My 13 “Incredible India” Moments in 2013.

Thar desert, Rajasthan India, sand dunes india

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is coming to an end. This is the year I truly, madly fell in love with the sheer beauty of India, despite the challenges that travelling here is laced with (Read: 120 Days on The Road). I experienced the “other” side of the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, ventured deep in the interiors of Assam and Rajasthan, and developed an unexpected fascination for life in the wild. In search of an India Untravelled, I met incredible people dedicated to preserving the country’s beauty, ecology, heritage and traditions.

These are 13 moments from 2013 that make me all mushy about how much I love this crazy country.

1) Sunset on the Brahmaputra: Majuli, Assam.

A rusty ferry ride on the Bhramaputra River in Assam deposited me in another world at the start of 2013. We cycled along rickety river bridges, strolled along vast green meadows, and lived in ‘river bed’ villages far removed from civilization. The sunsets on the Brahmaputra convinced me that Majuli is one of the most beautiful places in India!

See: In Photos: Majuli Island, Assam

majuli island assam, majuli photos
Sunset on the Brahmaputra.


2) Touching the clouds: Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand.

At a time when the world was canceling its travel plans to Uttarakhand, I journeyed to the Himalayas of Kumaon to discover how the floods in the higher reaches of Garhwal had unfairly affected tourism in the entire state. In the terraced valleys of the quaint little village of Dhanachuli, the monsoon rains in July painted the most surreal scenery; forget writing, I was inspired to pen poetry.

Read: Te Aroha: Under The Yellow Rooftops

Dhanachuli Uttarakhand, Dhanachuli village, Kumaon Himalayas
That’s not a painting; it’s the view from my attic in Te Aroha!


3) Rain in the desert: Rajasthan.

Thus continued my unintentional chasing of the rains. In the vast, dry, parched desert of Rajasthan lay oases, small streams, and such greenery as I would’ve never fathomed. We off-roaded into the endless wilderness, spotted a Great Indian Bustard in its mating season (there are only 300 of them left in India), and joined the desert dwellers in celebrating the rain as we saw it approach us from the far end of the desert.

See: In Photos: Jaisalmer in the Monsoons
Read: Suryagarh, Jaisalmer: A Splash of Royalty in The Desert 

jaisalmer monsoon, thar desert rain, RAjasthan in the rains
Watching the rains descend upon the parched desert.


4) Unexpected love: Bangalore.

You probably know that I’ve never been a city person. So when I found myself drawn to stay longer in Bangalore on each trip, I was surprising even myself. But it’s a city that’s easy to fall in love with. The chilled out vibe, the always pleasant weather, the awesome eating options, I’ve loved it all, and could use any excuse to go back next year!

Read: 24 Hours in Bangalore

bangalore beer
Beer goggles for Bangalore?


5) Beer by the beach: Coastal Karnataka.

Sitting on the rooftop of a beach home in coastal Karnataka, the waves crashing on the virgin beach below, the sunset painting the sky pink and red, sipping beer with a friend… that’s the earliest memory etched in my head from the time I went location independent in August. I’m glad the seagulls called!

Read: You Can Shake The Sand From Your Shoes, but Not From Your Soul

coastal karnataka, kapu beach
Inspired to write.


6) Riding a speedboat: Goa.

I have to confess I didn’t know Goa had backwaters before I landed there in September. In the postcard village of Aldona, my host family introduced me to the “other side”, and believe it or not, I rode a speedboat along the virgin, riverine backwaters, home to crocodiles and kingfishers. Bliss.

Goa offbeat, Goa backwaters

Read: Wake Me Up When September Ends
Read: In Photos: Goa in The Monsoons


7) Driving a Scooty in the Himalayas: Binsar, Uttarakhand.

Did I ever tell you about our Scooty gang in school? I’ve driven in the sloping hills of northern Thailand, and in blinding rain in Goa, but driving a beaten down scooty with a friend behind me, almost up to Zero Point in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary was something else! (Mom, please don’t read this.)

kasar devi, kumaon himalayas, uttarakhand travel blog
Introspective at Kasar Devi.


8) Reasons to love Delhi again.

When I thought I was running out of reasons to love Delhi, my quest to find “Delhi Untravelled” salvaged me. I spent a day in a potters’ village on the outskirts of the city, charmed by their earthy way of life and fascinated by their genius at the wheel. And another day hiking along a cluster of pristine lakes in the Aravali hills just off Delhi, stunned by the treasures that lay in my own backyard all this time. It’s true; giving up my base in Delhi has made me want to see the city more!

untravel delhi, delhi secrets, delhi offbeat
Pristine lakes in the Aravalis on Delhi’s outskirts.


9) Breakfast by the gorge: Panna, Madhya Pradesh.

On our very first jungle safari in Panna Tiger Reserve, we wound up at a gorge with waterfalls and vultures, and sipped tea with this view; that was the moment I knew I was in love with the wild. Pugdundee Safaris introduced me to the fascinating world of forests and wildlife in October, and speaking to their naturalists gave me much-needed perspective on wildlife tourism.

See: Panna National Park: The Most Beautiful in India?
Read: Wildlife Tourism: Are We Saving The Tiger?

Panna madhya pradesh, panna tiger reserve, panna national park, panna blogs
The gorge with waterfalls and vultures at Panna National Park.


10) The man with the flute: Auroville.

I still find it hard to put my finger on my Auroville experience; they say it’s a place where everyone comes to follow their dreams, but for me, it was a place that inspired me to dream. On many evenings, I went to the rooftop of Auroville’s famous Solar Kitchen to read, and this man would show up with his flute, the birds following close behind. It was a wordless connection.

Read: Auroville: Utopia or Something Like it
Read: A Guide to Auroville: Things to Know Before You Go

Auroville, Auroville India, Auroville blogs
The man with the flute.


11) Encounter with the big cat: Tadoba, Maharashtra.

If Madhya Pradesh introduced me to my ‘wild’ side, Tadoba had me hooked. On our first jungle safari with Svasara Jungle Lodge, we were greeted by this majestic Royal Bengal Tigress for a whole five minutes. I can still feel the adrenalin rush of hearing a forest come alive with alarm calls, and can’t wait to do it all over again.

Read: Call of The Wild: Tadoba Tiger Reserve

tadoba maharashtra, royal bengal tiger india, tadoba andhari tiger reserve
Such majesty.


12) Geminid Meteor Shower: Thar Desert, Rajasthan.

I’ve dreamt of watching a meteor shower since the time I was a kid, and spent fruitless nights wandering around my terrace at home looking for shooting stars (heck, I even named my blog after it!). Laying on a mattress under the open sky in the Thar Desert was beautiful in itself, then a million thick green shooting stars surfaced in the skies! I’m still trying to find words to describe that experience.

Thar desert, Rajasthan India, sand dunes india
The best bed I’ve woken up in, in 2013!


13) Opium for breakfast: Dhalop, Rajasthan.

What can I say? The Rabari shepherd community of the Pali district of Rajasthan wanted to top all my other fabulous experiences in 2013, so there I sat with them, drinking opium!

pali rajasthan, opium ceremony pali
Opium for breakfast!


Hope you enjoyed travelling across India virtually with me!

What were your “Incredible India” highlights of 2013? 


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The Shooting Star Academy

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  1. DA Travelography says:

    Wish you a great year ahead with many such incredible trips in India and more!

  2. A nice blog, Shivya. Some of the places that you have mentioned are on my list. We went on a 3-week bike ride to Nepal-Sikkim-Guwahati-Meghalaya this Sep. One of the locals suggested that we ride to Majuli but could not make it due to lack of time. I will try to go there when i ride to Arunachal next year.
    Would love to meet you when you come down to Bangalore next time.

    1. Thanks Dhivakar! And what an excited ride that sounds like. Was it on a bicycle or a motorbike? Absolutely budget a few days for Majuli on your next trip, though you might never want to leave when you get there 😉

      1. bonitovida says:

        Yes the ride was awesome..Three of us(which included a female rider) went on motorbikes..if you happen to go to nepal anytime, make sure you go to ‘The Last Resort’ .Its around 3hrs from kathmandu. you will absolutely love it. Sure, will keep few days for Majuli in the plan..Thanks 🙂

  3. Hey Shivya! Merry Christmas. 🙂 Nice to read your travel highlights of 2013! Sleeping in a desert sounds really exciting. I am yet to do that!

    1. Thanks Renuka, and to you! Plan the desert adventure while it’s still winter; I’m sure you’ll love it!

  4. Quite a list you’ve got here! All of them unique and rather unknown. The images have great character too

    PS : Which Biere club creation did you like the best? For me it was The Stout.

    1. Thanks! Glad you liked the photos; hope I could get some of those experiences onto your bucket list for next year 😉

      I can’t remember many of the Biere Club creations to be honest. All dissolved in the beer I guess!

  5. Roberto Amaral says:

    Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you again sometime in 2014

  6. Hi Shivya

    You took a really courageous step this year which is a inspiration for many. It’s not important if you stick with the decision or not but what’s important is that you shown the courage to do it. Wish you too a very eventful 2014 and hope you will keep on doing what your heart tells you to do!!!


  7. Great…Wishing you a fabulous years full of surprises ahead….

  8. Omg!! That’s for the last one 😉 Beautiful round up Shivya…you inspire me! Have a great 2014 with many more memories turning into beautiful blogposts!

  9. I wish more people had the courage to leave jobs, comforts or material bonds to follow passions, callings and dreams like you Shivya!

  10. Debtirtha says:

    Awesome places 🙂 I envy you 😛

  11. Every experience sounds wonderful but for Bangalore..but then again, I dont particularly care for the city or its vibe

  12. Hi Shivya

    Very interesting compilations of the 2013 travelogues .And surely look forward to more great locations in 2014 … Compliments of the season !!

  13. wow !! what an extract of experiences !! ne traveller would die to get all of them and u got them in one year….u surely know how to provoke people !!

  14. Wow! I can see you had an amazing 2013, at least as far as travel was concerned. 🙂

    Here’s wishing you loads more travel in 2014 too. To me too. 🙂 I hardly managed to travel in 2013. 🙁

  15. Eshaan Dwivedi says:

    All your stories are inspiring. Especially when I am standing at the threshold to leave my corporate job and chase my dream.
    God bless you

  16. Can you tell me how to get to that lake in Delhi?

    P.s. – This post really made me choke up. Not cry. See crying is easy. Choking up is not.

  17. Pingback: 11 Best Monsoon Destinations in India | Goxcursion Blog
  18. channappa says:

    I loved it the you enjoy

  19. ASHWINI KUMAR says:

    What more can one look forward to when such updates are flashed on wordpress. I’m kicking to undertake a whistle stop sojourn under your guidance. Hope you will not disappoint me…haha..

  20. Andrew Chow says:

    I am a Malaysian and have travelled to India more than 40 times for holiday in the last 30 years. I have not heard of most of the beautiful places posted in your blog. This means that I have missed so much that India has to offer.
    I enjoy reading your stories tremendously.
    I wish you well and be safe in all your travels.

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