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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Hogenakkal: Gorges, Waterfalls and Parisaling

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About the place

The place offers multiple experiences – gorges, boating, massage, bathing in beach/waterfall, diving, fish fry – all rolled into one. Also called Hogenakal, Hogennakkal, Hoggenakal, Hoggenekal, Hogennekal, Niagara of India, the place derives its name from hoge (smoke in Kannada) exhaled by kal (rocks in Kannada) because of water force. A series of waterfall and their mist, circular boats (parisal, hence the term I coined parisaling), a couple of gorges, beaches and theatrical surrounding each such experience awaits you here. The place is 130 km from Bangalore and is accessible by both train and road. At Hogenakkal, Cauvery (also called Kaveri, Kavery) falls from a great height creating waterfalls and cutting through gorges. The river water is traditionally believed to have healing effects (since the river flows through a forest having plants of medicinal value). Best time to visit is non-monsoon period.

What to see/do

One comes to Hogenakkal for its famous waterfalls and famed oil massage, and returns with scintillating other add-ons. Among other add-ons, parisal and beach are most retrieving. Here’re the stuff you should see/do to make the most of your trip. Most of the photographs here are taken by Shekhar.

There is no way for you to reach the waterfalls if you don’t rent these circular vessels called Parisal, or Coracle in English. A parisal has a bamboo frame covered with plastic (or, as they said, buffalo hide). The bottom of the parisal is tarred which makes it water proof. The first look of these vessels might make you doubtful about its ability to carry eight people for 3 long hours. But I read that parisals are one of the oldest watercraft in the world (Apparently parisals were used by Roman invaders as early as 1st century AD. This was relieving indeed). Plus, nobody else seemed to have this doubt. So, we took the plunge and hired two parisals – 5 boarded each. We had to bargain a lot – from 200 per head we brought the boatmen down to 550 per boat for a total time of 3 hours, including waiting time for add-ons.

Ride on the parisal had several phases, with each break better than the previous one.

Phase 1 (Mistiest Waterfall)

The ride started without any hiccups. The boatman did a stunt and started rotating the parisal at a good speed. It was indeed exhilarating. Do ask your boatman to do the same. And yes, it is absolutely safe. After a couple of minutes we had to de-board the parisal and took a walk on the rocks. We reached a waterfall, which was probably the mistiest of all. The tiny droplets of water sprinkles on your hairs and skin and makes the photo session interesting. Water was gushing out at a great speed and the lashing sound on the rocks made it all the more mighty. Also, there is a Viewpoint Tower (entry INR 2) which allows you to see far and wide.

Phase 2 (Upstream Waterfall)

Next phase started with we getting down the steps to board the parisal at a gorge. We reached a fork, with waterfalls on one side and beach on the other. We took the waterfalls route. The proximity to the waterfalls was sublime. The boatman rotated the parisal so that each one of us gets wet with the ‘falling’ water. We went a little upstream and close to only a couple of waterfalls as any further advance could have been troublesome. We had to balance well on the parisal. Any unwanted movement could have spelled trouble – so we avoided it. We took a few snaps of the place and retreated. It was a real treat to watch the lashing water on one side and contrastingly calm waters on the other side. Interestingly, there are mobile shops on parisals selling several items of interest – gutkha, mouth fresheners, cigarettes etc.

Phase 3 (Learning to Fly)

The large rocky stretches, with Karnataka-granite on both sides of the river (it was gorge) captured our imagination. There were a few children on the top of it, roughly at 30 odd ft. Someone told us that in INR 5/10, they would jump from the cliff. Gosh! It sounded inhuman and insensate. On closer observation, I found that the children were really happy – their laughter said it all. One kid jumped, and I took the photograph. Seeing a kid jump from a 30 ft cliff into deep water was quite a sight. The parisal then moved towards the beach. The island divided the river into two. We were asked to take a break – for bath, some fish fry, massage etc. We parked the parisal at the beach.

Phase 4 (Bath, Massage and fish fry)

The beach break was real fun. The water was knee deep and was a blessing for me, since I can’t swim! We made the most out of it. Squatting, jumping, thumping, floating and all other myriad maneuvers were made in a span of half an hour. The frenzy of water activities brought hunger with it. Got out of water and stepped on the sand, only to find it extremely hot. We had to run hurriedly towards the shops selling cold drinks, chips and other eatables. Few women were selling fish fry – INR 15 a piece. We bargained and brought it a little down. The fish fries turned out to be delicious. For the vegetarian folks, there were some chips etc available. Meanwhile, I collected some sea shells as memento of Hogenakkal.

The boatman offered us massage (standard rates are INR 50 for head massage for 10-15 minutes and INR 100 for full body massage for 30-45 minutes). None of us agreed. However, we did spot some people getting massage. So, I leave it to you to take a call on this. Just check whether the guy offering you massage has a valid license or not. We returned to our water acts. This time it was the competition to try staying afloat for the maximum time. Needless to say, most of us got disqualified – since almost nobody could swim.

Phase 5 (The Strike)

The water act continued for a long time. At the end of it, we boarded the parisal for the next phase. Our next stop was a rather effusive waterfall, not very high but gushy. Water just under the fall wasn’t to deep, so the boatman asked us to go virtually inside the fall. The burbling water lashed upon us with full force, and needless to say, we didn’t miss the massage of Hogenakkal. Bathing there for half an hour left us tired but ecstatic. Time was almost up (3 hours) and the boatman called us back. It was time to head back. Heading back was uneventful, with all of us tired and gratified with the Hogenakkal experience. The trip ended with us eating (fish rice, what else?) at a nearby joint and then boarding our Tempo Traveler.

Getting there/Town Transport

From Bangalore: Train – From Bangalore there are 6 trains to Dharmapuri, the earliest leaving Bangalore Cant. station at 0627 hrs. Then take a bus to Hogenakkal (47 km). While returning, take a bus from Hogenakkal to Dharmapuri and take the evening train from Dharmapuri at 1817 hrs. You may check at railway‘s website. , Road – Buses are available from Bangalore to Dharmapuri, and then to Hogenakkal. If you take a personal vehicle, you have go through Hosur – Krishnagiri – NH 7 to Dharmapuri – Hogenakkal. There is another route through Hosur – Rayakottai – Palacode – Pannagram – Dharmapuri – Hogenakkal. Roads are good throughout. Here’s the map.

From Chennai: Distance is 355 Kms. Train – Get down at Morappar (75 km from Hogenakkal), then to Dharmapuri and Hogenakkal. Bus – Straight buses operated by TNSTC. By a personal vehicle, route would be – Chennai – Vellore – Ambur – Krishnagiri – Dharmapuri – Hogenakkal. Here’s the map.

Where to stay

I guess not many people stay there due to its proximity to Bangalore. However, if you still want to stay, TTDC (+91-4342-256447) operates a hotel there. Other options are tourist bungalow run by the State Tourism Development, Corporation, Hotel Tamil Nadu (+91-4342-56447) and Tourist Rest House. Please verify from other sources about the hotels before making a booking.

TravellersDiary’s Recommendation

Set out on a one day trip from Bangalore. Start early to enjoy the morning freshness en route. Stop at Pennagaram, where at the outskirts of the village you would find guardian deities Aiyanars. [A website describes them as being “Made of terracotta or plastered brick, these giant figures are brightly colored and generally depict fearsome and mustachioed warriors.”] Reach Hogenakkal after paying levies at multiple places (we paid INR 30 twice and INR 20 once), park your vehicle and leave for the river. Remove your shoes, specs, hairbands, watches(non waterproof ones). Purse, mobile, credit card, camera etc will get drenched if you don’t take adequate precaution. Take a plastic bag with you for the same. If you cannot speak Kannada/Tamil, dont worry. Even if you speak Hindi, you can manage. Do bargain a lot with the boatmen and fish-fry selling lady. Include in your trip all the must see/do stuff mentioned above – bathing at the falls, rotating the parisal, the jump, the bath, fish fry, massage (?), shop at parisal, shells, walk on the sand, viewpoint tower etc. And yes, take loads of pictures – the trip is incomplete without the souvenir.

Further Resources on Hogenakkal

Anurag’s post, Sandesh’s Post, Traveller’s Paradise, Deepu’s post.

Pictures: TravellersDiary Album, Sanjukta’s pic, Jump from oochappan, Anita’s pic,

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