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.

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:

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

Just push it – Murudeshwar Beach

This is my 3rd post on Murudeshwar. Here’s my 1st post and 2nd post.

I loved Murudeshwar (also called Murudeswara, Murudeswar, Mrudeswara) Beach. The Beach has visibly two parts – one flanked by the tourists (not large in numbers though) and the other visited by only those who want some ‘private’ space. This private space is just 400m off from the where the beach starts. During the beach walk, I saw few children (presumably of local fishermen) pushing a boat off the beach. Here’s the 1-minute video:

After this video, I asked two kids whether they would like to be photographed. They agreed but were really shy. Clicked them though.

Dont be shy my Honey

Dont be shy my Honey

Other children sniffed the opportunity to get clicked and rushed towards me shouting ‘Photo, Photo’. During the next few seconds, I managed another click. Here you go:

Me too

Me too

The fisherman was on his boat sailing through the waves. The scene reminded me of ‘The old man and the Sea’.

Old Man and the Sea

Old Man and the Sea

Acknowledgment: Post idea courtesy Mridula

About Murudeshwar: A sylvan beach by the temple, some beach-side eateries, beach activities (boat ride, snorkeling, banana ride, diving, eating fish fry etc – no bikini beach tan though), an island (Netrani) and some shopping (items made of local root) pretty much sums up the place. A good weekend getaway from Bangalore during Oct-Feb. More.

Related Posts:

  1. Murudeshwar: Understated but Exhilirating
  2. Murudeshwar Guest House: Hotel review

Two hours at Cubbon Park

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The earlier tryst: My first visit to Cubbon Park was in April this year when we (me and my parents) took a tour operator’s bus to tour within Bangalore and it took a scheduled break at the place. Half an hour at the Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum, a brief stint at the park itself (it was just after the spring), a passerby look at the Museum and the board that said there’s an Art Gallery in the premises led me conclude that the place demands spending a quality time and is a full day visit. So, went there yesterday to complete this must-see in Bangalore.

The Plan: Power cut in the morning ensured I couldn’t look for online tips before for the visit – how to reach, timings, must-see, must-do, avoid etc. A bengali travel book – ‘Bhromon Songi’ indicated Kasturba Gandhi Road is where I should be headed to. Based on the earlier tryst and the anticipation thereof, I budgeted for seven hours for the visit, including two for commuting – I was taking BMTC bus after all.

Bus journey: No conductor in the bus inevitably meant queuing up before the driver to get your tickets. Now, this spelled trouble. Twenty minutes after the bus started, it was only a kilometer from where it started. Left the bus and took an auto to the place.

Government Museum: I knew that on public holidays and Wednesday, the Museum is closed. On a Saturday noon, there was hardly anyone around. Took a round of the red building and found a guard who said that ‘its second Saturday, it is closed’. Now, consider this: In all of 15 months in Bangalore, I happened to visit this place for the first time and that too on a day it was closed. Bad luck, eh. The guard suggested to visit the Art Gallery – ‘first floor’.

Museum

Museum

Venkatappa Art Gallery: I’ve been to some Art Galleries in Kolkata, and in Delhi. Loved most of them, Academy of Fine Arts (Kolkata) in particular. The ambiance, buzz of people, overhearing intellectual remarks (‘how you should see this piece’ or ‘why is this painting the best thing to hit the art circuit in last one year’), the canteen all make a mesmerizing combo. Venkatappa Art Gallery looked a little different, rather strikingly different. There were only two souls at the entrance – both of them guards. This really dampened my spirit. ‘First floor’, one of them said.

The First Floor: What struck me, again, was the total absence of visitors. Paintings by 6 artists were exhibited – around 30 odd pieces. Paintings of Buddha (6 I counted), village life (8), horses were abound. There were around 8 abstract paintings – and as usual, couldn’t understand even an iota of it. Back in Nandan, you would find people around and if you seek help, they would help you understand the art, irrespective of your dumb quotient. I consider myself unqualified to comment on something I couldn’t understand. However, the paintings of Ravichandran seemed appealing, even to me. The village market scene, the dancer, the fruit seller all seemed life like. Predictably, all such paintings had one common thread (except the same painter) – they all featured women. I wonder what is it between painters and women? I found solace here – at least I found something in common between art galleries of Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore. I was done viewing the paintings in twenty minutes – what I expected to take more than an hour.

The Park: The entrance raises your expectation – a little stadium to the left, a bamboo groove to the right and a walk towards the bandstand (LalBagh) like structure in front. However, I was disappointed when I came closer – plastic littered all around, the absence of flowers and only a few people around – the place didn’t seem like the Cubbon Park I expected. A little walk around was all the more disappointing – there were places to sit – but all dirty, there were plants around – but not flowers.

March

March

The Saving Grace: Amidst all these, a group of ducks(or swans?) and turkeys lifted my spirits. The sight of these folks moving in group – like an army troop marching and whistling away to glory – was amazing. Took a couple of photographs and videos of the march. Suddenly, most of the things around seemed interesting – the bamboo groove (its tall and clustered existence), birds and love birds. Hungry and tired, I bid Cubbon Park adieu.

Summary: Power cut, conductor-less bus, second saturday, visitor-less art gallery and flower-less park rendered my much anticipated Cubbon Park visit utterly futile. Thanks you birds for being the silver lining in an otherwise wasteful exercise. Probably, a visit next spring would change my perception. But till that happens, I wouldn’t go to Cubbon Park for Park-like experience. I would rather visit LalBagh for this.

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LalBagh – A scrumptious treat

Tourists visiting Bangalore make it a point to visit LalBagh. All the travels and tour operators keep LalBagh in their itinerary. However, I didn’t pay a visit to this picturesque 240 acre (1 sq Km) Botanical Garden until last Saturday. Here’s a brief description of what I saw, observed and felt during my 5 hours at LalBagh.

Map of LalBagh

About the place

The garden houses 1000+ species of flora and was commissioned two-and-half centuries back by Hyder Ali. It houses a lake, several gardens (Japanese, Rose, Bonsai, Topiary), world’s one of the oldest Rock formations (and atop it lies Kempe Gowda Tower), a magnificient Glass House and a Floral Clock among other things. LalBagh remains open daily from 6 am to 7pm (Entry Fee-INR 10). The place is a jogger’s delight.

Glass House

Glass House

Location/How to Reach

LalBagh has four gates – of which, vehicles are allowed inside only from the East Gate. Local buses ply between several parts of the city to LalBagh, which is only 4km from Vidhana Soudha.

What to See

Glass House: Inspired by the famous Crystal Palace of London, Glass House is surrounded by Pencil Cedars and Champaka trees.

Lake: Ideal for bird watchers, joggers, and of course, love birds. Spending some time around it may remind you of lakes in Ooty and Kodaikanal.

A bird drying itself

A bird drying itself

Kempe Gowda Tower: It is a monument built over a stone formation that is one of the world’s oldest (3 billion years).

Other Attractions: An equestrian Statue of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar stands tall and beside it, lies a Floral Clock. The Clock is surrounded by Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. Other places you may visit include Band Stand, Dove Cot, Bonsai Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Aviary, Deer Paddock and Lotus Pond.

TravellersDiary Recommends

Buy a LalBagh map at the entrance – it costs just INR 5. If you’re an early riser, come to LalBagh at around 6am. Jog or walk around the lake for a mesmerizing view with the breeze caressing your face and hair. If you are a Photography enthusiast, you wouldn’t be dissapointed, thats for sure. A little late in the day, have some roasted corn, half ripe mangoes or groundnuts. Sit on the benches aside the lake, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden or the Band Stand and watch – the birds, the trees and flowers, the lake and other people doing the same. If you like sketching, take your ‘implements’ with you and sketch. Sit atop the small hillock – KG Tower and feed your eyes the view of Bangalore. The Flower Shows, organized twice a year (26th January, India’s Republic Day and 15th August, India’s Independence Day) are a must see. Ans yes, don’t miss the Deer Paddock.

Upside Down

Other Resources

TravellersDiary Pics

LalBagh’s Website

LalBagh at Karnataka Tourism

http://www.horticulture.kar.nic.in/lalbagh.htm

Mysore: Palatial Experience

About the place

Also called Mysuru, The City of Palaces is a 3.5 hrs journey by road (150 km) from Bangalore. The Wodeyar dynasty ruled Mysore for almost five and a half centuries. The city is very old and has a lot of structures that are huge and remind you of the days of Rajas. The Wodeyars were patrons of art and culture and evry must-see spot in the town will prove that – the 4 palaces, chamunda temple, art gallery, zoo, lakes, gardens etc. The place is also famous for Mysore Pak (a sweet) and Mysore silk-saree (a garment). Climate is cool (max 33 deg C in summers ie. Mar-Jun) throughout the year. Best time to visit is during the Dasara festival, usually in October.

What to see/do

Mysore Palace: Mysore Palace is one of the most visited monuments in India, even beating Taj Mahal [Source]. Also called Ambi Vilas, the Palace is the center of the city of Mysore. The royal family of Mysore formerly resided here and also presided over the ceremonial meetings. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the three storied Palace was constructed in Indo-Saracenic style at the cost of INR 4,200,000 at 1912. There is a large space (comprising a large garden, staff quarters, residential museum, several temples and a place where you can enjoy camel and elephant rides) that surrounds the Palace. The Palace has four gates on four sides. It is open to public from 10 am to 5 pm everyday.

The open spaces are open to photography. But you cannot go inside the Palace with a camera. The security is pretty tight, so don’t try sneaking your camera in any way. You’ll have to shell INR 15 for keeping your camera at a stall outside and INR 20 for Palace entry fee. Also, you’ll have to keep your shoes outside at another stall (INR 0.50 per pair). The decorations, designs and architectural patterns inside the palace will give you several ‘aha’ moments. The view outside from the Durbar will enable you view the palace sprawl. The palace also houses 12 temples built at different periods (oldest: 14th century, latest: 1953), with Someshwara Temple being most famous. You may also visit the armory of the royal family. Sunday evening (7pm to 8pm) the Palace is illuminated with 100,000 bulbs of 100W and looks regal. The entry into palace grounds is free, however you cannot enter inside the palace after 5pm. The view attracts thousands of visitors every Sunday evening.

Jaganmohan (Jayachamarajendra) Art Gallery: It was built by the royalty when their earlier palace was burnt down. It is a three storied palace with stained glass shutters. It was converted to an Art Gallery in 1915. The gallery houses several paintings of Raja Ravi Verma and portraits of the royal family, most of which are life-like. Some paintings depict sari-clad women in their full fledged shape and glow. The gallery also houses several furnitures, artifacts and musical instruments of the royal family. Besides the royal paintings, I liked “Glow of Hope” painting the most. The display arena of the painting is darkened, which heightens the nuances of the painting.

Philomena Church: Inspired by Cologne Cathedral in Germany, this half a century old church is built in Neo-Gothic style. The Maharajah of Mysore laid the foundation in 1933, but it took more than two decades to complete its construction (probably due to independence related turbulence in India). The Church is extremely large and exudes an old-world charm. Someone there told me the twin spires of the Church somewhat resembles Cologne Cathedral (Germany) and St. Patrick’s Church (New York). The main altar preserves the relic of Saint Philomena. There are several paintings on the stained glass windows inside the Church. Camera is not allowed inside, however, you may use the camera just outside the church building (and hence the adjoining picture).

Chamundi Hills: This 1000m high hill is around 10km from Mysore bus-stand (city center). The hill presents a panoramic view of the Mysore city. Atop the hill, is a bus stand and Chamundi Devi (also called Chamundeswari, Chamundeshwari) Temple nearby. There is another route to the Temple – climbing 1000 steps (I only saw the steps, don’t really know any other detail though; may be next time). The temple is very popular, with thousand of devotees thronging the place on weekends and holidays. There are three types of entry – free, INR 20 and INR 100. The temple houses diety of Goddess Mahisasurmardini (slayer of demon Mahisasur), or Durga. The deity is taken on an elephant during the famous Dasara festival. Other must-see stuff are the monolithic statues of Mahisasura and Nandi Bull and Godly Museum. Food (South Indian) is available at some local shops. En route to the Temple, you may see Lalitha Mahal (a palace), race course, Mysore Palace, Rajendra Vilas Palace (momentarily closed to the public due to renovation) and Karanji and Kukkarahalli Lakes.

Vrindavan (Brindavan) Gardens: Almost 15km from Mysore bus-stand, lies this attractive garden beside the KrishnaRajaSagar Dam (KRS Dam built on river Cauvery, or Kaveri). The garden was completed in 1932 and is visited by almost 2 million tourists per year. Entry fee is INR 20 per head, and another INR 50 if you want to take a camera along. The Garden has three terraces comprising fountains and several breeds of flowers (I could only identify two – Bougainvillea and Marigold) and trees. A lake (and a very massive one) divides the park into two. Boats ferry people from one side to another, there’s a bridge as well in case you want to walk. During the evening, there’s musical fountain from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. As the name says, the water is synchronized with the music. The show draws major crowds and traffic comes to a stand still when all the vehicles leave at the show’s end. There’s an adjoining 75 acres fruit orchard as well. Buses ply from Mysore at every 30 min from Mysore local Bus Stand.

Other attractions: Mysore has several other attractions like Karanaji Lake, Rail Museum (houses Maharani’s Saloon), Mysore Zoo (dates back to 1892), Folklore Museum (inside University of Mysore campus) and Oriental Research Institute. These places are recommended if you are on a 2-day tour to Mysore. For single day tourists, only the first five venues are advisable. Other nearby places are Srirangapatna, Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, Sivasamudra Falls, Talakad and Bylakuppe.

How to get there/local transport

From Bangalore: Regular buses (20 min) from Majestic; Fare is INR 80 on BMTC buses; takes around 3/3.5 hours. There are 9 trains between Bangalore and Mysore (Times from Bangalore – 0430, 0500, 0625, 0700, 0735, 1415, 1815, 2055, 2355 hrs and times from Mysore – 0400, 0710, 0805, 0930, 1005,1045, 1645, 2115, 2355 ). For bookings go here. You may also decide to ride on a bike or have a personal vehicle.

Local Transport: Mysore has two bus stands – city BS and main BS, both near the Mysore Palace. Buses ply from the city BS to every tourist spot – Chamunda Hills, Brindavan Gardens, Philomena’s Church etc. Enquiry office guys are really helpful. Autos are also available and charge reasonably. Alternately, you may rent a taxi for city tour.

Where to stay

If you are on a 1-day tour, no need to stay. If you have to stay, there are several hotels around the bus-stand area, take a call according to your budget.

TravellersDiary Recommendations

One-day trip: Leave Bangalore early morning (this avoids any delay due to traffic and also gives you ample time) and reach Mysore by 9 am. Visit the Chamunda hills first. Stop enroute (ask anyBus conductor for directions) to visit Lalitha Mahal. Then move towards the temple. Have breakfast and drive down to the city. Next, visit Philomena’s Church, Jaganmohan Art Gallery, Mysore Palace in sequence. Next, take a bus (or personal vehicle, but not auto) to Brindavan Gardens. Experience the beauty, boating and musical fountain there. Come back to Mysore city and then back to where you came from.

Two-Day Trip: Do the above and also visit five places mentioned in ‘other attractions’. Alternately, you may want to combine Srirangapatna-Mysore in two days. Leave Bangalore early to reach Srirangapatna at 9am. Follow TravellersDiary recommendations for Srirangapatna and then leave for Mysore. Visit the market (buy Mysore Pak, silk sarees etc) and stay in a hotel.And yes, do take a lot of photographs.

Further Readings

More TravellersDiary pics