Deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand, I discovered a secret. I first experienced it while sitting with an old, back-bent, wrinkled-face lady under the shade of a tree, as she waited more than three hours for a passing car to hitch-hike with. I began to comprehend it while walking alongside two young, shy girls on their way home from school. And it dawned on me like an epiphany on my hike through isolated village homes, set miles away from the next house and the road. What you and I might describe as idling around, is an art that lends itself to contentment here – the art of doing nothing. In our always connected lives, it has become rare to break away from technology and free ourselves to do nothing, let our thoughts flow and tune out of the mental baggage we carry around. In the mountains, it’s a way of life. This post is about places where I’ve let my mind wander in the backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas, and reconnect with nature and myself. I’m only highlighting environmentally-committed accommodations in Uttarakhand, because I would hate to …
Exactly one year ago, I was lost amid the dramatic, barren, snow-capped Himalayas of Ladakh. I acclimatized myself to the high altitude at an eco-luxury camp on the shores of the mighty Indus, hitch-hiked along remote villages in western Ladakh, introspected at a nunnery, witnessed a grand traditional welcome for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, hiked through surreal landscapes, met a tight work deadline on the steps of a monastery (the only place I could find 2G internet!), rode in rickety buses, and partook in the wisdom of Buddhist monks. So much has happened since – from discovering the secret lives of chocolate farmers in Costa Rica to hitch-hiking through soulful villages in northern Romania – that I almost forgot why traveling in Ladakh broke my heart. On a rainy day, I lay channel surfing in my Goan abode, when a glimpse of Pangong Lake on the Fox Life show Life Mein Ek Baar caught my eye. Watching the show’s hosts bike along the highest motorable roads in Ladakh and bond with the semi-nomadic Changpa tribe brought back many memories. I could suddenly hear the call …
Airbnb has changed the way I travel. Instead of pouring hours of research into finding unique accommodations during my Central America trip, I decided to rely on Airbnb and found private islands, organic farms and artistic, off-the-grid homes in the lap of active volcanoes – all at prices I could afford!
I groggily board the flight to Leh at an unearthly hour. Waking up irritably to the flight attendant’s announcement, the view outside my window quickly changes my mood. We are flying precariously close to the snow-covered Himalayas, and would soon land in the cold mountain desert of Ladakh. Three years after my first solo trip to Spiti, I am back in the trans-Himalayas, still dreamy and wide-eyed, a little nervous, and hoping to find solitude in the mountains. It feels like life has come a full circle.
I’ve never travelled in my own backyard. Born and brought up in the valley of Dehradun, I’ve always wondered what lay beyond the mountains I could see from my terrace. And last month, I finally decided to find out. I made my way up to the villages beyond Uttarkashi, and down via Mussoorie, transfixed by the majesty of the Garhwal Himalayas, as much as by the conviction of the locals to move on after the devastating Uttarakhand floods of 2013. I’ll let these pictures tell you their stories.
I am transiting through Singapore on my way to South Australia as I pen this. Amid the lavish hospitality of the Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris Lounge and the excitement of visiting the land down under, I find myself looking back fondly at the last week, which I spent road tripping through rural Maharashtra. Just 2.5 hours away from Bombay, the state revealed many hidden surprises! We drove along pristine lakes, stayed at a work-in-progress art village just off Panchgani, and lazed in the warm afternoon sun on virgin beaches along the Konkan coast.
We slowly row away from the shore, leaving behind the dim lights on our palm-fringed island. The current in the backwaters sways our tiny kayak, and after a brief show of resistance, we surrender and let it guide us. Small fish occasionally jump out of the water, creating ripples. A thousand stars shimmer in the sky above. These are the virgin backwaters of North Kerala’s Kasaragod district, silent, untouched and without a houseboat in sight.
Between my recent trips to sunny Seychelles and festive Germany, I was drawn by the call of the wild to Svasara Jungle Lodge at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. My jungle adventures in Madhya Pradesh earlier this year made me a wildlife tourism enthusiast (Read: Wildlife Tourism: Are We Saving The Tiger?), but Tadoba left me intoxicated. I can’t stop dreaming of forests brimming with unravelled mysteries. Or the sheer beauty and intricacy of their ecosystems. This is a glimpse of that world beyond ours.
There is a whole world out there, in the dense Sal forests of Kanha. A world far removed from you and me. Fascinating stories dwell here just like in the human world. Wildlife and nature peacefully co-exist, and mankind meddles. For better and for worse. These snippets attempt to look beyond what we witness on jungle safaris, and try to capture the essence of life in the wild.
Our jeep comes to a screeching halt. In the distance, two low-lying eyes gaze upon us with a look so cunning, I still can’t get it out of my head. Our naturalist raises his binoculars, and confirms what we suspect. A leopard. It gently raises its spotted body, gives us a defiant last look, and disappears in the bushes. We are left gaping at the empty path, with goosebumps. When Pugdundee Safaris first invited me on a week-long wildlife trip in Madhya Pradesh, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive. My past trips to national parks in Corbett and Sri Lanka had left me with the impression that wildlife tourism, jeep safaris in particular, are terrible for wild animals. Paved roads in the middle of the forest, racing jeeps, the constant pressure from people to see a tiger; it clearly seemed destructive of their natural habitat. That impression is gradually changing, and not because of the bone-chilling encounter with a leopard. Bejoy, the naturalist at Ken River Lodge, linked the argument to economics; it makes …