Lonavala and Tung Fort — March 2017, Part 1

On my visit to India in March, 2017, I had the opportunity to stay overnight in Lonavla, a town just more than half way to Pune from Mumbai on the Mumbai / Pune Expressway. First a note on spelling and pronunciation. On many maps, including Google Maps, Lonavla shows as Lonavala. In other places, notably Wikipedia, looking for Lonavala immediately redirects you to the page for Lonavla. This had always confused me. This confusion was solved on this trip when I noticed that the Roman character rendering of the town name included both Lonavala and Lonavla. They are both correct and reflect a nuance in the pronunciation (at least as far as I can tell from the Wikipedia article). The town name is pronounced with a slight pause between the V and the second L, hence the longer phonetic spelling of Lonavala. I will use Lonavla in this post, the first of two posts on the weekend trip to Lonavla and Tung Fort.

Lonavla is on the edge of the Western Ghats, where the higher Deccan Plateau gives way to the coastal plain also known as the Konkan. In my post from a few months back on a trip to Bhandardara, there was a location called KonkanKada, which is an overlook to the Konkan. Lonavla is another such place. Being on the road between Mumbai and Pune, it is a quick drive for a pleasant weekend out of the city. There are many natural and historic sites to visit in the area.

Here is a two teaser image to get you to continue through the whole post, a sunset from Della Resort in Lonavla.

The Sun sets behind a fountain

We headed off from the TCS offices in Powai, in the Hiranandani Gardens development. The fancy tops of the buildings are an Hiranandani trademark style.

Our usual starting point, Powai

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Deception Pass Washington — April 2017

We visited beautiful Anacortes, Washington over Easter break and took a nice day trip to the north end of Whidbey Island, to Deception Pass State Park.

Here is a beautiful view of the Deception Pass Bridge from North Beach. Just to keep you interested.

Deception Pass Bridge from North Beach

Deception Pass was named by George Vancouver in 1792 when he learned that his officer Joseph Whidbey had missed seeing the strait from the east side of Whidbey Island during a sortie several months earlier. The hidden pass “deceived” the explorers, hence its name. The Wikipedia write-up is quite good.

Once enters Deception Pass State Park from the Whidbey Island or south side of the strait. There is a large parking lot next to Strawberry Lake near West Point on the west coast of the island at its north end. West Beach, along Puget Sound, is rocky. This view looks south. The mountains in the distance on the left are the Olympic Range.

West Beach looking south toward the rest of Whidbey Island

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Bhandardara October 2016, Part 2

This is the second of two posts describing a lovely weekend in the hill country of Maharashtra outside of Mumbai. The first post covered our trip from Mumbai to Bhandardara, a small resort village about 115 miles north-east of Mumbai. After a nice trip to Rhanda Falls and a good meal and conversation, we awoke the next day to a beautiful morning.

Bur first, the teaser photo of one of the places we visited later that day. This is looking southwest from Lake Ghatghar from the KokanKada1 overlook. There is a lake behind us that is used to create electricity as the water flows to the lake seen in the picture. Apparently, this water is pumped back up during electricity surpluses so it can be re-used to supply peak demand. In any case, the view is wonderful.

This is the view looking southwest from near Lake Ghatghar

But the day started at the Andavan Resort in Bhandardara, with the morning Sun shining in the window.

A pretty view out the window of my bungalow

We had a nice breakfast and a great view of Lake Arthur.

A view from the resort of Lake Arthur

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Bhandardara October 2016, Part 1

During my trip to India in October, 2016, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend in Bhandardara, a small resort village about 115 miles north-east of Mumbai. This post documents the first day of the trip, to Bhandardara and Rhanda Falls. There will be another post that chronicles our second day.

We left early Saturday from Powai, next to the office in Hiranandani Gardens. Hiranandani is a major developer in India, who has a distinct architectural style that includes fancy tops to the buildings in his developments.

Powai Hiranandani towers at our starting point

We were headed to a much more rural location. The monsoon had ended just a few weeks before our trip, so everything was green and lush. I’ll step outside the narrative to show a view from the Andavan Resort in Bhandardara. A very pretty location.

A view of Lake Arthur from the resort

There was a bit of driving involved. It took us about four and half hours to get to Bhandardara, with a stop for refreshments at the Manas resort, which is located on the highway to Nasik, just as you reach the plateau above Mumbai. The view below is on the highway just north of Thane.

Heading on toward Nasik

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Shravanabelagola October 2016

Last October, I had the opportunity to visit a famous Jain temple in Karnataka state in India. The temple is in the town of Shravanabelagola, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from where I was staying in Bangalore. Heading off at 7am on a Sunday, it was a pleasant three-hour drive to reach Shravanabelagola. There are two hills in Shravanabelagola, Chandragiri Hill and Vindhyagiri Hill. We were there to see the great statue of Bahubali also called Gommateshwara.

This is a very impressive statue. From Wikipedia:

Bahubali is also called Gommateshwara because of the Gommateshwara statue dedicated to him. The statue was built by the Ganga dynasty minister and commander Chavundaraya; it is a 57-foot (17 m) monolith (statue carved from a single piece of rock) situated above a hill in Shravanabelagola in the Hassan district, Karnataka state, India. It was built in around 981 A.D. and is one of the largest free-standing statues in the world.

The monolthic statue of Gommateshwara

One has to go up a long staircase, at least a half mile, to get up to the temple where the statue is located.

The bottom of the long entryway to the temple

The steps up Vindhyagiri Hill

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Udayagiri Jain Caves, Bhubaneswar

Back in October 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Bhubaneswar, India for business. After our work day, we had the opportunity to visit the Udayagiri Jain Caves. Located on the northwest side of town, these caves were carved into the sandstone hill starting in the first century B.C. as dwelling retreats for devotees of the Jain religion.

Jains practice extreme asceticism so the dwellings are sparse on the interior. Not so the exterior which has many detailed carvings and reliefs. Rani Gumpha or the Queen’s Cave is perhaps the most impressive.

Rani Gumpha or Queen's Cave, cave #1 at Udayagiri caves

Rani Gumpha or Queen’s Cave, cave #1 at Udayagiri caves

There is a delightful carving of a tiger known as Bagh Gumpha. Yes, the “Tiger Cave.”

Bagh Gumpha or Tiger cave

Bagh Gumpha or Tiger cave

Udayagiri is part of a larger complex of caves and temples that includes caves and temples on Khandagiri hill. This is a view looking across to Khandagiri temple.

The Sun setting behind Khandagiri temple

The Sun setting behind Khandagiri temple

Small Elephant Cave has beautiful carved elephants.

Chota Hathi Gumpha or Small Elephant Cave

Chota Hathi Gumpha or Small Elephant Cave

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Talakadu — October 2015

Last year my hosts in Bangalore took me on a great trip south to Talakadu (or Talakad). Talakadu is a small town about 87 miles (140 kilometers) south of Bangalore and about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Mysore. From Bangalore, you take the Kanakapura road south, go well beyond Kanakapura and well into the countryside. It is a pleasant drive.

Talakadu is famous for its temples, and for the temples being buried in the sand. In a conflict in the early 17th century, a curse was put on Talakadu that led to it being covered in sand. Wikipedia covers it well as does this story from the Deccan Herald.

Several of the temples have been excavated from the sand. These are actively used for worship and are being maintained and restored. This is the Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple.

A wide view of Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple

A wide view of Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple

Here is another view. The lighter colored carving is new work replacing stone that had worn away in the intervening years. I have been unable to find the date when these temples were originally built.

The lighter stone is new construction replacing worn away stone

The lighter stone is new construction replacing worn away stone

The interior at the back is beautifully carved and decorated.

The interior is quite pretty

The interior is quite pretty

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Pterosaurs at LA County Natural History Museum

We recently visited the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum to see the Pterosaurs exhibit. This is an excellent exhibit and I highly recommend seeing it. It runs through October 2nd 2016.

Here is the original entrance to the museum. Now you enter off of either Exposition Boulevard or opposite the Coliseum.

The original entrance to the LA County Natural History Museum

The original entrance to the LA County Natural History Museum

Pterosaurs are prehistoric flying animals. Closely related to dinosaurs, they are only one of three groups of animals to have achieved powered flight, the others being bats and birds. They ranged in size from a wingspan of 18 inches to the massive quetzalcoatlus which had a 33 foot / 10 meter wingspan. I’m not sure of the name of this one, though; it greets you at the entrance to the exhibit.

This pterosaur greets you at the entrance to the exhibit.

This pterosaur greets you at the entrance to the exhibit.

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Julian Gold Mine

Back on the July 4th weekend, we traveled south from Lake Riverside to visit the historic town of Julian. It is about a 50 mile, one-hour drive through beautiful countryside from Aguanga, through Oak Grove, through Warner Springs to Julian. We have visited many times but not for the last couple of years. But on all of these visits, we have not gone to the Eagle & High Peak Mine tour.

Yes, you do walk into the hillside.

The entrance into the Eagle Mine and the starting point for the tour.

The entrance into the Eagle Mine and the starting point for the tour.

The whole reason for going is the tour, of course. This tour has a good guide. He not only looks the part, he is very knowledgeable and presents the content well.

Our rour guide was knowledgeable and presented the material well.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and presented the material well.

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Cedar Springs Trail

On Memorial Day weekend, we took a hike up Cedar Springs Trail in the San Jacinto National Forest. The trail starts about three miles up Morris Ranch Road in Garner Valley. The trail is shown on Google maps as Pathfinder Road. You turn north on Morris Ranch Road from CA Highway 74 (the “Palms to Pines Highway”) at the fire station in the village a few miles west of the junction with CA Highway 371.

The trail head is clearly marked.

Cedar Springs Trail is at the end of Morris Range Road on the north side of Garner Valley

Cedar Springs Trail is at the end of Morris Ranch Road on the north side of Garner Valley

The San Bernardino National Forest hiking guide describes the trail as follows:

Cedar Springs Trail (4E17) This moderate trail begins on Morris Ranch Road 4 miles north of Hwy 74. The trail travels through private property; please respect private property rights and stay on the dirt road. This 3.2 mile hike begins at 5760 ft. The trail connects with the Pacific Crest Trail along the Desert Divide south of Palm View Peak at an elevation of 6400 ft. To reach Cedar Spring cross the PCT and continue northeast for one mile.

We only went up the first mile, turning around just where the relatively flat road ends and the switchbacks begin. It was a very pleasant day, with the plants in spring green and blooming. The trail starts wide and flat. Clearly this has been used as a road.

There were many wildflowers on the trail

Ther were many wildflowers on the trail

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