Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Dip in the Ganges

Nestled in the hillocks in Uttrakhand is the majestic Ganga. Its vast beauty has always amazed me and awakened a sense of wonderment. How can a river take in so much crap (literally) and yet be so so beautiful. Well that’s the Ganges for you!

I planned a trip to Rishikesh for the joy of living in the wilderness and feeling the river. We booked a camp near the Ganges, a little on the outskirts to beat the weekend crowd. We trudge down the hilly road to the camp. Our adventure begins from the trek itself. The tents were reasonable, but we didn't care much. The nature around was too overwhelming for anything else. 

Even though we were tired after the 24 hour journey, the energy of the area is simply infectious. Its difficult to stop oneself from

taking a dip in the chilly waters. We play around, we kayak a bit, swim in shallow waters and fool around a lot. The  water rafting was a beautiful and an exciting experience for all of us. The raft trudges on the 50-60 feet deep water surrounded by hills. The guide ensures safety but its difficult to think straight when the raft passes through the gushing waves of the river. The people have named the rapids with funny names like black pearl etc; matching the ferocity of teh rapids.
Rishikesh has a number of other activities like rock climbing, cliff jumping, cliff crossing, etc. But we stuck to the water sports only.

The move away from nature to the city was extremely tough. Just like in all our other trips, we promise the place to come back!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Visit to the lazy Malvan :)

I am planner through and through and that's the way I like it. Call it Sonia or a Virgo trait, but that's the way it is! And I am proud of it! My holiday begins from the journey itself, and so I like it comfortable and perfect. But my trip to Tarkarli was just the opposite. And I can't believe I enjoyed every bit of it! Our train tickets of 3AC did not get confirmed. So my journey to Kudal was in a "jugaad" seat which we got from the TC in a sleeper. The 10 hour journey was shared between me and my friend. It was hot, sticky and noisy. The crowd settled only by 2 in the night and I was too drained to think about anything but sleep.

We reached Kudal at about 11 in the morning and straightway headed to Lazy Malvan to hunt for a stay option. Yes, that's what I've decided to call this side of Maharashtra. Its a small dreamy little place perfect to take a break.

We began our 'expedition' to hunt for a stay option and stumbled upon - the Sagar Kinara which literally is next to the sea. Since we had not booked and its the "off" season (March end), we got our room pretty cheap. After a sleep for a few hours, we headed to the sea to explore the beach (which was dirty). As luck would have it, one of the scuba diving instructor approached us on this walk. We striked the deal and headed towards the golden ganesh temple. Here also, I felt God living this very slow lavish style! A beautiful place and a must visit especially during the evening arti time.

The Ganesh temple, made of Gold
We then walked to the rock garden which was absolutely stunning. The waves crash the rocks and roar about what they can do if messed with. Scary and breathtaking!

The beautiful rock garden across the Arabian

The next day, we were all set for our scuba diving. And let me tell you your trip to Tarkarli is incomplete without scuba diving. I was scared to death in the beginning. I think my guide must be cursing his stars because every time I dipped, I would tell him that I don't want to do it. But like many guides, this one was very patient with me. To encourage me, he showed me fish in the sea. And yes, that really worked. I had to go in now. The beauty of the sea cannot be described in words. The area is rich in coral, fish and sea plants. And to be able to see it and feel it was a wonderful feeling.

In the evening, we headed to the pristine Tarkarli beach. This was followed by the Tsunami Island, the Karli Sangam and Bogwe beach. Tsunami Island has lot of water sports but we preferred to enjoy the scenic beauty. The island is full of crabs which run into the sand the moment you start walking.. The place is surrounded by mango plantations, hills and other greens.

At the Tsunami Island

We let go the Dolphin safari and Nevati Beach as we were too lazy! But I've heard these are nice places too. But after the scuba dive, all that didn't matter.

The people at Malvan are very friendly. Being from northern India, they were happy to cook without coconut food for me. What I missed here was "nariyal paani". I guess, people eat rather than drink coconut! Sigh!

Boat trip to the Tsunami Island

How I "did not" plan this trip
1. We took the konkan kanya to Kudal. There are bus options also directly to Malvan or Tarkarli
2. From Kudal, we took a bus to Malvan which Rs. 30. rickshaw ride is around Rs.400-500
3. We stayed a day at Malvan and did our scuba diving, Ganesh temple and rock garden. From Sagar Kinara, we walked to all these places. Its a must walk if you want to "feel" the fish town of Malvan.
4. The following day we head to Tarkarli by an auto (Rs. 150)- enjoyed the beach. We then set off to the Tsunami Island, Karli Sangam and Bogve Beach by aboat which costed us Rs.600- we took an individual boat. It would be less if you share.
5. We returned the day after by a direct Bus from Tarkarli to attend to my work at office. Well, I am happy I am back, TO GO BACK AGAIN!!!!

View from the Tsunami Island

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Great White Rann

It was just one post on FB which prompted me to add Rann of Kutch in 'must visit places for me'. The endlessness of white patch on earth was fascinating and I knew I had to visit! 

As luck would have it, I landed in Gujarat for an official trip which made my travel to Bhuj extremely convenient and slightly easy on my pockets too. I took an overnight bus to Bhuj after shopping in Ahmedabad.

One thing which striked me at Bhuj was the “vibes” of the place. It felt so warm and secured and after staying in Delhi and Mumbai for years together, it was a weirdly nice feeling! 

Cab is a must at Bhuj and we headed to that straightaway.  We struck our deal at the station. 

The Black Mountain
The view of the Rann from the Kalo Dongar is breath-taking! The vast stretch of white from the mountain looks like a ocean. In fact, its impossible to believe it isn't the ocean! I guess that's why the mountain is called “black”. Because against the giant whiteness, anything which exists will look black!
View from The Dongar
There is a small temple at the mountain where meat is given to animals as a tribute. It’s a very small ceremony, but has been going on for a very long time. The story is that of a saint who used to pray at Dongar. But since it’s a very dry area, the animals also did not have enough to eat. Overcome by grief for the animals, the saint cut off his arm for the animal to eat. It is said that since then this tradition has been going on. At times wolves come down to have their served meals by humans.

After this enchanting visit, we drove to our Resort at Dhordo. The 1 and half hour drive had only the long dry barren land. The small villages which we passed had a small habitation of about 20-30 people whose main occupation is selling milk. We wondered where did animals drink water from. Unavailability of water is the main challenge in the area.  Even in a city like Bhuj, water scarcity is very high. People’s income is spent most on the procurement of water for daily sustenance.

We were famished by the time we reached our resort. Since the dinning timings are fixed, we rushed to take our food before time ran out. And it was a very wise decisions. The food here is wow! While eating, I wished my stomach was an endless pack where I could keep putting in food to satisfy my taste buds :P
After a sumptuous meal, we headed to our respective rooms to crash! (Dhordo has a accommodation facility for drivers. Their stay and food is a part of the package. Awesomeness!)

The Great Rann of Kutch
We experienced the magical play of lights against the white space of whiteness. The beauty at that time is just to behold.

The magical colurs of the Rann
The white ran is just the  dried salt. After walking for a bit, we also saw patches of water. Our driver told us that the area is filled with sea water in monsoon. We were glad to see bits of it!! We returned to our resort completely sated.  

We were welcomed to bajra rotla, baingan sabzi and some other typical gujju dishes which were mouth-watering.  This was followed by a musical night of local folk music. We retired to our beds happily drained.

The next day after breakfast, we headed to the city of Mandvi. On our way we visited the Vijay Palace. It’s a beautiful structure but after visiting the forts in north, it just another structure for me. 

We did not visit the Mandvi beach as it was afternoon time. Our driver then asked us the kind of lunch we preferred. And our obvious option as a typical gujju Thali (we couldn't get enough of it). He took us to this place called Osho hotel. After about 10- 15 minutes waiting, we were asked to share our place with another family. It was awkward in the beginning, but the moment our thalis were placed before us, our focus was to just eat! For Rs. 100, you get unlimited food at Osho hotel. People there love feeding you, so they make you eat till you are on the brink of bursting! The food is just delicious and the people warm. Its a must visit place if you are a veggie foodie!

My favourite eatery!

We then visited an extremely boring museum and then to Godhra to visit the Vaishono Devi temple. This temple is made like a micro mini vaishno devi temple. Fun visit!

Visit to the temple
The Kutch is a must place to visit at least once! Remember that the Rann closes down post March. So plan your days accordingly! Drop in a mail if you want the contact of the driver. He was really good! 

How I planned my trip
1. Reached Bhuj and booked a cab for 2 days (mail for details on the cab)
2. Went to the dongar in the afternoon and crashed at Dhordo Resort (check their website)
3. Visited the Rann in the evening
4. Day 2- We covered the morning Rann and a camel ride
5. Enjoyed the Palace, and temples nearby and headed back in the evening

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Jungle, an addiction! Nagzira Wildlife Sanctury

Its 4.30 in the morning and we sit silently at the balcony of our log hut. We hear the dew drops fall. One of the many magical moments for me at Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary.
This thrilling property is right in the middle of the jungle! The nights here are alive with calls of different animals. The leapords are known to frequent this place in late nights. And so on the light outside the room or stepping out of the hut is prohibited.
Afternoon view from our stay place
This magnificent jungle is only 3 hours away from Nagpur. On our safaris we spot the neelgai, numerous deers and missed the leapord just by a few minutes. Our best citing was that of wild dogs eating their prey. While one dog eats, the others keep a watch around. Food is important after all, For all. Period!

The wild dog
Our first cold night at Nagzira was spent in the tents alongside the bonfire. While my friends played cards even in the wee hours of the night, I kept myself busy with the bonfire. 
Tent stay just outside the Sanctury

We clubbed Umred Sanctury too on this trip. Umred is lesser known place to tourists and therefore has a rustic charm to it. But nothing compared to the beauty of Nagzira!

This was one of the most memorable trip for me not only because of the beauty of the jungle, but the amazing people who came along. It was an excellent combination of a doctor, engineer, wildlife photographer and 2 social workers! Phew! And we had a blast!!

Watching.. from the watch tower!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kashid, Murud, Phansad: Weekend Gateway from Mumbai

The dazzling sea water till huge stretches is what I see when I enter Alibaug beaches, my favourite place to crash when I am on a tight budget and keen to step out! Just 2 and 1/2 hour journey from Mumbai Alibaug has got something for old, young, sporty and the lazy bums like me too. I gatecrash this place when I need to gaze into the endless sea and lose myself into its silence. But this time I am travelling with a few mavericks and it was all action!
We began our journey early morning with the beautiful view of Gateway and the Taj. After a 45 minute ferry ride and another hour's journey from the bus, we reach Alibaug and book a cab for our 2 day trip. My friend Manisha helped a bit in our budget by asking a few people to share our cab. They did! What luck!  
Our first destination was Murud Fort, also know as Janjeera, the short cut for the actual name Jal Jazeera! 
Ruins at Murud Fort
This huge fort is built in the middle of the sea and has withstood the saline waters till date! Its historical value stems from the fact that it has been an undefeated fort. 
I love this huge structure encompassing fresh water lakes (which are now dirty), outlets for cannon bullets, courtyards and ruins gardens which hint on the magnificence which the fort would have had in its heyday. This was the second trip and I am still awed by this place. 
After the bout of history it was time for a dip in the sea! We headed for Kashid, just in time for the beautiful sun set. We took a dip in the late evening and since it was low tide, a swim made the day perfect for us.
The next day we headed for Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary. An unexplored forest area just 3 hours away from Mumbai was a treat to the eyes. The carzy  bullock-cart ride was bumpy but fun! We also discovered that Phansad has basic tent accommodation at a very reasonable price! 

Our ride at Phansad
The icing on the cake for this trip were the water sports at Kashid and my favourite was the para sailing. The view from above is to behold! Other rides like the bumper ride was too bumpy for me to handle and the jet ski was just 'jet ski'. 

After para sailing
I ended my trip very satisfactorily tired and geared for work for the coming Monday.
This might be helpful if you are travelling to Alibaug-
1. A cab to roam in Alibaug  is a good option.
2. Bargain- for everything here.
3. Sea food is the specialty but I loved the veg too.
4.  Water sports are best enjoyed at Nagaon.
5. Murud beach is not as frequented by tourists as Kashid. So head for this beach for the quite.
6. Phansad is a good stay option just 6 km from Kashid. Prior bookings are required though. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mumbai Weekend Gateway: HideOut

"Humans don't need as much water! Have you ever seen animals drinking so much water as us?" Hemant, who runs "Hide Out" has his own way of seeing and understanding life.
I made a trip to "Hide Out" a few days back with my Reiki Group. I was in silence (no mobile/laptop, etc and no talking) for 3 days so I could not gather much "information" about this place. I write this post about the little information I could get.
True to its name, this farm is impossible to figure if you have not asked for directions beforehand.(Check their website for details or call them). It is nestled between Mumbai Ahmedabad Highway. Hemant, the owner, has been living here for the past 25 years and earns his living through farming and payments made by guests for their stay at "Hide Out".

The rooms
The rooms at Hide Out are HUGE and have open windows. And that's the charm of the place! At night, we were visited by cats and crickets in our room. Don't you guys worry now! They have nets around the bed. So we humans are safe in our respective cocoons. The bathroom is frequented by frogs as these guys just love the wet!

The name of my room
By the end of the trip, the cats made themselves cozy next to me on my bed. Crickets, spiders and ants became our friends. I look back and wonder how I did that! Never experienced so much wilderness ever! They also have open air beds. One can gaze at the starts and sleep off!

The Food
One can enjoy the amazing flavours of organic food here. They don't serve non vegetarian. But I am sure after tasting there veg, non veg does not stand a chance anyway! They grow their own organic food. And there are strict instructions to not waste khana!

The way to common area/dinning hall
Our breakfast began with herbal tea and fruits, followed by sumptuous idili or poha with milk tea. The lunch had a variety of vegetables along with rice, dal and chappatis. The chappatis either ragi, or jowar, never wheat!

The People
Hemant runs the farm and is very friendly. He was our host and our guide around the place.

I believe I enjoyed the place because I was in silence. I could hear the swish of the trees, the movement of animals around me. It is all contained in me with my silence.

The places to see
One can never get enough of nature! There is the farm to see here, the people at work, a dam, and a waterfall. You can see nature unfold here.

The Cost
It is expensive. But then, any price is no price to experience nature!

Things to remember
1. Visit the place if you are  a nature lover through and through.
2. Do not expect a 5 star luxurious treatment. We washed our own dishes here.
3. Good shoes and a camera is a must.
4. Good to carry a mosquito repellent.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saguna Baug: Weekend Gateway from Mumbai

I was in luck last weekend when my friend invited me to visit the Saguna Baug with him! My finances are at an all-time low, and yet I was itching to travel “somewhere” and this weekend gateway seemed like the right option.
I was sceptical at first as the place should ideally be visited in the monsoons. But like I said, anything is better than sitting at home.

The moment I stepped into their compound, I knew I had made the right decision. Established in the middle of a small ‘village like city’, Saguna Baug has rural charm with modern facilities. They have stay facilities, of different kinds and numerous activities. You can visit them for a day too! That’s what I did!
One of the stay options. My next trip here will be with 2-3 day stay

We began by a guided tour of the place. I was amazed by the variety of trees and plants which the place flaunts. They mostly grow rice and onions there according to the nature of soil. But they also have a beautiful area of flowers like red roses. Small ponds which flaunt beautiful lotuses after a few meters itself. Even though we roamed under the harsh sunlight, the air was refreshingly cool. 

Banana Tree: Photo courtesy Anil. Parmar

My friend and I decided to skip the guided tour midway the moment we discovered this! We could not resist taking nap! I realised that nothing beats sleeping under a tree near a resting river!

My favourite thing apart from travel. Photo Courtesy: Anil. P
Well, we decided to follow our group again after sometime, and we discover that they are enjoying catching fish. Saguna Baug is well known for fish rearing, and local boys dive in the ponds to catch these. This is an activity itself. I respect all foods, however, I was completely grossed out by this. Somehow the sight ghastly feel to this. No pictures here guys! Individual fishing rods are also provided if asked for.

Archery: One of the many activities
The best part of the activity is the dip in the Ulhas River which flows right through this compound. We could see the water bed the moment we approached the sight. I could not have imagined a free flowing clean river just 2 hours away from Mumbai. We swam in the river, floated and collected stones. Splashed!

The clear water bed of Ulhas River. Photo courtesy: Anil P

We head off for the need of survival- Food! The food is prepared by local villagers and delicious is not the word for it! The service is by young men who are very eager to serve you. My friend said, “They are so good because they are young! They work with zeal.” We ate till we could not even get up from our seats! We were too engrossed in food to think of clicking. So no pictures here. But the rajma, dal, rice, roti, salad, chaas, sweeets, palak sabzi were irrestible after the Ulhas dip. We though we might just sleep of the afternoon, but headed for the river yet again. 

Enjoying the cool feel. Photo Courtesy: Anil. P

How to reach Saguna Baug

I took a train to Karjat (S) from Thane (T).
We get off at Neral
We take a rickshaw from Neral to Saguna Baug.

Things to keep in mind while you travel to this part

  -          For Saguna Baug, the amount includes food and tea. The food is really good
  -          Neral is crowded on  weekends as a number of weekend gateways are through this station. No worried here as it is just  the family crowd
  -          Rs. 100 is the cost of the individual rickshaw to Saguna Baug
  -          Keep a change of clothes

Top three things I loved about Saguna Baug
1. Ease of reach
        2.The Ulhas River
        3. Reasonably priced

Check about other weekend gateways on this link