An outing after quite some time. While thinking of overnight / day-long trips, I felt some nearby destinations for the overnight trips might be overflowing with people on account of a long weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun, on account of Gandhi Jayanti on the Friday). So it was decided we’d go for a day-long trip. It could start with a visit to some fort — there are plenty around Pune — and then proceed to other places from there.

From the list of forts that we shortlisted which were within a radius of 80 kms from Pune, Vichitragarh sounded very interesting. Weird Fort. Who wouldn’t be intrigued? Its description mentioned it’s hidden behind clouds most of time so that added some curiosity as well. So it was decided we’d start at about 7:30 towards Vichitragarh.

Vichitragarh, or Rohida fort, as it’s also known, is just off Bhor near Bajarwadi. From NH4, pass the first toll gate towards Bangalore, pass the Narsapur phata that goes towards Baneshwar and look out for a turn to the right towards Bhor village. From Bhor, it’s about 10 kms towards Bajarwadi. The total distance would be about 50-60 kms from Pune.

View from the car while going towards the fort

Entering Bajarwadi makes you feel Pune isn’t so a bad place after all. Here is a place that’s removed from population and the city chaos. A very clean-looking school is the first sight of any building in Bajarwadi. For us, it was also the last. We parked the car in the open near the school and began the trek fort-wards.

View from the place we parked the car – top of the school and the hills covered with clouds

A helpful local mentioned the fort is easily-reachable and is 30 minutes away. I thought 30 minutes of climb isn’t too bad for a site that’s below clouds most the time. And an easy climb, that too.

We began our march towards the fort, with no visibility of it. There were clouds covering a lot of the landscape in front of us, but surely the beauty of the place wasn’t lost on us. I’ve spent a really long time in Pune but I’ve never seen a place more likeable than the one I was standing at that moment. It was full of greenery on either side of us. Small, nicely marked farms towards the slopes of the wide hills which we were now climbing. The hills themselves were full of life. Shrubs, and goats and cows and oxen grazing on them.

Bambi mentioned the view you get here is the view you get everywhere in Kerala. I agree. Beautiful slopes, Extremely green hills staring at us and clouds to welcome us to our summit.

What started as a gentle walk towards the clouds soon started morphing into negotiating a ghat section on foot. As we walked further, we realised we were going atop not directly, but via a series of curvy paths. Perhaps that explains the ‘easy’ part of the climb. Whenever we looked back, we could see we were gradually passing small hills. We were going farther away from the school — and also leaving it way below under us.

Some helpful people have marked rocks and trees with arrows to guide people to the fort from what we guessed would be the path of least hardship. Without the arrows, one would soon be lost in the winds and the trees. Not to mention all the hills that dot the landscape.

It looked like a perfect day to go on such a trek, too. Cloudy — no sunshine to sap our energy and not rainy — to ensure we didn’t slip while negotiating the ghats.

But it was windy. Wind strong enough to make a person sway. However, sitting on lush grass and watching the grass dance away is a delight. A delight that can make one think of not going back and be provided with a laptop and broadband connection. The farms below would provide for the food and a small hut some shelter. Funny how the basic necessities of life have been so accommodating to indulge in the new additions.

Our “trek” was more of a leisurely stroll with a few hardships. Hardships hard enough to make some wonder if we should leave the fort alone (which, after one and a half hours of climbing, was no where to be seen) and just return from whatever percentage of our journey had so far been. The clouds have a way of obscuring details. No wonder the met department finds it difficult to predict what they claim they can predict. Anyhow, not wanting to think of the retreat, I was adamant on reaching “there” and also explaining to the troupe, by way of reason, that it couldn’t be much farther away if we went by the gent’s estimate of 30 minutes to the top.

It finally seemed we were getting somewhere — or at least someone else was getting at where we were — for we heard some voices. In about 2 minutes’ time, we could also see the people. They mentioned the fort must be 10 minutes away so there was some added sense of relief. Advice to not look at the climbing-down or rather slipping-down party was good indeed and we continued onward. Everyone had a general feeling of the descent not being as easy because of the water on the rocks and the party’s efforts to stay upright weren’t encouraging visuals.

We could by now see the faint outline of the fort walls and it was but natural to have experienced a sense of an achievement.

The majestic doors of the fort welcomed us in. A few steps further up and we were in front of an informative board confirming that we were at Vichitragarh.

The board says

The fort’s entrance is shaped like a cow’s face and a picture of Ganesh at its head is unrecognisable now.

To the right of the second entrance is an eye-catching 3x3m. water tank.

The third entrance, made of stones and which is closed forever, has impressions to either side of it. To the left is some text in the Devnagari script and to the right is the text in Persian. (Some words in the Devnagri script read ‘Hazrat Sultana… Mudpakshala…’)

To the west of the temple are a few water tanks… of which 3 are connected…

The Fort’s history
This ancient fort…

Bandal refused Shivaji’s offer to fight for Swaraj.. and hence Shivaji attacked Rohida.

Some of the text is illegible because of the rust.

A map shows some of the other forts that are visible from Vichitragarh (or Vichitragad). Sinhagad to the North, Purandhar to the East, Raireshwar to the South, Kenjavgad and Kamalgad
to the South-West and Rajgad and Torna to the North-West.

As for us, we couldn’t even see 10 ft in front of us thanks to the heavy fog / cloud cover.

There’s also a mention of the expanse of the fort: 5 hectares.

Once safely up at the fort, we sighted a nice semi-circular sitting area and immediately took to the throne. I was pretty impressed seeing a solar panel assembly which fed energy into a lamp. The government does do some good some of the time, I thought.

A while later, we heard sounds of a bell. Anticipating a person selling kulfis would have been unwise but one can’t stop thinking of such possibilities when the bell rings such. A man casually strolled towards us a short while after and explained it was him offering prayers at the temple, instantly melting any more thoughts of kulfis.

He mentioned he’s the keeper of the fort, with the authorities having felt the need of appointing someone to guard the fort at day time after a heist of Rs. 50,000 solar energy equipment. Night times are guarded by closing the doors to the fort. Robbing equipment — I thought that certainly wouldn’t figure in tourists’ lists of getting tick-marks against when visiting the fort. It had to be an inside job, a job carried out by locals. The guard started getting over-friendly what with questions about where we stayed, repercussions of swine flu and taunting people who couldn’t speak Marathi. We felt that should be enough chit-chat and thought of taking a stroll around the fort.

All we could was knee-length grass swishing away and clouds obscuring any other view. It certainly is some experience watching such tall grass being shaped into contours by persistent winds.

The track we were walking on soon disappeared and for any further progress, we would’ve had to walk amidst the grass, that was depositing all its dew on our clothes. The prospect of getting introduced to snakes taking their siesta wasn’t a particularly inviting one so we thought we’d skip the rest of the fort and also the temple, by way of which we’ll skip another friendly encounter with the guard, who didn’t fail to mention he’d jot down our details on a register as is the custom for tourists visiting the fort.

So off we went by the solar panel assembly; whatever remained of it, out the door, and back amidst the wet rocks and the friendly flora around. With some aprehension, we started the descent. It wasn’t raining, thankfully, but now we were well aware we’ll have to pass steep declines as well as rocks with thin films of water on them, making the descent slippery and slow.

Add to that, the arrows weren’t visible everywhere to guide us back, and when having to choose between multiple routes we went by the looks of the terrain rather than memory. A few “interesting” slopes later we were on the plains with the grass swaying exactly the way we had left it.

The blowing wind made walking down difficult too. Slight imbalance and the wind would made its effect felt.

Nevertheless, the climb down clocked at 1:30 hrs compared to the 2:00 hrs walk up. A total of 5 hours were spent for the extremely enjoyable journey up and down the Vichitragarh fort. I’m already thinking of going back with a few friends who I know will enjoy going to such an outing.

On the way back, we stopped for a short while at the Baneshwar water fall, entirely giving the temple a miss. Not much to talk about the waterfall itself, but the place around it looks like a good jungle and a separate trip there might turn up some interesting memories as well.

I’ve tried some GIMPing with these pics — the first time I’m trying that.


The Junglees went to BR Hills the weekend of September 2-3. Sowmya has written about it over at her blog.

My best experience from the whole trip was a tiger sighting. We had just entered the restricted forest area at 6 in the morning; everyone was too sleepy, but the alert ones who were sitting right in the front saw the tiger cross the road in front of them, walk over to the left and rest on the slope, watching us go by. They immediately alerted all of us and I could catch a glimpse of the cat’s head. Our pleas, which then turned to wild shouts, asking the driver to stop, were futile. He just wouldn’t stop! I caught up with him later asking for an explanation. He said “well, he crossed and went. Why stop?” Well, no point in arguing with him over that; the time was gone, and so was the tiger.

I’ve heard and read a lot about BR Hills via Kalyan‘s blog. Mandanna, the in-charge at BR Hills, told me Kalyan had spotted one tiger with two cubs just a few days before. [Also check this piece for more pics.]

Sanath and Amogh, the two naturalists were also around that weekend; Sanath captured elephant charge photos, they’re beautiful!

Apart from these, our group as a whole got to see a sloth bear, a lot of deer, bisons, wild boars and serpentine eagles.

I’ll upload some pics to the albums soon. For now, I’m thinking when next to make a trip to BR Hills again and shake hands with a tiger.

Update: Photos at Flickr; Photos at Webshots

Barking Deer

Spotted Deer

Trip to the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (River Tern Lodges)

The Junglee group from Juniper went to a trip to the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, (or the River Tern Lodges as it’s now known) [link 2, map]. It’s a tiger reserve as well. Some statistics about the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary are available. (When will I get to spot a tiger in its natural habitat?)

It was organized primarily by yours truly along with the usual Junglee junta — Sowmya, Chirag and Amit Jain. Shivaram got us a great discount with the Jungle Lodges people. Tojo got us a great deal for the travel. So despite the high costs of trekking + safari’ing + enjoying great food + having a blast all the while with the JL group, our costs remained well within the budget. Except that it did overflow in the end, the reasons of which shall be mentioned later (something to do with the water sports there).

This place is situated on the banks of the river Bhadra, near the Lakavalli dam near Shimoga in the north-west direction of Bangalore in Karnataka. It’s a 6 hours drive. 20 of us made it to this trip. Chirag has the details over at the Junglee blog post.

In addition to what Chirag mentioned, I’d like to give a few behind-the-scenes info and some additional footage of what happened at the RTL.

First, about the place: I kept referring to this outing as a ‘trip’ — there were so many things that could be done here — trekking, safari, canoeing, coracling, playing water sports, swimming, bird-watching and having general fun.

Jojo, Tojo’s brother, who joined us at the last moment, had this to say about the group: “Man, I thought software guys are just nerds and we (shippies) are the best for fun and its not at all true. Absolutely a no hang up attitude gang”

I think this summarizes the group pretty nicely. After the three outings we’ve had — a trek, a fun watersports + trek point and now this — we’ve got to see an amazing bunch of people from Juniper and a few non-Juniperites as well. Although the number of people who have done two trips is less, and the number of people who’ve done all the three trips can be counted on the fingers of one hand, the spirit remains the same — to have fun and explore around Bangalore. Aravinth mentioned that it seemed like the group had been filtered before being formed. Everyone gelled so perfectly well.

Of course, the presence of Jojo and Theo, Mukesh’s friend, made it even more interesting. Jojo’s in the shipping industry and Theo’s a software professional. However (sic), he’s from Greece and works in the UK. Both of them had varied experiences and great stuff to share — something just the Juniperites wouldn’t have come to know otherwise.

Elephant charge:
I also managed to get a couple of videos of a (few?) very protective mother elephant(s). The way they scream is unbelievable — they shriek and make sounds like wild felines. Some of us thought there was a tiger around. Some thought there was a wolf making that sound. The safari guide, Sharanappa said it was just the elephant that was trying to get us out of its territory. The elephant charging video was shot by Theo; I’ll check if he can upload it. I have a couple of videos in which the mother elephant growls. Keep up the volumes to catch them.

Growling elephant video 1

Growling elephant video 2

It was very eerie, you could sense tension in the air. Everyone was scared. Our jeep just missed the charge, but the people in the jeep that got subjected to it have a very interesting tale to tell. Chirag talks about it in the aforementioned blog.

[There are more pictures over at my webshots page in the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary album.]

Jungle Lodges:
The JL people were very courteous and helpful. We reached there at 5:30 in the morning and they were already preparing the rooms for us to check-in. All this, even though our check-in time was 12 PM! We had a few Kannada-speaking folks; they had to translate stuff which the staff wanted to get across — and stuff that we wanted to get across to the staff. However, most of the people (and most importantly, the important people) knew English. So communication wasn’t much of a problem.

However, they said they would charge extra for any water sports. Even for swimming. We weren’t intimated about this earlier. Rs. 200 per head extra would mean overshooting the budget. All this for just 2 hours of play in the water! I had to do some bargaining with the guys. They refused to go down on the costs, but then they allowed us unlimited time in the waters and we could also get into the waters (and get to do all the activities) the next day as well. I think this was a good deal. Finally, we ended up overshooting the budget by Rs. 60, despite the extra money we had to fork out. Pretty decent!

Some people, in hopes of spotting other animals in the jungle, wanted to go for another safari the following morning. Gangaswamy, the caretaker of the place, said that the probability of spotting any other animals would be very low in the morning. However, he helped us secure entrance to the jungle and arranged for a jeep and driver (they’re at his disposal anyway) late in the night. The ones who wanted to go for a trek early morning went for a trek. The rest went for the safari. This gesture by the JL people too was well-received. They didn’t even charge us extra for the extra safari.

Wrapping it all up:
Since I volunteered to manage the show this time, handling the finances was on me. I’d like to say I’m good with handling money. I think I did the job pretty well, but there might be a few disappointed souls. I received the bill from the travel guy pretty late (nearly a month and a half since the trip). So the final calculations, settlement, etc. took some time. I’m still to finish settling all the accounts.

Initially, I had planned to write a script to handle the finances. Like the number of people, total costs, money pooled in, money to receive, expenses and so on. But I didn’t get around doing it. It’s still one of the TODOs, but the motivation is much less, as I won’t be doing this for some time now (we have a rotation policy for the head fall-guy for organizing these trips), and there’s just so much on the platter. I do intend to get around to doing it, though.

However, I did the finances using Google spreadsheets. Writing some formulae and such, the task was easier to finish. Google spreadsheets, however, has some bugs (or features, I don’t know), which I found to be pretty irritating. Anyway, it’s all almost done now and I’m getting ready for the next trip being planned.

Growling mother elephant at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary – II

More growls… This female elephant is obviously protective about her calf. When we approached in our jeep towards her, she let out a growl that sounded like a wolf or a leopard. She even charged the jeep ahead of us. Keep the volume high to get all the sounds.

Recorded at the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (now River Tern Lodges), near Shimoga, Karnataka, India.

Growling mother elephant at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

This female elephant is obviously protective about her calf. When we approached in our jeep towards her, she let out a growl that sounded like a wolf or a leopard. She even charged the jeep ahead of us. Keep the volume high to get all the sounds.

Recorded at the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (now River Tern Lodges), near Shimoga, Karnataka, India.

Honnemardu trip

This is the same blog post I put up on the Junglee blog about our trip to Honnemardu last March.

What’s a perfect start to a trip? A salsa dance performance by Team 5, 6, 7, 8. And that’s exactly how the fun started. As part of a recruitment event organized by Juniper Networks Bangalore, we witnessed some cool moves by the dance troupe who did the Meringue and danced to some popular Hindi songs.

The fun continued throughout the trip and boy, did we have fun! Chirag says “I felt that the Honnemardu trip was more fun, than Honeyvalley trek. Maybe, just cos, there was more time (and energy) for games, fooling around, scaring people, howling at the moon, and being a pest, in general (Hint, hint ;)” A nice summary. Read on for the details. A special note deserves attention: no humans were scared to the extent to cause their death and no Albatrosses were killed during the entire trip.

Chirag, Shraman, Amit Jain, Jay and Sanjay organized this trip. Our schedule was to depart on Friday (the 10th), reach Honnemardu early Saturday, have fun, and leave for Bangalore Sunday afternoon. A group called ‘Adventurers’ organizes events at Honnemardu, like coracling, canoeing, some other water sports, stay, food, etc. However, they appeared to be pretty hostile towards non-Kannada-speaking population. Thanks go to Vinay for interfacing with them. Amit Jain had booked a 24-seater SRS Travels bus that would take us to Honnemardu and back.

The bus arrived half an hour early, quite a surprise. We left from office (C. V. Raman Nagar) around 10:20. Picked up a few folks along the way, who were spared of the waiting time this time around (see previous trip details for an explanation). The headcount confirmed there were 20 of us, and we were ready for the long drive.

People who counted on getting a sound sleep in the bus had to be disappointed, as Shraman declared the group’s name is ‘Dumb Charades Group’ and not the Junglee group. The bus was divided in two teams, front half vs back half and off we were. The game was played with complete enthusiasm and full participation. We were afraid of not leaving out any movies to enact for the next two days.

However, we were running a bit late on our journey. We were meant to reach Honnemardu around 6 AM Saturday morning, but we thought we’d be lucky if we made it by 9. But we decided to make up for the lost time by adding a lot of fun in whatever we did. After about two hours of playing DCs, we thought it’d be best to catch up on sleep since we had a lot of activities lined up for the next day.

The last part of the journey was slow as the roads weren’t good. We reached Honnemardu around 10 AM Saturday morning. We all had to get down and walk a bit as the bus couldn’t travel “fully loaded”. Once at the gather point, the Adventurers guy, Ganapti, who would be our guide, introduced himself and asked us to stand in a ‘semi circle in a straight line’, for introductions and head-count. This was a phrase that was to stick for the entire duration of the journey.


‘Honne’ means timber and ‘mardu’ means lots of. So ‘Honnemardu’ would mean a place that has a lot of timber trees. The village Honnemardu has been submerged in the waters of the river Sharavati. The place we were at, however, was named Honnemardu in remembrance of the submerged village. All we could see from here was water and trees.

Our first reactions on seeing the place were almost unanimous: “marvellous!” The place is an absolute treat for the eyes, with mountains, trees, water, islands and sand painted on a brilliant landscape. The whole effect was soothing to the eyes and we knew right away that spending just one day wasn’t enough to take in everything that this wonderful place had to offer.

With everything set in the natural setting, Ganapati explained we’d have to fetch water out of a well and use it to brush our teeth, bathe, wash dishes, etc. Pretty exciting, we thought. To answer nature calls, there were three Indian-styled restrooms, one of which couldn’t be locked. So we were left with just two. We had another option, though. We could go around some bushes and relieve ourselves (and cover the stuff with dry leaves, sand, etc.). There was no mobile phone network around this place, so we were now completely cut off from the outer world — and we’d be one with nature.


Ganapati had made the rules very clear: he’d serve breakfast only when all of us were ready as a group. After freshening up, we had a nice breakfast of idli-sambar. After having our fill, we went back to the well and washed the dishes. We left them near the eating area so that we won’t have to get them again during lunch-time. We then trekked atop a small hill to put our bags in a room. A single room for 20 people. That would be OK, though, as we weren’t expected to stay there. We’d spend the night on an island. Some people complained that this climb was worse than the entire Tadiyandamol trek. The terrain is quite rocky and filled with sand, so make sure you have your sports shoes around. Floaters aren’t going to keep you on your feet for long on this climb. We quickly changed into swimming gear, applied sunscreen generously and were back down with just some spare clothes and cameras.

We then put on life jackets and grabbed some paddles. We were ready for coracling. Ganapti gave us all the instructions and we were first supposed to take a dip in the water just to acclamatise ourselves with it. This ‘dip’ turned out to be a nice swimming exercise which would continue for about an hour. Many of us didn’t know swimming, so this was a good way to get rid of the fear of water or drowning. Each life jacket could handle a 100kgs, so we were all safe. With everyone floating around with ease, some of us started swimming around. There were a few (dead) trees around in the water, they made excellent jump-boards. Even the non-swimmers tried it. A few adventurous of us swam to an island. However, this wasn’t good news for the rest of the group, as they were done with their share of swimming and they now had to wait for those people to come back to start with coracling.

A coracle is like a cup floating on water, but it’s very unstable. However, no coracle was overturned during our adventure. We did have fun racing around and banging into others. Each coracle can sit 4 people and two people row at a time. We went around some islands (there are plenty of them), and had general fun.

Some time into it, and we started feeling hungry. The swimming and rowing had shown its effect. We all started back and had some nice lunch. We were given an hour and a half to relax, after which we were to start towards the island to start our night stay. We didn’t waste much time in starting games again. Dozing is for people who snore. The rest of us played Twenty Questions — with no limit on the number of questions asked, which became a very enjoyable and enlightening experience for some. Who can guess the blue dot of the Blaupunkt ad campaign or an ashtray, the hygienic object that should be used by all smokers in any number of questions?

The one-and-half hour deadline was upon us, but we didn’t want to wake up the people who were sleeping away. So we requested Ganapati to delay things for some more time. We were actually quite disturbed by the fact that we’d have to scale the mini-mountain again to fetch supplies for the night. We couldn’t delay it much, and we had to get up there and get an extra pair of clothing, brushes, torches, mosquito repellents, etc. At least, we were supposed to. Most of us forgot the torches and the brushes. We remembered to carry the mosquito repellents, though. However, there were no mosquitoes on the island.

Back down, we put on the life jackets once more (“No going inside water without life jackets!”) and were ready for the cruise to one of the islands. The one that Ganapati selected for us was filled with trees… some were already scared at the prospect of spending the night in a jungle.

With our life jackets on, we got hold of the paddles. However, this time, we also carried with us tents and sleeping mats (that’s what they call foam out there). We selected our coracles and were rowing off to the island. Once there, Ganapati guided us through the dense tree cover to a plain flat land which would be our base for the night.

We then again made our way through the forest to collect firewood for the campfire. In pitch darkness, with just a couple of torches handy, we followed Ganapati. Keeping pace with him was very difficult; we had to take care of not stepping inside some hole or be alert of any snakes that could be dangling on the trees (thankfully, there were none). We formed a big line and kept passing the firewood collected — by just breaking the branches off trees, no axe used — to the last person in the queue. With Ganapati declaring we had collected enough, we made our way back to the base.

Next lesson was to put up the tents. The tents were big enough for four people. Ganapati and his accomplice, Babu, demonstrated how to do it with one tent. The rest of us then got busy into raising the others. That took some time. Amidst a lot of confusion, everyone trying to grab a rope or a rod from wherever they could find, resulting in everyone getting delayed. Ganapati serially helped each group and finally we were all set. Except for our tent, as one of the rods needed to raise our tent was missing. We’d have to wait for Ganapati to come back with another one. We then moved on to start the campfire.

Ganapati showed us the various ways in which campfires are lighted: alter, criss-cross, star (or the Hindi movie-style romantic for-two campfire). They are in decreasing order of intensity. Alter’s used for big groups, whereas a star suffices for just 2-3. He said a criss-cross one would be sufficient for us.

Once done, he declared we could start our cultural programmes, while he went back and came with dinner some time later.

Now, cultural programmes here just mean one thing: dumb charades. However, we did contemplate playing some other games like Truth or Dare, Twenty Questions, Mad Ads, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Antakshari and so on. Guess what we ended up doing?

Narrating ghost stories. Now this is something we wouldn’t have normally done. But given that all the members of the group were bold enough and no one was really scared of ghosts, this made it slightly challenging to tell a really scary story. Yeah, kidding. “Some people” already had their hands all over their ears. Add to that a white rat that was doing the rounds in a near-by bush. The setting was perfect. How could we let go of a chance to really scare the others out?

A closed group of four people decided to play a prank on the rest of the group. We would throw some stones in the bush where the rat was skimpering around. We would then stare in the general direction of the bushes for a while and then scream out loud while just dropping ourselves towards the campfire. And we did exactly the same thing.

Let me tell you, the effect of the whole thing was enormous. We achieved more than we expected. Almost everyone was scared. The ladies didn’t stop screaming.

That done, we returned to our games. We played some games that needed observation and a lot of thinking — the one with the ups and downs and “who can successfully go to the main land from the island” — sorry, can’t explain in detail as it might ruin the fun we can have with new people in the next trip. This game can just be played once; once you know what it is, you just know it.

By the time we were finished with the second game, Ganapati and Babu came in with dinner. We were all too happy at the sight of it and lapped it up. Yummy.

During dinner, however, we thought of playing another prank. But there was a problem. Whenever anyone saw the four people huddled together, it smelled badness to them. They all tried to join in the conversation. And more people meant more ideas — to keep themselves safe :-) We ended up deciding on a single target. Jay came up with an excellent idea. Wear a hooded sweatshirt frontside back. This way, the face can be covered with the hood and the backside of the hair is left open. The hands are folded in front of the back and the person sits with his back towards the subject. This gives the appearance of the face being absent but everything else being intact. And just when the subject’s about to realize what’s wrong, a flashlight (kept in the hands) glows focussing on the (absent) face.

Chirag volunteered to do this. He sat in a tent and Jay set everything up. The effect was quite spooky. The problem now was: how do we get the subject to enter the tent? Abhishek had suggested “Truth or Dare” earlier. We decided we’d go ahead with the game now. And make the subject ‘dare’. Funnily enough, the subject himself suggested the game again. Not only that, he also volunteered to dare something, just so that people would play the game. We thought he walked right into our plan. After dilly-dallying for a while, we suggested he visit each tent and shout out his name loud. The campfire was at a distance from the tents, so we couldn’t gauge the reaction from where we were, but we did hear a scream.

A plan was also made to scare us… which failed. I was the subject this time, with some “spooky” taps on my shoulders meant to scare me. Think of something better next time!

By this time, no one would trust us. Tension was mounting. So dumb charades was suggested once again, and we all agreed this time. A couple of rounds later, though, we thought it was getting boring. There wasn’t enough visibility as well. So we decided to get back to Twenty Questions. But we ended up asking some quizzes and lateral thinking puzzles. This worked, and we all put on our thinking caps. Which meant sleep for some of us. After a day with a lot of activities, the energy levels were low, but most of the group was interested in the puzzles and then the thinking began. This continued for about an hour and a half, in which three puzzles were cracked. Not bad. Some smart people woke up at the exact time a puzzle was cracked, listed to the answer, and went back to their “thinking mode”. People who missed the session, check near the end. The questions are put up there. People who enjoyed it, check there as well. There are bonus questions for you.

After the three puzzles, almost everyone was exhausted physically as well as mentally. I say almost everyone, as after the others went to sleep, four people started “howling at the moon”. But not before the campfire was extinguished. Ganapati had instructed strictly to extinguish it and throw some water on it so that the ashes flowed away. The fire was extinguished and the ashes were washed away. Back to the “howling”. Basically, they started singing melodious Hindi songs so that the others would get a sound sleep. They must’ve touched some chords deep within, as a couple of people joined them, and others requested for songs. Loud but soothing voices filled the air. The Manna Deys and Kishore Kumars of the team (and also the Altaf Rajas), however, received not much appreciation later. Everyone was just too tired. The singers, however, stuck on to their singing job (“Forest” Gump?) and kept everyone entertained. By the sounds of it, they were enjoying it. And by the requests and comments, it seemed even the audience was enjoying it.

It wasn’t as if the audience didn’t like the singing, but they were concerned about the vocal health of the singers. Repeated requests to stop from the audience failed to deter the maestros. They, however, stopped just after an hour into it. The requests (both kinds, songs and stoppings) had stopped. Afraid of singing just to the moon, the singers backed off. They too went to sleep. But there were some noises to be heard at random intervals during the night.

Sleeping inside the tents was an interesting experience. With people snoring around you, sleep is something that was hard to come by. Add to that the uneven “bed” and the chilly winds that blowed outside. Even lying down wasn’t an interesting prospect. But what else could be done? Nothing. So we just lay there, playing guess-the-person game (“Pehchaan kaun?”) across tents. And we slept while playing it.

Light sleepers amongst us were the lucky ones who could catch a glimpse of the rising sun. The photos tell us that we surely did miss the spectacle.

Later, when everyone was awake and freshened up, we removed the tents, folded them and started getting ready for the trip back to the main land. Ganapati walked in with tea and snacks, but we decided to go to the main land and have breakfast. So off we were again on our coracles.

Back on the main land, we had breakfast, washed the plates by the well and got ready for another adventure out in the waters. This time, it was canoeing.

A canoe sits two people. The one in the front rows ahead and the one behind steers. We all went in different directions; some towards the dam, some towards the island on which we were just some time back, and some towards other islands on the other side of the landscape. There are some absolutely marvellous views you get of the islands and the water from the middle of the river. So it’s really exciting to row away and just stay on at a point and admire the nature.

Everything went smoothly for most of the part. Except for one incidence — one canoe was overturned. This was mostly due to not following the instructions that Ganapati had given; so it wasn’t very bad. Of course, the life jackets saved the people, but the camera had a nice bath. A paddle was lost in the waters, so Ganapati had to row down to the spot and help the folks.

There also was a surf board (I’m not sure if it was a surf board, but let’s call it that). And a lot of fun was had in toppling people over while they perched on it or while they attempted to get on it. This probably was the most exciting water sport we played, as there were a lot of people participating and we always have fun when we see people falling off into waters. No?

We had decided to leave by 12:30, so that we could reach Bangalore around 10, max. 11 in the night. However, we were in the waters till 1:15 PM. We quickly trudged up the mighty hill, got our stuff down, and had our lunch. A few people lazy enough to not wash the plates just left the stuff behind. With everything wound up, this was the time to get into the semicircle again, do a head-count and pose for photographs with Ganapati.

We all boarded the bus, eager to have more fun onboard. During the forward journey, the driver had put on some songs from ‘Bunty aur Babli’. And just when ‘Kajra’ was about to start, we reached the destination. Everyone was looking forward to ‘Kajra’ now, so on public demand, we all sat watching songs. ‘Kajra’ was followed by ‘Dhoom’ and other Abhishek Bachchan movie songs. Thankfully — as we could get out of this ordeal — we soon reached a place where we could get some ‘refreshments’. We had some ‘tender coconut’ water as well — and people say they won’t get such delicious stuff anywhere in Bangalore.

Once back in the bus, we started off with our dumb charades. Movie names were followed by movie scenes. A good couple of hours into it, and we still didn’t run out of names from the database. All this while having some snacks and ‘water’.

Later, we moved on to other games. Twenty Questions was restarted. And while this was being played, a new game was invented. Credit goes to Chirag for the idea and Shraman for the rules. There were thoughts of patenting the game. But I guess writing about it here makes it prior art. So folks, you won’t get a patent for ‘Pehchaan Kaun’. Yes, that’s the name of the game. That’s the completely original and novel name given to the game by Shraman.

It goes like this: Now that we’d spent two days together, we knew something about the twenty people. A team thinks of someone and the rival team guesses who the person is. Just five questions and one guess are allowed. To make the whole thing more interesting, another rider was added: a question once asked cannot be repeated later (by either of the teams). A very fun and interesting game, surely. It involved a lot of lateral thinking to come up with new questions to essentially get the answers you want. Like ‘is he wearing shorts?’ or ‘is he wearing a full-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up?’

Definitely a fun game. Things started getting tight too soon, so we had to return to our Twenty Questions. This time around, we played it completely professionally. We had two teams and a referee. The ref took his job very seriously, to the last hash. When a question was asked, it was confirmed from both the teams involved if it was a valid question and if the question was accepted. Once this was done, the question count was incremented and both teams were notified of the number of questions that were asked, the number of questions that can be asked and the number of guesses that could be made. This wasn’t the only process that we introduced. After a question was asked, the team that had thought of the personality went into discussion mode. Only after being thoroughly satisfied with the answer they were about to give, and making sure it didn’t mislead the other team, would the answer be announced. So a typical round went thus:

Team A: Yes, we’ve thought of something.
Team B: Real or fictional?
Referee: 1 down, 19 to go!
Team A: Real.

<Discussion ensues. Team B discusses what’s the best question to ask next. Team A discusses life.>
Team B: Male or female?
Referee: 2 down. 18 questions and 3 guesses remain.

<Discussion ensues. Team B thinks of next questions to ask for either case. Team A discusses life. 5 minutes later…>
Team A: Definitely male.

With personalities to guess like Tenzing Norgay, Chelsea Clinton and so on, we never got bored. It was challenging and fun. On the way back, we stopped near Tumkur at a dhaba and had our dinner, which was served cold. The referee, of course, didn’t forget the count during the time we had dinner and went back to gaming mode.

We reached Bangalore in another hour’s time and dropped people along the way. This marked the end of a truly entertaining and exciting trip. To say we had fun would be an understatement. We lived up to the original and the new names of the group: ‘Junglee’ and ‘DC’. I guess we have a new entry to make there as well… ‘PK’.

Lateral Thinking questions:
5. Man goes to a restaurant. Orders for an Albatross. He eats one piece of it and dies.

6. A man is in his car in an open space. He switches on the radio, listens to it for some time and dies.

7. A man carries his umbrella to his office everyday (regardless of the season). When he switches his job, he stops carrying the umbrella.

8. A dead man lies in an open field with just a backpack.

5. A man walks into a bar and asks for water. The bartender points a gun at him. The man thanks the bartender and leaves.

Bonus questions:

6. Music stops, woman dies.

7. A rope breaks. A bell rings. A man dies.

8. A feather lies next to a dead man.

Trip to Coorg

The Route-7 gang from Juniper went for a weekend trip to Coorg in March. As promised, here’s a short blog post from whatever I can remember (it’s been a looong time). The rest will be said in multiples of a thousand words.

A brief note about Route-7: this is the group of people that happen to stay along several points which nearly lie on the line that connects C. V. Raman Nagar (the place our office is situated) and Basaveshwarnagar. All the people in Juniper who use the shuttle service and stay anywhere on the roads that connect these two places travel daily by the bus marked ‘Route 7’. Carpooling, but in a mini-bus that seats 12 people. (It’s grown to a 22-seater with around 16 of us since then.)

The place is around 6-7 hours’ drive from Bangalore. We took the Mysore road to get there. Pradeep and Srivatsa organized the whole affair, with we (8 from route-7 and 2 from route-8; we made some exception there) starting out Friday night (24 March), reaching Kushalnagar at around 4 in the morning. This was the place where we were going to “stay”, which basically means dump luggage and return for some sleep sometime later.

The bus journey of course was fun, with ‘Antakshari’ being played and generally singing songs. Most of us didn’t sleep the entire duration of the trip.

Chikbalepet in Kushalnagar is where we stayed. The accomodation was wonderful. It was a nice bungalow with 2 bedrooms and one big hall + kitchen, fully furnished. We freshened up and started off to Talacauvery, the place where the river Cauvery — or Kaveri, I’m still confused: official boards don’t agree as well — originates. We left around 5:30 – 6:00.


First off, we reached Baghamandala. Vatsa’s plans of getting a holy dip and a bath were ruined as the water was just knee-deep and not very clean. This place also has some temples; we visited two temples, ate some breakfast in one of the nearby places that had a “decent name” (though making the decision wasn’t easy — the group was heavily divided over which one to go to — it’s fun fighting amongst yourselves when you haven’t had food in a long time, haven’t slept the whole night, have been travelling a lot and not had a bath).


We then went ahead to TalaCauvery. There’s a water reserve there, which is symbolic of the birthplace of the river. The ones who wanted to get a holy dip did so. This was a scenic place, we got good shots of foggy mountains and the Sun behind the fog. After biding away some time here, we moved on and went to Irpu falls.



The Irpu falls are inside the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sancutary. We didn’t have prior permission to get inside the Sanctuary, so we just walked over to the place near the waterfalls.

Irupu Falls

This was a lot of fun. We kept going back to the water. It was extremely cold and had a relatively strong current if you explored the area a bit and found the exact spot. A few unlucky ones who didn’t get a spare set of clothes had to go off to another area later and dry themselves.

After we were through, we went back to Kushalnagar. We had lunch on the way. (Or did we have lunch before we reached the waterfalls? Don’t remember now, just that I was very hungry. But that’s not giving you any information.)

Back home, we lazed around, some slept off for a while. We were back travelling in no time at all, heading for dinner. The person who owned the place we were staying at, had suggested a restaurant nearby. We all went there, very exhausted and drowsy. After dinner, we had planned to play dumb charades and antakshari around a campfire. The campfire was lit and we did play a few rounds of DCs. However, the enthu just wasn’t there among the folks who needed a sleep to get active. We did have a few interesting moments, though, like Kantharaj depicting ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho‘… (Heyyyy… Kantaben…?) and Vatsa enacting ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlesss Mind‘.

After a good night’s sleep, next day morning was spent just waiting for coffee. The bungalow we stayed at has a nice garden and it’s surrounded by trees. The view of the Sun behind the fog in the morning made a great visual. The lady members quickly used the opportunity to get all dressed up and pose for umpteen photographs. Of course, they will be kept private.


Sun behind fog

The delay of the coffee was too much for a few of us, and they went off to a nearby place where the Cauvery flows from to take a quick dip. The ‘quick’ not being quick enough, the rest decided to go there as well (of course, after the breakfast). This place was awesome. Easily has to be one of the most scenic places I’ve ever seen. I’ll let the pictures speak.





Soon afterwards, we started to make preparations for the return journey. On the way back, we stopped at Nisargadhama, a place that’s a zoo and a picnic spot. We went boating, rode on an elephant, ate junk food and icecreams. We weren’t much interested in the zoo part, though we did see some enclosure that had deer in it.

Further on the way back, we stopped by at a Buddhist temple (monastery?). This is also known as the Golden Temple. It’s a beautiful place, very clean and quiet.

Golden Temple

Golden Temple

With more stops just for food, we relaxed in the bus while talking about generic issues pertaining to life, Earth and everything. Umm, well, not quite, but you get the idea.

We reached our destination at around 8 in the night; after dropping everyone, and ensuring everything went smoothly, the two organizers bid everyone adieu. Was a wonderful trip and a memorable experience. One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, I’d recommend anyone visiting this part of the world to visit Coorg.


For more pictures, see the Coorg album on Webshots or the photos tagged Coorg on Flickr.


I’ve just blogged over at the Junglee blog about our trip to Honnemardu a couple of weekends back.

These times are pretty exciting, I hardly have weekends to myself. Today I was at Wonder La, and tonight I’m leaving for a place called Tala-Cauvery for a weekend trip. Blogs on them later.