Posted in byrdaw falls, cherrapunjee, dawki, double living roots bridge, guwahati, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, khasi food, khasi hills, laitlum canyon, living roots bridge, maphlang, mawlynnong, police bazaar, road trip, sacred grove, seven sisters fall, shillong, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized

First sojourn in the North-East India

We yearn for the mesmerising landscapes of Scotland and Europe which are sans the human presence and reflect the nature in its pristine glory. But do we ever wonder that similar geographical escapades are very much present in our country as well, we only have to seek them to relish them.

Time and again, I hear many travellers eloquently describing the wonders of the north eastern India. The seven sisters with a plethora of geographical spectacles have plenty of eye-soothing destinations. So when the opportunity came knocking on my door about a visit to Shillong and surrounding sights, I could not say nope, no time!

Day 1

An early morning flight to Guwahati from Delhi initiated this memorable journey. I preferred to take a power nap in the flight as the ensuing road journey to Shillong will be very tiring.

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Our Air BnB owner in Shillong, Mr. Lam had sent a cab for the three of us and a local lady at the Guwahati airport ad there started our eventful road journey on NH206. The local lady, Tanya, took us to a restaurant where authentic Khasi cuisine is served. The non vegetarians amongst us had a platter of boiled sticky rice, dal, Doh-Neiong – pork cooked in a light watery gravy of tea leaves, fried chicken pakora and mutton curry. The pork was the best – mellow to the core and not the chewy variety we have in the restaurants.

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It was raining cats and dogs on the whole national highway and hence we could not savour the beauty of Umian lake or the Bada Pani.

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It took us approximately four hours to reach Shillong. The traffic in Shillong is hell crazy – slower than Mumbai’s during the peak hours. We finally reached our Air BnB Thrift Inn Homestay and met our very gracious host Mr. Lam who guided us about the restaurants in the Police Bazaar.

We were assigned the apartment set on the third floor of the homestay and the view from the terrace was beautiful. The apartment is very well maintained with simplistic interiors and pamphlets posted on the walls regarding the do’s and don’t’s. There is a small living room, a lobby, two bed rooms with two beds each and cabinets, a dining area with a kitchenette and a balcony with a washroom.

We explored the area of Police Bazaar in the evening with a visit to a local fine-dine restaurant Déjà vu. The food was great there but since we longed for something north Indian, we knocked the doors of the nearby Amma restaurant and had a homely meal there.

Day 2

The second day started early at 7 a.m. because we had to depart for Cherrapunjee to start the Living Roots Bridge trek. We were greeted with a delicious breakfast of aloo paratha prepared by Mr. Lam’s mother and we hogged onto them like voracious beasts because the coming journey and trek would rob us of calories.

Our host Mr. Lam took us on the two hour drive explaining about the weather and the surrounding landscapes. Since we were driving through the heaviest rainfall area, the visibility was low. We were practically driving through the clouds and had to be slow.

The original name for Cherrapunjee was Sohra and the locals still use this name. You can see the sign boards mentioning the name while you traverse the narrow lanes there. As Lam elaborated the history, we got to know that Cherrapunjee was the first town to be established by the Britishers in the north east India as it connected well with Bangladesh. Shillong and Guwahati were established much later. Therefore you will see some vintage Catholic churches en route to the Living Roots bridge trek.

We finally reached the place where the trek begins. The clouds had cleared by then so we started in good conditions. There are bamboo sticks available at the nearby shops with water bottles and light snacks. Washrooms are also situated there and are payable, so expect spot on cleanliness there.

There is a plethora of Living Roots Bridges in and around Cherrapunjee but the most spectacular and the oldest one is the Double Living Roots bridge which is a actually 300-400 years old. Fashioning these bridges is an art and is passed down through generations. The aerial roots of the fig trees are guided through bamboo or wood over the river streams by twisting them together time and again. Over time, more roots grow and strengthen over time. It takes about 40-50 years for a young bridge to be functional.

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The trek is easier on the terrain side because you just have to climb up/down the steps. The trouble is that there are 3200 steps on one side and you first have to climb down and then up. Additionally, we are not used to climbing so many stairs, so it takes time for your body to get acclimatised. The minute you stop for rest breaks, you can feel your legs shaking because the body takes time to stop the momentum.

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It is soothing to breathe the fresh air of the surrounding forest and feast your eyes with the enveloping mountains and the dispersing clouds.

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There are two suspension bridges en route to the double bridge. The first one, a steel wire suspension bridge, is darn scary because it starts oscillating if more than two people traverse on it. But the view of the river ferociously flowing over huge boulders is fearlessly enchanting.

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You can also spot a lot of epiphytes/fungi stuck on the trunks of dead trees.

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Two hours of arduous trekking finally comes to a wonderful site of the double living roots bridge and the surrounding musical waterfall. It is advisable to relax there and maybe take a dip in the clear water to soothe your tired nerves.

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We had our lunch at a local homestay and were served the usuals – boiled rice, dal, sautéed potatoes in turmeric, egg fry and bamboo shoot pickle. The bamboo shoot pickle was lip smacking – sour with the spiciness of black pepper.

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The trekking up part is really difficult because the staircase is way too steep. We were saved by the juicy pineapple available at kiosks.

The whole trek takes about five hours and is tedious. So it is better to stay at a local homestay/inn/hotel.

But as adventurous as we are and with the able guidance of our host, we decided to visit the site from where the Seven Sisters fall is visible. The clouds had finally cleared and with no sign of rainfall, our DSLR’s were out.

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We had booked La Kapur Inn for our stay in Cherrapunjee and were pleasantly surprised by the helpful staff there. The owner and the one of ladies there – Teesta helped us in every way possible. The dinner was a simple affair with chappatis, dal, makhani chicken and salad.

Day 3

Lam asked us to go easy on this day as we were super tired from the trek. We started at 9 a.m. and went for a 100km drive to Dawki – the India Bangladesh border. The skies were comparatively clearer today so we could see the vibrantly green rolling hills.

We halted for a short time to buy organic black pepper, coffee and honey from a local shop and trust me, these are better than the ones you find in the super markets.

The journey is smooth but there are so many photograph spots en route that you would want to get out of your car time and again. The flowing streams, the English pines and the surrounding greenery beckons you to keep capturing them.

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As soon as you enter the Dawki village, you can spot the towering betel nut trees. The surrounding flora changes to evergreen forests so expect extreme humidity which will severely drench you. If you are fond of boating, then better to board the rustic boats sailing over the muddy waters (monsoon specific) of Umngot river. Since the river was murky unlike its clear avatar, we decided to ditch boating.

Lunch was simple with the usuals and a pleasant surprise in the form of channa or back gram curry. It reminded me of my Mom’s special black gram gravy.

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Lam had discovered a hidden falls by the name of Byrdaw near Dawki which are bewitching to say the least. There is a small 15 minutes trek to the falls through a deep forest. The melody of the falling waters can be heard from a distance and the when you actually behold the copious amounts of water falling from such a height, your heart does skip a beat.

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Next up on our list was the Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia. The village although clean, has been beautified with ornamental plants and creepers and does give an appearance of “made up beauty”. Nevertheless, it is a soothing place to visit after suffering the harrowing humidity of Dawki. You can also buy bamboo handicrafts from local shops here.

 

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Day 3

The day started slightly late at 9:30 am as we had to roam around Shillong only. We first drove to the Laitlum village which is again surprisingly clean and eye-soothing. But the real beauty was waiting for us when we finally reached the Laitlum canyon. The moving clouds, the green hills & canyon, the wild flowers and a serpentine river make this a wonderland. People usually visit this place for old school picnics. The best part is not the natural beauty but dustbins at every few metres so that the pristine surroundings are maintained.

 

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And travel to Shillong is never complete without a visit to the Maphlang sacred grove. Lam called this a magical place and it is rightly so. There are trained guides available at the entrance and the visitors have to go with them because there are certain rules to be followed while going for the scared grove walk. For instance, you can not take anything from the forest. It is believed that if you kill an organism or pluck a leaf/fruit/flower, this action will affect 1000 lives. So it is better to soak in the surroundings of the lush and dense forest and observe the flora and fauna.

There are two treks through this forest – one for half & hour and another for two hours which finishes at the famous David Scott’s trail.

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Special note about our host Mr. Lam – he is extremely helpful and understanding. He took care of every aspect of the trip and even pep talked to us when we were too tired during our trek. He guided us about the spots to take photographs from and the places to visit. He also talked elaborately about the history of the places we visited and the cultural aspects present here. Here is the link to his homestay: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/22151957

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After the Maphlang sacred grove trek, we started for Shillong and en-route had a hearty meal at the ML05 café.

Lam arranged a cab for us for Guwahati from Police Bazaar and we reached the Assam capital by 8pm. Our stay was at an Air BnB near the Guwahati airport and it was not in the cleanest condition as the owner Mr. Tathagat was away. He eventually made up for it by dropping us at the airport in the wee hours of the morning without any charge.

Special thank you to my friends Anjali and Pratibha with whom it is always a pleasure to travel. All my pictures are clicked by Anjali through her Iphone X.

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Posted in gluttonyguilts, himalayas, india, indian, mountain, mountains, north indian, shiwaliks, snow trek, the lesser himalayas, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, writer, writing

Travel musings – Nag Tibba

I can chose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life – #paulocoelho

That is our trek leader from @trekthehimalayas
praying to Lord Shiva and the mountain Gods after successfully leading a group of novices to the Nag Tibba top. Praying after reaching the top is his regular ritual.
He advices the travellers to respect the mountains and keep them as clean as possible because then only the mountains will respect you. He also believes that we can only successfully climb the mountain if we revere them from our heart.

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Posted in himalayan resort, himalayan river, himalayas, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, karkotak peak, north indian, resort, river kalsa, the lesser himalayas, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, wooden bungalow

Digital Detox Retreat in the lap of Himalayas

First of all, thank you to the very talented and resourceful organizers at The Transforming Travels for organizing this unique experience in the midst of nature. Chandni Aggarwal and Mihir Panda, you people deserve a salute!

So how about a calming trip with least use of your digital devices, comfortable stay at a colonial bungalow with wooden interiors, surroundings that speak organic nestled in the lap of Himalayas and amongst gleeful people who share your passion for travel.

Departure

We were picked up from Mandi House metro station, Delhi at around 10:30pm in a tempo traveller with flexible chairs that did not give your backs a resounding ache. We departed straight to Haldwani through Hapur with occasional stops in between.

Arrival – Day 1

The village in which we were going to stay for the next 1.5 days was an hour and a half drive away from Haldwani and was called Khatauni village. A light shower greeted us at Haldwani with the soothing shade of deciduous trees protecting us from a heavy spell. First time in Haldwani – too good!

We reached the Silent Valley Resort near Kalsa river at 8:30 a.m. and were warmly welcomed by the owners who showed us the bungalow cum house with rooms that exuded the old world charm.

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A delicious breakfast followed in the lap of coniferous trees and the wild twittering of birds. How delicious it is to move away for a few days from the city and enjoy a raw unhindered experience of the mountains.

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We were so hungry that when it came to clicking the picture, the quantity of every item was substantially reduced.

After a few hours rest, we went for a short downhill trek towards the river Kalsa. The dried pine leaves occasionally give you a surprise slip but the pleasant s walk in the shade of the towering flora makes you forget them.

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We also saw the organic farms in the vicinity of the resort where organic peas, cauliflower and other vegetables were growing and the workers engaged in their routine work rituals. We were warmly welcomed by the hosts to savour the fresh green peas from the farm and needless, to say, they were sweet and mellow.

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Organic farm

The flow of the river Kalsa was moderate but care should be taken while crossing the banks as the rocks are quite slippery. I was slightly careless and slipped quite a few times. In one such incident, my Ray Bans went into the flowing waters and I had to hanker along to get them back from the clutches of Kalsa.

Sitting on the rocks at the Kalsa river is a therapy in itself. The cool environment and the music of the gushing water transforms you into a blissful state.

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After returning from our sojourn, we were greeted with a delicious and humble home cooked meal of chappati, masoor dal, sautéed potatoes and okra. All the ingredients are organic and grown in the family’s farm itself. What a joy it is to eat a home cooked meal away from home!

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After this delicious lunch, I preferred to sleep in my vintage room for four hours! The cool surroundings with the comfortable environment of high ceiling roof and woody interiors aided in a relaxing nap.

Day 2

We were greeted with a heavy downpour which lasted two hours. The breakfast was shifted to the indoor wooden dining area while savouring the beautiful Himalayan rainfall.

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We geared for our trek to the Karkotak peak while leaving our main luggage behind which would be taken to Bheemtal by our traveller. The trek started after the crossing the Kalsa river and the initial terrain was simple and levelled. Gradually the trail started involving pebbles and dried pine leaves with breath taking views of the surrounding villages and the mountains.

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Some views would definitely remind you of those old Bollywood numbers when the protagonists get lost in some coniferous forest.

For me, this easy trek was difficult because of my ankle inflammation and the knee injury sustained a day before. I was always the last one in the group, so at times, it got frustrating. Those 8.5km seemed like a lifetime because of the slower pace of my legs and continuous drizzling but after reaching the peak, those two aspects were readily forgotten.

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The Karkotak peak is situated at an elevation of around 1700m and a clear pristine view of the Bheemtal and Nauchekital is clearly visible. You will spot some local kids playing merrily around the temple area and you will slightly wish to be amongst them.

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The descent was easier and we met many local villagers there and enjoyed clicking a few pictures in the tall mountain grasses. An hour’s rest at a local guest house and an hour’s hangout at a pub made us forget the tiredness of the trek.

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Special thank you to all the fellow travel mates, who made this trip unforgettable.

Picture credits to Divyajeet, Gaurav and Mihir Panda.

Posted in bakery, Biscuit, Biscuits, cake, cookie, Fruit cake, gluttonyguilts, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, Lucknow, Namkeen, north indian, Uncategorized

Wadhwa Bakers, Alambagh, Lucknow

What would an Indian household’s evening be if there is no item to accompany our freshly brewed tea? Or people like me can imagine a day without having a glass of milk without our favourite cookies to binge upon?
Wadhwa Bakers, the very famous family run bakery house in Lucknow continue to maintain their supremacy in the bakery/savoury circles of the city. Their products are synonymous with quality and freshness and my happiness was out of bounds when I recently received a package of non perishables from their side.
Kashmiri mix Namkeen: The heavenly medley of moong dal namkeen, sev namkeen with crispies and roasted cashewnuts is a perfect accompaniment with your ritualistic cup of tea. The crunchy texture is to die for! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Oats cookies: A crumbly texture awaits you as you bite into these slightly chewy goodies. The only drawback with these are that they disintegrate with the slightest disturbance. RECOMMENDED.

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Sugar free kajoo biscuits: Diabetics and sugar haters, you can enjoy these cashew laden cookies with a soft crumbly texture that melts in your mouth. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Badaam lachha biscuits: Moderate sweetness with comparable texture to kajoo biscuits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Badaam lachha biscuits: Moderate sweetness with comparable texture to kajoo biscuits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Fruit cake: As if the waft of freshly baked cake was not enough, the smooth outer texture with mellow crumbly insides with embedded bits of tooti-frooti will warm your insides. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Wadhwa Bakers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in forts in jaipur, india, indian, jaigarh fort, jaipur, jaipur city, jaipur diaries, north indian, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Travel Musings – Jaigarh Fort

One fine day, I decided to leave it all. Leave the derision that wakes you up in the night.
Leave the bullshit that does not allow you a good night’s sleep
Leave the people who never rise above their insecurities.
Leave the circumstances that compel you to doubt yourself
Leave the surroundings that makes you gloomy
Leave everything and everyone
Which and who, no more serve you
Or your life

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