Posts Tagged ‘nature’

We went to Raigad and were pleasantly surprised to find roads without many potholes, unlike our last encounter with it. It was still a good 3 hour ride for just over 60 miles. Flowers and plants on the way:



Raigad became the capital of the Maratha Empire in 1674. It is separated from the rest of the Sahyadri mountain range by two rivers, making it difficult to conquer. It was called the ‘Gibraltar of the East’ by British colonialists and resisted their attacks for over a century.



The fort has many reservoirs (one of which is pictured here) and a market where men could shop sitting on their horses (stairs were built into the buildings for this). Baby elephants were brought in palanquins and raised in the fort since ascending the fort was a challenging task due to the difficult terrain.



One can climb 1400 stairs to the top or take the rope-way instead. We climbed the first 200, gave in and went to the rope-way. All in all, it was a nice one day spent.

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This is a two day trip along coastal California. Its mostly places to see, rather than things to do, and in hindsight could have been more of the later if we had more time to spare.

We started the first day with a quick visit to the Malibu Hindu Temple. This is a beautiful temple and the drive going up to the hill is scenic too.

Three important Hindu deities I wish I could identify, although I'm leaning towards Ram Sita Laxman

Three important Hindu deities I wish I could identify, although I’m leaning towards Ram Sita Laxman

We bought hot breakfast which they sell at the temple, and had it on one of the beaches in Malibu, appreciating random presumably aspiring actor dudes peeling themselves out of their wet suits.

The Adamson House is a historical landmark with great details, right from the lamps and the filigree on the curtain rods to the Malibu tiles, lots of them, lining every wall. It is simply charming and literally transports you back in time. Photography is not allowed inside so you will have to trust me on this and check it out yourself. The house has such a personal touch and in fact, I was surprised that I liked it more than a castle we saw the next day.

We chose the Cold Spring Tavern huddled in the Santa Ynez mountains for lunch. Note to my future self: always, always choose nice lunch and dinner places beforehand. Local eateries are a great way to discover the environment of a place, that is, if you don’t go to generic places like Starbucks (oops I did and I will) and Jack in the Box (sheesh! never).

We then made a short stop at Lake Cachuma. The plan was to do the Shoreline trail before sunset, but boy were we tired already! R’s discovery of a dent in his car coincided with the sun’s descent and all was glum for a while.

The road from Solvang up to Lompoc is lined with ranches and wineries. We entered the sleepy town of Los Olivos looking for Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Cafe and didn’t see a single light on, except for this cute little restaurant with their festival lighting already in place. It was so quiet and out of the world-ly! Don’t miss this place if you end up going to Los Olivos for whatever reason.

The next day we went to the Purisima Mission State Historic Park which is a little further up north after Lompoc. A three mile trail covers the mission and surrounding buildings.

Hearst Castle which was known simply as ‘the ranch’ by William Hearst, the publishing tycoon who owned it was next. I found it really inspiring that it was designed and executed by a female architect, named Julia Morgan and this was in 1928.

Its a nice idea to go to an American castle once. Only after this did I care to find out, in fact there are quite a few ‘castles’ in the US. You should see if there are some near where you live !

The original plan was to go to Guadalupe dunes to catch the sunset. Scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean 3 were shot in these dunes.  Since there was no way we were going to make it before dark, we stopped at Pismo beach instead. The Guadalupe state park closes at 6:30 pm by the way, for future reference since the website doesn’t say that.

At Pismo beach we saw the lovely sunset and lots of birds. And here is my best attempt to take a picture of a bird up close, contemplating on the pier. Never mind the ones in flight. They tend to fly away so quickly.

I have so much work to do this week


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After seeing ApronheadL‘s pictures from the SB orchid estate, I was motivated enough to visit. I was tempted to buy an orchid, but was too scared thinking I might kill it. Especially since the first question we were asked when we entered was

So have your orchids died or have they stopped flowering?

We were not asked if we had ever bought an orchid before. We weren’t asked if we have even bought a plant in our life, let alone an orchid. Well, B who was with me has, but I haven’t.

I think I am going to train myself by growing a spider plant first, which I am told, is really difficult to kill. Not only is it impossible to kill, it’s impossible to keep it from reproducing, I am told. Now, for the orchids..


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Last week I went to the Coal Oil Point Reserve which is right next to the UCSB campus, past Isla Vista. This place is so close to my home, its embarrassing to not have been here before.

The reserve is one of the 35 reserves owned by the UC system and the only one open to the public. The staff offers free tours every month; they have a two hour version and a shorter version too. The oil rig in the ocean near the coal oil point:

Oil is stored in these white structures nearby:

In the tour, S, our gracious and highly knowledgeable tour guide walked us through the native plants and showed us countless species of birds. For someone like me, who can’t differentiate between coconut trees and palms (I know, and I live in California), this was indeed a learning experience. I can identify palms now thanks to S.

The tour was extremely informative. If you are asking, “why do I want to know names of all these birds and plants?”, then you might be me, a while ago. Surprisingly, this time, I didn’t have to make an effort to stay interested. Sometimes, you don’t know you like something until you do it, with an open mind. We saw the Coyote bush, which is native to California, and also the California sunflower.

Flowering and non-flowering Coyote bush

California sunflower

A friend asked me what’s so special about a California sunflower. I guess it looks different from other species in the Sunflower genus.

S explained, that while planting trees is a good thing to do, doing it in such a way as to not disturb the native species is important. Nonnative plants frequently take over the native plants thus endangering them; for example, the ice plant was brought in to be planted along highways to reduce soil erosion. But this is an invasive species and endangers natives. Just weeding out the ice plant has evidently restored many native species in the reserve.

An interesting way to get rid of the ice plant is to cover it with plastic sheets, so it dies off and gets converted into mulch. 

Ice plant along the road.

The beautiful views and nice trails in the reserve, topped with the beach, are a perfect place to run.


Dry eucalyptus tree in the Devereux slough and some much needed shade.

The tour ended with a walk along the beach to spot the the snowy plover. Some other birds we met on the way, which I can’t identify yet:

They could be any of the 295 species the reserve houses. There is also a docent program which one can volunteer with. 

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The other day I visited the museum of natural history in Santa Barbara because I had nothing else to do. I wasn’t expecting much at all. I am not a big fan of animals and plants. But I went anyway, because like I said, I didn’t have anything else to do. Turns out the place is quite pleasant after all ! Here are some pictures.

The museum has quite a few short trails, a lot of crows cawing in the background. After spending more than a year without crows in the vicinity, this was music to the ears. Unbelievable. The butterfly garden had many varieties but only a few butterflies. I didn’t have to cover my face and ears and run through the enclosure, like I was so prepared to do. It was so peaceful and serene, reminded me of all the creatures I have stomped on because I was too scared of them. I feel like I am beginning to like plants and insects. What just happened?

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Scenes from a Stadium

Time: 6:50 am
Place: Institute Stadium
Composition: 70% profs, 10% students, 5% dogs, 5% kids god-knows-from-where, 5% couples god-knows-since-when, 5% women running in salwaarkameezcanvasshoes.
Weather: Can be described as cool by Chennai standards.
Most repeated actions: Sprinting for 50 meters and then suddenly stopping, panting, walking the next lap around the track.
Most fun moment: Over taking a guy for however short a time and make him chase you; male egos at stake and why?.
Slowest walkers: The couple and the dogs are in for a tie here. Did I just compare them?!
Most disgusting action: the taking-shirt-off-stunt. One guy does it every day…No, not exactly the kinds you would want to see ladies…
Thought of the moment: Go have your breakfast now.

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Splendid Konkan

I was born in Dadar, brought up in Bhandup, now have almost shifted to Sion, all places in Mumbai, while studying at IIT Madras, in Chennai 8 months of the year. Makes me really wonder: where do i belong? You would say, why bother about it anyway? But then, it’s a fact that people from different cultures and places look different, have different lifestyles and ideals (??) thanks to the conditioning they are subjected to.

This May, I visited Konkan region, the place which I ‘belong’ to. It’s my native place as they say. Though none of my relatives really live there anymore. But you would find couple of narrow lanes all filled with Agharkars welcoming you congenially though shrewdly (yeah, that’s supposed to be a trait in us Koknastha Brahmins), listing their relatives who also happen to be living in Mumbai.

This place, called Aasud Baag is perched on hill slopes and the road leading to it twirls into curves around it; juggling between the sea and hills; tall palms and coconut trees hiding the sky above. The only sounds that can be heard are those of birds and an occassional whish of vehicles as they pass leaving crumpled leaves behind them.

I have already been there some six times and still can’t get enough of it. Splendid Konkan…

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