5 reasons for a weekend getaway @WelcomHeritage, Pench

Weekends for me are great fun if I’m traveling. Even more if the destination is diversely satisfying and more importantly, breaking away from the mundane and regular. Sometimes traveling is more than just about the journey or the destination. It’s a matter of experience. Something that we all hope to live for day in day out. One such experiences I’ve had recently was when we visited WelcomHeritage’s Jungle Home in Pench! Quite a place for folks from Mumbai, Pune, Madhya Pradhesh and Nagpur to head towards especially now that the season for wildlife sightings has begun! In this post I talk about 5 amazing reasons that’ll blow your mind away and urge you to head towards this amazing place.

1. Amazing getaway and beautiful Ambiance.

Comfort in the Jungle

Comfort at it’s best with a wooden Jungle like decor.

Beds Inside Hotel

Comfortable Ambiance to rest after an exhausting, tiring day in the woods!

Chairs

A cup of coffee with a balcony surrounded by serene view of the woods

Hotel Doorway

The rustic cottage like feeling with great lighting enhancing the soul…

2. Experiencing Art at it’s best in form of Pottery.

Pots

The usual sights en route Khawasa village also known as Pottery Village

Cute kids at pottery barn

Beauty of an innocent smile of local kids in the village

Pottery

Master class Potter, Tukaram Gonde in action!

Potter in Action

Spinning away and demonstrating Art in Pottery!

Pots

The finished beautiful artisan experience that the Potter created!

3. Wildlife at it’s best.

Indian Roller

Indian Roller

Jackal

A Jackal lazing around in the grass!

Oriental Honey Buzzard

The Oriental Honey Buzzard

Monkey and Daughter

Motherly love in the woods!

Langoor

The Langoor

Hornbill

The Indian Hornbill, a very rare bird and an endangered species.

Sambar

Sambar grazing in the woods

Peacock

The Peacock strolling in the woods…

Spotted Deer

A spotted Deer

The Blue Bull

The Blue Bull

Wild Hog

Wild Hog

Tiger Paw

Though we were unfortunate not to see the Tiger, we caught the second best thing! The Tiger Paw!

4. Delicious Food to satiate your taste buds

Breakfast

A variety in your breakfast gives you the perfect start to the day!

Dinner at Pench

Wholesome and tasty lunch at Restaurant Panache

Terrace Food

The nice terrace setting makes for great view while gorging on your food!

Idli

Won’t you love to gobble up those Idlis?

Pakoda

The Pakoda Treat. We went behind the scenes to get this shot!

Dinner at Pench

5. Unwinding luxury at it’s best

Corridor

No matter where you are, comfort and luxury in a rustic style would make you feel at home!

Swimming Pool

Swimming pool with a view like that! Who wouldn’t want that to spruce up your weekend!

 

A grand @WelcomHeritage experience at Pench

With so many long weekends in October, it’s certainly a great opportunity to buckle up, strap your backpack on and go travel! And if you are living in the vicinity of Mumba, Pune or Nagpur, then I certainly have one of the most amazing places to recommend. If nature and quiet escape over a refreshing visit to the woods is your perfect idea of a long weekend, then you’re certainly in for a treat with this post of mine.

Jungle Home

I had the opportunity to visit WelcomHeritage‘s Jungle Home in Pench, Nagpur some time back. Considering this is a long weekend and the Pench Tiger Reserve will open up, there’s a great chance for you to visit the beautiful place to not only enjoy the beauty of nature, but also surround yourself with some of the most amazing experiences, views and a few activities that completely define the heritage of the beautiful wilderness across the jungle.

Entrance to Jungle Home

Situated across the border of Madhya Pradhesh and Nagpur on the banks of Pench River, this tiger reserve and national park is gloriously famous for it being the original setting of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, The Jungle Book. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and its character Mowgli is based on Pench National Park. While many naturalists and wildlife lovers would like to visit this place for it’s natural beauty, our trip at the Welcom Heritage Jungle Home gave us an opportunity to experience a lot more than just the trip across wilderness.

The almost magical feeling of leaving behind the hustle and bustle and driving into the woods of solitude gives you an enchanting experience of what was to come. With a magical sight of the beautifully rustic and amazingly comfortable feeling of being in a Jungle Home as soon as you reach WelcomHeritage made us realize that we were in for a treat.

The quacking ducks in the yard, ambiance of the cottage like room, comfort and luxury of a great accommodation, the balcony view surrounded by plantations, a great swimming pool view and of course the friendly staff and really delicious food set the precedent for a great long weekend stay to come. We reached the place around noon and after a few hours of rest we were all geared up to start sinking in the feeling of being actually away yet, being connected with ourselves.

Ducks, Pench WelcomHeritage

The quacking ducks going on about themselves in the yard…

Vintage

A Vintage Car at the entrance of the Hotel.

WelcomHeritage Pench

The rustic Statues welcome you as soon as you enter the hotel lobby

Corridor

While we waited for our rooms to get arranged, we took a look at a few magazines giving us a sneak peek at what we could expect here.

Swimming Pool

A beautiful pool view as soon as you leave the lobby to head to your room

Hotel Doorway

The ambiance set, just right to start off this experience…

Comfort in the Jungle

Best thing after a long drive to lay down and get absolutely ready for the long weekend ahead.

Chairs

A balcony view accompanied by a hot cup of tea or coffee should be a perfect idea if you want some fresh air.

Lunch

A sumptuous Lunch at Panache Restaurant within WelcomHeritage

Terrace Food

Terrace Restaurant surrounded by some amazing view, makes for the best place to enjoy delicious food.

After settling down and relaxing for a few hours, one of the first things that we did was a visit to a Pottery Farm near Khawasa village. Driving up there in a open Gypsy meandering across the highway into a village was quite surreal.

Gypsy

The WelcomHeritage in house Gypsy

Gypsy Hood

We’re all set to head toward Khawasa Village

Tree

Away from the comforts of our luxury, the rustic views, cloudy skies and rooftops await us for a magical spectacle.

Off beaten Village roads

Some really good shots if you’re into Rural Exploration of sorts

Pots

A first view of the abundant handmade pots within the Pottery Village

Village children

We catch a glimpse of some childhood innocence and happiness as they wave out to our lens

Potter in Action

The Master potter Tukaram Gonde in action!

Pottery

Carving out some really amazing magic with his expert hands!

Pots

Art in Action – Finished Pots

But what was much more than just surreal, was the artistic experience of the Potter who not only showed that Pottery is one of the most beautiful art forms, but also gave us a chance to try some of it hands on. Considering I had an injured finger from an accident earlier that week, my partner and travel blogger of the Feet On the Map fame, decided to give it a shot.

Besides enjoying the art form itself, the fascinating curiosity of how these folks have been doing this for years and the skills they show gave us an understanding of how difficult this art is to master and what kind of practice these guys must have had to come to this state of artisan expertise.

The next day was going to be an early beginning. The fresh cold air in the morning, the quiet and serene feeling of the woods, muddy trails, since it had rained the night before made for a great environment to sink in the true feeling of the woods and what would be even more exciting would be a sight of the Tiger. The good folks at Welcom Heritage arranged for a Safari into the deep woods of the Tiger reserve and we hoped for a sighting of the great wild cat of the Pench Tiger Reserve. But mind you, the Jungle is not just popular for it’s tigers, but also a host of other animals, which will have you really delighted if you’re one of the nature loving and interested in wildlife photography. A satiation for your soul and your lens for sure. They have two Safaris, one in the morning and another in the afternoon where you will be driven into the park with the Hotel gypsy along with an official guide of the park. You can truly experience the wilderness in its true colors. Some of which as you see here.

Jackal

A Jackal resting in style!

Monkey and Daughter

Some Motherly love in the wild…

Baboon

Langoor

Indian Roller

The Indian Roller

Oriental Honey Buzzard

Oriental Honey Buzzard

Peacock

A Peacock going on about behind some trees.

Owlet

A pair of Owlet. This was hard to spot, because of the camouflage… But it made for a great candid shot.

Spotted Deer

Spotted Deer! You’ll find quite some herds of these in the Jungle

Sambar

Sambar grazing on some grass.

The Blue Bull

The Blue Bull

Wild Hog

Wild Hog

There was a kill made a few days ago where one of the Tiger’s had hunted down a Sambar and had been feeding off it along with a couple of it’s tiger cubs. Unfortunately, we weren’t fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the Tiger, while one of the gypsies who went along with us from our Hotel, were lucky enough to spot the Tiger. But we kind of make did with his paw!

Tiger Paw

Tiger Paw

But if you head down to the reserve now, since it’s hot, you might be able to spot it, especially near water bodies. If not for once, maybe a second trip should seal the deal. Still, it was a great run as we spotted quite a lot of animals, the rare bird, Indian Hornbill was quite the sight and some of the beauty lies in the fact that we got to experience the wild in it’s truest sense. That made up for everything for sure!

Hornbill

The Indian Hornbill – A very rare bird, endangered species.

If you have some time to kill in this month full of long weekends and holidays, and if you are a nature lover then this place is certainly something that deserves your attention.

A special Note:  This trip into the wild was possible, on the invitation of WelcomHeritage, a joint venture between ITC Ltd and Jodhana Heritage that represents some of the best traditions of heritage hospitality and tourism in India. It offer’s over 40 exclusive heritage destinations, ranging from grand palaces to traditional havelis and magnificent forts; quiet nature resorts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh & Goa. In Pench, we stayed at WelcomHeritage’s Jungle Home.

Have you been to Pench National Park yet? Did you experience anything beyond the wild? If not, do give it a shot and let me know how you found it. What say?

Travel Tips for Visiting London

London

Travelling to London in this day and age is a lot easier than in yesteryear. However, with any trip there are always variables that you must consider in order to ensure that your trip goes as safely as possible. With flight times approximately 10 hours from Delhi to London, the last thing you want is to face a series of hurdles upon arrival that you are ill prepared for. So, with all that in mind we have devised a comprehensive list of tips and information to help you on your trip.

The list is mainly focused on helping save money for backpackers as London is reported to be the 15th most expensive city in the world to visit as per English newspaper Daily Mail. And if you’re not careful, you too could fall foul of a series of expensive charges that you could have easily avoided if you’d taken the time to research ways to cut costs and adhere to your budget.

Buy tube or bus tickets immediately…

Taxis or cabs around London are scandalously overpriced, so you must avoid them at all costs unless you’re desperate to get somewhere in a short space of time. Using the tube or bus is relatively affordable compared to the cabs. Also, if you use the tube then you will eliminate the terrible traffic that’s in and around London itself.

Use short stay parking if your relatives are picking you up

This is more of a money saver for both you and any relatives or friends you have if they are picking you up from the airport. Like many leading airports, Gatwick one of London’s largest airports, has advanced parking services. Parking4Less states that Gatwick has short stay options, which can come in handy to drivers. This is useful for anyone who needs to pick you up as they can conveniently park their car for a couple of hours at an affordable price. Note: this is especially ideal if your flight is delayed and they have to wait extra hours.

Always use hostels over expensive hotels

There are so many hostels in and around London that you will never be short of options. However, make sure that you always book reservations in advance. Helpful websites such as Agoda can help you find the ideal hostel for you at a relatively cheap price.

Explore London’s museums

There are so many amazing museums in London; you are really spoilt for choice. But the best thing is there are also so many that are free to enter. Time Out recently published an article that gave their readers a run down of the ‘Top 10 Free Museums in London’. The list features Science Museum, Museum of London, British Museum, Natural History Museum and many more.

I know I am only touching the surface with the above list but hopefully this will initiate some other thought provoking ideas to research when you are planning your visit to London. If you have already visited London, however, by all means leave your travel experiences below in our comments section.

Glaciers Galore – Wonders of Himalayas

Hemkund Sahib

One of the most fascinating things about the Himalayas is the cold and firm Glaciers that you encounter on the route. Most cases, these glaciers are broken off, fallen from the top of a pass or covered atop a flowing mass of heavy water! Well, what’s more adventurous is when you actually have to walk the thin lines, no pun intended, and cross the terrains in order to get to where you have to.

Crossing the Glacier en route Valley of Flowers, Western Himalayas

Crossing the Glacier en route Valley of Flowers, Western Himalayas

While getting a real good grip on the glaciers is sometimes quite the challenge, the feeling of the pounding heart to set the right footing ahead gives you an adrenaline rush to make sure that you don’t lose your foot and tumble off into the valley or the water flowing below! A feeling that you cannot imagine anywhere else, even on the world’s toughest and scariest bridges. A glacier covered over a stream of flowing water is no less than one of those bridges themselves!

Water flowing below the glacier en route Valley of Flowers

Water flowing below the glacier en route Valley of Flowers

Another really amazing experience I’ve had was when the glaciers formed a cave at the foothills of Vasudhara waterfalls across the Indo-Tibet border in Western Himalayas. As soon as you stand beneath the glacier, you’d probably feel that you’re in one of those cold storages, minus the smell of the meat! One of the best feelings I’ve had ever was when I dozed off for over an hour after a 10 km trek at the foothills of Vasudhara falls beneath this Glacier cave. Truly spectacular!

Caves formed by Glaciers at Vasudhara Falls

Caves formed by Glaciers at Vasudhara Falls

To top it off, if you find a melting glacier across the mountains, make sure you collect the water from that glacier in your sipper and drink the rejuvenating and fresh cold stream of life as you would imagine. Tastes like no other water you have ever had!

One of the most enchanting feelings about these bodies is how smartly nature works it’s ways and makes sure that there’s enough room against the water body so as to ensure that people or animals can walk by and there’s enough weight, strength and firmness that unless there’s an extreme situation all works out just about right. The mix of the thrill and the adrenaline along with the feeling of refreshing company of the natural wonders make you think about how the universe has subdued itself to blend in to whatever is as natural as it can be. What do you think?

Mountains are always calling!

Mountains

The mountains are always calling! Yes, that’s a thing about being an avid lover of the mountains and trying to experience the best of the beauty that a trek offers you.

One of the things that I always keep in mind is to make sure that I take a trip every year to Himalayas to get one thing straight! I Love Mountains! Most importantly Himalayas. Ever since I started trekking to Himalayas about 5 years ago, I’ve enjoyed going there every year, be it a trek, a bike hike, a camp or whatever else is in the offing, there hasn’t been one occasion when my heart told me to go and I haven’t.

One of the reasons why I love hiking, mountaineering and especially in the Himalayas is that it sets your perspective right! Every time I’ve been to the Himalayas, I’ve come back as a different person, more for the better if I must add. A journey across the escapades of snow brings clarity to your mind and soul that no other place can.  Mountaineering or even taking a walk across those serene plateaus or valleys always make you wonder if your life is what you want it to be. And if it isn’t there’s a huge chance that you’ll go back and take charge of what matters most as the clarity you get after each visit makes everything just about right.

Another reason that mountaineering and hiking makes me happy is simply to know that, the feeling of control that we try to surpass each and every day is nothing if you don’t have a specific goal in mind. Hiking those long routes, enduring those steep slopes, climbing those daunting hills make you realize that no goal is impossible to achieve. Your belief in your abilities and more importantly your will increases manifold if you climb one of these steep passes. There was a time when I almost gave up while scaling to 15000 feet at Hemkund Sahib as the climb was utterly steep. But I kept going and when I reached on top, nothing else mattered. The victory and surmounting all odds made the journey joyful! Endurance is a big learning especially on these hikes.

Last, but not least, Mountains always teach you to adapt, adjust and try and make the most of your surroundings. One of the trickiest but important lessons you learn from mountaineering is that no matter what happens, you have always got to ‘LET GO.’ That’s the best trick you’ll ever learn and remember for life as it helps you in all aspects of your journey in life or otherwise. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t ever say no when the Mountains are Calling!

Adventure and Magnanimity – #Timexpedition to Dudhsagar Waterfalls

One of the best things about life and travel is a feeling of adventure that surrounds us. The minute you have tasted any form of it, it becomes an addiction of sorts. In a good way though, it’s the best thing to have happened to me in all my journeys so far. While I love climbing the mountains, trekking and my partner in travel Feet on the Map loves beaches, oceans and water, this was a perfect combination of both. We had the opportunity to see the renowned Dudhsagar Waterfalls which was laden across green, lush jungles on railway tracks and had an element of magnanimity in itself. And around the same time, I had just received my Timex Expedition watch which was a perfect partner in my travel to set the pace to an adventure of a different kind. That’s when we began our #Timexpedition to Dudhsagar Waterfalls! We were raring to go especially after having seen amazing photographs of this beautiful phenomenon across various blogs earlier.

The #Timexpedition Begins...

The #Timexpedition Begins – The day I received the amazing Watch!

Having said that, there was a certain sense of exploration that we hadn’t done before. This was our first trek together and also a first visit to a waterfall in the country. I would be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy this experience, cause this must have been one of the best experiences of our lifetime for sure, and not just for our travels together. One of the tough things about this journey was that we squeezed it over a weekend and we were going rugged backpacking taking a train journey from Pune to Kulem and back over a two day period. So with very less time available we had to make sure we made the most of this journey.

One of the tricky things about this journey was that, we had to make sure that we got off the train very early in the morning at around 4:00 AM at either Castle Rock or somewhere just near Dudhsagar waterfalls. The time the train stopped for, was only a mere 30 seconds, or so we were told by the Mumbai Travelers, a group with whom we were traveling for this trek. So come what may, we had to make sure that we got up as early as 3.50 AM in the morning. Thankfully, the #Timex alarm came to the rescue, especially since I didn’t want to use up my phone battery and save it for some amazing shots in the morning.

Setting the Alarm to rise and shine early

Setting the Alarm to rise and shine early

Well, thankfully the train was delayed and by the time our destination came, we were all up and ready to make sure that we get off the train to take a short hike towards the waterfalls. And what’s more, the train stopped more than 30 seconds so all 40 of us could get off easily and regroup.

Early in the morning as we got off the train

Early in the morning as we got off the train

It was foggy, misty and a bit of dampness in the air made us realize that we are all in for the beautiful escapade and the streams of the waterfalls would certainly make for a delightful view as soon as we reach there. But before we even got there, we could find some teeny tiny waterfalls scattered across the mountains besides the railway tracks. But what made for most of our morning to start off fresh and early was the amazing weather and the beautiful landscape that surrounded us. Couldn’t ask for a better Sunday Morning! :)

Foggy Morning and a Beautiful Landscape

Foggy Morning and a Beautiful Landscape

With a little water on our toes, fresh air in the backdrop and after a quick round of introduction among fellow travelers, we were moving towards the enormous waterfalls! It was something all of us were excited to get a glimpse of!

Trekking-towards-Dudhsagar-IMG_1683

And boy, what a glimpse we got! This was the distant view of Dudhsagar Waterfalls and if it looked this amazing and this humongous at a distance, I could only imagine how it looked up close and personal!

Magnanimity at it's best - Dudhsagar from a distance

Magnanimity at it’s best – Dudhsagar from a distance

Didn’t take us long before we could reach the foothills of Dudhsagar waterfalls and everything had suddenly become hazy and there was  a huge stream of water falling and blowing and the winds were blowing streams of drizzle all across our face and I could barely see with fog covered spectacles and being totally drenched at the foothills of the waterfalls. Not to say, it mattered much to my #Timexpedition, thanks to it’s 200 m water resist. Heck, it wouldn’t matter if I took a dip in that stream below the waterfalls, but I’d be a foolish adventurer to do something like that. Nonetheless, the view and the experience at the foothills was so amazing that we didn’t want to leave despite spending a good 3 hours at the foothills, followed by some breakfast and tea.

Dudhsagar Upclose

Dudhsagar Upclose

 

At-the-foot-of-Dudhsagar-Falls

At the foothills of Dudhsagar Falls with my #Timexpedition

After all the fun at the waterfalls was over, it was time for us to head back to Kulem. But this time around it was a daunting trek back to the station and it was a good 14 km stretch. I wanted to make sure that I lap this fast so that we have enough time to freshen up, have lunch and then board the train in the afternoon at around 4.30 pm to go back to Pune. Well, of course, the Chronograph came into action. The trek was going to be fun as there were some really amazing sights on the way. Of course it was going to test our endurance, but a close encounter with the nature and the local wildlife it offered was worth the walk.

Friendly Banter with a local crab

Friendly Banter with a local crab

A wild centipide in action

A wild centipede in action on the Railway Tracks

Route towards Kulem

Route towards Kulem

With that kind of view and a beautiful morning, who’d worry about trekking 14 kms! Well, not as easy as it may sound. I haven’t trekked in the last year, so I was a bit rusty. But over a period in time, with a will to keep going, we all set foot and made sure that we got to Kulem on time! Exhausted, elated, beautified if I may say so, it was an arduous trek that gave a grand finish to our journey. And what a journey it was! An expedition, a wild adventure and last but not least a memory to cherish for sure! Truly what makes it a #Timexpedition! Something that’ll be framed in ‘Time’ for life!

Finished the trek in 4 hours!

Exhausted and Elated – Finished the trek in 4 hours!

Blueberry Travel Trails over the weekend

One of the best things about Mumbai is that there are plenty of options that you get over the weekend for getaways. Monsoon typically is a great time for people in and around the city to just take a hike to some really amazing destinations that offer them plenty of respite especially from the hectic buzz most people face during the weekdays, slogging it out in the City of Dreams! While otherwise most nearby destinations like Alibaug, Murud, Gorai, Vasai, Mandva offer great beach destinations, monsoons is all about some really amazing nature trails! And of course for that we have the great Sahayadaris to trek over the weekend. Almost every other trekking group in and around Mumbai becomes really active during this time and most people love to go for these treks. Some people are hardcore trekkers, while others, not so much.

In such case one of the best things that people who don’t trek as much and still love nature could always opt for eco-trails. On one such day before the onset of monsoon, Feet on the Map and I decided to head for a Blueberry Trails weekend getaway to Kolad! While most people enjoy going to Kolad for river rafting and adventure activities, this was more of a weekend getaway with a bit of nature, waterfalls and some adventure activities lined up for us. What started off as a little off day cause of no sight of rains, turned out to be an enticing journey especially with some really great captures that we got and most importantly, the beautiful people we met on this trip. Memories to cherish forever. A short photo-essay of this trip will hopefully try to recreate the magic!

Railway tracks enroute Kolad

Railway tracks enroute Kolad

Enroute Kolad - Picture Perfect Painting

A quick snap captured from inside the bus en route Kolad!

River Trail Kolad

The boat we took to River Trail

cat, kolad, nature

A cute kitty at Eco-Trails Nature resort where we stayed

Warli Painting

Warli Painting on the walls of River Trail resort

Ecotrail Kolad

A trail laden with beautiful plantations on our way to our cottages!            

Swing at Ecotrail

Swing in the woods at River Trail

 

Kundalika @ Sunset

Sunset at the Kundalika River

Laughing Frog

Laughing Frog

Me holding Striped Keelback

A striped Keelback, before we set it free in the wild.

Striped Bronzeback

Striped Bronzeback we discovered on our way to the waterfalls