Koh Mook – Another island worth a visit

If Koh Kradan was oreo then Koh Mook would be something like 50-50; sweet and salty. My next stop was Koh Mook which was another wonderful island, larger an island than Koh Kradan, but still Koh Kradan is just wonderful. Koh Kradan is just like the lazy river of that amusement park you visit. The only thing you need to do is snorkel and laze around. Unlike Koh Kradan though, there are quite a few things you can do on this island.

Long pier at Koh Mook

The name of the resort I had to check in was ‘Koh Mook Nurse House’. This is around 20 mins walk from the pier where the long tail boat drops you. Located in the middle of fishermen’s cottage, this place looks less like a resort. For a second, I wondered if I made the right choice booking the resort. I had no reason to complain though, the stay was cheap. The room was small, bathroom was not that great and location was not in favor either for this place.

Koh Mook Nurse House

 

 

 

 

 

But in fact I really took a liking to the place. The people running the place (also run a restaurant next to the resort) were amazing. The food was above average but the hospitality was mind-blowing. I really felt at home.

Meeting Alphons and his family was another wonderful experience for me. They were a couple from Vienna, Austria who ran a family restaurant, now on their annual vacation. I spent a lot of time chatting with them.

Getting there:

If you are coming straight to Koh Mook, then you may use tigerline ferry services or any of such agencies to get you there. If you are island hopping, there are long tail boats from one island to another for as much as 300 THB/person.

Where to stay:

There is charlie’s beach resort which is nice. Most of the tourists on our boat were going to Charlie’s beach resort. It’s also expensive. From the pier, it’s 50 THB/person for taxi to take you to Charlie’s beach resort ie if you are going from Koh Kradan to Koh Mook. Tiger line ferries stop near Charlie’s. They have their bookings also from the long tail boat station which is next to Charlie’s beach resort. Enough of Charlie, moving on there are other good resorts like the Sivalai beach resort which is also nice. The sunset view from their private beach is just amazing. The other places to stay are Mookies Bungalow, Coco lodge, Koh Mook Nurse house and so on.

Things to do:

One cannot miss the Emerald cave. It is just one of those places you would love. If you are staying at Charlie’s beach resort, rent a Kayak and go on a treasure hunt. This cave has a narrow tunnel and one has to swim through it.

Emerald caves (gopro image)
Gopro image, Emerald cave from the outside

I tried the Emerald cave (Morakot cave) half day tour which includes snorkel around the corals, then swimming to Emerald caves, gazing star fish and a round of the entire island. In the process you also see Big cave and couple of other beaches.

During the night time, you can go to Ting Tong Bar which is close to Mookies Bungalow. I spent my evenings tasting variety of food.

Also you have the option of renting a scooter to roam around the entire island. English is not widely spoken here and communication can be a bit of hassle if you are staying in the local communities like I did.

Best time to visit:

Same as Koh Kradan, November to March would be the best time to visit.

Things to carry:

Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Mosquito repellent, GoPro (maybe), swim suits. If you are snorkeling, you may rent the masks and fins.

Sunset at Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook

 

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Chapter 6 – Baden Baden aka Black Forest

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I was trying to get the best picture of the lot but I can’t make up my mind as to which one would be the best suited as a cover for Baden Baden.

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My friend had left, so it was a trip just between me and the generator powered BMW. For the first time, I felt lost and a bit lonely. I think I got more comfortable with having someone to cover my back and that day was different. That was the last day before I bid adieu to Stuttgart.

Since the BMW had GPS, I was in less trouble…sort of…though not having Internet in my phone was a major drawback. I set off…majority of the drive being on Autobahn, I happened to see areas with no speed limits. That means sport mode, paddle shifts and almost 240 kmph speeds. Once you shift to sport mode, the exhaust note changes and so does the eagerness of the car to leap forward. The drive was comfortable despite having stiffer suspension. I’m sure it will make for a good car to many of us, who love diesel. The car is around 190 hp but it’s pretty heavy in terms of weight for a coupe. I could feel the weight while doing high speeds.

I reached Baden Baden (Black forest) in around 1 hour and 15 minutes (or a bit more). Then it was all blank. I had no clue as to where to go. Shops were closed due to a public holiday on that day. The ones that were open had irritated shop keepers because they had to open their shops on a public holiday and it’s not a great idea to mess with pissed off Germans. So I went back and sat in my generator powered car browsing through the places and then I found Lichtentaler Allee, which is a walk (or kind of a beautiful garden). So I walked. The first pic is from Lichtentaler Allee.

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This is the car in question…

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With beautiful eyes…

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And a not so bad looking nose with well detailed body

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After this I drove around and reached a wine yard. This was somewhere inside and I had no clue how I reached there, all I remember was closing my eyes and selecting a place from the drop down list in GPS.

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I was eating my lunch; a Pretzel and thinking about what next! By then I had fallen in love with Pretzels. Then after Pretzel lunch, I started fiddling with the GPS and found Merkur. Yes, I had seen Merkur in trip advisor when I was reading up about Black forest. So Merkur mountains was my next and final destination in Baden Baden, after which I planned to return to Stuttgart and give away my rental car ahead of time.

Right before Merkur, my lunch break

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Base of the mountains, absolutely mind blowing. It keeps getting better.

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Winch to the top. I was in no mood to walk 4 kms to the top.

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The mountains, the city and a parachute man.

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Finally I started my journey down. Though I had a ticket to go back in the winch, I decided to walk. A good decision.

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On my way down, I met a retired German Engineer and his wife. We spoke a bit about life and work. He retired 5 years ago and now he was in love with Photography, mainly in portrait pictures of his wife. He spoke about his son and lot of things. It was a wonderful experience. They stopped in the way to click some pictures, I carried on.

I aimed to get back to Stuttgart but then an idea occurred. Tubingen which is on the way to Stuttgart is a place I didn’t visit, so I planned to pass by Tubingen.

The outskirts of Tubingen

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Tubingen is one of the most beautiful places near Stuttgart. I’m glad I stopped at Tubingen.

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The river that ran towards the university. People enjoying their day in rafts.

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The beautiful tunnel in Tubingen. Lovely piece of art.

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A house with a rooster at the top.

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Finally, a parting picture of the little 2 series coupe.

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I went back and returned the car. Picked up my luggage and checked in a hostel nearby and the next day morning, I was on my way back.

Before ending this post, I would like to mention a few more things.

  1. Sixt rentals were pretty good. Excellent customer service at the 24 hour centre which is opposite to the central station. The one is railway station was a joke. A not so friendly young lady. I would go back to Sixt but only at the 24 hr centre. Check their website here.
  2. Driving in Germany can be tricky. Especially for Indians. There are lot of rules and even if you follow them, you most probably might end up pissing off a few Germans. That’s unavoidable.
  3. Use GPS while travelling on a rental vehicle. It really helpful
  4. Finally, stay safe 🙂

This post marks the end of my German journey. Indeed, I would to go back and stay there if I get a chance in the future. It’s such a wonderful place. I envy those who stay in Stuttgart and nearby, it’s a wonderful city. Perfect mix of a city within a country side.


 

Chapter 2 – Another Castle

I cannot stress enough on the importance of ‘staying fit’ in a travelers life. Certain locations might require you to trek for kms while certain places might require you to walk for quite a bit through narrow roads.

After we visited Lichtenstein castle, we were so smitten by the castle visit that we decided to chuck Lake Konstanz for Burg Hohenzollern (Hohenzollern castle). The two reasons for this change of plans were

  1. It was already 11 am and we had to give our rental car by 5 pm. Lake Konstanz was 176 kms away, we wouldn’t make it back in time. Also there wouldn’t be enough time to enjoy Lake Konstanz which by itself had a number of attractions.
  2. The castles and the route to these castles were mind blowing.

We also learnt a lesson; never to over-estimate. We could have never made it from Lake Konstanz on time. So Hohenzollern castle it was.

Pic credit: Google search. Credits to respective owner
Pic credit: Google search. Credits to respective owner

 

Burg Hohenzollern was much bigger than Lichtenstein and a wonderful castle. This time there were no hiccups in finding the route. We typed in the name and GPS showed us a route which we could actually follow and reach or were there any road works? Not sure.

We could see the castle from much ahead and it was a very welcoming sight.

Once we almost reached there, we saw a small parking lot. Free parking… yaay!!! We saved 2 Euros parking there. But then we paid for it with sweat and blood. We thought it was only this one climb and the castle was right above. We were wrong.

We climbed the mountains,

We climbed the trails,

We walked through the paved path,

We climbed steps to reach the place

Parking lot!
Parking lot!

It was almost 3 kms of steep trek.

Struggling to breathe, we stood in queue for the tickets.

12 Euros per person. Positive to this was, there was a guide in every room of the castle to explain about the history or whatever questions we might have. This was a one day offer. Sadly we were a bit time conscious but tried our best to walk around all the rooms. The guides were busy with a lot of other tourist. Never mind, there was a lot see by myself. Since it was a day off, the place was crowded. A lot of tourists and a lot of the natives…

We walked around the rooms, chapel and through a couple of other rooms before we decided that it was getting late. We had to leave at least by 1500 hrs if we were to reach Stuttgart by 1700 hrs. The down-hill trek was easier but by the end we had our thigh muscles shivering. Staying in the parking lot for some more time, we refreshed ourselves drinking some water, talking about the place in general. We were unable to fulfill the wish of taking a photograph on the bench with a lot of greenery around because there were two other families sitting there.

We left towards Stuttgart and a road work. Darn, your GPS unit goes useless because it keeps re-routing through that same route. We struggled a lot, took a lot of exits, asked a few people and finally one person told us the way in German but told me the place which I took a note of.

Once we reached the express way things were pretty smooth till filling up the tank and dropping the car off.

We sat in one of the road side shops and ate a Doner classic each and then left for our room.

Green green
Green green

 

Climb 1 of 100, lol
Climb 1 of 100, lol

 

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I'm still climbing!
I’m still climbing!

 

I'm still climbing!!
I’m still climbing!!

 

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View from outside

 

passage to the inside
passage to the inside

 

Garden with wooden piggy's
Garden with wooden piggy’s

 

A part of the castle
A part of the castle

 

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Ultra zoom into the woods

 

zoom out!
zoom out!

 

A massive castle welcomed us... Less time and lots to see
A massive castle welcomed us… Less time and lots to see

 

Chapel
Chapel

 

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Impossible to take the whole castle with my current lens... I give up!
Impossible to take the whole castle with my current lens… I give up!

 

There are a lot more pictures than this. But don’t want you guys to get bored, hence one more pic and I’m done for the day 🙂

Taken while car was moving by my friend!
Taken while car was moving by my friend! All of that we climbed

 

Stay tuned cos from the next day I was out on my own. When I’m out on my own, I make mistakes, a lot of them. The next few days of my trip were epic!


 

Chapter 2 – Bodensee

From waking up to having our cup noodles to getting ready, it was 8:30 am. Angela and her husband were great. I asked a few things about Germany, also we had breakfast in their garden. Angela was our host from Airbnb.

Where am I off to?

A castle and then directly to Lake Konstanz. This was the plan.

Lichtenstein Castle was the nearest castle. So we decided to give Burg Hohenzollern a miss. Lichtenstein Castle is also called as Fairy tale castle. It is rightly named so. Cinderella can sit in the balcony and comb her long her, drop her tied hair for Valentino Rossi to climb up or whatever.

Pic credit : Google search. Credits to respective owner
Pic credit : Google search. Credits to respective owner

 

The GPS doesn’t have a clue about road works and usually there are a lot of road works. In case you encounter one, you need to take deviations and GPS doesn’t help much. We were driving around lost for sometime due to the road-works then finally saw a indication to Lichtenstein, and we took that route. After much hassle of getting down, asking people, driving and again getting down, asking people we finally saw a board which showed the route to the castle. Not knowing German was a big disadvantage.

After reaching there, we parked our car and the ticket costed 2 Euros. Wiping our tears, we walked up to the castle. Amazed!!! Wonderful view from the outside, we clicked a few pictures. After entering the gate, we went to the ticket counter. It was 7 Euros per person. To go inside the castle, you need a 7 Euro ticket and a guided tour. Well, the 7 Euros are for the guided tour but the tour is in German. English tour needs to be booked in advanced and costs a bomb…say some 100 Euros. We opted for the German tour and we got a English manual of the tour ie the description of whatever the guide says in English. That was good enough for us.

Once the tour started we read our manual and walked along with the group. Any doubts we asked the guide after she was done with speaking about the particular topic. Pretty helpful guide, she did explain everything what we asked for very patiently. The castle was maintained immaculately. No one is allowed to touch or feel anything inside. Even a crack on the glass made by a bullet shell was so live as if it happened yesterday.

We were taken through the armor room, chapel, hunters party room, the royal bedroom, dining hall. The guided tour lasted for good 30 mins. Once we were done with that we came out and took a few pics of the castle and roamed around in the adjacent garden. Photography is prohibited inside the castle. Entry to the garden is free; it’s not a proper garden but the outside of the castle with a few structures.

Here are a few pics from Lichtenstein that I took….

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The route to the castle
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Country side
The castle from outside
The walls of the Castle

 

The castle stands on a cliff
The castle stands on a cliff

 

View from one side of the cliff
View from one side of the cliff

 

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The castle itself, from the front
The castle itself, from the front

 

Another cliff view
Another cliff view

 

Dream fulfilled, drove along the countryside roads. Way up the castle!
Dream fulfilled, drove along the countryside roads. Way up the castle!

 

The castle from the side
The castle from the side

 

Escape route from the castle. During the guided tour they show the entrance to this escape route.
Escape route from the castle. During the guided tour they show the entrance to this escape route.

 

They had cannons inside this building
They had cannons inside this building

 

The building with the reception...Half the building I mean
The building with the reception…Half the building I mean

 

Maids room? Not sure
Maids room? Not sure

 

To keep the post short, I’ll post the remaining half of this day as another post. Probably a bad idea to write my travel as a big story.  😥


(To be contd…)

Chapter 1 – 21 05

Though I would love to keep the whole travelogue short, I would also want my experiences about this trip to be written down here. So in short, I’m going to write a long story but try and keep it short? Hmm….

I was not travelling alone, I had a friend who was already in Germany with work. I was guided a lot and I felt privileged enough to have someone cover my back if I got lost. My friend had been to Stuttgart once. Anyways, I would like to keep my friend out of this blog.

I have around 500 pictures from the trip out of which 25% of the pictures I took of the places have come out decent. I’m unsure if I’ll be able to share all of them in this blog. I’ll keep a limit to the number of pictures I share here to keep this post less lengthy boring. I’ll use this (Italics + color) to highlight any suggestions that I may have. 

I landed in Frankfurt early morning. I had based my whole trip in Stuttgart. Now many people had asked me why Stuttgart. The answer is simple. I’m a Stuttgart kind of person. Stuttgart is a village in comparison to Berlin. Filled with greenery and comparatively slower pace of life.

I had booked the tickets for the intercity train to Stuttgart. If you book earlier you get it for as cheap as 20 Euros. If you are booking from the train station you end up spending 70 Euros for the same ticket.

There is a way to travel for free as well. The site which we use for booking (bahn.com) has partnership with most major airlines. So ideally if you book your airline accordingly you get a free intercity train ride. I didn’t know this before hand but now you know it. The details. Please check it out and save those precious Euros for more travelling. 

My friend picked me up from the station and bought me a pretzel. My first enounter with German food. We went to his place. I took a bit longer than expected to set out. The plan for the day was

  1. Visit Hohenzollern castle.
  2. Visit Lichtenstein castle.
  3. Visit Uracher Wasserfalls (waterfalls).

For this we had to rent a car and we didn’t book any because I was unsure about the time we would be ready to set out for the day especially when I had arrived only at 1130 hrs. Out of the four major car rentals namely Sixt, Avis, Hertz and Europcar, I had an inclination towards Sixt. We went to their 24 hr centre near Stuttgart main station and had a major heart break. All the cars were booked. There was an option to pick up Opel Corsa which I denied just to walk around and find that the other rentals didn’t have any cars. Not even a Volkswagen Polo. 99 out of 100 shops were (will be) closed for the weekend and this applies even for supermarkets. The Sixt rentals in railway station told me a price that I could any day refuse. It was 2 times of what I had in my mind. We came back to the Sixt 24 hr outlet and asked if he had the Opel Corsa for me.

No.

It was booked within this 15 mins that I went around to other places. Now what he had was a Volkswagen UP! That’s it. The rate for it? A hundred Euros. Darn!!!

Book your car in advance. If you don’t show up you or are late by an hr, you will lose the money. But if you don’t book, you will have to take a car they have to offer at a price they quote. If you are even 70% sure that you will show up, better to book the car. Online is way cheaper and you get to select if you want an insurance and other add ons. 

We were out of option. If we didn’t get this car, our weekend would have been pretty much in the bar drinking over the big loss of not getting the car and not going out. We opted to get the VW UP! for a hundred Euros. This included full insurance.

I didn’t want insurance as I got it prior from here. It is better to get it from other providers than the rental companies because rental companies charge 3 to 4 times the amount. This time I had no option but I would always suggest getting an excess damage insurance from other providers. Basic third party insurance comes with the rental itself which isn’t enough.

I shall post a separate one about my experiences with Sixt. 

For now, I had to take the full insurance for the car and the guy felt sorry for me and gave me a GPS satnav for free. I didn’t ask for it but since he was giving it for free, I said I don’t mind having it. Indian, you know. Missing a free give away is a crime punishable by law. But I cannot put in words how much the GPS unit helped us. Make sure to tell them to change the GPS language to English as well. A satnav is must have to avoid unwanted getting lost hence saving you a lot of time. Time is precious when you are renting a car. 

We looked at the car and there is also a pic of me looking in the engine bay and crying, wish I could post it here….

So after the mandatory fluid, tire pressure, alloys, odo reading checks, we proceeded to take pictures of the car.

Before and after pics of a rental car is the key to saving your kidney. Take pictures before you drive off in your rental car and take pictures just before you return the car. Make sure you check for any damages and have it included in the rental contract itself, else rental companies have all the right to charge you for damages and not checking is your fault. Make sure you do it and take pictures as a proof. In case of any damage report it right away before starting your trip.

By the time we set off, it was 1700 hrs (5:00 PM). Both the castle closes at 1730 and 1800 hrs respectively. So both the castle visits….

What remained is Uracher Wasserfalls. Wasser is the german word for Water. I guess.

Driving in Germany should be another posts (for my Indian friends) which I’ll do later on.

We switched on the GPS and with difficulty managed to input the name of the waterfall. Once this was done, we set off. It took us less than an hour to reach there. The best thing about summer is that day light lasts till 2000 hrs (8 pm) or more. So from morning 0600 till 2000 hrs you have sunlight which helps a lot.

We reached the parking lot and parked our stallion there. Almost 1.5-2 km walk from the parking lot and it’s common for the residents there. We saw much older people doing the stretch faster than we could in our comparatively young age. It just goes to show how unfit we were and how they take care of themselves.

There were more than one waterfall and we visited the nearest one because we were LAZY. Posting a few pictures…

The VW UP!
The VW UP!

 

The way to the falls
The way to the falls

 

Uracher Wasserfalls from a distance
Uracher Wasserfalls from a distance

 

The way to the falls
The way to the falls
Waterfalls
Waterfalls

So after this was done, we put the address in our satnav. It guided us towards the Charming Farmhouse at Pfullingen. Tired, I retired to bed soon pushing the planning for next day to next day.


(Post processing: Only some minor light adjustments)

Wallpaper #8 – Reflection of perfection is always perfect!

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Imperfection always reflect imperfection

while perfection reflects perfection

Leave the imperfections to us, lesser mortals

And perfections to the nature! 

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Leaving ‘The Nilgiris’

Picking up from here


As we all know, ‘Hartal/Bandh/Strike’ is the national festival of Kerala. Onam comes second. The day we were supposed to return back, there was a national strike announced by all the major trade unions in the country. There are people in Kerala who wait to hear about this so that they can go on the streets and vandalize public and private property, create havoc.

Now because of them we were unsure if we had to start on the same day and risk our lives for going back home. The night before leaving the place, saw us having intense discussions and debates over these. Heated arguments over pros and cons. Nonetheless, I wanted to leave because I had other engagements, same was the case with my friend. But we didn’t want to risk it.

It was decided that we go to Emerald lake/dam and Avalanche lake in the morning and while doing that we would call our contacts and see the situations in Kerala and decide, whether to go or whether not to.

So we leave for Emerald lake in the morning. The route is fairly simple, but since we chucked UB (Upper Bhavani from the list), the other two looked doable.

From my research 

  1. Glenmorgan needed Tamil Nadu Electricity Board permits to cross the check post. We were stopped at the check post and obviously told to leave. So if you are going there, be sure you get a permission to cross that check post. I don’t know what is beyond that check post.
  2. Mukurti Lake which is 40 kms away from Ooty, has a national park. If you need to trek, you need permission for it, from the TN forest department.
  3. Finally, the Emerald lake , Avalanche and Upper Bhavani are in the same route. 25 kms to Emerald lake, 35 kms to Avalanche and 60 kms to Upper Bhavani. The first two namely Emerald and Avalanche needs no permission, but to after that towards Upper Bhavani there is a check post from where you are allowed to go in their jeep. I have heard that it depends on how you convince the officers at the check post, they let you drive till the dam. But going beyond the dam needs permission.

So we started off with Emerald… Let’s pics do all the talking

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That’s a village, with a few houses to prove my point.

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Again someone has enjoyed cooking? If it were a dry season, then probably one small spark can bring down the whole forest. There is forest guards roaming around this area all the time. Though their real intention should be to see if someone is going against the rules set by forest dept, but the moment someone crosses they come for you to collect bribe. If you even think of giving them anything, keep it as low as Rs. 20 or 30 (max Rs. 50). A bottle of alcohol costs Rs 14 only there I believe.

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The Ripple effect 😉

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This budding photographer happens to be my buddy, not chaddi buddy though 😛

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After the Emerald journey, we were supposed to visit Avalanche but we look at each other and say to each other, ‘ Screw this… let’s go home.’ We call up people and check out the situations, no bad reports and we (he) decided to take a big leap of driving back to Kerala.

Some pics on the way

The St. Stephen’s church, Ooty. One of my favorite places in Ooty. Once the mist starts dropping, then the place looks even more amazing.

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The name of places in order as we descend from Ooty towards Coonoor, not all are there cos the idea occurred a bit later and not all the places are there… sadly.

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Before Coonoor.

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Will it be a hit or will it be a miss?

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Just miss. They better not miss it next time.

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Wild flowers for wild people who wants to go all wild. I know a few of them 😉

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Indians and Engineering, lol. No more comments.

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Driving back on that day meant empty roads. All the 36 million people apart from 3 or 4, were at home and none of them were seen out. The roads were empty and we touched 150 kmph, which is a great speed in Kerala.

On the whole we had some good time and a lot of memories. Would I like to go back? Yes, why not. It’s an amazing drive and the weather is too good. Maybe on a motorbike next time? not sure, but a visit again would be amazing.

Before I put a full stop to this series, I will share 3 pics that I loved out of the lot… saved them for last.

The fountain at Charring Cross (Pic credit to my friend)

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A bit more darker and …

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On that bombshell, Good night!


Any suggestions and comments would be welcome.