Posted in himachal, himachal pradesh, himalayas, hot water spring, kasol, kheerganga, manikaran, mountain, mountains, parvati river, travel, travel diaries, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, waterfall

Travelogue – Experience of a lifetime at Kasol and Kheerganga

Kasol – the hub of hippies and the adopted home of many Israelis who fell in love with the Himachal Himalayas – is a must visit destination if you love the mountains and the nomadic way of life. This area is bustling with cafes serving authentic Israeli and Lebanese dishes with the occasional European preparations coming now and then.

The roar of Parvati greets you and it won’t let you sleep in the star studded night. The river is pretty ferocious and is so deep and dangerous that no water sports and navigation have ever been executed here. Just one small mistake could land you in deep (literally and metaphorically) trouble, so river side adventures should be treated with caution.

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To satiate our hunger pangs, our trek group decided to explore the dishes at the Evergreen Café, situated in the main Kasol market. This popular outlet is always full and you need to wait for at least 15 minutes before you can get a cosy little corner for your group. I relished the chicken schnitzel which was a crumb fried dish of chicken breast and was a bit dry in taste though it was served with a very fine hummus. Another dish I tasted was penne pasta in pesto sauce and buffalo cheese, which was good but not excellent. I sloshed down these delicacies with a glass of mint and cucumber juice which was freshly prepared.

In the evening, we visited the Manikaran Gurudwara where meals are prepared for almost 100k pilgrims with the hot waters of the Manikaran geyser. The holy site is swarming with tourists and better planning and management of arrangements is definitely required.

Day 2: We start for Barshaini from which the Kheerganga trek begins. The road from Kasol to Barshaini via Manikaran is not so smooth and the frequent bumps will leave you exhausted. We went on a long weekend in June and the already narrow roads were jam packed with pilgrims who had decided to park their vehicles on the main road. Lesson learnt: never ever visit these beauties during long weekend or summer holidays.

Barshaini is the site where the mighty Parvati and the Tosh rivers meet and flow together as Parvati. There is a damn been constructed there and I am scared to think what this so called development will do to the lovely natural beauty of Kheerganga.

The trek starts with the descent of about 40-50 heavy steps and then a steep ascent through a dry terrain where the blazing Ra will leave you sun burnt. The occasional chants of “Om Namah Shivay” at a local temple will definitely mesmerise you while you trek the first 2-3km.

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After about 3km, you will start encountering thriving green forests with narrow trails and small cascades through which you can fill your water bottles. The protected apple orchards will entice you but hey, you are not allowed to touch those fresh stunners.

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After 3 hours, you will reach the Nakthan village which has small café serving fresh pineapple and watermelon juices. It is recommended to have these energy boosters since you will be sapped of all the vivacity that you had at the onset of the trek. Washrooms are also available here although they are not very clean.

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After 1-2km, we decided to have lunch at a small eatery by the name of Midway Camping at Rudranag which specialises in providing lunch, dinner and breakfast. I hogged on their Pahadi thali which had yellow dal with ajwain (carom seeds), tangy pahadi kadhi, sautéed potato cauliflower and chappatis. Very different flavours which I reminisce till this day.

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After a hearty meal, you are determined to move faster and after a while you encounter a bridge which crosses the wild Parvati river. Here it is descends from a huge waterfall and is scary to look at, especially when you have acrophobia. Just when the bridge ends, the luxuriant greenery of coniferous forests with little hints of sunlight commences. The air is redolent with the aroma of mountain flowers and alpine grasses. This stretch extends till the Kheerganga meadow and is comparatively cooler. The soothing air heals your sunburnt skin and tired eyes.

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But the steepness returns with an even more treacherous trail. Since it is a moist area with occasional stones, the trail is slippery and is arduous to climb with a 4kg backpack without a stick. I sometimes wonder where I would have been if not for the helpful wooden stick and the protective trekking shoes.

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The last 1km is the most difficult one. The steepness confounds you and one has to stride every step with extreme carefulness. The rocks are loose here and you have to use your stick to find the stable ground first.

The last 400m – the steepest– I seriously marvel how I hiked this particular portion. Pure concentration coupled with perseverance to reach before 5pm did the trick. And the stunning view you get of the alpine meadow surrounded by lofty peaks is breath taking.

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Since we went during peak holiday time, the meadow was not the pristine one you see in the pictures. It was overcrowded with a host of camps and cafes. Too many tourists definitely mar the experience of going to a secluded place.

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The main attraction apart from the 360 degree view of the mountains is the famed hot spring. There are separate sections for both the genders and after a tiring trek of 14km, you do need a Jacuzzi to relax in. Except that this is a natural one with sulphur in it, calming your aching nerves and sore muscles. But it is advisable to not linger in the steaming waters for more than 20 minutes as it tends to make you feel drowsy.

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A hot cuppa of Pahadi tea, vegetable fritters and a glass of banana shake return you to your morning energy levels.

The descent is easier and it can be completed within 4 hours in contrast to the ascent which takes 6 hours. While waiting for our jeep, we came face to face with an adorable café by the name of Prem where a mother-daughter duo serves the most decadent dishes with so much love! I tasted the Thukpa, the Nutells crepes and the black gram watery curry with parathas and all of them were excellently done. Do visit this café at Barshaini when you return from Kheerganga.

Best time to travel: March to May. Not recommended in the peak season because of human traffic on the trail.

Travel essentials: Water proof trekking shoes, high grade sunglasses that provide side protection, SPF 50+ sunscreen, full length clothes with a trekking jacket, a proper backpack, ORS mixed with your water, fruits and chocolate bars.

Indian style washrooms are available at the site.

The trek was organised by Kamakshi Pal, an avid trekker and travel blogger who has trekked Kheerganga 17 times.

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Posted in chennai, covelong beach, mahabalipuram, pondicherry, promenade beach, travel, travel diaries, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized

Travelogue – the mighty trio of Chennai, Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry

A chauvinistic land known for the Tamil pride is an enigma for us Delhiites. So when I decided to visit this quaint capital, little did I know that a cultural shock eagerly awaited me.

The common thing that I observed at all the three locations was the general laid back attitude – we are used to the swiftness of life and such places offer a relaxed pace – snail’s pace I shall say.

Our stay was at South Chennai, so we decided to visit the nearby places. First in line was the Covelong beach which is a fishermen’s one located on the outskirts of Chennai. The netted boats of the hardworking fishermen adorn the length of this beach of brown sand. This beach is a lovely place to visit but the vegetarians amongst us won’t be too keen on it considering the strong aroma of the fresh catch and the way some bits and pieces of fishes touch your feet as the water caresses your feet.

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Fish lovers can also spot some street vendors selling the local delicacies – I did not dare to try these one though!

If you love colours and classy French architecture and cuisine, then Pondicherry should be on your go to list. The adorable French colony situated about 150km from Chennai can be reached in a four hour road trip along the East Coast road with a running sea view on the left side. My journey was a peaceful one with occasional rests along the tree lined road and snacking on pineapple chaat and coconut water.

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Paradise beach here is one of the major attractions for the beach lovers. Fashioned out of brown sand, it is clean and well maintained. The ferocious waves of the Bay of Bengal keep washing this beach and you can have a gala time drenching yourself in the playful waters. Additionally, there are various local cuisine stalls available here and I was fortunate enough to taste a freshly prepared fish snack – it was okay though.

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If you are going on a long weekend like we went, you are bound to find it too crowded. Too congested to even move and visit the authentic French cuisine based restaurants.

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But you will definitely fancy a walk along the pavement lining the Promenade beach. The late night stroll is relaxing here though the sunrise in the wee hours of the morning should not be overlooked. Promenade is a rocky beach, so the slippery rocks should be treated with caution. There are a host of cafes and hotels along this beach and it is better to book/throng them during your stay there.

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The colourful homes of the French settlers here will leave you spellbound. Yellow, pink, white, mustard, red – you name them, they have it. The classic French architecture is the added icing on the cake. Young girls riding their bicycles to school and guiding you to your destination is another experience in itself.

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Since it is a sleepy little town with a laid back attitude, you would not get the special French breakfast in any of the cafes here before 9am. We thronged the whole white town to look for bakeries and restaurants opening up at 8am and after much hard work, we were able to find the Indian Kaffe Express which serves French breakfast but not before 8:30am. Pretty late ha?

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Mahabalipuram can be visited through the same East Coast Road and is about 50 km from Chennai. It was initially called Mammalapuram and was the capital of the Pallava king Narsimhavarman during the early medieval period. The famous Ratha or chariot temples dedicated to the five Pandavas are the major attractions here – the impressive rock cut architecture with inlaid relief is a sight to behold. There are huge boulders depicting Arjuna’s penance and Descent of the Ganges – ancient folklore hewn on these giants.

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The Shore temple is another attraction here but unfortunately, we were not able to visit this one.

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Best time to visit: October to January

Hotels should be taken on the outskirts of Chennai so as to save time on travelling to the East Coast road.

Better to avoid on long weekends

Posted in adrenaline rush, angora rabbit, hadimba temple, himachal, manali, mountain, rohtang pass, solang valley, temple, things to do in manali, travel diaries, trekking, Uncategorized

Travelogue – Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

A perfect holiday destination for those who are looking to get some relief from the scorching heat, Manali doesn’t disappoint you when it comes to exploring its serene beauty.
Manali should be on your bucket list if you are an adventure seeker/ adrenaline junkie. Your are sure to get an adrenaline rush with activities such as paragliding, rock climbing, skiing, rafting etc
I went there with my friends and our stay was at the Flamingo Resort. I boarded a Volvo from Majnu ka Tila in Delhi. Manali is quite far off so be prepared for the long bus journey. But the ardous journey is worth it when you open your eyes in the morning and the breathtaking landscape greets you. The huge mountains on one side, the winding road ahead, the mighty river flowing on the other side, is sure to leave you spellbounded.
Day 1 of our trip started in the afternoon with local sightseeing. We visited one of the famous temples in Manali – the Hadimba Temple, which is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimbi Devi, wife of Bhima. The temple is surrounded by cedar forest. On the way to the temple there are Himachali women who carry these massive angora rabbits and try to trick you into taking one. If you are a fan of animals, lift these heavy rabbits and you will have a memory worth preserving.

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There is a giant wheel located some distance from the temple. It’s a whole new experience to see lush greenery of the mountains through a scary ride.
Much to my disappointment most of the restaurants in the Manali market were closed during the evening. Explore the manali market to buy trinkets and woollen items.
Day 2 of our journey started early. We visited the Solang Valley. The beas river flows underneath and you go on and on these winding paths up the mountains. Then further on you have to walk and you are greeted by beautiful mountains that surround you. This is where you can indulge in activities such as zorbing, paragliding and rope-way. I choose to trek which turned out to be the most thrilling and adventurous event of my life. You trek and you reach the waterfall where icy cold water greets you and there is a small shop where you can savour hot maggi.

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I was not able to visit the Rohtang pass but it should be on your go to list as it is covered in snow and you can indulge in skiing and snow mobile.
On coming back to your home you will surely miss the huge mountains and the lush greenery, so make the most of it while you are there!!

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