He dug across the path which raked in between the crooked boulders on the mountain. There were trenches, ditches, twisted turns and slippery paths to walk. The trail was the most difficult at this part of the mountain. He looked beyond the broad horizon, one that was starkly glowing in his face. The sunset across the mountains penetrated the entire region with its golden rays and the entire valley. Because of its desert like terrain the sky gleamed with effervescence surrounding the entire mountain ranges. It was hard to not keep staring in the sky and ponder upon the journey… The journey that he had taken wandering about the trodden paths of the most adverse conditions on the trek of his.
He had begun the journey when there was no Sun… The entire terrain was covered in fog… But it was only a matter of time, before it showed up. In fact at one point it was up in the sky dolling out its scorching heat, which was unbearable to him. He held his hand across his eyes touching his forehead. He twisted his woolen cap to cover his face, away from the beaming rays striking at him with an acute sharpness of its penetrating aura. He knew that the trail he had left was quite a long one. One that let him do his soul searching on his journey across the terrain. One that let him think and introspect upon his past and his present. One that told him of the heights that needed to be conquered. One that showed him how a traversal like this will help him dig deep into his consciousness. A journey that made him realize how mystically important this learning of life meant to him. A journey that helped him become what he was today…
He couldn’t judge how humongous and widely spread this entire place was. As geographically vast and surmountable the terrain was it was nothing compared to the journey he had already finished, in order to finally reach the land which he lusted for many years. The land that he had thought about all his life. A place that was on his bucket list forever and this moment was something that he had always longed for.
But the real question was very tricky. As tricky as probably the slippery slopes he had overcome…
Why had he taken that journey? Why had he made this trek? Why?? What was he doing out there?
The quest to the soul within himself. The quest to the journey that was always in his mind…
This was his answer to that question… The answer to the question that he asked himself forever… Always, right from the time he had started traveling. Right from the time he had set upon himself the quest to wander the world, not just on the outside, but on the inside too. From the time that he had realized how his mind started reacting to the travel bug that had bit him…
An answer that changed his life …
“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.”
“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” With these thoughts, I set off on an adventure of a lifetime. A voyage to the mysterious beauties that unravel the most amazing parts of my country. A travelogue to capture the ‘Incredible India’ down South.
My visit to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala had begun. I had heard from my friends, people didn’t speak anything else but their local languages out there. That made me equally foreign to these lands as anyone else who came from any other country. To me, this was a challenge, and a trip that would be monumental after I had completed it. With solitude on my side I had decided to explore over 17 superb locations in 15 days. Most importantly, I was going to discover the beautiful culture South India had to offer and document each and every location as a journal on my blog. With a Vernian, inspiration l had to ensure this journey went down in my books as the best one!
It all started with Chennai. From my helpful twitter friends to the conductors and everyone else warmly responding to my requests, helping me out wherever I went in little or broken English they spoke in. Yet always willfully extending their support without any intent but to help me out. With a sultry atmosphere, one I hadn’t anticipated, I started my journey by heading off to the Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore resemblance to the weather that I was used to during the summers in Mumbai. But, in winter, this humidity came to me as a surprise particularly when it was about 20-22 degrees centigrade back home… Nonetheless my objective was to start off with a beautiful array of sunrise shots to tell a story of this marvel in Chennai! The experience of going to Marina beach, travelling amongst the locals in the train was something I could relate to. Very similar to our Mumbai Locals… Gave me content in the fact that our cities, despite the cultural difference, had a lot in common.
Rest of Tamil Nadu was a quest for my spiritual journey across the fortresses and temples of the most majestic kinds in the country! From a mysterious yet wonderful experience in Kancheepuram, to satisfying and peaceful tryst with Lord Shiva in Thrichy, every temple had a story of its own. The most appealing temple was of course Thanjavur, unique in its own way and its rustic feel gave a nice ambience to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm in its own. Ruled by various dynasties from the Cholas to the Nayakas and the Marathas, it gave a completely versatile feel to itself. The grandeur it had was read between the brightness it shone despite the sun setting down upon its face. Abode to one of the biggest Nandi Statues, the Brihadeeswara Temple was an enchanting destination.
Then there was Rameshwaram. The same island where existed the famous temple of Lord Rama, the mighty king from Ramayana. This was the same location where an army of millions of apes (vanar-sena) built a bridge made out of floating stones engraved with Lord Rama’s name itself. This bridge built to take the army across the borders of India to the Golden empire of Lanka and wage an epic battle of great proportions upon the demons of this kingdom.
Something you can’t forget in Hindu mythology. A battle that spoke to us of the triumph of good over evil! A battle that till today is considered as a conquest of moral right over plain wrong. It was quite an experience, one that I would never forget.
While Tamil Nadu has its own share of spirituality I also enjoyed the beauty, nature and wildlife at the most amazing waterfalls ever… I sat in a small canoe or sort of a paddle boat to take the streams of Hogennakalu Waterfalls. A noteworthy place with perennially flowing streams of waterfalls. Off the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, one can easily reach this place from Salem by bus and literally take a boat towards the Karnataka border on the disputed Cauvery river. With an aquarium and a crocodile rehabilitation center to its attraction, this place certainly is thronged by children, youngsters and elders alike.
Finally Tamil Nadu ended with a short visit to the mystical land of Kanyakumari, popularly known for Triveni Sangam, meeting point of the three oceans that surround the peninsular region of our Incredible India. One that envisages the true feeling of being in touch with the spiritual side of yourself. Known for The Swami Vivekananda memorial rock . A place where the great leader attained enlightenment of sort and found bliss within himself. Visiting the most beautiful temples in our country to being overwhelmed by a sense of spirituality my journey across the state of Tamil Nadu truly gave me an understanding of oneness to myself.
Tamil Nadu certainly took a lot of my time and energy due to constant traveling in state transport buses in this rugged sojourn of mine. Whereas, my stay in Pondicherry was one of great relaxation and unwind. A visit that made me realize how time stood still and made me feel like a recluse of sorts in a land of the unknown.
Highlight of Pondicherry was tasting delicious food of various cultures dished out at the most amazing restaurants in town. From Chettinad food at the Apache Restaurant to french delicacies at the Le Café, Pondicherry was all about living life with the luxury similar to the tastes of most of the Europeans around. Spending three magical days exploring various parts of Pondicherry on a rented motorbike, places like the French Colony, the museum, Auroville and a lot of shopping streets across various parts of the town gave me the feeling of belongingness to that place. Sipping beer at the beach restaurant at night, listening to the roaring waves in a calm that gave most frenzied thoughts a form of tranquil made me realize what we miss in our caught-in-a-rut kind of a life.
Lastly, being in Kerala, God’s own country was like being in heaven itself. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kerala got me close to nature and made me believe in what their lifestyle stood for… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… The melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling of standstill, told me a lot about how people loved and lived life in this paradise.
One of the most memorable trips within Kerala would be my infamous boat ride from Kottayam to Alaphuzza. It’s listed as one of the recommended things to do by Lonely Planet Magazine. From the start it was memorable especially after gorging on the sumptuous Malabari Parota with Kadala Curry.
What a way to start off a journey across the Venice of Kerala. Going to Venice has always been my dream… Until I get there, I have to make do with this one! A notable thing we did on our way back was to stop by at the very famous RBLOCK Island. We ate some good food and had local coconut palm beer, also known as Toddy… This Island was manmade by over 5000 villagers led by Mr. Baker. This was done in order to get more land to cultivate Paddy… A fantastic place for you to take a pitstop and eat some delicious food.
Lastly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than finishing my trip with a visit to Fort Kochi, a place that will be etched in my memories for its diversity and remarkable beauty, especially with its blend of cultures and religions. The Jew Street and the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue… gave me a mesmerizing feel of being in a place of some rarity. You will find a very different setting out here and experience a different feeling while walking on this street. The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Then there are the Chinese Fishing Nets, with magnificent fixed installations for an unusual form of fishing makes for great photographs.
The end of my expedition. Travelling around, wandering like a nomad for 15 days. A feeling of bittersweet, told me that my journey was over, just like the setting sun when I left Fort Kochi. Indeed at the end of that 15th day I felt like Phileas Fogg, whose surmounting adventure had successfully come to a fulfilling end. One that I will cherish forever until I come back to soak it in yet again…
P.S This is my writing sample to Glimpse‘s ’Correspondent Program for Fall 2011‘, Also the shortened version of it is my submission to WorldNomads , Travel Writing Scholarship for 2011 which can be read here
© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved
So my visit to the North East finally happened. Yes, didn’t visit a lot of places in terms of going far east… But yeah, quite good for a start. First up on my list was the most beautiful and ecstatic Darjeeling… Brilliant place and no wonder, it’s certainly deserves the title ’Queen of Hill Stations’
It started with Delhi. That’s was my destination post my Amritsar trip and I was to take a direct train from Old Delhi to New Jalpaiguri, from where I had to catch a bus/jeep to Darjeeling. Now, one thing I know a lot of people know about Old Delhi… If you don’t then hey, a warning, Old Delhi, by far is really horrible in terms of Hygiene, so be careful.
Another mistake I made was I took the Sikkim – Delhi to NJP Mahananda Express. Never ever take this train as it’s always late, no charging points in the train and no water in the train either, with filthy washrooms… Trust me, this one you can avoid. All said and done, after being 12 hours late, I reached New Jalpaiguri… I knew the wait was going to be worth it, since I couldn’t wait to reach Darjeeling. So much so, that I had to stay overnight in a lodge as it was kind of dangerous to drive up, especially at 2 AM in the morning… I joined a couple of fellow passengers from the train… They were to go some place near, but decided to do so the next day.
After waking up next day and eating an amazing breakfast in New my journey from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling began…
Once the breakfast was over, It was time for me to catch a jeep to Darjeeling. Usually they take you for 200 bucks and you have to share your ride with other passengers, but it’s a good deal. Either ways you can choose to wait for a bus and get a cheaper deal. But all in all it’s a great idea to go in a jeep as you’d end up reaching faster!
Meet Bishal, from Section 2 IC of the Indian Army. Posted at Kargil LOC (No Mans Land) He was going Home to meet his folks in Darjeeling.
As our jeep swayed into the curvy mountains heading up towards Darjeeling, we got this beautiful and picturesque view of the Teesta River. An enchanting look into the blue waters surrounded by the amazing Mountains leading up towards the Kanchenjunga peak!!! Was quite breathtaking.
A flavor of the North East India, with a dragon statue near the tiger bridge while on our way towards Darjeeling.
As we approach Darjeeling, we get a clear view of the Kanchengjunga Peak. Also known as the Sleeping Buddha for it’s stark resemblance to the Buddha and the peaks representing him sleeping.
As soon as I enter Darjeeling, it’s cold and we can feel freshness in the air and also a chilled out atmosphere which really gives me a completely different feeling. It’s as if we’ve entered a fashionable town with a lot of guys and girls on a fashion parade while the towns modern fresh look also blew me away. Besides that of course the Municipal tower and a couple of other heritage / ancient structures gave me a mixed feeling about this place all together. I had about two days to explore Darjeeling before we head out for our Sandakhpu-Gurdum trekking expedition.
So I decided to make the best out of it.
I settled down at our basecamp / Hotel Broadway Annexe… and after a nice sumptuous lunch, I decided to explore the town a little bit. Little did I realize that sun was already on it’s way to set and soon it would get dark… Without losing much time, I got towards the station, which is quite nearby and if you look at it, Darjeeling as a town isn’t that big…
It was probably about 4.30 PM that the Sun set that day… By 5.30 it was already dark in Darjeeling and there is no way you can tell whether it’s 5:30 or 8.30 pm…
That also meant that pretty soon I had to go to bed cause the next day I had to wake up early and go to Tiger Hill to view the Sunrise across the Kanchenjunga Peak! But not before I beat the cold with some drinks at Joey’s Pub. Yes a very small British ambiance tavern, where you’ll find mostly British or Canadian tourists hanging out listening to retro numbers and chilling out! I went there with Mr. Shashi Patel, a businessman from Los Altos California I met while strolling around Darjeeling station. He was going to be my company to the sunrise point as well. So we decided to chill out and hang around for a while and talk about stuff here and there over a couple of drinks.
While I did that, I must say, the amazing Chow Min I ordered from the Joey’s Pub, was superb!!!
The next day was a short trip across Darjeeling where we visited the Sunrise Point At Tiger Hill, the Ghoom Monastery and a few other spots early in the morning. Also fascinating was the rooftop breakfast at Keventer’s cafe which is a 100 year old Cafe in Darjeeling!
After the visit at the Keventer’s cafe and of course the early morning trip to Sunrise point, Ghoom Monastery and other places, nothing was better than a hot cup of special and very tasty Darjeeling Tea!
All in all it was totally a trip that was worth it. Darjeeling is definitely the Queen of all Hill Stations I must admit.
Well, what can I say about this amazing journey that began with an amazing start… Something like the Amazing Race! I was slated to go on a Friday to Haridwar, via Dehradun express on a train with all my friends. Little did I know that my destiny had something else in mind… As much as I could avoid the whole slurry of a detour, it was something I just couldn’t.
I was all packed for my journey as you read in my previous post. The backpack was ready and I had already taken a rickshaw to go to the railway station and that is when this twist happened…
It all started with a phone call…
“Srinivas, we have been trying to reach you through out the day….”
“Yes? Who’s this?”
“I’m calling from Reliance BIG entertainment… You had auditioned for Fox Travelller’s show right?”
“Oh yeah… I did… ‘This Journey is fun’ I know…
“Well you have been shortlisted in the finals, you need to come tomorrow for an audition…”
Now what do I do? Here I was at the crossroads for between ‘My First Himalayan Expedition’ & ‘A life changing opportunity.’ My train was in an hour from LTT to go to Haridwar. I had already booked my tickets, they were confirmed… for crying out loud…
“Can this happen some other time? Any chance I can come back and give this audtion?”
“Dude, this is a national audition… There’s no way it can happen any other time…” said Afreen, who was handling the production for this show.
That was about it… I had to make a split second decision and tell her what I was going to do. I bought some time and told her to message me the address in any case… I needed some time to make the decision.
What were my options??
1. Go, board the train and set off for my First Himalayan Adventure (Valley of Flowers Trek)
2. Go for the auditions and once it’s done, take a flight to Delhi and catch the same train on Sunday morning to regroup with my friends…
Interestingly option no. 2 gave me enough time to actually catch the same train in Delhi, on the morning… Quite an adrenaline pumping situation and what do you think I decided to do??
Option 2 it was…. I called Afreen back and told her that I’ll make it for the auditions….
But, that was just the beginning of my detour… A story that I’ll remember for life…
Once I finished the auditions, I decided to call up my agent and get me a flight booked to Delhi that night or early in the morning so that I reach Nizamuddin Railway Station by 5.30 AM and catch the same train…. Or so it seemed
That was just not going to happen… I guess… Most of you know Mr. Murphy from the infamous ‘Murphy’s Law’. He was stalking me like crazy… I had just missed one flight by the time I finished my auditions and the one that was available now reached in the morning by 6 am… So there was no way I was going to make it to catch the same train…
Well, that was it then… I finally did board the flight, and thought I’d take a bus from Delhi-Haridwar (Uttarakhand Parivahan)
But wait… there was something I had forgotten…. My other friends @irohan & @vishal_g were still in Delhi and they were going to go to Haridwar via a bus!!! I quickly called em up and rushed in an auto towards Kashmiri Gate and caught up with them at the last minute as their bus was leaving… Finally I managed to get some company at least, before I could reach Haridwar and catch up with all the friends… Rest is history of course.
Quite an exciting start to a journey that was going to be filled with a lot more adventure! What do you think?
Trekking (definition) : To make a slow or arduous journey on foot, especially to hike through mountainous areas… But… ”A trek is never a trek if there ain’t a little fun, little adventure, some moments to cherish and of course a little mishap here and there..’ That’s where the ‘arduous’ part comes in…
9:00 PM and we are still at work?? Come on guys let’s pack up and get the hell outta here… That was what was going on in my mind… but I guess, we had to make sure that everything was in order before we left for the trek.
On a chilly December night, trekking at 2:00 AM in the morning was no mean feat. Yep, that’s exactly when we reached the village called Baje, it served as a base camp for us. Parked the car over there and started hiking up towards the footsteps near Lohagadvadi… While there is another route to reach the footsteps where even cars go, it wouldn’t have been fun for us to take our car there and then climb up… as the trek time would have been just 15-20 minutes.
Anyways, at the end of it all, the hike up to the place was really worth it… trekking the mountain in the morning, chatting up and singing along for a journey and an experience that we were yet to have… Something told us, this is going to be one of those memories… You know what I’m talking about, now don’t you?
It took us about 2 hours to reach the top… Breezy in the morning, the caves were only warm place for us to feel some comfort.. but that would again defy the definition now, woudn’t it?? So we decided to chill out near the entrance, camp ourselves and make ourselves a couple o drinks to feel better… haha, that’s what you get for the arduousness as a reward. Besides that watching some of them, singing and dancing to ‘Sheila ki Jawaani’ as well
Soon, it was time for the Sun to rise and us to have some really nice Photo session and of course meet our ancestors who made their way up on to the top to find out if we had some food for them. I was wondering why on earth did I even buy a bunch of bananas before we left, now I know exactly why…
The vision of breaking dawn was one I had been waiting for before I could get my hands on my DSLR, and begin my clicking spree… After a lots of fun and frolic, some nice photo sessions, we decided to head towards Vinchu Kaata… Alas, that was not to be…
While everyone was enjoying singing and dancing… we suddenly heard a cry out loud from one of our friends…The slippery tracks from where we had decided to take a detour towards VinchuKaata had made sure that today wasn’t the day, when we were going to be out there…
She suddenly lost her footing, slipped and fell instantaneously… We made her sit down, making sure that we find out what happened to her. Hoping it was not a fracture…we took a look, it looked more like a sprain and a ligament tear we thought. But we were not sure, didn’t want to take a risk… So finally this is the exact reason why that arduous word came into the dictionary while defining the word ‘trekking’ It was quite a challenge as she was not able to walk…
One of the challenges now, was to find out ways and means to get our friend down.. So, a couple of guys went down to get the car from the other route to ensure that one car is at least downstairs, at the base camp from Baje village… While we were trying to figure out how to get her down.. We tried to make a stretcher with a couple of bamboos and blanket we had… Nope, didn’t work… We had a chair, tried to make a palkhi with the bamboos and a rope we had… nope, didn’t work… What could we do??
We were thinking and trying to figure out a way and that’s when it struck us… This was the only option for now…
The most effective and the most simple way was devised out of a story I remember my grandfather used to read in Chandamama comics, ‘Vikram Vetaal…’ yes, that is and was the only option for us…. So there, the only option left for us was to backpack her (literally) and that could have been done by only one person in our group and I don’t intend to tell you here who it was. For people who don’t know us, it won’t matter but for people at work… you guys should have fun guessing this one! As it turned out later… i.e almost at the bottom of the mountain, we met a guy who took a look at her leg and with the help of acupressure and she was able to slowly walk… Irony I say… Always on all my trips
That’s exactly the reason why I’ve not included anyone’s names… and precisely why this story ends like this… What happened later was something we all call an escapade truly to remember… well, at least until the next one happens.
People Travel to know the boundaries of the world… The boundaries within their universe, the journey which they want to experience and imagine if ever they thought of living a life they couldn’t. People travel to know more about different people. People travel to experience what their soul will take with them to a different dimension. Sometimes when I think of these quotes of mine, I realize we all have a desire in ourselves to understand fully what the beauty of this universe lies in. Be it the short trips over the weekend, adventure camps in school, trips and picnics during the monsoon or a great vacation abroad… When we travel, we unleash our inner spirit. One that adds to our charm and the experience of a life we live in.
To me, trekking is one such experience where I can relive the adventure, which I always wanted. Think of nothing but the freedom that I get when I get up there. Be it 4000 feet above or just a mere 1400 feet. Doesn’t matter, one needs to understand that the beauty of all this is in the fact that you have a goal in mind and you go up there to achieve it.
So here we are, bunch of us office guys @SocWav have decided to head to Lohagad, a very easy trek tomorrow night. This would be my second experience trekking at night after one way back in Naneghat. Since, there are a lot of newbies and girls mostly, we decided to trek to Lohagad as its the easiest of the lots. I haven’t yet been here so it should be a great experience. The last time around, my friends ditched me on my working saturday and did a quick drive to Lohagad and got back with great photos and absolutely amazing videos. That was during monsoon though. Don’t know how it will be this time around. Hope the cold and pleasant weather will make up for a little bit lack of greenery I hope.
So we plan to trek at around 10-11 in the night, reach on top about 12:00 – 1:00 AM and camp up there. Hoping to set up a barbecue if we get hold of a village local. Otherwise we’ll manage with our own Cup Maggi and other snacks.. I mean Maggi should really be the brand for all trekkers. The best part would probably come early in the morning, when we’ll take a look at the awesome views especially the ‘Vinchu Kaata’ and the Ganesh Darwaza… So courtesy Wikipedia here is a bit of trivia for all you folks about the destination.
On the west side, there is a long and narrow wall-like fortified spur called Vinchukata (Marathi for Scorpion’s tail; see picture) because of its shape. Lohagad has a long history with several dynasties occupying it at different periods of time:
Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas,Yadavas, Bahamanis, Nizamshahis, Mughals and Marathas. Shivaji captured it in 1648 CE, but he was forced to surrender it to the Mughals in 1665 CE by the Treaty of Purandar. Shivaji recaptured the fort in 1670 CE and used it for keeping his treasury.
How to reach the fort
From Mumbai, you can take a train to Lonavla. Malawli is the next station from Lonavla in the direction toward Pune. There are a number of local trains operating between Lonavla and Pune; you can take any of them. From Pune, you can take any of these locals.
From Malawli railway station, the fort is just 9 km away. Vehicles can go up to the foot of the hill. From here, which is near a village calledLohagaon, there are steps to the fort, numbering approximately 500.
When it rains, the top of the fort is covered with mist and clouds and becomes particularly wet. It is advisable to carry protective gear during the rainy season (mid-June to mid-September). Further, food is not easily available on the route. Most of the food stalls sell water, poha, tea/coffee, snacks, and soft drinks.
A panoramic view of the Pawna dam can be seen from the fort. Although it isn’t raining now, hoping to get a breath of fresh air… cold winter air during the amazing trek we take.
A quick and a really long drive to the ‘Heart of India’ Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Had some urgent work, didn’t know how to go, just picked up a change of clothes, jumped into the car and headed off. 650 odd kms and an insomniac night travel meant by the time we went there, it was getting to work without any sleep. We hadn’t slept for 27-30 hours. 13 hours of drive… That was some trip… The warm dry air blowing in our face was the ultimate experience.
Slept in the dhaba at night, ate baked samosas, poha jalebi, kachori… that was our breakfast, lunch and dinner! But the most rejuvenating and amazing thing for a traveller like me is the beauty of the journey and these amazing snaps….
© Copyright 2010 Srini. All rights reserved
*Smiles Galore* The lonnnnnnnnng weekend’s here. Decided to take some time out. Some solitude and sway away to my travel adventures yet again… Yes the travel continues. Officially on this blog, this is my first travelogue! Will be updating my past misadventures pretty soon. But this time around, it’s Hyderabad guys. I’m already set… My quest to travel whole of India. Is on again. Another place on my travel map and yes ‘Pearl City’ Hyderabad! Here I come. Hope to get really good fotoz, like the compilation I picked out from our GOOGLE Uncle! *Thanks* @hiway.. thank’s for your recommendation… Will certainly visit the Public gardens!They look enchanting. Right now RAC at 110 Damn…but one of my good friend, @swaps1906, who’s mom works in the railways..Some setting will work out..If not, then chalu ticket bhai!!! But I think it’ll work out! So these are the places on my visit list. Now added these locations on My Google maps on mobile. Now ‘Somebody Stoppppppp Me!! If you can!!! Hyderabad, main aata…