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Bangalore Roadtrip

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My friend Neel was working in Bangalore at that time. He invited me to Bangalore. Never having been to the city before, I accepted his invitation and decided to take a week off. It would be a pleasant break from my daily routine.

I took an overnight bus from Mumbai to Bangalore. The bus played Kannada movies throughout the journey, a fact that pleased most of my co-passengers. I must have been the only one who didn’t understand the language at all. After a very short time, I lost interest in trying to make sense of the visuals. For me, it was a really long 18-hour journey before we finally entered the city.

As the bus entered the city of Bangalore, I noticed that most of the buildings around were residential; there seemed to be very few commercial sectors, at least nothing that I could see. I also noticed that the buildings are not more than four stories tall. The city has a distinctly Kannada flavour.

I informed the driver about the place where I wanted to alight as I was new to the city and they kindly halted the bus at the location where Neel had promised that he would meet me.

I was starving as I had missed my lunch. We decided to eat at one of the food outlets nearby. After having a heavy vegetarian meal, we decided to head back to his house.

Neel was staying as a paying guest in Bangalore. His place was very small, just a tiny room with an attached bathroom. The room was roughly 7 feet by 8 feet big. It was small but large enough for us. His window afforded us a very good view of the neighboring houses.

Me outside Neel's place of residence

As he couldn’t take time off from work to accompany me on my sightseeing, I chose to do a Bangalore darshan on my own. I had already done my homework regarding places to see in Bangalore while I was in Mumbai itself. I looked for these places on the map of Bangalore provided to me by Neel. After locating the places on the map, I decided to spend the next four days checking out these places as we had planned to go to Mysore over the weekend.

Bangalore, also known as Bengaūru, is the capital of Karnataka. It is a major economic hub and the fastest growing major metropolis in India

It was founded by Kempe Gowda way back in the 15th century by building a small mud fort around the city. It is located on the Deccan Plateau in the south-eastern part of Karnataka.

Bangalore is home to various heavy industries, software companies, and aerospace and telecommunications companies. It is the only city in the country to be called the Silicon Valley of India as it is India’s leading IT employer and exporter.

Vidhana Soudha

The climate of Bangalore is very cool, making it one of the best cities to reside in. Neel had advised me to get my sweatshirt along as I might need it, and it did come of use here.

The main languages spoken here are Kannada. English and Hindi. The signboards are mostly in Kannada so if you know how to read and write Kannada, you are in an advantageous position. I had a tough time understanding what was written on the signboards. Some of the locals very kindly directed me to the places I wanted to go to.

The best way to explore the city is by taking the bus. KSRTC {Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation} provides bus services within the city and the state. Their service is very effective and affordable at the same time. A Daily Pass costing Rs 30 lets you travel over unlimited distances and various destinations within the city. It cannot be used on the Volvo Bus and the Pink Bus in the city.

As I planned to cover more than one sight on my itinerary, I bought the daily pass and made full use of it. I was told by Neel that if ever I lose my way around, I could board any bus or ask someone to put me on the bus to Basaveshwaranagara. A name that big is a little difficult to remember but I tried my level best to or else I would be lost.

Attara Kacheri (High Court)

KSRTC Buses cover almost the entire city. Most buses here have two doors, one ahead and the other in the middle. I noticed that the ladies usually occupy the first half of the bus leaving the latter half for the guys. You will seldom see the guys using the first door of the bus to enter or exit the bus. Its like a taboo for the guys.

The pink bus is reserved only for the ladies. However, in the Volvo bus you can sit anywhere you like with no restrictions there but the ticket of the Volvo bus is a bit higher than that of the normal bus.

The buses here have the bus no. written in English with the name of the destination in Kannada, so it is advisable to ask the people around before you get in the bus.

Majestic and Shivaji Nagar are the two major bus depots here and to go anywhere in Bangalore I needed to board a bus from here to all the places on my itinerary.

The residence of the Chief Minister of Karnataka

The roads  here are named Main roads and Cross roads. Main roads are the main roads in that area and the small roads are called cross roads,  which are the roads which connect to the main roads. An area can have more than 10 Main roads and as many as 30 cross roads. It might sound confusing but it is a very good way to hunt for your destination. If you have the right place with the right main road and the right cross road, you just can’t get lost in Bangalore.

The next way to explore the city is by rickshaw. The minimum charge here is Rs. 14 and thereafter it increases by 50 paise per km. Most rickshaw drivers do not know the city well or they pretend not to know, so it would be advisable to be cautious or they might just take you for a ride.

You can also hitchhike on the way as the locals give you lift, if both of you have one common destination to go to.

The last option is walking to explore the city.

There are loads of small eateries here which provide good hygienic food at very low prices. Many people serve food even from home. There are many branded eateries and coffee shops here but it’s the small eateries which steal the show.

Another interesting thing here is that the parcels cost Rs. 5 extra and if you stand and eat it is a lot cheaper than sitting and eating. Most people prefer the first option and so do I. Most eateries have the standing option.

Here one will get various types of dosas, puri bhaji, akki roti made of rice, roti curry and South Indian thalis, which are staple South Indian dishes along with Chinese, Tandoori and Mughlai food which is now avaliable almost everywhere in India. But I will give a heads up to the South Indian dishes.

Neel, Santosh and me at an eatery

There are plenty of eateries which serve thalis {Andhra style}. The signboard of the eatery will have Andhra Style in its name so as to let the foodie know that they serve spicy food there.

The local ice cream shops provide varieties of ice creams at very affordable prices in comparison to the branded ones and always run to packed houses.

At every nook and corner, there are eateries, juice centres, and bakeries which cater to the food needs of the people here. Seems to me that the people of Bangalore love their food a lot and so do I.

One day on my morning walk around seven, I saw people standing in a queue on the pavement. I stood on the other side of the road trying to figure out what was happening there as there was no bus stop or rickshaw stand there. But I didn’t have to wait for long. A little while later, a man came there with a cow and started milking the cow on the pavement. People then lined up to fill their kettles with milk. I have never seen this in Mumbai. Looks like the people of Bangalore like to have their milk fresh from the cow.

There is lots to see in Bangalore including shopping malls and streets and forts and palaces. In fact, Bangalore has something for everyone.

MG Road and Brigade Road are the two roads in Bangalore where one can feast on international brands in clothing, shoes and accessories. If you step out on this street, you will feel as if you are not in the city of Bangalore.

I managed to travel to most of the places on my itinerary without getting lost. Bravo now I guess I can survive anywhere in the world.

The places to see in Bangalore are Vidhana Soudha, Cubbon Park, Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore Palace, Lal Bagh Gardens, Attara Kacheri (High Court), Juma Masjid, St. Marks Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica and Tipu’s Palace

So if you ever plan to visit Bangalore, keep the above places on your agenda. I could do only a few of them due to shortage of time.

Peth Fort in Karjat near Mumbai

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It had been a while since my last trek, so I decided to go on an easy one. Ha, ha. I got in touch with my trekking buddy Neel and we agreed to go do some exploring.

Peth fort from a distance

Neel, his fiancée Neelam, another Neelam’s brother Rahul and I decided to check out Kothaligad in Karjat.

Kothaligad is a small fort, roughly around 1500 ft in height, shaped like a pinnacle. Since it is located at the base of a village named Peth, it is also called Peth Fort. Not much is known about this fort other than the fact that it was captured from the British by the Marathas.

We had to board a train to Karjat on Saturday morning. I filled my backpack with water bottles, and food articles. I met my trekking group at Kurla, and from there we boarded the train to Karjat.

After alighting at Karjat railway station, we boarded a State Transport (ST) bus to Ambivali. From there we had to walk all the way up to the base village of the fort.

ST buses are also known as Lal Dabba in Hindi, literally red container. The driver drives the bus so fast, you wonder if he nurses secret ambitions of being a race car driver.

It took us around an hour to reach Ambivali village. Then from there we walked to the base village of the fort. We met a few villagers on the way. Out of curiosity, we asked them how much time it would take us to reach the village. Thirty minutes, they replied. Taking their word for it, we walked and walked and guess what? After three hours, we reached the base village. Fortunately for the welfare of the villagers, we didn’t meet them again. Grrrr.

Peth Fort from the base village

At the base village, we had our lunch as it was nearing afternoon. And then we set out to see the fort. It was a vertical climb, very steep and very tiring but after a few halts for water and quick snacks we finally reached the walls (the fortification of the fort) and entered the fort through the Maha Darwaja (Main Door). It took us two hours to reach. Phew!

The pinnacle was used as a watchtower by Maratha warriors. They would keep a watch lest their enemies attack the fort.

Entrance to Peth fort from the inside

Amazingly the top part of the pinnacle has to be climbed from the inside of the pinnacle. Doesn’t that sound interesting? Can you imagine having to trek your way up the pinnacle from the inside of the fort which is carved out of sheer rock?

Temple on the fort with carved pillars

Way to the temple

There are a few caves and a temple up here. The top of the pinnacle is like a plateau which had a few cannons and water cisterns, some of which supply water to the base village too. We shot some pictures there and then rested in one of the caves. Finally we decided to descend from the pinnacle. Luckily the descent didn’t take us as long as the climbing had and we were down in an hour’s time.

Cannon atop the fort

Carving on the wall of the fort

We spent some time in the village and then decided to head home. We reached Ambivali and boarded the Formula One car. Oops! I mean the ST bus and reached Karjat. We boarded another ST bus to Panvel. From there we boarded a BEST bus to Kurla, where my buddies went their separate ways. Finally I boarded a train back home to Andheri.

Now this is the first time on a trek that I had had to change three buses and two trains and by the time I reached home, I was dead tired.

But it had been an enjoyable trek, and all said and done, that’s what counts. Readers, check it out some time.

Pinnacle of Peth

Murud Roadtrip (includes Korlai Fort, Padmadurg Fort, Palace, Murud Janjira Fort and Bhalegaon Caves)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Work, work and more work, I was stressed out big time. I need a break said my body. So I decided to go on a road trip. Where to go was the question I had to ask myself. Beach or hill station? It was tough to decide because of the soaring temperatures. Finally I made up my mind and decided to go to Murud, a lonely fishing village situated 170 km from Mumbai in Raigad district, Maharashtra, India.

So I packed my bags and decided to go on my road trip. I booked a Chevy Tavera to take me to Murud. Heavy city traffic made it difficult for us to make good progress but, once we were out of Mumbai the journey was smooth.

On the way to Murud, I saw the broken ruins of Korlai fort in the distance. Forts always excite me so I decided to visit this one. The road to Korlai fort was so narrow that only a single vehicle could pass at a time. Somehow we managed to get to Korlai fort. We had to first pass over a narrow tar road with fisher folk houses on either side of the road. As we progressed on, we came across fewer and fewer houses until we saw the sea on the left and the walls of Korlai fort on the right.

In a few minutes we reached Korlai fort. At the entrance of the fort there is a lighthouse which is still working. The guard related to us the history of the lighthouse. The lighthouse at Korlai has a16-m (52 ft) square cylindrical masonry tower with a lantern and gallery attached to the front of a two-story masonry keeper's house. The tower has been painted with black and white horizontal bands while the dome of the lantern has been painted red.

Light House

Light House from Korlai Fort

Korlai Fort is also called El Morro or Castle Curfew. A steep staircase takes you to the entrance of the fort. With temperatures soaring, the climb tests both your physical and mental balance. But my love for exploration and my physical fitness helped me get up in a few minutes.

The view from the top was just amazing. I cannot describe it in words but I will try to do so for the benefit of those who haven’t got the chance to visit this fort. The sunlight had turned the seawater into liquid gold. It took me around an hour to visit the entire fort. Although the fort is in ruins its beauty is still visible. I spoke to a few locals who were doing some renovation work on one of the churches in the fort and they told me that the fort was built by the Portuguese in 1521, and was later conquered by the Marathas in the 17th century. There were plenty of cannons on the fort.

Korlai Fort from Light House

Boats in a distance from Korlai Fort

A few cannons up the fort

Ruins in the Fort

At this point I had to make a return to my beach house at Murud as it was already 3 in the afternoon and hunger had taken its toll on me. So I took a few pictures. They reminded me of the ones which I have on my computer desktop. Now I know such places really exist.

We left the fort for Murud. I reached my beach house at 4 in the evening. I was exhausted but I was also keen to see as much as I could of the place. A quick snack later, I was ready to explore the area around the cottage. Golden Swans Resort where I was staying had beautiful cottages. The lovely sea shore stretched on right in front of our cottage.

Another interesting thing about the resort was that they had six swans all around the place.

Visiting some locals, we learnt that there are two forts and a cave and a palace in Murud . Forts Jangira and Padma durg (Kasa Fort) are both sea forts but the latter is closed to the tourists as it was broken down by a cannon situated at Jangira and is currently under the Customs’ supervision. Padma durg was built by Sambhaji, the son of Shivaji, to enable him to conquer Jangira Fort. It is a small fort in comparison with Jangira Fort.

Padmadurg Fort from Golden Swans Resort

Padmadurg Fort from Murud Janjira Fort

The palace looks quite pretty from the outside. Much as I longed to, I could not explore it as it is privately owned by the Nawab who currently resides in Mumbai. The palace was built in 1885 for administrative purposes.


My cottage gave me a very good view of Padmadurg fort and the Palace. There is no night life here as it is a fishing village and after 7 in the evening all roads are deserted here. So I stayed inside the resort, had beer and resort food and stared at the star studded sky and forgot all about my stressful life in Mumbai.

DAY 2: Tuesday. I decided to visit the Jangira fort. I trekked off to Murud village. I had to board a ferry in order to visit the fort. I bought the tickets and set off. It turned out to be a sailboat. This was the first time in my life that I had sat in a sailboat. It took us around an hour to reach the fort. The good thing was that it was windy so we got there faster.

Murud Janjira fort from Murud village

The fort is truly amazing, You have to see it to believe it. The sailboat took us to the entrance of the fort. The local boat riders who also gear up as guides showed us around the fort for a small fee.

According to our guide, the fort was built by a Siddhi who came from Ethopia. It was  designed by an Afzal Khan (not the one who had his hand cut off by Shivaji) from Iran. It took the Siddhi 22 years to build this 22-acre fort which has 22 bastions around it. The walls of the fort are still intact. Although the fort is in total ruins on the inside, it still looks amazing. The fort was built using the materials available on the island itself. Nothing was bought in from elsewhere. The fort consists of a three-storey building which is now in ruins, a mosque, the Sheesh Mahal for the use and convenience of the queen, shops, houses and the graves of some of the inhabitants of the fort. It even has a hidden underground route which takes one to the village. The route is now closed by the government.

A strucutre on the fort

A lake on the fort


There are two lakes within the fort. In bygone days they used to cater to the drinking needs of the people who used to stay there. Today they are filled with dirt. There is also a school which was closed back in 1971. The fort has three huge cannons on it. Out of these, supposedly the second largest cannon in the world, was used to break the Padma durg fort into three pieces.

The guide told us that the cannons were made of a combination of five metals. The temperature was 45 degrees celcius and we were all perspiring heavily but the cannons felt cool to the touch. We also saw the hidden entrances to the fort called chor darwaza and the soldiers resting rooms. 

One of the three big cannons on the fort

The entrance of the fort was marked with carvings of an elephant face. The same markings were also imprinted on some coins which were used as a kind of countersign for identifying inmates who sought entry into the fort

Carving of Elephant face at the entrance of the fort

Fort from a distance
By this time it was afternoon, and I was hungry. On the way back, I stopped at a place called Patil Khanvils as it boasts of good food (thalis). The food was tasteful and simple. They have fish, vegetable and chicken thalis. The thali which I ate consisted of rice, fried fish, fish curry, chappaties and solkadi. I ate lunch and headed back to the cottage. I spent the rest of the day in the cottage and in the evening had a bath in the sea.

DAY 3: On Wednesday morning I decided to visit the Bhalegaon caves. These Buddhist caves are supposed to be around 2000 years old. I was told that these caves were around 25 km from the cottage. Later I found out that the caves were not in Bhalegaon but were around 10 km away from Bhalegaon in a place called Kodi.

With the help of some locals, I set off to see the caves. They were perched on a hill and the view from there was truly beautiful. I was lucky that the Tavera took us right up to the caves. There was one stupa there and a number of carvings in the caves. But what I liked the most was the head of an elephant which was carved on the entrance of one of the caves. It was beautiful.

Bhalegaon Caves

Sculpture of an Elephant

Sculptures in the Caves

I returned to the cottage late in the afternoon and repeated my previous day’s schedule. Lunch at  Patil Khanvils and the evening at the beach.

In the evening I learned about a bull race on the seashore. I was very keen to watch it. These races are held once a fortnight in order to encourage local sports. But there were more motorbikes on the field then there were bulls. Most of the bulls were white and very well built. I got the impression that they were bred only for the races.

The bull race was truly an unforgettable experience as was all of Murud. I was very sorry to have to leave it and return to Mumbai. I enjoyed this visit to one of Maharashtra’s most beautiful forts. I look forward to coming here again and to making many such trips in the future. 

Ways to Reach: As Murud is 170 km from Mumbai, travel by road is the only way in which one can reach Murud ie via Alibaug or Roha. One can also take a ferry from the Gateway of India to Mandwa, near Alibaug, and then travel about 50 kms by road.

Visit: This fort can be visited throughout the year.

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