What to do in and around Binsar !

How about nothing?

Sometimes it’s perfectly okay, and absolutely necessary to shut down, kick back and do nothing.

What is important is to take out time for oneself. Do nothing. Believe me. Doing nothing is very important. You will then surely know exactly what you need to do.

With no Mall road, branded stores or loud city crowd flocking over the weekend, this is the perfect place for life’s complicacy to take a back seat and unwind.

What I did!     

1. Biking

Biking in BinsarHired a bike in Binsar and it was just me, the bike and the mountains for 3 days.

Nothing can be comparable to the adventure with the combination above and I enjoyed every bit of my time on the roads. It felt ecstatic.

 

Now, how do I convince you all to ride? There is but no thrill in a comfy 4 wheeler. Apprehension and security have killed adventure.

A lot of people tell me that riding a motorbike isn’t safe and they would never do it. Well then, staying at home should be the safest (unless there is an earthquake.)

Now that I am writing about biking, it also makes me want to bring up the fact that there are very few females in India who ride, the reason of which I am uncertain. Orthodox Indian parenting, inhibition, prejudice; whatever be it, let it not stop you to feel this sensation.

2. Read 

Finished off a book after ages. It feels like an accomplishment, especially when you have completed reading those pending pages of that half-read book that you bought long back.
It was a travel book. 🙂
(Can’t really think of anything else; day in, day out.)

3. Temple Tour

Chaitai Golu Devta templeIf you ask any local for places of interest in the district of Almora, the only reply you are gonna get is ‘Temples”.

From avatar of gods never even heard of before, the hills here boasts of numerous temples; Pushkar of the hills.

Though I had no particular interest in visiting most, there are a few which should not be missed. Kasar Devi, Chitai Golu Devta (The Temple of Bells – in the picture) and Katarmal Sun temple are worth visiting.

4. Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Binsar wildlife sanctuary

No, there ain’t any wildlife here except monkeys and peacocks. Monkeys are everywhere (pun intended).

17 km from Kasar Devi(main Binsar town) is this forest sans wild animals. A further 9kms ride from the gate took me to the trail to Zero point which is a 2km hike in the jungle.  The background score of birds chirping at dawn was perfect music to my twilight ride.
The sunrise here is not to be missed with 180 degrees view of snow-capped Garhwal Himalayas glowing in the star’s first rays.

Also read: On the road to Lansdowne

5. Kausani

Kausani2 hours from Binsar is this gorgeous, must visit, secluded town of Kausani.  It provides panoramic views of spectacular Himalayan peaks which include Trishul and Nanda Devi.

Places to visit include Kausani tea estate, Rudradhari waterfall, Anashakti ashram and Baijnath temple.

I was mostly in awe of the scenic beauty along the 58kms ride. The roads ran along the Kosi river to quiet hills filled with colourful flower blooming trees of late March. Eventually, it showed up the grand, splendid mountains!

 

Spring – Signifying rebirth and resurrection. These are the months to travel. To feel the air changing, new leaves and flowers blooming.

6. Meeting folks

Met a lot of travellers from the UK, France and Israel and had some great conversations about travelling, books and life in general.
Also had the opportunity to talk to a lot of locals and villagers while giving them a ride. Though not in length, it was but pleasing and heartwarming to hear from them; their uncomplicated lives and happy simple routine.

7. Sunsets

These were days where I just sat for hours in small cafes in awe of the disintegrating rays of the yellow star.

To do nothing and enjoy the simple yet unique and un-thanked for pleasures in life was what I needed. It is what we all need.

I felt grateful for everything.

 

Also read: Biking solo to Sariska and Bhangarh

8. Home-stay

Homestay at Binsar

There are a lot of beautiful home-stays apart from some lodges and a few hotels.
The setting of my room was picturesque. Overlooking the valley with little gardens around, there was plenty of fresh air and silence to detoxify city’s garbage.

Adjacent to my room, this man from the UK(in the picture) had hired a room for a month to live a life away from the hustle bustle of cities. For some, it becomes a necessity.

Other details :

How to reach?

Delhi- Haldwani – Binsar

Buses to Haldwani ply from Anand Vihar ISBT. Shared jeeps/cars are available to Binsar from Haldwani. Binsar is 3 hours from here.

*Biking – I am aware of the risks of riding in the mountains. I take my time. Never in a hurry. 

Stay?

As mentioned above; home-stays at Kasar Devi(this is the main Binsar town). No prior booking required. There aren’t too many tourists.

Best Time to visit?

Round the year. Winters are snowy and quite cold.

Scenes from the roads to Kausani

A scene from the roads to Kausani!

Travel RAW!
Life is short. Just leave!!

Also Read:  Weekend treks for beginners!

 

The Great Amritsar Food Trail !

Now I am a firm upholder of ‘eating and staying healthy’ but a few happy days of mouth watering, butter dripping, fat filled food did harm to nobody. 😛
One can’t do nothing when gluttony takes over.

Amritsari Kulcha

My first hand at the ‘Kulcha’ was at the Bhai Kulwant Singh Amritsar famous kulcha & nan. And boy, it was every bit to my imagination and more. Overeating became routine in the coming days. From Kulcha Land, Bhravan ka Dhaba (kulcha here is overrated, it is best known for dal), Punjabi Kulcha Land; I tried it all.

 

It is said that a good kulcha should be crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful from the inside.  All India Famous Amritsari Kulcha had it all and was my best experience, hands down!

Breakfast

Giani Tea Stall

There is something about really old food joints and it’s rusty feel that draws people.
A glass of tea clubbed with kachori, toast and omelette was the perfect start to my day. This is the ideal place for breakfast.  Giani Tea Stall must definitely be on your list if you are planning to visit Amritsar. After a hearty meal, I walked 2kms for the best jalebi in town and it did not disappoint me. Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wala, best known for it’s jalebis and gulab jamuns, is a must for sweet tooth.
My stop for next day’s breakfast was Kanha Sweets. I had heard and read a lot about it’s aloo-poori and pinni but honestly I found it a tad overrated. You can go for it nonetheless.
Aloo-tikki on the streetside is as good as anywhere. Pure bliss!

A Full Meal

Now this is not all. The food capital of Punjab has a lot more in store. For a totally lip smacking and satisfying experience of north Indian cuisine, absolutely nothing can beat the century old Kesar da Dhaba. Known for palak paneer, dal fry and raita along with laccha paratha, this was one of my best meals ever.

Dal makhani and paneer can be tried at Bhravan da Dhaba or Brothers Dhaba. Both are adjacent to each other and equally good.

 

And then you have lassi too (Ahuja Sweets) to gulp it all down. Give a try to the kesar one too. It was over by the time I reached. Even missed the kulfa. Hopefully next time around.

The making of the great Amritsari kulcha.

Explore AMRITSAR.
Tell me about your best food experience here. Leave a comment. 🙂

Amritsar – Historic city of gold !

Golden temple does not define Amritsar. Nor does Wagah border.

It is a city with history of warriors and martyrs, of painful partition and bloodshed; of a religion with valiant leaders and gurus spreading the message of peace. Blend old crowded lanes of Hall Bazaar, buzzing Town Hall, colorful turbans, smiling faces, jovial people, a heartfelt language and some highly tempting food.

HISTORY

  • Partition museum.

A visit to Amritsar is incomplete without the taste of history which dates back to pre-independence era, when Sikhs drew their swords against the Mughals. One can get a flavor of it at the Central Sikh museum inside the Golden temple.
Not far by, is the Partition museum which details the chronological events leading to independence from the British and of the most painful and largest partition of India and Pakistan.  It is certainly one of the best preserved museums and goosebumps will definitely follow you here when you listen to whistles of steam engine train and historical speeches continuously being played in the background here.

A visit to Jallianwala bagh will further incite the blood of patriotism, if any.
It all actually happened.

GOLDEN TEMPLE

  • My first sight of the Golden Temple.

I stood in awe. Amazed. Speechless. The only time this happened to me at a man made monument was at the Taj Mahal. Such was the sanctity, holy vibe and charisma of this place.
Sri Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple is one of the most revered temple in India and serves gura ka langar round the clock in what is the largest free kitchen in the world.
I sat for hours admiring it. After the sun went down and the gold took over, it just meant more hours. The reflection of the temple shimmered in the lake. The heavens and the earthly met. It was pure magic. 🙂
(I spent my whole day here and came back again the next day.)

*Colorful turbans and smiling faces lit up the area around Town Hall(just outside Golden temple). Besides you can also explore Hall Bazaar which is in walking distance. 

THE AMRITSAR FOOD TRAIL

The Amritsar Food Trail

Now what have you even done if not had the world famous ‘Amritsari kulcha’ and explored the great Amritsari food trail. Either you can think of your food diet, defined rules and your increasing waistline or surrender to the most amazing north Indian cuisine.
I gave in.

Restaurants, dhabas and joints here serve the most amazing food. Amritsari Kulcha is a must amongst others which include punjabi thali, aloo-poori, chole-bhature, aloo-tikki, kulfa and lassi.

Blog : The Great Amritsar Food Trail.

*I explored the city mostly on foot (had to work on the oil and butter consumed). 

WAGAH BORDER

  • Just a kilometre away.

Doesn’t matter if you have no clue about Wagah or have no intention to go there. If you are visiting Golden Temple, you will most probably hear chants of Baaggah Border‘ everywhere in the complex area and before you know, agents and drivers there would have already managed to get out the bucks from you and make you sit in the next auto/bus to the border.

The atmosphere at the border is electric. Though rehearsed beforehand, the parade is highly charged from both the sides. Females are invited to run around with Indian flags before all the pomp and display. The songs, chants of the country and the overall buzz may strike a note or two with the blood of the nationality. It is a must visit. Different from any other patriotic experience.

The laser show at Gobindgarh fort, rose garden and botanical garden are other noteworthy places of interest. 

Other Details :

Stay : Since i hadn’t much clue, I stayed at a budget hotel which i rented on the spot(now i did have a tough time finding one).  You can stay at the rooms provided by the Gurudwara authorities in the Golden temple complex area itself. They are decent and pretty cheap. 

Travel : Buses ply mostly from Red Fort, Delhi. As usual, take an overnight one. 

Best time: Winters. (Dec – Feb)

**I was on a 3 day trip.

I honestly believe that a 2 day trip would only mean checking out the main places of interest. That has never been my idea of travelling. I need to know the city too. That would mean walking the place as much as possible, talking to locals and enjoying the street food.

It(3 day trip) might not necessarily be true for all places. I usually add a day to what I feel a place would need to be explored. 

What has been the highlight of your trip to Amritsar ?

My other trips:

Biking to Lansdowne

All about Pushkar

Kuari Pass – The perfect beginner’s snow trek !

You don’t have to be a trekker for this. Need not have climbed great mountains. No prior experience required. Two weeks of jogging (2-4kms) everyday and regular exercise and you are ready. This is the minimum.

Kuari Pass is one of the easy treks covering about 30-35kms in a span of 4 days and is the perfect snow trek for a beginner.  If you have always wanted to experience treading on snow, you will find yourself surrounded by it everywhere from the second day of the trek itself. I should also mention that the temperatures in winter may drip down to negative in double digits. But then, snow cannot be enjoyed at a pleasant 20 degrees.

DAY 1- GULLING

  • The gang.

The first day of the trek starts from village Dhak(near Joshimath) and is a 6km ascent through villages. The views get better as you go higher and there was relief for us when we finally reached our campsite Gulling in about 3-4 hours.

A stream flowed by colourful camps around and snow capped mountains showed up distinctly.

While the tents were being set up, we explored the area, had our lunch and took a nap until it was time to collect wood for the red flower which was pretty much all we did in the coming trek days. And not to forget hours at the campfire chit chatting, playing games and sipping black tea.

It was a cold starry night; the same food tasted better than usual days though the same could not be said about the night.
*Sleeping in tents at -7 degrees Celsius may not be the easiest of things. But you have got to experience it.

DAY 2- KHULLARA

  • Posing at the start of the second day.

The second day begins with patches of snow on the way which gradually converts to a snowy wonderland. The 2.5 hour trek through dense forests takes you to the second campsite- Khullara.
Words fall short to describe the sheer beauty of this place. Clear skies clubbed with eye catching tents, grand mountains and snow all around makes this one of most beautiful campsites.

DAY 3- KUARI PASS

  • Feeling at the top.

At a height of 12,516 feet, Kuari Pass is a trek which provides you 360 degrees view of some of the highest peaks of the Himalayas which include Nanda Devi, Hathi Ghoda and Dronagiri.

Though steep at intervals, the trek is an amazing walk on the snow trail and easily one of the best and most rewarding for the efforts put in. The scenes from the top are mesmerizing. There is white beauty as far as your vision can go. Some of us were clicking, few playing with snow while others simply chose to sit and soak in the charm.
It took us 2 hours to the top, a couple there and return to Khullara again in what was the most eventful and exciting day.

Day 4 was back to Dhak via Gulling.

*Descending takes more on your knees than you think. Squats recommended.

To stop at Devprayag on the way to Joshimath is a must to witness the Sangam.

More about the trek

  1.  Days required– Minimum of 6 (including 2 days stay at Joshimath). Delhi to Joshimath would take around 14-15 hours.
  2.  How – Via various trekking groups or hiring a team of guides. The latter too can be searched online. We hired a guide I knew personally.
  3.  Trekking gear – Visit to a decathlon store is a must. 😛 Honestly speaking, good water proof shoes are very important. The rest can be done with.
  4. Solo Travellers -It may be difficult to do it totally alone since the trail is through dense forests and hiring a guide may ease the way. Not saying it is impossible though, but then solo trek here should be preferred in non-snow months.
  5. Best Time– This can be done throughout the year. Avoid monsoon months. For snow, best time would be from mid December to March.
  6. Other Treks near Delhi for BeginnersHERE

 

At Decathon- Pre trekking
At Decathlon- A Pre Trekking thing.

To trek is to be with yourself. That’s what it is to me. What does it mean to you ?

Trek to Valley of Flowers

Biking solo to Sariska-Bhangarh-Alwar!

Biking is not about speeding at 100 miles an hour, sharp turns, fancy bikes, branded gears or displaying flamboyance.

To ride is to feel the warm rays of the sun, the wind brushing against you, a sense of freedom, never ending roads and mental inactivity or sometimes the other way around.

Long roads, contrasting barren brown fields with clear blue skies, irregular breaks,  street food, numerous eye-catching sights, onerous yet gleeful photography sessions, secluded mind, and a terrible backache the next day highlighted my ride.

SARISKA

  • Sambar. Here, there, everywhere.

200kms from Delhi, Sariska National Park boasts of rich wildlife and tigers. Although one can only spot a tiger out of sheer luck, special contacts with the park’s authorities(a definite increase in probability) or with a sure shot guarantee- on the logo.

You can take your own vehicle on Tuesdays and Saturdays and it is going to be one hell of a ride if you happen to take your two-wheelers. This time it is you who are entering someone else’s private zone. To be scared is normal.

The dusty roads are filled with Sambar and deer who give you an innocent stare, peacocks who run away as soon as they sight you and langur who refuse to budge from your path. It made for an exhilarating 21km ride from the main gate all the way inside to the Hanuman temple.

I took a safari the next morning but the tiger was nowhere to be seen. Footprints- yeah just that and Sambhar, peacocks and langur.

BHANGARH

  • Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan (Bhootiya jagah/Place of the haunted.)

Believed to be the most haunted place in India, Bhangarh fort is indeed secluded and has lots of scary stories around it. One(and the most popular one) which goes that a sorcerer was in love with Princess Ratnavati and tried to use black magic to make the princess fall in love with him. The princess came to know about it somehow and the sorcery failed, leading the King to sentence the magician to prison. It was during his last days behind bars that he cursed the place and it has been haunted thereafter.

On a weekend though, it is more of a picnic spot and a tourist attraction owing to the same stories. It’s medieval architecture and it’s lonely vibe though makes it a one time visit on a weekday maybe. Or during the night?

ALWAR

  • Oh ! The sunset from the boat at Silserh lake.

A stop at Alwar is obvious when traveling to Sariska or Bhangarh. What strikes about the place is its landscape. Mountain ranges of the Aravalis surround the town, making the setting of Alwar unique and attractive to the eye.

My stay here was short, although I made a point to visit the Bala Quila and the Silserh lake.

The way to the grand fort and the charming sunset from the boat at the lake. Dem feels! They should not be missed.

Not to forget the street food. You haven’t really explored a place until you have tried the local cuisine. And I believe, there is no better way. Well, I do my research(includes locals help) on which ones particularly. Inviting and much more satisfying to the tongue than the ones they dish you out at some high end rated restaurant.

Weekends? Weekdays? Change? Time? No time?

Take your bike and just leave. Period.

How to reach?

Delhi – Alwar – Sariska – Bhangarh.

Buses/Train ply from Delhi to Alwar. Not sure about any bus from Alwar to Sariska/Bhangarh. A private car can be hired but the best way is to drive on your own from Delhi itself.
Even better – RIDE.

RIDE.

Recommended.

A 3-day trip. Take your time.
I put up at Thanagazi and Alwar a night each.

Stay?

There are a lot of fancy resorts near the Sariska National Park. Pre-booking would definitely be better.
For travelers like me, there is this only small guest house in the town Thanagazi(10kms from National Park).  No booking required. 🙂

More of my travel stories :

The adventurous Lansdowne bike trip

Solo trek to mesmerizing Chandrashila

 

All about Pushkar and the ‘grand mela’!

There are two ways of looking at things.

Either you try to see behind walls; have admiration for smallest of things, embrace the new and feel and experience the vibe around you or else you are indifferent and can interpret most things as obvious with hardly any element that surprises you.

If you fall in the former category (try to, if you do not), Pushkar mela is totally going to mesmerize you. Held every year for around 10 days in the month of October/November, this is the largest camel fair in the world.

A living for locals, this is a photographer’s dream, a visual delight and a must for anyone with the heart of a traveller.

During my visit to the Pushkar Mela, I was totally captivated by what this town and the grand festival had to offer.  Why you must visit the Pushkar Mela !

1. Camel Fair/Mela – The largest in the world

  • Show time ! ~Pushkar mela

The centuries-old practice of trading livestock, especially camels is still followed with enthusiasm and vigour. The whole desert is filled with people in small camps cooking, looking after their camels, engrossed in their serious-looking conversations, taking a biddi puff and making a living.

It is a delight to be a part of such a fair with amazing scenes all around.   

2. Street Food

Must have Street food at Pushkar!

The delicacies of authentic street food in Pushkar will leave you craving for more. Pay a visit to the small street stalls or any of the sweet shops (recommend Sarvadia Sweets) and you would almost be risking your appetite.

The fusion of juices and shakes at Sonu Juice Center (there should be at least a dozen of them by the same name) will be something you may have never tried before. A melon-mint definitely gets a thumbs up.

3. Pushkar Lake

  • The ancient city of temples!

Pushkar town is spread around it’s main attraction – the holy Pushkar lake. The whole area around the lake is divided into ghats where pilgrims and believers come to take a dip in the holy water. Most of the ghats are some centuries-old while some are newly constructed too. Brahma ghat(near the only Brahma temple) is though considered to be the oldest and is usually the most crowded.

Even if you are not religious, the in-numerous temples and the setting of the lake and the town around it is pleasing to the eye.

4. Bazaar

  • Shopping at the evening mela.

Though I didn’t buy myself anything, the bazaar is one of the main attractions of Pushkar. It is a great stop to buy some eye-catching souvenirs of Rajasthan. From traditional handicrafts, leather products, jewellery, etc, there is a lot to buy and window-shop.

5. Cafes

  • Turkish coffee and prime view of the town from Doctor Alone cafe.

It is here that all my planned budgets for the trip went down the drain. From Little Buddha Cafe to Pink Floyd, Lakeview, Out of the Blue and Doctor Alone, I just wouldn’t stop. The town is filled with cafes serving Italian, Mexican, Israeli and other cuisines.

The food is decent and the extraordinary view makes it even better.

6. Adventure activities

Hot Air Balloon- One of the attraction's at Pushkar mela!

A trip on the Hot Air Balloon is the best thing to do if you want an aerial view of the picturesque town’s mela. Though hard on the pockets, this is surely worth an experience. Or you can run around capturing pictures of it like me. 🙂

There are other adventure activities including quad biking, rappelling, jeep safari, etc too.

** Fusion Bands/Camping/ Bizarre Competitions are a few other things that can make your visit a great, one of a kind experience. 

Come September end, you can start planning for it.
Or go for it straight away when it occurs. Better?

 

When?

October/November. Dates vary according to Hindu Calendar.

How to reach?

Daily buses from Delhi/Gurgaon. Take an overnight one.

Stay?

Fancy resorts.
For travellers like me – Anywhere. Doesn’t matter much. Lots of budget hotels and guest houses. 🙂
You should check online too. The rush during the festival causes the price to surge.

Recommended

Explore the town on foot.

Take the stairs to Savitri Mandir.

Explore the historic city of Amritsar !

On the road to Lansdowne !

THE LONG NIGHT

It was 2 am on a Saturday at Meerut when we were looking for directions. A glance at the android phone and suddenly we found ourselves under the bike struggling to stand on our feet.

It was my first accident. Not particularly anything to be happy about at all, but I was. 😛 Thankfully, we were on a speed of only about 25 km/hr when Tushar asked me to have a look at the google maps.  It was a matter of seconds when the bike changed it’s course and drifted towards the footpath, full of stones. I lost control and the bike skid.

It was so sudden that it took us quite a while to realize what had happened. Two guys (who were enjoying their Friday night) on that lonely road came to our rescue. They helped us with the bike, provided water and accompanied us to the hospital.

We were in a bad state with wounds all over our elbows and knees. We could hardly walk. For a moment, the idea of returning back crossed our minds. But it was only for a moment. After a few bandages, injections and some pain killers, we were ready to hit the road again. Only this time, we were more cautious and it took us more than a minute to mount the bike with joints movable only to a limited angle.

  • Wounded and bruised but happy on the roads of NH-34.

THE ROADS 

Lansdowne is around 270kms from Delhi. Late night, we took the NH-34 which takes you through work in progress Ghaziabad to Meerut, to sugarcane fields and industry in Mawana, via Bijnor and Najibabad to Kotdwar. Though the roads from Mawana to Bijnor are in a state of ruin, the absolute dark stillness and the beautiful scenery afterwards made up for it. The early morning weather combined with the semi-rural setting was a delight to the urban eyes.

Roads and views only got better from Kotdwar where the slope to the hills begin. It was quiet throughout and we could feel a sense of calmness in the air.  Surrounded by pine trees, the roads were smooth and it was a pleasing ride. It was almost 11 when we reached.

  • Scenes at dawn.

 

LANSDOWNE

Lansdowne is a small and quiet town in the hills of Uttarakhand. Unlike popular hill stations, this is not crowded and is owing it’s population largely to the army cantonment. I hear people with statements such as –  “There is nothing quite(nothing fancy I suppose) in this town.” “There is not much of crowd.”

Well, that is what exactly is noteworthy about this serene place. The roads that lead you here (unless you are sleeping in your car with conditioned air), the ride, pine trees, army cantonment, the uncrowded town and it’s silence.

We explored the town pretty much on 2 wheels. To ride through the unknown town on your vehicle gives you a feeling that you are home. The place never felt like our first visit.

For people looking for weekend options, this is surely a pleasant getaway.

Tourist spots include Bhulla Tal lake, Tip n Top view point, St. Mary’s Church, Army Museum and Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple.  

** Special mentionLansdowne Trip Travel cafe. This is a must-visit. Check picture- in the photo slider below.

  • Road to Lansdowne.

Leave your comments for any questions. Anything.

 

How to reach?

Bus to Kotdwar from Delhi. An hour from Kotwar on a local bus/taxi.

Stay?

For budget travellers – There is a guest house near the Mall road itself. Do not really recall the name. Ask the locals.

Others – Lots online and even on the spot. It generally isn’t crowded.

Recommended.

RIDE from Delhi on your own. Long roads, countryside await.  🙂

Biking solo to Sariska-Bhangarh-Alwar!

Top 10 must watch travel movies !

While it may not always be possible to travel, a movie is the best way to transport you to foreign lands, live the adventures of the protagonist, inspire you and make you want to backpack and leave right away.

These movies are a must watch for every travel lover. It is imperative that you get started with the movies below right away if you are not one. Your idea of travelling might just get a new pair of eyes and a liberal head.

 

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

 

1. Tracks

Tracks

 

What and Where?

The true story of Robyn Davidson who goes on 1700 mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and a dog. Leaving back her life in the city, she sets on a life journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she meets National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan who begins to photograph her voyage.

For the journey through the long and endless desert and Mia.

Quote:

The trip wasn’t conceived as an adventure in the sense of something to be proved or conquered. And when people asked me why I’m doing it, my usual answer is,why not.

2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Tracks

What and Where?

This is one of my favourite movies and can be very relatable to someone who sits in one’s office and daydreams or ‘zones out’ into their own world thinking of travel and other adventures.

This feel-good movie takes you though less inhabited Greenland to the volcanoes of Iceland and the mountains of Himalayas in Afghanistan.

For adventure, hope, ‘Step out’, Ben Stiller and Cheryl singing ‘Space Oddity’to Walter Mitty stirring him to take the leap.

Quote:

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.

3. One Week

One Week

What and Where?

Ben Tyler is a teacher of Literature in high school. He goes on a motorcycle trip all by himself after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer (you can leave now) and comes to learn more about himself, life and relationships.

For the quiet and beautiful roads of Canada and the search for the meaning of life.

Quote:

To strive, To seek, To find, And not to yield.

4. The Beach

One Week

What and Where?

Richard, an American travels all the way to Bangkok where he learns of a map to a secret and uninhabited island. Together with a French couple, he sets out to find it where he has more adventures waiting for him.

For white beaches, staying raw and Leonardo of course.

Quote:

Never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience.

5. Into the Wild

Into the Wild

What and Where?

The true story of Christopher ‘Supertramp’ McCandless who leaves behind his possessions, burns up his money and hitchhikes North America to Alaska on his dream to live in the wild. He has over time become a ‘cult’ figure and an inspiration for nomadic living. Though some of the decisions he made were questioned.

For inspiration and what it means to be free.

Quote:

If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.

6. Y Tu Mama Tambien

Y Tu Mama Tambien

What and Where?

A Mexican road trip of two boys accompanied by an older woman, this journey is about raging hormones, youth, friendships and coming of age.

For the roads of Mexico, youth, Luisa and Gael Garcia Bernal

(**Parental guidance advised)

Quote:

Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.

7. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

What and Where?

A long-awaited road trip of three school friends finally takes places in Spain where each of them has planned an adventure sport for the group.

For everlasting friendships, conquering your fears, love with life, adventure and Spain. 

Quote:

Seize the day my friend. First live this day completely. Then think about retirement.

8. Seven Years in Tibet

Seven Years in Tibet

What and Where?

Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian climber breaks out of prison and travels to Lhasa, capital of Tibet. It is here that he learns of the culture and lifestyle of the people and becomes a friend to Dalai Lama.

For mountains, survival, extraordinary Tibet, spirituality, Buddhism and Brad Pitt.

Quote:

We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.

9. Wild

Wild

What and Where?

Cheryl Strayed embarks the 1,100 miles long Pacific Crest trail in hopes of finding ways to cope with her mother’s death, her experimentation with drugs and her divorce.

For the long and beautiful Pacific Crest trail, meaning of backpacking, mother’s love and Reese Witherspoon.  

Quote:

I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.

10. The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries

What and Where?

In 1952, Ernesto Guevera, popularly known as ‘Che’ and Alberto Granado set out on their epic motorcycle trip to Latin America where Che finds his true calling in life.

For the road trip, sneak peek into Che’s epic adventures and his life calling, exotic Latin America and Gael Garcia Bernal.

Quote:

What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land.

Trekking solo to Deorital-Chopta-Chandrashila summit!

At Rudrapryag
Trekking solo !

This was my first solo trek and it was better and much more than I had expected it to be.

Trekking solo in India unlike the west, remains unknown, untried and unthought of and hence looked at with raised eyebrows, weird faces emitting amusement and scepticism; and also sometimes with an acknowledgement for some kind of an accomplishment.

To me, it is a necessity and seems absolutely normal.

THE WAY

After going through a lot of treks on the web, I had finally narrowed it down to Deorital-Chandrashila. Lake, forests, meadows, snow-capped mountains, the feeling of the summit; all were on offer in this exciting trek.

An overnight bus from Delhi took me to Haridwar in about 5-6 hours. The early you reach, the better, so that you can take the bus to Rudraprayag and reach by noon. Buses from Haridwar start as early as 04.30 in the morning since none ply during the night. The route throughout runs alongside the aqua blue Ganges and you can feel fresh air around.

(Note: The journey is long and may not be most comforting in the crowded local buses, but that is the essence of it all.)

Halt on the way to Rudrapayag for a quick tea and some snacks.
Halt on the way to Rudraprayag for a quick tea and some snacks.

 

At Rudraprayag!
At Rudraprayag!

RUDRAPRAYAG

The bus dropped me at Rudraprayag at around 11.30 am and I was in need of a break after the long journey. Had my breakfast and went about for a walk in the small town.

After speaking to a few locals, I visited the Narad temple and took a dip in the cold flowing water at Sangam.

One can spend some time here and enjoy the sangam (the point of confluence) of the Alaknanda and Mandakini river and immerse in the vibes of the holiness of the city.

How to reach Sari ?

Sari is where the trek to Deorital lake starts.

Delhi to Haridwar >> Rudraprayag >> Ukhimath  >> Sari

Alternatively, one can hire a shared jeep from Rudraprayag to Agastyamuni and then to Ukhimath in the same mode. Since there are few buses from Rudraprayag, you may have to wait quite a bit.

Also read: The perfect snow trek for beginners

UKHIMATH/SARI

On the bus to Ukhimath, I found company in a group from France who were also on their way to the lake. Travel stories and plans were discussed. There is this thing about travellers; they bond in no time and have lots to talk about, though everything directly or indirectly comes down to the same thing i.e travel.

It had started to drizzle and none of us were sure if the trek should be undertaken that evening. We reached at around 4 in the evening and the weather was still gloomy. The French stayed at Ukhimath and I decided otherwise. I immediately took a cab to Sari who charged me 500 bucks for the drive which otherwise would have been a mere 20.

(The next bus to Sari would leave in another half an hour and I couldn’t afford to wait; courtesy- the uncertain weather.)

DEORITAL LAKE

  • Deorital lake
    The hidden gem near the village Sari - Deorital lake !

The trek to Deorital lake starts from the village Sari. Though it is only a 3km trek, it is an uphill and well defined trail and will take around 1-1.5 hours. Since I was here on the eve of Diwali, I hardly found anyone on the trek until I reached the lake and found a tent being fixed. I was relieved.

The lake reflected the mountains and was looking magnificent. It was about sunset and mountains changed from impeccable white to red, orange and pink.

My tent was fixed by a local and I found company in a guy group from Dehradun. A young couple from Hyderabad also joined us later that evening. It was great to see that out of all the places, this couple had chosen to be here at this lesser known serene lake in this festive season- far from the madding crowd, from thousands of miles away. (Wish more travellers like them.)

It was getting cold; we had our dinner and the night was spent at the campfire under a zillion stars visible through the naked eye.

Must visit: Trek to Valley of flowers and Enchantment

CHOPTA

On the 14km trek to Chopta.
On the 14km trek to Chopta.

After breakfast, we left the for the 14km trek to Chopta with a guide.

(Note: I would advise for a guide since the trek is complicated with a lot of confusing trails. The guide can be hired at the lake itself.) 

Some members of the guy group decided to leave late and we were to mark the way for them with tissue paper. The trail was long but kept shifting from rocky terrain to dense forests, meadows and downhill towards a stream.

It took us about 5 hours to reach Chopta which was but a very small and beautiful town covered with glorious mountains on one side.

It was evening and the rest of the trekkers had not yet reached. (Our tissue rolls were limited and had finished just before the last hour of the trek.)

Due to unavailability of any network, no contact could be made. The sky was getting darker when we decided to go back and search them with the help of a local, calling out names and signalling with torches in the dense quiet forest.

We finally found them taking rest in an abandoned hut which was a big relief and the end of an adventurous and tiring day.

It was Diwali and no better way to have celebrated it in the absolute noise and pollution free town of Chopta with a handful of people.

Diwali at Chopta!
Diwali at Chopta- One of the rare crackers going off !

 CHANDRASHILA

If you want the charming and surreal views of the mountains, the best time to reach the top is either at sunrise or sunset. I slept by 9 to start the trek early in the morning. It was dark with temperature below 0 degree Celsius. There was absolute stillness on the way and the sky looked bright filled with stars.

Although I started the trek alone, it was agreed with the others (the Dehradun group and the couple from Hyderabad) to start the trek early and reach the summit by dawn. So although i was trekking alone, I knew that there were others on the trek with me. That gave me some kind of comfort.

Tungnath (the highest Shiva temple) is 2 kms from Chopta and the trail is steep throughout.  A 1.5 km trek from Tungnath would take you to Chandrashila peak where you would get a 360 degree view of the mountains of lower Himalayas.

Grand mountains all around with clear skies at about 4,000m(13,000 ft.) is a delight for a traveller. The view is one to savour  for the rest of your life.

It will stay with you forever. 

  • The temple - Chandrashila summit !

This is a must do trek and is a relatively easy one. Live it now!

Uncover more treks near Delhi.

Any queries- Connect with me on Instagram or facebook.

Valley of Flowers and enchantment- “The monsoon trek”

Valley of flowers is not just a trek, it is a walk amongst the floating clouds; a surreal experience of a slice of heaven. With the valley blooming with a plethora of colours on one side, the snow clad mountains on the other and the alluring river dividing them, the scenery is picture perfect.

River dividing the valley of flowers!
The river flowing through the valley!

Add to that, the trek to Hemkund Sahib, the calm and secluded; highest gurudwara in the world and the scenic freshwater lake at 14,200ft., this is a must do trek for everybody.

Hemkund Sahib- the raw traveller!
Hemkund Sahib and the freshwater lake at 14,200 ft.

TO GOBINDGHAT

The journey starts from Gobindghat, which is a 15-16 hour drive from Delhi. I took a bus to Haridwar from Delhi at 10.30 pm and reached by 04.30 am. Within 15 minutes, I was already on the bus to Badrinath which would drop me at Gobindghat.

(If you want to trek in the higher altitude in India, there is no other way but to travel by bus. No flights or trains ply. Moreover, it is unlikely to find any A.C bus or taxi. One has to be patient during the journey. Take your pills if you have got any motion sickness. The weather most likely will be cool and between short naps, food and pee break you will not know when you have made it.)

Bus to Gobindghat !
Kudos to the drivers in the hills who drive through such treacherous roads!

I reached Gobindghat at around 4 in the evening. There are only a handful of hotels here but there would be no problem finding a room unless it is an extended weekend. The prices are low and the food is more than decent considering the altitude.

Checked in, refreshed, took some rest and went for a walk in the town. It was gradually swarming up with trekking groups and pilgrims.  The evening was spent talking to the locals and enjoying the tea and food in the wonderful weather with raindrops falling seamlessly and endlessly till the next morning.
Also read: The perfect snow trek for beginners

TO GHANGARIA

The trek to Ghangaria from Gobinghat is 13 km but you can take a shared cab to Poolna which decreases the distance to 9 km. The trail is alongside the river and well defined. Dhabas can be found at regular intervals.

Sikhs pilgrims can be seen on the way making their holy journey to Hemkund Sahib.  A lot of them I met were either from Jalandhar or Amritsar. To my surprise, I also found a lot of trekking groups from Mumbai.

Started early in the morning and reached Ghangaria by noon. There were a lot of hotels/lodges and I rented a room for 3 days for my upcoming treks to both the valley and the gurudwara.

 

  • Resting at a tea shop - Bagpacking to Ghangaria.

VALLEY OF FLOWERS

The way to the valley opens at 7 am and the last visitor is allowed till noon. We had to wait till 08.30am due to heavy rainfall which is an alarm for any landslide on the trail. The route though not tough is but slippery and treacherous.

The trek is picturesque and you get a glimpse of the valley and the glorious mountains. It is beautiful with waterfalls every few hundred metres and flowers blooming on both sides of the trail.

Once you reach the valley(about 3.5 km from Ghangaria), you will be in awe of what you see. Words fall short in praise of the wonder this place has to offer. Flooded with flowers – pink, green, white and even black, this place is a leaf out of the heavenly tree. Small streams flow throughout the valley, which stretches a further 7-8 kms.

Since it is a world heritage site, there are no food stalls. Lunch has to be packed and carried and the journey back also has to be made on the same day. 

Another monsoon trek that can be done solo: Bhrigu lake

  • The white.

HEMKUND SAHIB

After returning back from the valley, I got a leg massage done in the evening and boy, it was worth it. I knew the trek to Hemkund(6-7 km steep uphill) was never going to be easy, also considering that I had been trekking the past two days.

I started early again the next day. Although I got tired within the 1st km, the enthusiasm of the mini Punjab that was here, drove me. Sikhs mostly elderly and between 40-60 and even in their 70’s were walking in their shoes and even slippers with bags and a stick in their hand. No fancy branded shoes or trekking gears. Nothing.

Faith really is something. Maybe everything.

Of faith, history and food: Amritsar

And then I met people of a third kind. 

Young, loud, cheerful and energetic people shouting slogans and speeding their way on the not so easy trail but seated comfortably on their ponies with their bags tied to the burden bearer. You guys for sure will conquer the world someday(on the ponies). 

In about 4 hours, I made it to the gurudwara. Warmed up with tea and khichdi at gurudwara langar. Though I do not like the idea of having khichdi until my teeth part from me one day, I was grateful enough to have whatever was on offer here. It is worth commending the efforts that go to make it possible at such a height.

The serene lake stood between the gurudwara and the mountains. It reflects the grand mountains and is a sight to behold.

  • Hemkund Sahib- the highest gurudwara in the world!

Also read: Trekking solo to Chandrashila summit

To note:

  1. It remains open for 4 months i.e June-September but I would advise to visit it in the months of July and August. That is when you would get to see most of the flowers.
  2. Try NOT to visit the place on the Independence day extended weekend, both for the crowd and the surge pricing of rooms.  
  3. Leave early for the valley and gurudwara to spend maximum time there and since you have to make your way back the same day before nightfall.
  4. Raincoat/Poncho is a must since this is a monsoon trek. If not raining heavily, it would be drizzling most of the time.
  5. Trek cautiously since the wet and rocky path becomes treacherous in the monsoon weather.
  6. Get adequate rain care/protection for your rucksack and camera.
  7. Get a leg massage done before(or after if you may) you make your trek to Hemkund Sahib. 
  8. Solo Trekking: Obviously possible. I did it. You can too.

Explore more Treks near Delhi.

Travel safe. TRAVEL RAW!