Posts tagged travel inspiration

We Dared to Hike to Shikari Devi Temple (Mandi Himachal) On Our Own

Hiking to Shikari Devi Temple Mandi Without a Guide At the Onset of Monsoons

 

 

Deciding To Do The Shikari Devi Trek

Since we arrived in Mandi (our trip began at Pangna going through Chindi) we kept hearing about the Shikari Devi temple. Locals religiously believe in Shikari Devi and used to walk to her temple every year. Now a road has come up to the top, and most Himachal people do not trek to Shikari Devi mandir. They get a car and drive there. But the walking trail exists and goes through the deep Shikari Devi Sanctuary. This forest is a dense one, and not even one house can be found inside, except that of some nomadic shepherds.

Every time my partner and I heard the mention of the hard trek to Shikari Devi, we would get a little bit more interested. As the road was kaccha and not a tar road, we were sure we will not drive there. We never drive on kaccha roads here in Himachal. But the idea of a challenging hike excited us both.

We took directions and suggestions from many people at Mamleshwar hotel in Chindi and talked to the village people. Most said we could go, but we had to be cautious of the way. The jungle trail is not the easiest one as many side routes exist around it. A few said the path was not a problem as long as we could walk. Would we be able to walk that long given we were from the city? That was the principal concern.

Assimilating all the local inputs, we understood the walking trail would need some figuring out. We would have to start early to have enough time to return if we get lost or cannot walk. And a one-night stay would have to be booked at the Forest Rest House at Shikari, so we stay there at night.

The internet did not have any information on the hike. As this trek is mostly done by locals and the temple is revered by Himachali people only — outsiders don’t even know about the temple of Shikari Devi — all the information about this mountain is only spread through word of mouth. I wish I could find a good Himachal blog on the Shikari Temple walk (and for many other obscure hikes). But I got your back. This guide to Shikari will have all the information you may need to go there.

As we were both going to be busy until late Friday night, we decided to hike to Shikari on Sunday. Saturday would be a relaxing and planning day. The weather predictions expected the area to be windy, rainy, and stormy all week long. But on Saturday, the weather remained clear, bright, and dry. So we were inclined towards believing the weather would clean up and be nice to us.

 

Leaving For the Shikari Devi Mandir Hike, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh

Preparing everything at night, we had a filling dinner to prepare the energy for the next day and slept like two babies. Our 5-am alarm woke us up. I jumped out of bed at 5:20 and immediately got into action.

I will talk about the preparation of Shikari Devi hike in a separate section in detail. But in short, I can say we packed the essentials, kept our big bags in the car, checked out, and started walking. One big mistake I did was listening to my partner and not bringing my North Face rain jacket that is meant for heavy rains and winds (I bought it for the rougher terrains of Chile). He thought the rain jacket would add more weight to the bags. But we carried the umbrella.

We were on the road at 7:10. Timings are important because if you have got the light of the day, you can save yourself anywhere.

 

The Unpredictable Rainfall and The Confusion Whether To Go Or Not

The sky had been cloudy from the night before. The mist made me conscious. Will the weather clear up? We wondered. Soon it started raining. We were still away from the Hanuman temple in Bakhrot village. The trek to the Shikari Devi mandir begins from the upwards road opposite the temple.

On the way, we stopped at a dhaba to get a cover from the drizzle and have some tea. The aunty there said we should not go. The fog had covered the road in front of us. She said, “up there at the height of Shikari, the mist would be even thicker. You may get lost. The jungle is full of wild animals.” But she agreed that many people walk to Shikari, and the route is well-marked. The main trail though is surrounded by many smaller paths, and even locals forget their way there.

To add to our dilemma, she iterated a story of three young boys from Hamirpur who had decided to walk up to Shikari in the snow of January (I wonder why). After a couple of days, their bodies were found. (We will keep hearing the stories of those two Hamirpur boys. Some said they were buried in snow, some said they lost their way, others believed wild animals had eaten the boys. But while writing this guide to Shikari Devi trek, I read the news articles about those boys. Those 2017 news pieces mentioned that the boys died (possibly) due to hypothermia as they were buried in 7-8 feet deep snow. Some wild animals may have later eaten up the body. The unfortunate (and most probably, unplanned) hikers were found about a kilometre away from the mandir of Shikari Devi Mandi.

 

Just a precautionary note — After having been to Shikari, I can say with two hundred percent surety no one should trek to Shikari Devi peak in snow. The routes go through dense jungle, and so many paths go forward that one wouldn’t know one from another. Everything would look the same, and the hiker will lose the direction. Only think about going to Shikari in the snow if you have a team of guides. One guide will not be enough as even locals forget their way on the Shikari trek. And there won’t be even one soul to help you in snow as shepherds would be gone too and no one else would be walking to the temple either.

But the dhaba owner also said if the weather clears we may have luck. The shop owner near the dhaba suggested we could go as the weather clears up slowly. “And you have to walk straight on the path. Don’t go here and there.” He concluded.

The local dhaba woman showed us the Sainthal village hill from her dhaba. The high mountain — or as the locals call it dhar — had a sea of clouds floating in front of it. Shikari Devi summit was even further up ahead of Sainthal village, and we could not even dream to see it in such fog. But the temple is visible from Chindi on clear days.

Climbing to Shikari Devi Himachal Pradesh from the Bakhrot Hanuman Temple

Grey and stuffed clouds stood neck to neck with each other. Meanwhile, we had two cups of tea, and my partner ate an omelet. Slowly the rain reduced, and the clouds backed off a bit. We paid and walked on.

In front of the Bakhrot temple, we took the kaccha road. We asked a local man if we were on the right way. He was surprised we were going alone.

“It is a long walk. You would need like 5-6 hours more to reach. Are you sure you will be able to walk?”

We nodded.

“Ask the people at the Sainthal village about the weather conditions at Shikari Mata mandir. If they say its too rainy or windy up there, return.”

We were thankful for the advice and decided to return if the villagers up ahead advised against us climbing.

Five minutes later, two old Himachali men (perhaps on a friendly stroll) were surprised we had come from as far as Karnataka to Himachal. They also said we would need many hours and that we have to walk straight. “No shortcuts or you will lose the main path. You have to go down if the path goes down and go up if the way climbs up.”

We nodded, again.

We noted this advice to heart that we had to follow the main way and not explore smaller trails. And because we had the Forest Rest House at Shikari Devi booked for this night, we were assured we only had to walk one way. Serais — or guest houses — also give resting places to travelers up at Shikari temple.

Further up we crossed another village (or perhaps a couple of houses) where people had been active since morning. They advised us to take the car and not walk.

But most of them were worried we won’t be able to walk for so long. Keeping that aside, the route still didn’t sound so troublesome, at least on a clear day.

 

Crossing the Sainthal Village On The Trek to Shikari Devi

After climbing upwards for maybe an hour and a half, we arrived at Sainthal. Now instead of the jungle, a path curled straight ahead. Dry pine needles were swept to the side forming pyramids. Two women and a man stood there talking and minding their cows.

When we told the trio we were going to Shikari, they didn’t seem to feel so good about our decision.

“There isn’t a road there like you have in your state. This is a jungle path and not one, but many trails go around the main one.”

I told them we had more jungles from where we had come. But we appreciated their apprehension. The man gave us his number and said we could return to his house if we faced any problem or got lost. He lives alone, he said.

The women joined in and said we could stay with them too.

Thanking them for their advice to stick to the principal path and not wander, we entered the village. We walked through the mud trail of the village which was fringed with apple orchards, ancient mud and stone houses, cows, and farmlands.

Three cows stood staring at us outside one house under whose plum tree we stood. The plum tree was loaded with the fruit, and I had a hard time controlling myself not to pluck even one. But the house was unattended, and we didn’t want to steal. The cows were wary of us and called out so loud we were sure someone would show up soon.

The view of the valley below Sainthal had already become amazing. Ahead on the trail, clad in a warm jacket and topi, an old man came out of his cowshed as we were about to cross it. He held a stick in his hand and a benevolent look on his face. He inquired if we were going to Shikari Devi. When we said yes, he said, “Jai Ma Shikari” and asked us to stick to the main more-trodden path. “If it went down, go down, if it goes up, go up. Walking slowly you will arrive. There will be a lot of mist up there. But do not get scared and keep walking on your path.” He pointed his hands straight.

The old Sainthal villager was so reassuring I was pumped up after speaking with him. He must have done the trail at least a few times as in the past villagers visited the Shikari temple once a year. And as there was no road to the temple, they all walked.

The sky had now cleared up a bit more. Small red and green apples hung meekly from bushy apple trees. Further on, we crossed the tiniest and maybe the only eatery of their village. Maggie is sold here and tea coffee signs stood outside, but the door was shut.

We were finally at the spot the dhaba owner had shown us. A misty hill from far was now a village. We were not to meet any human until Shikari now, we were told.

 

Entering the Dense Shikari Devi Sanctuary and Finding The Way

After Sainthal, we walked through a pine and cedar jungle. The mud trail held in places by stones and roots was wide enough at that point. It was walked on, but at places, the path was covered with grass, pine needles, and dry leaves. Many trails ran alongside. Some on the left and some on right. Some tracks went long, and some met the other trail after the curve.

We continued. The weather was still clear. At a hillock point, we were confused if to go left or right. Left was a rocky and steep remnant of a path, and on the right, a narrower trail went straight. These two didn’t meet.

As if they heard our confusion, two hikers showed up. I guessed them to be semi-local for one of them carried a Quechua bag. Most locals don’t care about the brands. The boys asked us to follow the path more walked upon. They were on the narrower but straighter path. We would reach from the uphill path too but we would have to climb and go up and down, they said.

We were in the dense forest now, and the jungle was silent except the occasional crow calls and the crickets’ harsh buzzing.

In a few minutes, we ran into four more men. Some of them looked like stoners with heavy beards and red eyes. They asked us from where we had come and all that and told us we were on the right path and it would take us maybe three to four hours more. By that time, we would have walked for about forty-five minutes.

“Do visit a Shiva dera near the trail.”

We thanked them.

 

Getting Scooby — The Goldenest Furriest Fox-Like Dog I Have Ever Met

A golden fury dog was following the group of men. Once they left and we trod on, we saw the dog was now following us. He was golden, like ripe wheat. They whistled for him, but he didn’t go back. So the men walked away.

Now the dog trotted ahead. We walked behind. The dog seemed to know the way. And when he sat and waited for us to catch up or just rested behind us, he looked like a furry fox.

We named him Scooby as on the walk we had been singing the song Scooby-Doo Where are you? We were re-energized with this gorgeous and dependable company. Whatever doubts we had about the trek subsided. Such is the magic of friends.

 

Continuing Our Journey in The Dense Cedar Jungle of Shikari Devi, Now With a Dog

Within few minutes, the trail again divided into two paths. When I checked the left one, I saw two-three small stone and concrete structures standing there in solitude. Not a single soul was around. A lake covered with green moss lay in front. I could see by the Trishul on the top of the structure it was the shiva dera we were told about.

Behind lay a deep jungle. We sat on the rocks and tree stumps. Sharing our sweet biscuits with the dog, the journey now looked fascinating. In the middle of a dense and silent jungle with a strange dog en route to a high temple, what more we could ask from life. Our stomachs were filled with a sea of anticipation, fear, surprise, and excitement.

From then on, the dog ran ahead, and we moved after him. If the trail got divided into two or more paths, we both went around the trails. Then we discussed which one looked more walked upon and which one could have been a side path for shepherds and their cattle or so and so. We also noticed the empty supari packets, lays and other chips bags, and cigarette packs lying on the side of the path. If a path had those remains of a human presence, we were more confident it was the main one to Shikari.

One cannot depend entirely on a strange dog, can they?

And a lot of times Scooby trotted behind us. He would just sit in the middle of the path panting. I guess he must have been pretty tired by walking back and forth in the jungle. Who knew from where he had come?

At another part of the walk, we came upon a junction from which paths ran in all directions. As we stopped to find the one we had to take, we noticed some Hindi alphabets on the soil. Karsog was written, and the arrow was pointed in the direction from which we had come. And Shikari was written, and the arrow pointed to our left towards the uphill narrow path. That trail wasn’t so obvious. If the sign wasn’t there, maybe we wouldn’t have known if to go left or right.

The markings must have been made by the boys whom we had crossed before. Another group of four-five local boys jumped down from the direction which was marked to be of Shikari. They were returning from the temple, they said.

At least we were on the right path. We kept climbing up and down in the Shikari Devi forest Sanctuary for hours.

 

When Our Scooby Took Trouble With The Shepherd’s Buffaloes

After two or three hours, we came across a herd of buffaloes. At the sight of the buffaloes, Scooby went into full action and started barking at them. A few calves were there in the group, and their parents were huge.

You know buffaloes can get giant?

From my experience of trekking to the Bunbuni meadows in Parvati, I knew the buffaloes belonged to some shepherds. Villagers don’t venture into the deep jungle with their cattle. Most Himachal villagers herd their sheep and cows near their houses.

So the owners must be nearby.

We waited for Scooby to finish barking. In between, many buffaloes seemed to have made up their mind to run after the dog but none of them did. We waited on the side taking the cover of the tree in case they engaged in an ambush. But as soon as the buffaloes even looked in the direction of Scooby, he started making his way towards us. We were sure he would run for us if they chased him.

 

An Unpleasant Encounter With the Shepherds

Crossing the buffaloes from the side of the pasture, we ran into two curious kids who were looking in the direction of the noise we had been making.

Our journey to Shikari gets interesting now and a bit inconvenient.

The two kids were shepherd children. In kurta pajama and salwar kameez they stood. Thin faces and frail bodies.

The children asked if the dog belonged to us. We were stupid enough to say that he was not ours and he had just started following us. The boy was holding a wire rounded as a circle which was attached to a long wooden stick. They asked us to help them give the dog.

First, we didn’t understand what the girl and the boy meant. But then I got it. They said, “can you help us get the dog as we want it. We are scared but it has been with you so it would listen.”

My sweet partner even put that round wire around Scooby’s neck, and the boy took the stick in his hand. But it wasn’t too late. I said the dog had been walking with us since the beginning and we needed him to show us the way.

The girl said they feel afraid, so they need the dog. And I promised we would bring them the dog later.

I walked away and told my partner to come to me and tell them to not take the dog.

When both of us told them to let Scooby go, they removed the wire from around his neck. Scooby was so peaceful he may not have even noticed what was going on. He didn’t even wince when the wire circle was put around his neck. How could he be so patient?

The children’ parents peeked at us from behind the hill at whose base they had constructed their hut.

As we walked, the girl shouted from behind that her mother is asking us to give them the dog. And we said we would bring it the next day.

 

Arriving at the Steep Mountain (Dhar) and Dodging the Shepherds

We walked a bit straight on through the jungle. Due to the uncomfortable conversations, I can’t recall how much did we walk. But it wasn’t long when a steep hill stood in front of us.

We had been told about the precipitous mountain. The elderly man at the dhaba had said we would have to climb up from the dhar. But the path, he said, went zig zag.

As we climbed up, the shepherd man followed with those two kids. He was also wearing a kurta pajama. The three were looking in our direction. We knew they had come for the dog.

By this time, we were empathetic towards Scooby and felt comforted by his presence. Also giving him to a family so they could keep him chained and enslaved to herd their buffaloes didn’t feel like a good thing to do. He was a free dog.

The man asked us again if we would give them the dog. But my partner emphasized the dog was ours, and we won’t part with him. I felt protective.

The father and children stayed seated on the rock. They had stopped because we had stopped. Now as we climbed the steep mountain, we noticed they had started walking behind us too. At another curve of the mountain, I saw them watching us from their place. Their eyes affixed on our movements. The dog —ignorant of the possession dual — walked ahead peacefully. But often, he would sit and pant making a noise as if a tractor was at work.

We continued through the zigzag path. This hill was also covered with dense forest and boulders. Our speed had increased because we didn’t like the shepherds at our tail. Why were they following us?

The dhaba aunty had warned us against the shepherds. She had told a story where a guy from the village had gone to get milk from them, and they had killed him. He couldn’t be found later.

She had said, “you mind your own way and don’t ask them for nothing. You can’t trust these shepherds.”

Now I’m not from Himachal, and I don’t know a thing about these people. So I was no one to say anything. But I didn’t like that the Gujjars were following us when he had asked them to not take the dog.

Though we kept clambering up, after a while, we couldn’t see them. That hill takes a while to get on and is the steepest part of the whole Shikari hike. We wanted to believe the shepherds had let go of the chase. By this time we were getting tired too. Stopping for water, biscuit, and banana breaks, the journey went on.

But we could never relax throughout that steep climb as we both knew even if we couldn’t see the shepherds they could be anywhere. They know the jungle like we know our house and walk so fast they can catch up with anyone from outside the forest.

Scooby walked with a spring in his feet though. And looking at his golden sheen amongst that dense green deodar jungle kept us energetic.

Almost at the summit of that steep hill, a large herd of sheep was running down. Their wool had been taken off. The smaller sheep had their long wool intact which hung from their bodies like their tall ears. Came behind an old man with a long beard.

This time we didn’t even say hello.

But when the shepherd asked if we were going towards Shikari or returning, we told him we were on our way.

We were clambering up some rocks at that time. And seeing us struggle, the old shepherd suggested we take the straighter path below.

When we crossed, we heard him talk to someone. Soon we saw the shepherd’s father from before trotting upwards from another side. So he was there all the while.

 

Getting Out Onto the Pastures About The Road to Shikari Devi Mandir

Now we went further on for maybe ten more minutes. We could hear cars and bigger vehicles on a road nearby. Our GPS also worked, and our blue arrow was now closer to the Shikari mandir in the big green Shikari Devi forest reserve. A road curved ahead on the map.

Did we finally make it? We wondered.

As compared to the dark canopy of the forest we now received light in abundance. It was almost as if we were coming out of the jungle after a year. In the next few upwards steps, we came out in the open. We were on the pastures then. Out of the danger of any harm that shepherd man could have done us. To be frank, we didn’t like the look on his face. So now we were cheering hurray.

A large group of men and women adorned in gaudy clothes and heavy jewelry danced to local music on the velvety pasture.

 

Dancing With the Kullu Devotees On Shikari Devi Sanctuary Pastures

The dancing group called us towards them. They were all wearing decorative bands of colors golden and orange around their heads. Shikari Devi was written on those bands.

The group was visiting the temple from Kullu. They danced in slow rhythms by swaying their hands upwards and downwards, as one would dance on meditational songs. They formed a circle and asked us to join them. I kept my bag aside and danced alongside.

My partner sat on the side. Our Scooby had been following us for a while now. As I saw him lick water from some rock, I poured down water for him in the groove of a rock where we were seated. He finished a liter of water. (Maybe he needed water all this time, but we hadn’t found a place to pour water for him. Now I feel I should have stopped and figured out a way to make him drink.)

 

Making The Final Walk to Shikari Devi

After a while, we bid adieu to the Kullu devotees and started walking towards our destination. Now the fog had covered large parts of the pastures and forests lying ahead. A mud road ran below. A few cars went on it.

The mud trail went up and down the green pastures filled with cattle and horse dung. Now the path went through pastures. Up and down and straight a little bit. After perhaps 5-7 minutes, our pasture track met the main road.

We got onto it and walked further. In the pastures above and below, the gaddis (gujjars or shepherds) herded their cattle, sheep, and buffaloes.

 

Arriving at The Parking of the Shikari Devi Temple Mandi and Gorging on Hot Rajma Rice

What we saw further on surprised us.

Hundreds of cars were parked ahead. And we head probably ten people and one dog in total on the walking trail. And all those were also returning from the mandir, not going towards it.

Now we understood why everyone said no one walks to Shikari now. They all drive. A big jostle of people seemed to float around the footsteps of the staircase that takes to the temple. There were a few dhabas. The thought of warm food after such a long walk brought a smile to our faces.

At a dhaba near the steps, we shared a plate of rajma ki dal and rice. They knew the way to the forest rest house at Shikari which we had booked the day earlier from Tattapani. We had to take the stairs to the second water tank and from there the path went straight to the FRH. Everything was covered in mist now, so exact directions were going to be useful.

Oh, we climbed up from 1822 altitude to 3359 height of Shikari Devi. Bravo! It was 4 pm when we arrived at the dhaba. So accounting for all long conversations with locals but not for the resting breaks, we can say we took six hours to climb. The duration wasn’t too long as we also figured out the way on the go.

Scooby had stopped behind on the road. He just sat there. People watched him. But he didn’t move despite our whistles that desperately called him.

Believing he would follow us, we had walked towards the dhaba. But when I turned around after a while, he was gone. How could I lose him? For the least, I wanted to thank him, feed him, and give him some more water. He could have just saved us from getting lost for all we know. We always decided upon a path independently of his choice, but still, he could have saved us on that strange dense-jungle walk.

 Luck was on our side that day as I went behind the dhaba, I found Scooby. One whistle, and he came close to us. We opened the tap under which he licked the stone and drank to his heart content. As he didn’t eat the ajwain biscuits, I fed him all the remaining sweet ones we had. They had been his favorite all the while on the hike.

 

Climbing Up The Shikari Devi Steps and Loosing Scooby

We went up the marble stairs, and Scooby followed. Some stairs were newly constructed and were covered with dry bushes and tree branches to demotivate people from walking on them.

The paths that ran adjacent to the stairs were walkable enough, and I mostly preferred those mud and root ways over steep staircases. Especially if my legs are already breaking with the climb.

Some people were scared of Scooby, and in the mishap, we again lost him. I guess at some point he just stopped following us. My partner was exhausted by now, and I couldn’t ask him to wait to find Scooby.

I miss Scooby. He is the only dog who might have just encouraged me to keep one of my own. Maybe when I grow old!

Up and up and we arrived at the second water tank. We assumed a straight enough mud path from behind the tank would take us to our destination, and we followed it. The trail on which we walked goes further beyond the FRH, and we were later told the way went to the helipad.

 

Arriving at the Forest Rest House (FRH) at Shikari Devi

The FRH was invisible until we arrived close to it. A sea of clouds floated in front of the rest house. Of course, we should expect clouds at the Shikari Devi height of 3359 meters. The Everest is 8849-meter high.

Let’s not compare, but the Shikari peak is tall.

Tall enough that its weather is unpredictable around the year.

Clouds come and go,

and sunshine dodges them all.

One second the weather is sunny and clear,

and the next you can’t see your right hand,

the fog makes it so obscure.

The rest house was a simple slant roof building in the middle of nowhere. A small tent was clamped on its ground. Three boys hanging out around the camp looked like the owners of it.

The chowkidar wasn’t around. One of the boys told us the chowkidar had gone to the road to get some cooking material.

We had tried many times but couldn’t reach the Divisional Forest Officer’s (DFO) phone. As the Rest House officials had told us we had to inform the DFO about our booking at Shikari, we called him again. This time his number worked. He said he will call the chowkidar. And that the caretaker runs a shop near the temple and must have gone there with his wife to sell offerings that people present in the temple.

 

The Weather Worsens at Shikari Devi

Large clouds had descended around us now. From that time we won’t see anything clearly until the next day evening around 5 or 6 pm. The weather only cleared for two to three hours even then.

The chowkidar arrived and we got some hot tea. The room was opened up. It was simple yet sufficient. The caretaker first told us the bathroom flush doesn’t work and the geyser doesn’t work. He informed us that limited water is available so we have to use it carefully. Only when we promised we will not waste water, he opened up the lock of the bathroom.

While roaming around the room I found the heater kept behind the bed. We took it out and put it on. Some songs downloaded on my partner’s Youtube music filled our room.

We hadn’t received any signal throughout the jungle. Only around the dhaba area below the steps, the phone had some connectivity.

 

Dinner Time at FRH and the Stormy Night, Shikari Devi

The caretaker brought our simple meals much later (8:45 pm) than we had requested him to. He had again gone to his tent to finish some work there. The dinner had rice, chapati, dal, and cauliflower potato sabji at about 8:45. The smoky chapatis from the chulha were delicious, and we ate plenty.

As soon as the food was over, we got into our bed like two little kittens. At midnight it started pouring down. The boys outside in the tent wouldn’t even be able to get out to ask for help. Our heater was on. And the constant patter of the rains on the roof woke me up many times. I dreamt a lot that night.

 

A Rainy Morning at Shikari Devi Hill

The alarm rang at 5 am but there was no dawn sunshine to wake up to. It was still raining outside and clouds must have been right outside our window. Switching off the alarm, I drifted off into sleep with the sound of the rain pattering the valley around us.

Only around 8:30 in the morning I went to the bathroom. And the worse had happened. I had got my periods, and the underwear and the pajama hadn’t taken it well. That feeling of liquid bubbling in my panties had made me conscious but I guess I couldn’t wake up earlier.

I cleaned everything. But the worst part of it all was the freezing water spray.

Sun was hidden but the light was bright enough that I had to squint my eyes. The chowkidar came to ask for breakfast soon. And he brought us three aloo parathas. We got one more and enjoyed the paratha with butter or pickle, I don’t remember.

 

Sleeping All Day Long in the Rains. Devotees Get Stuck at Shikari.

We slept on as there was nothing one could do.

In between people knocked at our door several times. Once there were devotees who had come to visit the temple but had gotten stuck in the rain. The weather had taken them by chance. Thunderstorms and strong winds were shaking the area mercilessly at the time.

The family had little children with them, many of whom were crying. We told them the way to the caretaker. Later we saw the mother and the wailing children sitting inside the earthen chulha room.

For lunch, we had a lot of dal and rice to make sure we don’t feel hungry until the late dinner. We had the heater on all the time. The three boys with the tent had left at some point. We were sure they must have brought their car which was parked below the temple.

The weather was so unpredictable and harsh that day that hikers couldn’t even think of stepping out into the jungle. But the people in cars were still driving up because there was no way they could know about the storms up at Shikari Devi hill. And those who were going down were the ones who had driven and not walked the way.

So between us and the caretaker, it was decided we would stay another night. He extended our booking by calling the DFO. The Rest House also didn’t have any phone signals so we could not really do much. We were so dependent on the caretaker we were happy to just snooze in our bed. The next day we would try, we thought.

 

Wandering Around the temple of Shikari Devi Himachal Pradesh and Kullu Devotees

We woke up from our afternoon siesta at about 5:30 pm. The weather had just cleared up, and the views were damn fine. After a cup of tea and a few photographs over the clouds, we went for a walk around.

The temple and the forest rest house are surrounded by green pastures green. The shepherd brings so many cattle and horses in the hills they are covered in horse and cattle poop. You have to walk carefully, and you can’t do rolly-polly. Like we did around Kanag Devi temple near Theog Shimla.

The caretaker and his wife showed us their home from the FRH. They were both from Thunag in Janjheli Valley. Pointing to a rolling hill filled with dense forest, they said our home is right there. And the chief minister’s house is located there too. Just below his home, we have the way to our home. I could see the path going from below the Shikari Temple in the distance, around the pasture it went, and then disappeared in the thick cedar jungle. A couple of shepherd huts were visible from our view.

Behind the government rest house, we could see rolling waves of hills and more green pastures. The helipad lay somewhere ahead.

And on the front side of the guesthouse, was pastures and then the Shikari temple. There were pastures beyond the temple too.

As it was already about 6 pm, we decided to go in only one direction. And we headed towards the mandir. We climbed the uphill pasture and saw hundreds of people near the Serais — guest houses.

We were prepared for the crowd as our guard had told us a devta (god) from Kullu had arrived. All those hundreds of people had come following the devta. A devta is a man-god for Himachali people. I have yet to ask someone how a devta is chosen but once selected, the devta is the living god. People go where he goes. They carry him on their shoulders. He is given the best food and the best bed. He is all.

I had first come across the human devtas of Himachal in a village of Spiti Valley. Read the linked guide to see some interesting pictures and to know how the arrival of a devta is announced in the village.

Some of the Kullu devotees had walked on foot for two days from their home to Shikari Devi temple (Mandi), such is the belief of people. They had brought ration and would cook their food. A lot of tents were also set up there.

After spending a night at Shikari Mata temple, many people would follow the devta wherever he would go.

The Shikari temple was on our front now. On our right lay further pastures and jungle until the hills rolled onto a valley. Beyond laid mountains studded with huts and homes. At night we saw lights shining in those hills.

We climbed further onto the temple. I didn’t go inside but my partner did and saw those drums lying on the floor. Shikari Devi temple is popular for a hundred years maybe. I have read its mention in a 1961 census survey of Pangna village. Devotees believe that once upon a time hunters used to pray to God to help them get a good hunt. And then this god came to be known as Shikari Devi. And Pandavas had also stayed at Shikari and prayed to her. The goddess told Pandavas to build her a temple and they made one.

Now the Shikari Mata temple stands roofless. People believe that even in heavy snowfall the temple stays snow-free. And all the efforts to make a roof above the shrine have failed.

Even our waiter at Hotel Mamleshwar in Chindi told us the temple never receives snow. I wonder how many of them have seen the temple spotless in January and February. The temple is closed at that time and the guest houses shut down. Not even a single soul could be found and that’s the time when those two Hamirpur boys had also visited the Shikari temple. You would call and call but no one will come to help.

When we walked beyond the temple, the Kinnaur snow peaks in the distance caught our eye. We admired the white summits for a while.

Several Kullu men were heating their asses on a bonfire on this hill from where we watched the Kinnaur peaks. So we left them in peace and returned towards the temple.

The Shikari Devi temple area needs a good few days to explore.

We didn’t get much signal inside the rest house but now while walking down the pasture our phones beeped. An electricity tower stood there. I made a quick call back home. My mother had been watching the news which mentioned heavy rainfalls in Himachal. When she heard we were at a temple, she asked me the name and was surprised we had walked almost one full day to arrive at it.

Beyond the rest house, the setting sun lit the sky on fire. Streaks of golden and orange danced ahead. And horses still grazed in the pasture in front. Cedar and pine trees danced in the wind. We could just watch it all.

 

The Second Dinner and the Star-Filled Night

Some people from Kullu had put up tents at the Rest House, and they had a bonfire going too. But the winds were too damn strong and we ate dinner inside. A creamy and soft rajma (kidney beans) with chapati filled us to the core.

The sky was lit with stars outside but due to the clouds, The Milky Way wasn’t visible. In such weather, you wouldn’t find even one star in the sky.

 

The Second Morning at Shikari Hill

Clouds poured all night long. We snoozed the alarm and only woke up at 8. We knew we couldn’t do much even if we woke up.

The chowkidar must have been getting impatient for us to leave because this morning he brought cold parathas even when I hadn’t showered. But where could we go as the weather was still not the best?

Our chowkidar had told us that we owed him 2000 rupees for the two-day rent and 2000 more for meals and heater and everything. The heater was just a trick as that was included in the tariff.

We only had about 4500 with us so we paid the rent and gave him 1600 more for food and his services. Some cash needed to be saved for the way. We had seen his wife smoking out her lungs on the chulha and the guy running in the rain back and forth from his hut to bring us chapatis, water, and pick up our plates. So paying a little extra than usual seemed totally right.

 

Starting Our Return Journey From Shikari Hill to Chindi, Mandi

Seeing the cloudy sky, we put aside our plans to hike around the pastures. The weather had been sporadic and we needed to make our way back.

Given the two days of heavy rain, the jungle must be wet. We knew. So our idea was to get a cab or take a lift from someone already leaving the Shikari Mata temple.

The chowkidar wasn’t sure if we would get a taxi. He also didn’t try arranging one for us.

While leaving us on to the trail that would take us back to the stairs of the temple he said if he had made any mistake we should forgive him. We walked on straight onto the muddy and slippery trail now. My partner was already a bit conscious and any attempts at a joke or an idea of wandering around were turned down by him furiously. Oops.

The walk through the jungle until the staircase and then further were all soaked.

 

A Failed Attempt at Hitchhiking

Many cars were parked on the road though. We spoke to a lot of cars but most of them couldn’t take us. Some were full, some went in the opposite direction to Dharwad, Thunag, and Janjheli Valley, and some wouldn’t give us a lift because the friends were drinking and chilling and couldn’t be bothered with our presence.

The sky was still foggy but much clearer than before. There was a bit of sun.

 

Starting the Hike Through the Shikari Jungle For the Second Time

As we were reaching close to 12:30, we decided to quit asking people and retrace our way through the jungle. Now we had seen the path and, mostly, it went downhill. That the trails would be soggy and slippery was on our mind but we couldn’t do much. Assuring ourselves the weather will clear up we packed a couple of biscuit packets and filled our water bottles.

Scooby wasn’t there. We observed so many dogs around closely to see if we weren’t able to identify him because of the wet furs. Whistling incessantly we looked around. But he wasn’t there.

Quickly we made it all the way back through the road and pastures to the point where we had arrived.

Making sure it was the patch where we danced and the exact groove where the dog had drunk water, we descended into the jungle.

Let me tell you that from this point on there was no home until the village of Sainthal almost 3-4 hours walk away. On our way, we would find one Gujjar home of which I have spoken earlier. But given how they had behaved last time we didn’t even want to get seen by them. What if they ask us that we had promised them a dog but we hadn’t brought any along?

Trusting the universe and our walking strength we ventured into the jungle of the Shikari Devi sanctuary the second time. The path at the beginning goes down a bit and we were surrounded by old deodar spruces and pines. The jungle was silent after the rains except for a few birds who chirped thoughtlessly. The trees were all washed.

The trails were now wet and slippery. A lot of branches and leaves had fallen on the tracks. Because the paths were all soggy we couldn’t tell which ones were more walked upon and which ones were more grassy and covered with pine needles.

 

Reaching the Precipitous Hill and Descending Down

Trusting our instincts and memory, we went ahead. Slowly we kept encountering the turns and rocks encountered on our onwards walk. We arrived at the precipitous rocky slope where we had seen the sheep. Beyond the rocks the steep downhill climb began. Turning backward and forwards we descended it holding our hands sometimes and sometimes grasping the mossy wet trees.

We had almost descended down the entire dhar (mountain) — which the locals say is the steepest part of the climb. Steep rocks formed the last few steps. They must be slippery. There would be another way around but everything was wet.

 

We Take a Fall. Ouch.

I was holding my partner’s hand who walked behind. As he took a step, he slipped, and along with him, I fell too. My ankle was just twisted a bit but my partner had taken the fall on his right side. His right calf was a little bruised.

We both got up immediately. Now we had to make sure his leg doesn’t swell because then we wouldn’t be able to walk.

Our estimate told us we were near the shepherd area so we continued our walk and decided to take a break a bit later after crossing their home. We would sit and see if everything is alright.

After walking straight for a bit we descended. My partner has had no pain so far. Weather was also clear until now.

 

Crossing the Shepherds the Second Time and A Short Break

Now we came on the hill under which stood the shepherd home. The old shepherd was sleeping on a rock. We thought he was drunk as froth was oozing out of his mouth. We passed their hill quickly.

The gaddi’s buffaloes stood on the right, and after a staring contest between us, we moved ahead.

 

The Mist Enters and All Becomes Ghostly

Taking a break on some rocks, we analyzed my partner’s legs. Neither was any part of his leg swollen nor did he have much pain. We peed, ate some peaches, pears, and bananas.

By now mist had started to spread in the forest. We walked fast.

Further on we met the Gujjar children. They walked with their phone’s music on and perhaps were returning after selling milk and khoya to one of the villages.

Saying namaste to them we moved on. We kept on taking the trails which looked wide. Maybe that’s where we made the mistake. The entire forest seemed covered in mist now.

Tall green deodars stood black in the white clouds of fog. The jungle suddenly seemed ghostly.

 

The Rain Pours and We Are Soaked

Soon it started drizzling. And the clouds poured. We took shelter under some trees and opened our umbrellas. I missed the rain jacket but what could be done then.

Even under the umbrella, we were soaked as the rain swayed with the wind. We walked in the umbrella, then stopped, and walked. We had to get out of the Shikari Devi forest before the weather became too bad.

 

Are We On The Right Path?

Filled with water, all the trails looked the same. We couldn’t see any footsteps on them. And the path was also not constantly wide and turned from wide to narrow and narrow to wide. Maybe it was somewhere there we took a path just because it was wide. One of those choices went wrong.

We believed the lays packets and toffee wrappers would leave us on the right path but that assumption wasn’t true either. That there could be exits from the jungle leading to other villages didn’t cross our mind.

 

Getting Lost, Well, My Partner Disagrees.

Soon we were descending a jungle we didn’t recognize. Deodar logs and stumps fringed both sides of our path now. We thought someone must have cut those trees the previous day. And then we came upon a cabin — a rooftop with some pillars all made of wood — that we hadn’t seen earlier. At first glance, I felt it was the Shiv Dera but we knew that dera lay through an inward path and not on the main trail.

For a second I lost my breath. My partner had been complaining of a little leg pain for a while now and we were not in much strength against the dense jungle that would soon begin to darken. It was already 4 pm. I wanted to believe we were near Sainthal but we were far from it. And the worst part of it — we didn’t know where we were.

My partner took out his phone. The phone connections had started working a bit. We must be coming out of the dense jungle, we thought. Cedar logs also proved humans were nearby.

We Were Near Darwad Village. How Did That Happen?

The GPS arrow pointed towards Darwad. The dense green of the jungle was now giving way to a cleaner territory as per the map.

And I remembered the chowkidar had asked us to go the Darwad way. He had said it would be shorter as compared to the path to Bakhrot we had taken earlier. But the road distance between Darwad and Chindi would be about 70 km. We had ignored his suggestion as we didn’t want to venture onto a new path in the moody weather.

 

My Partner’s Knee Hurts

We had somehow ended up on the wrong trail while choosing the wider path. My partner’s hurt knee pained a lot now. I rubbed some Volini on his knee and we moved downwards. We had to get out of the forest before another downpour came or it got dark.

Following the directions to a Kirana store, we trudged. The honks from the road could also reach us.

 

Getting Down to Darwad, Mandi

Holding my partner on one side, I descended the slippery downward slopes. After walking for ten minutes we saw a blue hut.

One guy at the house told us his house was the first one of the village Darwad. We had to walk further down the path through the fields and orchards to get to the village.

This better path that the guy had chosen for us over another one was even steeper and went through fields. The rain had made the track slippery and wet. Several plants lay uprooted on it.

All around us beautiful mud and stone homes stood beautifully on lush green hills. Everything looked so fresh. I was in some of my best landscapes of life but my partner was in pain so I was concerned.

 

Having Tea With Locals and Getting a Taxi

After climbing down for some time, we came upon an under-construction house. Four-five men and women were working there. They saw we were soaked in water. Upon hearing that we had been coming from Shikari, they said we lost our way and went that way. But in order to save our pride, we said we were told to get down the Darwad way and so we have come from here. I don’t know how much they believed us but at that insecure moment, the surety no one knew we had gone the wrong way was making us feel strong.

The humble people offered us tea and laid a plan for us to sit down. We told them my partner’s knee hurt from the fall and asked how could we get down.

Seeing our difficulty they asked us to stay with them. But we didn’t want to impose.

The workers and the family told us about a bus we could get from 6 km away. The bus stand was at Sanarli village. But to get to that bus town, we had to first climb down the village and then cross a couple more villages on a kaccha road. Further on the road Sanarli town will come.

There was confusion about the timing of the last bus and if in the rain the bus would ever come.

“We might get a taxi. Or someone may give us a lift.” We thought aloud.

“No. You won’t find a taxi like that. And the traffic on that kaccha road is less. Most cars run full.” They said.

“They could call us a taxi right below. The walk to that point in Palochi will be ten minutes from here.”

If we had been both okay I would have definitely chosen the bus route. But my husband was in excruciating pain now and I wanted to make it easier for him.

We went for the taxi. The price from Palocchi to Mamleshwar Chindi where our car was parked was fixed at 900 rupees.

 

Descending from Darwad To Our Taxi in Palocchi and Awkward Conversations on the Way

The downwards trail from the village further on was even worse. It got wetter, muddier, and steeper. Not one but many trails forked in different directions. Some went through fields and others went from outside the fields. First, we went through the farms. And in between the farms, we would suddenly run into a house.

The surprised villager would ask us many questions before telling us the way. Oh you can go here and you can go there and what happened and from where are you and where you are going and from where you have come. A village lady here, a girl there. They all offered tea, they all offered to stay. But we couldn’t and didn’t stop. I knew my partner wants solitude when in discomfort. We promised to go later and clambered down.

The scenery was beautiful. The distant hills were covered with fleecy clouds. The grass was so green and fresh I could have eaten it. Apple orchards covered us on both sides. Corn, coriander, and radish grew in bulk.

Most villagers understood we had gone the wrong way. And then we came to a house where two children sat in an iron tub in hot water. The mother of those kids first demanded to know from where we had come. She told us the way. When she saw us descending slowly, she shouted, “you don’t fall on these paths.”

I shouted back, “his leg is hurt.”

She threw a walking stick to us. We laughed and moved on. As I turned to click a photo she smiled, and we waved at each other.

Further on came a concrete path. The path was sometimes rocky, muddy, and just plain concrete at times. We crossed a courtyard where people directed us. The Palochi point as we reiterated to everyone.

The trail went down and down and down. I was sure it must have been to the khud. But a girl told us the trail went by the side of the brook but would bring us to the taxi. She really wanted us to stop and have tea with her. She was doing literature and when she heard I write she got piqued. With a heavy heart, we told her we would come some other time.

The cab driver called us to see if we had lost the way. The villagers had said the descend would take us ten minutes but we had already been walking for more than half an hour. But we were so slow that counting time didn’t make sense at that point. I was just thankful that my partner could walk without depending on anyone except my hand.

 

Reaching the Taxi. Oh How His Leg Hurts!

Finally, I saw a car in the valley below. So that was it.

Soon we were in the car and the driver sped his Alto. The adventure hadn’t ended though. The road ahead was not a tar road but a kaccha road on which loose stones were strewn. The mud had also gone loose in places.

 

Driving Through the Villages and Crossing the Brook in a Car. Woah!

We ran through villages whose names I don’t remember. Trucks sped by, people braked to say hi to each other, buses fitting themselves in the gap, JCBs fitting in, people shouting at each other for being impatient and then speeding up themselves, all the while beautiful homes and valleys and their paddy fields rolled on our left.

But the driver showed us the big stone on which Bheem had thrashed the demon who ate one villager a day. Two-three women sat atop a rock chatting. Then I saw a little girl standing upright on an apple tree plucking one of its fruits. She knew her weight wouldn’t do any harm to the plant.

If all this seems exciting let me ask if you have ever crossed a brook in your car? Well, we did. I mean the driver drove and we sat holding onto each other. I started laughing though when he splashed the car through the shallow stream. That’s the way the road works. You get in your car and cross the stream in your car if you have to get somewhere.

Wow!

 

By The Side of the Paddy-Filled Karsog Valley, Mandi

Now we were on the main road with the velvety paddy-filled Karsog Valley on our left. My partner was better now as he had taken a pain killer after sitting in the car. And I felt bad for not giving him the medicine when we were hiking downwards.

 

Taking Shelter At the Hotel Mamleshwar Chindi

We arrived at Mamleshwar and leaving all plans behind asked for a room. Our jolly taxi driver told us he had a relative at the hotel and he was going to see if he can meet him. Everyone knows everyone here in Himachal. We took his card and left after thanking him for coming out to help us.

The fun didn’t cease.

The manager asked us if we wanted a maharaja room or a maharani room both costing close to 1800 rupees. We said we wanted the simple 1000 rupee room. All simple rooms were booked. So be it. We saw both the King and Queen rooms and decided on the maharani (the Queen) room. It was spacious and opened into the forest and the orchards.

Wait, wait. The story isn’t over yet.

 

Ending the Day By Doing the Laundry With Hand, Eating Mushrooms, and Drinking Apricot Wine. How Can I Complain?

I had to of course wash all the muddy and wet clothing there and then. We showered in hot water. My partner chirped at the idea of eating chicken and I ordered mushrooms. We opened a bottle of apricot and celebrated our journey.

We partied until 11 or so and slept like babies. I guess we are babies. Wanting to explore every patch of this gorgeous earth and wishing to speak to every person on the planet while eating it all we can. I guess we are babies just out of our shells looking for fun and adventure all the time. And if on the way we face some troubles that’s okay too. Who said it will all come easy?

I hope you enjoyed my memoir of our hike to the Shikari Devi temple (Himachal Pradesh).

 

What is Shikari Devi Height?

The temple of Shikari Devi is located at a height of 3340 meters.

 

What is the Shikari Devi trek distance?

No one really knows. Everyone talks about the hike in terms of hours taken. Most villagers say you start in the morning at 6-7 am and arrive at 2-3 pm.

 

What should one bring on the Shikari Devi climb?

Pack

  1. Toilet paper
  2. Rain jackets
  3. Warm jackets for men and for women
  4. Soap
  5. Light Travel Towel
  6. Water Bottles — At least 3 litre water for one person (Think about getting this Lifestraw Go Water Bottle with integrated 1,000-liter capacity)
  7. Extra pair of socks and an extra pair of underwear (for these two should stay dry and clean)
  8. pack some food, fruits and bananas, peanut bars (or other protein bars)
  9. Bring cash
  10. Carry phone chargers and power banks.
  11. Download some songs offline
  12. Wear sturdy Hiking Shoes
  13. Carry strong backpacks
  14. pack medicines such as volini, pain killer, bandages, ibuprofen, dettol
  15. Wear good-quality hiking tracks or just good stretchable track pants (for women and for men)

 

Look at my Travel Resources and Travel Tips guide for more ideas.

Important — Load the offline maps of the area and before you start the hike load the map. The GPS arrow will keep showing you your position at least.

 

Should we walk to Shikari Devi or should we drive?

This is entirely your choice. We love to hike so we went the wayfarer way. For the drive, the road is kaccha. You might want to consider booking a local taxi.

 

What’s the best time to visit Shikari Devi temple?

Avoid monsoon and winter. The best months would be April to June and then from October to November. Ask the locals before going.

 

How to book the Forest Rest House at Shikari Devi?

I will soon publish a guide on booking PWD guest houses in Himachal Pradesh. You will find detailed information there. But to book the Forest Rest House at Shikari call on the number given in this pdf (search for Shikari) and say you are visiting the place. Tell how many rooms you need and the dates. Call the numbers the office provides. Later call the chowkidar (guard) of the FRH and confirm your arrival to him too. Though the guards are informed by the office, a phone call from your side will prepare them better.

Other guest houses (locally known as Serais) also are built at the Shikari Devi hill. But a lot of them have shared accommodations. I think they put mattress in the big hall. Sometimes people camp outside these guesthouses too. Or you can camp on the FRH grounds by talking to the guard. Keep in mind the weather though and carry the essentials.

 

Should we hire a guide for the Shikari Devi trek or shall we go on our own?

As you know from my story, we went on our own. But even the locals didn’t say we were taking any huge risk. The walk is just really long and goes through a dense forest without any villages. That’s the best and the worst part of going to Shikari hill.

Looking back on the journey, I can say our experiences in the jungles of Himachal Pradesh and of hiking at other places helped us a lot. So don’t go on your own if this is your first time doing a long trek or if you aren’t confident you will be able to walk that long.

Have you hiked for a day-long before? If yes, you can climb up to Shikari. As per the trail, I have given enough information in this guide.

To reiterate — Take the more walked upon path. Even if you notice the toffee wrappers and chips bags on the side of the trail, do think before assuming that would be the only right way. Many other side trails also lead to other villages. When in doubt, check all the trails. Don’t go after the widest trail. The tracks do get narrow at some points while another trail may seem wider. That’s how it is.

First you climb up to Sainthal, then into the jungle, now walk through the forest for 2-3 hours, further a steep uphill climb comes, and soon out in the pasture. Walk through the pastures, get on the road, and arrive at the staircase.

Some people also have a good direction sense. But if you are one of those who get lost even in the city, consider taking a guide.

Having said it all, you can choose to go on your own or hire a guide.

If the weather is bad or rainy, postpone. Leave as early as you can so you have all the time to figure out the way and for any mishaps.

About those wild animals now — Wild animals don’t bother anyone during the day. They stay in their own areas. But if the hills are misty, there is the fear of running into the Himalayan bear. So a clear sky is the best time to hike to Shikari Devi. And, of course, don’t go into the jungle at night.

Hope this helps.

 

 

Would you do drive or walk to the Shikari Devi Mandir? Tell me in the comments.

A Stunning Sunset at Mandalay’s Irrawaddy River

A Myanmar Sunset on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay

I saw one of the most ethereal sunsets of my life on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. That Myanmar sunset was enough to convince me to wake up before 5 every morning for my twenty day trip in Burma.

It was the last day of 2019. My friend and I had just spent the day roaming around Mandalay ruins, discovering pagodas and ancient temples in the historic town of Innwa, and strolling around Innwa villages. There was a hot pot lunch in between at a place called the Little Panda Hotpot and BBQ Buffet. It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas to stop for a hot pot when we had hired an auto-rickshaw to show us around Mandalay. But the kind driver waited patiently for an hour. Also, I could not be blamed for the do-it-yourself hotpot for I didn’t know the restaurant would ask us to grill and cook everything ourselves without even helping us light the fire under our wok. Let us blame everything on the language barrier.

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Your Guide to Finding Isolated Hotels in Madikeri, Coorg

We all have been stuck inside homes for about six months now. Though usually, I am planning a birthday trip around this time of the year, as September approached I got anxious that I might want to go somewhere. But would I be able to step out of Bengaluru or even my house?

Then I remembered the article I had written on traveling in the Pandemic. For those who have read the guide know that I only suggested traveling by car to an isolated homestay or a guesthouse near the woods. Thus you can change your view, hike around, be in nature, and even work with the lush forest swaying in front of you. 

Remembering my idea, I decided to travel in Karnataka and started searching for isolated hotels in the state. But as I pored over hundreds of hotels and guesthouses over various websites, I decided to dedicate an entire guide to isolated hotels in Madikeri, Coorg as most of the properties I liked were from this area. 

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Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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11 Top Things To Do in Peru – And My Bonus Secret List

Top Things to do and Best Places to Visit in Peru

 

The five weeks that I backpacked in Peru flew by me. I didn’t have to go out of my way to look for the top things to do in Peru.

While one moment I was hiking down the Colca Canyon, another moment I was tasting the indigenous Peruvian food cooked in earthen pots in Arequipa. One day I was walking in the rain-sodden streets of Puno in my pink rain jacket, the next day I found myself playing with a cute little girl on one of the faraway islands of the Lake Titicaca

If the sunny plaza del armas of Cusco was the hangout for the afternoon, the evenings were spent cooking quinoa in the hostel kitchen with French and Mexican friends. Machu Picchu was a two-day trip, but the Manu National park in the Amazon rainforest was a four-day journey. 

Taking a bus to the Sacred Valley near Cusco was as much on the plan as finding my way to the isolated Temple of the Moon on the outskirts of Cusco. Eating huge meals in chifa restaurants was as tempting as gorging upon roadside cheese empanadas. 

Rainbows dancing over countryside skies filled the days and trains whistling while they rushed past the scenic high Andes filled my memories. I remember the colorful potatoes I dug on the Amantani island but I also cannot forget the pink-purple-red-black chips I made in the Puno hostel with the rainbow of potatoes I bought from the local market. 

Peru was poetry.

There are so many places to visit in Peru that a first-timer to Peru can feel a bit overwhelmed with the choices. As I realized that the internet is filled with Peru must see places, I decided to make my guide a unique one.

So my What to see in Peru list is divided into two — 

    1. A standard list of the best things to do in Peru that will give you an idea of the cities, towns, and islands to see and the activities you can do. 
    2. A list of things to do and unique places in Peru that I personally found the most special — you wouldn’t want to miss these on your trip to Peru. 

Let’s get it rolling my good friends. 

watching the countryside from cusco in peru

Best things to do in Peru – List 1

1. Visit Cusco, Peru 

Cusco is the fairytale land of Peru that is situated high above in the Andes mountains. At a height of 4000 meters, Cusco was once the headquarters of the Incas, the impressive rulers of South America before the Spanish, who left intriguing historical sites spread around the city. 

You need about two weeks to see the major attractions of Cusco, go to Machu Picchu, visit the Sacred Valley near Cusco, and spend some time in Cusco markets. If you want to do a long hike to Machu Picchu, then see the next bullet (and then two weeks ain’t enough.) 

What is my favorite part of the city? The vibrant streets, unplanned carnivals, the plaza del armas (or the main square), chaotic markets, small stalls selling chicha murada (a local purple drink made with corn), and the Andes surrounding the city that makes for a perfect afternoon walk. 

The best tip to survive Cusco – As Cusco is at a high altitude, give yourself a few days to acclimatize before doing any strenuous physical activity. 

For more detailed information on the things to do in Cusco and the logistics of traveling Cusco, refer to the linked guide. 

cusco- cathedral top things to do in peru.jpg

2. See Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world (one of the most famous places in Peru but for good reasons)

I am sure you have heard about this wonder of the world settled in the south of Peru. Machu Picchu is the royal citadel that the Incas, the same people we were gossiping about before, built at a height of 2500 meters in the Andes range outside of Cusco. 

While more than a million people visit Machu Picchu every year, you can get to this palace in many ways. 

Either take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes(the town where you spent the night to visit Machu Picchu in the morning), walk from Ollantaytambo(ruins near Cusco), or hike the popular Inca, Salkantay or Lares trails with a tour or on your own to arrive at Machu Picchu. 

I walked from Ollantaytambo and then hiked up from Aguas Calientes to reach Machu Picchu. You can read my guide to visiting Machu Picchu by yourself to plan a trip to this historical site. And if you are too worried about planning all by yourself, consider this full-day Machu Picchu tour that will take you from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back with all train, taxi, bus, and the site tickets included.

My favorite part about Machu Picchu? The journey to Machu Picchu itself. The citadel sitting gloriously in the Andes was majestic, especially when you visualize how it would be to live there in your royal attire. But the bus journey from Cusco, then the walk alongside the railway tracks, climbing the 3000 stairs to the top early morning, and throw a one-way train to the mix along with some new friends, it had to be special. 

The best tip to survive Machu Picchu – Arrive at the ruins early(6 is the earliest) to make the most of your trip and to avoid crowds. 

see machu picchu one of the must visit places in peru

3. Get into the Amazon rainforest from Cusco or Iquitos (Go here if you aren’t sure where to go in Peru next)

If I repeat one more time that I had dreamt of going to the Amazon and even volunteering there since I was a little girl who watched way too much Discovery channel with her parents, you would kill me.

So let me say that if you are in Peru, or traveling anywhere in South America, go to the Amazon rainforest. 

You don’t have to necessarily go until Iquitos to see the Amazon jungle. You can visit the Manu National Park, part of the Amazon Rainforest Peru, from Cusco. There are options of three to seven-eight day trips and this is the time to go all-in I think. 

I have written all about the Manu National Park in Peru so start planning your trip now. 

My favorite part about Manu National Park? The feeling of being inside a fifty-five million years old thick rainforest where tribes that have never seen civilization still live unseen and untouched.
The best tip to survive the Amazon jungle — Remember that you are in the jungle and the insects and bugs are not the intruders, we are. 

 

4. Don’t skip Puno, a town on the shores of Lago Titicaca (One of the Peru must see)

If I had skipped Puno, as many travelers suggested, I would have missed the best part of my Peru trip. 

Puno is a small town located in the South of Peru on the bank of Lake Titicaca, the largest, highest, and deepest lake in South America. Lake Titicaca is shared between Bolivia and Peru. Legends say that the God Viracocha made the sun and the moon (and possibly the Incas) in Lake Titicaca, and hence the lake is quite an important site for both Peruvians and Bolivians.

I spent about fourteen days in Puno and the islands on Lake Titicaca and loved every minute because the places were nothing like I had ever seen and the people were friendly. 

Though I have written about all the amazing things to do in Puno and Lake Titicaca, I can add that this cultural town has delicious fried trout, forgiving countryside, empty beaches, and unlimited access to about 42 Titicaca islands each of which has its own unique culture, sights, and potatoes. 

If you are fretting about planning a visit to the islands, try this two-day tour to the Uros, Amantani, and Taquile island. You stay with a Quechua island family that feeds you, clothes you, and dances with you. I loved the tour and hope that my skirt doesn’t come off the next time I go dancing with the family. 

Puno is also the border town to Bolivia. 

Thank me later, alligator. 

My favorite part about Puno and Titicaca? Getting soaked in rain and then rushing back to the hostel to get some coca tea. Or maybe hiking in the countryside and chatting with the friendly locals. Oh maybe walking along the beach with nothing on my mind. I don’t know. 

The best tip to survive Puno — Get a good place to stay if you want to slow down here. Cozy hostel was pretty great. 

visiting lake titicaca is one of the top things to do in peru and you can see lady by the Titicaca shore here

 

5. Wander in the white city Arequipa 

Arequipa is a city in the South of Peru that is known as a white city as its houses and its buildings are made of sillar, a white volcanic stone.

While El Misti volcano looms above Arequipa, the center of the city is filled with neoclassical cathedrals, ancient nun monasteries, museums and mummies, colorful markets, and even one amazing Indian restaurant called India along with many great Peruvian ones. Either take a free city tour(no countryside visit) or get this GetYourGuide four-hour tour that takes you through the city and the countryside with a local guide.

You can spend a few days in the city but make sure you also plan a trip to the Colca Canyon nearby. And the mention of this canyon brings me to my next point. 

My favorite part about Arequipa? Sitting on the first and second floor of the plaza and watching the people from there. 

The best tip to survive Arequipa— Tonnes of tour agents will buzz on you like bees insisting you to book a Colca Canyon tour with them. Tell them you went there already. 

the white city of arequipa and el misti volcano one of the best places to visit in peru

6. Make sure you experience the Colca Canyon near Arequipa

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is located about 200 km from Arequipa and almost tops the list of the places to see in Peru. If you hike, there is no doubt that you should hike down the Canyon with a tour or on your own. 

Whilst in the canyon, take time to talk to the villagers who farm and live on the slopes of the canyon. Oh, doing this hike on your own gives you ample time to do this. 

Read my honest guide to the Colca Canyon hike to plan your journey. If you are not into hiking or just not in the mood, think about this guided tour with a local that will take you to wildlife and Condor viewpoints, to the El Misti volcano viewpoints, and drive you to the Colca Canyon. 

My favorite part about the Colca Canyon? Watching the panoramic views and letting the surreality of the canyon take over. 

The best tip to survive Colca Canyon Hike — Take the climb slowly and don’t let the guide push you into hurrying or feeling guilty. 

hiking colca canyon in arequipa peru.jpg

7. Visit Lima but don’t get too comfy there else you will miss something that you really want to see

Like every other capital, the beach town of Lima is a mix of hip bars and pubs, fine restaurants, skyscrapers, and baroque cathedrals and plazas (because it is a colonial city). 

Seaside Barranco is the safest and the most beautiful place to stay. You can find a good hostel in the Barranco area here. Relax at the beach, play football, eat delicious ceviche, visit some cathedrals, and practice some Spanish with the locals while enjoying the nightlife. 

Or go for a pre-arranged night live magic water show with dinner, take a full-day Lima culinary and cultural tour, eat through a four-hour tour where you taste 16 dishes at 8 restaurants while exploring Barranco with a local (or choose this vegan option), or immerse in a Shanty Town tour run by a local NGO that takes you through the real-life of Lima and helps you interact with the community.

I have covered how can you keep safe in Lima in the last section on staying safe in Peru. 

My favorite part about Lima? I haven’t been to Lima but after reading so much about it and talking to my friends I think I would just love to lie on a beach and eat ceviche.  

The best tip to survive Lima — Don’t overstay, a lot of my friends told me.  

lima in peru.jpg
Oh, you can paraglide in Lima.

8. Get those surfboards on in Máncora

I am not into surfing but they say that Mancora, a border town next to Ecuador, is your best bet to surf in Peru. Mancora is 17 hours by bus from Lima so you better surf there if you go. 

If you are in Mancora between July and October, you can see humpback whales breeding in the Pacific. 

My favorite part about Máncora? That I never went there. Hey, I don’t surf. But I miss the whales.

The best tip to survive Máncora — Avoid the expensive beachside and stay in the quiet Playa del Amor.

 

9. Sandboard in Huacuacina and drink wine in Ica 

Huacuacina is a little oasis in the desert in Southwest Peru that is also known as the Everest of the desert for some of the dunes are 300 m high. Ica is the closest town to Huacuacina.  

If you want to try sandboarding, Huacachina has a good reputation amongst travelers. Also, buggy riding, in which you sit in a 12-seater buggy while a driver takes you around the desert at steep angles, has given some travelers quite a heart attack. When you get bored of sandboarding, go try some local wine in the wineries of Ica. 

My favorite part about Huacuacina? I didn’t go there but I wish I did. Huacuacina had me at the Everest of deserts and I love (almost) freefalling on steep slopes.

The best tip to survive Huacuacina Book an evening tour to avoid heat and to watch the sunset.

sandboarding in huacachina in peru.jpg

10. Take a flight over the mysterious Nazca lines (one of the most absurd places to see in Peru)

Nazca lines are geoglyphs that are shaped like animals, plants, and other designs and are located about 400 km in the South of Lima. Though there are many theories around their origin and time, no one knows for sure why and how the lines got drawn in the coastal plains. Experts say that the lines are at least 1000 years old. 

If you fly above the Nazca desert, you can see these mysterious figures that some contest could be the work of the aliens.  

Have a look at this 35-minutes Nazca lines flight (starting from Nazca city) with a local guide. 

My favorite part about Nazca lines? That they are mysterious. 

The best tip to survive — I think you can manage a half an hour flight without any tips but do read up a little bit about the history of lines so that you can make the best of your trip. 

 

11. Choose Huaraz as your base and hike in the Peruvian mountains, the Cordillera Blanca (One of the top things to do in Peru for the hikers)

Peru is a heaven for hikers as the country is home to the Andes mountains, the second-highest mountain range in the world. 

If you love hiking, make sure you keep some time to visit Huaraz in the North-West of Peru. Huaraz is about 3000 meters above sea level and its bordered by the snow-capped Cordillera Blanca in the east. 

The Huascarán National Park which encompasses most of the Cordillera Blanca houses the 70 tall (4000 meters and above) peaks, even Peru’s tallest mountain, Huarascán, and about 200 lakes. 

Make Huaraz your base and explore the mountains. 

My favorite part about Huaraz or the Peruvian mountains? I love the mountains and the challenge they pose. Also, I haven’t visited Huaraz yet as I didn’t even know about it back on my Peru trip. So I have one amazing thing left to do for sure.

The best tip to survive — Get acclimatized first before hiking in the high mountains. 

huayhuash-peru.jpg

Now the most awaited list.

My list of the coolest and the most unique places to go in Peru – List 2

These are highlights from my Peru journey.

Here I have added only the best places to visit in Peru and things you shouldn’t miss. Things that aren’t highlighted about Peru, but you would regret if you missed them and heard about them from someone later. 

  • Overeating at chifa restaurants in Puno — Chifa is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian and I think everyone deserves at least one chifa meal. I found most of the chifas in Puno.
eating peruvian cuisine in peru.jpg
This is not chifa, but Peruvian food, in general, is pretty good.
  • Getting soaked in rain and rushing back to the hostel to drink coca tea — Peruvian monsoons are from January to March. You can think about avoiding Peru in rain for hiking is tough in that season, but if you love monsoon, try to get in Peru for a few days of the monsoon at least. 
  • Watching trains go by — You don’t need to be on a train. Just keep an eye out for trains in the countryside of Peru. 
  • Drinking coca tea — Though South Americans drink coca tea as it is energizing and help with the altitude, you can make a few friends while sipping coca tea on an idyllic afternoon in the hostel.
  • Find the farthest islands of Lago Titicaca and visiting them — While keeping my base as Puno, I visited Uros, Amantani, Taquile, and a few more islands on the lake. My travel friend and I would spot the most isolated tiny piece of land on the lake and asked our favorite travel agent to get us there. She always did. And then we stayed with the family for an extended time. If you are looking to slow down or for some solitude or a closer look at the Peruvian island life, I suggest you find yourself a reliable travel agent and get onto that boat to explore another island out of the 42 every few days. I have shared the link to the Titicaca guide above but here it is in case you don’t want to scroll up.
  • Soaking in rain on a tiny boat with an Aymara family on the giant Titicaca huddled under a plastic sheet while having to pee — The wind was crazy, the waves were high, and the rain crashed harder every passing minute but that boat ride is still one of my most memorable days from Peru. You can’t recreate the same memory but I hope you find your own. 
  • Just sitting by the Titicaca shore on the islands

 

lake titicaca island in peru.jpg

 

  • Visiting the Sillustani ruins from Puno (one of the best places in Peru) — The journey to and fro from Puno was more exciting than the ruins but the ruins are out of this world as well. 
peru countryside landscape peru.jpg
I captured this view on the bus journey from Puno to Sillustani.

 

  • Visiting the Temple of the Moon near Cusco — Walk beyond the temple and find that tiny stream gurgling through the neon grass. Walk beyond and hike through those mountains where farmer families live away from all. Keep walking and you would soon find a way back to Cusco. I have written more about the temple in my Cusco guide
  • Cooking in the hostel with all the fresh vegetables, spices, quinoa, and potatoes —Make the many-colored potato chips with the colorful potatoes. 

potatoes in peru.jpg

women with potatoes in peru.jpg

 

  • Filling my water bottle with chicha murada bought from a roadside vendor who also sold amethyst stones(A must do in Peru )— Who needs water?
  • Pubbing in Cusco with hostel friends — I don’t party a lot while traveling but sometimes places and people call for it. Cusco is a great place to hang out at night. But be safe. 
  • Watching the Cusco carnival — When in Peru, plan your city visits as per the festivals. 

 

cusco cathedral square in peru.jpg

 

  • Buying stones and silver — My jewelry trinkets are my souvenirs from around the world. Centro Artesenal Cusco is a great place to shop for some unique stones and abalones studded in silver. I still have mine. 
  • Obsessing over the Amazon — Don’t miss it.
  • Staying put in a city longer than I had planned — While Peru has a lot to do, it is also that one country where you should slow down if you can. 

I hope you enjoy both the lists but follow only your heart.

 

titicaca sunset in pery.jpg

Safety Tips for Peru

  1. Avoid ATM threats – Never carry more cash than you need. Keep your cards and extra cash at the hotel after you have withdrawn. Think about getting a travel card in which you keep topping up from your main account so that your main account stays off-limits to the robbers.
  2. Wear a fanny pack for your important stuff. 
  3. Book a safe transfer from Lima airport to the hotel here, especially if you are arriving at night. Not all taxis in Peru are legal and you can read more about it here. Only hire the four-door legal taxis. 
  4. Carry your camera sling style or wear it on your neck.
  5. Keep your valuables with you on the bus. Make that bag a pillow but don’t leave it on the shelf above the seat. 
  6. Don’t get distracted if someone (even an old lady) throws paints at you or makes your clothes dirty on the road. These are just distractions to rob you of your bags.  
  7. Don’t go alone in unknown streets after the sunset. Duh.
  8. Drink spiking is known in some pubs in the big cities so never leave your drink alone.
  9. Contact the Policia de Turismo (Tourism Police) if something happens to you. Here are some of the contacts of the government’s tourist protection committee. 
  10. Carry LifeStraw (a water bottle with an inbuilt filter) with you as tap water in Peru is not clean to drink. I have been using this bottle for over a year now and I have avoided buying so many plastic bottles because of it. It Saves plastic, saves money, and saves time and energy.

 

Are you still wondering what to see in Peru? Which of these places in Peru did you love the most? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.

 

Like my guide? Please pin it and share it with your friends!

This guide to the best places to visit in Peru also has a secret list of my favorite things to do in Peru. Inspired by a 6-week Peru trip. Must Visit Places in Peru | Peru must see | What to see in Peru | Top things to do in Peru | best things to do in Peru | Peru safety tips | Where to go in Peru | backpacking Peru | Peru solo female trip | Most beautiful places in Peru | Peru backpacking trip | Peru travel tips | food in Peru #peru #southamerica #perutravel #solofemaletravel #Cusco #lima

 

Backpacking in South America – A Beginner’s Guide

What does this guide to traveling South America contain?

  1. Is South America Latin America?
  2. What are the countries in South America?
  3. Is South America safe to travel?
  4. What about the natural calamities and political situations of South America?
  5. What is the best time to visit South America?
  6. What is the cost of backpacking South America? How can you do South America on a budget?
  7. Do you need a visa for South America?
  8. Do we need travel insurance for backpacking in South America?
  9. What are the best South American countries to visit?
  10. What are the best things to do in South America?
  11. What are the possible South American itineraries?
  12. What are the best places to travel in South America as per each country?
  13. Do we visit the Amazon rainforest in South America?
  14. Which are the best cities in South America for digital nomads?
  15. Do we need to know Spanish for South America?
  16. What are the best places to learn Spanish in South America?
  17. What should be an ideal backpacking South America packing list?
  18. What is the currency of South America? How do we carry money to South America?
  19. Can we get vegetarian food in South America?
  20. Do we need any vaccinations for South America?
  21. Can we work in South America?
  22. Can we volunteer in South America?
  23. Can we teach English in South America?
  24. Are the people of South America friendly?
  25. What is the drinking culture in South America?
  26. What are the kinds of hotels in South America?
  27. Does Airbnb work in South America?
  28. Can we couch surf in South America?
  29. Can we cross land borders in South America?
  30. Is it safe to do hitchhiking in South America?
  31. Do we need to pre-book everything in South America?
  32. How do we plan a trip to South America?
  33. What are some of the best South America travel books?
  34. Are there any South American traveler forums we can join?
  35. All South America Articles

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Manu National Park – 4 Days in the Amazon Rainforest Peru

Blissful four days in the Manu National Park, Amazon Rainforest Peru

I visited the Manu National Park, part of the Amazon Peru, exactly three years ago.

You would wonder why I didn’t write about my Amazon trip earlier. Why pen down my Amazon story now after three years?

I didn’t write this article before as I didn’t have great pictures of the Amazon jungle for I was clicking with my phone camera back then.

But as I have been getting a lot of questions from readers who have planned their South America trip using my articles, I finally decided to write a piece that gives all the information on the Amazon en Peru.

Amazon, the world’s most biodiverse tropical rainforest, covers nine South American countries — Brazil (60% of the Amazon), Peru (13%), Colombia (10%), and the rest within Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

As a little girl, I had seen the Amazon forest on the television. My parents and I used to watch the National Geographic and Discovery channel every evening for hours.

Though during dinner we would switch to some other channel for my mother couldn’t tolerate the gory images of lions and jackals devouring their dead deers, papa would put on Discovery channel as soon as my mother took her last bite.

The dense jungles of Karnataka, the dry ochre land of Rajasthan forests, sultry Africa, and the most mysterious of them all — the Amazon — spellbound us for hours.

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What to Eat in Penang – The Seafood Lover’s Guide

What does this “What to eat in Penang” Guide Contain?

  1. My crazy journey with food and how I can’t stop eating fish but now I eat more responsibly. (Though this is a good story along with some dependable resources to eating fish sustainably, if you are short on time, you can click on the below sections directly to jump to the food in Penang.)
  2. Why food hunting in Penang can be overwhelming for first-time travelers to Penang?
  3. Brief introduction to the Penang food culture.
  4. Best street food in Penang for seafood lovers.
  5. A note to the vegetarians and pescetarians reading this Penang food guide
  6. Translations of some important food items from English to Malay to help you navigate Penang food
  7. Best food courts in Penang.
  8. Where can you find the best hawker food in Penang?
  9. Where should you go if you want to eat the best Indian food in Penang?
  10. Which one is the best restaurant for Nyonya or Peranakan Cuisine?
  11. Best restaurants in Penang/Best restaurant in Georgetown Penang.
  12. Where should you go if you want to eat the best seafood in Penang?
  13. Which one is the best seafood restaurant in Penang?
  14. How to travel in Penang to eat the best food in Penang?
  15. Where to stay in Penang for food?
  16. Great Instagram accounts for finding best food and restaurants in Penang.

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Finding Stories and Street Art in Penang

Penang is a spicy potpourri of Chinese, Malay, and Indian ethnicities. But I didn’t realize how thick this gravy of cultural mix is until I went to Penang.

On my first day in Penang, I stayed in a Chinese guesthouse, ate rice and fish curry at a Muslim Malay restaurant, and my evening stroll took me to Indian food stalls proudly flaunting crispy samosas.

Wait. What was happening?

Indian Malaysians, who were mostly from South India, told me that many Indians were taken to Penang to work as laborers during the 130-years rule of British over Malaysia. Penang port was the main trade route for traders from China, Spain, Arabia, and India, and the British wanted their chunk of the trade.

A Malay Chinese whom I met while hiking the Penang hill cleared my doubts about the origins of Chinese Malays. He said that the Chinese sailed to Malaysia in the 18th century to trade and work as laborers.

Over time, all three ethnicities blended to form the current Penang.

While the Chinese relished the Malaysian coconut flavors, Indians used sweet-chili sauces in their curries, and Malaysians ate biryanis and noodle soups with the same fervor. Given the rich mix of the three cuisines that the island is blessed with, the question of what to eat in Penang and what to do in Penang can be more complicated than you think.

While admiring the street art in Penang, I felt that the cultural evolution of Penang had been pasted onto Penang streets in a raw and hilarious manner.

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Manali to Naggar – Time Traveling in Himachal

Manali to Naggar Village, Himachal Pradesh.

Who would think that just 20 km away from Manali, India’s top tourist destination, lies the Naggar village, a town that refuses to think beyond stone temples, apple orchards, and wooden huts accommodating both cows and their humans equitably.

Manali to Naggar bus ride took about an hour. After roaring along with the Beas river for a while, the bus passed through tiny countryside settlements halting at them shakily. Call those clusters of country houses a hamlet or a village, but more often then not, the bus had to stop for cows unabashedly crossing the roads or villagers dashing to the opposite side with baskets of farm-fresh apples on their heads.

Once you get down at the main road at which Naggar village peeks from the high Himalayan hills that rise above the Beas valley, one has to trudge up a steep uphill road to get close to any of the Naggar’s many historical attractions some of whose origins are still unknown.

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7 Quirky Ways to Experience India’s Most-Wanted Hill Station Manali

My Manali travel blog to offbeat Manali and the best places to visit in Manali.

I would take an unknown trail leading to a strange place over a popular trek any day. I leave a city from its bus stand if I see it is crowded. Staying alone in one tent amongst the hundred empty ones makes me feel like a ninja. Ditching the most popular restaurants in a city I get lost in the back lanes to find local treats.

The road less traveled is my home.

Otherwise, why would I wander alone in South America for nine months while Europe waited or stalk wild orangutan around the Kinabatangan river in Borneo when a national bird park in Kuala Lumpur was a fifteen minutes walk or become a blogger while I still get software engineering job offers from TimesJobs or hitchhike in the deserted Spiti alone when I could have just stayed on under the blossoming apple trees of Parvati Valley.

My unexpected love affair with Manali, India’s summer queen, started when I arrived there for a day to travel to Spiti the next morning. Though the counter at the HRTC bus stands and the many travel agents in Manali told me that the road to Spiti wasn’t open yet, I shuttled between the tour agencies that fringed the rickety lanes of Old Manali until I found one who understood that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

But on that one day that I spent in old Manali, I walked in the colorful old market of Manali that is catered to please the ones on the Hummus trail, got enticed by small coffee and confectionary shops right in the middle of a tiny street lined with guesthouses, the green hills around Manali called me to walk along them, the various local dishes sizzling out of Manali restaurants’ kitchens made me hungry, while the Manaslu and the Beas river flowed in all glory. 

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Dharamshala Travel Guide – To a Meaningful Trip to Dharamshala

What does this travel guide to Dharamshala contain?

  1. My Dharamshala trip at a glance
  2. About Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.
  3. My best things to do in Dharamshala.
  4. What is the best time to visit Dharamshala?
  5. How to reach Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh?
  6. How to reach Dharamshala from Delhi?
  7. Where to stay in Dharamshala?
  8. How much would a trip to Dharamshala cost?
  9. What to bring to Dharamshala?
  10. Is Dharamshala safe for solo travelers?
  11. How to avoid the smoking culture of Dharamshala if you don’t want to be a part of it?
  12. How to go on a long trip to Dharamshala?
  13. Around Dharamshala and further reading.

 

My Dharamshala trip at a glance. 

This is not your typical Dharamshala travel guide.

During my six weeks in Dharamshala, I hardly ever searched for “things to do in Dharamshala” or “best places to visit in Dharamshala.”

What was I doing? I was busy taking my Dharamshala trip slow.

I might sound clichéd, but I was learning the art of doing nothing.

Having said that, let me tell you that I started my journey in Dharamshala by attending a Vipassana course in Dharamkot, one of the many green villages of Dharamshala district. After a much-needed 10-day silence of body and mind, I packed my bags and headed out of the deodar forests of the Dharamkot Vipassana center. My plan was to stay for a week in upper Dharamkot. 

But something made me leave Dharamkot in just two days. Was it the smoky air of my Dharamkot hostel or the hippies lining the cafes in Dharamkot market, I am not sure. I surrendered to my discomfort and shifted to Upper Bhagsu, another lush village in Dharamshala that lies on the other side of Dharamkot.

I had gone to Upper Bhagsu for a week, and I didn’t know that I would end up spending more than a month there. 

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