Posts Tagged ‘camping’

Conoor camping trip

In the second week of May, we went on a camping trip to Conoor/Ooty with my parents and my brother’s family. We drove in two cars and the kids had fun. On our way there, we stopped in Mysore for a day. We took the kids to the zoo, visited Chamundi temple on the hill and saw the palace lit by night. The kids would have enjoyed a visit inside the palace, but there was no time for that.

We left Mysore early next morning and drove to Ooty. Beyond Bandipur National Park, it is a beautiful drive. We saw some deer and elephants. The ascent to Ooty thru narrow winding roads was quite breath taking. We even did a small hike to a hill top when we took a break from the driving. The first day at the camp, we just relaxed after the fairly long drive. It was my niece’s birthday, so we bought a cake and had a small celebration. She also distributed toffees to all the campers. Tents and the camping experience were very new to my parents and brother’s family. It was organized by the Youth Hostel and was a decent experience. According to PK, this is luxury camping in many ways – tents are pitched and ready, they provide mattresses, blankets and pillows and food is ready when you need it. One negative was the hot water for showers. Very slow and long lines to get a bucket of barely luke warm water. The bathrooms were clean but were woefully inadequate in number, especially in the mornings. But the best thing was the weather. It was so much cooler than Bangalore and was very pleasant through out our stay.

The next day we drove back to Ooty and did a whole day of sight seeing. We visited Doddabetta first. Again, the drive up is very scenic. It was crowded and finding parking was hard. We didn’t stand in line for the telescope. But the views from the top were awesome. Next stop was Ooty lake. Finding our way here, the 2 cars lost each other and we ended up in different boat houses of the lake (it is a fairly big lake). We were trying to get back together, but weak cell signals, dead batteries etc prevented that. So we each had lunch separately and went on motor boat rides. The lake was quite breath taking – one of the most beautiful I have seen in India and it was very clean too. After that, we found each other and headed to the Botanical garden. This was VERY crowded. By now, everyone was pretty tired too and not in a mood to walk around much. It had been over 40 hours since we had coffee and were desperately looking, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Tea is the most prevalent and was the only thing served at the camp and in most other places. Around 5, we started back to our camp in Conoor. The drive from Ooty to Conoor is very scenic but is also very slow. It takes almost 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic, for the 19 km drive.

Next day was all day sight seeing of Conoor. Conoor is much prettier than Ooty. Main places to see are Lamb’s rock, Dolphin’s nose, Sims park and tea gardens and factories. First stop was Lamb’s rock. The way is not very well marked, and whatever few directions are there have been tampered with by antisocial elements. These guys want to be your “guides”. We reached there, did a small hike, took some pictures. Next stop was going to be Dolphin’s nose. While driving from here, a Swaraj Mazda banged into us and our rear right wheel got tangled with his front right wheel. It was quite an effort to untangle and our bumper tore in the process. It was quite a scary experience. None of us were hurt but the kids and I were sad to see the damage to the car. Since this was on a narrow road with dozens of switch backs we didn’t get to hang around and calm ourselves down, so we continued with the day’s agenda. Dolphin’s nose view point and the drive to get there is absolutely mind-blowing. But parking is a disaster and the very narrow winding roads and the abundance of tourist buses, minivans, taxis makes driving very hazardous in my opinion. So I couldn’t quite fully enjoy the scenery around because of the heart-in-mouth driving experience. We went back to the camp, had lunch, enjoyed the solitude (only our group) and went back again around 5 pm to Sims park. We enjoyed this park much more than the botanical garden. Many different types of flowers/shrubs and there was a huge kids play area. We also enjoyed paddle boating. Outside the park, we finally got the coffee we were all craving for a few days now.

The next 2 days was a light agenda. The kids had wanted to ride the toy train from Conoor to Ooty. We had heard that it would get very crowded, so we went for the very first trip in the morning, at 7.30 am. But this was crowded too because of commuters. And the price difference between general and first class tickets is very huge, so for big groups, it makes a difference. We reached Ooty by 9 and were at a loss for what to do. Because the whole point of the trip was the train ride. Most sights worth seeing in Ooty, we had already seen. And at 9 am, many would just start to open. Reluctantly we went to the rose garden, and were vindicated. The reluctance was totally justified. There were a few varieties of roses, but they were not the healthy, in-full-bloom kinds. They were all wilted and withering and looked pathetic. We must have been there a total of 20 minutes or so. By then the crowds also started streaming in and we promptly made our way towards the exit. We didn’t have the patience to wait around for the train schedule, so we just took a bus back to Conoor. After lunch, we left SK and my niece with mom and went for a walk in the adjacent tea garden. We also visited a working tea factory. It was a good walk and just after we returned, it poured heavily for ½ hr. We made it back just in time.

The next morning, we left early since we had a whole day of driving. We wanted to do a wild life Safari ride on the way. Rides were closed in Mudumalai because of an elephant census and on Bandipur side we reached just past closing time for morning safari rides. We reached Mysore around noon and had a great lunch (jolada rotti oota) at Kamat Madhuvan. We were back home by 5 pm and had the whole weekend to recuperate and catch up on chores around the house.

Summarizing the camping experience:

  • + Availability of blankets, pillows and mattresses were all a big plus. Sleeping bags are not very comfortable to sleep on for 4 nights!
  • + Availability of hot Food and packed lunch facility was a A +, so that we didn’t have to always hunt for decent eateries wherever we were at lunch time.
  • + Bathrooms were clean, even if very basic.
  • – It was bit crowded (~25 families). Smaller group would have been much more enjoyable even if it costs more per family.
  • – The number of bath rooms, buckets and mugs were terrible. There was always a wait for everything.
  • – The hot water for showers – Very slow and long lines to get a bucket of barely luke warm water.
  • – Safety – there were reports of some thefts etc.

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As I wrote earlier, we really didn’t have any plans for the weekend. Having returned from a long vacation with family, we were feeling a bit down. And then all the craziness of the beginning of school, soccer season, stuff at work got to me. So on Saturday evening, we made impromptu plans to go camping for a night on Sunday. Since I had heard a lot that Nickerson State Park was one of the most popular camping spots, Ichecked online and got availability for Sunday. Then we got to work, PK had to remove the front wheels, load the bikes and other camping gear in the car. I went grocery shopping for easy to cook stuff, snacks, drinks etc.

We left around 10 am on Sunday and were there by noon time. We had lunch first and then pitched the tent. Then we hit the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Nickerson is almost exactly at the half way point. We didn’t really research too much or look at the trail map and arbitrarily chose to go towards Wellfleet instead of Dennis. I think the main reason was the markers indicated that the sea shore was that way and PK assumed some parts of the trail would be along the coast. Nope, it was just inland all the way, all 12 miles of it. Apparently if we had just gotten of any of the roads and gone for a mile, we would be on the coast. But since PK is on rollerblades, unless it is a paved trail, we can’t do it. Since we have been out of any activity for a month, we did find it tough but we pushed on. Made an ice-cream stop on the way and had some yummy kahlua brownie ice-cream. The return was much harder because we were pretty wiped. Actually, just AK and me, PK was doing quite ok. Overall, we did ~25 miles in 5 hrs (4 hrs cycling time and an hours worth of breaks). The weather was pleasant. Even the evening was awesome – not too cold, no pesky bugs. So, we enjoyed our dinner (veggie burgers, chips, watermelon) in peace.

Next morning, we took the kids to Cliff pond. Initially, they found the water cold, but still played in it.  The water was amazingly clean. No floating weeds or kelp. As usual, SK enjoyed the sand more than the water. We started driving back around noon. Getting out of the cape is always a nightmare apparently. I thought September can’t be as bad as summer, but it still took us almost an hour to do the last 17 miles before we hit Sagamore bridge and came back to mainland. I can’t imagine what summer weekends must be like. I don’t intend to find out.

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For the long weekend, we went camping in Burlington, Vermont. We camped at the North Beach Campground, which is right by Lake Champlain. We have been camping before, but always in State Parks, so this was a new experience for me. I think this is run by the city of Burlington. The sites were smaller and closer to each other than the ones we have seen in state parks. Plus the crowd and atmosphere on the 4th night was a total party scene, so it felt really weird. AK also mentioned that he saw a pizza delivery car going by! I later learnt that many private campgrounds allow that. But the location is prime. The campground is right off the Island Line Rail Trail bike path and also the wonderful North beach, with awesome facilities – snack bar, restrooms, picnic benches, kids playground etc. Also alcohol was allowed both on the beach and in the campground, which is always a huge plus in PK’s book :).
Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain

The Island Line Rail Trail is a 12.5 mile trail from Oakledge park in Burlington connecting to the Colchester Causeway which ends 2.5 miles into the middle of Lake Champlain! The campsite was about 4 miles into the trail. So, we did this section first thing in the morning. This part is quite scenic with great views of the lake and the Adirondack mountains in NY on the other side. Towards the end, there are a few street crossings you need to watch out for. At the end of the trail in Oakledge park, there is a tree house, which we almost missed. A kind lady saw the kids and suggested we may want to see it. It was really cool and I enjoyed it as much as the kids. After that we were back at the tent for some breakfast and we were also waiting for some friends to join us. They were there by noon and we set off or the rest of the trail. The next 3 miles or so, is along the backyard of big, beautiful houses by the lake. Then comes the Winooski river bridge, which was built few years ago. Otherwise, earlier bikers had to take a ferry to cross the river and continue biking on the other side. After the bridge crossing, you have to ride about a mile or so on the streets until the Colchester Airport Park around the 8th mile mark. There are good lawns and a kids’ playground, snack bar and restrooms, so we took a break here. Also, from here on the trail is all gravel which is harder to ride on than the asphalt surfaces. So, we took turns doing the rest of the trail to see the grand finale part which juts 2.5 into the  lake, so that one couple could be with the kids at the park. The  1.5 miles to reach the Colchester causeway wasn’t so terrible, but the causeway itself was much harder to ride on. It is a crushed stone path which offers a lot of resistance and the trail is fully exposed to the sun, with no shade. But the views of the lake and the mountains are really worth it. There is a “cut” in the path and some weekends a ferry runs to take bikers to the other end of the cut, from where you can ride on to Grand Isle.  The cut is mainly there for the boats to pass by, and there were lots of them. By the time we reached back the camp site, it was around 5.30 pm. After a quick round of water melon, the kids wanted to play in the water. At the end of it, we were all so tired and the kids were in bed by 9 pm. Then we all sat around by the fire with some wine and Mike’s lemonade and chatted. All I remember though is that my thighs were burning from the ride.

Next morning, packing up took almost 2 hours! I know, camping is supposed to be simple living and all that, but … There were bikes to load (after removing front wheels), tents to take down, sleeping bags to be rolled up etc. Then we headed to Stowe, to hike up the Stowe Pinnacle. My hiking book had said it was a short and easy hike, but it was neither. It was one mile longer than what the book said. And I think we found it much harder than usual because we were doing it after a day of biking 25 miles. I must have asked at least three different groups who were coming down how much further we had to go. The first time I asked, I was estimating that we were almost there but he said that we were probably half way. My heart sunk. We had plenty of water but not enough food. I took a quick vote and everyone wanted to keep going. I was especially proud of how well AK did. I think he enjoys that sense of accomplishment and pushes himself really hard. He named it the mountain which never ends and insisted that this must be the tallest mountain in VT. Anyway, the views from the top were really spectacular. We couldn’t hang around for too long, since we had the long climb down and also the drive back home. Also it is scary to hang around steep cliffs and ledges with young ones. The way down was only marginally easier, but we made it back uneventfully. Then we stopped at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream factory and had huge Sundaes. The kids didn’t eat more than a few bites, but we gobbled up ours. And then it was back home after about 3.5 hours of driving. I wish we had stayed another day. Downtown Burlington looked like a really nice place to walk around. Church Street is cobble stoned and pedestrian-only with good coffee shops. We didn’t get to enjoy it.

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