Showing posts with label road trip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label road trip. Show all posts

Monday, January 20, 2020

Majuli day 1 (April 2018)

Boat Ride to Majuli
Somewhere on the internet once read the need for a vacation within a vacation. I know it sounds oxymoron but trust me when you are on the road for some time you need a day or two just doing nothing. Majuli was supposed to a magical place for us.

As we drove back west from Sivsagar we took the diversion to Nematighat, the boat embarkation point (ferry ghat) to go to Majuli. In recent times Majuli has lost its size due to many floods but it still holds the record for the largest river island.

We thought the drive from the highway to the ferry point would be quick, but it was a long one. The last 2 KM we drove on the bank of the river Brahmaputra and it was fine white sand all over. Even though we were not driving at very fast speed there was a sand storm on our back. As we approached the ferry we queued up for the cars to be placed on the next boat. Now, these are small boats which carry passengers, bikes and cars. But space for a car is limited and if the boat is even smaller it could be only 2 cars at a time.

Simple Rice Plate
Lucky for us the car in front of us broke down, they were trying their best to put that car. But Pamela smartly managed the situation and said if they are having so much tough time putting the car on the boat how they will get it out on the other side? Now putting up the car on the boat is not easy, we deftly drove the car down the slushy, scary-steep incline and stopped at the edge of a makeshift jetty on the river and there two wooden planks, almost as narrow as the tires, between the jetty and a country boat. But those guys were extra helpful as they realized we are a tourist. The cars are parked next to each other barely a few inches gap between them and it seems it is a norm to keep the car door unlocked.

At Deka Chang -  Relaxing
The seating space was very packed as well many travelers were on the top of the roof which provides better ventilation, but it was noon and we opted out of it. The boat ride is about an hour plus and there was an intermediate stop before Majuli. Once we landed in Majuli and got our car out we waited for the other cars and local taxi/tempos and we started towards our hotel.

Majuli welcomes us with its rustic beauty. There are only a few major roads that connect within the island. We stopped at Ural restaurant we found along the road and simple rice plate in the Assamese style.

Our stay was at Deka Chang, the place is supposed to be one of the best ones in Majuli. It even gets featured in the Priyanka Chopra’s promo video of Assam tourism. We got ourselves a very big room which was not needed. But it was due to the fact some government official was staying while he was on official vacation. This stay of the official caused us very poor service. And we were disappointed and cursing ourselves for choosing this property.

In the evening we visited the nearby temple (Satra). This Satra is very special as it runs by family members. It is called Garamur Satra.

Satras are Vaishnav temple and they are very special to Assam’s history and culture. Just to highlight few facts about Majuli
  • The first newspaper of Assam was published here.
  • Sankaradeva established the first Satra here.
  • Here you will find the largest tribal community of Assam the Misings.
  • Even though there all religious people stay on this island there is no mosque. It is just to show respect and great community living.

After observing the evening prayer at the Satra we had dinner at the same place where we had lunch and called it a day.

    Saturday, January 04, 2020

    Sivasagar - Unexplored Ahom Kingdom's finest

    When I was planning this long trip to Assam I always wanted to drive all the way up to Dibrugarh where I studied till class 5. Later, in the final planning stage realized it was too long of a drive. Covering Guwahati, Shillong & Dibrugarh was getting too much in one trip so saved it for a later day. Sivasagar remained in the itinerary for a night stay with a condition if we finish Gibbon-Hollongapar and still have time to explore the ancient capital of the Ahom kingdom. 

    As we had good sightings in the morning at Hollongapar we decided to move on and explore the Sivasagar area. The hotel Mr. Barua (Wild Grass) recommended was Hotel Brahmaputra. This hotel is near ONGC complex in the town center. We found the hotel room to be OK/OK for a night stay and checked in. He had an early lunch and wanted to explore as much possible of those historical sites. We decided to cover the distance one first and do the close-by the next day and head out to Majuli. 

    We started with Charaideo Maidams, which is around 30 KM away from the town. The drive was not great as road conditions were bad and we had to navigate big potholes. It took us some time to reach Charaideo. The approach to the site was very nice with canopy cover from the trees. According to history books, it was the first capital of the Ahom kingdom. Now for the Maidams which looks like a small pyramid here are some details below.

    Maidams These lofty maidams are the burial mounds of the Ahom kings and nobles. The Ahom followed a unique mortuary practice to bury their dead kings and nobles in the coffin and an earthen mound of pyramidal shape raised over it. These maidams are hemispherical in shapes ad vary in sizes depending upon the power and status of the buried individual. The hemispherical mound is usually bound by an octagonal enclosure wall with an entrance on the western side and at the top of the mound generally occurs a brick-built structure. 

    The picturesque forest setting makes this place very ideal for leisure walks with a cool breeze. The Ahom’s continued to bury their royalty here long after they moved their capital elsewhere, and the mounds are still considered sacred. 

    On our way back from Charaideo we stopped at Kareng Ghar (at Garhgaon) which is around 15 KM away from the town. This brick palace is the last major remnant of the Ahom kingdom’s before they moved their capital to Sivasagar. This is a stepped pyramid-style structure with 4 floors. The top floor has a dome-like roof with a chamber. Kareng Ghar was built first in 1540 but 1752 the current structure was built on the top of the old one as the old one worn out over time. The influence of contemporary Mughals can be seen in the structure. There are four main gates to the palace. It is believed there is a secret tunnel from Kareng Ghar to Talatal Ghar (15 KM). After taking lots of pictures in their well-maintained garden we decided to head back to the town. 

    We parked our car next to the district court and explored Sivasagar Tank and temples around its famous Shiv Dol, Vishnu Dol & Devi Dol. These three temples are next to each other. Shiva Dol is the tallest, Vishu Dol has finer workmanship. Some might say these temples resemble the famous Kamakhya temple of Guwahati. These temples were built by the Ahom queen Phuleswari. 

    As the sun was setting down we got some great shots of these temples in golden light. We walked on the tank bank and reached the Assam Tourism hotel which is one of the corners of the Tank. 

    We had an early dinner called it a day. 

    The next day, early morning without any breakfast and all we started for the remaining attractions. We started with Joy Sagar Tank another massive man-made water body. It is Asia’s biggest man-made tank. The Sivasagar college was next to it. We wanted to drive along the complete perimeter, but one side is blocked by the Indian Army. I respect a lot Indian Army for their sacrifice and hard work but it is strange how they occupy some central part of a town and causes hindrance to civilian. 

    We came to Talatal Ghar next, founded by King Rudra Singha. Built-in the 1750s over an earlier wooden palace, it originally had seven stories, three of which were underground (including secret escape tunnels). Now we can visit the two surviving above-ground levels, which have labyrinthine galleries and a large flat roof holding several pavilions. 

    From there we went to the last attraction Rang Ghar passing Gola Ghar(Amination Storage). And It the best attraction to the Sivasagar area to me. It is a two-story, oval-shaped pavilion built by King Pramatta Singha in 1746. We walked up to the top floor, from where the royalty watched buffalo and elephant fights and other entertainment. The place was under renovation when we visited. The place used to come alive during Bihu festivals. 

    After this, we had breakfast on the way back to the hotel and left for Majuli.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    Day 1 in Kaziranga - April 2018

    After a good night sleep with thunders and rain, the morning was clear of rain but the sky had overcast. Without much delay, we put all our stuff in the car and head out of the resort for Kaziranga. The best thing about the resort for us its proximity to the highway. We drive on the straight highway going east. The road was divided four lanes and there was not much traffic and was cruising around 100KM/Hr.  We crossed Pobitora wildlife sanctuary just outside Guwahati.

    Dining Hall - Wild Grass
    We even kept a half day back up to visit Pobitora if we do not get to see much in Kaziranga. We were getting hungry as last night the dinner was quite early and did not even had tea/coffee before leaving the resort.  As we look out for a decent place to stop for breakfast we reached Anuraag Dhaba near Nagaon bypass.

    We ordered two plates of breakfast. The dish was served in an authentic Bronze plate with lots of different vegetables.  The staffs were wearing traditional Assamese Mekhela Chadar. We were quite impressed with the food and service. The food was served in a very satisfactory manner and the taste was splendid. Overall, we really had a "something special" kind of experience. Please do not keep your hope too high after all it is a simple place to eat on a highway, but would recommend it for sure.

    Now, as soon as we crossed Nagaon the road condition deteriorated. There was work going on to make four lanes which we are back to 2 lanes road and have to navigate traffic with caution. As we left GHY early we had plenty of time in our hand for the afternoon safari which we had planned. 

    Now we had to cross the Western and Central Zone gate of Kaziranga before reaching our destination “Wild Grass”.  As we approach the turn to be taken as suggested by Google map I find a small road going inside from the highway. I did not take that road as there was no sign or anything for Wild Grass. After going 100 meters or so I ask someone local and he points back to the same road. So reluctantly I took the road which is a narrow road with stones and you see bamboo houses, some small plantation and drive like that for a 1KM.  We continue and at last, there is a sign for “Wild Grass” a small one on the fork.  But as we approach the property we just get mesmerized. It is an old colonial style big bungalow. 
    One Horn Rhino

    We were greeted by a warm welcome and were told we have good 2/3 hours before the safari so we can just linger around have lunch and then head out for afternoon safari.

    The lunch was an authentic Assamese one   

    This place is unique and the owner is the best. He was instrumental in planning this trip. He shared so many details about Kaziranga that no guidebook could have covered it better.

    Soon we started for our first safari to the West Zone, in fact, we have crossed this gate while coming from Guwahati. It is almost 20/25 minutes drive Wild Grass. Once we reached the gate we had to buy tickets and pay the camera fee and all.

    We were fortunate enough to spot the one-horned rhino. We spotted elephants and spotted deers. There were many birds but as a beginner, we were not very well versed with the same. We saw an Indian Roller from a close distance. Spotted Pallas Fish Eagle, Lesser Adjutant, Ruddy Shelduck, Pied Kingfisher, and others.
    Lesser Adjutant

    Kaziranga has very tall grass so animal sighting is mainly near the edge of wetlands and in short grass areas. Technically Swamp Deer is more endangered than the Asian one-horned rhino as far as the world population is concerned.

    We headed back to the resort as the sun sets in the east, the hotel had warm snacks and tea. And once again the dinner was fabulous.

    We felt like we accomplished all we had to do in Kaziranga ;) but honestly, as I write this post after so many months I find myself reliving each moment once again and wish we could have stayed there for long.

    DescriptionKaziranga has very tall grass so animal sighting is mainly near the edge of wetlands and in short grass areas.

    Thursday, December 27, 2018

    Sight Seeing Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

    Sohra (Cherrapunjee) Tourist Guide Map

    As usual, the sun went up early as we are the Eastern part of India, so after a good breakfast and settling our bills we left towards Cherrpunjee. The sky was cloudy but not raining. The 16KM drive is a long one from the resort we stayed and the road of last 8 KM was really bad. 

    Kynrem Falls
    Kynrem Falls
    We started with Thangkharang Park which looked farthest on the map. The road was good for the most part but again the last 4/5 KM was under heavy construction. Our legs were heavy from yesterday’s hike still we walked around the whole park. We got to see Kynrem falls from there. And Bangladesh plain was in plain sight. The water was not so heavy in Kynrem falls as we were just before the monsoon. I am sure in monsoon the sight will be completely different with roaring water rushing down the hill.  The waterfall is made of three or four stages as you can see from the picture. We could see one or two cars on the winding road and there were a few tourists we went to the base of the falls.

    From the park, we headed towards Pillar Rock/Khoh Ramhah but there was no other soul out there. There was no board explaining what we really need to see. So we felt a little disappointed and just circle back from there.

    On the way back to Sohra we first went to Mawsmai Cave, this is a small cave compared to our very own Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh. But as usual, the cave had its own fun. Some passages were really small and narrow. And you need to be mindful of your steps all the time as there was water. We were followed by a big Bengali group and they were very noisy which really spoiled the fun. Being a Bengali, we really feel ashamed by these large noisy tourists at times. Anyway as we came out and was looking for some biscuits and snacks from the back the car we realized we left our shoe bag at the resort.

    We called the resort and they informed yes it was left just out of our door and they have kept it safe. After a quick stop at the Monoliths which are on the road itself, we headed back to resort again. We did not stop at Eco-Park and the viewpoint. The drive of 16KM back and forth with the broken and twisted road cost us an hour plus.
    After picking up the shoe bag we headed towards Nohkalikai Waterfalls. The road is splendid, we stopped many times, we tried the most difficult form of photography aka landscape with little success. There were lots of spices, pickles and local handicrafts being sold at the viewpoint. 

    Around Sohra
    After Nohkalikai falls we headed back to the Sohra again and stopped at Ram Krishna Mission.  This is very close to the ground where my Shillong-Cherrapunji Marathon ended 2+ years back. This RK Mission played a big role in Meghalaya’s modern history. There is a museum on the first floor highlighting Meghalaya and NorthEast as a whole.

    After RK mission we decided to head back to GHY post lunch. We stopped at the “Orange Roots” a vegetarian restaurant on the highway very crowded.   The food was fresh and hot and it was clean.

    As we approached Shillong we thought of visiting Shillong Peak and drove all the way to the Air Force base to get the ticket when we realized we missed the cutoff. Disappointed we headed back to the highway. The road was narrow and had to manage big construction trucks on the turns and twist which was a complete waste. And top of that the weather was perfect with late afternoon sun on a clear blue sky ☹

    We spoke with our hotel owner in Kaziranga and he was saying if you really want ride a little longer from GHY and next 4/5 hours you will be there. While it sounded promising we were not ready for that long drive. Alternately he suggested stopping near GHY where there are lots of new resorts. We found it was way cheaper to book via MakeMyTrip so we booked online and headed toward GHY. We were going to stay at Brahmaputra Jungle Resort. Lucky for us we did not face major traffic while getting out of Shillong it was snail pace but moving. It did take a long time to get out from one end to the other of Shillong, We could see the long queue of cars/bus/trucks getting towards Shillong.  

    We did stop for few minutes at Badapani/ Umiam Lake but no great sunsets.  This time we are cautious and did not miss on “JAVA VEG” for our break. We had a good break there and almost had our early dinner and headed towards our night stop.

    By the time we reached the resort we were really tired after so many tourist places and driving. After we finished taking a hot shower and all it started to rain. And it did rain like cats and dogs for a long time. We were lucky that we did not need any room service as there was no chance for those hotel guys to serve us in the rain. And this place is a resort the place we were staying and the dining area was quite far. 

    Monday, December 17, 2018

    Tiring yet happy day - Double Decker Root Bridge

    Today we got up pretty late compared to other days. Had breakfast and left the hotel around 9 AM. There are some journeys in life which are hard to forget. Our trek to the much talked about Double Decker Root Bridge was one such journey for me. Staying at Cheerapunji holiday resort has one advantage that it is hardly 7 km away from double-decker root bridge. We went 5 KM till Tyrna village where we parked our car and then 3KMs of hiking we were told by hotel people. When we asked for a guide they said it's not required, moreover its all marked and proper cemented pathway so no chance of getting lost.

    It was a 3500 step journey down the hill. After almost 40 minutes we reached a small village which we thought was the village with the bridge, but it was another 40 min from there. At this point, we saw a very small board nailed to a tree indicating the way to the longest root bridge. We were only people there still we wanted to cross that bridge but it shakes and swings and the water flowing 20-25 feet below makes the whole experience breathtaking. I took the courage first to cross but half away, came back felt like can’t cross, then Aarush said mamma, are you scared...let me go. Then his dad stopped him saying let me go, once I reach another end then you come. Aarush agreed to the same. But halfway through even Santanu came back saying does not look to be safe enough to cross. Then after few photo shoots we returned to a regular path and now the descend was further steep.

    After descending few steps, we came across two hanging bridges over rivers. The bridges were made of rusty iron cables repaired and supported with bamboo with some parts held together with steel wires. The whole bridge shakes and swings and the water flowing 20-25 feet below makes the whole experience scary though adventurous. There were 2 families after us...we allowed them to cross the bridge first. While crossing the bridge all we could hear were the sounds of the squeaking cables and gurgling water flowing down the huge rocks, makes the whole experience nerve-wracking.

    After a few more climbing up and down the steps, we reached the new bridge which looks to be recently done. Further few meters ahead was Nongriat village, where they sell some basic food items, juice, water. To reach the double-decker bridge, you have to take a few more steps up – and there it was …

    This bridge is unique in so many ways. It has been built using the roots of a tree – that’s still alive. It took years to build this bridge – patiently waiting for the roots to be guided over and across the river until it was firm enough to carry weight. Currently, there are two levels of roots that have been guided across, stacked on top of other. These are roots from the rubber tree, which is considered to be 200 yrs old.

    On reaching there, waterfall from the rocks is so soothing and cool that feel like jumping into the water which we did not but definitely soaked my feet in them. Took a few pictures, and spent some time admiring nature's beauty. From here we went towards natural swimming pool asking few villagers on the way. We went further up and down the steps but at one point we were clueless as there was no proper demarcation and that bridge ends abruptly giving no hint for a natural swimming pool. So, after that point, we had to return as there was none to guide further and thus we started our return journey.

    We again now crossed the double-decker bridge and to my surprise, there was a guest house with minimum facilities for Rs.400/ per day which I came to know on asking one foreigner descending from one corner. On our return, we had some juices to hydrate ourselves while Aarush had proper basic food without any fuss.

    We started our climb back to Tyrna again through the swinging bridges and those steps. But it did take much more time and effort as though looking at the steep steps. I particularly huffed and puffed to reach the top and in between, it started raining like cats and dogs for few mins. One side it rained and another side we were sweating like pig from head to toe. Felt like they should have one waterfall at the top too so that one can shower there.


    • carry a bottle of water and refill in taps they are all potable and drink in sips
    • carry as little as possible – There are some small shops near your destination where you can buy water and snack on some food before you return. 
    • Carry cash(no cards)
    • Carry swimming trunks if you want to take a dip in the water pool under the double-decker root bridge and perhaps a cloth to dry yourself out.
    • Change room is available there.
    • Wear comfortable shoes.
    • Wear light clothes preferable shorts but no jeans.

    Day-3 Long day, Long drive- CRAZY ONE - Meghalaya

    Last night could not have proper sleep as in the middle of the night there was a sudden storm, followed by rain and finally power cut off. We got up around 6 AM and moved out of the place before 7 AM so as to avoid school traffic. We headed towards Elephant caves which come on the way to Cherrapunji, before that we saw the sign for Shillong Peak. And the sun was perfect to see the entire Shillong from the peak but as we approached near the turning and asked one passer-by whether it will be open. He smiled and said not before 9 AM so we proceeded towards Elephant Caves. Before this comes one famous eatery ML-05 Cafe (ML  05 is Shillog's Vehicle Registration Code). This cafĂ© is located near the Eastern Air Command in Shillong which was highly recommended last night but unfortunately, it was closed when we were crossing it. Anyways, early birds have to face some issues too and does not gets its worm ;)

    On reaching “V” junction, one road goes to Cherrapunji and Dawki while other to Mawphlang and Mawsynram. And at that junction is the Elephant Falls.

    This fall is 3 layers fall accessible to all but the point is when we reached there it just opened. We were the first ones to enter there as tourists. The first of the three waterfalls are tucked between the dense trees and are very broad. The second waterfall reduces to thin strands of water while the third and the most visible waterfall is with clear water flowing like a sheet of milk on the dark rocks in the backdrop. Out of the three, the third waterfall tends the most impressive. We did our photo session and then on our return to have something for breakfast. But hardly anything was available, they were just setting up their shop. So, Aarush had his cup noodle and Santanu his tea and we took some tetra pack juice for the road.

    We headed towards Mawphlang sacred grove which is around 25 KMs from here. This was not there in our to-see list but got added last night on rethe commendation. It's a small forest with meadows around. Khasi people believe it as God and anything was taken out of this forest will bring ill-luck to the person. Perhaps, with that thought, they are able to save this dense forest where one can trek for either 3 or 5 KM with a local guide. The time we reached it started to drizzle and we took one young guide who can speak fluent English.

    They have been protected by communities for a variety of reasons, including religious practices, burial grounds, and sacrifices. There was no formal entry gate of the kind we usually have at sanctuaries and national parks. We just blindly followed our guide which was nothing more than a usual spacing between trees. Once you are inside its trees, trees, and trees all around- a visual treat to eyes for the people coming from the concrete jungle.

    We walked on a multi-layered carpet of leaves, twigs, branches, fruits, and ferns. The older trunks had fallen gracefully after a full, long and prosperous life was providing a home to Lichens and mosses and ferns. We felt like walking through the rainforest. Seems like sun needs to seek permission to enter into their dense world. Our guide asked Aarush to try a Mowgli swing on low hanging branches.

    Khasis believe that guardian spirit resides in the forest in two forms- tiger and snake who takes care of this forest. The good spirit appears in the form of a tiger and anything bad as a revengeful snake. Our guide showed us rudraksha fallen from the tree and various type of mushroom and ferns that have grown there. There was a stream flowing in one part of the forest. It's something you see every hues and shade of green there. When we were inside we hardly got any raindrop on us because of dense forests that act as a natural umbrella but as we headed out of the forest we saw it was raining pretty heavily.

    We got into our car and moved out of this place as we had to go Dawki - Which means we need to come to that V junction and now take the other route. In that way, we stopped for having brunch at a small place. This road is very scenic with mountains and hills, you can see white cotton-clouds looming in between. 

    Indeed, we were amazed by the quality of the roads, and the road to Dawki is the idyllic hill drive (till last 5 KMs before it starts showing wear and tear due to heavy vehicles). At first, I thought this was the result of tourism but later learned that this had more to do with the area’s economic importance of the limestone and coal mines. 

    “Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without self driving or getting lost.”

    The cool, wet airbrushes over your face and lush greenery around refreshes and revitalizes you as it enters your body. Dawki is a small village and its main attraction is the Umngot River that marks the natural separation between the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills. The river can be crossed by a suspension bridge that connects India to Bangladesh and facilitates trade between the two nations. 

    This place is very famous for the emerald green transparent river which I was excitingly waiting for but due to rains, it was very disappointing. Many people did say that but I was adamant to see through my eyes :) bad-luck. People take boat rides there in season. We crossed the bridge and went to see Tamabil(Indo-Bangladesh border) where road condition was extremely bad. Big trucks were waiting for their turn in 2-3 lanes leaving only one lane to allow the vehicles to pass-by from either side. We reached near the border, parked our vehicle but on our return, it was almost 1-hour wait as no vehicles were able to move.

    With great difficulty, we were able to come out of that area and zoomed towards Mawlynnong- the cleanest village in Asia. This part of the drive is again very scenic with the different terrain we first went to skywalk machan at Nohwett. It was altogether different experience climbing the bamboo ladder. From there we can see 6 waterfalls.

    Then came towards Mawlynnong which is also said to be gods own garden. When we reached there it was almost getting dark, we went near the stream gushing down and climbed up to their village which is very neat; avoided their living root bridge as it would turn completely dark. There we had some noodles and hit the road back to Cherrapunji.

    After some hour nature starts to hide and seek game with fog and it was dense enough that we could hardly see anything in 10 meters; very poor visibility which is difficult to explain people living in plains. We tried following the tail-light of other vehicles but in vain - could not match up with their speed. Then we decided to maintain our 10-20Km speed by keeping two tires in between the white midline demarcation. 

    Only when any vehicle used to come from the opposite side we use to go to side otherwise back again in the same way. At one point, it was so stressful, that I told Santanu to pull over and move the vehicle off the road; sleep inside the car only rather than taking risk of 3 lives. I really panicked and repented of my decision of going to Dawkii. But now Santanu was quite confident and continued driving at very low speed. At one point we got one cab whom we could follow for last 45 min. and was able to maintain pace with him. 

    Driving car at that night was you never see beyond your headlight, but you finish your trip that way”.

    From here Cherrapunji was not far, once entering the city we made a call to hotel people for their direction and requested them to keep dinner ready for 3 of us. (this part had poor connectivity with phones but somehow SMS worked). On reaching their one good thing was fog was not there and the second thing we realized that booking we made in the hotel is further 19 KMs from the city. Around 10 KMs of the road was pretty bad near the hotel. Finally, it was almost 10 PM when we reached the hotel. 

    Stay:- Cherrapunji Holiday Resort. (Breakfast and dinner included within price)

    Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Kerala 2018 Thekkady and Thattekad

    Just back from a week-long trip of Kerala. We left on a Monday quite unusual day to start a trip, always there is something new to do. We left home at 4:10 AM and b'cos of that we had almost zero traffic in crossing Bangalore city and every toll both we did had any queue and by 7:30 we reached Salem and stopped for Breakfast. Post breakfast we had to cross Salem and by 12ish we are in the border of Tamil Nadu & Kerala. We had to drive through Thani, Cumbummettu as direct road to Thekkady via Gudalur was closed from recent rain and flood of Kerala.

    Just before our journey, there was a RED alert for a new cyclone which was later withdrawn but we did get rains first 2 days b'cos of that.

    We stayed in Club Mahindra Thekkady for 3 nights. We did not do any homework before this trip and overreaching there realized all forest walks were off limit for Aarush as he is not yet 12 years old.
    I did one jungle walk the next day (Tuesday) with one guide alone as there no other guests but it was in a way good as he dedicated all his time to spot birds for me. Post that we drove all way to Vagamon (I ran an 80KM Ultra this year) so wanted to show Pamela and Aaarush the scenic Suicide Point. While driving we crossed many tea garden and coffee estate and spice gardens. Evening we saw a Kathakali performance.

    1500KM Round Trip
    Wednesday Morning, we as a family did the boat ride in Periyar and saw many more birds. But October is not the best season as the best season starts from November to February when many migratory birds also come there. Around noon we drove till Gavi point, but we were the only tourist there so could not do much. That evening for the first time it did not rain :)

    Thursday, we started from Thekkady in the early morning and headed for Munnar to witness Neelakurinji. These wildflowers only come once in 12 years but due to heavy rain the picture perfect moment was not there. But we had to drive again and headed to Thattekad (Salim Ali bird sanctuary). We did a night walk with our guide and spotted Great-eared Nightjar.

    Friday, we did we moring bird watch but rain from the beginning of the week was not helpful as even though the weather was better we could not spot many birds.

    Post birding we decided to move back to Bangalore and started from there around 12 Noon.

    After 3 stops along the route, we reached home post-midnight, traffic within Bangalore was not a welcoming one as it took almost an hour to cross (in)famous Madiwala junction.

    Monday, May 21, 2018

    Day 2 - Shillong

    We started early morning with a drive to pick-up point of our rented car. This place was in such an area where proper roads were not there….it was full of potholes and filled with rainwater from previous rains. One thing is there Guwahati inner roads are not great and even city is not that clean...full of plastics. Anyways we zoomed out from that place without much wastage of time and hit the highway.

    We were recommended to have breakfast on the way at Jiva resort but which we could never find nor even any hoarding-related to that. This Guwahati-Shillong road is very good because of which it hardly took 2-2.5 hrs to reach near Bada Pani (Umiam lake).

    Umiam lake when we reached it was a clear sky with no sun though. Then we were looking forward to boating area so that we can go near the lake. There was a sign for Umiam lake which we followed and it took us to orchid lake resort and very close to it has a garden with boating area. We decided to have a look at it first and then have breakfast. The moment we reached there, we were followed by some gujju families too...we did some photo session there. The serene lake is surrounded by thick coniferous forests. One can take a long boat ride in the lake, and adventure lovers can enjoy boating and various water-sports. There are a few islands in the lake that can be used as pit-stops if one requires a moment of rest while boating through the lake.

    We slowly proceed towards Orchid Lake Resort to have our breakfast. We were offered with buffet breakfast which was 300 INR for adults. Their dining hall has a high ceiling and at the centre, a fireplace for winters or maybe night time. Dining Hall windows face towards lakefront and their garden which is nicely maintained.

    We had our breakfast which was more of brunch and then took a tour of their lake facing the garden and headed straight to Shillong road towards the city. Our Google map guided us to through numerous twists and turns of narrow lanes. On our very fast left turn we too such a narrow cut that felt almost we would topple but the traffic police smiled and signaled us to proceed ahead. it was a scary start for what time coming next as we drive thourh twisted small roads.

    We were looking out for Happy-Valley which made us really unhappy at one point of time that we gave up hope but somehow managed to reach army area where we stopped to ask them about the area we were looking for. Phone signal was pretty bad at that moment of time and even when it went the person on other side was not responding so we were not sure to proceed or stop there.

    For civilians all Assam Regiments look the same, so with a lot of confusion in mind, we went down the hill where it seems there is another base camp which is having the guest room we were looking for. On reaching there, we got the phone signal we were looking forward. Then on entering our next job was to find the guest house but looks like we ended up in some official area which was deserted. After a while, we could locate someone who guided us with one jawan to our room.

    We were introduced to our room buddy, who was so kind.
     ”Sir, Would you like to have something for lunch”
    NO (we are too full to have any)
    “Sir, if you have any problem or complaint, related to anything, please first contact me”.
    We were surprised to hear that but we smiled and replied: “ Don’t worry we are fine.”

    We were actually taken back to see the room with slipper, comb, razor etc. with a proper kitchen where one can cook too for themselves if needed.

    As the day became more & more brighter we decided to go for city tour but in meantime, our host called to know our whereabouts and our plan. As we said our plan he proposed to take his army gypsy to police bazar to avoid parking and entry through their gates which will need permission again. By the time he came personally to check if everything was fine with us or not.

    In the meanwhile, his gypsy came and we left for police bazaar which was as usual crowded. The driver stopped us near the square and asked us to call once done to which we agreed upon. We strolled through the street. From young to old, the woman looks dazzling, dressed in their traditional attire (jainsem), which they pair with matching cardigans and heels. The street was busy with cozy cafes, restaurants and small umbrella shops and varieties of footwear. Side road was busy with their black Maruti 800 cab (public transport). We walked towards Ward’s Lake which is closer to Governor's house. This lake also has a cafeteria and a Botanical Garden, we paid entry fees and then crossed one wooden bridge which takes to another side of the lake. It's nice to watch people boating and feeding fish.

    We took the privilege of perfect evening sunlight and did time pass photography all over the garden. This garden has a lot to offer in terms of floral bed, bamboo trees and cobbled pathway, nicely manicured plants. As we strolled around, we too started feeling hungry and as the sun was going further west we decided to move back to police bazar area for some light snacks.

    We went to Grover's eatery, which was right at the corner on the first floor of the shopping complex. It has nice decor tastefully done but takes time for food to reach the table. After having some soups and momos we left from there as we had to go to our host's place for dinner.

    We had a nice evening with soothing music in the background. Mrs. Nayyar pampered us with an elaborate spread of starters and main course. It was really nice of (colonel) Mr. and Mrs.Nayyar to host us. We deeply appreciate their role and thanks them from bottom of our heart to be part of our memorable journey.

    Stay: At Army Basecamp

    Saturday, May 19, 2018

    Day - 1 Maa Kamakhya here we come !!!

    Guwahati Kamakhya

    The flight to Guwahati was too early in the morning from Bangalore and we decided upon that on landing we will go directly to Kamakhya temple before starting our trip. Kamakhya Temple is around 14KM from the airport and our relatives stay on the other side of the city. It makes sense to start the trip in an auspicious way and we tried to strike 2 birds with one.

    On D-day at the wee hours we three took shower, ensured all right measures were taken from the kitchen to balcony for a long vacation.  Pre Booked airport cab was a right choice as last time we did not have so nice experience with Uber/Ola. Morning marathon is sometimes little difficult when you are on vacation but it's all fine when you are bitten by the travel bug.

    After security check-in we were seated in the lounge, talking and watching people from different parts of the world and suddenly a call came. After a very short talk, I looked at Santanu in order to know whose call it was at that hour …."Ground Staff "calling to board the plane…..quite surprised though. Were we really lost in watching people and do they call personally on the phone,  as it's a silence zone...Strange but feels good.

    On boarding the flight we met surprisingly one of the friends and his son on the same flight who were supposed to go with us to Shillong initially but had to cancel due to last minute emergency. The father-son duo was going just for a family function. We spoke two words and moved on to our designated seat. After waking up so early, me and my son were really hungry waiting for the breakfast which we have pre-ordered. Santanu was first one and me in between dozed off but my son was completely awake whole of the time.

    In between, that friend of Santanu came and spoke to us for some time about his family matters and even my son went to talk to his son. On landing, we had a quick selfie and parted our ways. Santanu's cousin was waiting outside for us with his car. 

    Maa Kamakhya Temple which is situated on Nilachal hill and is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas.   Shakti Peethas are shrines or divine places of the Mother Goddess. These are places have been blessed with the presence of divinity due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it and wandered in sorrow.  Now out of  51, 4 are considered Adi(primary ) Shakti Pithas and Kamakhyais one of them. The main temple is a cave of indeterminate age, with rock steps leading down to the garbhagriha. According to Kalika Purana, the site marks the spot where the yoni of the Goddess fell, and the hill turned blue. The deity is represented by a representation of the yoni. The temple has various sculptures around embedded in the walls not only outside but inside also constructed during Aahom rule.
    From regular families to politicians, foreign tourists to sadhus and sanyasis, everyone wants to have a darshan. Its really difficult to make your way through a bustling crowd but being a cloudy day with raining lightly it was not crowded madly but enough for you to stand in a long queue.

    On reaching the top, we were introduced to one known panda(priest) who took care of us. We bought VIP tickets of 500 INR for both and were made to sit in one room. In between and it started to drizzle more. After waiting there for about 40 minutes we were made to join one line from where it takes to the main temple. There are three kinds of queues in Kamakhya - the ordinary one, the VIP one and lastly one for armed forces.

    We couldn't see much after our offering as it was raining and was getting time for temple closure for bhog (mid-day offering to Goddess). Santanu’s cousin drove us to Bhuvaneshwari temple from where you can view entire Guwahati city and river Brahmaputra on a clear day. But unfortunately, we couldn’t see much because of bad weather. We paid our homage to the temple and quickly moved from there to our relatives' house.

    By the time we reached was almost 3 PM, had late lunch and catch up with them after long gap about the entire family. In the evening we went to visit another relative who resides close by and had the plan to go for dinner somewhere outside. But relatives seeing us after such long time pampered us to the extent that we were almost full having no space for dinner.

    Then seeing the time and weather we too decided to call off the day so that next morning we can wake up early as well as fresh in order to start our journey by road with our Zoom car.

    Friday, May 18, 2018

    North East 2018 planning

    Long prologue … someone once said
    “Happiness is to plan a trip to somewhere new with your loved ones”. 

    One best friend from Santanu’s engineering college got transferred from Bangalore to Shillong last year. In his send-off party, everyone committed that they would like to visit that part of the country. The friend in question is serving our country and he promised to be our host there while we visit Shillong, the Scotland of East and British summer capital of North East.

    Our travel planning started way back in the month of January it was left to Santanu as he grew up in NorthEast to talk to relatives & friends, read travel blogs and come up with a rough itinerary. While initially, he wanted to travel all the way to Dibrugarh, he has fond memories of that places as he studied there between 1st and 4th standard a long long time ago.  But he dropped that idea as it would have been too much of traveling. So the first cut and final looked like this. We are really thankful to Mr. Manju Barua (Wild Grass, Kaziranga) for his valuable selfless inputs.

    First Draft
    What we did
    Kaziranga (bypassing  Guwahati)
    Gibbon & Sibsagar
    Nameri and back to Guwahati

    It is easy to start and end with Guwahati in NorthEast as it is well connected to rest of India with many flights and trains. To explore and have a relaxing trip we almost decided to have 2 nights halt in most places. The key challenge was rain as Kaziranga closes by end of April. One friend said he would be joining us for Meghalaya part so we changed the first draft and opted to visit Meghalaya first and Assam second. 

    Seeing our detail itinerary many eyebrows were raised.  Few of the friends gave up saying they can not have this type of strenuous vacation. Vacation for them is getting up late...relaxing, enjoying food and not mandatorily visiting all tourist points….aargh just the opposite of our thinking style.

    We never gave up on our thinking as we are what we are….For us traveling means getting up early, beat the traffic or the other tourists irrespective of breakfast time, cover as many possible, eat foods from roadside small eatery or any recommended place(traditional food) as per convenience. We are so used to all this that my 10 years old also got adjusted to the same. Without complaining, he too enjoys this kind of travel.

    “Once the travel bug bites, there is no looking back we are happily infected till we can”

    Exploring so many places means we need to have a car of our own to travel. We talked to few reliable drivers as suggested by friends and family, their rates were almost similar but was on the higher side for us as we had almost 2 weeks to cover. Moreover, each day we do not plan to travel a lot on the road,  so it was more economical to self-drive. There are not many options like other major Metros but ZOOMCAR is there and we made our booking with them in advance. 

    Also, we are used to self-drive as it gives us privacy and the complete back seat to Aarush. He really likes it that way as it gives him liberty to take a small nap in between if needed. Santanu made most hotel booking well in advance, but he kept two buffer days without any prior hotel booking to accommodate any unplanned situation.

    We also planned to visit to Siliguri to visit my mother-in-law for a day and Calcutta for 2 nights on our way back.

    While we write more on this long trip,  please take few minutes off and see this wonderful official video of Assam Tourism.

    Friday, October 06, 2017

    Day 3 - Rishikesh

    The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we headed back the way we came yesterday and after crossing Rajaji National Park the road divides and one goes towards to Dehradun and one to Rishikesh. The drive was pleasant, as we opted Laxman Jhula as our destination google map smartly took us via highway bypassing the main city.But at the end the roads started to get narrower lucky for us we found a parking lot packed yet as we early risers ;)

    The weather was little cold compared to the planes of Dehradun with lots of breeze coming from Ganga. We walked to Laxman Jhula to cross it. Oh boy! We have no idea what local authority allows two-wheelers, cycle to cross the hanging bridge which is meant for a pedestrian. And top of it you even have some cows standing in the middle.

    I am sure the people coming all the from abroad to Rishikesh for peace, meditation and self-purity do get a complete shock with this madness. Once crossed the bridge we spent a good amount time seating on a ghat and enjoying the beauty of Ganga. There were many rafting boats and other boats with tourists For lunch we decided to try our luck with Ramana’s Organic Cafe as suggested by Tripadvisor.  We walked the Ganges to reach and only to realize we are at the back of Raman’s Cafe. The final part of the backroad was absolutely no road so it involved little tricky.

    The place is quite interesting. They have on floor seating arrangement. As there were many kittens I was not comfortable to sit there. So we opted for the floor above with chair and tables. All the vegetables they produce at their farm. They are an NGO with a school for village kids where they are giving education not only with books but with sports and working small work here and there.there are many expats who are living for a couple of months all together to help this community and managing the hospitality part of the center.

    As we settled for lunch with our food came rain drizzle came and forced us inside. Oh God, it was tough on me I HATE cats and have fear cats I do not like them. I suffer from Ailurophobia. But the truth is the food was delicious which took away a lot of pressure for me to enjoy the situation.

    While exiting the property we thought we will proper path this time. So we exited from the front gate but after many twist and turns ended up again on the back side from we entered.

    Walking back Laxman Jhula we thought of taking a tuk-tuk and visit another ghat where Ganga Aarti happens. But At The end, we opted to take our car. The journey was through narrow lanes but being the second day we are getting used to the same.

    Reaching Triveni Ghat we were not so impressed and it looked like we had to kill another 3 to hours. So after a lot of deliberation, we decided to rush to Haridwar. So we get back to our car and headed to Haridwar. Google map tried to be funny again and put us through narrow lanes. But as we had enough time today we did not panic As soon as we parked our car at the hotel we rushed for Har Ki Pauri. We got a premium location today but which also means we were facing Sun for a longer time. After 2 hours of waiting the Aarti started and we got an undisturbed view. Of course, there was some mean last-minute entry who tries every kind of tricks to squeeze in. So we had to accept that :(

    After Arti I decided to take a dip in Ganga after all. It was an experience with chilled water and you really need to hold onto the chains for your own safety. After that, we visited temples nearby.

    We opted to have dinner at Big Ben just opposite Railway station. While we were waiting we found our rickshaw-puller at the window. I was not sure why he was there but soon I realized he was there to return the lens cover of my lens. Sometimes this kind of big acts by our daily hero puts a smile that no money can buy. But out of my joy, I forgot to take a selfie with him. 

    The delight of yummy food in a comfortable seating with Aircondition was really worth the value. The place is little expensive in Haridwar standard but would recommend it any day.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2017

    Day - 2 Dehradun & Haridwar

    We work up fresh after a good sleep. But soon we realized we are in a place which we are very not fond off. May be the Mussoorie did not blink with us. After taking shower and getting ready for the day we went up to the restaurant for breakfast. But looked like we were an early riser as there were no one else and the place was not cleaned up for the day. So we out for a stroll.

    The breakfast was quick and we cleared our dues and packed our bags. Now getting the car out was another struggle but with daylight, it was little it was little easy but still lots of maneuvering.

    We decided to give Mussorie a complete pass and started for Dehradun. The downhill journey was quite quick. We thought to cover Indian Forest Research Institute first. Somehow we could not follow Google Map’s initial direction so had to go through the city. We saw Ram Krishna Ashram along the main road itself.

    Forest Research Institute is almost 100+ years old Institute set up by the British to study and preserve diverse forests of India. It is a must visit for anyone. From Wikipedia

    FRI Dehradun is one of the oldest institutions of its kind and acclaimed the world over. The institute’s history is virtually synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry, not only in India but over the entire sub-continent. Built on a lush green estate spread over 450 hectares, with the outer Himalaya forming its back drop, the institute’s main building is an impressive edifice, marrying Greco-Roman and Colonial styles of architecture, with a plinth area of 2.5 hectares. The building was listed for a time, in the Guinness Book of Records, as the largest purely brick structure in the world.

    We spent a good amount of time to explore the museum and its different section. It is really vast if you are not a museum person you might get bored too quickly with so many exhibits and history.

    After exploring FRI to our heart's content we left for Robber’s cave or Guchhupani. The road from FRI to Robber’s cave goes via military area. As we took a wrong turn out of FRI we crossed the main gate of Rashtriya Indian Military College another imperial legacy. It was on our list but we could not stop due to high security to take any decent picture of the building from outside.

    Once parked at Robber’s cave we changed our shoes for Crocs ;). This is a river cave which has a waterfall (a small one) at the end; almost half a kilometer long with a narrow passage. The water was low so it was a pleasant walk in summer but at times crowded.

    After covering these two attractions we decided to leave Dehradun for Haridwar post lunch.
    We had lunch at a kebab place on the Haridwar road.

    Rest of the drive to Haridwar was OK. Most roadways was an undivided road which means we have to be extra careful. We crossed the lone airport of Uttarakhand which is halfway between Haridwar and Dehradun. As we approached Haridwar the traffic increased and one or two places it was snail pace. The last few KM was to our hotel was tricky as we cross the Ganges and drive through narrow lanes.

    At one point we made a left turn before and we could see Sadhus wearing saffron on Royal Enfield bullets coming. We immediately stopped on the side and could see a big procession coming towards to us and an elephant leading the gathering. Immediately with a fraction of seconds had turned the car and headed back from we came. It was one of those escapes you remember after month while trying to pen down the diary. Soon we were next to the bus stand and railway station. And our stay was next door. The hotel was again from GMVN with a huge parking.

    This time the hotel was much more cleaner compared to last night.  Our room was big and OK. We freshened up and headed towards famous Ganga Aarti on a Rickshaw. The journey was like crawling at the end with any rooms with so many people and narrow lane.

    Even though it was just 5 in the evening we were already late for Ganga Aarti. All the available place to view the same were taken and we had to squeeze ourselves. We had to stand separately as I was with camera and Pamela with Aarush. Lucky for Aarush he found some place to stand to peep through the crowd.  The crowd and the atmosphere are altogether a different experience and I do not possess the writing skill or the photography skill to narrate the same. It is a must watch if you are traveling to this part of India. The Aarti (evening prayer) is about 40 mins or so long with many small activities in between.

    Post Aarti we stopped for dinner into a restaurant in the very corner. The food was OK the service was crazy as it was very crowded. We decided to walk back to our hotel. It was around 2 KM of walking and we opted to walk using bylanes full of shops rather than the main road which is always full of honking from bikes.