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  1. Intro: I’m not really sure how to start my first detailed travel blog. Hence I will start with: “I always had a desire to visit the Himalayas and spend the night under the stars. I didn’t know where, when and with whom but the urge was always strong.” When my best friend Amar suggested that we make a trip to the Mountains in 2020 (just the 2 of us) plans didn’t materialize because of Corona and then work. Towards the later ½ of 2020, we started our planning again. We didn’t want to make it to any commercial / tourist spots or any place crowded. The Planning: After a lot of research, checking out many alternatives (Gaumukh, Ranikhet and watching vlogs on and talking to organizers who arrange ‘village tours’ in Himachal we decided that since this was our first trip, we wouldn’t go to any place that was too much of an effort to trek. Amar started checking out Airbnb and we narrowed down a remote village called ‘Durmi Tal’. The duration of the trip to Durmi Tal and the rest of the travel (which was still not planned) was decided as 2 weeks. (Working for a corporate, it is very tough to get a long leave beyond 2 weeks). We decided to reach Durmi Tal and then decide our way forward from there. After a lot of deliberation, our itinerary was decided as follows Home> Rishikesh > Durmi Tal > To be decided > Rishikesh > return. Dates were 27th March to 9th April. I was to meet Amar (he was coming from Andaman) at Rishikesh and then we move from there. Purchases for the trip: Electronics: Since I might go for treks, I decided to go for a 20,000 mAh Ambrane power bank on Flipkart. Note: After a lot of research, I found out that flights will allow max 20,000 mAh per person (even Indigo customer support isn’t aware of this and they never answered my mails even after multiple reminders) Cost: 1,100/- Gear: The weather in Durmi would very between 2° - 23° C with slight chances of rain. I hence went down to Decathlon and later at Jockey. I got a set of trekking boots (for occasional treks), 2 trekking trousers, a backpack and thermals. Note: An employee named Malasala Raviteja helped me with a lot of details and to make the right choices. He also conducts treks to the Himalayas and campings in Telangana. You can reach him on 90107-39847 Total Cost: 17,000/- Flight tickets: I had already decided the day I’ll land and return, I booked my tickets directly on the Indigo app on 20th Feb. Hyd > Del > Dehradun on 27th Mar - 10th April. (No extra addons). I chose the shortest time to reach destination. Cost: 14,300/- Travel: Since our travel is fragmented, I’ll break it up into segments and add the stays / expenses / experiences / contacts under each segment Day 1 - Hyd to Rishikesh (27th March) Flight from Hyd – Dehradun was 4 hrs with (1½ hrs layover in Delhi). Amar came down from Rishikesh was waiting outside with a cab, so it was a comfortable travel to Rishikesh for me. Rishikesh is 23 kms from Dehradhun (~ 1 hr drive). Cost: 1,200/- (total for the round trip) (Liquor - In case you wish to pick up liquor, it is best to pick it up enroute to Rishikesh. You do not have wine shops in Rishikesh. However, some hotels serve you only beer. Ask your cabbie to stop at a wine shop). Here are other ways to reach Rishikesh: At Dehradun airport (to Rishikesh): One can either book cabs from inside the airport or Step out and take a cab to Rishikesh. They charge approx. 1 - 1.3k (source: internet) or Walk down 1 to 1.5 kms to the main road and take Govt / Pvt buses. The fare should be anywhere between 50 – 400 max (source: internet) Rishikesh: Stay: We booked our place at “Hill top Swiss Cottage”. Stayed there for only a day and planned to start the next early morning to Durmi Tal It is a bit of a walk from the road (5 mins and a little climb). Better to take your cab up to the narrow lane instead of carrying your backpacks / luggage. Note: Avoid eating in the balcony. There are monkeys / baboons roaming around. We stepped out and went to the town in the evening. Visited the Ram and Lakshman Jhula bridges, original Chotiwale restaurant, the ashrams and sat by the Ganga for a while on either side of the Ram Jhula bridge. Day 2 – Rishikesh to Durmi Tal (28th March) The day before, we learnt that there was a massive road widening project being carried enroute to Chamoli district so we had to take a detour which would prolong our travel from 8 to 9 hours. Initially we decided to travel via Rishikesh > Rudraprayag >Gopeshwar > Durmi tal but had to take a detour via Rishikesh > Rudraprayag > Chopta > Gopeshwar > Durmi Tal We started at 06:30 AM. The driver was a maniac and dropped us at Gopeshwar within 6 hours with a 30 mins lunch break (WHOA!). From Gopeshwar – the villager from Durmi Tal picked us up. I could barely click a few pics through the journey because (1) the roads were filled with lots of curves and the driver till Gopeshwar was driving like a maniac. I had to hold on to the handle and (2) The villager from Durmi stuffed 4 people including me and my friend, our backpacks and other bags in an Alto 800. WOW. Details of cabs (Cost and travel times): We reached Durmi by lunch time. We were stopped many times in between by the locals who were blocking the road and celebrating Holi. A few pics taken on the way And finally, DURMITAL Since the house keeper wasn’t expecting us until evening, we had to wait out for a while before we entered. Lunch was also served pretty late. We had to do with Maggi as late lunch. A few pics from the beautiful Durmital We were put up in this (and the only) guesthouse that has a vantage point. This was a guest house since the colonial era. It was repaired recently. 1st Night @ Durmital It was a full moon night and the moon was shining in all it glory lighting up the whole place. IT WAS SURREAL AND MAGICAL! It was pretty cold and I couldn't stay out for too long. I wish I could've basked under the moonlight for longer. The temperature must have been between 5-6 C and in spite of the thermals, the cold was biting (Unfortunately I was only using my OnePlus 5, that's why the pics are blurry) A little history about Durmital Lake was formed due to landslide created a dam during British India. According to an official statement of the authorities of the British Empire the landslide happened in September 1893, at the end of the monsoon in a steep hill name Hariyadeep situated in the right hand side of Durmi Village in western direction. Having a total volume of estimated 150 to 200 million cubic meters, the barrier formed by the landslide masses successively dammed the river Birahi Ganga, forming a lake within a year. This lake increased its size to 4000 m in length, about 340 m in average width and 300 m total depth. On the 26th of August 1894 the shattered masses of the landslide could no longer resist the accumulated pressure of the water, perhaps due to seepage. The first catastrophic outbreak of the Durmi Tal devastated the valley of the river Alakananda for a long distance downstream from the dam. After the flood a new stable lake remained for next 78 years which became the major hub of water sports and recreational activities. Due to unusual settlement of natural dam it could not resist the lake water in 1970's flood in upper region of Birehi ganga river and later caused damage to entire Nizmula valley and affected many places in downstream. (Ref: http://durmital.com/services.html) A group of village heads under the leadership of Mr. Mohan Negi have taken up the initiative of putting Durmital back on the tourism map by and rake in more people. They’ve been following up with the state govt to have the basin dug up again and to have the lake re-created. Day 3, 4 & 5 – Durmi Tal (29th, 30th & 31st March) The night was extremely cold and we had to use mattresses as blankets. 29th was HOLI. We woke up when the sun was up, some of the village kids came over to wish us. We had a late breakfast and decided to explore the basin below. You can see the guesthouse from here: There were a small group of people celebrating holi By around 1400 hrs, we came back for lunch. After which we relaxed till evening Note: all vegetables are grown within the village. All are organic and fresh. Evening: 30th March: Was a special day It was the day I met my soulmate. But first an incident. The village priest recommended special puja for a villager to rid him of evil influences (bhoot pret puja) and lamb be sacrificed after prayers. The villagers wanted us to be a part of the occasion and have the prasad. Initially I was excited but came to regret it later because the prasad was “RAW kidney and liver of the lamb served with blood” and semi cooked intestines. I am not sure how but I managed to avoid the raw meat. I couldn’t however avoid the semi-cooked intestines.🤢 Pics of the path and the place where the puja place. The villagers were new to the concept of a Polaroid camera and were amused with the way the pics were being processed instantly We came back after this and rested till evening. I wasn't aware that I would be meeting my SOULMATE. After the ordeal in the noon, we wanted some good chicken for the night. We asked the housekeeper to arrange some well cooked lamb. The in charge, decided to introduce us to Soulmate in the night. SOULMATE is an ultra cheap quality and priced liquor locally manufactured. Meeting this soulmate was one of the most regretful incidents of my life. 2.5 pegs and I was hungover the whole of next day, threw up and slept till evening. This could also be because I consumed less water. NOTE: Keep drinking ample water at high altitudes. Otherwise you’ll end up with severe headaches My expression when I saw booze the next day. (After this day, I reduced my liquor consumption .. this is true) 31st March We decided to move around the village and talk to the villagers. We didn’t roam around much. Decided to come back early Day 6, 7 & 8 – Trek to Irani and stay (1st, 2nd and 3rd April) Right from the time I read about Durmital and Irani village Chief’s commendable efforts to revive tourism in that area, I wanted to meet him. Hence we planned a trip to Irani (one of the last Gadwal villages before the border). I have to mention this: The determination and unity amongst the villages and villagers across the whole area is commendable. Here are 2 instances: Setting up of a cellphone tower In addition to dismal connectivity by road, a large chunk of the area covering 9-10 Gadwal villages didn’t have a good cellphone network. BSNL was always there but connectivity was sporadic it was extremely unreliable. There were instances where medical help couldn’t reach the villagers on time and lives were lost. Also, due to the pandemic lockdown, the govt schools in these areas were closed. Unlike in the towns and cities, the children couldn’t learn from home because of the network. The village head of Irani Shri. Mohan Negi stepped up to take charge and fix this issue for all the villages and shot out letters to multiple companies. Jio was the first to respond. After assessing the feasibility, Jio suggested that they were ready to install the tower at Irani but the villagers need to ensure that the get the equipment from the foothill to the top of the mountains. The assembling would be done by the Jio team. Mohan got together with the surrounding villages and got a MOU signed up where all villages would send across their villagers in turns to move the extremely heavy equipment to the top. All the village heads agreed and they accomplished this task in a short span of time. The villages that were involved and benefited from this were Irani Pana Jhinji Durmi Pagna Gauna Nijmula Bhanani Bona BBC India covered this impeccable exemplar of unity. Link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3512092255477076 NOTE: I almost forgot to mention this and came back to edit this blog Mohanji and rest of the villagers are looking forward for aid or any sort of help to help improve the condition of the education in their village. The would want their future generations to have a good education and a comfortable life. The schools have been shut for a while due to the pandemic. Any help you can provide (either via NGOs who can teach the children or provide equipment for schools would be of great help) --- Trek and stay at Irani We decided to stay at Irani for 2 nights max and decided to carry only our shoulder bags, limited food suppl for the trek and water. We spoke to our guest house manager and arranged a local village guy who would help us with the trek to Irani + cook food for us (@1,500/- per day) We started early on 1st April along with a local villager (Umedh singh) who was a young and a very jovial guy. Patient and helpful. It took us 20 mins from our guesthouse to the foothills. From there it usually takes the villagers 1.5 – 2.0 hrs max to reach Irani. For me though, it took 9 lives + 3.5 gruelling hours with multiple breaks (that’s when I realized I really need to get fit). I went from “Lets do it” to “I want to go back” very soon. And then finally the sense of achievement once I reached the top was amazing. The climb wasn’t very steep but the path was filled with stones and loose gravel so one has to be careful. Durmi tal and Irani on map: A few pics at the beginning of the trek. Later, I put my phone in the bag that Umedh was carrying and I didn’t care to take pics. A shanty to serve food for the workers while going to the foothills The road to the foothills is under construction The vehicle owner on left, Umedh in between and Amar on right 5 mins to begin our trek. Headed for the foothills 15 mins into the trek and already out of breath, I am pointing out where we started from Mountains being dug and roads being constructed We reached Irani just after lunch time (2 pm) (in the meanwhile Mohan made multiple calls to Umedh to enquire about how long it would take for us to reach). Since the air was much thinner, it took a little time for us to get accustomed. Day 1 at Irani: We had lunch and crashed our early after talking to the Mohan Negiji. Bhabhiji (Mohan Negi’s wife) was kind to help us with home made food (pure veg) Mohan was kind enough to accommodate us at his residence and arranged a room with mattresses as blankets. (Max temp: 12C – Min Temp:1-2C) At Village chief Mohan Negi’s residence (Mohan on the left and Umedh on the right) The dynamic and young village chief, Mohan Negi ji The cheerful, always smiling and helpful Umedh View in front of Mohan Negi's residence View in the evening Day 2 at Irani: The night was extremely cold. The mattresses provided by the Mohanji (+ a pot of burning coal ember in the room) helped the 3 of us Amar, Umedh and me. We slept light and were up by 6.00 AM. It took time to gather the courage to come out of the room. Once we were out, we had a couple of smokes with a nice mug of milk with spices (cinnamon and other spices). Post 6:30 AM we were in for one of the best sunrises we had seen in our lives. Only a few lines form Pink Floyd’s Echoes can even remotely describe what we witnessed After we recovered from the stupor at the celestial sunrise, we had a quick breakfast and got ready to explore the village and meet a few villagers. The villagers were very kind and made us feel at home. In case you are keen in the saptakund trek, there is a village guide who can help you with the same. I will add the details later We later walked up to the primary and secondary school of the village. They had primary and secondary sections that were shut for more than a year because of the pandemic. The walk to the school was just a bit challenging but worth the minimal effort and the view from there. Umedh (as cheerful as ever) dropped us on the top (leaving us for few smokes) and went down to get us lunch. He was back after a hour with lunch for the 3 of us A few pics from our walk to the school and from the top "Men will be men" 🤪 After lunch we got down and went to the other side of the village. A few pics from village and the greenery around "Chandu Negi" - He is the man / guide who can help you with Sapthakund trek The village goddess temple Towards evening, as the sun was setting, It was getting very cold for us. We retired for the day after this. We planned to wake up early the next day and make it back to Durmital Day 3 at Irani: We woke up early. Amar being the active one decided to make a visit to the farms along with the Mohanji. I decided to laze around and have some ‘pointless conversations’ with my friends on the phone. After Amar returned, we had a lengthy conversation with Mohanji about the dreams and challenges the gadwails were facing. We spoke of how the children weren’t getting good education or jobs and were getting lured into drug addiction. The village heads are fighting an uphill task to combat that challenge Mohanji wished people could volunteer and educate / teach the school kids about latest technology so that they could land better jobs rather than take care of farming which has been their only source of income. We met a few notable people from Irani one last time and the village head of a neighboring village Ramani Village head of Ramani (Suraj Pawar) Chief medic of Irani (Anand Singh) We started at around noon. Again Umedh was carrying our luggage. Though it was relatively much easier to walk down it was very tricky too. The loose gravel and soil on the steep pathways always posed a risk or us slipping down and injuring ourselves We reached the base of the mountain within 2.5 hours. By evening 5 o Clock, we were back at Durmital Back to Durmital: Day 9 – Last day at Durmital (4th April) After a memorable trip, we decided to move back to Rishikesh and spend the last 5 days there. We requested Prem to arrange for a few beers for that night. (Beer was almost 2x the price) Day 10 – Travel back to Rishikesh (5th April) Packing our bags was the most laborious task. Once we were done we met up with all the people from Durmital who made our stay memorable and clicked as many pics as so that when we look back, every pic brings back those moments and a million emotions Going back would be exactly the same way. Durmital to Chamoli – by Maruti Alto and from Chamoli to Rishikesh – by Dzire We reached Rishikesh by 1600 hrs (our cab driver ought to drive an F1 car) and checked into the same hotel we were put at earlier. This time, we were lucky to get a room right at the top with a beautiful view. Once we checked in, we had our means and crashed out. We were pretty tired Days 10 to 14 – Back in Rishikesh (6th – 10th April) Day 10 – 6th April We decided walk around Rishikesh explore it and meet people. We decided to move out at noon. Towards noon, I had bad itch around my elbows and feet. Realized we were mercilessly bitten by bugs. Not sure if this was in Durmital or Irani. We ended the day spending hours sitting at our favorite spot, on the banks of Ganga besides the Ram Jhula bridge Day 11 – 7th April We woke upby 7:30 and decided to repeat what we did yesterday. Keep walking around, explore and meet people. The weather was relatively kind and the skies were covered (though not for long) We walked around a lot and sat for several hours at the banks of Ganga. (Same spot). While walking back from the banks to the road to take a shared auto back to Tapovan, I always felt a strange pull (a very strong, peaceful and divine vibration) emanating from a house. I always felt tempted to enter the gates and enquire whose house it was but I always stopped myself.(Several months later, I asked a close friend of mine (Srinath) and got to know it is Swami Chinmayanand’s Ashram). The next time I go back to Rishikesh, I’ll make a visit here for sure After walking around everywhere and coming back to Tapovan, we were very tired and wished we could have a couple of beers. We were lucky, to have a decent bar besides our resort. We had a couple of beers before we retired back to the room and crashed out Day 12 – 8th April We decided to repeat what we have been doing since the past 2 days and also visit Tat wale Baba’s cave. Srinath advised me to visit the cave if possible (Tat wale baba was an enlightened hermit whose stopped ageing in his mid 30s and lived till 95 years old) A care taker now takes care of his samadhi / cave. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet him but met another caretaker. I had the opportunity to meditate in the cave. After we came back to our resort, we met a few interesting people. They had come from various parts of the world (Russia, Australia, Delhi, Mumbai etc) and decided to settle down in Rishikesh The next couple of days were spent in their company. Day 13 – 9th April A few more pics of Rishikesh before we took our respective flights back the next morning Day 14 – 10th April The day I didn’t want to come. Amar and I had to return back to Hyderabad and Port Blair respectively. We had an early flight and had to pack up and leave by 7 am. We had our flight from Dehradhun to Delhi at 11 and from there we would split The End: Thus, a memorable trip comes to an end. We carry several memories, emotions and experiences with us. As the lyrics of the song ‘The End by The Doors’ goes Hope to make to the mountains every year.
  2. Whoever has said – hills are green when they are far way – I so want to meet and dispute and take the character to Thekaddy on a free vacation with me! What you are looking for – Jungle Safari? waterfalls? meadows? cultural festivity in daily life? Let me give you few more – tea gardens, spice gardens, vineyard, meadows and valleys? Still you need more – Alright! Let me add it- Elephant Safari, Boating and how about off-road driving??? Ladies and Gentlemen…. Read the list again – give yourself this gift - Taste Thekkady!!! Airways to Thekkady Cochin, Madurai are two airports very close to Thekkady. I decided to opt Flight to Madurai and book a cab from the airport straight to the mountains. Early morning flight, not only gives you the entire day, it also gives you leisure, time to explore your way to Thekkady and luxury of nature. The distance between Thekkady and Madurai Airport is under 250 KMs and in four hours you can reach your destination. The road is beautiful, runs through small villages, towns, medical colleges, canopy of trees, hills, windmills and vineyards. Stopping at some great locations for a click will not be a mistake and should not be missed. Try out windmills at your back or the seasonal waterfalls on your way. Our cab driver was great as a local guide throughout our journey. We had our breakfast (Typical Tamil style and it was delicious) at Hotel Gowri Krishna and recommended for a definite try. The restaurant is quite decent and can accommodate over 60 to 70 people at a time if not more and the efficiency in serving the orders is just amazing. On your way at Periyakulam, do click photographs and images that thrills you and seek your attention. Our stay for the next three days was at a very decent and customer oriented Hotel. The stay was too perfect at this place. From the variety of food offerings to cleanliness, complimentary breakfast, evening tea/coffee, snacks …with view of mysterious mountains and valleys, floating cloud rom your hanging deck just gives you peace of mind and true sense of luxury and vacation together. The resort has a great garden, activity area, swimming pool, spa and of course three different option for residence! We requested for the top most floor to enjoy the scenic beauty of nature from our balcony and room. Activities at Thekkady Kathakali and Marshall Arts You should and must have two hours available for this show. You can do the bookings online or you can go and buy the tickets from the booking counter for the show. Both are really rich in their own way and reflects a strong fiber of our tradition and culture. Spice Gardens There are many spice gardens in Thekkady and Periyar. There is no harm learning half an hour the kind of medicinal plants cultured around and the variety of spice available in the region. A lot of medical company do research and purchase these ayurvedic medicinal plants in building their medicines and brand. Try yourself with some herbal soaps, fresh spice, some great medicinal powder for cleansing life and diet. Gavi Forest Drive The forest just thrills you from the time you enter the main gate and runs till the time off board the jeep. My trip was in monsoon so I did enjoy the beauty of greenery, the fun of sitting in a jeep, sightseeing elephants like humans everywhere, deer all around, bison of massive size, brown bears against trees and birds all around. The forest is thick and green, surrounded with valleys and mountains. The guide takes you around, stops every possible place where you can spot a wild life! Gavi Forest is almost all-day program. It starts from your hotel at 5.30 AM and continues all day. This includes beautiful boat riding, hiking over valleys and mountains to spice plantation (rubber and cardamom), a small visit to a museum and lunch. This trip was really a lucky trip for me. Every time I had a guide, they always tried to make it little different. During boating, the guide took us to a beautiful seasonal waterfall which appeared from nowhere and surprised us for quite sometimes. The waterfall was huge and strong, we anchored our boat in between two rocks and walked down the slippery water and rocks towards the waterfall. The hiking over to different parts of the mountain and seeing different scenic points are way too beautiful and fascinating. Enjoy the mist and clouds floating by, sip a bottle of water or two, click some pictures and enjoy the vacation like a vacation. Ayurvedic Spa No trip is complete in Kerala without Ayurvedic massage. However, you should be careful enough to review and select the right place for the massage. I did go for three hours package and ensured I used strong influence of the local network I made during my stay to ensure I get the best spa treatment. Local Sight Seeing Thekkady has a lot of local places to visit . Please make most use of it when you are in Thekkady. Murrikaddi spice garden, Chellarkovil, chellarkovil view point, Pandikuzhi, Idduki District, Kumlily, Mullaperiyar dam , Vagamom are some of them that I could finish during my stay. I am highly indebted to the guide and Periyar cab team to help me with my most demanding requests on planning my day. The owner did not only gave us the most helpful and knowledgeable guide, he ensured calling me every day , take feedback, suggest next day plan and stay in touch anytime. When you visit Chellarkovil waterfall, ensure you cross the waterfall and go to the other side and climb up for having a stunning beauty of the valley below and mountains around. I wish I had luxury of time in my hand to sit all day long and see the clouds and day light pass by. Periyar Lake and Boating Bamboo boating or boating on a launch both are quite exciting on Periyar lake. The boat takes you around the forest . The boating has fixed timing and you can book your slot either online or buy tickets from the counter. However it is recommended to do the bookings online. Nature Walk, Trekking, Overnight Camping Though I didn’t opt for this one however I would still recommend if you are going in summer or winter, go for nature walk , trekking down the forest for almost 10 kms , cloud train, jungle trail, tiger trail and experience the stay at camp spots overnight inside the Periyar tiger reserve park. The arrangements can be done by your guide or online websites or probably through your hotel. I do have some idea how thrilling and beautiful the camping can be because the view of thick jungle, view from the mountains and safari through the jungle already injected the feeling in me. Off tracking This is all day event and is a great trill for those who are crazy for off road tracking. Though I could not experience since it was monsoon and the road trips were closed but it’s going to be a whole of an experience for sure Elephant Rides Definitely a great experience to interact and spend two to three hours with such a humble life. There are many elephant safari and ride programs across Thekkady. You can go for half an hour ride through plantation, elephant bathing, elephant training session and take a moment to greet the elephant and feed with your own hands Vineyards On our way to Madurai airport, we did visit a waterfall and a vineyard at Uttapalaiyam. Though the waterfall was not that exciting and over crowded, the visit to the vineyard was short and nice. You can talk and have a look at the way things work, hear how grapes are fermented, picked from the plantation and processed. The story will remain incomplete if I dont speak of the Kerala Lunch! Highly recommended - Visit this restaurant incase you dont know anything better. We were stuffed with rice, Malabar Paratha, beef, prawns, chicken, mutton, fish, some awesome veg curries , salad and chutneys/pickles for INR 600 per head. If you dispute, I dont mind because I already had my share that afternoon and didnt eat anything for dinner. I realized one thing for sure - Happiness is portable! Just carry it with you wherever you go! Give this place a try, it wont be disappointing.
  3. If there is a reading meter in the market to gauge what I always love the most in nature , the scale will always be reading 100 % for beaches. Probably I didn't go to the right mountains in the right season and never fancy to get lock down inside a room after sunset since then. AND then this magic happened! After few trips to same Chirala and burning out my fuel of love and passion for beaches , probably I didn't want to see that place again . I packed my bags in summer and risk my preference for once and all changed ; Coornoor just flushed off my insensible attraction towards mountains to a desire for exploring more , loving more, tripping more in mountains. After Bengaluru traffic beaten us badly , we speed up well through Mysuru highway, quickly took a tea break at my favourite spot @Gundlupet , we managed to cross all 31 hairpins of Ooty and its awful traffic at city centre. It was almost dark and up above the world so high... Moon was shining like a diamond in the sky! Before you reach Ooty, beautiful Bandipur and its forest life always cheesecake your life with taste of beautiful nature. Our Resort was another 14 kms from Udagamandalam. It was an offbeat homestay with lake at one side, tea estate on both sides of the homestay, valleys and mountains all around us. The beauty of mountains, tea estate,azure sky, lively greenery around the stay was just a luxury you cant afford to miss! The gentle breeze and the freshness is so far away from the hustle bustle of city life and recycled air at home. On our way to the stay, we did spot quite a few bisons and wild deer. It was quite thrilling stay since we had no one around the venue though everything was quite safe and secure. The homestay has two bedrooms, well furnished with furnitures, bed, mattresses, pillows, glass windows every where, sofa, dinning hall and a kitchen will refrigerator , gas connection, spice , utensils everything. The food was arranged by the local guide himself for us during our stay and it was very economical. Next day, the first thing on our agenda was to explore the property, tea estate and the road towards the lake. It was so so different for me for I have never explored mountains, tea estate with so much enthusiasm. The local guide, take us around a lot of beautiful off beat places -Palada, Adikaratti, Nonsuch Tea estate, Archiesden, Dolphin Point and Lambs Rock. In One day we did cover a lot of points for photography and short breaks. While you continue driving across small villages, you do notice the beauty of ghat roads, tea estates, factories, vegetable washing machines , beautiful railway tracks for toy trains, trees filled with colorful flowers etc. Archiesden is a peak point close to an eculaptus oil factory . Heard you can spot leopard after the sunset at this point. You need to hike for five ten minutes to reach this scenic beauty. You can see mountains, roads, life all around from the top as if you are the lord of the world and appreciating the beauty of your own creation. Clouds can touch you and go if you hike here early morning or in winters. We did stop at a chinese restaurant for lunch though we wanted to try local Biriyani from a small outlet. The outlet was closed and we decided to go to a decent restaurant. A must try - Honey Lemon Tea at TanTea stall in Coornoor. I did drink two cups myself . It is an awesome point for drinking tea and enjoy the sunset. The gentleman brew the tea in front of you in a carefe and serves you hot refreshing tea in a glass made cup and saucer. You can drive around the military zone in Ooty for its beauty stretching across the golf course to Statues of National Leaders . Incase you are a coffee lover, sip a coffee from Bossoms coffee cafe in Ooty. Its really cool. The local guide later took us at the top of a road close to Mahindra Holiday club resort for a scenic view of OOty from the top of the peak under full moon night! Its heaven. The pearl of lights all over just can kill you with its beauty. The lights across the small homes across the mountains, the moving traffic , the beauty of trees and moon playing hide and seek -is so so thrilling, probably one has to be on the spot someday to experience it. The place has so much of tranquility to offer , you wont feel like stepping out of the place till you are ready to go back home. I wish I had a bed there itself to experience the sunrise next day. We decided to have dinner at the spot itself and was served with excellent dinner and a great hot tea after the dinner. It was a long day for us and we drove back to the resort through the forest and ghats at night!. The short trip was not only beautiful, it was a kind of a change for me too. It did change my outlook towards mountain, made me found a place where I sat and saw from the top of the peak both morning and night in two different beauties. I didn't miss sea for a second! Only thing that was missing from my list was - wrong opinions about mountains.
  4. The most memorable journey into the magical mountain range of North East Planning Booking for Sikkim Gangtok Darjeeling - 8 Days & 7 Nights | Cities : Lachen Day 1 (07 May 2017) ================= Arrival at IXB (Airport) NJP (Railway Station) and Transfer to Darjeeling (Duration: 3 ½ hours Approx) (Distance: 69 kms) Arrive & Meet Our Official Representative at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) / Bagdogra Airport (IXB)–He will be assisting for the transfer - Darjeeling - Check into hotel – Evening free to roam around Mall or local Shopping centre - Over Night stay at Darjeeling. Day 2 (08 May 2017) ================= Darjeeling Local Sight-Seeing (Including Tiger Hill) Go for the early morning 3-point tour at 3:45 am which covers famous sunrise from Tiger Hill, Old Ghoom Monastery and Batasia Loop where the toy train takes a dramatic loop and negotiates an Altitude of 140ft. You will be back to your hotel by 7:30am. Relax for a while and After Breakfast later take the 7-point local tour which includes Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Zoological Park, Ropeway, Tibetan Self Help Refugee Center, Lebong Race Course, Happy Valley Tea Estate etc. This tour will take about 4 hours. Day 3 (09 May 2017) ================= Darjeeling to Gangtok& Gangtok Local Sightseeing:- (Duration: 3 ½ hours Approx) (Distance: 135 kms ) Morning breakfast – Transfer to Gangtok –– Check into Hotel – After taking rest - Drive flora half day sightseeing and visit to Directorate of Handicrafts & Handloom, Research Institute of Tibetology, Do Drul Chorten (Stupa), Enchey Monastery, White Hall, Flower Show, one , etc. – Back to hotel – Evening free - Over Night stay at Gangtok. Day 4 (10 May 2017) ================= Gangtok to Lachen:- (Duration: 5–6 hours Approx) (Distance: 135 kms ) Early morning breakfast –Lunch at Chungthang – Lachen is 35 kilometers from Chungthang Reach Lachen late afternoon / early evening - Gurudongmar Lake, Chopta Valley, Tshangu are the major attraction– Like a Shangri - La – Check into a hotel - Welcome Tea – Evening free to stroll and visit the Lepcha Village – Overnight stay at Hotel in Lachen. Day 5 (11 May 2017) ================= Excursion To Gurudongmar Lake And Transfer To Lachung:- (Duration:2 ½ - 3 ½ hours Approx) (Distance: 85kms ) Early morning breakfast – Visit to Gurudongmar Lake through which Lachen Chu flows, generally covered with snow from December to April or even more is known as the Holy / Sacred Lake - Next drive through the cold desert till Tibet / China back to Resort for Lunch – After lunch drive to Lachung - Back to hotel for lunch - After lunch proceed to Lachung -Check into hotel at Lachung - Evening free to visit Lachung Monastery - Overnight stay at Hotel at Lachung. Day 6 (12 May 2017) ================= Sightseeing AtYumthang Valley + ZeroPoint (Optional) & Transfer To Gangtok:- After breakfast drive towards Yumthang situated at an elevation of nearly 11800 feet - On the way you may visit the famous hot spring which is known for its curative properties of skin diseases - Yumthang is a valley near the river Lachung Chu surrounded by mountains where the tree line ends - In spring the valley erupts in riots of colors as Primulae, Rhododendrons and many other Alpine flowers in full bloom along with snow covered valley except in autumn - During winter Yumthang is somber with snow all around and the snow clad mountains adding to the ethereal beauty. Optional Zero point(Additional Cost) is the last outpost of civilization. The road ends here. Peaceful valley and is quite windy - there was not much to hear but just stay here for some time to enjoy the beauty. With the majestic mountains and ice around - it was like being the only people in the world. Calm, quiet and a sense of insignificance - time seems to stand still here.... like nothing ever changes.Return to resort at Lachung for Lunch – Transfer to Gangtok – Reach Gangtok in the evening – Check into hotel – Night stay at Gangtok. Day 7 (13 May 2017) ================= Excursion To Tsomgo Lake& Baba Mandir:- Morning breakfast at hotel – Excursion to Tsomgo Lake & Baba Mandir nearly 40 kilometers - The Lake is oval shaped lake nearly 50 feet deep - Generally covered in snow for most of the year – This lake is home to the Brahmini ducks & many migratory birds – Nearby is the sacred Baba Mandir known to be a very holy site for all - Nathula Pass to Republic of China is nearly 20 kilometers and is optional tour - Back to Gangtok - Evening free to roam around M G Road (Mall) or local Shopping center - Over Night stay at Gangtok (In case of Landslide or due to any other reasons if Tshangu Lake is closed then an alternate sightseeing will be provided). Optional Nathula(Additional Cost)(14140 Ft / 4310 Mts / 20 Kms in 1Hrs one way from Tshangu Lake) Baba Mandir (13100Ft / 3994 Mts / 16Kms in 1Hrs one way from Tshangu Lake) is an Indo China border, controlled by the Indian Army & is situated approx 20 Kms ahead of Tshangu Lake at an height of 14140 Ft / 4310 At this point the right arm of the “V” which is 4 Kms takes one to Baba Mandir & left arm of the “V” which is 4 Kms takes one to Nathula. One can opt for Nathula Excursion by paying a supplement cost which varies from month to month. Nathula permit gets confirmed 24 hrs prior to the journey date & it is subjected to permit availability as it is allotted as per lottery. Nathula is closed on Monday & Tuesday for tourist. Organising the permit at the last moment is not possible & a clear window of 72 Hrs with proper documents is required to process the permit. To process the permit we would require 04 Passport Size Photograph & photo proof identity card such as Voter Id / Passport / Driving License. Pan card is not accepted as identity proof by authorities. There is no refund, in case the permit is confirmed by Sikkim tourism & due to whatsoever reason (Land slide, Heavy rain fall, VIP Movement, Health issue etc) one is not able to visit. Day 8 (14 May 2017) ================== DepartureAt Airport (IXB) / Railway Station (NJP) :- (Duration:4-5hours Approx) (Distance: 135kms ) After breakfast transfer to Siliguri / New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) / Bagdogra Airport (IXB) Guest are advised to start early and not to rush - Forwarding Journey. Execution: Day 1 - Hyderabad - Bhagdogara - Darjeeling Day 2 - Darjeeling: State - West Bengal Elevation - 6,700ft / 2,042.2m Tourist Attractions - Tea estates, Tiger Hill, Toy train, Japanese temple, Rock garden, Spectacular views of Kangchenjunga - the world's third-highest mountain Day 3 - Darjeeling - Gangtok On the way - Teesta river - River rafting Gangtok State - Sikkim Elevation - 5,410ft / 1,600m Tourist Attractions - A centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning - Several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and centres for Tibetology, Spectacular views of Kangchenjunga - the world's third-highest mountain Day 4 - Gangtok - Lachen Lachen: State - Sikkim Elevation - 9,000ft / 2,750m Tourist Attaractions - It's the base for Chopta valley and Gurudongmar lake Chopta valley - Located at an altitude of 13,000ft / 4,000m Day 5 - Lachen - Gurudongmar lake - Located at an altitude of 17,800ft / 5,430m Lachen - Lachung Lachung: State - Sikkim Elevation - 9,600ft / 2,900m Tourist Attractions - It's the base for Yumthang valley and Zero point Day 6 - Lachung - Yumthang valley - 11,693ft /3,564m Yumthang valley - Zero point - 15,300ft / 4,664m Zero point - Lachung - Gangtok Day 7 - Nathu La pass: Elevation - 14,140ft / 4,301m About - It's one of the three open trading border posts between China and India, It is also one of the four officially agreed BPM (Border Personnel Meeting) points between the Indian Army and People's Liberation Army of China for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies Tsomgo Lake: Elevation - 12,300ft / 3,753m About - It's located 35kms from Gangtok town and on the steep route known as Jawaharlal Nehru Road which leads all the way to Nathula Pass Day 8 - Gangtok - Bhagdogara - Hyderabad ***Please carry AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) medicine along
  5. What if I give you a package comprise of – Hills, sea, lakes, pristine beaches, seafood, nice resort , good roads and panoramic view - all for a very economical pricing and you cover all of these without any rush in just three days? Don’t turn your face away! As you keep reading this travelogue below, you can experience the beauty of the trip –so vast and versatile, no dispute –Konkan coast is one of the best road trips to do! The long weekend of 15th August was the reason enough to go and explore Konkan coast. This is one trip I shall always cherish for its simplicity and havoc journey through hills and lakes and coastal lines. The month was the busiest for me and I was drained out by the time I was set to fly to Pune for this journey. Continuous travelling for three weeks just made me run out of energy to pack my bag and fly to Pune for Konkan coast drive. However just after half an hour drive from Pune, the magic wheels flushed out all the toxins in my thoughts – “I am Tired!” Infact – I was on the road that changed my mood and became passport to one of the most memorable trips of 2017. Saturday Morning – I had a flight from Hyderabad Airport to Pune. My friend for Donkey years got his Nissan Terrano ready at the airport. We started the journey at 7 AM. He is very particular with his car! He would not let anyone touch the car . That was more like a pre independence celebration of my hands and legs before 15th August. Only things I kept myself engaged were - mouth to speak, eyes to see the scenic beauty and mobile phone for quick GPS guidance. However this trip would not have been successful without Nikhil Patel from India Drive. His guidance was simply Fantastic. Target destination was Devbagh, Tarkarli and Malvan Beach. We had no bookings for accommodations. We decided to go to Kholapur and take our first break. However once we stepped out of Pune, we had our first halt for a short tea break just below Khandala. The saga of hills, ghat roads can be seen from this spot. Your mind gets unloaded with the fresh air and highway speed as you keep climbing the ghat road! The road to Kholapur from Pune is pretty decent. It’s a four lane road. You definitely enjoy the beauty on both sides, can spot small mountains, breeze and light shower of the monsoon and seasonal flowers all over. Once we touched Kholapur, we decided to have lunch. We decided to have lunch at Dehati. This is one of the must try restaurants! The restaurant is very decent, have awesome dishes and try out the Kholapuri Thali! They serve in copper crockeries and utensils. The chaas is awesome and come in Kokkam mix and the mutton keema will activate your taste buds like a bomb! The food is so delicious, I could not imagine anything better can be offered for the lunch. They served each item one by one. This keep your food warm and just from the oven!. After Happy eating, was the time for real driving! We headed towards Radhanagri Road! One has to be really insensitive to ignore the beauty of this journey! The road takes you up to the mountain with Ghats on right side, seasonal water falls at every curve, forest and wild flowers, plants and greenery, fog and mist and farming land far away in some village as if painted by Dali of Maharashtra! . Incase you want to visit the dam /reservoir, you can take a look at the dam and do photography! Radhanagri has another beautiful feature. The quick changing weather can bring a lot of mist and fog on your way followed by canopy of trees, lush plantations, sneak peek of dears and monkeys. The beauty of the place is ornamented with seasonal waterfalls and then suddenly you realized you have reached the plateau which opens up to a super beautiful pristine lake. The lake is so huge and beautiful, you don’t mind stopping for sometimes and ideally enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings. No matter where you halt your car, you can either hear cricket, birds chirping or waterfalls! It is not recommended to go away without enjoying these scenic beauty and sound of nature. It is advised - lower down the window panes and step out of the recycled air in your car! We halted almost at every corner and clicked pictures of the seasonal waterfalls, plants, flowers and the greenery. The kingdom of clouds float all around the ghat road and bring plenty of peace. While standing at the edge of the lake, you do spot a temple on the other side of the lake. You cannot see any mankind but you know for sure, you are not alone in this mystic world of silence and nature. Without further delay, we headed towards Malvan. Another must worth mentioning part of the trip was– every tea stall you stop the car, you get fresh tea brewed in front of you! They use herbs, tea leaves and masala to brew your drink! What a taste…. Sometimes it does surpass elderflower essence So, to my surprise. This experience was very uniform throughout my journey for next three days. Kudos to all Aai who prepared tea on our way. It was towards the dusk, we reached Tarkarli beach. The beach road has plenty of houses for homestay. We decided to go and look for Maharashtra government lodge. I heard they are usually located at good spots and maintained well. It was quite big resort just on the shore. However the receptionist was more like he owns Hyatt and was rude enough on your face. He was upfront - take any room you want but tomorrow we might ask you to leave if we have people coming in. Without a second thought, I ticked off the spot off my list! However I did pay a quick visit to the cottages. I was happy I decided to quit. The charges were INR 3000 plus for a bed which has two blanket and a roof made of thatch! The light settings was like we are just taking off inside the flight . It was little frustrating to find a decent resort after we left the government resort. Since August is monsoon and off season, almost all the resorts were off and were closed. However you will find people are pretty helpful sending you to other resorts for accommodation. All come his way – he who waits – we finally reached a resort which was very decent and run by a local family. The cost of the room was INR 2000 which is very clean, well maintained, slim furniture – making enough space for two people, clean washroom with geyser, air conditioner and television. It had a big window facing the sea and a big balcony with two easy chairs for you to sit and enjoy the breeze. The property is in expanding mode. It has garden, plenty of space for further development. It opens up on Tarkarli beach. Once we dumped our luggage, we went straight to the beach. The neatness was quite high and unspoiled by mankind- the footfall is less in off season. It was quite interesting to see when fishermen return from fishing, you get van come to get the fishes directly from the boat to the van and go for trading at markets. This is indeed a great strategy to keep the beach clean. We did spend quite a long hour on the beach, letting the sound of the waves evaporate our tiredness for good. We did order sea foods. Almost all listed in the menu card were available for order. We didn’t hesitate to order promphet, prawns and chicken for the night! The cold breeze and beautiful night was enough for us to call it a day! Day 2 This day was for exploring Devbhag beach, Malvan Beach . We started our journey with Devbagh beach. Devbagh beach is known for water sports. Once you reach the beach, it has back water on the left and sea on the right. The point where the sea and the lake meets is really beautiful. You have plenty of people conducting water sports and sea trips. We negotiated for INR 500 and got to visit Dolphin point, Tsunami Island, Meeting point of Devgarh beach and lake. I was lucky to spot few dolphins in the morning otherwise it’s not so easy to spot one. The meeting point was very rough though for the boatman he said –“ no danger!” Tsunami Island is said to have formed in 2004 after Tsunami. This island get vanished during high tide, usually in the evening and again get visible next day morning! The best part is the sea walk. Once you reach close to the island, you need to get off the boat and walk to the island over the sea. One might think, you would drown soon, you realize the fun only when you land on the water. The guide told us, they can do snorkeling during peak season starting from October and the island get visitors like crazy during the day. It turns into a commercial spot during business season. After the water sports, you can take a leisure walk on the beach! Its quiet and peaceful surrounding! You can just walk and take a place of your own to enjoy the view of the waves. For Lunch we headed to atithi . It is a well-known place for Lunch and dinner. You get variety of fish and Konkani dishes. It’s been told the place is so popular that in peak season, you need to wait at least for 45 minutes to get a seat. After lunch, we had few more beaches to cover! We did cover the Rock Garden beach! The garden is very small but once you step towards the shore, you can see water blows which is a classic! The designed rocks on the edge and the natural beds of rocks are both -simply awesome and beautiful. If you want to get drenched, you can simply sit on a rock bed and enjoy the splash all over! Otherwise just enjoy the breeze and see the locals fishing using small baits for pleasure and fun! Take a drive further down to Malvan beach , visit the Sindhudurg fort , enjoy the sunet! We decided to take a lovely walk in our own resort beach! It was so quiet and peaceful, we went on walking for almost two hours one side and chit chat with few fisher men on the shore! Their journey for the day was over and they just were getting ready to march towards home! The sunset was beautiful, leaving a flavor for such pristine beach and tranquility in mind. Day Three Next day we wanted to start early and cover few beaches on our way! The locals informed us that Vengurla can be a nice spot for a trip and also thelight house. As we started around 8 am in the morning, to our surprise it was another beautiful road journey through forest, villages, ghats and waterfalls! The fresh air and the clouds over the sky was perfect to feel the cool breeze and smell of the earth! It takes you back from where we all come from! The surprise waterfalls and sudden ghats only leaves you packed with energy for the rest of the journey! Vengurla Light house was just a surprise for us. It has two ways . Road 1 – By walking and Road 2 - taking the vehicle directly to the light house on the top of the mountain. It was a wise thing to take the car all the way up to the lighthouse! The moment you start going up in the mountain, you start seeing a different topography! The road is lush with green plants and flowers, sneak peak of beach on the left, direction to more than five beaches on the right! As we approached towards the light house gate, we stared spotting peacocks, grazing goats and butterflies! It was just a mystery that such a hidden treasure was hiding on the top of the mountain. At times you are not fortunate to get everything! Light house gates were chained and closed. We tried ringing the number found on the gate for checking if someone responds. It went unanswered as well. However when He takes a thing away, He gives you back something better! After getting disappointed, we just decided to walk and follow the butterflies for some photography! Little did we know we were marching towards a zone from where you can have the entire view of the Vengurla beach , crazy waves on the rocky side of the shore, azure blue sky lined below with sky blue water of the ocean! . We didn’t bother to repent on driving up to a closed light house! We did silently sit on the edge and enjoy the heaven for at least 30 minutes. On our way to Sawantwadi, we did spend sometimes in three more beaches! Its interesting one stretch can have so many beaches hidden on the way! All of them are lovely and can be accessed easily! Though most of the beaches are secluded and have very less footfalls, use your discretion before going and the time of the day you are going to these beaches. We have spotted few people though, still a recommendation for your own safety. The beauty of the beaches are awesome. You have clean sand all over! As we keep driving towards Sawantwadi, we continued exploring the nature and its beauty! Some places are just stretched with palm trees, some stretch are full with coconut trees, some have lakes and some have mountains around both sides of the road. For lunch we halted at Sawantwadi. The restaurant is one of the most traditional dhaba with Konkani, Marathi dishes! I promise you won’t be disappointed in trying either fish or chicken or mutton! Just have patience… because almost every other car stops and crowd have lunch and move out. As we bid bye bye to the city, we were entering the zone of waterfalls! The monsoon and the weather just made Sawantwadi ghat so so beautiful. With every turn and curve, you see you are just one turn closer to the waterfalls and away from the sea level. Sawantwadi is no more the charming place it used to be before! Wherever there is mankind, there is destruction of nature! All I could hear, noise, scream and honking. Instead of fresh air, it was smell of cooked food, snacks and crackers. Instead of flowers and greenery, we can see plastic bottles and leftovers around! There was no point of seeing this damage and we drove further almost three kilometers ahead for our next stop. In a minute we were free from the nuisance and just parked our car next to a place where it was just covered with floating clouds! Right after Sawantwadi ghat, we left towards Pune. It was an extraordinary feeling when you see beauty of nature in so many different flavours! Just at the turn towards kholapur highway and not even 2 kms, we found a spot that will jaw drop you! This was again a lake with beauty unparalleled... The place is known as Ajra. You can simply park your car down and climb up a small mountain like structure and enjoy the nature and breeze for free! How beautiful life is when its simple and free. Only thing left in this journey was to go back to Pune! The holidays were over, the dates went to the books of history, phone was untouched almost two days except for photographs! As we started driving towards Satara, sipped fresh brew tea at stalls, enjoyed the sunset and evening breeze, only thing was on mind ..... In September .. I have my next destination on card... so lets get ready again!!!
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