Posts tagged nature

Not Your Typical Travel Guide to Parvati Valley

The Ravishing Parvati Valley.

Originating from the popular Mantalai Glacier below the Pin Parvati pass in Himachal Pradesh, Parvati river flows unrestricted towards the West to merge with her sister Beas at Bhuntar. On her way Parvati curls through the Himalayas to form a gorgeous valley which is known as Parvati Valley.

Villages of Kasol, Manikaran, Shilha, Barshaini, Gargi, Kalga, Pulga are dotted around the rich banks of the curvy Parvati. Apart from the Pin Parvati, many high treks also rise up from the Parvati basin to meet the higher Himalayan peaks and snowy villages at their summits.

But from where does the Parvati river gets her name? Legends say that long time ago Lord Shiva meditated in the mountains for about 3,000 years. Oblivious of his landscape, he continued to meditate, only to open his eyes one day to realize that he was in a gorgeous valley. He called the valley Parvati, after his wife.

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Why I Ran Away From the Gorgeous Shila Village in Parvati Valley

Shila – A Timeless Village Ruined by Smokers

It was nothing less than perfect. A velvety green path going up to a small hut. A river flowed below while lush fields swayed with the wind. A deep blue sky watched from above. Snow-capped mountains peaked from a distance.

But even a storm of beauty couldn’t keep me hooked to Shila, one of the most beautiful villages I have ever seen. Do you want to know why?

Here goes my story of running away from Shilha village.

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Kalga to Kheerganga via Bunbuni Pass– Offbeat in Parvati Valley

When I was in Kalga in Parvati valley, I had almost decided to not go for the famous Kheerganga trek because almost every local and traveler I met talked about Kheerganga. As you might already know I don’t like going to the most visited places. This arrogance to avoid the touristy destinations further deepens when it comes to trekking.

The idea of hiking for me translates to strapping a small backpack on my back and then setting off into the forest and figuring out my way on the go. Sometimes I don’t even care if the trail takes me anywhere significant or if I am on a must-do hike as long as I am in nature.

The boisterous young boys trekking in Parvati Valley who told each other that they completed trekking Kheerganga in a couple of hours and they couldn’t have done the same if there was a girl with them further pushed me away from the mainstream hikes towards offbeat paths.

Suggested Read: My experience of hiking an active Chilean volcano – Climbing Volcano Villarrica

When a friendly guy at a supermarket in Kalga, also known as Kalgha, asked me if I wanted to join him and his friends for Bunbuni trek, I agreed. Of course not without first asking him if they carried loudspeakers and rushed towards their destination.

I already knew that Bunbuni — also known as Bhunbhuni or Bun Buni or Boon Booni — is vast open green meadows high up in the Parvati Valley.

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Kalga Village – You Won’t Believe Until You See

From the Sun-Kissed Balcony of Kalga Village, Himachal Pradesh.

Almost deaf with the loud music that blasted out of the speakers of Indian travelers who visit Kasol to escape the Delhi heat, I ran out of Kasol after staying there for a night. A steep uphill walk took me to the village of Shilha, a tiny apple village that seems to be pasted to the slopes of a beautiful green hill. Only I didn’t know that the speaker lovers from Delhi had discovered Shilha and were smoking away in the few guesthouses of Shilha village.

I gave up and joined the groups of Indian boys around a bonfire under a starry night. But rigid about running away from people who couldn’t appreciate the silence of Parvati valley, I strapped my bag and walked towards Kalga the next morning.

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How I Survived the Villarrica Volcano Hike

The alarm rang at 3:30 in the night. I peeked out of my blanket into the dark dorm room and wondered why I had decided to hike the 2,800-meter high volcano. Just then Alison, my Canadian friend, who was sleeping on the lowest bunk bed opposite me, snoozed the alarm on her iPhone, mumbled something, opened her eyes for a second, and then pulled the blanket over her head again. She was the one who made me signup for the Villarrica Volcano hike, the active volcano which had erupted a year ago.

I shut the alarm and got out of bed. Alison followed me. Though November is a summer month in Chile, Pucon, a city in the lake region, wasn’t that warm, especially at that early hour of the day. After barely washing our faces with the cold water, we walked to the cherry tree in the hostel where ten other hikers were following the directions of the Volcan Villarrica tour guides. We wore a pair of waterproof trousers over our track pants and strapped our rucksack in which we carried the rest of the gear on our backs. Then the twelve of us walked to the minivan that was to drive us to Villarrica 30 kilometers out of town.

I don’t know if I felt secured or alarmed when Alejandro, one of our three tour guides, told us that after the eruption in 2015 the government had mandated that there should be a guide accompanying every four trekkers.

After driving for an hour, we reached the base of Villarrica. Even at that wee hour, the area was flooded with minivans and travelers who wanted to climb the volcano. Until then I didn’t know that climbing volcano Villarrica is the sole reason for some of the tourists to visit Pucon, the city which Lonely Planet refers to as the mecca for adventure sports. And why wouldn’t it be? You can do river rafting, kayaking, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, and so much more in the bustling lake town of Pucon.

Recommended Read: My experiential travel guide to Chile

I craned my neck to look up to the summit. The twilight was dissolving away the darkness of the night. A rotund moon watched us from above. From its base, Rucapillán, or the house of the Pillán, (the Mapuche name of Volcano Villarrica) indeed looked like a superpower, an undefeatable giant.

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Why You Must Visit Santa Cruz –The City of the Rich in Bolivia

When I had stuffed myself with enough streetside potato empanadas, I flew from La Paz to Santa Cruz. The dream was to see the wild jaguars in the forests near Santa Cruz.

Drifting off through a one-hour flight and waking up to chew upon the dry fruits that the Boliviana de Aviación attendant served, I landed at the Viru Viru international airport and hopped onto the airport shuttle to go to the central plaza. My travel friend was staying in a fancy hostel there.

As always, I had not read much about Santa Cruz. But my curiosity to talk to the local people makes up for my lethargic online research, mostly. In a casual conversation, the manager of the Santa Cruz airport shuttle told me that Bolivia was still furious about losing the Pacific coast to Chile. He added that the elite businessman and politicians of that wealthy city we were in had stopped caring as they were busy securing their bank balances.

And that is how I was introduced to Santa Cruz, a city where you would forget that you are in Bolivia, if not for the cholitas selling sinful salteñas on the roadside.

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My Essential Travel Guide to Chile – The World’s Most Gorgeous Country

What does this travel guide to Chile contain?

  1.  Where is Chile?
  2. How did I decide to travel to Chile?
  3. what is English Open Doors program?
  4. But why should you travel to Chile or South America? What is so special about the place?
  5. How is the landscape of Chile?
  6. What are the natural disasters of Chile?
  7. The Geography of Chile (Along with the things to do in Chile).
    1. The North.
    2. The Central Valley.
    3.  The Lake region of Chile.
    4.  The South
  8. The Logistics.
    1. Chile is far. What about the long flights and the insane timezone shifts?
    2. How to stay connected with family?
    3. Didn’t I feel homesick or lonely that far away from my home country and friends?
    4. Why do I say that Chile people are the nicest?
    5. Is Chile expensive on a traveler’s budget?
    6. What about the rough Latin American Spanish?
    7. What about the tourist visa for Chile?
    8. How much did the tickets cost for the flight to Chile?
    9. What is the best time to travel to Chile?
    10. What to pack for Chile?
    11. How to move around in Chile?
    12. How should you carry money when you travel to Chile?
    13. Is Chile Safe?
    14. How is Chilean food?
    15. Now let’s get real – the drinking scene of Chile.
    16. Some closing FAQs and tips.

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Nawabi Places to Visit in Hyderabad in 3 Days

When I traveled to Hyderabad twice this summer for my US visa interviews, I thought that I would not write a Hyderabad travel guide. Not because Hyderabad didn’t have enough archaic domes, stone-carved mosques, vast green lawns around centuries-old tombs, pigeons clouding the grey sky, flaky flavorful pastries crowding old bakeries, robust fort walls that sprawled through the city, ginger tea being sold at every nook and corner, and historic buildings standing bright and beautiful as proud queens amongst the hustle and bustle of the old bazaar.

But I didn’t want to write this list of places to visit in Hyderabad in 3 days because Hyderabad city seemed orthodox to my independent taste. Men ogled women freely, while their wives roamed around the city fully clad. Hoards of men crowded the corner shops and the streets while the women were nowhere to be seen. I even saw an old Muslim man pointing out to me and then later telling his son that the style of clothes I was wearing (a pink top and three-fourth jeans) weren’t decent. Though delicacies sent out a spicy fragrance in every corner of this Nawabi town, we had a hard time finding delicious vegetarian food in Hyderabad.

Then I decided against my intuition of not writing about Hyderabad. 

As I returned from my Hyderabad city tour, I slowly realized that Hyderabad was so much more than the conservative society rallying the streets of this heritage city. 

Hyderabad was established by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 at the banks of the Musi River to overcome the water shortages at Golconda fort. Later Hyderabad became the major trade center for pearls and diamonds as the mines of Golconda were rich with both. The lineage of the ten Qutb Shahi rulers then shifted their capital to Hyderabad, but the city was won by the Mughals to be eventually lost to the British. 

The present-day Hyderabad can be divided into the historic city that is on the southern side of the Musi River, and the New City that sits on the northern banks.

Though most of the historical places in Hyderabad are in the old city, this division is hardly visible. 

Now Hyderabad bustles like an era from the past that is equipped with modern cars and tall glass skyscrapers. While on one side you will see bright Charminar standing tall reminding us of Hyderabad’s Nizami heritage, on the other side you will see cabs full of white-collared migrants rushing to Hitec city. Laad Bazaar is as popular as Mega Shopping Mall. While Golconda fort is a weekend’s delight for many, the GVK Inox isn’t much behind. KFC might have a long queue of burger-hungry customers, but Shah Ghouse Cafe is even busier.

Hyderabad is an interesting blend of traditional and modern that invites you to immerse in it even if that means elbowing your way through crowded streets or standing in line to get into the Golconda fort. These are just the battles you have to win in Hyderabad. 

But if we are talking about imperfection, let me tell you that men stalked me even in the artistic lanes of Paris and Delhi, and I wouldn’t even get started on how crowded London tube gets.

So I will get started on this places to see in Hyderabad list.

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A Day on the Deserted Nyang Nyang Beach, Bali– With Blue Postcards of Memories

When we descended the stairs of a cliff to reach this turquoise beach visible in the distance, my nut-brown eyes first quickly scanned through the different colors that had spread themselves onto the landscape, and then they insisted on exploring each hue for prolonged periods of time and stopped listening to me.

White cottony clouds floated in a light-blue sky, which gave way to a deep-blue sea, whose green waves rolled towards us, and then they washed over the brown moss to run into the fluorescent-green corals and mix with the ink-blue pools in which black and golden stripped tiny fishes darted to and fro from one rock to another.

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My Love and Hate Relationship With the Colorful India – A Story and Memory Postcards

As I move onto a new journey that takes me outside India for a couple of months (watch out for a more detailed post on Monday), I couldn’t help but reminisce about the places that I have lived in and visited in the last one year I have been in India.

India — a country with distinct religions from the ancient Hindu to the declining Zoroastrianism, with a myriad of languages and dialects from Konkani to Jarawa, with a plethora of geographies from fathomless deserts to treacherous glaciers, with a vast network from modern sea links to old hanging bridges, with a wide assortment of food from homely dal roti to mouth-watering, overnight-cooked chicken biryanis, with a range of commutes from rusted Hero bicycles, serene camels, and obedient bullock carts to fancy Rolls Royces, from peaceful Tamil marriages that are held for two hours during daylight to exciting Punjabi wedding functions sprawled over many days in luxurious hotels spread across India; we have it all.

This large and miscellaneous congregation of people — that India is — sometimes makes me proud, but sometimes the restrictions of this collectivist society suffocate me.

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9 Months and 3 Countries – Golden Highlights of My South-American Adventure

In the nine months that I was backpacking through South America (SA), I visited three countries: Chile, Peru, and Bolivia.

White roses, pink bougainvilleas, golden marigolds, and red hibiscuses bloom throughout the day in my parent’s garden, but then comes night, and the queen of the night takes over. These memories from SA waft through my being as the scent of the queen of the night drifts through my parent’s garden and settles in our wistful dreams.

Hope you enjoy these amazing memories from the time I was traveling in South America.

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Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary – A Day in the Winged Paradise

We went on a one day drive to the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary. And I was overwhelmed by its beauty.

I penned down my experience in a poem. After all, what is better than nature and poetry?

Writing down that poem here.

 

As we entered the sanctuary, painted storks glided above us in the clouded sky, 

and with our heads tilted towards the heavens,

we walked by the side of the muddy Kaveri,

to see flocks and flocks of white and grey birds just perched onto the canopies of the Arjuna and the Acacia on the islets.

The crisp air buzzed with their songs and shrieks,

though I couldn’t identify even one of those notes.

We gazed at the distant foliage to recognize the winged-ones,

but our eyes instead discovered three crocodiles who rested on the rocks with their powerful jaws wide open,

as if they were waiting for a fish to dive into their mouth.

Their stillness made us wonder if they were real or fake,

and then we saw one of them gracefully gliding into the coolness of the water,

alluring us to go behind him.

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