Journey through The United States-Summer of ’14


Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”


Hello Folks, After receiving a lot of response on my first post(https://kaleleblogs.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/into-the-tranquility-a-trip-to-dandeli-ganeshgudi/), I decided to log one of the most memorable travels of my life, my trip to The United States of America in the summer of 2014. I toured with my parents. The experience that it was, the US of A, seemed like an impossible task to put in words, especially considering my naivety in the field of blogging/writing. Pictures speak more than a thousand words, hence, I decided to post a couple of decent pictures and a brief narration for all the destinations I visited. Also, when I first decided to make a blog, I had intended images to be a fundamental element in my posts. So with that said, I will cover my tour in a chronological order.


#1-Niagara Falls(Buffalo, NY)

We landed in buffalo, the land of ‘the original buffalo chicken wings’ to begin our tour. From there, we proceeded to the city of Niagara Falls. The laid back and relaxing small town was a perfect place for us to unwind and recover from our jet-lag. The town is beautiful to say the least. We could hear the rumbling noise of the waterfall in our rooms. With the falls at walking distance from our Inn, meant that we would visit it twice daily, for the two days that we were there. Unlike the Canadian side of the falls which seems like an entertainment destination, the Americans chose to develop their side to preserve the tranquillity of the location. They have developed a National Park and erected a flag honouring the veterans, which I thought was a very nice gesture. I vividly remember the experience aboard the Maid of the Mist which took us right beneath the horseshoe falls. The chilly water falling from the falls washed our faces and the wind was ferocious. It was the first of many memorable experiences in store for us.

On our way to New York City, we stopped briefly at the Corning Glass factory, which manufactures the famous Gorilla Glass. It was a great learning experience to see how it is made.

First view of  one of the former seven wonders of the world! Couldn't carry my D-slr fearing the mist.

First view of one of the former seven wonders of the world!
Couldn’t carry my D-slr fearing the mist.

Maid of the mist. Appropriately named!

Maid of the mist. Appropriately named!


#2-The Big Apple-NYC

With iconic attractions such as The Statue of Liberty, Empire state building, times square, to name a few, not to mention the numerous shows and movies it has featured in, New York City was the one destination I was looking forward to the most. And the city left me spellbound in just 10 odd hours that I spent there. New York has a charm of its own, like every other mega-city in the world. It also made me wonder if our very own Mumbai would ever grow to be like NYC in terms of infrastructure, planing, transit and functioning.

Though all of the tourist attractions were worth visiting. The highlight of the city tour was without a doubt, Times square. The first view of the place dazzled me. The images of the vivid advertising displays and the hustle bustle occasionally flashes in my mind. After experiencing NYC, overwhelming as it was, I was anticipating the remainder of the trip to be a downfall. It proved to be otherwise.

Started with a ferry ride to Liberty Island. It was overcast with a little drizzle at 11am.

Downtown Manhattan as seen from liberty island.  The weather outpaced the city. With cloudy sky and drizzles just before noon…to clear sky by sunset. The photographer in me got depressed with the cloudy conditions early on.

The icon of the country!

Statue of Liberty-The icon of the country! Located on Liberty Island, which also gives a magnificent view of downtown Manhattan.

The One World Trade Center. A magnificent addition to the Manhattan skyline.

The One World Trade Center. An architectural and engineering marvel, also a magnificent addition to the Manhattan skyline.

The 9/11 memorial. It is a wonderful tribute to the victims of the attacks, whose names are inscribed in the parapet surrounding the waterfalls. *image taken from the web

The 9/11 memorial. It is a wonderful tribute to the victims of the attacks, whose names are inscribed in the parapet surrounding the waterfalls.
*image taken from the web

Where money matters($$$$$)

Wall Street, Money never sleeps!

Concrete concrete everywhere, says the tree, "have you got any place for me to spare?"

Concrete concrete everywhere, says the tree, “Oh New York City, have you got any place for me to spare?”

Midtown Manhattan as seen from the observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

Mid-town Manhattan as seen from the observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

The frame I had dreamt of seeing through my viewfinder.......only better, haha!  The city that never sleeps!

The frame I had dreamt of seeing through my viewfinder…….only better!
The city that never sleeps!


My journey to Washington DC was pretty exciting. The American Freeways promised a comfortable ride. They seemed to have considerably more traffic than highways back in India. Now I know why Uncle Sam is possessive about the Gulf. They are one freakin’ fuel guzzling nation, owing to the number of auto-mobiles on the roads. We passed through the city of Baltimore, and before DC, took a slight detour to visit Luray Caverns. The Virginia country side which we drove through en-route was a pretty sight.

Luray Caverns. We took a small detour on our way to DC from NYC to go to this wonderful cavern system.  What you see here are stalactites. And its just their reflection in the crystal clear water! Truly amazing!

Luray Caverns. We took a small detour on our way to DC from NYC to go to this wonderful cavern system.
What you see here are stalactites. And its just their reflection in the crystal clear water! Truly amazing!

'Fried Eggs' rock formation.

‘Fried Eggs’ rock formation.


#3-Washington D.C.

We spent just half a day in Washington D.C. I was in the capital of the most powerful economy in the world. And it didn’t fail to impress me. The National air and space museum(Smithsonian’s) was surprisingly awesome and it is by far the best museum I have ever walked into.

After a prompt city tour and a refreshing overnight stay at the Crystal City Marriott, we headed towards the west coast, to LA- the entertainment capital of the world! As I walked down the jet way at Dulles Intl., realizing that half the tour was over saddened me a little. I was nevertheless excited!

The Washington Monument.

The Washington Monument.

The beautiful Lincoln Memorial.

The beautiful Lincoln Memorial.

The Smithsonian's Museum. The best place to visit in D.C., Sorry Mr. Obama.

The Smithsonian’s Museum. The best place to visit in D.C. Yes, better than the white house. Sorry Barrack!

Actual Failure logs from one of the Apollo missions.

Actual Failure logs from one of the Apollo missions.

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The command module hatch from the Apollo 11.

Flying over Phoenix,AZ. On my way to L.A.

Flying over Phoenix,AZ.
On my way to L.A.


#4- LA- The City of Angels

The first impression of this city was a little disappointing. Compared to the prosperous north-east, LA at first seemed a little different. The roads were in bad conditions, there were traffic jams and the localities hinted at poor living conditions(comparatively of course). On visiting the posh areas of Beverly hills and Rodeo drive the following day, it proved to be a misconception. LA is home to quite a few of the richest and most glorified Hollywood personalities. I learnt that AR Rahman and Ustad Zakir Hussain are the only two Indian celebrities to own property there. Universal Studios, where I spend one whole day was the best theme park experience of my life, and describing which doesn’t fit the best of my writing ability.

A tiring but amusing day at Universal Studios, Hollywood.

A tiring but amusing day at Universal Studios, Hollywood.

Rodeo Drive...can it get any more posh?

Rodeo Drive…can it get any more posh?

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The famous Dolby theatre, venue of the Academy Awards.

One of the best guitarist of all times. Star of Hollywood walk of fame.

One of the best guitarist of all times. Star of Hollywood walk of fame.


#5-Las Vegas

After picking up a couple of sandwiches for ‘en-route hogging’ from Burger King, we proceeded to Las Vegas by coach and the journey proved to be fun. Eerie as they may seem, deserts look amazing to the eyes(from an AC coach of course), especially during sun down. Then within the pitch black no man’s land, I saw glimmering lights, which grew intense as we neared them. And within no time, the outside became as bright as daylight. We were driving through one of the most well known streets of the world, The Strip, situated on which was the famous ‘Planet Hollywood’ hotel and casino which we checked into. Next day we saw the Grand Canyon from a plane. Later, ventured through few of the most renowned casinos, the likes of Bellagio, Ceasar’s Palace, The Venetian(which was my favourite) to name a few. The interior of some of these were overwhelming to look at. It sure must have cost millions of dollars to build these humongous entertainment centres. We took an aerial tour of the city and the hoover dam. Las Vegas provides a mesmerising aerial view, especially at dusk. The Sin city proved to be a unique experience. Be it strolling through the mind blowing casinos or shopping malls, sipping a frozen margarita or the strip shows in the casinos at night, it gave me a different cultural perspective. The obsession for gambling was visible everywhere, they even have slot machines at the airport! I tried my luck only to loose about $10. This was the cleanest one could ever come out of the Sin City, as clean as a saint. Well, almost 😉

The Grand Canyon. Need  I say more?

The Grand Canyon. Need I say more?

View of Lake Mead from  the sky.

View of Lake Mead(the reservoir for Hoover Dam) from the sky.

The limo ride. I will cherish those few minutes for a lifetime.

The limo ride. I will cherish those few minutes for a lifetime.

Being an aviation enthusiast, it certainly was thrilling for me  to sit besides the pilot.

Being an aviation enthusiast, it certainly was thrilling for me to sit besides the pilot.

The City of Las Vegas at dusk.

The City of Las Vegas at dusk.

A street viewed from the chopper.

A street viewed from the chopper.


#6-San Francisco

I could go on and on about San Francisco. Out of the seven odd cities I visited, this was by far my favourite city in the US. The weather was heavenly, especially after the scorching Nevada heat. The city tour was amazing, the highlight of which was the ferry ride off fisherman’s wharf, which took us near the world famous Golden Gate bridge, and the island of Alcatraz prison. The crisp, cool pacific winds hitting our faces felt amazing! We later took a tram ride to walk down the famous Lombard street, a.k.a. the crooked street. Our hotel, situated in San Mateo, facing the bay, was a perfect place to unwind after a rather happening day.

The beautiful fisherman's wharf.

The beautiful fisherman’s wharf.

The magnificent and iconic golden gate.

The magnificent and iconic golden gate.

The infamous Alcatraz Prison!

The infamous Alcatraz Prison!

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Don’t worry. The prison is now just a tourist destination.

The magnificent and iconic golden gate. One interesting fact I learnt was that the bridge is continuously painted by a group of workers, who paint the bridge from one end to the other in repetitive cycles.

The magnificent and iconic golden gate. One interesting fact I learnt was that the bridge is continuously painted by a group of workers, who paint the bridge from one end to the other in repetitive cycles.

Cold breeze and sunshine. With a picturesque background.

Cold breeze and sunshine. With a picturesque background.

Well we have straight roads in Mumbai where you can't drive faster than 5mph. Beat that Uncle Sam! ;)

Well we have straight roads in Mumbai where you can’t drive faster than 5mph. Beat that Uncle Sam! 😉


The Rest

After a boring 5 hour flight from SFO to the east coast, we reached The city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. My Uncle has a house in an adjoining town. I lived there after the tour, for over a month, in a cordial and relaxing atmosphere. My uncle and aunt were very hospitable. A month’s stay gave me a slight insight into the lives of people in one of the most developed nations. I was amazed the most, by the behaviour of the people at various instances. Be it passer-bys smiling at you, the help they would offer, or the attitude while driving, these are small behavioural habits which we can inculcate in ourselves to make our country a better place. Little things that made day to day activities smooth amused me. I could now figure out why The US is an immigrant’s favourite destination!

I also became more open minded towards various cultural taboos. Be it the LGBT community in San Francisco, or the prostitution and burlesque shows in Vegas, I realised that my values and morals don’t necessarily give me the right to judge a person, community or country.

All that is good has to end. And so did my trip. Clichéd line, I know. Flying in via London, me and my grand mother got a free upgrade to business class on our second leg(LHR-BOM), which added to the long list of memorable experiences. I had lived a month I am going to cherish all my life.

Oh I miss my iPhone camera. Flying over north US

Oh I miss my iPhone camera. Flying over north US

Tried my hand at golf. Nearly not as easy as it looks.

Tried my hand at golf. Nearly not as easy as I thought it would be.

Golf courses make a beautiful landscape!

Golf courses make a beautiful landscape!

The happy place where I resided for over a month.

The happy place where I resided for over a month.

Boarding BA-139 to Mumbai

Boarding BA-139 to Mumbai

IF you’ve made it this far, I would like to thank you for reading my blog post. As always, I would love to read your feedbacks, so try to leave a reply. Also feel free to click on the share button at the bottom. I will try to post more frequently in the future. That’s it for this time.

Kalele signing off.

Here's a goodbye. Cheers!

Here’s a goodbye. Cheers!

Continue reading “Journey through The United States-Summer of ’14”

Into the tranquility, A Trip to Dandeli-Ganeshgudi


“My favourite destinations are the ones I’ve never been to!”


On the  twelfth of January this year began my 6th semester in college. With dearth of holidays in the even semester, 26th January falling on a Monday seemed like a boon. And so just one week into college, plans were already being made for a weekend getaway. So the idea of the same in Manipal is not very complicated. A vast majority(including me) go to Goa for, lets just say, the impeccable beaches. But there are other places at a few hours drive away which include Gokarna, Murudeshwar, Coorg, Agumbe, to name a few.

However I was eager to explore a new area, and after a little brainstorming I realised that Dandeli was not very far away from manipal. Having an interest in Bird watching, I was without a doubt keen on visiting the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary.

Dandeli is a town in the Uttar Kannada district.  It is about 6 hours by road from Manipal and around 2 hours from both Hubli and Panjim. The wildlife sanctuary is famous for its rich flora and fauna. It is home to various mammals and over 300 species of birds. River Kali is an excellent destination for white water rafting.


 

From Manipal we decided to take the NH17 upto Ankola (Manipal-Udupi-Bhatkal-Gokarna-Murudeshwar-Ankola).  The road upto Ankola was pretty good at this time of the year unlike monsoons, when driving a hatch on the pavement is a rather tough task. We had a trip to Jog Falls a few months back and the memories of the journey from that trip are not very fond. The roads were pathetic and we were zapped to see the transformation in the road conditions.

We hit the road at the break of dawn. At about 50km, we took our first stop at Marvanthe beach. With one of Karnataka’s most beautiful beaches on the western side of the road and river Surpanaka on the eastern side, this 2km patch of the highway is one of the most breath-taking and scenic roads in the country. This is what I love about drives. They provide you with so much excitement, thrill and surprises Just when the road becomes monotonous, here you see one of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen coming towards you at 80km/h!. Sometimes I ponder over the thought about being excited about the drive rather than the trip! There are number of small shacks where one can take a quick stop for tea and Gobi Manchurian while enjoying this magnificent view.

Saurpanika_river_Arabian_Sea_Kundapur~2

*Image taken from the web

 

After which we drove non stop till Ankola. The overall drive promises to be very scenic, especially when travelling for the first time, so taking a nap is not an option. Kamath Upachar(pure vegetarian) at Ankola is probably the only decent place to stop for lunch en-route. Our journey continued through NH 93 till Yellapura and then SH-63 further to Dandeli, both of which are roads through dense forests and a few ghats.

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Driving on SH-93

 

 

 

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We arrived at the town of Dandeli in the afternoon and checked in to ‘State Lodge’, which is a cheap place offering clean rooms with minimum facilities, ideal for people who are looking for low cost accommodation. In the evening we headed towards Ganeshgudi, a mere 30 minutes drive from Dandeli. The road through the dense forest of the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary amazed us. The banks of river Kali near ‘Bison river resort’ is a center point for many river activities where we took a boat ride mainly with the intention of spotting the Malabar Pied Hornbill. Dandeli is home to four species of hornbills. Common Grey, Malabar Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Pied Hornbill. As expected we spotted them very easily(the malabar pied) and the trip was already a success for me.

 

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First view of the beautiful Kali River!

 

 

We headed back to our lodge at dusk. Dinner at Shetty lunch home was a horrible experience and and that is when it struck me that, when in Karnataka and looking for food, always head to an eatery having the name Kamath on the board, or else be ready to be disappointed. With food not satisfying our needs, we decided to resort to the liquid state-The King of good  times. Haha!(just a joke)

White water rafting in the Kali river was one of the main intent of the trip, especially for my friends who were not really interested in bird watching, so we had booked it for the following afternoon.  The longer trip involves driving upstream to Ganeshgudi and rafting all the way down to Dandeli, involving more that 10 adrenaline pumping rapids, some of them with over a few meters of fall. So you can imagine the excitement. On waking up next morning, the manager disappointed us by informing that all the rafting trips were cancelled for the day, since water from the Supa dam, which feeds the river wasn’t released. Apparently our trip was ruined, however it proved to be otherwise. We were 5 ‘wanna be’ engineers and we were not going to let that damn dam ruin our trip. We never have bad trips you know. We decided to just explore the nearby area and we pulled over near a bridge, walked down to the river bed and the next hour that we spent there was one of the most memorable experience of our trip! Here are some pictures from that place.

 

Explore places not mentioned in travel guides to enhance your experience!

Explore places not mentioned in travel guides to enhance your experience!

 

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Kali river near a check dam.

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Cost of the trip~4K, chilling with your buddies in this view…priceless!

 

 

Moving on, we checked out from our lodge and drove to our next destination, the Old Magazine House, Ganeshgudi. This place, maintained by ‘Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ is a place which is beyond description in words. With merely 4 to 5 cottages and a dormitory, it is set right in the middle of the jungle among dense forest,quite literally, a jungle lodge. It is such a peacefull location, with no mobile network, it will make you forget the material life you have back home. And conversations over dinner will have eye contact, for a change!

 

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In the wilderness…

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All smiles after coming here!

 

 

We were welcomed with a delicious lunch which felt good after the not so good meals we had in Dandeli. Providing hostelites good food will bring a genuine smile on their faces. I spent my afternoon in bird watching. The resort is a hotspot for a variety of birds which includes the Emerald Dove, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, White Bellied Blue Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black Naped Monarch, to name a few. I felt blessed to have seen many of these beautiful avifauna for the very first time. Here I would like to mention that I have a peculiar jinx when it comes to road trips. All our road trips happen to take place when I don’t carry my camera(Yes, a DSLR ) to college. I pretended being indifferent to it but it was killing me all the while that I had left my camera back home. Talk about destiny. I hope to get some decent pictures in my next visit which I wish to dedicate specifically for bird photography. In the evening we proceeded to a jungle trek, a part of our package at the resort. The trek involved climbing up a hill through the dense jungle. The climb was very steep and wore us out. Not exactly athletes, at least the four of us. One however, who outpaced the trained guide. The landscape of Supa dam from the top of the hill at sunset made the exhausting trek totally worth it. We spent about 30 minutes on the hilltop, embracing the cool breeze coming in from the dam’s reservoir. Climbing downhill proved to be just as tiring. Later in the evening we enjoyed soup and appetizers sitting around a bonfire. The warmth was comforting owing to the chilly forest weather. The staff warned us not to venture out in the dark as there had been sightings of sloth bears, leopards and tigers near by. The rebel of our group already had a goal to achieve for the night. After dinner we sat with the resort manager and staff who shared their experiences of the region and how one of them had a near death experience fighting a sloth bear. The pleasant silence of the jungle now seemed eerie to say the least. We also spotted a Palm Civet Cat, a nocturnal feline picking berries on a tree. Going to sleep in the pin drop silence seemed like a task, making me realise how man has been taken away from the wilderness and pampered in the artificial hustle bustle of the urbane lifestyle. However the crisp cold and fatiguing day promised a deep slumber. It had indeed been a memorable day.

 

Next morning it was time to head back to the boring routine. However we decided to take a detour through Goa(about 2 hours extra), for lets just say, the cheap petrol. We drove for around 2 hours to reach Goa. We stopped at Agonda beach, recommended by my friend, a native of Goa, which turned out to be a great destination. It had clean, white sand, cozy shacks serving great food and cheap beer. The connoisseurs of sea food enjoyed freshly cooked fish and we ‘Grabbed some Buds’. Aah man I love Goa. It is according to me one of the most unique places I’ve travelled to. The weather, beaches, food, drinks and of course the people are what add the charm to the tiny state! And before you judge me, no. I don’t like Goa for the cheap liquor. Goa as an experience is way beyond the cliched perception of Goa being a place to sin. The 3 hours we spent at the shack proved to be the icing on the cake. We left for Manipal at around 3pm and drove non-stop till it was dark, after which we took a brief stop, again at Marvanthe beach. We reached back home at around 10pm, carrying back memories which I’m sure we will all cherish.

 

Fresh fish which was hand picked and cooked!

Fresh fish which was hand picked and cooked!

Friends bring hapiness in your lives.... Best friends bring beer.  I was with few of my best buds :)

Friends bring hapiness in your lives….
Best friends bring beer.
I was with few of my best buds 🙂

'Good friends don't let you do stupid things...alone'.  The Gang, (from the left) Anshul, Nikhil, Dhairya, Himanshu and me.

‘Good friends don’t let you do stupid things…alone’.
The Gang, (from the left) Anshul, Nikhil, Dhairya, Himanshu and me.

 

That brings me to the end of my very first blog. For those who made it till here I would genuinely like to thank you. I welcome comments and criticism. Do let me know what you think!

Kalele signing off!