throughout this route were ‘Malnad‘y cute and full of character. We stopped way more than expected to take it all in. There were many water bodies along this road, full of water and water-lilies! Beautiful! The entire day had been cloudy, pleasant and that made the landscape/drive lovelier and more romantic.

Chitra Aiyer - Enroute to Thirthahalli

Chitra Aiyer - Enroute to Thirthahalli

After stopping at the dam at Gajanur for a little while, we arrived at Ammadi homestay. The pic below is how we first saw the house. A lovely huge green house amidst paddy fields and arecanut plantation. We saw a couple of people wave at us from the house.

Chitra Aiyer - From the road, Ammadi homestay

We drove up the curved path along the paddy fields to the house. Our hosts, the owner, Mr. Srinivas, his 2 sons - Ashwin and Kishan and a his daughter-in-law, Chaitra were at the entrance to welcome us in.

Chitra Aiyer - Going towards the house, Ammadi homestay

Ammadi is a lovely old traditional home, maintained well with all of its local rich architectural elements intact. The main door opens out to the courtyard you see below. Very lovely and well-maintained.

Chitra Aiyer - THe courtyard on entering, Ammadi homestay

Here’s the corridor that surrounds the courtyard. The pillars supporting the roof and the detailing on them reflect the old architecture. There are many little windows that open to the beautiful outsides. My daughter is doing a butterfly sprint in the pic below.

Chitra Aiyer - Daughter running like a butterfly, Ammadi homestay

We were led upto our rooms on the top floor. They have rooms inside the house on the top floor and again on the top floor facing the outside. If you go to Ammadi, definitely choose the rooms facing the outside - those that are outside the main house. It is these rooms that are private and have attached bathrooms. The inside ones are cozy and well maintained, but do not have attached baths. Also, the 4 rooms inside the house are separated by partition walls and have a common ceiling, robbing the rooms of sound-privacy.

My son in the corridor overlooking the courtyard.

Chitra Aiyer - Overlooking the courtyard, Ammadi homestay

The family is very cordial and the four of them took care of all the guests with a lot of care. They are new to this business, having started to run the house as a homestay only since Aug this year. Mr. Srinivas has lived in this house all his life. It used to house a huge family with lots of people. His father was a landlord who extended the house to anybody who needed shelter. Needless to say, there are many stories tied to the house. Srinivas is a kind-hearted man who shared many a stories with us during our stay. His sons and daughter-in-law visit Ammadi on many weekends. Together, they make a great team to host people, serving homely food and always having a word to exchange with you. They never hesitated to share whatever they knew of the house and about the beautiful surrounds. They gave valuable suggestions for things we could do during our stay there. Oh and I loved both their coffee and tea.

Mr. Srinivas’ wife passed away a couple of years ago. However, you will see a lot of her in the house; all of her art work adorn this beautiful old house. She has taken the effort to showcase all their family heirloom things around the house. The courtyard itself is her conception. Otherwise, traditional courtyards, while are beautiful do not transform into garden havens. The courtyard by far is what won me over from the start. During our stay, there were many monsoon drizzles/rains, and sitting and watching the rain was a favorite activity. There were other parties staying there while we were there; but the courtyard corridors offer everybody a spot to themselves. My husband and I enjoyed a nice long chat late one night, long after the kids were asleep when it rained in the courtyard. Lovely!

Things we did in the neighborhood: We went to Kuppali, the renowned Kannada poet Kuvempu’s place of birth. It is a lovely place - the beautiful hillscape in the neighborhood is what is supposed to have inspired his poetry and well, not surprising at all. We also visited the Sringeri temple on the banks of the river Tunga (read here) and drove up to the beautiful Sirimane waterfalls. We also visited a gurukul that is run in Hariharapura, near Kuppa. I will cover all of these visits in separate posts.

Chitra Aiyer - Kuppalli, Kuvempu's home

Kuppalli

Agumbe is near here, and while it is on top of our list to see a sunset there, we gave it a miss this time around. Apparently you hardly see anything this time of the year there, coz of all the fog. Jan is a good time to go see sunsets there. So, we said, ‘ok, Jan maybe’. And apparently the Kundhadri hills are very pretty too. Though this trip started off with us wanting to go see the Jog, we didnt do that - Jog is at least 2 hrs away from here. So yeah, Shimoga surrounds are going to be seeing some more of us.

The day we left, it was raining there. The children grabbed the umbrellas and were in the courtyard enjoying the rains. As long as their heads remained dry, it was ok for them to stay in the rains I said. They loved the Malnad rains - running in and out of the courtyard and to the front yard.

Chitra Aiyer - Kids playing in the rain, Ammadi homestay

Overall, a wonderful stay. Ammadi homestay stays true to the term ‘homestay’.

Do you like the Malnad region? Do you have a favorite place there? Do share - I would love for us to head out. :)

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All pics used here are mine. Please do not use them without first asking me.

Deep in the woods, where a river runs through it - Vythiri resort

Wayanad, a picturesque Ghat district in Kerala; inviting mountain landscape, almost always very green. It has always been a place that I have wanted to visit. I introduced its landscape in my previous post. This post will cover our stay there.

At Wayanad, we stayed at the Vythiri resorts. It is located a good 4 kms from the highway and that makes the resort private and way inside the wooded area. On the 4 km approach road, is a slow drive since it is a bumpy ride. But for that, the whole drive from Bangalore to the town of Vythiri is very good and mostly very scenic, especially when you cut through the Bandipur forests and after you enter Wayanad. Door-to-door, with an extended stop-over for breakfast, it took us 7.5 hrs from our Bangalore home.

On entering the resort, as you approach the reception, there is this little water body that contains many big fish. The resort provides you bread and other eatables to feed the fish; by far my daughter’s favorite activity while at the resort. She absolutely loved hanging around near the fish. My son too. They also found other kids here to hang around with.

Chitra Aiyer - Going toward the reception, Vythiri resort

Chitra Aiyer - Feeding fish, Vythiri resorts

As you step out of the reception, you hear this little river that runs through out the resort. The resort is practically developed on its edges. Almost all of the rooms overlook the stream from their balconies. But some of the rooms overlook the brook where it breaks into multiple little water-falls. And it is in those room that you hear the river gurgle loudly. Aaah, for that sound. Now sitting here in the city, it is almost surreal to think of that sound.

We stayed in the room you see in the pic below. It is one of those rooms from where the view is rich; overlooking a very green canopy and the many little water-falls.

Chitra Aiyer - Room with a view - Vythiri resort

Chitra Aiyer - From the room, Vythiri resort

To access the restaurant, the coffee bar, and a couple of other areas, you must cross the hanging bridge that runs over the river. This is probably one of nicest little things at Vythiri. Rustic, yet sturdy, it was fun to cross every time. Standing on the bridge and taking in the surrounds was lovely. The kids loved running on it too.

Chitra Aiyer - The kids getting on to the bridge, Vythiri resorts

Chitra Aiyer - Kids on the hanging bridge, Vythiri resort

Here are some more pics from the resort. As you can see, everything was green. Sept end is at the end of the monsoon season. While it may still drizzle some, the rains arent keeping you indoors.

Chitra Aiyer - Going to the rooms, Vythiri resort

Chitra Aiyer - Kids running up to the restaurant, Vythiri resort

Chitra Aiyer - Restaurant, Vythiri resort

This is the restaurant - nice and cozy and we sat at this semi-open part of the restaurant for all our meals. Food was authentic and very nicely presented. A lot of food for all the meals. I am not much of a foodie, so I was simply tasting all the vegetarian spread and that in itself was more than enough. the Kerala spread especially was very authentic and for the food, I give them full marks.

The resort has a very nice spa and ayurvedic center attached to it. Very nicely done up, the massages and the therapies seemed really nice. My husband enjoyed a full body ayurvedic massage. Both of us got a complimentary head massage at the spa. That was good too. More than anything else, that wing is very nicely done up, with a courtyard in the center and the stream running through it.

Overall, the architecture here scores big with very everything staying true to the local architecture. All the elements merged well with each other, and nothing stood out odd.  The natural eco-friendly Kerala architectural elements blended in nicely with the surroundings and gave the resort its quaint look.

We drove out of the resort on one of the days. Visited the Pookot lake and took a drive on the Ghat highway towards Calicut. That drive was beautiful - excellent roads, lovely visuals and rains.

Monsoon months - Jun, Jul, Aug, Sept are months to give this place a miss, I would think. End of Sept was alright, but am told that during the monsoons, it is way too damp and one can hardly ever step out of the rooms coz of the incessant rains. I have been to the Ghats a lot and have never come across leeches till now. But that changed with this trip to Wayanad, the leech captial. :) The resort has managed to keep the leeches out for the most part using natural pesticides. But the minute you step out of the resort gates for a trek in their forests and their tea estates, you come across loads of leeches. The tea estate trek in the evening was alright. A few families managed to go through the conducted trek and complete it in spite of some leech bites here and there. But the scene was very different the next morning, when a few of us gathered for a trek through the forests. We were hardly into the trek path when we saw hoards of leeches. Slowly, one by one, people started dropping out and going back to the resort. Husband and I continued with our little boy perched on hub’s shoulders. Daughter stayed back at the resort, looking at the fish and feeding them at times. She was clear that the leeches were not her thing. :) I had asked the reception folks to watch her when we were away. We proceeded further and it only got terrible. I mean, terrible is not the word. Every minute, many leeches were …. well, leeching on. The resort guide comes prepared with dettol solutions to help remove them. And they also advice us to wear open chappals to remove the leech the minute you spot them on your feet. After walking a little further, when we saw one on our little boy’s leg, we dropped out too. :) That was it for us. Really icky - the feel of the leech. While it isnt bad for you, in fact leech bites are considered therapeutic and are used in ayurvedic treatments, it is still a bit much seeing it infest us such. But apparently, leeches start to vanish when the dry winters start setting in from Oct onwards. And Dec and Jan are the recommended months to visit Wayanad - foggy, chilly, green and pretty.

What I found as a con with the resort is that within the resort, there isnt too much of a track for one to take a walk or go for a jog. The landscape and the limited access makes the resort pretty contained.  Of course if the leeches werent there outside, then yeah, a nice brisk trek through the forests would have been a good thing. But otherwise, you do tend to feel like there’s nothing much to do.

The service while it was very warm, wasnt very professional and somehow you are left desiring for more. One morning, we called in for morning coffee and milk for the kids t 6.50 am and after 2 more calls managed to have it delivered at 7.40 am. At the restaurant too, the staff was very pleasant and warm, but we sensed a lot of casualness. One maitre de, however was very good at his job and took especial interest in the kids, which pleased the parents a lot. :)

What worked well tho was the awesome location and for us, our lovely room. The river running right through was a big plus - made it very scenic. The river becomes a shallow pool too at one spot and that is used as a natural pool. I would have loved to use it if I wasnt always thinking of the leeches. :) The regular swimming pool was very nice too and blended in well with is green surrounds.

The kids found friends easily and managed to keep themselves busy all through. We ran into the same bunch of folks during our entire stay, because of how contained the resort layout is. That had its pluses - familiar smiling faces; we all exchanged loads of stories whenever we met. The camaraderie was wonderful. That was all us family people. The young couples almost always kept to themselves and well we all left them alone too :) - many were newly weds. And I am told the tree-houses were occupied by a couple of these couples. I would have loved to be at the tree-house, but kids under 12 arent allowed to go to the tree-house. We got a glimpse of a tree house while on our trek to the tea estate; perched atop a tree amidst the trees’ canopy, it was really very very private. It is quite precarious too apparently. One of our friends, stayed at the tree house with his wife. And I believe, their room was flooded with fireflies at night; they were inside the mosquito net. Wonderful, eh? But well, his wife didnt seem to think so. The whole thing apparently freaked her out. :)

We had considered stopping over at Edakkal caves on our way to Bangalore, but were discouraged by the staff at the resort. They said the climb is steep and that our kids were still too young to climb up. So, we didnt go to the caves. The caves are very beautiful I have been told.

For more things to do in Wayanad, go here - Wayanad Wikitravel

So, this was our experience. Have you stayed at Vythiri? Did you like it?

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All pics used here are mine. Please do not use them without first asking me.