One of the popular discussions in college was – which city would you like to live in and work? A more popular one was – where you would NOT like to live. And the answer almost invariably used to be Chennai (the word would be uttered with a nightmarish expression). The reasons ranged from the heat to the smelly beach. I’ve lived in Chennai for close to a year in the past. Yes, it’s really hot. And yes, the beach is kinda smelly. But I never felt a kind of repulsion as I saw with a lot of my friends. I guess it has to do with the stereotype where every city in south India is Madras and every south Indian is a Madrasi! So when I got a chance to work here for a couple of weeks, I decided to take a look again. And here’s the Chennai I got to see. Continue reading One of the most stereotyped cities in India
I’m pretty sure you’re wondering why I called this “a Non-Adventurer’s Tale”. For people who have read my other blogs, you must be wondering if scuba-diving in the Andamans, sky-diving in Dubai and river rafting in Kullu are not adventures. They are, of course. But going on a 3000 kilometers bike trip on a bike that you’ve never sat on and taking, what is considered, one of the toughest routes in the world, is something different altogether. And as for the “Part One” – I really wanted to fit everything into one post but then it wouldn’t do justice to the places I visited. So, I’m keeping it to Two parts this time – one for the onward journey and one for the return.Continue reading How to get Leh’d: A Non-Adventurer’s Tale (Part One)
Last time we met, we had completed part one of our journey – Port Blair and Jolly Buoy islands. We continue our journey here to explore our next island in the Andamans – Havelock. I couldn’t club any other island with this one as this island tells an interesting tale of its own.
We left early morning to catch our ferry to Havelock Island – one of the most famous islands here.
We entered the port to see huge boats waiting to sail out to different islands. The inside of the boat was quite stuffy with round glass windows (all locked) and life jackets placed in the racks above. The inside was air-conditioned but it wasn’t too comfortable as the boat was jam packed. We explored the boat and went outside to the deck. There were stairs leading up to an upper deck. The weather was pleasant and the sun not too harsh, so we climbed up. The view was amazing.
It was the first time I was travelling on such a huge boat and it was amazing how fast the thing was moving – cutting across the waves. The water was clear as ever and it turned a deeper shade of blue as we entered the deep sea. We soon left land behind and there was nothing but sea on all four sides.
The feel of the moment is something that is difficult to be put into words. Absolute tranquility interrupted only by the sound of the engine of the boat and the waves hitting it. Complete solitude leaving aside the crew and people below. The sun peeked out with its warm rays while the salty wind blew across our faces.The occasional spray as the boat jumped in and out of the waves. Water everywhere – as far as the eye could see.
As we stood there in silence taking in the beauty of the ride, something cut across the water. Just then someone shouted – flying fish! True enough, there were scores of flying fish all around our boat. The little things would jump high in the air and follow the contour of the waves, making sure not to touch the water, and finally dive right back into the sea. It was a truly amazing sight – reminded me of the movie – Life of Pi. I tried hard to click a few pics but sadly, it didn’t work out – they were too quick. After a few attempts, I gave up on it and thought it would be better to enjoy the moment.
We thought we’d push our luck a bit more and ask the captain if we could get onto the front deck. Nam took the lead and soon enough we were all lounging on the front deck.
The captain’s room had a windshield with wipers on. On a nice and sunny day, there was no need to have the wipers running. Or was there? The thing is – Boats move in and out of the deep sea waves – like in and out of “phase” with them (pardon my ECEness). And the moment it goes “out of phase”, the front of the boat falls straight into a trough and water splashes all over (we got sprayed many times!) The wind blew hard and overall it was an amazing feeling!
We docked at the Havelock port, which was at a considerable height and we disembarked the boat from the upper deck itself. We took taxis to our hotel – Dolphin Resort.
It was a beautiful place with cottages all along the Vijaynagar beach (numbered here as Beach #5). A cottage with full glass windows overlooking this beach – absolute bliss! There was a boat tethered a bit into the water – looked like a tourist attraction. Some people waded into the water and climbed on to the boat while some others went to book our slots for the most awaited part of the trip – scuba diving. We got a really good deal at Andaman Bubbles (one of the many scuba diving guys in Havelock). After completing the formalities (which included a statement that they won’t be responsible if we drowned :P), we returned to a shock at our resort. The sea was nowhere to be seen! The water had receded by a long distance and the boat that was floating in waist-deep water was grounded. My first thought was – tsunami! Bah – sometimes I just over-react! 😛
The beach was beautiful with a lot of trees and on many of them were hammocks.
But then, we had a bunch of really young guys in our group – Papa, Mr. Apple and Guru (Guru was called so as he had a much disciplined disciple in Jetha). So we ended up climbing up the trees, doing somersaults on the beach and of course, clicking away. We then decided to have a swim in the sea. It was afternoon but the sun was forgiving. However, the only problem was that there was no water. The sea bed which had just come up was slushy with many holes, seaweed and giant black leeches.
Treacherous ground indeed. We walked and walked in the slush till we reached deeper water. Just being here was an amazing feeling – standing out in the sea after the walk through the treacherous beach and with various shades of blue water all around, knowing that this very spot would be flooded with several feet of water in a few hours.
We returned and took taxis to the Radhanagar beach (Beach #7). This beach is widely considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We bought Frisbees on the way. It was indeed a marvelous beach! There were 3 yachts anchored in the water (this was in really deep water and the water didn’t recede that much in the afternoons) and the sun was beginning to set. This beach was more like the beaches we see in Kerala – with the waves rolling into the sand.
And waves mean only one thing – jump right into the water. I preferred to stay dry on this occasion – clicking pics as I explored the beach. The sunset was beautiful – we clicked a lot of the classic “eat-the-sun” and “hold-the-sun” pics (can’t waste sunsets, can we? :P). On our way back, we bumped into yet another group from our college – they had enrolled in the same place as us for scuba diving.
Next morning, we woke up with jitters – it was scuba day. We walked to Andaman Bubbles where our pick-up truck waited for us. Yes, a pick-up truck. We got loaded on it like cattle and held on for dear life as we were taken to the fitting area. We all changed into our black scuba costumes and got back on the truck.
The anticipation was building with every second and it could be seen on everyone’s face. The dive had been arranged at a beach near the port where we landed. After a quick training exercise, where we were taught the basics of breathing underwater, we proceeded underwater. The equipment was heavy and the fins attached to the feet made it difficult to move the legs. Each of us got one diving companion each who would guide us and be with us at all times. The surprising part here was that you don’t need to know even an ounce of swimming. All you need to do is remain calm, not panic and keep breathing. That’s it! It was a beautiful experience.
It was almost noon by the time we came out. We rented scooters to explore the island. We first had lunch at Anju Coco – bumped into 2 more groups from our college (different ones). We decided to go snorkelling at the Elephant beach. We reached there at about 3.15pm and found out that the beach was closed – it only remained open till 3pm. Slightly disappointed (not much though – snorkelling couldn’t beat scuba), we decided to go to Radhanagar again.
After all, it wouldn’t hurt to visit the most beautiful beach in the Andamans one more time. This time I plunged into the water as well. It was a wonderful evening which ended with a long scooty ride in the dark and curvy roads of Havelock. Most people were quite tired after the exhilarating day. Few of us went out to Charcoal restaurant for dinner and we called it a day. We spent some time walking along the beach in our resort while the sea gently lapped at the sands.
Next morning, we decided to go to the Kaala Patthar Beach for the sunrise. It was a tall ask to wake up early after having slept late.
But again, 6 of us took out our scooters and rode to it. It was a beautiful ride – the roads were narrow but it was a scenic ride in the cool morning. We didn’t really spot any black rocks there, but arrived just in time for the sunrise. We lazily sat on the beach as the sun rose and soon, it was time for our boat.
We hastily packed up and rushed to the dock – we survived a petrol outage scare thanks to Guru’s resourcefulness. We rushed into our boats and soon set off toward our next island – Neil.
We wake up early the next day. The hangover of the snow experience is still there and it is something which I will never be able to forget.
This day was to be spent exploring Manali with its temples and monasteries and of course the “Maaaal Road” (read Shimla to understand what Maaaal Road is 😛 ). We first go to Vashishta Muni temple. The temple is a wooden structure with a slate roof.
There is a hot spring gushing out near the temple which has been converted to a public bath. The water was pretty hot indeed. However I was hoping to see more of an open hot water spring. But there is no “pool” as such. There are pipes which carry the water out of the mountain. Not entirely “natural”! 😛
The best thing about the road to Shimla is that the climb is not a painful experience. Travelling to the hills in India may not always be pleasant – going from Kozhikode to Wayanad in Kerala can be the most nauseous drive, thanks to the myriad hairpin bends and the crazy buses. Given that Shimla was more than 3 times higher in altitude than Wayanad, at 2400m, I kept my poly-bags ready. Our driver, Kalyan Singh was a Himachali through and through and the most talkative person I’ve seen. That’s what keeps him going without getting bored or sleepy – alertness is something which is really required in such treacherous terrain or the vehicle may casually slip down the slope (we saw quite a few such vehicles during the trip). This guy was a good planner and had packed these polybags before we left Delhi, as Himachal was a plastic free state. He knew the roads and mountains really well – something I relate to – remembering routes and places.
So let’s come back to the present. Continue reading The Summer Capital of British India
Done with Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, we move on to the next part of our trip – Himachal. I was quite excited as this was one state I’d always looked forward to visiting. This too was part of an organized tour by Panicker’s Travels. We bid adieu to the India Gate which we’re passing by for the umpteenth time. Delhi had been good to us – the summer heat hadn’t set in yet. Continue reading From the Capital to the Majestic Himalayas
I finally got an internet connection! So I’ll continue where I left – Delhi.
After covering Delhi, our next stops were Agra and Fatehpur Sikri – a one day trip. It was part of a conducted tour. The bus left Delhi at 6 am – ya, we had to wake up early even though the previous day had been pretty tiring. Anyway, as long as you’re travelling to cool new places, these things don’t matter. Continue reading A Day filled with History and Wonders
If you have one day to explore Delhi, what would you do? Explore the history of the city, visit monuments to enjoy the splendid architecture or find out places that showcase the amazing food? I would love to say – everything! But if a day is all you’ve got, you need to pick your agenda. This blog explores the historical monuments and major tourist attractions of Delhi – all covered in one day.Continue reading Delhi in a Day
(The rhythmic sound of the train)
Here I was, on yet another train journey, but on a new route this time. I was on my way to Mumbai from Yeshwantpur (Bangalore). The reason for the trip – Mood Indigo at IIT Bombay (Read Mood Indigo). It was a 24 hour journey. So I pick up my Nokia 2700 and start writing. A lot of thoughts rush into my head looking at the landscape rushing by. I decide to pen them down (or in this case, type ‘em down!).