Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trek to BKT waterfalls

Visit to this waterfalls was in pipeline for a long time but I kept postponing it due to various reasons each time. When the first rains of the monsoon arrived this year, I made a plan to visit this falls during a weekend. Subbu and two of this friends joined me.

In order to trek to this waterfall, we had to reach the village at its base which was about 25 km from the nearest town. We took an auto to cover this distance. The last five km was on mud road and being rainy season there were stretches with slush. Our auto got struck at couple of places. We had a round of warmup exercise by pushing the auto!! Sharath, our auto driver was a cool person who did not bother much about these hardships. 

The waterfall made its appearance as we reached the village. Sharath had some relatives/friends in the village and he would spend time till we returned back from waterfall. As we started walking in the village, I felt that we were seeing one of the best places in Karnataka. The huge mountains of western ghats were towering in front of us with the majestic BKT waterfalls. This against the backdrop of the village was an amazing scene to watch. 

To reach the base of the falls, we had to walk through the forest. The path was surprisingly clear though we had to take several detours to avoid crossing huge dead trees. A village dog had decided to accompany us.

On the way we spotted a viper. Being scared of snakes, I would have moved away from that place as soon as possible. But ended up taking a photo thanks to my friends. Not a great shot as I was scared while taking the snap!! Being rainy season leaches were plenty. Our walk was non stop with occasional checks on our legs for leeches. 

We had walked for 45 minutes and were near the falls. The path was steeper and slippery. The last 15 minutes of walk was arduous but the tiredness was all gone as the waterfall made its appearance suddenly. What a sight!!

The falls direction changed based on the wind direction and speed. 

We could see the village from where we climbed and its surroundings. Amazing place!! Spent a long time enjoying the beauty.

The return was slower as the path was slippery. Realised that the dog had returned back while we spent our time in waterfalls!! We had our lunch at the temple in the village with waterfall in the background. As we departed the village, we had complete satisfaction and fulfilment. It was one of the best waterfall trek I had.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A beautiful place called Markandeya hill

The first view of this hill did not impress Chaya and Tanu. “It looks ordinary”, both of them said. Well, neither did I had much expectation from this place. But such places always give a surprise.

As we reached the base of the hill, we had two options. One was to climb the neatly laid steps and the second option was to drive up the hill. We chose the latter as we had climbed Antaragange that morning and were not in a mood for another walk.

View from the temple
The climb to the hill was little more than a kilometre through a series of hair pin bends. At the top was a microwave station. No soul was present and we drove further to the temple. Here we felt the beauty of this place. There was so much of space amidst beautiful scenery and a nice temple stood in front of us. The only trace of human being was in the form of a scooter which I thought belonged to the priest. It is not a frequent situation to get a place for yourself. So we fully enjoyed the situation.

The temple dedicated to Markandeya is a very old structure that belongs to 15th century. The gopura was constructed recently. The complex is home to several temples. 

Tanu trying her skills in tree climbing!!
In general, a good place to see if one is visiting Kolar.

Markandeya hill is along Kolar Malur road. A deviation at Vokkaleri village will take you to the top of the hill. It is about 15 km from Kolar.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

A weekend trek to Antaragange

While driving to Kolar from Bengaluru you will see a range of hill on your left side. It is called as Shathasrunga mountain range. Antaragange is situated in this range. There is a temple with a pond in the mountain. The pond gets its water from an underground source which is channeled through the mouth of Basava statue.

I felt that this place would be a nice spot to trek with my family. They prefer short day hikes and Antaragange looked perfect.

We started our journey early in the day to escape Bengaluru traffic and also to complete the trek before lunch. The journey was uneventful and we had our breakfast in a hotel outskirts of Bengaluru. It was 9:30AM when we reached the base of Antaragange which is about 3km from Kolar town. Parking was not an issue as there was ample space at the entrance. 

Antaragange entrance
From the entrance, it was an easy climb of 10-15 minutes to the temple. Steps were neatly laid out till the temple. As we entered the temple, a troop of monkeys welcomed us. They are nuisance in the area and one need to be careful with their food stuff.

Steps leading to the temple
The temple has a small pond which had turned dirty. People went to the statue of the basava and took water. A devotional song was being played in a loud speaker confirming the religious significance of the place. The place was beautiful and we spent some time there.

Antaragange temple and pond
Most people return back as they mainly come for the temple. To see the caves which is the second attraction of Antaragange, we need to climb further. The path starts behind the temple and goes up continuously. It is rough as there are no properly laid steps but there was no difficulty in following the route. As we climbed up, the scenery got better. Kolar town could be clearly seen from the path. The route was mainly rocky intercepted by some bushes and short trees.

As we neared the top of the hill there was a flat area. People who come in the night pitch tents there. The path further continues to the village at the top of the mountain but we took a detour to the caves.

Rocky path after temple
It is required to have a guide to explore the caves as it is difficult to navigate inside the cave. Village kids act as guides here charging around 100-200 rupees. A village kid, Purushottam had approached us at the temple asking to take him as a guide and we had agreed. Now as we stood in front of the cave, it was clear that I would be the only person entering the cave along with Purushottam. Chaya who had just recovered from hand fracture felt that she cannot manage with the support of only one hand and Tanu who do does like cave took this as an opportunity to back off.

Tanu preferring to sit and relax than exploring the cave
The cave was indeed difficult to navigate. Without guide, it was easy to get lost in the labyrinth of rocks. At many times, I felt that my body may not get into the narrow path!! At many places it was pitch dark and Purushottam helped to proceed further. It was a great experience!!

It was a long time since we had trekked together. Antaragange was a good place for family.

Chaya and Tanu posing for camera

It takes about an hour to the cave from the parking lot. Take enough water as the only source of water on the route is at the temple. Do take help of guides to explore the cave. One can also visit the village on the top of the mountain. There are several place to explore on the top. Also, a road connects Kolar to these villages. 

This place is also home to many species of butterflies. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

When you fall ill during travel

I never had experience of visiting doctor during my travel. There were minor health issues but were resolved by self medications. But during by recent travel to US, I had to visit the doctor. This post talks about my experience in general and briefly touches about travel insurance.

As I boarded my flight from Bengaluru, I felt some uneasiness in my eyes. I could not do anything about it at that time. When I got down at San Francisco, I noticed that one of my eye had turned red. I hoped that my condition would improve but I got up next day with a swollen eye. That is when I got worried and since it was related to one of the vital system I decided to visit doctor. I had no prior experience about doctor visit in US. I did google search and found few eye clinics. I do not trust big hospitals and ignored them. Unfortunately it was Sunday and most of the clinics were closed. But I managed to find one that opened at 12 noon.

Visiting a doctor in US is not very simple. A prior appointment is mostly needed and I had come unannounced. I told that I was a visitor and all this happened suddenly. Luckily, there was an appointment that was cancelled and the receptionist was kind enough to accommodate me. I was asked to fill a form with lot of details and sign at many places. It was a bit of surprise that such an elaborate process was followed even for a simple doctor visit. Well, that is US.

She asked me how was I going to pay. I showed my travel insurance but it was not accepted for cashless transaction. I had to pay out of my pocket and claim later. The price would depend on the complexity of the issue!! 

The consultation was very elaborate and the doctor took a lot of time examining my eyes. She then told that it was an allergy and was not serious and prescribed an eye drop which I had to buy from pharmacy. The consultation charge was $120. It looked a lot to me but later I learnt that it was very cheap compared to other specialists!!

Sincerely hoping that my claim will be refunded, I went to the pharmacy and gave my prescription. When asked for the mode of payment, I told that I will pay from my pocket. I almost collapsed when I heard the price of the eye drop. It was $220. Oh my god…. that was around fifteen thousand rupees!! So shocked was I that it took some time for me to respond. Finally I paid the money and came back to hotel.

I knew that healthcare in US was expensive but never thought that it is so bad. Everything related to healthcare in US is centered around making money by big companies. The same eye drop is sold at fraction of that price in neighbouring Canada. I also heard that the pharma companies charge much less to the insurance companies.

Nevertheless, this post is not to lament about the healthcare situation is US but to let know the readers about healthcare costs outside India. Imagine the cost if there an emergency!! One of my friend had to undergo surgery for appendicitis (condition that needs to be addressed immediately) during his short stay in US. The cost was 14 lakhs!! 

Travel insurance
That brings me to the topic of travel insurance. It is extremely important to have a travel insurance. I see blogs canvassing for certain insurance companies but what is important is to check their claim process. Look at the fine prints. In my case, it mentioned that I need to contact insurance company for approval before visiting doctor. I was not aware of this but luckily this did not block my claim as the insurance was issued through corporate. There may not be such luck for personal insurance. Also, check for all documents that is required for claim. So it matters a lot on how easy is it to contact them and get approval. Also, check whether insurance helps in cashless transaction. You may not be having money to pay upfront always. There is no point if the insurance becomes just a piece of paper. 

There are also certain conditions where insurance companies do not reimburse. If you are going on a skiing and if insurance does not cover for accidents from adventure, there is no point in having such an insurance. I did not take any insurance when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. It made complete sense to take insurance as Nepal provides helicopter evacuation during emergencies (Ex: High altitude sickness, HAPE, HACE) in remote mountains. But the Insurance companies I knew did not cover the helicopter evacuation. I do not need an insurance just to visit a doctor in Kathmandu!!

Also take a note of deductibles. Many insurance companies take a minimum of $100 as deductible for any health claims. It is a significant amount of money.

While I recommend to have travel insurance, do your homework. Do not go by the flashy ads. Check the experience of people who underwent the claim process. Travel insurance is a must if you are travelling to western countries where healthcare costs are high.