Posts tagged travel inspiration

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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Natural Hot Springs, Chai, and the Timeless Manikaran Sahib

A timeless journey through Manikaran.

While sauntering around in Manikaran’s narrow lanes on my recent trip to Parvati Valley, I reminisced about my childhood journeys to Shukkartal and Haridwar with my family.

Like in those religious towns, time didn’t seem to have passed in Manikaran Sahib either.

Young girls dressed up in traditional bright Kullu dresses and Himachali topis waited to be clicked. Streets were lined with kitschy souvenir shops that flaunted neon plastic toys, rudraksha malas, and brass bracelets.

Devoted Sikhs with their Kirpans hanging around their waist walked swiftly towards the Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara. Hindu families strode to the Shiva and Ram temple to bathe their young ones who trailed behind eyeing the hot jalebis and crispy samosas that were on display at the local sweet’s shop.

If only their mother could buy them a hundred gram of jalebis the children might walk faster. But the mothers were already thinking about quickly getting their little ones undressed and bathing them in the Manikaran hot water springs.

They also had to pay their respects to Guru Nanak Ji or the Ram and Sita adorned in the Sikh and Hindu temples.

After all, the history of Manikaran dictates that the town was touched by both the Hindu gods and Guru Nanak Sahib though at different times.

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Yoga in Dharamshala – With an Introduction to Yoga

When I went to Chile in 2016, many Chileans asked me if I knew how to do yoga. While traveling around South America for nine months, I realized the popularity of yoga in the world.

Apprehending the vast influences of yoga and seeing the craze of the westerners towards India and yoga, I became a wanna be yoga learner.

In those immature years of my life, I wanted to be a solo female traveler who also did yoga. I wished to bend myself one-eighty-degrees on the sultry Goa beaches and the summits of the mighty Himalayas alike.

After all, the social media pictures of yoga teachers and practitioners over the internet kindle enough narcissism that you forget the real purpose of yoga (if you ever knew) and only admire the overwhelming curves on the trending photos.

Yoginis look like the epitomes of Urvashi from the Indra palace. Maybe we can compare the Yogi to Shiva who is said to be the first-yogi or the Adiyogi?

Those yoga pictures look as perfect as the postures held in the frame, but remember that pictures don’t tell the entire story.

Yoga is not about a few jazzy posts on Instagram or Facebook. And I kept this in mind when I went to do yoga in Dharamshala.

Yoga, a word derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning join, means union — of the mind, body, and soul.

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A Road Trip From Bangalore to Coorg – The Quintessential Karnataka

I won’t tell you that Coorg is the Scotland of India, as every other Bangalore to Coorg travel guide must have already told you this. I don’t know anything about Scotland’s landscape for I have not been there. But I can say that Coorg, also known as Kodagu, is straight out of that movie where you see fat cows grazing on a soft grassy carpet while spinach-green hills pose in the background.

I am not sure if I can call Coorg a quaint town for everybody traveling to Bangalore or the South, in general, go on a road trip from Bangalore to Coorg, at least one-time. But what brings these travelers to Coorg, a district nestled in the western ghats of South Karnataka?

Rolling emerald hills, an opportunity to see elephants, leopards, gaurs, giant Malabar squirrels, and other wildlife, the peppy birds of Karnataka, aromatic coffee and tea estates, huge avocados, rich Kodava cuisine, silky waterfalls melting into the revered Kaveri, old temples, and ancient monasteries could be some of the reasons.

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Spiti in Photos – The Pictures that Instagram Won’t Let You See

Snow-capped peaks, inky sky, copper mountains, creamy cubicle homes, lean Spitians jostling around, and a few sheep and cow — this is Spiti Valley, one of the remotest valley of the Indian Himalaya.

Spiti is indeed a bucket list destination for many millennials and older travelers alike. Some say their dream came true when they visited Lahaul and Spiti.

Spiti valley photography isn’t a new trend. People have been clicking pictures of Spiti for decades. Occasionally you would see Indians and foreigners posting gorgeous Spiti images on their Instagram account.

Young maroon-clothed monks jumping on the road. Himalayan peaks standing tall and a river swiftly shifting in front of them. Icy summits with a white Spitian village in front. A selfie with a Spitian woman on the road. Key Monastery standing tall. Pictures of self in front of dominant mountains. A few close-ups of flat-roofed homes of Spiti.

We have seen this all. But most of the Spiti valley photos don’t even make it to Instagram.

The nothingness that envelops the stunning Spiti and the isolated Spitian life is too much to handle sometimes. Even in pictures.

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Malaysia Wasn’t The Country I Imagined – Your Reasons to Visit Malaysia

When I was traveling from Bali to Malaysia, everyone told me to not go to the country that only has Penang and Kuala Lumpur. They said maybe you can see a few orangutangs while traveling in Malaysia, but what else?

In the one-month that I stayed in Malaysia, I not only visited Penang and Kuala Lumpur but I fell in love with the country.

I wanted to write these reasons to visit Malaysia since the day I came back to tell those friends that they were wrong and to urge the rest to explore Malaysia. Of course, I did have wild encounters with orangutans in Sabah, but there are many more riskfree things to do and interesting places to visit in Malaysia.

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Things to Do Around Cusco, Peru – Your Reasons to Never Leave

Located high in the Andes, Cusco is one of the most culturally significant cities of Peru. Once the capital of the Inca empire, Cusco is surrounded by the Inca ruins (including Machu Picchu) which are scattered in the Andes circumscribing the city.

Cusco is a city which can be what you want it to be. Any traveler can find a myriad of things to do around Cusco Peru as per her or his own taste.

During the 20 days I was exploring Cusco, I was never bored. Sometimes I was hiking in the uninhabited mountain valleys near Cusco, at other days I was in the plaza drinking chicha morada and soaking in the sun, while some evenings I was admiring the rainbows behind the baroque cathedrals only to end up drinking at a fun bar, some mornings you could find me elbowing the locals in collectivos on the way to the sacred ruins, once I was chatting up with fun Dutch and Argentinians in a minibus that drove us to a town near Machu Picchu, and the rest of the times I was packing my bag to visit the Amazon or some hike that I fancied.

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Backpack Peru – With My One-Stop Travel Guide

What would I say about Peru that hasn’t been said before?

I wouldn’t say that you have to be brave to backpack Peru, though that is what many aspiring tourists assume for the country still appear rural and rugged. But I would tell you that you have to be ready to experience some things that you have never seen before. The landscapes and the cultures that I will talk about in the guide will describe why I am preparing you to venture into the unknown open-heartedly.

 

Raw-rugged Andes peaks, turquoise glaciers hung atop, deep canyons thriving with life, thick rainforests spread throughout the country, an arid coast bordering the Pacific and the land, giant vultures flying above in the sky, hundreds and thousands of ethnicities and languages and beliefs, roasted guinea pig sold as a delicacy, soft alpacas made into curries, a myriad of colors in a single piece of cloth, mix of Catholicism and indigenous religion flourishing in households, a series of rulers only to be paved out by the Incas and then the Spanish, rich produce of bright fruits and vegetables, vast reserves of silver, zinc, gold, and more, a lake as giant as an ocean and as blue as a sky, penis temples next to courtyards, hundreds of years old ruins worshipped by the indigenous and visited by the world, simple people with taut skin trying to make ends meet — these are the things Peru reminds me of.

Though most of the travelers started visiting Peru when as per an internet poll held in 2007 Machu Picchu was voted as one of the seven wonders of the world, now visitors want to see the entire stunning Perú.  During the entire five weeks that I backpacked Peru, mostly the South, I was trying to comprehend the stupendous landscape that kept unrolling in front of me wherever I went in the country.

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Hike Colca Canyon – My Honest Guide to an Excruciating Trek

I did not know that there is a Colca Canyon in Peru until I reached the Arica Chile border to cross over into Peru. When everyone in Arequipa asked me if I was going to hike Colca Canyon, I nodded. As a lazy travel researcher, I believe in improvised navigation.

I decided that I would do the Colca Canyon hike, but I didn’t realize that this Peruvian canyon was twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon. When the travel company with whom I booked a two day Colca Canyon tour asked if I had any trekking experience, I thought about my recent Villarrica volcano endeavor. I nodded while dreading the Colca trek for though hiking the volcano had improved my confidence, the 3,300 meters deep canyon hike sounded ambitious.

But without a trip to Colca Canyon, my Arequipa visit would have been incomplete. So I paid 120 soles for the 2 days hike, ate a heavy dinner, and hit the bed early.

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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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Golden Highlights of 2018 – A Year of Writing, Love, and Nomadness.

The whistles of a black kite which is hovering above me in the light blue sky are the only sounds that break my attention now and then. In front of me, a green parrot just flew by; I see more of them in the morning, when one after another they go, searching for grains and guavas and water and, maybe, more parrots. The coffee cuckoo, similar to the one that used to visit me in the earlier place where I stayed, also showed herself to me by flying from one tree to another in the jungle of the army campus, in front of which this rooftop one-bedroom house of my partner is located.

I have stationed myself in one corner of this terrace on a chatayi or as we say a mat nowadays, and from here I write my heart out. In this nomadic life, you can find me on and off in Bangalore, for I always come here to be with my partner, and thus I pen down many pieces from his vicinity with a temporary feeling of home.

Having spent more than four months now as a nomad, I have realized that you don’t have to own or rent an apartment to be at home. Neither are you always on the go even if you are a nomad. At the end of the day when I think about getting back to home, I imagine a quiet place, where the bathroom taps do not drip and where I cannot hear the screeching tires or intruding honks, but I can only tune into the crickets singing songs to each other. Where I can lay on a bed or in a sleeping bag in a tent, preferably tucked away in the midst of trees, with a warm cup of tea and a book to read. From where I can make a phone call to my parents and family for they worry if I disappear for even a day. I imagine a home that is a window into the world, or it has a window from where I can see the world, which I like to have at a distance. And that is all.

Such are my preferences these days. I started penning down this article to tell you about how my priorities shaped up the year 2018, and so on I go.

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