Monday, August 31, 2015

Ruins of Panamaram

26 July 2015

I am always interested in looking at old and architecturally significant temples. So when I saw a photograph of a ruined Jain Temple displayed at Pazhassi tomb museum in Mananthavady, I did not take much time for me to decide to visit that place. The itinerary was slightly modified to accommodate the ruins!!

Reaching Panamaram was not a problem but it took little time to find out the road that led to the ruins. The rains were just next to the road but inside a coffee plantation. It is quite interesting to see the structure intact in spite of the plantation and scrubs grown all over.

It is amazing to see the architecture of the Temple. The Thirthankara statue inside the Temple is missing; most likely it would have been shifted out. Few sculptures are in a good shape. It was also little scary to enter as the roof seemed unstable.

Wayanad was one of the settlements of Jains in Kerala. It looks like Panramaram was one of the important places during the peak period of Jainism.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Banasur Meenmutty falls

26th July 2015

While driving towards Banasur sagar dam, I saw a board towards “Meenmutty waterfalls”. It seemed interesting and we drove towards the waterfall. At the end of the road was a small forest department check post where we had to take tickets to visit the falls.

When asked for directions, the guard provided us with two options. First was the easier path that provides the front view of the waterfalls. The second option was a steep uphill stretch taking us to the base of the falls. We decided to try both ways. The first route was an easy walk as guard mentioned and within 10 minutes we could see the waterfall at a distance. A nice view!!

Then we took the uphill path to reach the base of the falls. A big rock blocked the view of the falls but we could get very near to its base. An amazing experience.

We could also get a nice view of Banasur Sagar dam. Also got some leads about trekking options nearby!! Agenda for a future trip was already put in the backlog!!

Note: Do not confuse this falls with another Meenmutty falls in Mayanad!!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Vaccination pains for Kenya travel

If you are travelling to any African or South American country, you need to be aware of the vaccination requirements. For Kenya, it is necessary to have vaccination certificate for Polio and Yellow fever. This is very important and should not be ignored as you would either be denied exit from India or entry to the destination country or get quarantined on return at your cost!! This post is to explain the process to get these vaccines in Karnataka, especially Bengaluru.

Polio vaccine
If you are travelling to Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan or Pakistan, it is necessary to undergo a dose of Polio vaccine. India is a polio free country and hence this requirement is set by Indian Government. The fact that every one of us has taken Polio vaccine during our childhood does not matter. We need to take the dose again.

In Bengaluru, the only recognized center that administers polio vaccine for International travellers is at the following address:
Dasappa Hospital,
SJP Road, Opposite to Town Hall,
Bengaluru – 560002
Contact name: Manjula, Phone number: 7760089567

The center is open from 10AM-2PM. Closed on Sundays and other Government Holidays. It is required to take original Passport with you.

My experience
I called up and took appointment for one Saturday. It was a Government Hospital. But I was surprised at the professional behavior of the staff in charge Manjula. The entire process was done in less than 10 minutes and I was given a certificate. It is free service and no one asked for money. There is a need for such people in Government jobs.

The certificate issued is valid for a year. Note that the vaccine needs to be taken at least 4 weeks before the travel.

Also, I understood why children cry on consuming oral vaccine!! It tastes *&%&^%&.

Yellow fever
While it was a pleasant experience at Polio center, the experience was exactly opposite for yellow fever vaccination causing me some anxious moments. To give a background, Yellow fever occurs only in South America and Africa. So the need for vaccination in India arises only for people travelling to those continents. Government has designated “Public health center” in each state to administer this vaccine. Karnataka has only one center in Bangalore. The address is:
Public Health Institute (Opposite to S.J.Polytechnique college)
Near Atria Hotel & Maharani College, K.R Circle, Bangalore-560001, Karnataka, India.

Contact person: Shivaram, Phone number: 080-22210248. 

The vaccine should be taken at least 10 days before travel and is valid for 10 years. It is a multidose vaccine and hence it is administered for a group of 10 people at a time. Vaccine is given only on Wednesday (If Wednesday is holiday, then it is given on Thursday). Appointment through phone should be taken on Monday morning. Person should carry original passport and Air Ticket to get the certificate. The price of the vaccine is Rs 400/-. Government provides subsidy and hence the cost is very less. Looks great so far, right?

My experience
But the devil is in the details. I called the person in charge about 1.5 months before my travel. Lot of people had mentioned about difficulty in reaching his phone but I never faced that issue. When called, he said that the vaccines are not in stock and asked me to call 15 days before my travel. I started getting concerned. But I believed him foolishly. 15 days before I call again and he repeats the same sentence and asks me to come a week before travel. Considering that the vaccine takes 10 days to become effective, this was not practical. Looks like one need to forge the travel dates (A trivial job in e-ticket) to get on time vaccination. Very sad state of affairs in Karnataka.

I was a tensed man on that Monday.  After doing lid lot of research and investigation, I decided to take directly go to the Public health center myself.

I reach at 9AM and already there were few people. They had got appointment and scare me by telling that nothing works without appointment. That was not good news for me but I decided to wait and watch. At 9:45 the guy comes in and announces that only people with appointments to enter and rest to leave the place. “No vaccine and given only to limited people” were his words.  I stand patiently outside waiting for an opportunity. When the crowd around him thins, I go and test my luck. It does not work as he sings the same “No vaccine” song. I then tell that if I bring Single dose vaccine from Pharmacy (It is available in some medical shop. The cost is around Rs 1650/-), can they administer and give me the Yellow certificate. His tone slightly changes and asked me to wait till 12 PM. Looked like there is some hope.

Fifty people had been given appointment. I was wondering why I did not get appointment. It seemed that lot of people came from “Influence quota”. I also find out that they had given vaccines to 100+ people on previous weeks while I was given an explanation of “No vaccines”.

Finally after waiting for 3 hours and pleading relentlessly, I am given the vaccine.

The doctors and nurses were not very professional. They never showed me what they were giving (Ex: Whether the syringe is new or not). I will not be surprised if they inject water instead of vaccine!!

Friends, please plan for these vaccinations if you are going to Africa or South America. The process is not hassle free (for Yellow fever) at least in Karnataka.

There are some private clinics that administer this vaccine and provide certificate. Not sure about the validity of the certificate. They charge around Rs 4,500/-. It is a day light robbery as the single dose vaccine costs RS 1650/-. While I hate Government apathy in providing health support, my aversion to private clinics who loot people taking advantage of Government is even more.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A week at Masai Mara, Kenya

August 2015

The trigger to visit Masai Mara occurred 18 years ago when I saw a documentary on Serengeti National park. Seeing millions of wildebeest, I made up my mind to visit the African savannas one day. The opportunity occurred this month when I spent a week in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Masai Mara National Reserve is the northern most segment of Mara Serengeti ecosystem. The Tanzanian part is called Serengeti while Masai Mara is the name in Kenya.

The week I spent was memorable with numerous sightings in Masai Mara. Some numbers are:
Lions – 50
Cheetah – 17
Leopard -4
Rhino – 4
Wildebeest – Lakhs
Zebras – Several thousand
Ziraffe – 100+
Elephants – 100+
Hyenas - ~20
Buffalo – Thousands
Gazelle, Eland, Topi, Impala, hartebeest – Several thousand
Hippos – 100+

A slight disappointment was about not seeing crossings on Mara River. Due to rains on Tanzania side, majority of wildebeest was still on Tanzania side. Half a million were on Masai Mara but were near sand river that did not hold great amount of water. I did see some amazing acts like crocodile attacking zebras and Baboon killing baby Impala but I could not take photo in both occasions!!

I am not sure how much I write about this trip as only thing I did in Kenya trip was to go on safari after safari!! But there are some good experiences that I can share!!