Kuari Pass Trek

It’s always great to share travel experiences with fellow travel lovers. And this time its my friend, Saloni Desai who loves to trek that wishes to share it with all of you. An avid traveler, Saloni loves to explore new places just like all of us. But what’s more exciting is the way she loves to document her travels.Under the banner of The Tangerine Studios, Saloni is just starting out to share her story with the world.
Check out the video here :

 

Kuari pass trek or Lord Curzon’s trail, starts from Joshimath into the Garhwal Himalayas. The highest point, Kuari Top is at an altitude of 4264 meters. This trek gives you a chance to view the magnificent skyline of Himalayas. Changing landscapes throughout the trek is what makes this trek unique.
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To Joshimath

This is typically a 4 day trek from Joshimath, where you will be covering a distance of approximately 33km and an altitude gain of 1800 meters.
Starting the road trip from Haridwar, the drive will be along the turquoise waters of Ganga. On the way you will cross many holy river confluences or Prayags – Devprayag, Karnaprayag, Devprayag and Rudraprayag. This 256km drive won’t let you get bored, all thanks to the beautiful view.
The next day, the first day of the trek, is an pleasant 4 hour ascend. Passing by the last village – here on the mountains are all yours. You can spend the rest of the day exploring the surrounding pine woods. The night stay will be in tents now on.
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Camping is the best place to see the stars

 

Day 2, is a 5 hour trek through the woods. At the end of your trek we reach the alpine meadows of Tali top.
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The trekking group at Tali Top

 

On the third day crossing snow covers we reach our summit – The Kuari Pass Top. Return back to our camp. This is the longest day of the trek and the most rewarding one.
The last day, we start our ascend and then descend through the Himlayan meadows or Bugyals, to reach Auli, a place famous for its skiing slopes. From Auli we take the 2nd longest cable car of India, to reach Joshimath and collapse in beds and not sleeping bags for a change!

Plan your Trek

  1. Best time to visit: The trek is fully covered in snow from December to March and this time is generally considered to be the best time to trek. But snow covers make trekking and living conditions tougher. So April is more appropriate for beginners, where climate is pleasant yet you can experience snow on the higher altitudes.
  2. Difficulty level: Easy without snow. Medium during snow covers.
  3. How are the living conditions? You will be staying at a height where there is no human population. So the stay will be in tents, food as arranged by your trek group. No electricity. No network, not even airtel 4G. And… no washrooms.
  4. How cold does it really get? Depending on the time of the year and height – it can go anywhere between 25 degrees to -10 degrees. Check the current weather of Joshimath and carry woolens accordingly.
  5. How long do you walk each day? Around 5 hours of trekking everyday, which will be 7-9 kms.
  6. Is it suitable for non-trekkers/beginners? The trek is suitable for beginners. It is less about your trekking experience, and more about your general fitness. It is highly recommended to do at least 15 mins of exercise for 15 days before the trek.
  7. How to reach? The nearest railway station is Haridwar. Nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehra Dun. From here a private vehicle to Joshimath, is the best bet. This is mostly arranged by trek organizers.
  8. Can you trek without a guide? Not advisable. The local trek guides are familiar with the weather conditions and good camping location where there are sources of water. Carrying your own tents, kitchen stuff and even your own backpacks can be a tough task. So choosing a experienced trek organizer is very important.
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Saloni Desai – The Tangerine Studio

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Winters in Manali – I

Longing for a holiday is nothing new. We want it everyday. But the anticipation of celebrating dream jobs is truly out of the ordinary. After a long time, I felt that I really deserved a holiday. So did the rest of my group (henceforth known as Pinchus). After all, we just finished our MBA. At least that’s what it’s said.#MBAKhatam. The next 2 months will be nothing but sequels to the Manali Winters. Maybe the Rann or the sands of the Thar. The beaches of Goa or the Nariyal Paanis of Alibaug. Who knows. Let us savour the cold of Manali till the next time.

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For this is the beauty that makes me want to wake up everyday

 

Planning it Out

There were a lot options that we looked at before zeroing in on Manali. This part is particularly important for reasons you will come to know later. Our options included Auli, Nainital – Jim Corbett, Shimla – Dharamsala, Manali – Kasol. Everybody had their own preferences. But one thing that people wanted was common. SNOW. And that would go on to define our trip.

I have been to Manali twice before and this trip kept on giving me flashes of the past. Still the same – Fully commercialized. But this was before my TravelKien days. Since a majority of the group had never been there, we decided on Manali. The allure of snow was a big factor for a lot of them.

The holiday in essence started from New Delhi. But I’ll skip that one for now. Delhi gave me some great sights to behold. It deserves a special mention. (Mumbai is still the best city though :P)

Let’s journey together now…

We were a group of 10. Past experience dictated us that 2 cars are not a viable option. It takes away a lot of charm from the trip itself. We decided to book a traveler. It is a great way to travel in groups of 9 – 15 as the whole gang is bunched up together and you can have loads of fun on the way. Plus it’s much better than cramming yourself in a Qualis or a Xylo. Traveler will typically charge you Rs.16 – Rs.18 depending on the operator for a 10 seater. The rates increase by Rs.2 for adding a bigger traveler. With a minimum of 250 kms/day charge and Rs.300/day for the driver, expect the total cost to be around 33K – 34K for a 6 day journey including the various state taxes and tolls.

Setting our luggage neatly in the trunk, we set out for a night journey leaving Delhi at 7pm. It’s best to journey in the night for long distances. It saves you time to explore your destinations and also your accommodation costs. The distance of 530 kms is covered smoothly in around 15 hours. A personal vehicle might take less time but then again we were the Pinchus. We had to stop for tea on a lot of occasions in honour of the tea outside the mess in the evenings. Plus, the hearty Punjabi dhaba meal that was on my radar for a long time.

TravelKien Tip: The highway is peppered with a lot of dhabas but if you’re in mood for some Butter Chicken you might be disappointed. All the dhabas are Pure Veg. Luckily for us, our driver knew the rare non veg serving dhaba.

The meal definitely did not disappoint. Naans with dollops of butter give me foodgasms at any point of the day. The butter roti from Amritsar I had 6 years ago still teases me in my dreams.

3 tea stops later, we saw the sun shine on the snow covered mountains and their beauty had already left us spellbound. There had been a fresh coat of snow because of a snowfall the previous night. The soft white snow had enveloped the trees and the roofs of the tiny houses on both sides of the winding road. We didn’t feel tired. The journey had just begun. We reached our destination and checked into Manali Continental. Contrary to its name, its not that exotic. The rooms were nice and clean. The ambience was cosy. This being an off – season we got a pretty good deal. It set us back by only Rs.400/person/night.

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Manali Continental

TravelKien Tip : Check out travel portals such as Cleartrip, Goibibo etc for hotel bookings. You will get some amazing deals.

Let me give you a lowdown of the things to do in Manali. I will share a suggested itinerary at the end of this blog.

  1. Short Treks

Our hotel had a little board outside which gave us some nice walking trails to explore the old and new of Manali along with the nearby areas. From 6kms to 10kms, there were very good options. Keep in mind that 6kms is very different in a cold region. We started a 6km trek that took us from the hotel to Vashisht Temple.

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Taking a short trek to Jogni Falls

A small temple that has stood the test of times for 4000 years is an important place for pilgrims. While I suggest you to skip bathing in hot springs, a small prayer at the temple would probably soothe your souls.

Leading on, our trail took us through a lot of narrow lanes on the way to Jogni Falls. This was to be our last stop before joining the highway on our way back to the hotel but we had to cut short the trail as the sun was setting and it would be risky to navigate in the dark. See the photo attached for some more trek options. You can always create your own trail. Manali is full of places to explore!!!

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  1. Hadimba Temple

Almost all blogs and travel websites will tell you to visit this temple. You see, there aren’t a lot of popular places to explore in Manali. So this becomes a tourist destination all the same. Hadimba Temple is very different from the traditional Hindu temples in terms of the architecture. At first glance, you wouldn’t believe it to be a Hindu temple at all.

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Hadimba Temple

The roof itself will make you think it to be Chinese structure. The mythological stories associated with it make it a good experience. If you’re religious then this should be on your list. If not, go all the same because you wouldn’t want to be cooped up in the hotel room all day.

 

Just behind the temple is the Van Vihar where you will see a lot of Deodar trees.

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Van Vihar – You will feel like a dwarf

A forest of tall, magnificent trees. A much better alternative to the temple in my opinion for the fact that you can just walk through them and feel like you’re in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts.

 

 

Walking is one of my favourite things and this provided a great setting. A great place for some picture memories and a leisurely stroll.

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Trees so huge, it hides all the Pinchus !!!

 

  1. Solang Valley

Snow! Snow! Snow! … People went berserk at seeing snow. For some it was the first time and they surely had a blast making snowmen and throwing snow at each other.

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Solang Valley

Reality check – Solang Valley is not what you expect it to be. This is not Switzerland. This is India in its truest sense. Masters of packaging a dud (Give those men an MBA!!!). The tourist spot here is a small flat land of snow where hundreds of tourists are crammed. Some of them trying to ski (LOL), some on snow mobiles (Double LOL) and others wandering aimlessly trying to figure out where the hell have they landed themselves onto. I am not being overly critical. This is true. If you’re planning to go to Solang keep in mind these harsh realities.

Skiing is a 20metre patch where you try to just maintain your balance. Being a ski virgin I would have loved to attend Skiing 101 but sadly that’s not the case here. Seeing little local children maneuver downhill was embarrassing. All hopes crashed when all one wanted to do is to learn. Kind of like our education system !!!

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Skiing in Solang

 

Snowmobiles are a farce. You don’t get to drive. Just some to and fro rounds sitting behind a driver. You really would like it better to spend your money elsewhere. A hearty meal perhaps? But for experience sake this might be appreciated by a lot of Indians who yearn to travel abroad but aren’t able to do so.

The good things about Solang Valley – Visit in the summers!!! …You will get to experience adventure sports like Zorbing and Paragliding. Though I have my doubts about the kind of experience you will get.

There is also a cable car ride here. We skipped that as we were saturated with the scenery. For families, this will be where you should put your money.

TravelKien Tip: The dungarees and snow shoes that are offered at 250/person can be skipped if you have adequate clothing. It’s a valley, so you wouldn’t feel too cold.

 

 

 

Next Week – Some more places to see. Food in Manali and Pinchus get up close and personal with you!!!

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Pinchus say hello from the other side !!!

The Ladakh Diaries – I

 

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I have a dream. And the answer to it starts in Ladakh. There’s a reason it is located in the crown of India. There is a reason why it is the most revered destination of almost every traveler in the world. The reason cannot be written on any piece of paper. It can only be experienced. And the journey to tranquility begins in Ladakh. And precisely the reason why the first words out of me when I landed in paradise were “ I am coming here again.” I had barely stepped on the tarmac when I uttered these words. That’s the power of this place. Its an addiction. I shall try my best to make you’ll experience the beauty of this land through this series of blog posts titled , “ The Ladakh Diaries”.

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It all started about 20 months ago when I got my first paycheck. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life. To be able to travel on my own. I made my intentions very clear. I am going to Ladakh before embarking on my MBA journey. The first set of messages to my friends went out in search of potential travel partners. This process continued till the end day. A great marketing campaign (:P) that had 2 friends join me for what was going to be one of the best trips I will ever have in my life. Its not easy to go to Ladakh. Not only do you need a lot of days to explore the place but a substantial budget to enjoy the majestic landscapes. Hence, the result of 3 travellers on 1 awesome trip.

After a lot of planning and making of the itinerary, we came up with an amazing plan. As regular followers know that I like to plan my own trips and include the things that I find it pertinent for traveling. DSC_0197The plan was simple. Mumbai to Delhi via train. Then onwards to Srinagar via flight. And then a road trip to Ladakh via Kargil. The details of this route will come to light later on. As luck would have it, the road to Leh from Srinagar was not open 2 days before departure. With no option, we had to fall back on our contingency plan. A direct flight to Leh.

TravelKien Tip : The Srinagar-Leh road generally opens around Mid April. In 2013 it opened in first week of April. In 2014 it opened to traffic fully in the third week of May. The road is very sensitive to the weather. Make sure you check the road status before starting the journey. We were at the other end of the ‘Luckiness Scale’. It was the latest the road has opened till date in recent times.

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After a lot of waiting for the trip to start, the day had arrived. The doors to my dream were about to open. This was the first step to what will be an amazing travelogue that I can share with my grandkids sitting on my beach chair in Seychelles. An early morning flight to Leh was what we had booked. There was a stopover in Delhi. The flight was nothing out of the ordinary. But our trip started sooner than expected. As we were over Shimla, the Captain called out to us to have a look outside the window. Breathtaking !!! Snow capped mountains as far as the eyes could see. And the view didn’t even seem to end. It only ended with the flight landing at the Leh airport.

TravelKien Tip : Always anticipate the window seat you book keeping in account the position of the sun. At such a height, the sun is always visible and one side of windows are always shut.DSC00018 Also, web checkin to get the window seat. The three of us got three window seats. Although a few angry glances were thrown at us, we didn’t care. For a flight to Leh, NEVER EVER MISS this view.

The Kushok Bakula Riponche Terminal sits pretty between the mountains. Surrounded by nothingness, this is an airport that is not traditional in any sense. Just one flight in the hangar, and a superb view from the tarmac itself is what makes you fall in love with the place.IMG_20140512_082224 And that is why I vowed to come back to the place. That is the charm of this place. We were greeted by Wangtak from Ladakh Voyages who had helped us in the bookings for our stay. Our driver, Namgyal was a very shy person who later talked with his driving skills. We checked into our Hotel , Oasis de Villa. A 2 minute walk from the Leh main market. A hot cup of tea later, we retired to the room to get settled with the climate. When traveling to a place at this altitude, it is vital to take rest on the day you land to get acclimatized to the atmosphere. The air is very thin and the body can go in a downward spiral if this is not observed. Even if you’re medically fit.

We then decided to do some light traveling in the evening. The first destination was the Shanti Stupa. DSC00049A beautiful monument that was visible from our hotel but even more beautiful up close. Out came the cameras for some creative bursts. Our photography starred the WWE wrestlers, Triple H and Big Show, the Minion and Sherlock. These were the select few people who witnessed the beauty of Leh with us.

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The first impression of Ladakh is mesmerizing. I could not stop gushing about the fact that I am in Ladakh. A day that was long awaited. Even now , I am transported into the lands of the misty snow. IDSC00044 will be posting about my 3 mini trips in the blogs to follow. Today, I would like to share with you’ll the first Ladakhi experience. The first day was very mild in comparison to Day 2 which had awesomeness written all over.

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On Day 2, we departed for some sightseeing around Ladakh. Lo and behold, our mind was blown. The journey on NH-1 was one of the best road trips I have had. A road with so smooth, you feel like flying. With absolutely nothing on either sides of the road, we could see vast landscapes of mountains with a little bit of snow on some of them. The road had a lot of army presence for obvious reasons. This road is the lifeline of Leh. As the highway was closed due to bad weather near Kargil, Leh had limited supply of food and essentials. The Zoji La Pass near Kargil is the one which is the most sensitive to the climate.DSC00077

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The beauty of the journey was not the mountains. It was the lack of vegetation in the area. I’ve seen a lot of routes that are surrounded by trees and farms. This was different. And that is why I loved this more than anything have seen in my life. The experience is more than surreal. Its serene. How many times have you visited a place that is made up of nothing but still has everything ?DSC_0261 This is that place. The car kept going on the long and unwinding road and there was not a second when I got bored. You might think that after a while the scenery is just there and you ignore it but Ladakh is different. You cant ignore it. Every few minutes, there was a army van going to one of the camps. Very few tourist vehicles at this time of the year. The season was just starting.

We took a break on the banks of the Indus. Clear blue water just flowing peacefully. Come monsoon, and the raging river will have rafters trying to navigate the route.DSC_0269 A quite sitdown to chalk out the days plan and some great maggi from a nearby stall was all we needed to give the day a great start. Moving ahead, we visited the Lamayuru monastery. It is one of the largest and oldest ‘Gompas’. We had many more monasteries to visit during our trip and this gave a perfect introduction for the same. The peacefulness of theDSC00075 place was palpable. And when you are in Ladakh, which itself is so peaceful, this speaks volume. There was no one except the three of us during this time of the day. We had the whole place to ourselves for exploration. We read a lot about the Buddhist culture and way of life. The idols that were kept had a lot of information. It was an interesting read.

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After a spiritual break which was one of many throughout the course of the trip, we headed back to Leh. We stopped at a place which was called the Moon Landscape for its uncanny resemblance to the surface of the moon.DSC_0014 With only a handful of basic colors that adorn the landscape of Ladakh , it is wondrous to see that you can actually differentiate the changing landscapes. The moon landscapDSC_0040e was a very pretty sight. The place is definitely a stop on the route. If nothing, just click some wallpapers for yourselves.

 

 

In the next part : The journey continues on NH 1. We explore the market of Leh. I shall give some secret hidden places where you can find the most sumptuous food in Leh.

Till next time, travel safe 😀

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Save a Turtle at Velas

A tailor made weekend getaway for the people of Mumbai and Pune. This is the Velas turtle festival. A treat for wildlife photographers and eco conservation enthusiasts, Velas not only offers you the opportunity of being part of a conservation project but treats you to some amazing sites nearby as well.IMG_0271

Velas is a small village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Also the birthplace of Nana
Phadnis, a secretary of the Peshwai in Pune, this village gives you a classic rustic
Maharashtrian feel. A 220km drive from Mumbai, it is located nearby to Dapoli. Some fantastic beaches, tasty Maharashtrian food and the opportunity to save a turtle await you.

What is the Velas Turtle Festival ?

DSC01693The Velas Turtle Festival is an opportunity for the people to be a part of a conservation project of the Olive Ridley Turltes.It is an endangered species of Marine turtles.It is undertaken by the Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra Mandal. Every December-January, these turtles come to the beaches to lay their eggs which are then taken by the volunteers and put in a cage for protection from other animals and humans, who are known to eat the eggs as a delicacy.

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Each turtle can lay upto 3 nests of 100-150 eggs each. These are safeguarded till the incubation period of 45-55 days is over and the hatchlings are released into the sea. The March-April period is when the hatchlings are released into the sea. Everyday at 7am and 7pm, the baskets are opened to see if there are any hatchlings and if any, they are given a grand farewell by the visitors and the volunteers !!!

The festival usually takes place from mid March to mid April as this is a peak time for the hatchlings to come out of the egg. But its no1625751_652442418143898_224009239_nt always that you can see the turtles hatched. Its a natural progression so there can be times when you can see no hatchlings in a particular session.

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We were fortunate enough to see 13 on a Saturday morning .A time when there are generally less number of people. Weekdays have even lesser people. That evening saw a lot more people but no turtles. Perhaps they were shy. The next morning,Sunday, saw a huge crowd on the beach .

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Everybody was standing with bated breath to see if we there any turtles to be released this morning as they could not witness it yesterday. After 3 empty baskets, there was a tiny offspring waiting to go out and live its life.Only one turtle!!!. On its joIMG_0216urney to the sea, it would surely have felt special as there was a posse of photographers in every yoga pose conceivable trying to get the perfect picture. A celebrity surrounded by papparazzi. This lone soldier lapped up all the attention and was swept away with the waves embarking on a dangerous but amazing journey. Its said that they come back to the same beach to lay their eggs. Hopefully, this turtle makes its way back for procreation.

THE EXPERIENCE

The surreal experience of seeing the tiny turtles making their way into the wide open sea is a sight to behold. There were IMG_2383many with me who were disspointed with the experince because it didn’t seem natural but that was the whole point. A natural setup could not protect them from extinction.Just a few hours into this world, and these tiny tots are embarking on a gallant journey of their life. Gallant, because only 1 out of 1000 live upto adulthood and that are pretty scary odds if you are a turtle. The value of a life cannot be measured by the odds it is given but the journey it goes through, however short it might be. If you really get into a contemplative mood looking at the turltes, you can relate to itIMG_2358 better. All this effort to save a turtle, just to send them to a certain death ? That is what its all about.Just like a life given by our parents filled with love and affection before they go out there in the deep sea which will be a hell lot like a the world we are in.

THE HOMESTAY

There aren’t any hotels in Velas. Just some homestays. Kind people throwing their doors open to strangers and showering them with great hospitality. We stayed at the house of Mr. Prakash Joshi. a kin10153211_652481494806657_1937312879_nd hearted soul gracious enough to accomodate 30 people looking for an adventure. A nice and comfortable stay ,somewhat like a dormitory accompanied by some lip smacking Maharashtrian food is all you need to complete this getaway. My favourite was the Koshambir. a pickle like accompaniment which blended beautifully with the rice and dal.

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A list of all homestays that are available in Velas can be found here.

http://www.snmcpn.org/index.php/homestay/velas/kasav-mitra-mandal-velasIMG_0324

BANKOT FORT

A small fort used as a toll collection booth for trade across the Saraswati River, this fort gives some amazing views of the beaches. Its unlike the other forts you have seen which are huge and sometiIMG_0357mes monumental.We received a nice lesson in history by our organiser Sameer Patel. You could sit atop the fort and just gaze endlessly at the beaches and the sea upto the horizon.

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HARIHARESHWAR FORT

A fitting end to an already great experience was the Harihareshwar Temple. Not so much for the temple, but for me it was the beach that took my breath away.
IMG_3018IMG_3003 Harihareshwar is a short drive and a river crossing from Velas. After about 20-30 minutes of a bus ride, we hopped onto a ferry, along with the bus !!!, and crossed the river. Another 15 minutes later, we reached our destinantion.I entered a temple and offered my prayers and came out quickly. Having seen many temples which have mini temples inside them,I could not forsee that the temple I just came out of was the one we were visiting. We the headed onto the beach and lo and behold – a sight so mesmerizing, it actually felt like one of those fantastic beaches straight out of Survivor. If not for the group, I would surely had looked for the hidden immunity idol. 😛 With such a nice setup, it was no wonder that we had photos getting clicked at every second.

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An Ideal Itinerary

Friday
Leave Mumbai at 2200-2230 hrs.

Saturday
Reach Velas at 0530-0600 hrs.IMG_2350
Have breakfast and head for the festival which starts at 0700hrs.
Laze away for the rest of the morning and wait for a delicious lunch.
Head to Bankot Fort at 1500 hrs and enjoy some quiet time over there.
Reach the beach for an evening session with the newly hatched turtles from the past 12 hours.
Sleep for the night.

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Sunday
A third wonderful outing to the beach for more turtles !!DSC01749
After breakfast leave for Harihareshwar Temple.
Lunch at the temple. (A heaven for fish lovers)
Leave for Mumbai and reach by 2200hrs.

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We went with Nisarg Brahman (http://www.nisargabhraman.org/). An amazing experience with the organisers taking care of every small detail. Kudos to Sameer Patel and Parag Vartak. The efficiency of the management was worth applauding. Sameer is a bird photography enthusiast who could be seen trying to get the perfect shot of a bird if he spotted one by running around till it was mission accomplished.

A great experience with an awesome group. Meeting new people and sharing the fun brings in twice as much joy as it would have been otherwise. A trip is never complete with a dose of Antakshari, Dumb charades and Mafia and the Viacom 18 group certainly helped us in achieving this goal. !!!

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Till next time. travel safe 😀

5 Must-Do Treks around Mumbai

Trekking is not a activity that everybody likes.On the other hand, we have television which everyone relishes. Ask yourself, what’s better? You’re right. So get off your comfortable sofas and head to these 9 amazing treks to explore the nature and embrace the beauty of the wilderness.

1. HARSIHCHANDRAGADH

One of my favourite trekking locations. The long hike to the top is worth the view from Konkan Kada. Also, the options of scaling other peaks after reaching the summit adds brownie points to this place. Best enjoyed when you spend a night up there in the caves or set yourself a tent.

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2. ALANG MADAN KULANG

This is one of the toughest treks in the Sahyadri.Dense forests and little population make it even more challenging. The 3 forts are adjacent to each other but require separate climbs. The Madan fort is the toughest of them all. Located in Nashik district, this is a must do for all hardcore trek lovers.

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3. SANDHAN VALLEY

The most magnificent canyon in the Sahyadris, this 200 feet valley is quite different from all other treks there are out here. A combination of adventure and trekking, this trekking experience is enhanced by setting up a tent and looking up the stars at night.I The trekking starts from Samrad village near Bhandardhara.

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4. KALSUBAI

The highest peak in Maharashtra, this is to be scaled just so you can tick off a Bucket List point. A matter of pride to scale this peak. Its not tough as the rest of the  peaks in Sahyadris but certainly not the easiest. The feeling of being at the top of Maharashtra is one you don’t want to miss.

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5. RAJMACHI FORT

A favorite for a lot of trekkers out there simply because its close to Lonavala. A perfect weekend getaway which culminates in a breathtaking view from the top of the fort.

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There are a lot of other treks that could not make the list but that certainly means they aren’t good. With a plethora of trekking opportunities in the Sahyadris, I consider myself lucky to be resident of Mumbai. Ample opportunities are provided for trekking enthusiasts to go these excursions.

Some of the good trek organizers are given below. I personally, like to organise treks myself and explore it along with friends or fellow trekkers.If you aren’t fond of organized tours feel free to contact me and we can plan a trek.

http://www.mumbaitravellers.com/

http://www.onelife.travel/adventure/

http://www.trekmatesindia.com/

Till next time, travel safe 🙂

Harishchandragadh Trek

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The Sahaydris’s are one of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth.More than 60,000 years old, they offer a plethora of trails and treks and mountains to scale. Nestled in the midst of these wondrous range is a trek called the Harishchandragadh Trek. After ascending to the top, I can safely say that this is not for the weak hearted. With its fair share of rock patches and stamina requirement, step out only if you are willing to push yourself to the limit. Else,there is always Nanheghat or Lohgadh or Rajmachi Fort to satisfy your trekking appetite.

The Experience

1425737_10201550302213821_763777950_nStarting the day as early as 5 o’clock is not something we readily do. But believe me,this is worth it. A friend had taken his Ertiga and the 8 of us set out on an adventure albeit only for a couple of days. We reached the base at Khireshwar village after a good 4 hrs of drive. We reached the base at 11 and after a quick breakfast of idli and Kajukatri,we started the trek.We had targeted to reach the top by sunset ,so that we could enjoy the view at the fullest.The first half of the route is quite steep and it does take a toll on your lungs.On the other side, the route is covered by trees and bushes on both sides so there is no sun hurting your face.We did not opt for a guide and decided to reach the top on our own.There were numerous occasions when we had to choose between 2 ways that could be taken.Some of these routes converged at the same point after 5-10 minutes of walking while others can completely throw you off the trail. Point to be noted here : When in doubt always take a right because it is the right way. It was heartening to see that we were on the right track because at various locations like a checkpoint there were local people who had set up a shop selling lemonade,biscuits and maggi.

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Its important to sip on water and take in sugar and electrolytes to replenish the used energy. We had 2 glasses each and with renewed vigor continued our ascent. There were in total 3 rock patches that we encountered. The first one was pretty scary as we had to navigate it in a very awkward manner.By literally leaning against the rock and making our way carefully,we reached the other side.A slip would most certainly result in major injuries and possible death.The second patch had railings for support,so it wasn’t much of an issue to navigate.1451563_10201550322054317_745689761_n

The third patch was the toughest and the most precarious. A slip here will certainly mean your free fall to death.You can feel the butterflies in your stomach. After the third patch, the route was simple and straightforward.It was more like walking on a plateau. A hour and a half later we reached the top. And well before sunset.All it took us was 4 hrs.But the journey wasn’t over yet.

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We had to trek for another 20 minutes to reach Konkan Kada. It is a cliff with a overhang like the hood of a cobra. This was the place which offered breathtaking views of the setting sun and the adjoining areas.1470248_10201550335094643_2023077674_n A sight so mesmerizing, it brings out the poet in you.I don’t know why I haven’t tried this on top of the other cliffs but the view when you lie down and jut your head out to look below is nothing short of a landscaping masterpiece.My jaw dropped!!! All the surrounding noise was cut off and I could feel the peace within me.Teleported to the lands of eternal beauty,this is one mesmerizing view that can never fade.Breathless with what I just saw,I got up and the routine of photo clicking started.Konkan Kada provides an array of picturesque backgrounds to click pictures.1476020_10201550336974690_2070085208_nThe setting sun added the extra zing. We started to make our way back to the temple where we were going to spend the night before it was completely dark. We reached the caves where we had put our bags and then decided that it would be better to stay in a tent. And I more than glad that we took this decision for reasons you will understand later.

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Our contact person at the top,Pundalik Bhau arranged dinner and accommodation for us. We got settled in the tents and waited for a piping hot dinner.A simple Maharashtrian meal of Waran,Daal,Kanda-Batata chi Bhaaji and Rotlo. Except for the typical charcoal smell,the food was good. Simple and filling.We started playing cards and later decided to light up a campfire. I thought my hours spent watching Survivor will come to good use and I’ll light the fire easily but its easier said than done. 1425720_10201550321494303_736945668_nAfter borrowing fire from our neighbors, we somehow managed to get the fire going. Sitting around the campfire we started talking about the days events and pulling each others legs. Once the fire died down,we called it a day and went inside the tents for some rest and recharge ourselves for the descent. At 4am in the morning,everyone started waking up. Just 2 hrs ago we were sitting around the fire.Sleepy eyes and a tired body,we were struggling to protect ourselves from the cold.524434_10201550356575180_1153310934_nWe knew winter was coming and at 2 am in the morning it was a cold but pleasant atmosphere. Little did we know that 2 hours later we would be shivering. Sweatshirts and shawls were of very little use against this cold.More than the cold itself we were struck by cold winds which made it difficult for us to be warm. The winds hitting your face at such high speeds is not a spanking you would want. The burning ember left over from 2 hrs ago was blown to a crackling fire in our fruitless bid to stay warm. 3 hours later with only a little respite from the cold,we decided to start our descent. But it was too cold for us to move around. Huddled in the tent, we decided to have tea and some kanda poha and then head down.Pundalik Bhau whipped up some delicious kanda poha and after downing a plate we started the return journey.1468757_10201550334414626_1856947596_n

Its always easy to go downhill in comparison to uphill.It was the case here as well. But the legs used up a lot of muscle in trying to control the momentum that we gained while coming down. The rock patches were an exception to the above theory.It was scary going down those rock patches because the breathtaking views of the valley were a distraction.Nonetheless, we stopped to enjoy the surroundings and take in the quietness of the place before reality sank in. Aching toes, blistered feet hurting calves and 2 awesome days later we finally made it to base.

To sum the experience,this is the most beautiful trek I’ve been to and undoubtedly harder than Kalsubai for the sheer time it takes to reach the top.

The Travel
Harishchandragadh is approximately 150 kms from Mumbai on the Kalyan-Malshej road.A left for the Khireshwar village will be encountered by a road that is a drivers nemesis.A 5km long road to be driven in the 1st gear at a average speed of below 10kmph.On reaching the base ,you can refresh yourself and start your trek.Kind villagers will take care of your car.

The Route
There are many ways to reach the1453279_10201550318854237_380650956_n top.
The Belpada route is considered the toughest and is generally taken by experienced hikers.Belpada is located on the Malshej-Kalyan road.
The second route is via Kothale.It can be reached via Akole or Kotul.
The third and the easiest in comparison is the route that we took.Via Khireshwar.On the way to Malshej via Kalyan there is  a narrow left turn which leads to a 5km bumpy road to the village base.

The Trek1425644_10201550371175545_559942860_n
With an average level between moderate-difficult, this trek is not for everyone.Please keep in mind the dangers that trekking brings with it and first time trekkers should avoid this till they have a couple of treks added in their experience.The Khireshwar route is suited for amateur trekkers wheras the other routes require proper trekking equipment and should not be attempted without  proper supervision.

The Stay1464616_10201550358895238_705479516_n

Even though the trek can be completed in a day,its better to spend a night at the top as it will be easier on your body and you also get to see some amazing views  from Konkan Kada. Stay at the top can be in caves which are reserved on a first come first serve basis. For the more adventurous type,you can get your own tent and set it up or arrange it via villagers on the top.The tents provided are of great quality,something you might not expect the villagers to provide.

The Food7061_10201550352975090_1040833212_n
Hot food is served on the top and there is no need to carry extra food except some snacks for the trek. Remember,whatever extra food you will carry,you’ll need to lug it around till you reach the top. Carry ample amount of water with you.In the winters,there are no fresh water streams flowing which will help you refill your bottle.

The Cost
The tent cost us Rs600.It could fit 4 people inside.
Food is served at Rs100 per person for dinner and lunch each. Breakfast was Rs20
Its always good to give an extra couple of hundred to the people at the top. To carry stuff up and down on a regular basis is no mean feat and it won’t pinch your pocket to express your gratitude.

Overall,with all expenses the trip cost us Rs800 per head.

The Haversack
In winters.it is a must to carry a sweatshirt and a shawl to protect yourself from the hard hitting winds. Emergency lights will be useful when sitting in a tent or moving around at night. We rued the fact hat we did not get the light. Some electrolyte replenishment like Glucon-D and Electral will help you regain energy. Dry snacks to satisfy hunger pangs and water to keep yourself hydrated.

TravelKien Suggests : A portable speaker is a awesome thing to have for over nite treks.Not only do they boost the morale when people are tired and not wanting to carry on but during a campfire you can have your own ‘Chappa Chappa Charkha chale’ moment. (This is strictly for the group to dance and make merry and not for individual use as I have already mentioned it in my last post.)

Other places to see at the top1461703_10201550366615431_1102089754_n
The Kedareshwar temple is has shivling in the middle and the roof of the temple is supported by only one pillar. Legend has it that the four pillars depict the four ‘yug’ of our time and one pillar breaks at the end of a yug. The crumbling of the last pillar will mean the end of the world. Taramati Peak is a hours trek from Konkan Kada and is the highest peak in this cluster of hills and mountains.

If anyone wishes to go on this awesome and trek and would like more details or help organising it then please feel free to contact me

TravelKien : +919820013890

1474566_10201550341494803_996436114_nTill next time, travel safe 🙂

Top 5 things to NOT take on a Trip

So you’re planning a trip and have made up a list of things to take with you on the to-be-Awesome trip.Wait !!…Have a look at the 5 things listed below and strike it out of your list or drop the word AWESOME when you describe the trip.
TravelKien compiles a list of the top 5 DONT’s for a trip.After a expansive survey (Thank You Whatsapp), I’ve come to know what annoys people to the core when packing for a trip.

Got some bizarre things that one should not take on a trip.My guts hurt laughing when reading some of them.Before I give you my Top 5,take a look at some of the most outrageous suggestions I received.Don’t carry petrol,else you might burn someone if he annoys you.One of my friends suggested that you should keep grandmothers at home.I am still trying to figure that out.From explosive materials and pistols to upset stomachs,a comb to neighbor’s kids one should keep all these at home.

1.iPod or any such electronic item that plays music
A more apt title would be earphones.Remember,you’ve come on a trip with people you love.Don’t be so selfish and plug those rubber pieces in your ears to ‘cut yourself from the world’. The trip is exactly for that.It gives you the opportunity to bond with people.It gives you the TIME that you don’t have in your normal lives.But do take some music along.There’s nothing better than bringing out the DJ in you and dancing and swaying to the beats of some pretty “BASSic music”.

2.Snacks and loads and loads of food !!!
Some people have already started disagreeing with me on this point.Let me explain. Food is a big part of any culture.Experience food the way the locals do.There is no need to take bags full of chaklis,theplas and other chatpata namkeens with you.You get EVERYTHING when you visit a place.People there also eat food.They aren’t aliens.Taste is very subjective.I agree.But you can always get it customized to your taste if you just can’t have something spicy or something too sweet.

3.The Whiny Friend
We all have that one person in the group who is hell bent on making us do everything he wants to do.And worse,cancel the plan altogether.Ditch the friend and go take a trip.Such people are as useless as a used toilet paper when it comes to trips.You don’t want someone eating your brains 24×7 giving ‘suggestions’. Girlfriends also formed a part of many peoples list and I agree.But that shall be discussed in a later post.

4.HEAVY Luggage
You aren’t participating in STRONGMAN championship.Keep your bag light.Carry only minimalist things.There’s no need to carry more than a couple of jeans when you wear the same pair at home for 2 weeks.Don’t carry sweatshirts in a beach like place just in case you feel cold.Don’t carry bagfuls of shoes.Its not a fashion parade.Its a trip.Not the Lakme Fashion Week.Some helpful tips would be to keep your towel at home.Hotels always provide you with one.This saves a lot of space.Wear your shoes while traveling and keep your slippers in the bag.

5.Social Media
If you want to carry your phone,carry the 1100 types.Strong and sturdy.For gods sake,please don’t immerse yourself in the world of social media when you are on a vacation.Most people don’t know how to use social media .They cross the line and make it their life.I personally hate it.A constant twiddling of thumbs will surely bite you one day.One advice to the social media addicts: Go on a vacation in role playing games.You are better off there.Don’t insult the people who have come on your trip by not interacting with them.

Life is beautiful out there.You just need to look beyond the horizon.The people with you on a vacation mean more to you than most others.That’s why you’re on a trip with them.Enjoy those moments.You crave for a vacation just to ruin it by not appreciating the beauty that surrounds you.

Till next time,Travel Safe 🙂

The South African Odyssey

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TravelKien aims to bring you first hand accounts of travels around the world. There is no better advice than a person who has been there and done that. While I am busy on a mission to try and figure out how to achieve my dream of visiting every country on this planet, my friends have very graciously agreed to give you their travel experiences.

This week, please give a big round of applause for my first ever guest writer, Priyanka Baxi.baxi A very enthusiastic traveller, she has been to a host of places all over the world. Priyanka         a.k.a Baxi as we fondly call her is one of those few who is always up for an adventure. Read the article if you don’t believe me. In my quest to find find people who LOVE travel, Baxi stands out amongst the crowd. And this article bears testimony to that.I always wanted to go to South Africa, but after reading this article it has jumped up a lot of rungs on my wishlist. I hope that this has the same impact on all you avid travellers out there.

“This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.” – Charles Darwin in a letter to his sister.

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Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa offers a plethora of activities to suit every age! That was why my parents, sister and I decided to give this beautiful country a visit. The start of winter in April seemed like a perfect getaway from the heat in Mumbai.

Day 1: After a 9 hr flight, we finally land at Johannesburg and we took a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth. Thereon we proceeded on the garden route to Georgetown. Garden route is a beautiful land route along the Indian Ocean, which stretches till Mossel bay, with the blue ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.garden route

Suddenly it starts to get cold and it drizzles. Quite a relief from the sweltering Mumbai heat. Amidst all the tranquility, we stop at FACE adrenaline bungee jump over the Bloukrans Bridge (http://www.faceadrenalin.com/bookings.asp). It is the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee at 216 meters. Since this was my first bungee experience, the excitement was uncontrollable! In those 10 seconds of freefall, u can see the valley and the entire ocean, UPSIDE DOWN!!!bungee We then checked into our hotel, Hotel Hyatt Oubaai (http://oubaai.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html) and it is one of the best hotels I’ve seen! Each room opens up to a garden beyond which lays the crystal blue sea. The first day here and it already one of the best days I’ve ever had!

Wilderness Garden Route Views Hotel And Spa

Day 2: Next day, we visit the Cango Caves; world’s finest stalactite caves.(http://www.cango-caves.co.za/) The breathtaking beauty of these fascinating limestone formations in nature’s own sculpted works of arts. We took the standard tour of an hour. If you’re adventurous enough, you can take the “Adventure Tour” which takes an hour and a half. SAT-000-0091GThe “Adventure Tour” consists of crawling through narrow passages and climbing up steep rock formations guided by small lights and ends up in a waterfall. We then went to the ostrich garden where we learnt a lot about this flightless bird. We got an ostrich neck massage (must try), gave them a hug and finally even rode one. It was one of the scariest rides ever! ostrich ride_2 It rained that evening, so we got to witness a magnificent double rainbow(the Rainbow Nation lives up to it name), which stretched across the sky and ended in the ocean!It was a spectacular sight

view from my room

Day 3: Today, we visited Knysna waterfront. Knysna is a port on the garden route and is famous for the same. We could go on for a boat ride in the icy cold waters but instead we decided to climb up the neighboring headland to get a bird’s eye view of the lagoonknysna port. In the summers, you can opt for white water rafting in Knysna River, which is famous for its unpredictable waters. Then we went to cheetah land and Crocodile Park. Don’t let the name misguide you, there’s a lot more to this park than just cheetahs and crocodiles. We saw some almost extinct species here, including white tigers, vampire bats (yes, they exist) and King Julian lemurs.I like to Move it, Move it!!!

skydiving

Day 4: On route to Cape Town on the garden route, we stopped at Mossel bay for sky diving! Seeing the entire stretch of the garden route from 10,000 feet and the blue waters is definitely something that you shouldn’t miss! It is an experience of a lifetime! But a point to note: the weather is very very unpredictable. It can be bright n sunny one moment (ideal for sky diving) and cloudy and windy, the next (Tandem sky diving is very particular about the weather conditions). Anyways, after this amazing experience, we resumed our journey on the beautiful garden route towards Cape Town.

Day 5: We went to Cape Town’s premier tourist attraction, yes the Cape Point. We climbed it up till the lighthouse, to see the mighty Indian Ocean meet the Atlantic Ocean! After an hour of huffing and puffing, we finally reached the top and the view was magnificent! Surrounded by water on 3 sides, the view was mesmerizing!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There was a stand, which gave directions and distances to the important cities in the world. We walked it up the to the Cape of Good Hope and proceeded to table mountain, which is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. We managed to get into the last cable car for the day at 5:30 and when we reached on top, it was sooo cold!

Tip: don’t forget to carry atleast two jackets. It is very windy and cold!

We sat at the Table Top Cafe, had a glass of hot chocolate while seeing the beautiful sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entire sky was golden and the blue sea looked like molten gold! It was mesmerizing! On the way down in the cable car, we saw the entire city of Cape Town lit up in the evening sky. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Long Street in the city centre, which offers an eclectic mix of entertainment.

Day 6:We take a short 45 min boat ride and visit Seal Island. It is called so because of the number of cape fur seals that occupy it. The water here is so cold that it’s impossible to even step in it. It is impossible to survive even 3 minutes in it because this water carries the currents from Antarctica. After this, we went for a normal city tour to see the parliament house, the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium, the castle of good hope, water front, Malay Quarters, etc. We visited the penguin park, which is the natural habitat of special African penguins. Spent the rest of the day in the market picking up knick-knacks.

Day 7:After landing in Johannesburg, we checked into our resort which was called the Emperor’s Palace, referred to the Vegas of South Africa.(http://www.emperorspalace.co.za/peermont/content/en/emperors/emperors-home). -1_EmperorsPalace_SouthAfrica_mainIt was a huge resort, which had luxurious accommodation, an amazing casino and lot more. Once you’re in the ‘city of gold’, you have to visit the gold reef city! They have a theme park with some of the most thrilling rides like anaconda, tower of terror and raging river rapids. We then went to Jozi’s story of gold, which started with a small documentary on how gold was discovered in SA and soon after that we were taken underground in a gold mine where we saw the gold being mined out and the tools they used. It was a wonderful experience.

Day 8: It is a must to spend atleast a day in Suncity. It is a beautiful resort, around 2 and a half hours from Jo’burg and it is a tourist’s paradise. The palace of lost city is a hotel but is no less than an actual palace with side towers and a huge lawn. Sun_City

We were lucky to witness a wedding there. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are a wide range of activities to choose from, golfing, water park called valley of waves, a casino and a safari. Suncity entertainment center is also famous for its timely artificial earthquakes, which make you feel like you are indeed in a lost world. Coming all the way to Africa and not going for a safari just seemed so wrong! So we opted for a evening safari in the Pilansberg Game Reserve, which is just outside Suncity. We were put in an open bus and were taken through the entire game reserve. We saw giraffes, zebras, deer, hyenas, and cheetahs at a distance. We were blocked on the road by a group of elephants fighting. It was such a sight!

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Tip: You can also opt for a hot air balloon ride over Suncity!

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Next day we packed our bags and boarded a flight back to Mumbai! It was one of the best trips I’ve been to. I definitely want to do bungee and skydiving again. And I most definitely want to do shark cage diving the next time I come here, which was shut because of winter.

Home is never too far when you’re away from home. Home is where your heart is.

Important Information for travellers :

Flights : Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways,Emirates, Jet Airways, Air India all fly to South Africa. It is very well connected to almost every city in the world. Return airfare starts from INR 40000 and can go upto INR 75000, depending on the airlines.

Visa for Indians : South African visas can be applied at the VFS centre for South Africa. It takes approximately 5 days for the visa to be processed. A tourist visa costs INR 1350.

South Africa Visa Application Centre
Apsara Complex,
Fourth Floor, Dr. D.B Marg,
Grant Road (East),
Mumbai – 400007, India

South Africa is a beautiful country. And with the FIFA World Cup 2010, its infrastructure has improved manifolds. Like all tourist advisories, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and be careful. Indians have been known to subject to harassment from locals. It is advisable to keep someone aware of where you are going and better still to give a copy of your itinerary. These are just some precautions. Just like people are warned about India, even we should stay safe in a foreign land. But that shouldn’t stop you from jumping off the World’s Highest Bungee or follow the lions in a safari, right?

Till next time, travel safe.. 🙂

7 Days. 7 States

There is much more beauty in our country than we can possibly imagine.Just because we stay in the West it doesn’t mean there is nothing in the East. You don’t always need to go to South-East Asia to enjoy. Our very own country offers a wide variety of cultures and sites to enjoy.

Nestled in the tiny corner of country,often overshadowed by the mighty Bengal, are 7 little states begging for attention. India’s neglected child, they are sure to be the pride of our country. Just like the dyslexic child of Taare Zameen Par turned out to be a genius.

North-East India boasts a lot about its tribal cultures and festivals. A culture that seems to be lost elsewhere in our country except in the Andamans. Let me take you on a journey to the majestic lands of the North-East.

Day 1

Today’s state is Nagaland. With 16 tribes living in this land of diversity,make sure you don’t miss out on the Hornbill Festival that takes place in the 1st week of December every year.Showcasing the its stunning beauty and rich heritage,the Hornbill Festival is one of the highlights of Nagaland.

Travelkien Tip : If visiting in other months there are other festivals that you can witness as well…

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Day 2

Vantawang Falls, Mizoram
A tiny little state lives peacefully within its borders.
Not frequened by tourists due to lack of amenties,its still worth visiting to see the Durtlang Hills,Barra Bazaar or the state Museum…

If you want to be surprised, visit Bakyawng village where Pu Ziona lives with the world’s largest existing family…39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren!!!

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Day 3

Unakoti,Tripura

Unakoti literally means 1 less than a crore…or 99,99,999….
These rock carvings in Tripura date back to atleast the 7th Century…Huge carvings of Lord Shiv, Lord Ganesh and many more can be found here with the largest Shiva carving going as high as 30ft.!!!…

There are 2 legends associated with these carvings.The one I personally like is where a sculptor named Kallu wanted to go to Kailah Parbat with Shiv-Parvati. A reluctant Lord Shiv agreed if Kallu could carve 1 crore rocks in a night. Toiling hard through the night, Kallu managed 1 less than a crore and sensing a opportunity to get rid of him, Lord Shiv left him there with the carved rocks.Image

Day 4

Double Decker Living Root Bridge, Meghalaya.

Ingenious thinking by the tribals living near the wettest place on earth -Cherapunji.
These bridges are literally grown by the locals as and when required. Whenever there is need to make a bridge the roots of the trees are guided to a straight path and then given time to grow to the other side where they attach themselves to the soil. Over the years they become stronger and stronger. So strong are these bridges that they can carry 50 people at a time as well. Of all the bridges, this one stands out for being a ‘double decker’ bridge.

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Day 5

Loktak Lake,Manipur

A short drive from capital Imphal,the Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in North-East India.
It is popularly known as the ‘Floating Lake’ because of the innumerable phumdis floating in it.Phumdis are floating masses of vegetation that are decomposing. Some of them have houses built on them.Its a popular tourist destination and surely an experience of a lifetime. A pricey room has an attached cafeteria as well.

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Day 6

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

One of the most beautiful places to visit in the North-East, Tawang is a traveller’s paradise.Lots of places unexplored, roads never traversed, Tawang makes for a wonderful vacation spot. The Tawang Monastery is a breathtaking site to visit.

TravelKien Tip : If you love trekking , then is the place to be. Virgin lands and landscapes that make the camera drool, this is one place every trekker should visit.

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Day 7

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Culminating the journey through North-East with a spectacular National Park…The Kaziranga is one of the best national parks in India. It is home to the Great One-horned Rhinoceroses, one of the fiercest of its kind. Take a safari in the park and try spotting some tigers and rhino among many other animals in the wild.

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Next time on TravelKien : A dear friend of mine has very warmly agreed to share her South African odyssey. Cape Town, Georgetown and Johannesburg. TravelKien is to show you the world through a traveller’s eyes and my friend here has written a beautiful piece of her sojourns in South Africa. The charm of this African nation will leave you mesmerized. The article is coming soon…

Till then Travel safe..:)

The Hampi Getaway

We’ve all seen those movies where you’re transported to a fairyland and have the adventure of a lifetime…Now you can experience it in real…Welcome to Hampi–  the ancient city and capital of the Vijayanagar Empire.

The moment you step inside the city you’re transported to a magical land where history comes to life.A vast expanse of land of ruins..You can’t help but wonder at the sheer beauty of this place.Its amazing how after all these years the city has not lost the charm that it once held..It does looks barren and plundered but it holds fort even today. It bears testimony to the once mighty Vijayanagar Empire.Its been rightly accredited as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

If you’re a history buff–You’re in for the best days of your life.

If you’re a photographer–Hampi provides you with awesome photo opportunities.

And if you’re a traveller–You’ll start a blog..;)

All in all, no one can return disappointed from Hampi.

hampi-travelkien

The list of things to see in Hampi is endless…And for that you need a plan.So lets start the planning.

Once in Hampi, you have 3 ways in which you can see the entire city. On bicycles, mopeds or in a rickshaw. The crazy group that I had with me, we chose to travel on mopeds. And a brilliant idea was to hire a Rickshaw as well. The break up was as follows: 7 Mopeds for 7 riders and pillions each and 4 of us in the rickshaw. Of course, we took turns on each mode of transportation. The brilliantness of the idea stemmed from the fact that the rickshaw driver was a guide as well .He took us to all places on the best route possible and the ‘Bikers’ followed.

The Hampi trail took us through all the major monuments of the Empire of King Sri Krishnadevaraya. The Virupaksha Temple, Vittala Temple, Elephant Stables, The Underground Temple, Paan Supari Bazaar,Hazara Rama temple (Temple of the thousand Rama’s), Zenana enclousure, Hemakuta complex, Badava Linga. Cracking jokes when you visit the queen’s bath or sitting atop the King’s private gardens are moments you wouldnt want to miss when with the ‘crazy bunch’.

hampi-6

The temples dont have idols inside them. They have been kept safely inside the museums in Chennai. The huge elephant stables are something you must have definitely never seen before.Each compartment houses 2 elephants!!! The musical pillars speak a different tune altogether and the Hazara Rama Temple depicts the story of Ramayana in pictures. Once go down the steps to enter the Paan Supari Bazaar you can just cannot resist the urge to visualise how the market place must be like. Oh, and they did sell diamonds on the road back then..;)…In the Bazaar, you are bound to get the crazy idea of playing temple Run on the roof of the ‘once there’ shops…

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The Hampi experience is something everyone should have on their bucket list. Hampi is about breathing the ancient Indian culture. Its about feeling the pride of the glory that India once had in its mighty Kings and Empires.

EAT

The Hampi Bazaar is lined with eateries doling out all types of cuisines. And I mean..ALL  types…Due to a large inflow of foreign tourists you won’t be disappointed in the number of cuisines on offer. Apart from the basic Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian you shall find Nepalese, Bhutanese, Mongolian, Sri Lankan and Burmese food as well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t try out these cuisines as they are predominantly non-vegetarian. A treat if you’re the carnivore kind.

There are a lot of small places which serve you lip smacking food. We chose the Garden Paradise. Located at the end of the street of the ‘Hampi Bazaar’ it overlooks the Tungabhadra River in one of the most tranquil places I’ve been to. Craving for some Italian-Mexican food we had everything to whet our appetite. The food in its strictest terms was not great but after a long hot day the ambiance provided by the restaurant was more than what we were expecting. In Hospet you will find your usual Punjabi and South Indian restaurants. What stands out is the tiny little South Indian man who opens his stall on a sunny morning serving some delicious mini-idlis and medu vadas. You also get a local favourite comprising of Pineapple Sheera. And my bill for a hearty breakfast-only Rs.27.

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One of the restaurants that is definitely a must visit is Hotel Iceland. It serves some awesome Punjabi food at a very cheap price and believe it or not, the find of the place was the humble orange juice!!!…A group of 11 people gulped down 29 glasses…Slurp Slurp…That’s how delicious it was.

SLEEP

Hampi is ideal for a 2N/3D trip. Eliminate a day if you’re a student (its cheaper)..Its still possible to do those things in a day less. That extra day is if you’re going with your family. We stayed at the Sainakshatra Inn in Hospet. A reasonable bargain considering that we just needed to stay for the night.The more expensive ones include Hotel Kishkinga, Malligi and a luxurious stay at Hampi’s Boulders.

There are Hotels in Hampi as well but they will pinch you more and the fact that Hospet is only 12 kms away from Hampi,its a steal.

TRAVEL

To go to and fro from Hospet there are a lot of Rickshaws and buses plying on the route

but its a recommendation to have your own vehicle or hire one. You don’t want to be at the mercy of the public transport in a city of ruins. In Hampi ,its definitely advisable to take the Mopeds.

TravelKien tip: If you’re a foreigner you will be needing a passport to hire the Mopeds and if you’re an Indian then they will ask for it as well but there’s nothing that Indians cannot talk and get things done..(read: mandavli)

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SHOP

The Hampi Bazaar boasts of a variety of artifacts and handicrafts but its nothing special. You won’t find anything that you cannot find back home. Some us bought the customary ‘gift’ and moved on.

AROUND HAMPI

When you’re visiting Hampi ,the tour will get over in a day. The ideal time to bring out your inner historian will be at 9 in the morning. Dont worry about the heat. Its worth it. In case you get extra thirsty there are plenty of ‘sodawalas’ out there waiting for you to quench your thirst.

One of the other highlights about visiting Hampi is the nearby Anjanadri Hills ,the birth place of Hanuman. The climb up to the hill is around 300 steps but the view from top is worth every sweat that you break. En route to the top you will encounter monkeys. Don’t get scared, they are just the guardians of the Monkey-God. From the top you can see an awesome view of Hampi in the nearby distance. The ruins of Hampi and Anegundi are only separated by the Tungabhadra River. If you go by road then its a long way to cross it..(No problems if you’re playing guide to a mad bunch of 8 girls singing a hindi song in every possible regional language).

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A shortcut to reach Hampi would be to travel by the coracle. Its a small bowl shaped boat that is paddled with a stick. Its risky but worth trying out .Everybody loves shortcuts.

The Tungabhadra Dam is another site to visit but only if you want a stroll in the garden. The entrance to the dam was unfortunately closed at the time and the Tungabhadra Gardens are nothing to rave about. The musical fountain is a 15 minute show which bores you in 3 minutes flat.

REACHING HAMPI.

To reach Hampi by rail,the nearest station is Hospet(12kms).

  • Mumbai-Mysore express (Train no.7153)
  • Mumbai-Kolhapur_Tirupati Express (Train no.1263)
  • Hampi Express from Bangalore (Train no.16952)
  • Kacheguda Express from Hyderabad (Train no.17603)

By air,Hubli(143kms) will be the nearest airport.

By Bus in Karnataka there are frequent buses connecting Hospet to Mysore,Bangalore and Gokarn.

MY TRIP

Booked 2 qualis for our group which cost us Rs.10/km. Not bad considering you have the vehicle to yourself.Pray for a good driver!!!We started at the stroke of midnight when Saturday just began and after saying Ganpati Bappa Morya,the journey was ON!!!..Its a different experience to travel at night.Stopping for tea at 3 in the night and then again at 4 and then again at daybreak, its awesome!!!…A distance of 400 ks was covered in 11 hrs with a LOT of halts.(Pray for a good driver)

and a healthy dose of ‘sessions’ .We checked in at Sainakshatra Inn. Booked 5 rooms at Rs.1000 each.We were 4 in a room. The room was primarily for the night only as we left the hotel after a quick freshen-up session in search of food. Ate lunch at a nearby Udipi and then decided to head to Anegunndi.A serene experience with lots of masti and leg-pulling we reached the top for a ‘photoshoot’. After praying at the temple, we started our descent just as the sun was going down. On the way back we decided to check out the Tungabhadra Dam about which much was written in the Geography books. A tad disappointed we headed back to Hospet and started asking around for good places to eat.

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TravelKien tip : Ask the locals where they would eat. They are the best places. ALWAYS. And so we found Hotel Iceland .A sumptuous meal and gallons of oranges juices later we went  back to the hotel and decided to take some rest before taking up a lesson in history.

Next morning, after the lucky find inn breakfast we went to Hampi and explored it all. After a really late lunch at Garden Paradise we went to our last destination. The Virupaksha Temple. Probably the only temple in Hampi where an idol is still kept. When you see the temple, you will realise the difference between the other temples that we saw and this one. On our way out, we ran into a beloved friend, Lakshmi. She’s an elephant .She showers blessings on you with her trunk if you give her a 10 rupee note. It doesn’t matte if you believe it or not, just try it out .Its fun.

Sitting in our respective seats with Google Maps on we made our way back to Hyderabad. Back to ILP.

Overall cost:Rs.2200 which included our travel, stay ,food everything.

I can safely say that this was indeed a historical trip.;)

Till next time, Travel safe…:)