Thursday, December 31, 2009

Distractions and Travels on NH4 and NH206

If you travel from Bangalore to Jog Falls, you would need to get on to NH 206 (National Highway 206 (India) - Wikipedia).
National Highway 206 (NH 206) is a National Highway in India entirely within the state of Karnataka. NH 206 connects the towns of Tumkur and Honnavara and is 363 km lo ng.
The distance between Bangalore and Jog Falls is some 400 kms, depending on where you start counting from. From Bangalore to NH206 is some 60kms. Which means most of your driving is on NH206. The highway, however, is two-laned throughout, except for a short stretch that is four-laned. The highway also is not in great shape, with several stretches that are less than stellar, and in urgent need of repair and resurfacing. Some stretches however are good enough to allow for 100kph driving, provided you keep your eyes peeled for distractions.Distractions? Yes, distractions.

पलट तेरा ध्यान किधर है?

The traffic signposts are also indicative. Like this one warning drivers of the presence of children nearby. What is noteworthy is the pace at which the schoolboy seems to be running. Which could mean that either children are by nature gregarious and therefore given to running across roads and that drivers should therefore watch out for running children, or that to safely cross roads a fair bit of athleticism is called for on the part of the children. Like I said earlier, the condition of the road is not too good.

Here is the Google Map:

NH206 between Tumkur and Sagar. View Larger Map

From Bangalore you get on to NH4. You could take the NICE Road to Neelamangala. You are then on NH4. There is work proceeding to convert this stretch into a traffic-signal free road. So there is a lot of construction all about. To widen the road, and construction of many flyovers. Once this work is completed, and it looks like it may be completed in 2010, driving through this section will become a lot quicker. And should cut down the drive time by half. Currently it can take upwards of half an hour to get to the toll section on NH4 - see the picture below.
The interesting thing is that even though the NHAI (Wikipedia page) site lists the Tumkur-Neelmangala section as completed (link), it is most certainly not complete. Though there is a short section (the photo below) that is a tolled road, operated by "Jas Toll Roads". And, to complicate things further, if you see the map on the NHAI site, there is a short section between Tumkur and Neelmangala that is indeed listed as "Under Implementation".

Driving on Indian roads can be hazardous to one's health. Need I say more? Even without the distractions.

And the danger is not always in the form of oncoming traffic. It can present itself in the form of people with a non-functioning cranium. And in case you are wondering, there are two people who are traveling in this bizarre manner on the Tata Sumo.

I can only imagine that this dude is trying to carry on a conversation with the passengers inside. Surely he is not attempting some exercises.

This below, sir, is a harvester. You certainly do not want to get into an argument with this behemoth. Did you notice the size of the rotary jaws at the front of this monster?

These two photos below are from a manned railway crossing. Coconut vendors make a killing on this crossing - because the crossing remains closed for 10-15 minutes when a train is scheduled to pass. The weather is hot. And a coconut is a good, a very good choice.

Thus far, this is the only section on all of NH206 that is four-laned. And before you get all excited, it is all of some 3-4 kms long.

After Shimoga, the scenery takes a turn for the green, as you enter the outer fringes of the Western Ghats.

National Highway (India) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Two prices, one book

Spotted at a  Crossword Bookstore in Bangalore bookstore.

The two are the same title, and if you observe closely, even have the same ISBN - 9780060555665!
Yet, and this is where things get a bit comical, the book on the left has a price of Rs 705, while the one on the right is listed at Rs 615.
Secondly, the blue cover book is graced with a "Crossword Recommends" sticker, while the red book, one on the left, has to make do without one.
Thirdly, that it should happen to a book about intelligence and investing, The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition), makes it that much more, ironical, shall we put it?

I had blogged about Law of one price breaks down a while back. This case is even curioser. Or as I may put it, "ajab books ki gazab price".

MP3 test:

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How Flat and Crowded - Chapter Excerpt

Thomas Friedman's latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America, is now out in paperback. In his New York Times posting, Excerpt - Hot, Flat and Crowded - First Chapter -, he includes a link to the first two chapters of the paperback - Excerpt - Hot, Flat and Crowded - First Chapter - - in PDF form, and 48 pages long.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Strand Book Stall Sale - 2009

The Strand Book Stall Annual Sale is being held this year at Basava Bhavan. This is change from their usual venur at the KSCA's Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium, where it has been held since 2005. The reason given is the work happening on the Bangalore Metro.

There is a fairly good and large selection of books, though compared to previous years, it seemed a bit less. I don't know, since I don't know the number of books this year and in previous years.

I bought eight books - five for the kids and two for me. And oh yes, one dictionary.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Yercaud - Lake Forest Hotel

See my previous posts on Yercaud - Yercaud - The Drive, and .
Yercaud offers places to stay for all budgets. Among the more comfortable (read more expensive) places, GRT Nature Trails- Sky Rocca, Lake Forest Hotel, and Hotel Grand Palace are some.

The Lake Forest Hotel, Yercaud, is located "in a live coffee estate on the bunds of the Yercaud lake. The guest bungalows are set in the “Eastlynne Farm Estate” in and around the “Bungalow” built during early 1800s by Henrietta Charlotte Rosario who was residing in the Shevroy hills."

The hotel offers close to 50 rooms, in four varieties - Bungalow Suite, English Suite, Royal Suite, and Eastlynn Garden - at listed prices ranging from Rs 4000 per night to Rs 15,000 per night. That's expensive. For a place often called the 'Poor Man's Ooty', a room going for 15 thousand a night is expensive. Indubitably.
So what does this Royal Suite look like, the room that costs close to US$300 a night?

Well, as the name suggests, it is a suite. The entrance is to a living room, with a bedroom on either side of the living room, and the view opens into a wooded area of the coffee plantation.

Specifically, a two bedroom suite, with ample appointments of furniture and antiques - both real and faux. There is a bedroom each on either side of the living room.

Given that both bedrooms are the same size, it is ideal for a family with grown up kids.

This carving of a lion has been done from a single piece of wood, and felt absolutely solid to the touch. Maybe of ebony?

Another look at the royal suite's living room.

There is a liberal sprinkling of genuine antiques all over the hotel premises. One of the most fascinating items, for my money, is the "Sitting Walking Stick", pictured below.

"This English Planter's walking stick is unique, for it contains a makeshift seat as well. And the English planter used it notoriously. He would never talk to a native standing. For it made equals of the two. He therefore chose to open the attached seat, sit and then command or order. Strange but true."

The Lake Forest Hotel web site has a short but fascinating history of Yercaud. While it is worth reading in its entirety, I have reproduced some of it below:
David Cockburn, the Scottish Collector of Salem between 1820 and 1829 can be rightly called the "Father of Yercaud". Expansion of coffee to the Nilgiris and other coffee growing areas of Tamilnadu is said to be from the Shevaroys. The first survey of the Shevaroy hills was undertaken in 1827. Elephants were common in the Kolli & Shevaroy Hills and disappeared by the end of the 19th Century.

In the meanwhile there took place at Salem a very unusual turn of events when Mr. G.F. Fisher a European of German origin purchased the Salem Zamindar in 1836. He was the first and only European Zamindar in the Presidency. The area of his zamin was 1,25,000 acres.

The Shevaroys as per the local inhabitants consisted of Selanadu (Area south and east of the Shevaroyan Temple) Muttanadu (Land in and around the shevaroyan Temple) and Moganadu (area North of the Temple). In 1842, after the death of the Pattakarar (Tribal Chief) of the Shevaroys there was trouble between the various Malaiyalis. This struggle for succession finally resulted in the British bringing this area under their rule in 1842.
The Grange Yercaud was built in the 1820's by M.D. Cockburn & after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, fearing trouble, The Grange, Yercaud was fortified & ramparts built to accommodate gun placements & canons were installed. An underground cellar to store food for over 6 months in the event of a siege was also built & stocked. All Europeans in the area were to assemble at the Grange in the event of an uprising.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yercaud - In and Around

My last post on Yercaud, Yercaud - The Drive, was about the drive to and from Yercaud.
This one is about things you could do while at Yercaud.

Some 5-6 kms from Yercaud Lake is the highest point in Yercaud, Servaroyan Hill, which is known for the Servaroyan Temple, inside a narrow and low cave.

The view from the Servaroyan Hill is, expectedly, beautiful, mostly. It is marred slightly by the presence of some barren hills. Why?

The discovery of bauxite and the mining operations around the Shevaroy hills have ensured that forest cover has been depleted in areas - as you can see from the photo below. Pity.

This is on the way down from the Shevaroy Hill.

Just before you take the right fork to go up the Shevaroy Hill, there is the Raj Rajeshwari (form of Goddess Parvati) temple on the left. Takes 15 minutes to visit, but worth going.

This is the view from Pagoda Point. Why it is called the 'Pagoda Point' I don't know. But the house below makes for a picture perfect setting. If one were the patient type, and willing to invest a few hours, you could wait for the light to get just right, and then shoot some snaps. Would likely come out fabulous.

The Sun made for some haze in the air, as you can see, especially when shooting near the end of the zoom lens' range.

From the Gent's seat (and no, I am not talking about lavatories), you get a beautiful view of the GRT Nature Trail hotel. As you can see, if you stay in one of the rooms facing the valley, you are likely to catch spectacular photos of the sunset and also of Salem at night.

Move the camera just a wee bit to the right, and I could see this woman perched quite precariously on top of an almost dead tree, axe in one hand, grabbing on to the tree with the other, and swinging away more merrily than Sehwag at Saqlain Mushtaq.

A nest on a leaf, in the Rose Garden.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Yercaud - The Drive

Per Wikipedia,
Yercaud (Tamil: ஏற்காடு) is a hill station near Salem, Tamil Nadu, India in the Servarayan range of hills (anglicized as Shevaroys) in the Eastern Ghats. It is at an altitude of 1515 metres (4969 feet) above the mean sea level. The highest point in Yercaud is the Servarayan temple. Hence the Yercaud hill area is called Shevaroy Hills.

View Larger Map - Overview map showing Yercaud
Yercaud is some 230 kms from Bangalore. Specifically, as measured from the Silk Board Junction on Hosur Road. If you start early enough, to avoid the traffic, you can make it in 4 hours or less.
An early start, a slowly burning fog on Hosur Road, which is also NH7 (Wikipedia page on NH7, tag search), just past Electronic City. This is not yet a tolled road, since two flyovers are still in the last stages of completion.

At the first toll booth, I spotted a new Toyota Fortuner, the driver raring to open its throttle on the open highway. I think this vehicle quickly sped to 130kph (80mph), and was soon out of sight.

A little past the A2B restaurant on NH7, just past Shoolagiri, you had at least a dozen of trailer trucks carrying these very, very weird looking contraptions. If I were to hazard a guess, these looked like parts of a plane. These were long, very, very long. Close to a 100 feet.

This is a shot of NH7 going northwards. There are long stretches of absolutely plain, straight, open roads that are a pleasure to drive on. Sustained speeds of 100kph or more are possible. Safely? Mostly so. You have to keep your eyes peeled for the odd truck, driven by the dumbest idiot in his tehsil or taluk, who decides to drive on the WRONG way, just to shave a few hundred feet and save himself the bother of having to make a U-turn.

This is also a shot taken facing NH7 northwards, approaching Krishnagiri.

View Larger Map - Closeup of the haripin bends on the drive up to Yercaud

After you enter Salem, you have to take a left at a large intersection, usually referred to as the "5 signals" intersection, and keep to the left. After 10 minutes or so, you exit the town of Salem, and after driving a few kilometers, the drive up to Yercaud begins. Beautiful is one word to describe the scenery.

There are a total of 20 hairpin bends to be navigated. And yes, these are really hairpin bends, requiring a 350 degree turn, and therefore, be on the lookout for buses or trucks, since these typically veer to the other side of the road and then make the turn.
Each hairping bend is marked and numbered, lest you lose count. This is also helpful since the large sign also makes you aware of the sharp turn ahead, thereby allowing you to slow down in advance.

This is the view of Tamil Nadu SH 188, looking downhill. The 20th hairpin bend is straight ahead, and also as marked by the traffic sign. On the left is the GRT Nature Trail hotel.

The view from the drive up hill.

I think this below is a shot of the 14th hairpin bend. As I mentioned earlier, you don't want to approach these bends in a hurry. Take your time, and wouldn't hurt to use the aural amulet present on your vehicle.

As you can see, the road is in pretty good shape.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.