Saturday, April 30, 2016

A day in Gangtok

Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim. At around 5,500 feet it is a pleasant hill station. It resembles the hill station of Ooty in some aspects but much cleaner than the southern one.

In our trip to Sikkim, we had a day to spare before we headed to northern part of Sikkim. There are some good place to visit in Gangtok.

Hanuman Tok
At 7,200 feet it is one of the highest point in Gangtok. A slight detour on Gangtok Nathula road is needed to reach this place. There is a small temple dedicated to Hanuman which is maintained by Indian Army. One can view Kanchenjunga if weather is clear. April is not a great time for views as the haze normally obstructs the view during the day.

Ganesh Tok
Place near to Ganesh Tok. The viewpoint provides nice views of Gangtok.

At Ganesh Tok, the traditional dresses are rented out. Tanu and Chaya decided to wear it for photo op!! Here is the photo of Tanu.

Tashi view point
Another beautiful view point that provides a great view of Kanchenjunga on a clear day. All we could were the nearby hills as the haze did not provide a view of the snow capped mountains.

There was a falls nearby called “Lhasa falls” and also a small botanical garden. The water in the falls was very nice while I managed to take a snap of Grey Bushchat at Botanical garden.

Banjhkari falls
This is a beautiful waterfalls on the way to Lingdum monastery. We had to walk a short distance to reach the base of the waterfall. It was a good place to get into water and relax. 

Paragliding is a popular adventure activity here. There are many adventure companies who have set up their base near this area.

Lingdum monastery (Ranka Monastery)
There are two main monasteries near Gangtok. Rumtek and Lingdum monastery. Rumtek is a old monastery and requires a climb while Lingdum is a new one.

This is the view of Gangtok seen on the way to Lingdum monastery.

MG Marg

Like many towns and cities, MG road is the most happening place in Gangtok. Since only pedestrians are allowed on this street, it gives a nice experience. It is a upmarket place with all modern building and branded shops. There are good restaurants where we tried few local stuff!! A nice place to hangout in the evening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

‘Windy’ start to Sikkim tour

The flight was all set to land at Bagdogra airport. The weather looked fine with clear skies but the plane was swaying a lot while landing, an experience I never had before. We could literally ‘feel’ the trouble the flight was having. Few seconds to land and the flight suddenly takes off much to the shock of everyone in the plane. It was nothing short of a roller coster ride. While we were wondering, the flight takes a long turn and tries to land again but fails at the last moment. 

Many of my trips have ‘starting trouble’ and they are mostly related to flights. The tradition seem to continue, I thought though I was not happy with the current situation.

The landing ‘struggle’ was on for about 20-25 minutes but passengers in the flights were not updated. I sincerely hoped that it was not a technical issue in the plane. Then the pilot announced that the strong surface winds were making too risky to land (it may not land on runway). The flight was now diverted to Guwahati. We landed safely in Guwahati. The plane was refuelled and the pilot announced that we need to wait for the words from Bagdogra ATC. 

Our plan was to travel by road from Bagdogra to Gangtok by road, the journey taking 4-5 hours. Now that was in jeopardy.

The wait lasted for about 1.5 hours. The flight was allowed to take off. Pilot announced that the winds though stronger had subsided a bit. The flight makes a successful landing while we hold our breath. A loud cheer and claps from passengers greeted the landing. 

I am a proponent of automation. Lot of people believe that the job of pilot is easy with auto pilots handling most of the journey. But it is in these situations the pilots prove their mantle. I heard people telling “kya yaar land nayi kar paya”, “why not he land at Coach behar instead of Guwahati” but I think safety matters above everything. 

GuruDongmar lake in Sikkim

The total ‘delay’ was about three hours. It was 6PM when we came out of the airport. I was bit concerned about driving though North Bengal but our driver assured that it would be safe. We reach Gangtok at 10:30PM in the night. A long day. All's well that ends well!!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Vedanthangal bird sanctuary

Due to the good (or bad) rains in Tamil Nadu last year, the lake in Vedanthangal was full which attracted lot of birds this time. When Sankara told me about his plans to visit this place, I decided to join him. 

Glossy Ibis
Where is Vedanthangal?
Vedanthangal is about 80 km from Chennai or about 40 km from Chengalpattu or Kanchipuram. It is a small lake and like in our Ranganathittu birds come during winter. The number of birds may vary based the water levels. It is told that the villagers have taken good care of the birds. Now the lake in managed by Tamilnadu forest department.

Spotted owl

Our trip
Train tickets to Chennai are hard to get at the last moment. So we decided to start from Bengaluru on Friday evening on my car. It was a smooth drive and at 9:30 in the night we were at Kanchipuram, the place of our stay. 

Common Moorhen
We got up early on Saturday and after having breakfast, we headed towards Vedanthangal. It was about an hour drive from Kanchipuram. It was still 8AM but there were already many visitors at the entrance. We were also surprised by the nominal entry and camera fees for entering the sanctuary. Having spent exorbitant amount at Ranganathittu on previous week, it was a welcome respite. A small museum next to the ticket counter gives an overview of the birds visiting the place.

Park entrance
We were told that about 15,000 birds had arrived at the park. Looking at the numbers and the noise they were making, we could not disagree with the numbers. 

View from watch tower
A nice path way is constructed along the banks of the lake. Few watch towers provide a good view of the lake and the birds. I must stay the authorities had put lot of effort in maintaining the place. Very nice!!

Nice pathway!!
Since it was Saturday many school students visited the park. The place was busting with birds and students!!

We spent almost the entire day in Vedanthangal. Lunch was at a restaurant on nearby Chennai-Trichy highway. We went to Chennai for stay at and came back again on next day morning!!

Some snapshots of the many birds we saw. Brain fever bird and Pied Crested Cuckoo.

We also got an opportunity to shoot lizard!!

Unlike Ranganathittu, boating is not available in Vedanthangal. I do not know the reason but I feel that provides less disturbance to the birds. I would certainly rate Vedanthangal much above Ranganthittu in terms of bird population, cost and management.