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Masinagudi – The forest and wild life

Masinagudi is a town located near the famous hill station Ooty in Tamilnadu, India. The Mudumalai National park is located near Masinagudi. There are numerous resorts for night stay and wild life safari is very famous. If we have luck we can see tiger, Leopard and wild elephants. The resorts occupying the wild life habitat have been vacated in recent times by the forest department. This has helped in increasing the tiger count in the National park. There are around 400 tigers in the forest now. The wild animals like elephants and tiger require larger eco-system to sustain life as they multiply. They mark their territory of 10kms in the case of Tigers. The Elephants can walk as long as 150 kms a day in search of food all though they usually walk 25 km/day on average.

We stayed in a homestay in Mavanalla 10 kms away from Mudumalai. We reached there for a night’s stay. There was a visiting wild elephant named Renovdo by the locals. As we went in the first week of August 2019 the place was very dry without greenery and water. This elephant has started hunting the residential areas for food. In the nights it gets into the homestays breaking the fence and eats all the trees and potted plants that are available. The day before we reached there it had uprooted the cement slabs in the neighboring homestay destroying the place. Our host showed us the video of that. We were awestruck thinking what if the elephant comes to this homestay tonight. The homestay had a bulb at the front, beyond 2 meters we couldn’t see anything. It was a very remote place and pitch dark. Now and then the maid there would go with a torch in hand and check if the elephant is standing nearby. I got to know that the giant elephants do not make any noise or vibration when they walk. Even if they come close to us and stand we will not realize unless we see them. Because their foot is god designed to be so soft, and they have a way of walking tiptoed. Nature’s beautiful creation indeed!

The hosts at the homestay were very nice people. We ate for dinner some Chapathi and Dhaal. Simple but hot and well made. The dining table was placed in open space with pitch dark greenery at our sides. Many cats were walking around the dining with dim lighting. Having dinner there was thrilling. The Homestay owner told us a lot of stories about wild dogs and Leopard that ate their pet dogs. I heard about the wild dogs for the first time there. The locals say the wild dogs, when they come in packs are the most dangerous that even the elephants and tigers move away from them when they are caught single. Worst thing is the wild dogs will not even spare the bones. Imagine a death without evidence! But this is not the case when a tiger or a leopard hunts. They leave back portions of meat and bones.

We occupied a room at the ground level which had a large full size glass window facing the building entrance. The thought of the wild animals breaking the glass and entering our room was a real nightmare. I was so happy to see the sunrise that I got up at 6 AM in the morning. This never happens usually when I am at my home. There were so many varieties of birds humming in the morning welcoming the sunlight. I came out of my room and saw how the place looks in the morning. It was indeed energy giving. The sunlight, the birds and fresh breath of the environment was so alluring. All my fear swept away and I was envying how lucky this homestay owners are to have such a beautiful home in the wilds.

In the morning we had a simple breakfast of Idlies (The traditional south Indian food) and left for the jungle safari. Our first target was to see a Tiger atleast. So we headed straight to Bandipur crossing Tamilnadu border. But on the way the sight was little disappointing because a recent forest fire had burnt many trees on our way. We would have seen atleast 300 deer all our way. Finally we reached the Bandipur Safari starting point. We bought our tickets and sat on the trekking van. We saw Bison, deer and Wild elephant. The forest smells of eucalyptus and other green plants. I just loved the oxygen levels in the forest zone. Kept deep breathing and enjoying the scents.

From there we rushed to Mudumalai for safari. The Safari at both Bandipur and Mudumalai closes by 6pm giving privacy for the animals. During nights the animals sit on the roads and enjoy their space. But there are some guys who take people on unauthorized safaris at night which are unsafe. We are accountable for our safety in those rides. The Animals can be spotted at late evenings and early mornings near the water resources, or where the deers are seen as they come to hunt. The singa val kurangu (Lion tail monkeys) sitting on the trees gives signal to the deers about the tiger or leopard arriving. We saw that where ever a herd of deer stand two or more deer don’t graze at all. They stay vigilant like our soldiers looking at different directions for any predator. Nature has all the knowledge and training. We have to just learn from them.

The wild animals don’t come near humans easily. They hate bikers, they chase bikes. Wild elephants sometimes chase vehicles. In the forest zone it’s strictly prohibited to stop vehicle on the road. We have to keep moving. Also the forest department fines anyone who stops the vehicle.

The tigers hunt humans if they turn man eaters. They hunt humans for the salt and taste they like. Leopards and lions don’t hunt humans. They only attack. The bear does not hunt. It eats fruits and worms. It attacks humans but not dangerous. The Bison is most dangerous. No animal can hunt it. It’s very strong and throws away humans to long distance with its head.

We watched for elephant dung on the way. If it looks wet then elephant is around and has just passed through that way. When elephant is out of sight we can only find them with their smell. Each animal has a smell. The Irula Tribal people are experts in handling these animals. They can train elephants with great skill. The Irula ladies were cutting the bushes on the road side at the stretch in which we are prohibited to get down from the vehicle. The men were boldly walking on the road for some forest duty. The forest department have employed many of the local tribal people in government services there. Because they know the forest. It’s their homeland.

The trip was full of adrenaline rushes and longing to see the wild animals upfront. We felt love and sympathy for wild animals. Thankfully the following week i.e. second week of August 2019 there was heavy spells of rain in the forest never before in history. God saved these animals is what I thought. Because they don’t have the luxury of the domestic animals to which we feed food and water from alternate sources.

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Mahabaleshwar – Nature art!

Mahabaleshwar is a place full of strawberry farms and scenic view. Any one who glances through these photos can easily remember Rajinikanth Sivaji movie “Balleilakka song” location, “Wai” is near Mahabaleshwar. The valley is exotic ! with the beautiful colours of blues, greens and tans blending and melting us at the first glance.

There are many view points around the spot. What touched my heart is the Arthur seat, named in memory of Sir Arthur after his wife and son drowned in the Savitri river.

Among the other view points not to be missed is the needles hole view point.

The hot pot “Chaai” (mud pot tea) is amazing after the stroll. We can also have some fun time with the monkeys there:

The strawberry garden is a must visit and what’s awesome is the fresh strawberry ice-cream. Slurp!!!

The Mahabaleshwar temple and panchganga temple are landmark spots. The Panchganga temple have five rivers flowing in the same place. Its wonder to see and the place is a bliss to visit, even if you are not a temple person.

Now we have finished our tour to Mahabaleshwar, the cream of strawberry still feels in my tongue 🙂 yummm! Strawberry Jam is very famous there.

Watch out for the next touring location very soon 🙂

Palaces of Genova

After my Aquarium visit in Genova I still had time for my return train. The rain stopped. I planned to visit Palazzo Bianco (The White Palace) and Palazzo Rosso (The Red Palace) in Strada Nuova (New Street) as they are at walkable distance from the aquarium. As the streets are curvy the map didn’t help much, so again I used the old method of enquiring to the passersby about the route. The street where the palaces are located looks rich and colourful. I quickly bought the entrance tickets for Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso.

I first visited Palazzo Bianco, the White palace. It was a white beauty mainly because of the black contrasts all across decorated from floor to ceiling. The Place had many beautiful painting all matching the white tinge. Many paintings looked very divine as if they were trying to talk to us. Especially the mother and child portraits were awesome. The place was not at all crowded. I was the only person going around the rooms most of the time. I spent some peaceful minutes inside the palace admiring the marble sculptures, artworks and taking selfies.

Next I visited Palazzo Rosso, the Red palace. This was brilliantly red with all the four walls painted red. But the most eye catching look is the front elevation of the palace. I had already checked the front looks of the palace before the trip which attracted me to visit the palace atleast from outside. Now I had all the time to walk through all the floors of the palace. Here too there are beautiful paintings and artworks. It’s nice to walk around and feel the ambience of the 16th century monument. It is also listed in UNESCO world heritage sites.

The Via Garibaldi, the street hosting the palaces is nice to walk on with the view of the terrace gardens and scintillating Palaces. From there it’s a straight one road walk to the Genova Piazza Principe railway station. The palace visits took hardly an hour. I reached the railway station on time and found the machine to punch my train ticket at the basement. Here I was at the platform waiting for the train, feeling contented that I made up the trip despite the heavy rains. Still with wet shoes and socks about which I forgot for many hours. The train journey back to Turin was accomplishing.

Plazzo Rosso at the centre

Aquarium at Genova

Genova is a port city in North Italy. The colorful buildings poster in Genova attracted me to visit the city. It houses the largest Aquarium in Italy. Aquatic life fascinates me, so I decided to spend a day close to nature admiring the fascinations of the marine world. Genova is two hours travel time from Turin by local Train. The ordinary train ticket is valid for 24 hours and the ticket has to be validated before boarding the train. The train journey has a nice view of many cities of Italy like Asti and Alessandria. Mountains, valley and tunnels crossed the way. It was a rainy day. As I reached Piazza Principe station (The railway station of Genova) it was heavy down pour. Thankfully I had the umbrella in hand. I did not have much time to waste as I had to return to Turin by night after visiting the aquarium and other places. I also had my return ticket in hand.

I expected the Genova aquarium to be just next to the railway station. But reaching there was a bit tricky. Especially as it was raining very heavily, my mobile screen was getting water droplets, I couldn’t look for directions. Finally giving up and securing the mobile in pocket I decided to ask way to the local people. That was the best decision. My shoes and socks were completely soaked in almost 10 cm rain water. Only at the junctions I would confirm with people which direction to walk. But still I perfectly managed to walk in the direction opposite to the aquarium as I reached the Port. Then realized I am walking into residential area. Thanks to the local resident who showed me way. They call Indians as “Indiana” and Italians also know Shahrukh Khan is what I learned. I turned around walked back to the aquarium counting the pillars of the over bridge beautifully painted with the aquatic species. The pillars were numbered counting backwards till it reaches zero at the entrance of the aquarium.

Penquins

The aquarium has aquatic lives of all oceans of the world. They also have a biodiversity park and a marine museum in a ship. I visited the aquarium only, as that takes at least two hours to finish seeing. Still raining, I bought the ticket and safely entered into the aquarium. There were penguins in large pools so attractively dancing and walking. The dolphins were playing in another big pool. I reached the top of floor. The port view was superb. The colourful Genova city was visible in front of my eyes, but due to heavy down pour, the view was blurred. The Pesto is famous dish at Genova. I reached the “Gusto a Bordo” restaurant and enquired if they have Pesto. The chef specially prepared “Trofie Al Pesto” for me. Wow! The greeny green aromatic Pesto, it was simply delicious.

As I came out of the restaurant the rain stopped, and now I could have a very clear view of the city. It was beautiful and this is what I saw in the posters. Climate was beautiful and there was rainbow. Enjoyed taking some photographs from that location.

The aquarium has touch pool wherein we can touch the fishes. There were sharks in a pool. Also there was a pool with a lot of colorful fishes with colours of blue, red, yellow and orange. It was the most beautiful pool. They had so many varieties of jelly fishes. There were sea horses and octopus. But the pool with sharks is where I stood for a very long time observing their movements.

There were the mangroves set up at 26 degree. The Red sea, Aeolian Island and the Maluku islands aquatic lives were recreated here and maintained at different temperatures to suit the habitation.

The Sturgeons were present, which are the oldest living bony fishes. These are rare as very few fishes are alive in the world counting a maximum of 20,000.

Photo flash are not allowed in the aquarium. The pools are neat and very well maintained. The dolphins were playing with their toys which we get to see both from the bottom and top of the pool. As this was my first aquarium visit in lifetime l found it very divine and serene especially when I saw some children running along back and forth with the sharks as they swayed in the pool. One memorable trip accomplished on the whole.

Dolphins in rain