Rowing at Town Lake, Austin

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Town Lake (also called Lady Bird Lake) in Austin is one of the Top 10 rowing water bodies in US. I was lucky that my first rowing experience is in this Lake. Wait a second – is it rowing or canoeing? Well, frankly it doesn’t really matter to me and shouldn’t matter to you either if you’re an amateur. There’s a 10 miles long hiking and biking trail along the Lake as well and thus, is a perfect place to spend a couple of hours a week while you’re at Austin.

The boat/canoe rentals were on the other side of the Lake, so had to cross this bridge. Here’s its sepia look:

Bridge over Lake Austin

Bridge over Lake Austin

The mild vibrations while standing on the bridge reminded me of LakshmanJhula in Rishikesh, though the vibrations are ‘visible’ in the latter’s case. It was enjoyable, not terrifying. The cool breeze, mild sun overhead, the view of lake on either side of the bridge and the sight of Austin Downtown building on the third side is a pleasant experience.

 

Lake Austin in an Overcast

Lake Austin in an Overcast

We were 4 guys – so rented two double boats. Rent was 15 USD per boat per hour. Being a first timer, I was off to a slow start and so even my not-so-amateurish partner couldn’t move ahead. The vessel moved absolutely in direction that we didn’t want it to go. As minutes passed, my rowing skills improved. We figured out that the best strategy to move fast and straight was – the rower in the back provides direction to the boat while the rower in the front ‘rows’; and after some time, vice versa.

 

Rowers

Rowers

Ducks, and birds of other categories as well, were having a good time – swimming, playing, surfing, flying low and eating insects/fish. In some areas, people were feeding the birds too.

 

Duck Tales

Duck Tales

The sight on both sides of the Lake was majestic, though the ‘point-and-shoot’ camera couldn’t do justice to the sight due to overcast sky. Several houses, surrounded by trees, lines the Lake periphery. Imagine sitting on your backyard listening to your iPod and gazing at the Lake from atop – priceless!

 

Woods Beside the Lake

Woods Beside the Lake

General Information: If you are new (or coming) to Austin and want to plan a visit to Town Lake for rowing,  canoeing, hiking, biking etc the following links will help you:

Note: All the pictures in this post are taken by Sankar Tejaswi (my co-passenger in the boat) and have been retouched by me using picnik.

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Enchanting Mount Bonnell along Lake Austin

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Watching sunset on a clear sky evening is a bliss – be it on a beach, a coffee shop overlooking a lake or a hill top. A couple of weekends back, I had a chance to see the sunset from Mt. Bonnell.

Mount Bonnell is the highest peak of Austin. And, predictably, is a popular and free hangout for Austinites and tourists alike.  I found it a perfect place to spend couple of hours just sitting atop the rocks, overlooking Lake Austin and the Downtown. Also, this is one of the most romantic places you can find in Austin. Beat this – a couple sitting on a rock atop a hill overlooking a lake watching sunset, and without spending a penny!

About: There’s a short trail of .3 mile and 190 ft high (yeah, really short but enjoyable nevertheless). The place felt more like a tourist spot than a hiker’s paradise.  The trail begins at the stairs that leadup to the summit, and is marked by the waypoint “Trailhead” on the topo map. In early 1830s, a woman named Antonette jumped from this peak when Indians killed her fiance. In her memory, the place was called Antonette’s Leap then. Later, it got its current name from George W. Bonnell. Address – 3800 Mt. Bonnell Drive, Austin, TX 78731. Locate it on Google Maps.

There are 3 parts of Mt. Bonnell each with a distinct charming view:

Meandering Lake Austin

Meandering Lake Austin

At the first spot, you can see Lake Austin and houses built on each side. Boats wheezing along the Lake’s length, leaving a trail behind, is a worthy sight. The lakeside houses look pretty similar. Their backdoor opens up to the Lake. Just imagine – wake up in the morning, grab a cup of tea or cofee and sit on the porsche viewing the lake.

Sunset from Mt. Bonnell

Sunset from Mt. Bonnell

From the second spot you can see the sunset. Beyond the lake and over the horizon.  You can also see a Bridge and several towers (probably telecom ones) in a distance.

Lake side Dwellings

Lake side Dwellings

There’s a pavillon on the third spot, standing atop which you can have amazing view of the Austin Downtown. The pavilion, though, may be crowded at times – after all, who doesn’t want to see the sckyscrapers from such a far distance that they are even difficult to spot. However, there is a house just nearby on the hill that blocks off a part of the view. It is an eyesore for the visitors. But I’m sure the people in that hoise must be having an amazing view of Austin. Lucky folks!

In short, a must see place in the evening while you are in Austin.

Links

Websites: AustinExplorer, Austin City Guide,

Inner Space Cavern, GeorgeTown, near Austin

 

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Intro: Well, I haven’t seen Stalagcites/Stalagmites. So, while driving back from Dallas to Austin, we (me, Tarun and Amit) stopped by at  the Inner space Cavern, 24 odd miles before Austin. It was a 45 odd min tour with 7 more people and a tour guide. So, here you go.

History:  In 1963, Texas Highway Department’s core drilling team was drilling test holes to check whether the ground can support large overpass. One of the drill fell 26 ft and this led to the accidental discovery of the cavern. The mining company sniffed opportunity and then made the place tourist worthy (safe). After some work, this place was made open to the public in 1966. Well, thats 1 million after it started to built itself!

The entry is via a train. We were late, so we walked in. It wasn’t tiring – I just wondered why they have a rail line in the first place. probably due to mining activities.

Model: Tarun Bansal

Model: Tarun Bansal

Some formations protruded and touched the other surface, causing a pillar like structure.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

There were some paintings made by an artist (search for the name) after the cavern was opened for public view. The tour guide said that these animals were found in Texas long ago – mammoth (tusker), huge wild boar etc. Here’s a shot of the same:

We were here

We were here

Moon Lake –  lakes on moon apparently  appear like this, hence the name. Reminds me of Durga Puja pandals back home.

Moon Lake

Moon Lake

The photo below is a fault line running from Austin to XXXX. So whats a fault line? For those who forgot Class 7 geography lessons, here’s  a link. You can see here that the rock on one side of the fracture has moved with respect to the rock on the other side. This is apparently due to the shear motion of the earth’s crust.

Whos fault is this?

Who's fault is this?

I was bowled over by the color scheme of the place. The view gave a feeling that it would be very hot (looks like molten lava out of Discovery) but was indeed a cool place – 72 F (22 C). Here’s another one:

On the Rocks

On the Rocks

 

Tours: Inner Space Caverns offers three types of tours: the adventure tour (adults – $12.95 and children, ages 4-12 – $6.95), the new explorer’s tour (adults – $18.95, children, ages 4-12-$10.50) and another tour where you have to crawl most of the time. The 3rd tour costs about  $100 and you have to meet the eligibility criteria to undergo this tour. The explorer tour lasts an hour and 35 minutes and covers an extended 1.2 mile trail.

How to reach: Inner Space Cavern is located 24 miles North of Austin.  It’s entrance is on IH-35.  Simply follow  IH-35 North past Round Rock and take exit 259.  Go past the Candle Factory, turn left under IH-35 and we’ll be on your right. Get a map from maps.google.com.

Notes

  1. Take pictures
  2. Listen to the tour guide – she/he would tell you interesting stories
  3. At your exit, take a souvenir – you would be required to drop 1 cent and two quarters, a machine will press your cent and convert it into a oval shaped plate with ‘Inner Space Cavern’ written over it.
  4. Don’t touch the structures there – apparently the structures don’t grow any further if it comes into oil contact. They die too, you see!

All Photo Courtesy: Tarun Bansal

Links:

Skywatch Friday # 2: Austin morning

Austin mornings are refreshing. A walk down the lane, a little jogging, that sweat tickling down the neck, the splendid view – all make a great start for the day. during one such walks, I happen to shoot this near my hotel.

Its winter in Austin

Its winter in Austin

I’m submitting this picture for Skywatch Friday. Go check out the site for more Skies all around the globe.

Beaches in Gokarna

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This post has been published in Club Mahindra blog. This is my 3rd post on Gokarna. Here’s my 2nd post and 1st post.

About Gokarna: An ancient beach town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, Gokarna has great religious significance as well. The town has 5 beaches – Gokarna, Kudle, OM, Half Moon and Paradise – in that order and with hills between the beaches. As such, it offers extremely good opportunity for beach treks. None of these beach treks surpass 30 minutes duration and provide exotic views of the sea from the hillocks. World seems to have stopped when you are here – beach hop, lay on the beach, jog, walk, eat at beach cafes, buy, drink, dance, write – do whatever but don’t rush. This is a place that rewards laziness. All these make Gokarna a great two day weekend getaway from Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai and Pune during Oct-Apr.

 

Carefool at OM Beach

Carefool at OM Beach

 

Each beach in Gokarna is a lazy man’s paradise. Stay and eat at a beach side hack/cafe/hotel/resort. Lie on the  beach – on a bed-sheet with a hat over your face to avoid sun/eye-contact, or with the sun scorching your back. Or, read a book lying on a towel and in your bare minimum. And the best part, wear almost anything that you want (just that you have to wear something) – barmudas with sleepers, Alibaba pants and top, or a skirt of any shape and size.

There are five beaches in Gokarna – Gokarna, Kudle, Om, Half Moon and Paradise, in that order.

 

Gokarna Beach at Dusk

Gokarna Beach at Dusk

 

Gokarna Beach – It lies close to the town and is frequented by locals and tourists alike. The beach is close to the Mahabaleshwar Temple, a very old Lord Shiva temple that has an associated legend as well. At the beach, you can spot families, young and elderly couples, single and group travellers. It goes without saying – several fast food joints and the groundnut/balloon sellers adorn the shoreline. In the vicinity, you will find plenty of hotels, food joints and garments/puja shops. A word of caution here for tourists:  Avoid wearing skimpy clothes in the area. Since the ancient temple is nearby, this part of Gokarna is more of a pilgrim town than a beach town. You wouldn’t want to be an eye-sore for the locals just for your choice of clothes.

 

Kudle Beach

Kudle Beach

Kudle Beach – Is mostly frequented by foreigners and is almost a kilometer long, pretty wide as well. This gives you ample space to engage in the usual beach games, bonfires etc. Rocks, and plenty of them, adorn the sea shore. You’d find foreign tourists (mostly, but some Indians as well) staying in the shacks – sleeping, eating, drinking and reading.  I spotted the “Shantaram” being read atleast atleast thrice! King Fish delicacies are very tasty and are reasonably priced, in fact cheaper than most restaurants in Bangalore. The eateries play continental/Israeli music all the time. You could also beach trek from Kudle to Mahabaleshwar Temple.

OM Beach

OM Beach

OM Beach – This beach is around 20 minutes of an auto ride from the Gokarna bus stand. Certainly the best of the five Gokarna beaches, the beach derives its name from the Hindu religious symbol – OM, since its shape resembles that of the symbol. The ‘OM’ shape is pretty evident when you see the beach from the hillocks on the either side. However, the right side gives a better view than the left. Consequently, the picture you take would be mirror image of the OM symbol. The beach is the longest among the five beaches and is frequented by Indian and foreign tourists alike. You can stay at the Namaste Café which overlooks the OM Beach, or at any of the several shacks that are scattered around the beach. There is also the Swaswara resort as well, a hundred odd meters away from Om beach. There are three equidistant rocky patches at the beach. Two things you shouldn’t miss at OM – sitting atop each rock patch and the morning jog.

Half Moon Beach - Panorama

Half Moon Beach - Panorama

Half Moon Beach – It’s a tiny beach and can be reached by beach trekking from Om, or by paying INR 200 on a ferry boat. But the ferry ride wouldn’t allow you to spend much time at the beach. The beach has huge rocks as well. There’s a hut and you may as well get some food there. Once here lose yourself and merge with the tranquil surroundings.

Paradise Beach – The fifth and the last beach in the series, and it befits its name. You have to beach trek for about 20 min from Half Moon beach to reach Paradise beach. There are a couple of beach cafes as well.

Tips…

  1. Be careful while swimming, as the sea is shallow at some places and there are several cases of death due to drowning reported every year here.
  2. As usual, bargain hard with the sellers – beads sellers, clothes and accessories sellers, musical instruments sellers etc.
  3. Take mosquito repellent and a bed-sheet with you.
  4. Try beach trek – there are at least four options. If you can’t beach trek at all, you can see the beaches on a ferry boat – at INR 200 per head.
  5. Take your swimwear with you – there aren’t too many beaches in India where you can wear them without being ogled. So, don’t miss this opportunity.
  6. Don’t wear bikini at the Gokarna Beach – this may offend the local people and the police. But you may wear them at the other four beaches.
  7. Don’t miss the morning jog at OM beach.

Skywatch Friday – Karwar

I went to Goa last September, from Bangalore via sleeper bus. It is an overnight jouney and usually takes 14 odd hours. Predictably, you would sleep at night and in the morning, you would pass through coastal Karnataka. En route, the most beautiful place I believe is Karwar. The town is in Uttara Kannada district and is 15 km south of Karnataka-Goa border. Interestingly, a spot here has Rabindra Nath Tagore’s name. I didn’t stay there so if you want to pay this place a visit, the links below will help you.

This picture is headed for Skywatch Friday. Thanks Vamsee for the idea. So, here you go.

 

Karwar Skyline

Karwar Skyline

Further Reading

TGIF Photo # 3 – Rameshwaram

Well its Friday and it time for TGIF Photo. Here’s a picture of Rameshwaram (or Rameswaram) Beach at sunrise. The place is located in Tamil Nadu and is only 40 km from Sri Lanka. We reached Rameshwaram at close to 3 am, checked in into a hotel and left for the beach at around 4:30 am. To our surprise, there were already quite some people there – taking holy dip. And as usual, there were cows and bulls roaming on the beach. Here’s the photo of sunrise:

tgif-rameshwaram1