On a cloudy day by the window of my room back in Kolkata, I was reading Oprah Winfrey’s book What I Know For Sure. Page 181 reads “One day not long ago it rained for four hours straight. A steady downpour, and “then suddenly it stopped. Wow! Everything—trees, fences, sky—was luminescent. For me, nature is one great big wow after another, and sometimes its smallest offerings are the ones that open my soul to its splendor….”

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For people living in Bangalore, there is no dearth of places to visit just over the weekend – be it beaches or the tea and coffee plantations or the silent riverside resorts. But what if you’ve got only a day to spare and are still hungry for some fun and relaxation at the same time? The Wonderla Resort is probably your best bet to satiate the hunger. Read on to know why.

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Sometimes in life, when you are traveling look out for all the imperfections a place holds. Its okay to not find a perfect frame, it’s okay if a place is not conventionally insta-worthy and just like that it’s absolutely fine if your life is going through phases of imperfection!
Life and travel is all about embracing everything that comes on your way. It’s about finding beauty in everyday mundane things, it’s sometimes about just sailing through the not so good looking visuals and experiences life and travel throws. Because at the end of it all you emerge as a stronger and better person!
A realization while I was hiking inside the less trodden Village of Dah. It was an experience I will remember for long, because if at one side Ladakh showed me Pangong, it also showed me a Dah, a worn out village where majority houses are almost like ruins. Where electricity comes for an hour and totally totally disconnected from mankind!

Such was Ladakh and such is life! Where extremes meet at ease making the journey beautiful and worth it 🙂

If bird watching is your drug, go no far beyond the Old Magazine House at Ganeshgudi for a high. The forest here is home to more than 40 local species and welcomes several more migratory species during the winter. My apologies for not being able to provide any more account on the details of bird watching here as I am not really an enthusiast in this matter but if you are, be rest assured that you’ll be treated to your heart’s content.

It is actually a challenging task to follow the GPS navigation accurately up to the property. So feel free to ask passers-by on which way the Old Magazine House is until you reach the bifurcation where there is a clear signage indicating the road to Old Magazine House. The road is a delight to drive with the freshness of the forest filling you up. After a while, there’s a sharp V-turn towards the left that takes you to the property and that is something what Google Map fails to show correctly. So use your common sense and look out for the earthen road from where you feel like Google Maps is getting it wrong – there’s actually a signboard that would confirm the direction to the Old Magazine House but you would notice it only if you halt to look back.

The Old Magazine House has a rather interesting story to how it got its name. It was used to house the ammunition required during the construction of the dam on the Kali river nearby and hence the usage of the term ‘magazine’. There are 3 cottages and a dormitory at present. The cottage that I stayed in consists of 4 spacious rooms, each a separate unit in its own, united by the common seating area outside. The other cottages are individual ones and are lined up on the way towards the dormitory from the entrance. The dormitory building also doubles up as the dining area on the roof.

The property is located at the heart of a jungle and is probably just what you need when you mean being away from the din and bustle of the city life. As if light years away from the cacophony, all that plays in your ears are the relentless banter of the crickets and the sinusoidal chirping interference of the birds and the music of the wind dancing around the trees – you feel like you are in the middle of an orchestra, witness to the wonder that the synchronization of a multitude of non-human languages, is. Sit alone for some time, let the demons of your inner noises be drowned by the tunes that nature plays for you. It’s not everyday that you can enjoy this serenity, so make the most of it once you are at the Old Magazine House.

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The staff at Old Magazine House is extremely helpful and cordial. From trying their best to provide a variety in the menu with the limited ration they have to going the extra mile to accommodate your requests, they are always up there to ensure you have a pleasant stay. The staff arranges for a safari quite early in the morning and takes you to areas deep inside the forest. If luck is with you, you might as well be spotting members of the cat family as they have a relatively higher density in this area. You can also go for a coracle ride on the Kali river nearby or opt for a ride to the bridge on the Kali river which offers a stunning view of the river and the forest around it. We were lucky to spot a lot of hornbills who nest in the forest area beside the river. Our guide showed us the Shivalinga that though drowned in the water, still manages to stand upright, withstanding even the strongest currents of the river when it’s full. He also narrated the story of how it managed to stay there when the temple housing it got washed away.

There’s nothing much to do inside a forest at night and quite usually, you have an early dinner here. The staff repeatedly requested us to not roam outside our rooms post 10 PM and on asking why, we kind of got a nice shock! Sloth bears. They have a particular fondness towards having an evening stroll, somewhat more than we have, and are generally, extremely willing to hug you with all the affection in the world which would definitely not be the most ‘comforting’ hug you would normally ask for. We decided it would be prudent to follow the instructions rather than being adventurous and dying a rather uncommon and uncomfortable death away from the comfort of our own bed. I would advise, you follow the same too!!

It was overall a very satisfying stay at the Old Magazine House even though not being able to make the most of what it is famous for. If not for bird watching, it is definitely a place for people who want to lose themselves once in a while in the magic that a jungle is.

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I was hosted by Dandeli.com, a tour operator specializing in conducting tours in and around Dandeli. The team is extremely competitive and are great in curating good trips around the region. Highly recommended.  

 

“Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it.”

Here’s to a road trip I survived, a 2500+ km road that tested my tenacity, like nothing in life did!

With almost a considerable stretch with no road at all, the journey is literally back-breaking, nauseating at times as you gain height, extremely hot sometimes and biting cold at the very next moment but as the good old saying goes, every good things in life come at a price and Leh Manali Road is no exception. It will break you, tear you, make you sick and you will curse yourself sometimes why you inflict such pain on yourself in a holiday but then it will make you cry in joy, in wonder and you will bless your stars to witness an Inexplicable Beauty this part of Himalayas holds. Its Unreal, Unbelievable to say the least!

It’s not for nothing that it is named as the Mecca of Road Trips and all the hype and blogs that have been written on it across the internet is all worth it. But still every description falls short, adjectives seem inadequate and I dunno if there is a word at all in English Dictionary to describe the Beauty this journey holds, the mystery every hairpin bend unfolds, the warmth that welcomes you at some of the highest food stalls in the middle of nowhere and much more.

After exploring Kargil, Dah Hanu, Alchi, Lamayuru, Nubra for 9 days we started out on this epic road trip for the next 5 days.

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We probably only look out for the perfect shot when we are vacationing in a land far away. We look for the perfect sunrise on mountains and the picturesque sun setting behind the line where the sky meets the sea. We have talked about the crystal clear blue skies of the Pacifics or the Indian Ocean Island! But probably at the end of the day, we’ve forgotten to look around at our immediate surroundings and realize that beauty lies everywhere, in the very mundane of places and things – all that we need is to open our eyes and minds to appreciate it!

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IMG_20161114_050519_HDRI have a special place where I like to see myself when the sun rises everyday – my bed! Yes, I’m not a morning person at all. So when this post is seeing the light of the day (could not help the pun 😛 ), you know why this one was worth the mention.

Watching the sunrise from atop the Kelimutu volcanic mountain was surreal, it really does seem like God goes crazy as he tries to figure out which color he should be trying out on the giant canvas each day. But this post is not exactly about the sunrise, rather, the journey to the top to see it happen.

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If you are travelling in Germany or you live in Germany, you cannot possibly ignore the constant reminder of its troubled times and the Holocaust. And if your travel partner is a World War II buff like mine, you cannot escape but to revisit the memorials and museums highlighting the Nazi regime that the country and most parts of Europe endured at that time. You might wonder why I am talking about such a grim topic out of all my travel escapades. Well, the reason is the message that comes out of this constant reminder. I will come to that in a bit, but before I would like to take some moments of your time and reflect on three specific places that I visited during my time in Europe that taught me some unforgettable life lessons.

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You were the fastest among millions to travel when it was your time to be born. You didn’t have to wait for another to reach your destination to make the maximum impact and look, here you are now. Not everything in life is best enjoyed in someone’s company, there are things which are enjoyed incomparably, alone. No cookies for guessing, travelling is one such thing that very few people truly know can be enjoyed in unimaginable ways, alone. Not lonely, mind you, alone. That’s what solo travel is all about. Make the most of a moment exactly the way you want to make out of it, make friends with exactly who you want to with, make the mistakes you always wanted to, just for the sake of it, to learn how it felt like – that’s what solo travels are for. But truth be spoken, not everyone is cut out for enjoying one’s own company while travelling and there’s absolutely no harm in that, but yes, you’ve to give in to the fact that you would still, somewhat secretly, crave for the thrill that solo travels have to offer. Read on to find out if you have seen, like the old masters did, the signs in yourself, of becoming the next great solo traveller.

You like to challenge yourself every day, each moment

There is nothing more challenging as travelling all by yourself. Facing your fears head on and challenging yourself in every little thing you do. Solo travellers do that just perfectly with every place they travel. Every time they throw themselves in a place where 1000 strange faces speak 1000 different language and they face it with that broad smile, embracing the world just as it is. They do not fear getting stranded in the middle of nowhere at midnight, they do not fear of getting served with strange creatures on their plates, neither they doubt the good Samaritan who opens his/her doors and offers them a free meal and a bed to sleep. All because you have challenged the conventional norms and have head out to explore the world all by yourself.

 You define spontaneity

You know that people have actually been scared when you just asked them around dinnertime to skip the meal and go on a long drive to eat out. Or when you walked just into your boss’s cabin and told him with a straight face that you would take a break for a week because you just felt like going on a trip and that’s it. You know there’s this thing inside you that you cannot define, cannot explain, that drives you and your actions and doesn’t make you worried at all about the consequences. You could easily take a detour on a longer road just because you wanted it and wouldn’t like anybody to dissuade you with all the mundane reasons that practicality has to offer. Just is your word. Just defines you.

You love to click more than being clicked

Who doesn’t love to be clicked in front of the Taj or the Eiffel or on the white steps overlooking the crystal blue water of the Pangong? You. ‘Coz you love to capture the stories you want to show the world, not bore them with a little less than a million selfies or pose-like-a-mannequin photos from wherever you travel. You love to spend time ideating how to get that perfect shot rather than dictating or deciding poses for yourself or someone else to get one of those tacky photos that nobody bothers to see a second time. And you absolutely detest people nagging to take their pic every other minute on a journey!

You love befriending strangers in strange places.

You love meeting new people, strike a conversation with a stranger in the middle of nowhere, their stories mesmerise you and make you realise how little you know about life. Every traveller you meet becomes a company in your journey. You do not need friends and family just for company everywhere you go.

 You love man no less, but nature more.

Although this might sound contrasting to the point above, but it might happen that you prefer solitude over company. You prefer peace over the chatters. You love your own company and silence the most above everything else. The legendary romantic poet Lord Byron once penned, that perfectly defines the likes of a solo traveller:

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes,

By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:

I love not Man the less, but Nature more”

For you Experiences Matter, Things Don’t.

Every time someone asks you about that last trip to Ladakh, your face beams up with joy to tell the stories all over again. You do not remember the moment you chose the trip over whether to buy that new phone that you had finalized to buy; it was too important to remember. Things don’t matter to you unless they matter more than experiences do coz you truly believe that you die rich with your experiences, not with your things.

 A book and a cup of ginger lemon honey tea are all you need to pass the day.

You get lost in words and the characters from a book start talking to you in no time as you take sips at the somewhat yellowish, somewhat brownish magic that’s popularly known as ginger lemon honey tea. You feel the silence around only when you’ve put the book down, wondering where all the conversations have suddenly vanished. You realize you haven’t had these deep conversations in a long time.

 You have a better night’s sleep in a hostel or a tent pitched upon the mountains.

We all love a good night’s sleep, but you know you have a better night’s sleep on a hostel bed or when you pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere. Discomfort does not bother you as long as all these leads you to experience something that all comforts of the world cannot buy.

 Keep your nose out of my business! I make my own decisions and want no intruders.

 Yes absolutely! I dislike people poking their nose in other people’s business! And that includes people commenting and dictating my travel plans and my style of travelling as well. Hence, like many I prefer to travel all by myself sometimes taking my own sweet time to explore a place, a cuisine, speaking for endless hours with a stranger or making last minute changes to a well-planned itinerary, I love my freedom to be, and traveling as my hear pleases

 You cannot wait to share your day with your diary.

You love solitude but words run a riot inside you. You feel restless until they get a shape, a place in your dear diary that silently and carefully takes record of all of that. You feel like you’re talking to your best pal when you are busy writing about the amazing people you met, the food you had for the first time, the dance that you tried with the locals, the fleeting glances that you caught of strangers as if they had known you from the past. You love the audience that your diary so warmly provides and do not ever feel like your words were lost bouncing off the four walls around you.

 So what is your take on travelling solo?

This piece by me was first published on: https://www.seenshot.in/single-post/Solo-Traveller

Life, as we all know in our own ways, is a strange thing – both the presence and absence of it. As I was basking in the joy of the ‘presence’ of it doing what I love most, traveling, I was hit with the ‘absence’ bit – I lost my father. That was life showing a new face, the face of suddenness, that surrounds you with the  imperceptible veil of an awkward absence that leaves some in grief, some in a state of denial. It is when the veil drops that the reality hits, either you drown in the sorrow, or you accept, accept that the show must go on, that you still have a life to live, to give it its full due as long as it is there, to help it celebrate, to make the most of the remaining days. That’s when you start looking upto some inspiration.
Where do I look for mine? Who’s that one soul whose mere thoughts would bring a fresh breeze of life-fullness in me? I started running through my memories and without much effort, I found the face I was looking for.

My Happy Lady from the small village of Hargam, Nubra.

Just remembering her, her first glance, her way of dealing with the language barrier, her way of dealing with a situation she was not prepared for, all with a smile that had no lies in it, that had the power to make anybody looking at it smile even wider, the smile that instantly makes you believe that the world is really still not devoid of happiness yet – just that brought me all the inspiration I needed to sail forward. When I thought about how she deals with the extreme conditions there during the winters, when I thought about how almost single-handedly she manages the house with her family being away for several days at times with absolutely no way she could reach them or talk to them, and all that with a smile, I knew what kept her going – the promise of life itself.

At a moment when I am fighting my own demons I know this promise will keep me going, help me fight through all odds, challenge life right on it’s face and come out victorious. As my father always said

“You can make or break your moments, moments that will be lost forever in the next second, live your moments well, live your life well, keep no regrets, hold no grudge, love more than your heart can hold and give your all to things you truly believe in and to people who “

Because he taught me to fly

Rest in Joy, Baba, I know you are around, always, forever 🙂