Category Archives: Tales Across India

#DiscoveringMurud the @GSBeachResort way…

“Great travel experiences are the ones which you remember because of the people you met, the things you saw and the food you ate!”

In this case, I had each and every bit of it, considering the amazing time and place that I chose to visit. About a month ago, when the weather was certainly at its pleasant best in Mumbai, Feet On the Map and I decided to take up the Golden Swan Beach Resort, Murud on their offer to host a few travel bloggers at their amazing Beach Resort with a fantastic view over a weekend.

My tryst with the beautiful location, Murud has been continuing over 10 years. Even before I started travel blogging, I’ve had a penchant for this amazing beach location and have taken bike rides over many weekends to this place. Most of the times, with friends, a couple of times alone and on other occasions with family. I’ve written about this place from my last trip about a year or so ago when we visited Murud in the scorching heat of May. But this time around, it was quite a different experience considering that we were going there in January and the weather was going to be really beautiful and the experience more luxurious, thanks to Golden Swan Beach Resort’s Beach facing Villa! That’s where we were hosted. And this time around, the trip was a little more than just the beach, or the Murud Janjira fort. It was also an opportunity where we were literally #DiscoveringMurud from a different lens!

While, the place, the people, the location in itself wasn’t something new, the interesting activities we did, thanks to the amazing staff at the resort, I found out some really enchanting travel tales to talk about on this visit of ours. Here are some of the things, that I’d recommend for you to try out, especially if you are here at their resort.

Tantalize your Malvani Tastebuds

While Murud may not be the closest destination for people from Mumbai, Pune when it comes to the Maharashtrian, coastal or Malvani cuisine, it certainly has a penchant for being one of the tastiest around this trail. We had an opportunity to try out a live kitchen on the beach and do some really interesting food tasting session where the head chef, who made a variety of dishes to soak in the Malvani taste on to our tongues and get a real-time understanding of the various spices, the preparations and the pre-preparations that the cuisine requires. With the breezy evening wind blowing from the coast and the amazing view at our behest, we literally felt like we were at an exotic destination beach resort with the best food in our plates!

Golden Swan Resort, Murud, KAshid, Beach, Alibag, Murud Janjira

A dash of Malvani Spices

Golden Swan Resort, Murud, KAshid, Beach, Alibag, Murud Janjira

Malvani Fish Fry, Golden Swan Style!

Golden Swan Resort, Murud, KAshid, Beach, Alibag, Murud Janjira

The Chef dishing out a Potato Fry, Malvani way!

Malvani Bhindi Fry and Potatoe Vegetable

A Vegetarian’s Delight

Villa View by the Beach

Another interesting thing I recommend if you’re planning to come here, is to ask for the Villas, especially number 3, and number 4 as they’re beach facing and secluded so if you come as a group of 4 to 6 or a family, you can always camp there with a yard to yourself and recliners with a view that is mesmerizing to your eyes. And if you do decide to head to the beach, it’s just a 5 minute walk and in the night, you can hear the waves clashing as the sea hums it’s way into your mind and your thoughts.

Golden Swan Resort Villa

The Villas by the Beach!

 

Beach View from the Villa of Golden Swan Resort

Beach View from the Villa!

Recliners beside the resort for the best view to the beach

Recliners beside the resort for the best view to the beach

 A view of Murud from the Hill top

One of the things I mostly do during my travels is find a hill view spot to get  a perspective of the city or the destinations that I visit. Mostly a huge encompassing view of the destination gives you a bird eye’s view of the heritage, the enchanting serenity that the place brings to your travel experience. If you can do that at Sunset, even better! One such opportunity for you is to go to the hill top near the Maruti temple in Murud. You can ask the locals, the route to that place or you can also take one of the staff from the resort. They’d be happy to oblige I’m sure. One of the best views, of Murud, can be seen from here, including a breathtaking view of the lesser known, abandoned, Padmadurg fort, also known as Kasa fort, built by the great Maratha ruler King Shivaji to the northwest of the fort Janjira.

Sunset from the Murud Hill top

Sunset from the Murud Hill top

Murud Janjira, Golden Swan, Hill Top, Murud

Beautiful View of Murud at Sunset

Maruti Temple atop the Hill

Maruti Temple atop the Hill

Friday Prayer Place

A 40 year old structure constructed as a spot for Friday Namaz offerings

 

Mingling with the folks on the way to Janjira

While the relaxation around the beach and the Malvani cuisine added the flair to our visit, nothing could be an icing on the cake than a visit to the Historic Murud Janjira Fort. Thanks to the team at Golden Swan Beach resort, for the first time, I got a little more perspective from our visit, as they arranged for a local guide to share the chronicles of the ancient and the unconquered fort of Murud Janjira. And of course, your visit to this place is enchanting in itself, when you go on to a small sailboat along with a bunch of other locals, talk to them, get sights of interesting things, people and a lot more especially when you are glaring upon the magnificent ruins of the fort while you slowly arrive at the fort in your sail boat.

Local Fisherwomen selling dried fish

Local Fisherwomen selling dried fish

Sail Boat to Janjira Fort

Sail Boat to Janjira Fort

IMG_20150118_105101693

A grand view of the fort as you approach it in your boat

 

 

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A view of the sail boats from inside the fort!

The Cannons of Janjira Fort

The Cannons of Janjira Fort

Bonfire by the beach over dinner

This I must say was one of the most memorable moments of our trip. A breezy evening, overhearing the waves of the sea, and a few travel enthusiasts sharing our travel experiences and engaging in really meaningful conversations about travel. Most certainly it was a great time for us to know a little more about ourselves and sharing interesting anecdotes from our travel travails. If you really want to unwind over food and conversations, then this is certainly a meaningful way to do this and one of the best experiences from this trip.

Bonfire by the beach over dinner
All in all, this place certainly has to be on your list especially if you want to spend that weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Mumbai. And in fact, rather than driving down here, an interesting option for you would be to take a ferry from Gateway of India, early in the morning and soak in the sea alongside the flying birds to accompany you on the hour long journey! Do let me know if you’ve visited this place and what your experience was like!

Gateway of India

View at Gateway

Birds accompanying you on the ferry1

P.S: This was a complementary trip, thanks to the Hospitality of the Golden Swan Beach Resort, Murud and was certainly a great experience for both me and my travel partner Feet on the Map, who took most of the lovely photos you see on this blog. Also a mention to the two amazing travel bloggers we met on this trip. Was lovely meeting and interacting with you Renuka and Harsh! You can read their blogs at here: Voyager for Life  | Travel Byts

Strolling across the magical mountains

 

Rohtang Pass, Manali, Horses

Horses seen strolling across at Rohtang Pass in Manali

The carelessness of real beauty lies in the imagination of perfection. Such is the breathtaking brilliance of the views you get sometimes in the magical mountains. A minute you’re walking into a fog and the next minute you see a magical snow dwelling peak shining in front of your eyes with the sun giving you a glimpse of his glory. But sometimes, real beauty in the mountains are it’s carefree animals who absolutely have no inkling of what travelers see unto them or the beauty that surrounds them.

It’s the vision of these kinds that makes you walk up to these mountains more often. Sometimes. it’s not just the beautiful peaks, the nature, the landscape or for that matter the weather that you experience. It’s about a beautiful and breathtaking divinity that you visualize within a split second before your shutter could capture that moment. That moment of what you may later on in life realize as an unbound feeling of flawlessness. Something that cannot tether your freedom to express your wilderness, no matter what age you are at. Whenever I travel into the mountains, I always keep an open mind, for I never know what I will literally ‘bump’ into. The bliss of such a feeling is, that it is devoid of any expectations and makes any experience the best experience and sometimes even keeps you wanting more.

And that’s how I felt when I was able to capture this magical moment and delve into my memory of lenses while I had stopped by to have nothing but a bowl full of noodles at the Rohtang Pass! The added element of a surprise capture such as this, just doubled my bowl of happiness!

Golven – White Sands of Vengurla

One of the best things about traveling to a beach, even though I’m not so much a beach person is to absolve myself of all worldly existence and let the waves reach out to my ears and see the horizon across the ocean to drive a beautiful point home.

Sunset at Vengurla

Other than that of course is the Sand, Solitude and most importantly the Serenity! That is something I must say was a plentiful when we had an opportunity last weekend, a long one I must say to head out to the pristine, clean and virgin beach of Vengurla! Usually, beaches for people in Mumbai mixed with a long weekend always amounts to a trip to Goa and back. Having been there umpteen number of times, this time around we decided to take a short detour, though not that far away from Goa, yet seculded enough to give us our very own version of a ‘Private Beach’ destination at Golven Beach Resort.

Golven Resort

Beautiful AC Cottages, with great design at Golven Resort

Golven – Solituded De Strand  is aptly named, with all the solitude you can get especially if you are the kind who likes the view of the beach more than actually passing out on the beach, the sound of the waves more than the whiplash of the stirring ocean. Golven in French means ‘White Sand’, White Sand indeed and How! The sand is truly grained, white and a blessing for your feet when you lay your feet down and sink in the surreal view and the magnificence of the simplicity this place offers you.

White Sand Footsteps

White Sands of Vengurla

One of the best things about this place, besides the quiet and serene nature of the surrounding has to be it’s comfortable and cozy cottages laid meticulously across the landscape so as to provide each and every one of them a really good view to the beach. Other than that of course is what one needs the most. The comfort of a nice bed, clean and minimal interiors and a great balcony to sit, ponder, think and get back to your soul, especially when time is aplenty.

Beach View

A great blend of good architecture, by an architect from Pondicherry, as I’m told by Mrs. Pandit, the caretaker and owner’s mother shows a contemporary belief in minimal, modern and blend of both good rustic cottage like ambience, coupled with great glass and steel decor with lamp shades, AC and a remote controlled Fan. I must say we were quite impressed especially when we went in first. Not to mention the local ‘Kokam Sharbat’ for a welcome drink. Yep, Konkan has it’s specialties and Golven Resort too. First impressions, were most suitably the best impressions.

Mrs. Pandit, Golven Resort Owner's Mother

Mrs. Pandit, Golven Resort Owner’s Mother

Interior

Kokam

Besides the beautiful ambience, the nicely cleared pathways, a garden with beautiful flowers and of course hammocks and bean bags staring into the ocean, you realize that you’ve come home to your vacation. Post freshening up, we decided to head to lunch. And might I add, no Konkan lunch is complete, unless you have the most infamous Kokam Kadi.

Malvani Food

Kokam Kadi is to die for…

If you are the romantic type and want to have a dinner date in the evening, the ambiance picks up really well and gets you in the mood for the perfect dinner!

Ambient Lighting after Sunset at the Restaurant

Ambient Lighting after Sunset at the Restaurant

Other than lazying around and vacationing in style, there are a few things you can do to feel relaxed especially when the sun is down. Taking scooty ride across to a nearby village and find some still water to Kayak towards the ocean was a beautiful experience. The ride to this place was full of greenery and it also rained a bit, something that added to the magic of the weekend trip.

Greenery

Beautiful Lush greenery surrounded with tall trees!

Boat

View en route the Lake to go Kayaking!

And of course another interesting thing to do, especially if you want to take a hike is to go to the Lighthouse nearby. Walking about 300 steps amidst a few Mimosa Pudica (Touch Me Not) leaves and some really beautiful plantations to come across to a magical view of the expansive ocean, the Vengurla beach and the breezy feel of nothing but some really encapsulating touch to the whole experience.

Trek to Lighthouse

View from Lighthouse

Special Note: Our trip to Vengurla was possible thanks to the invitation and hospitality extended byGolven Beach Resort.  Situated bang in the center of Bagayati or Vengurla beach, Golven Beach Resorts offer 10 self-contained AC cottages with an open-deck restaurant open air conference hall and provision for beach camping since December 2013. Owing its roots to the French, the resort is named as  a tribute to the white sand beaches in the area. Our accommodation and  food was sponsored by them on this trip. A special mention of their lovely staff for extending their warm hospitality to us. 

The Golven Team

The Golven Team

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?

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


5 Most Beautiful Himalayan Towns

Originally posted on AsiaRooms

No matter how much I write about this beloved destination that I adore, there’ll never be enough to express the awe inspiring, breath taking, beautiful wonders that the Himalayan Mountain Range brings to all! While trekking within the Himalayas during the summer is quite a popular thing to do, there are many other ways to enjoy the magical spirit of the mountains – especially if you aren’t an ardent mountaineer, a huge trekking enthusiast or an avid lover of walking across the mountains. For starters you could try experiencing the beautiful serene towns that lie at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and these five are my recommended.

1. Joshimath, Uttarakhand

The city of Joshimath serves as a good base to explore the mountains and smaller towns across the North Western Himalayas in the Garwhal and Kumaon reigons. If you drive 250km southwest, you will get to the holy town of Rishikesh and Haridwar, a glimpse of the beautiful escapades in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. From this place you can drive up to Govind Ghat, which is the base for the trek to the Valley of Flowers National Park. 20km away is also the beautiful skiing resort in Auli. Auli is known to be a skiing paradise in the Kumaon Himalayas. If not for skiing in the winters, this place makes for spectacular views and a ride on the cable car ropeway is quite fun even during summers. With a sneak peek towards many beautiful regions within North Western Himalayas, this is the perfect spot to snuggle up and relax if you want a peaceful retreat away from the madness of cities.

Auli is a famous skiing resort in the Kumaon Himalayas

2. Leh, Jammu and Kashmir

Leh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. It now forms part of the Leh district in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Though this is a huge stretch and has beauty varied with geographical diversities, it is more popular for its roadtrips on high altitudes, and the view of the expansive and different landscapes it has to offer. More importantly, the lakes and waters of this place make for magnificent viewings. On one side, there’s Tso Moriri and on the other side by the India-China border is Pangong Tso Lake. If it were up to me, I’d just go and settle down in this beautiful haven. With beautiful monasteries, the highest motorable road and the cold deserts of the Nubra Valley, Leh has a lot to offer and makes for a great stay especially during the months of July to October. What’s more, there are direct flights to Leh from Delhi, making the commute a lot easier.

With the view of the Himalayas in the backdrop, Tso Moriri Lake is a magnificent stopover

3. Kaza, Himachal Pradesh

Situated in the Western Himalayas, Kaza is the gateway to the forbidden valley of the Great Western Himalayan Kingdom, known as the Spiti Valley. While getting there is an arduous task without any direct flights and the roads being one of the most dangerous in the world, once you’re there, the experience makes up for all the bumps and backaches you’ll incur on your journey there. Check out the views across Rohtang Pass and the short hike to Chandertaal Lake, and yes, once you’re there, the opportunity to visit one of the coldest villages in the world, Kibber, at 14,200 feet is the most blissful experience you’ll ever discover. One of the most spectacular views is of a gorgeous tall statue of Buddha sitting in the middle of nowhere, looking out onto the majestic mountains. The feeling you get out there is nothing short of magical.

Take a short hike to Chandertaal Lake before arriving in Kibber, one of the coldest villages in the world

4. Darjeeling, West Bengal

Known as the Queen of Hill Stations, Darjeeling is one of the prettiest towns in the North East Himalayas. As soon as you near the town, you’ll start to see views of the Kanchenjunga Peak. But there’s more to this place than just that view which almost sits in the background no matter which part of town you’re in. Darjeeling has some amazing restaurants, beautiful vantage points and a splendid ambience with its rustic Victorian legacy having served as a British hill station in the past. Wake up early at 4am for a visit to Tiger Point for a stupendous view of the sunrise. On your way back down, you can visit theGhoom Monastery, Japanese Pagoda which has some really amazing statues of Buddha in different poses.  Darjeeling is also famous for its teas, so stop by for a cup of Darjeeling tea as you view the sunset on the terrace of the century-old Keventer’s Café.

Darjeeling was a British hill station that is popular for its tea plantations

5. Mcleod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh

If you want to experience cool weather all year round, complete with chilly breezes, magical misty roads and some serious time and space to think about the meaning of life, then you’d want want to head to Mcleod Ganj. Located in the suburb of Dharamshala, it is also home to the Dalai Lama’s Temple known as Tsuglagkhang Temple. The town is also nicknamed “Little Lhasa” due to the large population of Tibetans living there. For me, a visit to the temple during prayer times was an enchanting experience. Whether you believe in any form of God or not, the spiritual journey is something that you’ll cherish for quite a while. The town centre gets crowded due to the hoards of tourists that come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but you can quietly slip away to a small part of town called Naddi. It’s quiet, beautiful and serene here. Either way, don’t miss Mcleod Ganj, especially if you’re in Manali or New Delhi.

McLeod Ganj is home to the popular Tsuglagkhang Temple, known as the Dalai Lama Temple

Buland Darwaza, Agra, Bharatpur, Jaipur, India, Travel

Magnanimity and Fortitude of Buland Darwaza

Some stories are part of legends and some stories are ‘Legendary.’ While I dawn upon a realization that most journeys have that one story, one place, one person, one experience that gets etched into memories of the travelers, there are stories that remind you that there are places that are etched in History and more importantly a passion that is driven by the stories of our past.

One such story was when I took a journey across Rajasthan and Agra about five years ago and stumbled upon this place via Bharatpur en route Agra. While we were on a traveling spree and covering city after city trying to experience the ruggedness and rustic nature of wonderful structures, cultural heritage and beautiful serenity of the magical monuments across India during the World Heritage Week in 2009 we were blinded by the magnanimous structure of the ‘Buland Darwaza’ on the outskirts of Bharatpur in a place called Fatehpur Sikri on our way to Agra.

‘Fateh’ stands for Victory and ‘Buland’ stands for powerful, stentorian and it is not just mere irony that this Indian Monument from the Mughal era was supposed to be built in this place. This Darwaza (gate/door) was constructed by built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 A.D. at Fatehpur Sikri. As we passed across the beautiful and green road structures on our way to reach the Buland Darwaza, as soon as we witnessed the huge structure, it made for an awe inspiring look on our faces only to realize that the structure had more to it. While you approach it closely and realize the marvel of the sculptures and inscriptions on the gate, you realize that this is sheer art created from a marvel back in the 16th Century. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat, there is some folklore which has a lot more to speak about this monument.

The Graves of Salim Chisti's Descendants

The Graves of Salim Chisti’s Descendants

Two things that you will only get to know when you go there. There is a Dargah inside the Buland Darwaza outside of which, you’ll find multiple graves of the Salim Chisti Dyansty. Even today his descendants reside within the complex and Dargah area, and whoever dies will be buried within those confines. It was believed that Salim Chisti already lived in the area where the Buland Darwaza stands today.

Salim Chisti's Dargah

Salim Chisti’s Dargah

Before it was built, it was nothing but barren land in the woods where the holy prophet practiced his religion. The Mughal Emperor Akbar, is believed to have consulted him because his wife was unable to give birth to a child. After which, Akbar’s wife gave birth to a baby boy Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, at Fatehpur Sikri. He is also known by his imperial name Jahangir (30 August 1569 – 8 November 1627), was the fourth Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. And of course, no wonder he was named Salim, after this holy man Salim Chisti.

Another interesting thing about this place is a underground subway, which is now closed, however in those days, it was a direct passageway to Emperror Akbar’s Fort in Agra, now known as the Agra Fort! This was built for a safe passage as well as convenience if ever Akbar wanted to consult with Salim Chisti, who he highly regarded. What marvels of ancient archaeology, I must say.

The entire sight is plain beauty and while you’re there, you must marvel and admire the beauty of the ancient Mughal architecture and of course look around and speak to a few locals who’ll give you some inside stories of this place.  And no wonder it’s called Buland Darwaza, for truly it is sheer Magnanimity and Fortitude in its elements!